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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.
You know the inch I’m talking about. The inch between squatting just above or just below parallel. The inch between getting your chin to the pull-up bar or just over it. The inch between slightly bent elbows and a full lock out in your handstand pushup. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whiteboard and “out performing” a friend who’s close to you in ability. Each time you count a rep that doesn’t meet the movement standards Crossfit and your box have established, you’re not only claiming something you didn’t earn, but you’re also cheating yourself out of good movement and improvement.
Now I’m not talking about unintentional slips during the WOD. We ALL need reminders to open our hips all the way at the top of the box jump or stand all the way up in the push jerk before resetting. We ALL lose count mid set and take our best guess at which rep we’re on. Those things happen. When you maintain high intensity long enough, things begin to slip. That’s why we have coaches! But there’s a big difference between that and counting a rep you didn’t quite complete.
There is a reason for the movement standards our box maintains, and everyone is held to that same standard! You should never be ashamed of not being able to hit that Rx button if you did YOUR best and moved correctly through the WOD. Rx gives us a goal to aim for! If you fudge a couple pounds on your barbell or a couple reps in that AMRAP, where is that satisfaction in clicking the Rx button or putting in your time? Not only is it a lie, but it is also robbing you of satisfaction later down the road when you DO lift the Rx weight.
Don’t find the feeling of satisfaction from the whiteboard, but find it in the sense of accomplishment after the WOD and that exhaustion that comes from pushing your body to the next level. Maybe that level isn’t where your best friend is or where the “superstars” at the gym are… Who cares?! Should we always have a goal of where we want to go? YES! Of course! But don’t be so focused on that goal that you forget the critical steps along the way. Embrace each WOD and give it your best shot. The satisfaction in that is enough.
Keep pushing, Habu athletes!! Whether you are at the top of the whiteboard or at the bottom, your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed! Each day, week, and month you are becoming better than the one before, and in that, you should be very proud.
Inspired by “An Open Letter to Cheaters” and general observation in the box.
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 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.
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.
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 more
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
Have you ever looked around your CrossFit box and wondered at the different athletes’ backgrounds? What brought them to this point in their lives? With the variety of athletes at any given box, it makes you wonder… why CrossFit? What was the draw? What motivated them and what keeps motivating them, as an individual, to continue? What is that foundational string that ties us all together as CrossFit athletes?
If you have ever watched documentaries on the top CrossFit competitors, you will probably hear the question: “Why do you train? What keeps you motivated to push hard every day?” The answer many give is that they just want to be better than they were the day before. The drive for improvement is what inspires them every single day to train, eat right, sleep right, etc.
Greg Glassman states that what’s happening in the boxes is nothing less than a miracle of physiology and community… it’s a blind and relentless, constant pursuit of excellence.
Self-improvement: Being a better version of yourself at the end of each day than you were when you woke up. Whether the specific goals are to lose weight, gain muscle, improve your fitness, get healthy, or become a top-level athlete, each day we join together and fight through grueling WODs to become better people. Better moms, teachers, mentors, leaders, and friends.
The positive energy that each athlete contributes to the atmosphere at our box is SO important! The high five or the slap on the booty. The fist bump or the compassionate look when another athlete just can’t get double-unders that day. Each athlete brings a unique perspective and vibe to the workout and each person contributes to the comradery we feel at the end of each WOD.
Each of you is important in building our atmosphere and the amazing thing we call the Crossfit Habu family. Keep up the great work Habu athletes! We have seen a ton of PRs these last couple months. Keep them coming! Remember to tell your friends about your awesome box and coaches. The first drop in is on us! We love watching friendships go to the next level in the gym and are always looking to extend our Habu family and grow our CrossFit community!