CrossFit South Rockland

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Super Running: Is Crossfit Endurance The New Way To Train?

The Missing Piece
MacKenzie began developing Crossfit Endurance when he became, as he puts it, “a broken down runner.”

“I did the volume stuff and it just destroyed me,” he says. “I was doing big miles getting ready for Ironman Canada in 2004, but I shut down with plantar fasciitis and knee problems.”

Frustrated, MacKenzie looked for a new method. Having cultivated a powerlifting background in the 1990s, his return to a gym for strength training showed him how much he had lost. “Back in the day I was able to squat 300 pounds,” he explained. “I went into the gym and squatted 75 pounds for four reps and it killed me. I thought, ‘Dude, what have you done to yourself?’”

MacKenzie began testing mixes of powerlifting, diet, running technique and running, but ran into several walls. Certain combinations produced too much muscle bulk and others produced too much breakdown.

“Crossfit was the missing piece,” MacKenzie says. “The training effect is better in all metabolic pathways. It produces an athlete that doesn’t break down.” Inserting Crossfit into the equation also had the advantage of slashing overall training time.

While MacKenzie retained the key speed endurance workouts from traditional endurance training—long and short interval workouts and time-trial-like tempo runs—he replaced easy-to-medium effort, short and long runs with Crossfit workouts, maintaining that preparing an athlete for a long race was covered by developing a superior technique and fortifying the body with the strength and power developed through Crossfit, powerlifting and Olympic-style lifts. Things clicked for MacKenzie as he used the new combination to finish ultramarathons on less than 10 hours a week of training. His clients became fans of it, too.

Is Crossfit The Future?

Developed by Greg Glassman and first embraced by soldiers, firefighters and elite police forces, Crossfit has exploded. Through an affiliate system connected by, the movement now boasts upwards of 2,500 gyms. Whereas a modern-day fitness facility is stocked with Cybex and Nautilus machines, a Crossfit gym looks a lot like MacKenzie’s garage gym—basic equipment used for compound, functional movements opposed to the isolated movement created by, for example, an arm curl machine.

The main theory of the Crossfit movement is that an overly specialized athlete—let’s say a traditionally trained runner with low-muscle mass and creaky joints—is a poor example of overall fitness, and that if fitness is what you want, then first become an all-around athlete—strong, mobile, agile and powerful with a high-level of stamina. Then one can go run a race, play a football game or become a mixed-martial arts fighter.

While the same argument flung at Gibbons has been used against MacKenzie—saying that since he’s not an elite athlete he has no business talking smack about Lydiard training—there’s no denying that MacKenzie embodies Crossfit’s ideal.

After his workout of deadlifts and met-con training back in his garage, he was soon bouncing on his backyard trampoline with his dog, Izzy, rocketing into the air, peeling off front and back flips. He plans to skateboard for the rest of his life, and this past winter he broke up an intensive CFE seminar travel schedule for skiing and snowboarding trips. This is not the standard fare of runners who have qualified and run the 100-mile trail epic of Western States or the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon.

Considering the trajectory and appeal of Crossfit, it seems likely that CFE will continue to gain traction with recreational runners, cyclists and triathletes. But will we ever see a sub 2:10 marathoner use it? MacKenzie thinks so. “I really believe it’s the future. It may not be exactly what I’m teaching, but in one form or another, I think we’re going to see change in how the elites train to be great.”

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