When you’re upgrading your workout regiment to prepare for a major race, the common wisdom is that it’s time to work on your miles instead of your weightlifting. Is the common wisdom really right for you, though? There’s a new form of exercise out there that might turn the common wisdom on its head: CrossFit Endurance, or CFE. Specifically designed to help athletes train for distance running, CFE replicates the endurance-building effects of extended running without undue strains by relying on short, high-intensity interval training sessions.
We learned more about CFE from Heidi Jones, a coach who teaches CrossFit endurance classes at CrossFit NYC. According to Jones, traditional race training has been rooted firmly in the belief that more mileage equals better performance when you’re prepping for a challenge like a half or full marathon. CrossFit Endurance subscribes to a more evolved training methodology, though. CFE race prep focuses primarily on loading your week with multiple 60-minute interval workouts. As with other forms of CrossFit, CFE concentrates on a rotating variety of workouts of the day (WODs).
Sample WODs For A CrossFit Endurance Class
Separate intervals of 10 100-meter sprints with sequences of 10 pushups.
Follow this rotation as quickly as possible for 15 minutes:
* sprinting, 50m
* 10 pushups
* 10 situps
* 10 air squats
Tempo Workout (AKA Equal Rest, Equal Work)
As suggested by the alternate name, this workout involves running at a fast pace and then spending an equal amount of time recovering. Start with 30-second intervals, increase up to 90-second intervals, and then decrease back down to 30 with the same number of steps. Most practitioners go from 30 seconds to 45 to 60 to 90 before coming back down in the same fashion. The workout can be extended by spacing out the steps even further.
High-Intensity Interval Training (AKA HIIT)
The driving purpose behind HIIT workouts is to push your body to such an extreme that you’ll be spending the remainder of your day in recovery. That translates into significant calorie burns not only while you’re working out but also for several hours afterward. This makes HIIT exercise excellent for managing your weight in the run-up to a competitive endurance event.
Most HIIT workouts involve gradually increasing rest intervals to compensate for maximum effort during the high-intensity portion of the workout. For example, a sprinter’s HIIT session might involve a regular set of flat-out sprints that are each only 10 seconds long. The resting intervals in between, though, would start at 10 seconds and increase in 10-second increments.
Even though CrossFit Endurance class was first developed to help long-distance runners, you don’t have to be a marathoner or a trail runner to derive significant benefits from these classes. Anyone who’s already familiar with the principles of CrossFit can use CFE training to improve his or her stamina and develop more explosive short-duration strength. For the best results, CFE needs to be combined with regular CrossFit WODs. A weekly schedule that matches up two or three CFE days with three or four regular CrossFit days will deliver endurance results much more rapidly than a vanilla CrossFit regimen on its own.
If you’re specifically training for a competitive race, you should try to get three or four CFE WODs done during the course of the working week. Make sure you get one long run in over the weekend.
As with standard CrossFit, CFE has some benchmark exercises you should look at to measure your progress. These are the 1-mile time trial, the 5K time trial, sprints at 100m and 400m, and the 1,000m row.