With spring racing season safely behind us, we know you’ve already got fall races on the brain. If you’re looking for a change in your training, Brian Mackenzie, creator of the Crossfit Endurance program, and author of Power, Speed, Endurance: A skill based approach to endurance training, tells iRun why it might pay to shake up your routine.
Brian Mackenzie, pioneer of CrossFit Endurance, he says wasn’t always as strong as he is today. It’s especially hard to believe since the Ironman and ultra marathoner was a former competitive weight lifter in his teens. But he swears by it – and even credits his first discouraging triathlon experience, due to a lack of strength.
“It was a humbling experience that pushed me for more so I signed up for a half Ironman the next day.”
He definitely doesn’t lack strength in spirit. The California native has built the crossfit endurance empire around strength. He says that strength and a fear of change keep runners, particularly women, way from this type of training.
“There’s a big misconception, especially within the female crowd, of what looks good. This ‘skinny is cute thing’ has really destroyed that. The fact is, women should not be bone ass skinny alien looking, they should be strong. It doesn’t mean they should be body builders, but that misconception has really driven the way women train. Women think they’re going to be all jacked up… but that’s literally impossible if you’re doing the aerobic work as well.”
Mackenzie, a professional coach and trainer of ultra athletes and runners since 2002, says crossfit endurance is not just the answer for women, but for 99% of runners. The regime, which is about eliminating unnecessary volume of training while increasing intensity, has been criticized by some athletes and coaches in the endurance world who think that volume is key if you are training for the longer races. Mackenzie disagrees. He says people are largely afraid of change – but it’s the change especially within the intensity and volume of training that can produce the largest results for endurance runners.
“We take a lot of flack, we see a lot of people in the endurance world, who get angry with what we’re doing. The fact is we’re taking casual people who are just plotting away at something, and don’t have any real structure to it, it’s just a “build up some volume type of thing” and we’re making them a lot stronger, a lot fitter and a lot faster.”
According to Mackenzie, distance running isn’t just about running – which sounds counterintuitive if you don’t understand what he’s getting at.
“The fact is, people think running is just lacing up your shoes, and heading out the door and running – and it’s not – if it were, injury rates wouldn’t be at 75% and above. That’s just a toll tail sign that something’s not right.”
CrossFit Endurance programming takes into consideration the effect that power and speed has on being able to produce a greater capacity for distance – something that Mackenzie says can also have a positive effect on recovery time, reducing injury rate and creating a more sustainable performance curve.
While most people want to improve and make progress, Mackenzie says has this starts with confronting your fears and weaknesses.
He believes in the power of change so much so that he had “I’m Unscared” tattooed across his knuckles. It’s his reminder and credo to continually challenge convention and himself. This is the mentality that led him to develop a programme that now sees 7,000 to 15,000 search engine hits per day on the Crossfit Endurance website.
In the many races that followed his first failed attempt at triathlon, Mackenzie observed despite the fact he was running long distances and competing on a regular basis, he was still unable to manage a simple strength task like squats. When challenged by a friend he came away discouraged because he had become so weak. Encouraged by his own failure, he began piling strength workouts into his ultra marathon training regime.
“I was crazy about kettle bells. I got into kettle bells early on, 2003 – 2004. The kettle bell scene led me to my first CrossFit work out.”
From that point he started to see the benefits that strengthening and conditioning was having on his ability to run.
“I was getting stronger and faster – I felt better when I ran. And it wasn’t just my experience it was every athlete that I was working with.”
The resulting program was CrossFit Endurance – a training regime that focuses on combing all the elements Mckenzie found helped him get stronger, specifically those which highlighted his own weaknesses. This is the part that Mackenzie says people find the most intimidating.
“People are so afraid of CrossFit, and they think it’s this big scary thing. The fact is, CrossFit is about movement mostly. And moving with intensity.”
Mackenzie says endurance runners can benefit from this system because it produces greater results in a shorter period of time.
“You can do really slow, long runs and take the time to develop that aerobic base, or you can start doing skill work, which we implement and do interval work on top of doing some tempo and interval run stuff. And you’re going to develop that aerobic system a lot more efficiently.”
CrossFit Endurance workouts are designed for runners. They differ from the traditional CrossFit regime in that it takes into account the fact that the athlete will have a run that day as well.
Mackenzie says that one of the beautiful things about the CrossFit Endurance programme is that it can be scaled to the particular athlete – in fact that’s it strongest element and why so many people who do the routine see results quickly. When asked if the programme was only for the die hard, elite athletes he said that is exactly what it is not.
“Elite training programs don’t exist on the internet. That’s what takes place in person with a coach.”
According to MacKenzie, CrossFit Endurance is is designed for the “weekend warrior” or the typical person who wants to work out and take care of themselves. The trick is to find a CrossFit program which is scaled to your particular level of fitness, so you don’t jump into the routine, and burn out before you manage to see results.
If you’re skeptical, Mackenzie says it actually comes down to trying the program out for a bit to see if it’s for you.
“It’s not for everybody, but it’s designed for everybody. That’s a fact.”
Happy training and thanks for staying Up To Speed!