Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Gaylia Osterlund, In the Long Run: CrossFit gives endurance athletes balance
In the long run
Endurance training has always meant doing the same movement over and over again at a moderate pace. To do something better, you simply did more of it.
Unfortunately, that repetitive motion makes endurance athletes some of the most imbalanced competitors there are, possibly matched only by powerlifters.
For Erica Barnum of Santa Cruz, an experienced marathon runner and triathlete, that constant movement is the churning of her legs on her runs and bike rides. In an attempt to balance her fitness, Barnum, like many ultra sport folks of late, turned to Crossfit.
The result, she said, is that she now has the ability to train less with better results.
"Since starting CrossFit, my body does not break down or hurt as much," she said. "I am faster, stronger and less fatigued."
CrossFit prides itself in being an all-round fitness routine, without the routine.
According to a statement from founder Greg Glassman published in the the program's foundation documents, "CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of 10 recognized fitness domains. Those domains are: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy."
Sad but true: Any parts of our bodies that aren't used deteriorate. Running endless miles uses only a certain set of muscles.
A short, intense CrossFit workout can target weak areas, but generally uses the entire body, helping to create a faster athlete and healthier person. The more balanced approach means fewer over-use and muscular-imbalance injuries. That's where "The WOD," or workout of the day, comes in. Posted in the gym each day, it is designed to include a dynamic warm-up and stretching, skill work and strength work.
"The WOD is pretty much different every day, keeping each one fun and varied," said Sam Radetsky, owner of CrossFit West Santa Cruz. "They are written as a progression, months in advance."
The variety of ways our bodies can move is nothing short of miraculous. CrossFit devotees believe one of the ways endurance athletes can improve is by working their bodies in a manner opposite to what they're used to. Rather than those same moderate repetitive movements, a fast-paced combination of high intensity, explosive activities give runners and cyclists like Barnum balance.
But the training can be beneficial to endurance athletes of all ilks.
Ben Lezin of Santa Cruz, a competitive collegiate sailor at St. Mary's College of Maryland, said Crossfit has helped him increase his mental toughness.
"[CrossFit] has given me a tremendous mental advantage as well. It's a give it your all' type of program, when you finish a set of 21 thrusters and have to transition immediately to do 21 pull-ups, you do it without hesitation. I have found that when I hit the wall and think I have nothing left, I often do; and if I don't, I'll try to keep going anyway."
Lezin added, "Sailing requires a tremendous amount of strength and endurance, contrary to common belief. I am not a fitness guru, but I truly believe CrossFit has better prepared me for my sport than any other training program possibly could."
Golf may not be considered a typical endurance sport, but Steve Alberi, 40, said CrossFit has helped him down the stretch.
"CF brings an awareness of how the body moves through each exercise, and I have transferred this to my golf game," he said. "Not only have I seen an improvement in my swing, I have much more stamina out on the course."