Using CrossFit to Train for Distance Running

 

As someone who has ran a marathon or two I know firsthand the pain that is training for and finishing 26.2 miles. With that, recently, I have had a few athletes at the gym run a marathon or half marathon so my curiosity too over. Can you train for a marathon solely using CrossFit training as the preparation parameter?

Traditional Model vs. CrossFit GPP

Before I dive into any of this, its important to understand what “traditional” means.  This is what most runners model their training program off of which is call the “LSD” model, also known as Long, Slow, Distance training. It revolves primarily around volume. You are preparing to run a marathon by logging in miles at a lower, aerobic based attack (around 70% of your max heart rate). A sample of this is running 4 days a week slowly then adding volume each week, ultimately building to a total weekly mileage of 40+ miles. This emphasizes the development of the “long run” which helps build up to being able to run 20+ miles, unbroken.

Here is a sample:

Tuesday: 6 miles easy
Wednesday: Cross-training, i.e. elliptical training, cycling.
Thursday: 10 miles easy
Saturday: 4 miles easy
Sunday: 20 miles easy

Contrary to this model of just doing volume to gain endurance, CrossFit focuses on three main aspects. Constant variance, functional movements at a high intensity (CVFMHI). The idea is that when structured properly, anaerobic based workouts can be used to develop a significant amount of aerobic capacity while not letting your muscles waste away with high volume, aerobic work.

So instead of building to a 20 mile long run at an easy pace, your long run might top at 13 miles. It would be at a faster “race” pace and the focus would be on improving mechanics, being consistent and intense versus “volume, volume, volume”. This allows you to recover better and less injuries due to overuse from high mileage running.

Mechanics is the key!

For the sake of brevity, Ill keep this plain and simple and won’t go too deep into the weeds of different running techniques. The main takeaway to this is the adoption of a mid-foot landing versus heel strike.

When using the mid-foot landing technique, the joints and muscles act as a natural shock absorber. With the heel strike, all the impact is jarred through your joints and puts additional stress on your body, which creates nagging, crappy injuries. Imagine dropping into a new box and the WOD consists of running and squat cleans. If you were to start cleaning the bar with a rounded back, receiving the bar with elbows down and zero midline stability, any coach worth a shit is going to immediately step in and correct your form so that you don’t hurt myself. If your running form were equally as bad, how many coaches would step in and correct you? Not many.

Yes, running is a movement that comes naturally to humans so it’s kind of assumed that you know how to do it. An air squat also comes naturally to humans too, just watch any two year old squat and you’ll know what I mean, but like running, it gets lost as we age, sit and start buying ultra-cushioned sneakers. Long story short, we should be treating running as a skill just like cleans, squats or kipping pull-ups.

Using Constantly Varied, Functional Movements with High Intensity

Now that we know the differences between traditional and CVFMHI, how do we implement what for the next race? If you have a certain time goal or want to set a new record then there is no getting around the fact that you’ll be doing some race specific training. Yes, high intensity anaerobic training will improve your aerobic capacity to a degree. If your goal is to maintain an 7:00 minute mile, then in addition to high intensity intervals at faster than 7:00 mile you also need to train long runs at that pace.

Volume is essential to prepare your muscles to withstand the pounding of a long distance run. How much should you run in preparation for a race? It’s really up to you and your personal goals. As little as 5 miles is good if you simply want to finish. Race distance, current fitness level and goals will dictate how much you should run. The good news is, if you’re already following a balanced CrossFit programming 4-5 days a week then you only need to supplement with a few additional aerobic capacity specific workouts a week.

Here is a sample:

Monday: CrossFit WOD + Strength

Tuesday: AM: CrossFit WOD, PM: Aerobic Capacity work, with 1:1 rest intervals

Wednesday: CrossFit WOD
Thursday: Rest and Recovery
Friday: CrossFit WOD + Strength
Saturday: Aerobic Capacity work only
Sunday: Rest and Relax

As Greg Glassman said, “The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.” Volume against intensity is not the subject line here. When it comes to endurance training, I do feel that a lower volume CrossFit program is the best approach for recreational runners and something that all runners can benefit from by incorporating functional movements into their training. If you’re not sure how to correctly implement drills to improve your form I highly recommend talking to one of the coaches or me and we can program accordingly.

Inaugural “Athlete of the Month” by Coach Sophia

There are countless measures of success, every individual defines their own criteria. Here at Crossfit Habu our success lies in the strength of our community and the progress of our members. The pride we have for our members knows no “small wins,” every step of the journey matters because it represents focus, drive, sweat and even tears. Every stone on the path to greatness must be crossed. Because of this we would like to recognize members that have epitomized our definition of success. This is our inaugural “Athlete of the Month” and Crossfit Habu has been honored to have three very special athletes at our Box. We would like to recognize Jen, Anna, and Drew who will be leaving us soon but will forever have a place in the CF Habu community. It is members like them that have helped build the community that CF Habu is today.

Jen B.

Jen has an amazing spirit, that type of person that just feels good to be around. A fierce athlete hidden inside a kind and nurturing soul. Jen will commonly be found crushing WODs one minute and cheering on other members like they are her children the next. Ninja Jen made friends that quickly became family and her smooth dance moves and fun personality are irreplaceable.Jenn B

Anna S.

Anna is the athlete that every Crossfit Box wants to have. Anna came to us shortly after her second child was born. She was looking for a good workout but what she didn’t realize was that she would pick up a whole new family that would shape her whole experience on Okinawa. Anna embraced the community and attended class every day even when it was less than convenient (to say the least). That time paid off and Anna has truly grown to be one of the strongest members. She has progressed immensely during her time here and it has been humbling to witness. Her dedication and personal success are inspirational.Anna

Drew L.

Community means more for some people than others. We are so thankful that Drew made CF Habu his community. His energy that he brought never wavered from the 530am class to his 5pm sessions. He motivated every athlete he came across and has been one of CF Habu’s biggest supporters. In Drew’s case it’s hard to distinguish who needed  who moreDrew

 

We are so grateful for every member that chooses Crossfit Habu. Your support means more to us than you know. Fair winds and Following seas… Love, CrossFit Habu

Drinking Coffee After Training by Jason Day

Have you ever found yourself drinking coffee after a hard training session? Do you find yourself having a hard time recovering? We all want to find ways to help us recover, especially in the CrossFit world. Did you know that drinking coffee after a workout can be that mistake that you are making when it comes to recovery?

When you workout, cortisol is released to help mitigate the stresses from that workout. This is all normal during training so don’t fret. One of those negatives from cortisol released is catabolism. All that cortisol released puts your body in a catabolic state. At the same time, the body is producing testosterone, which when measured against cortisol equally, is very important towards your recovery process. Immediately after training, the priority should be to lower those cortisol levels so we can create an optimal testosterone to cortisol ratio, for recovery. This is why a post workout shake is important. Feeding your body properly takes your body out of the catabolic state to an anabolic state. So where does coffee come into play?

Well, coffee creates an opposite effect from that “post workout shake”. It keeps your body in a catabolic state. Remember that coffee is essentially a “pick me up”. When you drink coffee, the adrenals produce cortisol. Also remember, cortisol is a good hormone, a catabolic hormone, but a good one. In times of stress, it is our friend. Cortisol is the hormone that breaks down protein for energy, ideal before a heavy lifting session. Just remember when you drink coffee after training, you are prolonging the catabolic state.

Coffee After Training

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CrossFit Habu – CrossFit

Warm-Up 3 (No Measure)

3 Rounds NFT of:

16 Kettlebell Swings (light)

4-8 Chest-2-Bar Chin-Ups

8-16 Push-Ups

Front Squat (3-3-2-2-1-1)

Work to a 1 Rep Max taking no longer than 20 minutes.