Thursday, February 25, 2010

CrossFit Endurance and Intervals

Yesterday was a rest day for me in the rowing department.  I still went to CrossFit in the evening and did some 5x5 Deadlifts and 5x5 shoulder presses (and my shoulders are feeling it this morning!)  Tonight I have a 5K time trial as part of my CrossFit Endurance workout.   I've been wanting to do a 5K again for a while.  It has probably been a year an a half since I've done a 5K for time.  I was just under 19:30 then and I am wondering if I can match that time... we shall see.

There has been a lot of tweeting lately about intervals among the rowers I am following on twitter.  And in general, I seem to be seeing more and more on blogs and in magazines about using intervals as a part of your endurance training plan.   For me this first came to light late in 2008 when I first discovered the CrossFit Endurance community.   I had been doing CrossFit for almost a year, and high-intensity, short distance running and rowing are a part of many CrossFit workouts.  But the intriguing thing about CrossFit Endurance was their assertion that intervals and short-distance work are the cornerstone to preparing for long-distance endurance events, when combined with consistent strength and conditioning work.   CrossFit Endurance (CFE) recommends doing the regular CrossFit workouts 4-5 days per week and supplementing that with 2-3 CFE workouts.   The CFE workouts are typically in a cycle of one interval workout, one tempo or time-trial workout, and one interval workout.   That's basically it.  No weekly long-distance bike/run/swim/row... just intervals and tempo/TT work.

Now, if you are preparing for a long-distance event, you will probably want to throw in some distance workouts in there too... if you are going to spend hours on a bike, or in the seat of a rower, you probably want to know that you can endure that for extended periods of time.  Similarly, on distance events you need to refuel your body, so it is good to know what foods you can handle on a long run/bike/row to keep from bonking and yet not lose your lunch along the way.   So as part of event preparation, long-distance workouts have their place.  But the CFE folks argue that those long workouts are not necessary on a regular basis to train your body to go long distances.

In fact, one of the arguments that the CFE folks make (and I agree with this) is that if you stick mainly with long slow workouts - consistently going for long distances in preparation for a marathon, for example - what you are really doing is training your body to go slowly... for long distances. (Duh!)  By focusing on intervals you are accomplishing two things.  First, you are training your body to go fast.  Second, you are training your body to recover quickly before it needs to go fast again.  By coupling those intervals with shorter tempo work you will build up the endurance you need to go longer distances.   So, for rowing that might be 2k, 5k, and 10k tempo or time trials, depending on what your target event distance is (10k would be for people targeting marathon or longer distances)

If any of this piques your interest, I'd encourage you to go to the CFE site and read what they have to say.   And even if you don't agree with it, the CrossFit Endurance blog posts some great interval workouts.  Lots of variety there - and you can use them for running, biking, swimming, or rowing.  Which is perfect for me because it covers all the endurance stuff that I do!

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