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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 06-26-2008, 07:27 PM   #1
Shane Skowron
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Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

I know there are a ton of threads on this, but I have a question specifically referring to the principles of Crossfit Endurance as discussed by Brian MacKenzie in his essay on his form of endurance training (wfs : http://www.crossfitnb.com/Endurance.htm ). After doing my 2nd marathon while doing long boring distances and spending a little under a year doing Crossfit, I am completely sold on this method of training for endurance via Crossfit Endurance. I've been doing it for a couple weeks, and I love it.

Now the central tenet of the essay from that link is that spending a lot of time training anaerobically will allow the body to perform well over extended periods aerobically. In other words lots of sprinting and tempo runs will allow you to do well at an ultramarathon, instead of doing lots of long distance runs. I guess that makes sense to me, especially considering the fact that at the end of a long endurance event your muscles are taxed, not your respiratory/cardiovascular system.

But what eludes me is then does that mean that anyone who is highly fit anaerobically will be able to perform well for extended aerobic periods? I look at some of the most highly-regarded CF athletes like OPT and Speal, and I am wondering since they can run 5:00 miles and that they do lots of anaerobic training with CF, does that mean they could run a competitive ultra endurance event? Will a world-class 200m sprinter be able to run a 50K race without changing his training routine? Are there any examples of a anaerobic athlete who has done an endurance event without changing their routine at all and has done very well? If the answer is yes, then why don't endurance-wannabes just train like an elite CF athlete or like a world-class sprinter, seeing as it brings great results?

But if the answer is no, then that means you must need sport-specific training for endurance, such as spending time on your feet if you are training for an ultra running event. Does that have to do with the fact that you need to spend some time in the oxidative stage of training, or because you simply need to get your legs used to running, or is it both? If you theoretically spent 100% of your training in anaerobic running intervals and no oxidative training whatsoever, would you have any endurance capacity? On the other hand, if you theoretically spent 100% of your training in a different movement but in all three energy pathways (for example, trained exclusively with thrusters, pushups, pullups and no running but would want to compete in endurance running) would the pathway training crossover to your desired sport? Why or why not? Right now the Crossfit Endurance program does something like 30 miles per week for running, along with standard CFHQ WODs. What would happen if you were to decrease that to 10 mpw of running but increase anaerobic training in equal amounts through other movements?

I apologize if my questions seem convoluted and are overly hypothetical, but I am trying to understand the physiology behind using anaerobic training for endurance. Right now I'm doing Crossfit Endurance WOD along with ME Black Box strength and WOD from Navyseals.com or CFHQ, and I am making significant gains. So as long as it's working, I'm not going to change this training! But I am trying to wrap my head around this training method and the physiology behind it so I can optimize my performance for both overall fitness and to compete in endurance.

Last edited by Shane Skowron : 06-26-2008 at 07:30 PM.
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Old 06-26-2008, 07:46 PM   #2
George Mounce
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

To quote OPT...

"I trust Coach, I just do what he says."

I pose this question - what is an anaerobic athlete? When we do anything, no matter the person on earth, do they not use their anaerobic system to some degree? Why differentiate based on an energy system everyone uses?

Its often been stated that anaerobic work helps the aerobic, but it does not work vice versa. Most people who spend most of their time in the aerobic forgo anaerobic training. Those who realize it is important improve drastically.
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Old 06-26-2008, 08:15 PM   #3
Shane Skowron
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

Well if everything is anaerobic to some degree, and anaerobic training helps aerobic, why not just train exclusively anaerobically? What is the disadvantage to that, especially for someone who already has an extensive aerobic base?
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Old 06-26-2008, 08:52 PM   #4
Frederic Giraud
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

Just wanted to say that all the metabolic pathways are always used. You can't train 100% in anaerobic.

It's kind of one big system, that has different tools with which it can work well, but it must always use all those tools, the system simply use one tool more than the others depending on the situation, since each tools has it advantage in certain situation.

We're are just starting to figure out how those tools actually work together and which tool when used also "use" other tools.

Just wanted to chim that in, I'd suggest you read about Dr.Tabata and his research ( not sure if he is a doctor or not... ), I think it's one of the most up to date study on the effect of using one tool and his effect on the other tools.

I'm pretty newb though so take all that with a grain of salt
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:04 AM   #5
Robert Callahan
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

I believe that in order to get good at something you must practice doing that thing. So for example if you wanted to get good at running marathons you should do at least some long distance running. If you only did sprints your body would have reduced levels of slow twitch muscle fibers (the ones with lots of mitochondria for better oxygen conversion to energy) and you would burn out very quickly in the race. When it comes to the Crossfit program pushing "anaerobic training" what it means really is short burst high intensity training that helps increase muscle mass, rather than break down muscle mass which is the result of slow long distance running.

A lot of the push for the more "anaerobic" training (this term is sort of misleading as others have commented on) in crossfit is in response to the current model for long distance endurance training. For example at my University the cross country team, that never did races over 10k or about 6 miles, would often have training days in which they would run 15-20 miles with long days being 30 mile runs. This kind of training is absolutely outrageous in my opinion and completely detrimental to the athletes health and well being not to mention sport preformance. What would be a more effective training mechanism is runs shorter than the event length preformed at high intensity with long days maybe getting up to event length of 8-10 kilometers and balancing that with Olympic and power lifting for better explosiveness and power.

In the end you still need to do some endurance in order to become an endurance athlete, this is why crossfit endurance has much more long runs, but not nearly as much endurance as what is the common prescription these days. In order to get this point across the whole "anaerobic" training idea is pushed but i doubt you could train only sprints and then go excel at a marathon, you may be able to do it.... but it would not be a given

-Robert
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Old 06-27-2008, 06:26 AM   #6
Mike Prevost
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

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Originally Posted by Shane Skowron View Post
Well if everything is anaerobic to some degree, and anaerobic training helps aerobic, why not just train exclusively anaerobically? What is the disadvantage to that, especially for someone who already has an extensive aerobic base?
Shane

Crossfit is General Physical Preperation, not sports specific conditioning. Running a marathon is on the fringe to some extent in terms of endurance. In other words, it takes much more endurance than is required for general health and fitness, at least if you are going to run the whole thing rather than walking it like Oprah .

The issue with long duration events like a marathon is that performance is really dependant on muscular fatigue, not cardiovascular fatigue or adaptations. Nobody slows down because their heart got tired. Glycogen depletion and a slow and steady disruption in the intracellular environment of the active skeletal muscles, as well as probably some neurological factors relating to muscle recruitment play a role. The types of muscular adaptations that will allow you to excell at a marathon takes some amount of volume, and probably more than you would get with the WOD. You would need to spend some more time running. How much more is debatable. Personally I do prefer more of an intensity approach to endurance training. I don't think you need to be running 20 miles in training. I do think you need a handful of longer runs, but not many if you are getting in some good quality work on your shorter runs.

Also, I think if you are in reasonable shape, you can build up to a marathon rather quickly (12 weeks), if you have been doing some running, even 400s and sprints.

Just one guys thoughts on the subject...

Mike
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Old 06-27-2008, 07:08 AM   #7
Mike Prevost
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

I should probably add one more clarification. One adaptation that you get from increased mileage is that you increase the oxidative capacity (aerobic capacity) of your fast oxidative glycolytic fibers and the slow oxidative fibers. It takes a significant amount of volume to stimulate these changes, especially in the slow oxidative fibers. Very brief workouts will not be enough. It might be enough, combined with a bit of additional running, to get you through a marathon OK, and even with a decent time. However, at the elite levels of the sport, much more volume would be necessary. So...it depends. If you have good body composition and are training for a 4 hour marathon, you could do it without too much volume. If you are shooting for a 2:30 marathon, probably not.

But how many 2:30 marathoners can do more than 1 pullup
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Old 06-27-2008, 08:21 AM   #8
Dylan Eddy
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

you are what you train for.

crossfitters are anerobic athletes who, as a result of the crossover in pathways, can perform surprisingly well in aerobic events. they are however almost by definition not elite at any one event. (relativly speaking)

having switched from ultras, 24 hour mountain bike racing and mountaineering, to a 90% crossfit training style. ive found improvements in cardiovascular fitness, but, i have lost the holy grail of "ultra" fitness. efficiency. if faster kips make such a big difference in a 3 minute Wod like fran imagine where you would be 24 hours later!

it is my understanding that this loss of efficiency happens at a cellular level as well not just economy of motion. it takes a long time but changes in muscle fiber types, mitochondrial density, gylcogen stores ect. all happen eventually. also while i can still go long it makes me more sore now.

even so, i am healthier, stronger and much superior all around physically. i have no doubt that a certain amount of specific work would maintain the ability to go long, but i have no idea how much it would take

P.S. once you progress past marathon distances the pace slows enough that the extra strength and durability provided by some muscle mass eclipses the extra body weight and starts to work to your advantage. witness the well muscled (for a runner) bodies of guys like Dean Karnazes.
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Old 06-27-2008, 09:04 AM   #9
Brian Degenaro
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

The key to running long distances is the top speed you can hit and maintain at the shorter distances. Speed is king in the racing world. The faster you are at shorter distances the faster you can be at the longer distances, this is dependent on your training. You can't run a [relatively] fast 5k unless you run your miles at submaximal pace, and therefore your 400m splits at a submaximal pace as well. The faster you become at shorter distances the easier it is to run a [relatively] fast distance race. It is easier to run a 25 minute 5K when you can run a 400m in 70s or faster. Your pace per/400m ends up around 85-90s each one. If you are trained well enough then that is a reasonable pace to run at. But if you were to decrease your 400m time down to 55s, the pace you can race at in the 5k dramatically decreases as well. Keep training the shorter distances at fast speeds with maximal amounts of rest as well as continue CF'ing (kinda like MEBB but running instead of lifting). This combination ought to provide the best results.
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Old 06-27-2008, 10:39 AM   #10
Eric Machus
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Re: Translating anaerobic capacity to endurance

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frederic Giraud View Post
... Just wanted to chim that in, I'd suggest you read about Dr.Tabata and his research ( not sure if he is a doctor or not... ), I think it's one of the most up to date study on the effect of using one tool and his effect on the other tools. ...
I think that is an excellent idea. I read the linked pieces in the CFJ "what is fitness" pdf and have wanted to follow up further but haven't. It was interesting b/c the other researcher/dr, can't remember his name now. He did some research with the DDR rowing team who were dominating the world at the time and studied their training and interval work. he discovered that they had initially gone pretty big on intervals but found it led to burnout, injuries and didn't generate the long term gains they wanted. They ended up focussing more tempo, AT/LT work and used intervals to peak/get fast for events.

I have been following, sort of, the crossfit endurance site and it seems that high intensity is pretty key and intervals but there are a fair amount of tempo type workouts too. A lot of time trials for running of 1 miles, 5K's, 10K's and depending on your focus 10 milers. My understanding is that time trials are race pace/pretty top efforts.

One of the key quotes in Mckenzie's piece, I think, is

"Having athletes doing 100+ mile bike rides three to four weeks out from the Ironman World Championships, or doing any highly oxidative training for long periods of time, makes zero sense if the athlete has already developed their ability to use oxygen effectively. The solution is to strength train and make them work at faster than normal speeds (i.e., speed training and intervals), while retaining the ability to recover."

You have to maintain the ability to use oxygen effectively, work hard and stay aerobic. I am not sure that will be maintained going pure CF or purely anerobic. I guess you probably have already had the same thought and the question is where is the precise tipping point. I suppose we/you ought to ask Mr. Mckenzie or the Dr. Romanov he cites in the piece.

I have similar questions as I like being, for lack of a better, cardio powerful, and I have kept up or tried to keep up my running. It is pretty important for my main, non CF sport.

The answer may be black box at this point but Mckenzie seems to have had pretty solid results so far.
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