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From the Library

July 22, 2019

Speed, Power, Endurance by Brian McKenzie

Crossfit, almost two decades after its founding, is still a subject of contention, amongst both athletes and non-athletes alike. In the defense of the nay-sayers, many of the original Crossfit folks can be obnoxiously polarizing people. In defense of the Crossfit supporters, however, personality conflicts don’t negate the value of the system.

One of the key principles behind Crossfit that is often overlooked, is that it was not intended to be a sport-specific conditioning program. Nobody ever claimed that a Crossfit athlete was going to be able to go out and WIN a powerlifting competition, or an ultra-marathon, without tailoring their training to sport-specific demands, before doing so. The idea was, you’d be able to lift heavy shit, like a powerlifter, and run fast, for long distances, like an ultra-marathoner (and for anyone who thinks marathoners aren’t running fast, consider this: my cousin runs a sub-2 hour marathon. That’s 13+ miles in less than one hour. At 13 miles per hour, she’d be running a 4 ½ minute mile….). It was never about, “Hey, do Crossfit, and you’ll be able to squat more than Fred Hatfield!” It was never about, “Hey, do Crossfit, and you’ll be able to run like a Kenyan!”

Crossfit found a huge following in the military, especially among SOF folks, specifically because of its generalist approach to fitness. Dudes got big and strong, so they can could carry the gear they needed to carry, and scale walls and caving ladders when they needed to. Dudes got fast and increased their stamina, so they could stay in the fight, even when scaling mountains, chasing down locals who grew up in the mountains.

There were some shortcomings to Crossfit, mostly in the coaching development area. The idea that you can go do a weekend certification course, and suddenly be ready to run your own box, and teach what are relatively complicated weightlifting and exercise skills, let alone program effective training sessions, is kind of silly, even to most Crossfit folks. This led to a number of very publicized injuries that gave Crossfit a pretty good black eye.

One of the potential shortcomings of Crossfit however, was that it’s General Physical Preparation (GPP) focus, was not always understood—let alone expressed adequately—by these weekend coaches. This led to the development of more specific areas of Crossfit, such as Crossfit Football (CFFB, now defunct) and Crossfit Strength-Bias (CFSB) for athletes that needed more of a focus on strength attributes, and Crossfit Endurance (CFE) by the author of this book, Brian McKenzie, for endurance sport athletes.

There have been a lot of claims, both for and against Brian’s program and its success, or lack thereof.

Here’s the catch: I’m not a triathlete. I’m not going to try and ride the Tour De France. I’m not going to swim the English Channel (Hell, given my druthers, I’m not going to swim across the pond on my farm!). I’m not going to run a marathon (I’m not even going to run another half-marathon, if I have my way about it). I’m damned sure not running an ultramarathon.

What I am interested in being able to do however, is maintain and continue to improve my strength, while also maintaining and improving my ability to run 5-6 miles, and hump a ruck a significant distance, if I need to do that. I also need to be able to do this, while still dealing with the increasingly busy and crowded schedule I have, between running a farm, running a business, writing blog articles and books, raising kids, taking care of my family and clan, and still doing other training. I don’t have time to go run 100+ miles per week, let alone a 20 miler once a week. The methods of CFE seem to work well enough to allow me to achieve my goals, without compromising my ability to take care of all the other tasks on my plate.

This book was McKenzie’s attempt to codify the basic methodologies of CFE, and it’s one of the better CF-related books I’ve found. In addition to pretty solid technical coaching of techniques, it includes a thorough grounding in the philosophies and theories behind the methodology. Finally, the programming included, from the six-week introductory program that focuses on bodyweight calisthenics and short intervals (which, honestly, could be a moderately long-term fitness program by itself, if repeated three or four cycles in a row), to the 12-week program, that is explicitly designed to be repeated over-and-over, is excellent. There are a number of endurance focused WODs (Workout of the Day…I explained these in The Reluctant Partisan, Volume One, in the PT chapter), as well, to change things up or to incorporate into a normal Crossfit programming schedule.

The best part of this program, in my mind, is that a person could go from sedentary, on the couch, to being reasonably fit, and able to do a lot of basic preparedness tasks, from a fitness perspective, in 6-12 weeks, and then continue improving from there.

Highly recommended.

Unbreakable Runner by TJ Murphy and Brian McKenzie

While not explicitly labeled as such, this is kind of a companion piece to the above book. Murphy is a lifelong competitive runner, and has spent most of his adult working life, as an endurance sport journalist. In the beginning of the book, he goes into excruciating detail about the injuries and damage he accrued following traditional Lydiard training methods, and the improvements he made when he decided to break down and give the heretical CFE methods a chance.

This book is also based on CFE methods, but while it does include some basic WODs, it focuses more on the interval running and time trial runs, needed to build sport-specific preparation for different race distances. It includes detailed training programs specific to 5K, 10K, half-marathons, marathons, and ultra-marathons.

I’ve used the 5K and 10K programs, and seen significant improvements in my running endurance and speed at those distances. I assume the same would be the case for the longer distances, but as I said, I just don’t have any interest in running that damned far.

Highly recommended.

Cross Training 101 by Scott James

I have a pretty good collection of these little booklets, from various authors, capitalizing on the Crossfit methodologies, without using the trademarked Crossfit name. They are all pretty similar, comprising a collection of WODs, and little else. This one, like the others, tends to categorize the WODs, into modalities. For example, this volume categorizes them into “Benchmark” Workouts. These are the so-called “Girls” and “Heroes” WODs from Crossfit. The Girls are a set of simple (not easy) set of WODs that most Crossfitters return to regularly, as metrics for performance improvement. The “Hero” WODs are named after military personnel who were Crossfit athletes who were killed in action during the GWOT (the most famous of these being the “Murph” named after SEAL Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was awarded the CMH posthumously, and which Crossfit gyms around the world perform on Memorial Day every year).

This booklet further divides WODs into “bodyweight” WODs, “regular” WODs, running WODs, and endurance WODs. Others may include kettlebell specific WODs, “Strongman” WODs, utilizing Strongman type lifts and implements, and any other variety.

Whether you’re just trying to spice up your home gym Crossfit-type conditioning, or you’re trying to utilize and expand on the programming offered in the previous two books, any one of these little “Cross Training Workouts” type books, are worth having. I don’t know that any one is better than any other. This just happened to be the one sitting on my desk at the moment.

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  1. INDY permalink

    “(and for anyone who thinks marathoners aren’t running fast, consider this: my cousin runs a sub-2 hour marathon. That’s 13+ miles in less than one hour. At 13 miles per hour, she’d be running a 4 ½ minute mile….)”

    That’s an error, she’d be the fastest man in the world.

  2. Hugh G. Rection permalink

    I can absolutely back of the recommendations of Speed, Power, Endurance by Brian McKenzie and Unbreakable Runner by TJ Murphy and Brian McKenzie. For anyone reading this, back in October I messaged Mr. Mosby over Facebook asking for advice on running programming. By following the 5k plan outlined in Unbreakable Runner, I went from a 20:30 3 mile time to hitting 18:00 for 3 miles in about 3 months.

    Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade is also a great read, though you can skip up to the level he calls solitary confinement right off the back. No need to stick to one movement a day. For general weight training, I actually prefer Greyskull LP over Starting Strength, as SS just wore me out too quickly by squatting heavy 3 days a week, not to mention that I had to go up sizes of jeans far too often in order to get my legs into them, while never filling out medium sized t-shirts. T-rex mode is a real thing.

  3. robcam817 permalink

    Nailed the BIG issue with crossfit. I got injured more doing crossfit the first couple years than the previous 30 before, (Army Vet, 56 now and been an athlete my entire life). Everyone who knows anything about fitness, (and some who don’t) can go out, get certified in a weekend and hang a shingle. That’s mostly because Crossfit has become about the $$$. Look how many of the top athletes are getting injured. I trusted the guy that coached me….big mistake but that’s only after a half dozen injuries and 4 years hindsight. He was living vicariously through me…. my PR’s were his PR’s, getting his high on through me.

    Thoroughly vet your coach. I can’t emphasize this enough. And listen to your body. If your coach is screaming FASTER FASTER FASTER….HARDER HARDER HARDER…. walk out of that box and never come back. Yeah, some folks need a little encouragement but those of us that already push ourselves to (and sometimes past) our limit need a coach whose gonna watch out for our safety first and worry about PR’s (Personal Records) second….

    God job pointing this out John. Take care and God Bless you and yours.


    On Sun, Jul 21, 2019 at 6:38 PM MountainGuerrilla wrote:

    > mountainguerrilla posted: “Speed, Power, Endurance by Brian McKenzie > Crossfit, almost two decades after its founding, is still a subject of > contention, amongst both athletes and non-athletes alike. In the defense of > the nay-sayers, many of the original Crossfit folks can be obnoxi” >

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