Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Crossfit for Ultrarunners (or, no more LSD?)

Is it time to trade out the long slow run for 20 minutes of sprints, pushups, and squats? The ever-growing Crossfit community thinks so. But who is this Crossfit community anyway? A bunch of cops, firefighters and soldiers? What do they know about ultrarunning.

You might be surprised.

Crossfit Endurance is a group of endurance athletes, Ironmen and ultramarathoners who believe that LSD does little more than slow us down and make us look like a bunch of overaged, emaciated drug addicts. I don't know about the drug addict part (I look more like an overaged beer drinker), but I have preached for years that too much long slow running will turn us all into long slow runners.

Consider this quote from Crossfit Endurance specialist, Brian Mackenzie:

While our approach starts with mechanics, it is based on strength and conditioning... Or CrossFit. The endurance training is a supplement. Our athletes eat the conventional endurance geeks for lunch every time... And we have story after story that explains how their friends either stayed the same, got slower and can't walk after the race. When we are the exact opposite. On almost a 1/3 of the training. How is this not a better approach?

Endurance geeks? And this teaser from the Crossfit Endurance site:

Why should I start training this way?

Are your times CONSISTENTLY getting faster at ALL distances (what was your last 5k time compared to a year ago)?

How high can you jump? (Many marathoners cannot jump onto a 12 inch box).

How many push ups/pull ups/squats/etc can you do? We can do more.

Have you or are you suffering from chronic use injuries (plantar fasciatis, IT Syndrome, runners knee, etc)?

How many hours do you train a week? How many hours does your spouse/family wish you trained? (This program only requires 6-8 hours per week to COMPETE at Ultra/Ironman distances.

Hmmm. Want to learn more about how running shorter and faster *could* make us better ultrarunners? Conditioning Research has a nice post on this very subject.

From my own personal experience, I've incorporated more "crossfit" style workouts into my overall training in the last year, with positive results (e.g., PRs at some tough races, more muscle, less fat) averaging just under 40-miles of running per week. That doesn't prove anything, and I'm not about to give up those epic-long training runs, but I am sold on the idea that too much LSD makes a long slow runner.

Try it for two weeks, and judge for yourself. I'll post a daily workout (not Crossfit per se, but something along those lines), follow along if you want. You might be sore at first... but soreness turns into strength. Strength turns into PRs in running, and other places too.

Run hard out there, and run long too. But run harder more than you run longer.


ncultra said...

hi Neal, cross-fit is a great concept but the hyperbole you posted about endurance training or the futility of big miles and low heart-rate running is a bunch of bunk. The overwhelming evidence is that specificity of training is key to peak performance for a specific sport. I've never had to do a standing high jump or pushups during an ultra. Sure there are many ultrarunners who are casual in their training and do not run hills or intervals, but that does not indicate a flaw in how the vast majority of top ultrarunners train.

And don't forget "time on the feet."

Neal Jamison said...

Time on the feet is vital. But the argument made is that once you can run a 10k or a marathon or an ultra, you have the aerobic base. So why keep all of your training aerobic. Once you have that base, start training the other systems. Hill running, or other strength-building exercises are just as vital as time on the feet.

I like to leave the conclusions up to the individual. I'm still learning this as I go.

Marc said...

I agree with this training but the Tabata that you did i dont think is the right one for our sport if you look at the bottom of this link found on that website it says that ultra running is more in the Oxidative training and if you go near the top of the page it says this training needs to be done with 120 seconds to 300 seconds interval followed by the same amount of rest. I think if you did that same workout you did but did 200 seconds on and 120 off it would give more benefit to ultra running, if i am reading it correctly


Carl B. said...

Marc: Regarding the Tabata protocol. Have you ever done a run Tabata before? I am speaking from experience that the prescribed protocol of 20sec on, 10sec off for 8 rounds at maximal effort is perfect for any sport, yes, including ultras. I am currently training for a 100mile ultra and do at least 2 Tabata sessions a week following what Brian and I have come up with for using the treadmill. There is nothing Oxidative about this. 2min and 40 sec of total work time will change you as an athlete and as a human begin. There is a ton of information out on the web about the Tabata protocol. To much time spent training in the oxidative state and excluding the Glycolitic and Phosphagen pathways are only handicapping you from achieving faster times in all your races. All of us who run ultras, marathons, 10ks and down want to set a PR at any given race. I am having incredible gains following CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance. Try it and see what you think. I'm going to keep at it, I like setting new Pr’s!

Neal Jamison said...

I like to sprint. Period. 20 on 10 off, 200 on 120 off. They all sound good to me.

I do think everyone should try a pure Tabata sprint workout. Like Carl said, it will leave an impression.

Marc said...

carl b. at the time I wrote that I did not ever run a Tabata. I was going stickly off of what the Crossfit website told me. They said to do it that way not me. But, last night i did go out and run a tabata followed by half hour of stair work out then another tabata. Holy crap it is hard and an awsome workout. I agree with you guys totally. I am starting to include this in my Thursday track work out from now on. I was cursing Neal up and down when i was doing them but I know they were really Anyway thanks again I luv them.