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A New Way To Train: Interview With Brian MacKenzie

The founder of CrossFit Endurance tears down traditional training methods to reveal the new rules for fast, powerful running.

The founder of CrossFit Endurance tears down traditional training methods to reveal the new rules for fast, powerful running.

For years, CrossFit Endurance founder Brian MacKenzie has been saying that traditional half-marathon and marathon training based only on high-mileage plans is all wrong. Instead of building runners up, it winds up breaking them down and leaving them prone to injuries, fatigue and burnout, he says.

In his new book, Unbreakable Runner, MacKenzie tears down these traditions to reveal the new rules for fast, powerful running.

What’s wrong with most traditional half-marathon/marathon training programs?

Most runners are running too much mileage and not working enough on running skill, functional strength, balance and flexibility. There’s no disputing that the high-mileage approach founded by Arthur Lydiard developed a pathway for success. But is the high-mileage model the only way to the top? Or the healthiest? With as many as 75 percent of runners injured every year, it seems the traditional approach breaks runners down more than it builds them up. Plus, too much running volume can increase the speed of aging through the production of free radicals and the subsequent effects of oxidation. The result is an endurance athlete wrinkled beyond his or her years.

RELATED: How Does CrossFit Endurance Benefit Runners?

What’s an alternative to the high-mileage approach?

Instead of focusing on high mileage week after week, built on long runs and incorporating periodization, runners should focus on functional strength and conditioning and replacing cardiovascular endurance with muscular stamina. Studies have shown that high-intensity interval training, which is the basis of CrossFit Endurance, can get you the same results as high-volume training—but with less running. CrossFit Endurance offers an empowering alternative to that unpleasant roller coaster of success, then injury.

What are the main points of CrossFit Endurance?

First, it is a training program that requires less time and less pounding on the pavement, reducing the chance of injury. More important, it is the means to building and sustaining overall good health. One of the central ideas behind CrossFit Endurance is replacing long aerobic runs with short, hard bouts of effort. But CrossFit Endurance is also about health and sustainability too, and incorporates nutrition, mobility and balance.

How can CrossFit Endurance make someone a better runner?

The basis of CrossFit Endurance is about creating sustained or increased performance while running fewer miles overall, reducing injury risk by replacing “junk” mileage with functional fitness workouts that train the same energy systems and increase explosive power and speed. Ultimately that can lead to better race performance through greater strength, improved form and greater running efficiency.

RELATED: MacKenzie’s 12-Week CrossFit Endurance Advanced Training Program

What else can a runner gain from CrossFit Endurance?

A runner training in CrossFit Endurance will incur less damage to mobility and range of motion by incorporating workouts that improve range of motion in the joints and muscle tissues. CFE also leads to increased production of the human growth hormone (which helps counter the natural loss of muscle mass that comes with age) and a revved-up metabolism to burn excess body fat. It will lead to improved coordination of upper- and lower-body muscle groups through the inclusion of compound movements in training.

For more about Unbreakable Runner and other running books, go to velopress.com/category/running.