Endurance Athletes – Bikers, Runners, Swimmers, Adventure Racers…

In Colorado we have a lot of folks who love to bike and run especially as well as other aerobic disciplines. At the hobbyist level or for the competitor, this page is intended to be a resource for that community and to answer the question(s) of what CrossFit training might do for endurance athletes. If I’m a runner, can strength and conditioning help my running? If I’m a biker, is it possible to put in less mileage each week and achieve the same or better results?

“On July 16th, I participated in the Breckenridge 32 mountain bike race…racers cover over 100 miles and 13,700 feet of climbing…I won my age group with a time of 4 hours and 4 minutes…I finished 9th out of 23 women total…I know that my Crossfit training has greatly helped in these mountain bike races because of my improved core strength. I no longer deal with back pain, arm weariness, or body fatigue. I’m thankful that I can participate in these events and I thank my Crossfit family for encouragement and support!”

Erlinda Stafford – Mountain Biker, CrossFitter, Owner – Wheatridge Cyclery


Guns out cropped

“I participated in my first half ironman distance triathlon on my birthday, Sunday, July 14th, 2013. Ironman 70.3 Vineman takes place in Sonoma County, California. The race consists of a fun and fast 1.2 mile swim in the narrow and shallow, but beautiful Russian River. It’s followed by a 56 mile bike ride through wine country, past hundreds of vineyards and over rolling hills into Windsor, CA. The race finishes up with a 13.1 mile half marathon run around Windsor with a 1 mile jaunt through the vineyards of La Crema Winery. It was a challenging run course with some short steep hills, but the breathtaking scenery and added benefit of racing at sea level made for a fantastic overall race day for me.

I finished in 6 hours and 37 minutes; this is 23 minutes faster than my expected finish and this being my first half ironman distance triathlon, I am overjoyed with my results. I have been doing triathlons since 2006 (taking 2 seasons off to have my 2 boys) and started CF in November of 2012 as an integral part of my training. I know my experience would not have been nearly as enjoyable without the fitness and strength I have gained from my work at the gym.

My heartfelt thanks go out to my coaches and friends at CrossFit Littleton for all their amazing encouragement and support! I am excited to be back. :-)

Thanks for sharing this with everyone, Ian; that is so great of you.


P.S. My friend in the last photo is Kelly McClernon. She trains up at CF Generate in New Castle. We grew up together in NY and moved to CO together in 1998. This was her first 70.3 also.”

Cindy Smith – Endurance Athlete, CrossFitter


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 per 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.)

Why are there no long runs/rides/swims (aerobic training) in this type of training?

Long runs/rides/swims fall into the category of training we term “long slow distance” (LSD) and is solely aerobic in nature.

Aerobic training has the following benefits and drawbacks:

• Increased cardiovascular function
• Better fat utilization
• Greater capillarization
• Increased Mitochondrial growth

• Decreased muscle mass
• Decreased strength
• Decreased power
• Decreased speed
• Decreased anaerobic capacity
• Decreased testosterone levels

It is apparent that the many drawbacks of LSD training easily overpower the limited benefits. It is our contention that limiting an athlete’s exposure to LSD training will allow them to remain not only functionally competent in other areas of fitness and competitive in aerobic endurance pursuits, but DOMINATE in ALL areas of fitness.

How do I start?

Our suggestion is this… Running: Start with 8 x 200m repeats working up to 4-5 x 800m repeats. Bike: Start with 8-10 x 1/4-mile repeats working up to 4-5 x 2k repeats. Swimming: Start with 10 x 50m/y working up to 10 x 100m/y. Rowing: Start with 8 X 500m repeats working up to 4-5 X 1K repeats…… Meaning you should be able to handle this workout and a CrossFit workout in one day. PROGRESSION is the key.

For Stamina (tempo and time trial) you should be working on building from about 10 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the distance. You will never really need to train much further than the 90-minute mark if you are working hard enough.

Do not be fooled in thinking you only have to train for stamina for 10-90 minutes. If you are a triathlete trying to make the transition into this program you will need to gently progress into it. You are fragile, and this is not conventional strength and conditioning.

Once you can handle the workouts by progressing them, you should then be following this site 2-3 times per week for a single sport and up to 6 workouts per week for triathlon.

Why is there so much anaerobic/sprint/speed work if I am going to run/ride/swim in a long endurance event?

Anaerobic/sprint/speed work, often thrown in at the end of many traditional training programs as a supplement, incorrectly assumes that this type of training is of limited value.

“Anaerobic Training” has the following benefits and drawbacks:

• Increased cardiovascular function
• Decreased body fat
• Increased muscle mass
• Increased strength
• Increased power
• Increased speed
• Increased anaerobic capacity

• Intensity can speed up overtraining

Click to view the X & Y axes clearly

Anaerobic training encapsulates training the Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP), ATP / Phospho-creatine system, the lactic acid system, and the aerobic system through various methods that stress one system, two systems, or multiple systems. The time length of the individual efforts combined with the rest periods between efforts determines the system/s stressed. As demonstrated by the graph, the systems overlap and “feed” into each other. Notice that as you are training all three anaerobic systems you are SIMULTANEOUSLY training your aerobic engine!

Studies demonstrate that the adaptations caused by anaerobic training are similar to high volume endurance training, however, this adaptation comes at much lower training volumes! (Similar metabolic adaptations during exercise after low volume sprint interval and traditional endurance training in humans. J Physiol. 2008 Jan 1;586(1):151-60. Epub 2007 Nov 8.)
Since I don’t want to put a lot of muscle on for my endurance events, should I use very light weight when doing the CrossFit workouts?
NO! CrossFit improves work capacity across broad time and modal demands by providing a constantly varied stimulus that often requires your body to work at maximal capacity. By lowering the weights below what you can safely handle with good form (at maximal capacity it is normal for your form to falter), you will never reach the intensity necessary to provide the type of systemic stimulus we are looking for.

*Above info. borrowed from CrossFit Endurance

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