In Coaching, Sports Applications, Videos

May 16, 2011

Video Article

“This is really what CrossFit Endurance is designed to do: it’s to make you suck less,” says John McBrien, a CrossFit Endurance coach. “Find the area where you suck, and then make it suck less. That’s the goal, right?”

According to McBrien, traditional endurance training focuses on volume and intensity, with technique training only as a “last resort.” However, CrossFit Endurance programming, like CrossFit itself, starts with technique, then adds intensity and volume only after the technique is sound.

“One of the reasons we came up with CrossFit Endurance was to help the CrossFit athlete develop a bigger gas tank; that is, develop stamina,” McBrien explains. He says CrossFit Endurance seeks to replace cardiorespiratory endurance with stamina.

“Think about stamina as gears on a car—you want to use all the energy systems effectively. If we can teach the athlete to use all of them effectively, it’s not only going to help their anaerobic capacity but it is also going to help their cardiorespiratory endurance,” he says.

For the CrossFitter, CrossFit Endurance brings pacing, and for the endurance athlete, it brings intensity with interval training.

10min 43sec

Additional reading: A Theoretical Template for CrossFit Endurance Programming by John McBrien, published Sept.15, 2010.

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39 Comments on “CrossFit Endurance: Intro to Programming”


wrote …

Crossfit Endurance drives me nuts. There is this assumption that all endurance athletes only train long, slow, distance. That is just a pile of crap. Every successful endurance athlete trains with at least some intensity. The paradigm wide best practices across every major endurance sport is the same: 80% aerobic, 20% anaerobic or nearly anaerobic, by time.

Going out and "throwing down" five workouts a week does not equip an athlete to be fast over distance any more than going out and going Zone 2 5 days a week does. Both programs equip athletes to be slow. Period. A program that allows for true speed over distance necessarily involves long workouts. Four Hours Hard is the workout that gives true fitness.

I like crossfit, but the CFE stuff is not practical for truly elite endurance performances. By elite I mean sub 10 hour ironman, sub 3 hour marathon, sub 9 hour hundred mile MTB, etc. These standards are fairly low, in reality. If CFE were truly a capable program, there would be top 10 and podium performances.

If the crossfit endurance guys could show me multi-year training logs from established endurance athletes that have achieved better results doing CFE than a typical program I'll shut up. I've cruised around the boards over there, and found nothing convincing about programming that indicates that for a given ability level, CFE is capable of producing the best results in sport.

My challenge to the CFE coaches is "Put up or Shut Up." Post Power Files. GPS Tracks that show year to year improvement. Success that is sustainable over time, and throughout a competitive season.

A typical 80:20 ratio of aerobic:anaerobic exercise has been proven with Gold Medals, World Championships, and success over time. CFE has not, and there is not convincing evidence that the program works. Google "Mark Twight TNSTAAFL" for a more convincing argument, if you want to.


wrote …

Hello Andrew,

My name is Jeff Peterson, a long-time endurance athlete and current crossfit endurance athlete. I've been running for a long time now -High School, College (University of North Carolina) and beyond. I've also had some positive results in triathlon, having some overall amateur wins ( Pacific Grove '09)and eventually earned my professional license.
I have been the athlete that has run 100 mile weeks, logged 25hr triathlon training weeks, and have lived and breathed my sport trying to improve. It has gotten me a lot and has been fun but at too great of a cost. I first learned of Crossfit and Crossfit Endurance in the fall of 2010. This was coming off of a period of doing NOTHING. I was at my wits end with endurance sport. My wife(a professional runner) and I were expecting our 2nd child and had recently taken in my 11yr old brother. That, coupled with a full time job, did not coincide with my training regime. So, when I found CFE, I was certainly interested. I experimented with my own programming and took to tempo runs, interval runs, and 3-5 CF WODS per week at TJ's Gym in San Rafael. That November, I ran 1:09.15 for a half marathon at the "Clarksburg Country Run" (look it up if you need to). From there, I was hooked. I attended a Crossfit run seminar in San Francisco, where I met Brian Mackenzie. The knowledge gained was powerful and Brian's willingness to help was astounding. I've been following his lead with endurance workouts and have been crossfitting at San Francisco Crossfit. My workouts, which are very similar to what I was doing on my "Hard" days previous years, are going great. I feel fit, strong, but most of all I have more time for the MORE important parts of my life. My racing has been sparse but only because we just had our 2nd child, mentioned previously. However, I tested my fitness at the San Francisco Presidio 10 Mile (also the RRCA National Champs with a good prize purse). I won easily, even with the course marshals sending me the wrong way). On a hilly course, 3 weeks ago, I ran 55:36. Report is here -
I hate to keep sounding like a self promoter. I only hope to respond to your request in your curiosity to find "elite" crossfit endurance athletes. Is running or triathlon my profession? NO. Can I run under 2:30 in the marathon, go under 9 in an Ironman, have run under 31mins in the 10k, and all under the CFE regimen. YES. Am I elite? I don't know but what I do know is this....
Crossfit Endurance is an amazing community of coaches and athletes that promote a lifestyle of being VERY fit in less time. I am proud to be involved in this "revolution" of endurance fitness through Brian and through San Fran Crossfit.
Not only do I have more time for my expanding family, career, friends and social life but I feel GOOD. My energy is always high, my overall health and physical preparedness is better than it ever has been, I can hop in a pickup hoops game and not feel sore for days, and I look forward to my workouts every day - a far cry from my 100mile weeks/25 hr training weeks.
I will continue to use Crossfit Endurance because it works for me and it keeps me on "the podium". Whether that is a 5k or Ironman...
Andrew, Please feel free to get in touch with me if you are continually curious about this topic. Naturally, I understand that something different is scary. If you try and really stick to it, you WILL see results.
Simply, I've done it both ways and this way works just as well if not better. I'm excited for my future in the sport and for all others who take on this fun endeavor. I'll keep you and the community posted as I go after my goals.
Best Regards,
Jeff Peterson


wrote …

Love this video, and am super interested in Crossfit Endurance. Would be great to see some more of that lecture, or similar content!


replied to comment from Jeffrey Peterson

Jeff, it didn't sound like self promotion at all. Thanks for sharing your story.

"Rate of the return" is a key phrase I think.

Continued to perform well in your sport, became more overall fit, have quality time with your family. All while not losing your job. Well done.


wrote …

Sorry, "Rate of return"


wrote … da man!


replied to comment from Kevin B Sandberg

Thanks, Kevin. You're absolutely right on rate of return! I've never recovered so quickly.
To me, that might have been tricky to get used to. BUT, once you establish a base of S&C via crossfit you begin to recover SO quickly. There is a slight hump to get over to achieve this, but what would sport be like without challenges?....


wrote …

I would also love to see more material from CFE in the journal. including programing for an endurance Mtn. Bike race. This was great. thank


Jeffrey, I believe Andrew's point was that Mark Twight experienced the same thing at first, but then his endurance performance began to suffer dramatically as the endurance base (bank account, if you will) that he had built up over years and years of training, slowly whittled away to nothing. At that point he had to turn around and start over from scratch.

Personally, I add in a long run and an interval each week in my training with CrossFit, but I do it because my profession (military) requires me to be able to run. I think that CFE is fantastic for weekend warrior racers or those people who are required to run because of their job, but let's be honest: there was a direct correlation in the drop of internationally competitive US distance runners in the 80's after the intensity bug hit. 70's guys like Pre, Shorter, Salazar, etc... were so successful because they routinely logged 100-140 mile weeks. It wasn't until the early 90s that distance coaches realized their mistake and started having their charges up the volume; that is why we are finally starting to see some truly competitive US runners on the world scene again.


replied to comment from Alex Europa

Hi Alex,

Believe me, I really like the idea of being on your feet, or bike for a long time. That is why, on occasion, log run workouts in the range of 12-14 miles. For me this workout has become the glue of everything else I do. It ties it all together and gives me confidence that I can be successful over a long race like a half or full marathon. The same goes for riding, 20mi TT serves a similar purpose. I've also, on a rare occasion, been able to hop along on my buddy's (28:30 10k runner) 20mi long run. Not a CFE prescribed workout, but sparingly can be fun.

"More than one way to skin a cat...". That is why most of my former collegiate teammates, some racing professionally, others "weekend warriors", train the "Lydiard" style. 100-140mpw with an interval workout, tempo and LONG run. I did this. It got me to some decent times but at a big cost. I recognized that I was chronically fatigued and suffered from endurance ADD(training got boring).

This way seems to work with me and I am achieving some good results. I did experience a time where I felt like I was going backwards, but now I consider myself on the way up. Not as many miles in the engine but the body is still ready to go when I need it to. 400m -Marathon

I appreciate your insight and I do not wish to seem like I am in a fixed mindset. "My way or the highway" should not be anyone's motto...
I like crossfit, I like endurance sports, so this makes sense.


wrote …

At the Gansett Marathon in Narrangansett, R.I., Jeff Ford posted a 2:49.50 which was a 14 minute PR using CFE prescription.
A question that I have for you is how are Armstrong, Macca, Reid, Fraser, and Shorter trained? Where are their detailed 80:20 training programs posted or located?
Do you understand the dynamics of a "Mexican Standoff"...


replied to comment from Andrew Brautigam

Andrew, I don't think you should do CFE.

But let's say I was your evil twin and stopped doing what you do, to try CFE for a season. How much harm could it do compared to the harm of all the life energy you burn up running long and slow and developing virtually no other physical capacity (assuming that's what you are advocating)?

And if someone wanted to have a fair dose of the broad, general work capacities of CrossFit and almost as much capacity as you have for running long and slow, why the hell would that bother you?

Elite performance is as much about math as it is about methods - you take the right athlete and they can train like crap and still throw an amazing performance. You can also take a bunch of athletes in the 90th percentile and train them with unhuman perfection and they won't beat the 99% percentile athlete that only trains 'pretty good'.

Logically, even if your assertion that 80/20 is the proven way is correct up until now, that does not mean it will be true in ten years.

Your perception that CFE's invalid because not everyone does it is just an ax you want to grind for reasons unknown to anyone but you. The only one that can judge whether it is valid for them is the athlete that tries it and either does or doesn't meet their goals for return on training time invested.

All I know is I was at the point of being unable to run due to stupid training and a trashed knee but have been thrilled to learn to POSE, and as my technique improves I regain pleasure in running.

Lastly, there's no one that will be hurt and many that will benefit if Brian is right - like CrossFit, CFE offers the possibility of trading short, very painful, very intense work periods for long, pointless hours of low capacity training in how to run slow - many will chase that trade and benefit from it. I can't see a case that anyone will lose from making that choice, and certainly it won't hurt you.

You remind me of the old saw, "We know so much that isn't so."


replied to comment from Andrew Brautigam


To support everything Jeff has stated so far, I too am an athlete that follows the CFE prescription for training and can say, without hesitation, it has provided me unbelieveable results at what is considered to be the "elite" level. Prior to training with CFE, I was a huge proponent of the Lydiard method prior to discovering CFE and thought it was the "only" way to get faster at the elite level of multisport. The 35 hour a week regimen seemed to make sense, it was the "everyone is doing it" approach and I figured it would work for me. I saw small gains at best, and was feeling less fit and more beat up than ever. I am a professional triathlete/duathlete and last June was introduced to Crossfit.

Shortly after, in that same month, I was hit by a car on a training ride, leaving me with a broken right clavicle in 3 spots, and 4 broken ribs. I was the recipient of a metal plate and seven metal screws to put the clavicle back together. My doctor stated a minimum of 20 weeks for recovery. That meant not being able to get my heart rate over 140. Essentially, he was telling me in a round about way, that my season was over.

2 weeks post surgery, I walked into my Crossfit box, and asked for thier help on keeping my strength. With one arm I was doing back squats, and back on my bike indoors. Shortly after that, I had the honor of meeting Brian MacKenzie at a CFE cert in Chicago. I was a big Lydiard follower, and all my training had basically revolved around that. I was hesitant to accept this very different method, but I was open to learning about it. 48 hours later, I was hooked. I started to run again, and found my times dropping significantly. I was feeling very strong, and my shoulder wasn't an issue. I saw my doctor in early September, and he was amazed at my progress. He was so shocked to see 90% bone growth and declared me clear to race. Let that sink in - race, not simply resume training, but actually race.

In October of 2010, I competed in 2 smaller duathlons and was second overall in both, owning the fastest run splits in both races. That was using the CFE protocol completely. In January of this year, I competed in the Midwest Indoor Tri Series, and in the elite wave, I was 2nd overall again, in a very competitive pro field. Unfortunately, a week later, I had an emergency appendectomy. That surgeon told me I wouldn't be able to do anything but walk for 3 weeks. In 3 days I was riding, lifting and running. 3 weeks post surgery, I competed in the Midwest Indoor Championship, placing 3rd overall. 6 days later, I won the Midwest Indoor Duathlon Championship, breaking the course record, and posting the following splits for both runs - 1.5 mile - 7:33, 2nd 1.5 mile - 7:38.

2 weeks later I was at the Natchez Trace Duathlon in Tennessee, racing against some of the top duathletes in the south, with only a few days of outdoor riding. At this same race 2 years ago, I could barely manage 6th in the pro field, and was a distant 6th at that. This year, I was 3rd, and it was a fight to the finish for the 3 of us. On a hilly course, with scarce outdoor riding, I was fighting for top placings.

Like Jeff, this isn't about self-promotion, its about providing insight into the CFE protocol and its ability to work for elite athletes. I only feel myself getting stronger and faster daily, and have complete faith that this training program will get me to the top of the podium all season. I have the great priviledge to learn directly from Brian and Doug Katona, which is critical to my success. After spending time with them in California for the Endurance War Camp in April, I was able to gain valuable knowledge that completely reinforced everything we do.

On a different note, I would like to address something else you stated. You made a claim that the 80-20 rule is used by world champions, olympic gold medalists and so forth. My question is, how do you know that? The only reason I ask, and its not to be argumentative, but when did Lance Armstrong, Chrissie Wellington, Craig Alexander, Andy Potts, any world champion post thier training data for the world to see? Even if some data was made available, it was never an "open boo" look into what they were or are doing. How do I know this? B/c I know their coaches, and the athletes. That kind of data is private and for good reason. So I think that you are painting with broad strokes to say that the 80-20 rule is gospel for proven success considering finding the real training that those athletes do is not open to public viewing.

I think for you to really get a good sense as to what CFE is all about, is to let your guard down and give it a legitimate shot. Try it for a month, see what happens. If you don't want to, that's fine, but why are so bothered that other athletes, elite or otherwise use it? If you don't, and don't want to, then what does it matter? CFE is a protocol that we believe produces superior results. Is it the only method out there? Clearly that's not the case. All we are saying is we believe its superior and know it works.

Hope this sheds some light on your doubts about CFE.



Zach Even - Esh wrote …

Brian MacKenzie trained my buddy for his first marathon, I believe he ran each mile at 7 30 and maybe his last few miles were faster. 2 days later he went mtn biking as we do mid week for 90-120 minutes

the next weekend he did a 12 hr race from 3 pm until 3 am

he crushed that as well, it was a mix of mtn biking, running, ocean kayaking, dragging kayak in sand and more craziness

I'm psyched to see MORE

Brian MacKenzie and Doug Katona are hitting The Underground first weekend in June, I'm psyched to learn!!

For Andrew, I would focus more on the take away rather than arguing, I understand EVERY program is flawed and I'm psyched to LEARN.

I better see some peeps signed up for The NJ CFE cert around the corner! BOOM!



wrote …

I'm curious as to the claims of CFE. For a true comparison between "old school" training methods vs. CFE, wouldn't the study have to take more information into account? I am very interested in this program, but most of these great success stories and personal accounts throughout this running comment section are from "former" specific sport athletes (runners/triathletes). For someone to say "I was a former pro...then I switched to CFE and look at all these awesome results..." isn't truly unfolding all the layers of what took to get to this level. Saying or claiming it is all becuase of this "new" programming model is just throwing away or completely disregarding all the years of BASE training, muscle memory, cardiac efficiency, lactic buffering, technique and so on. I am fairly confident that this system is economic (based on time) and efficient, but I think we are completely overlooking a huge component of how these athletes developed their motors to begin with. It would seem that CFE is like the "icing on the cake" for athletes who've already developed the skills/abilities....or it can take an inexperienced athlete to better levels, but accepting the notion that beginner will become Pro Triathlete just following CFE is a stretch for me. Maybe that is why everyone that is doing this is "still" adding their own long days or "special secret " training in order to complete the puzzle. Either way it seems this puzzle is far from complete in terms of being "The Ultimate Answer" for everyone. My 2 cents.


wrote …

CFE is a fantastic program, I have never come across anyone who has had the balls to do it report slower race times. All have been faster and whats also amazing no injuries. What is unique about CFE is that it can take someone who is a family man and works 40+ hrs a week and they can compete in the sport they love. There stronger and healthier than ever and can enjoy the sport into old age. I had the priviledge to learn CFE from Doug Katona and he is one of the best coaches/trainers out there.
The only bad thing about CFE is its hard to get people to do it because there skeptical. Im sick of people calling CFE out saying it cant produce elite athletes. Im going to get someone to run under a 2hr marathon using CFE, someones got a do it.


wrote …

I think some interesting perspective can be gained on this debate by considering Arthur Lydiard, generally considered the original proponent of high-mileage base training. He was a Kiwi that thought he was going to die from a heart attack when he went out for a jog at the age of 27, and was subsequently motivated to get into shape to save his life. His profession? A shoe cobbler. He launched himself into experimenting with running, running as much as 240 miles in a week. From his conclusions he went on to coach neighborhood kids into world-beaters. Was he a great coach? Without a doubt.

But also consider Percy Cerutty, an Australian born in 1910 who at the age of 43 lost his job as a civil servant because of an unspecified illness---he suffered from severe migraines, weight-loss and lack of energy. At the point doctors began to think he was done for, at the age of 46 Cerutty began experimenting with running and diet. He also began to apply a lifelong interest in movement, in particular the movement of wild animals, and by the time he was in his 50s he began coaching athletes in Portsea. Cerutty applied principles of diet, running technique, gymnastics, sand running and weight training to produce the likes of Herb Elliott, one of the greatest runners in history.

And there's Peter Coe, coach of Sebastion Coe, who turned his son into a multiple world record holder using low-mileage, speed endurance and high-intensity circuit training. It's interesting to note that when Lydiard heard that Coe's highest level of weekly mileage was 40 mpw, Runner's World quoted Lydiard as saying it was impossible and that Coe was lying.

All three of these coaches used different approaches to develop elite athletes. And without a doubt, Lydiard has had the most effect on distance running over the past half a century, but the truth is from a historical perspective we're just beginning to learn about how best to train for distance. Why not push the envelope? Is the only road to the top via high-mileage? Are we so sure that Lydiard nailed it in the 1940s and that 100 years from now the only way to become a good runner is by logging tons of raw mileage?

Maybe that's the way it will play out. But one thing you have to admire about CFE is that they're taking the initiative to explore a different route to developing a runner, and when you consider the thinking it makes sense. In CFE, the program looks to first develop the physiological infrastructure, running technique and diet that will help make a runner resistant to injury, more powerful and more efficient with that power. In other words, you become a healthy athlete who can run. CFE is also less worried about serving the sacred cows of history and looking into how one might go about developing aerobic efficiency without the joint-grinding pounding that inevitably beats a runner all to hell (God love him, look at Bill Rodgers these days).

Will CFE supplant the Lyidard model? Who knows, but considering that CFE was a case (not unlike Cerutty's and Lydiard's) where necessity was the mother of invention---MacKenzie started experimenting with different combinations of technique, speed endurance, Crossfit and powerlifting when high-mileage programming broke him to pieces---I personally have come to the conclusion that it would be irrational not to let go of my former emotional attachment to high-mileage programming (it broke me to pieces too) and see what's there. Why the hell not? I'm not going to make the Olympic team whether I run 10 miles a week or 240, so what do I have to lose by experimenting myself?


wrote …

Hmmm... I don't think I like the characterization made by McBrian that the traditional approach to swim training is Volume>Intensity>Technique.

Technique has been the driving force behind the consistant improvement in World Records throughout the history of the sport. Any coach who doesn't recognize that isn't very observant.

Technique>Intensity>Volume is the CFE way, but they aren't the only ones doing it. The entire sport of swimming has been moving that direction since the 80's.


replied to comment from Paul Eich

Paul: I don't have an axe to grind, but I do want to see something empirical. Here's why:

I am a decent runner and mountain biker. I've finished towards the middle of the pack in some pro/expert mountain bike races around these parts (WV) and also won some sport class races. I've run a hard, hilly marathon, some trail races, and done well in some adventure races.

I'm not self-promoting either, because I have nothing to gain. I've been cross-fitting since November, and I have the usual time constraints that most grown-ups do - dogs, baby, wife, friends.

My cycling program, since 2006, has revolved around three things: Mountain Bike rides, quantified intensity rides, and long, hard rides. I was preparing for endurance mountain bike races, and, using this program, really transformed my riding from mediocre (at best) to an all-round hammer. I'm still not fast-fast-fast, but I'm getting more that way.

During the winter months, when all I did were short, high-intensity trainer workouts, I would have great fitness for one or two hours. After two hours, I would totally fall apart. completely. This winter, when all I did was run and crossfit, and ride occasionally, because it was busy (baby) and the weather sucked, I had the same kind of faux-fitness this spring. Through some work, and a few long, hard rides, I've regained a bit of my true fitness, but it is still not to the level when I was doing 4-6 hour rides twice a month.

So my programming, when I made my biggest gains in fitness, was 2-3 days of balls-out intensity a week, one or two skill-type low intensity rides on the mountain bike, and a long hard ride at least every two weeks.

That kind of program really isn't *that* different from the CFE protocol - replacing the TT efforts with one or two long, hard rides, and dialing back the number of days of intensity.

What CFE is right now kind of reminds me of a AMRAP/METCON exclusive CF program. If you are a Crossfitter looking to specialize in a strength sport - a weightlifter or powerlifter - you are not going to base your program around FRAN and CINDY. Instead, you are going to use those metcon's judiciously, and maybe even quite frequently, but continue to do barbell workouts frequently. Long rides are kind of like a pure strength program. You aren't going to do Crossfit Total or 5 x 3 DL's or Squats 4 times a week, but that WOD has its place, as do long HARD rides.


wrote …

Some additional thoughts:

First, I appreciate the comments from Guy and Jeff about how the program has worked for them. It is hard not to take those reports with a bit of skepticism - both Guy and Jeff were elite athletes before starting the CFE protocol, with extensive background in long workouts and high mileage. These guys have such a deep foundation that it is hard assess how well CFE works for them, and how much of the success is based on fundamental talent and the long-term affects of the previous training methods. That said, these two athletes are strong evidence of the short-term efficacy of CFE.

Some more, not necessarily related thoughts. Three of the top mountain bikers in the US right now are Todd Wells, Jeremiah Bishop, and Adam Craig. These guys are very different in their power profiles and training styles. Wells and Bishop both do the pre-base/base phase "of legend." 25-30 hour weeks, which is crazy to me. Adam Craig, as far as I know, doesn't do the same kind of base/pre-base that these guys do, but spends his winters skiing, riding ocassionally, and in general being a dude. All of these guys have had pretty significant success in their sport.

Bishop, from what I know, is an aerobic animal. He can put down the power for hours, and is an animal on extended (30 minute +) climbs. His aerobic capacity is about as high as a persons can be.

Craig, on the other hand, is sometimes called "fat boy" by cyclists (which is ridiculous) but has unbelievable anaerobic capacity and recovery. He can punch it to 800+ watts consistently, and recover from those efforts really, really well.

Bishop has had most of his success in marathon and american cross country racing, while Craig has had most of his success in world-cup racing. This is a direct result of their contrasting abilities. American XC racing and marathon racing is about maximum sustainable power, while WC racing is about being able to climb above threshold. (This, obviously, isn't first-hand knowledge, but what I've gleaned from top-level coaches and athletes I either e-know or know personally.)

At the top level, these guys are training to both maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. They have unlimited time to both train and to recover.

That said, even with identical resources of time, training, and recovery, top-level athletes train differently. They try to minimize their unique, individual weaknesses, and maximze their unique, individual, strengths.

Amateur athletes also need to train to maximize their strengths and minimize weaknesses. For weak, inflexible, "slow" athletes, adding anaerobic capacity, endurance, and recovery workouts to their diet of aerobic workouts, along with smart strength and conditioning, will result in gains.

Adding long, aerobic workouts to strong, flexible, athletes who fade after 60 or 90 minutes will yield results, too.

All that said, my ideal, theoretical programming for what I want to do (win expert class mountain bike races, ride sub 9 hour 100 milers) will look, in the most general terms like this: In the off-season (october-april) XC Ski and Run extensively, do 3-5 CF Wods a week (2 metcons, 2 strength bias wods), then, in the competitive season, (May-September) do 3 days of on the bike intensity, 3 wods focused on strenth maintanence and mobility, one race day a week or one long, hard ride. I'll probably never do more than 10-12 hours a week following this protocol, but I think this program will yield this best results for me, and I think it has more general applicability for competitive athletes than the CFE main-site workouts.


wrote …

Physiological infrastructure. Diet that will help make a runner resistant to injury. You'll drown in the pool. Go out in the ocean - yup you're dead. Definitely drowning. OMG I learned to swim as child and wasn't coached with perfect form, ohhhh no, swimmers must be all be terrible people and have bad coaches. (Imagine little league having fun?!) Virtually no other athletic capacity.

I'm convinced!

If I tell you that I once raced a whole 50meter pool does the value of your anecdote change?

Please don't justify your methods with narrative.


wrote …

Please keep these types of videos coming, Fantastic stuff.


wrote …

Just out of curiosity:

Isn't it sort of pre-mature to be making comparisons this early in CFE's existence? Wouldn't it be better to wait until you had a large group of top-end people using CFE for 5 years+ before taking a look at its efficacy? After all, elite endurance folks run for YEARS to get to the top level- It strikes me that running a few races using the CFE method and declaring it right and true because you've shown improvement is jumping the gun a bit.

Endurance racing- like powerlifting- favors the experienced.

Wait for the long-term data to prove the point.


replied to comment from Andrew Brautigam

Andrew, I appreciate these comments, gives your critique a context.

There must be a million ways to the top of the mountain, if yours is sucessful, it would be interesting to see if it is applicable to others like you. Therein lies the problem with programming - so many variables between athletes, it's extremely difficult to get past strongly held belief and get to "known."


wrote …

Awesome video explaining the theory behind Crossfit Endurance

As a "weekend warrior" athlete who ran both cross-country and track in high school without any coaching on 'technique' or sport-specific cross training (e.g. dead lifts for posture), my data driven endorsement of both Crossfit & Crossfit Endurance is as follows:

(1) First marathon results without "hitting the wall" ...

(2) Improved half-marathon results ...


replied to comment from Andrew Brautigam

Hi Andrew,

I don't believe that the speaker is trying to connivence anyone that CFE is for elite endurance athletes.

He never makes the assumption that all endurance athletes only train long, slow, distance.

Actually he speaks to them using threshold training and interval training in conjunction to their mainstay (long endurance workouts)

CFE is really there to make CF athletes better at endurance and average endurance athletes better at endurance by incorporating the "intensity" (threshold, interval, etc...) element into their training.

"Its makes you suck less" Elite endurance athletes do not suck at endurance and therefore CFE does not apply to them.




wrote …

Love the video. Thanks Andrew, not saying I agree with you but I love the fact that you created a storm of a discussion. More exchange of information like this is great, exchange of ideas and methods. I believe CFE will adapt if need be, if future history will tell a different story.

As an all round trainer of health and fitness, there is always an arguement from other trainers, whom suffer triathlons and marathons, that cringe and are horrified about the idea of less kilometers per week - They comment "You mean you want me to instensify my workout with weights, nad lessen my KM's but I've tried that and it didn't". Is it physical or mental strength that defines endurance?

From this you can ask, how long did you do the intensity training, length of months, years? What is your diet like? Was it a balanced workout? Did the intensity imporve or maintain..., etc. CFE does need a track record, and if you cringe to the idea of 100's of KM per WEEK, and it is disrupting a balanced lifestyle, CFE definitely makes sense. CF in itself helps with ROM and stamina - the big hills are not as terrifying.

Moving from common athlete to elite will definitely need to be defined in CrossFit Endurance, with tracking data records. Old school vs CFE would be the ultimate. But do they want you to be an elite athlete?

Should CFE sponsor one common man and bring him to the elite level, or should CFE sponsor an existing lower ranked elite athlete and put the power to the punch and make him great?


replied to comment from Andrew Brautigam


My name is actually Jeff Ford. I do not have access to CFIT Journal, but watched the video via Kaitlin Lyons. She posted earlier about my recent race performance and I am thrilled to spread the word about Cross Fit Endurance.

Here's my background: I grew up playing golf, hockey, and baseball average athlete, okay skills, but honestly in the middle as far as performance as a team member. I began strength training the traditional way all the way thru high school and into college. At the end of college I ran my first 5K in a time of 18:05 so surprisingly good time, but not amazing. After college, I became at fitness specialist in Hilton Head Island and discovered CrossFit.

Began the marathon scene in December 2009 Running the Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon in 3:05:55 (Training straight LCD some strength training) so qualified for Boston on MY first try. After moving to Hilton Head I picked up CrossFit last June and it has completely changed the way I trained. Here's the story: I wasn't sold of CF short workouts, high intensity ... I always thought longer was better! How could this be? I gave CF a month and it changed my life. The variety, the intensity, and opportunity to PR is every day! Exactly the mentality I strive for in races.

So it began, I had another marathon insights (October to be exact the New Hampshire Marathon in Bristol, NH). I found it incredibly difficult to train for a marathon the LSD way and keep up with the 3 on 1 off CF programming. MY body was breaking down so much that I had to stop running the last 8 weeks of a typical 18 week marathon training schedule. I only CrossFitted because my knees and sciatic nerve were banged up and I could accomodate most of the moves with the injury. So headed in I was banged up and only was able to run an 8 miler the week before.Long story short ended up PRing the race (probably one of the toughest and hillest courses out there) hittinga time of 3:03 5th overall. I thought man how did I get thru this race? I hadn't been running only swimming and CFit?!

The plan was to run Boston, but I missed registering like many this year and decided on the Gansett Marathon Narragansett, RI on April 16, 2011. In December decided to only CrossFit and Add CrossFit Endurance as my marathon training ... was worried at first, but as I implemented the programming it felt right. I ran typical 3 to 4 times a week some weeks only twice. Always included tabadas and intervals and also a stamina based workout (tempo or time trial). Body felt good the whole time and began to see my times improve!! I ran two Half Marathons leading up to the Gansett Marathon PR'd Both and actually won the Snickers Half MArathon in ALbany, GA training only CFit and CFE. Included the taper week created by BMACK as my final week leading up to Gansett. Legs and body felt better than ever ... was still a little psyched out because the furthest mileage I hit in training was only 15 miles and I was about to run 26.2. The conclusion: Race went exactly according to plan based off my HM times I figured I could hold around a 6:30 per mile pace for the race ending me right around 2:50 Incredibly felt better and better. My shoe actually came untied haha but every split was within a few seconds. Felt so strong the last two miles that they were as fast as my first!! Ran a 6:21 26 mile and cruised in almost sprinting the last half mile. Immediately after hit my air squats (25) and felt fine. I was looking around and knew that the training was right ... every one else was roughed up, I felt ready for another.

As of now I am back at CrossFit Hilton Head Training 4 to 5 WODS a week. The one thing I need to learn more about is post recovery the following week. I always hit the post race WOD that is listed on the CFE website, but tend to jump back balls to the walls at CFIT too quickly. Despite a few bumps I am back to running and trianing for a half ironman in August. Now training CFE in the pool, ocean, on the bike and of course my original passion running. I have evidenced my training in a notebook and only hope to share my experience with you today because I really believe in CFE and its just a matter of giving it a chance. Scary, but everything in life pays off if you put the time in and the trust. BMack and these guys know what their doing. I only hope to improve from here. Hope this helps! Thanks for your interest. Jeff Ford

P.S. (Adam M CrossFits using his log in to respond to your post)


wrote …

What I'd really like to see is some real research that shows that CFE is better than other methods. Just like there are athletes here showing dramatic results, other people on other sites make the same kind of statements about other programs. Anecdotal evidence is great, but real research involves 2 groups before and after an intervention. The Tabata protocol is popular because it works, but also because he showed its effectiveness in a randomized controlled trial. Problem is that there are so many variables involved that controlling for them is difficult. Many other programs lack research as well- Carmichael and Joel Friel are quite popular, but don't have research to back them either. What we really need is a study with 10 athletes/group; one group follows CFE, one does Friel's program, one follows CTS, etc. Measure VO2max, time to exhaustion, etc. before and after 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, etc. I doubt the research will ever happen, but until it does nobody can say "My program is better than yours." Actually, they can all say that, but only one group is right.


wrote …

I love the Crossfit Endurance program. I just started implementing into my training.

I am a newbie in regards to endurance training. I ran some over the years (currently 42 years old) but for the last 4 months have been training more. I ran my first duathlon last month, first 30 mile cycling road race and have entered another duathlon in 2 weeks. I am hooked.

I am wondering if some of the success current CFE athletes are experiencing are due to their previous endurance training (LSD etc) and the size of their gas tanks, prior to starting CFE. Can training exclusively CFE increase the size of the gas tank?

Should I do more LSD to increase my gas tank or train exclusively CFE? I would assume that training with the CFE protocol, tempo run/bike would increase my gas tank.

I would love to hear your comments and suggestions. Thanks in advance


replied to comment from Andrew Brautigam

From my perspective as an endurance coach that's been using CFE personally and with athletes for the past 2 years, your ideal workout programming would be totally within the norm of what I would see CF/CFE athletes programming. My opinion is that there will never be a perfect protocol for everyone, just a protocol that is perfect for you. For me, this is the most efficient at making truly faster and stronger and healthier athletes. Good luck in achieving your goals Andrew.

Thanks for posting this video!


replied to comment from Matthew Stehr

Search PubMed for articles related to interval training. There's no perfect training methodology and there are really no perfect studies, especially in the athletic realm (Sorry, I'm a cancer biologist and most exercise phys. articles are generally set at a lower standard for publication). All I know is that CFE works for me and gives me the intensity and diversity I need to continue to enjoy my workouts. The only number I have to claim is that during my traditional marathon training last year my resting heart rate was around 55-60. The last few times I measured I was in the 48-52 range. That's after only 2 months of CFE. That number was enough to convince me that I don't need to switch back to traditional run training. I'm not elite and never will be, but there is data to support portions of the CFE methodology and I strongly believe the changes I've noticed in my own life are strong enough evidence for me to continue down this path.


wrote …

Bottom line up front: If anyone out there is willing to program a CFE plan for an "average" runner training for a half marathon, I'd be willing to embrace the suck to provide data to be analyzed that everyone is discussing here.

My background is that I've been running for about 6 years, but I'm not elite by any means. My PR was in 2009 at 1:36. I followed "traditional" running plans to get there. I've been CFing for about one year and am now hooked. However, I immediately noticed that I probably won't be pushing comparable weights to my friends who CF. Only when there is a WOD that has a running portion or body weight only (sometimes) did I feel I was comparable. As much as I love doing CF, I personally judge my fitness levels on how fast I can run. I've since run across CFE 2 weeks ago and have been enjoying the programming. CFE allows me to put the same CV and HIIT principles to my running program.

Unfortunately on the CFE site there isn't much going on in the forum, so I'm looking for a group/community to help me program based on some race dates and work/life commitments. Sorry for the pandering, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

And I loved the video, hope to see more CFE covered on the Journal!


replied to comment from mike speas

"There's no perfect program for everyone."

Two things that I've taken from Joe Friel that I think every single endurance athlete should hold as gospel: There is no universal program, and training is doing the MINIMUM POSSIBLE WORK (of any type) FOR THE DESIRED RESULT.

I appreciate the ongoing discussion on this article. I'm not surprised that athletes have had really good results using a mostly intensity program. (even though no cyclists have responded?)

Intensity is an absolute necessity for being good at any endurance sport. At any sport, really. I recently read a study (I think it is available on SSRN) that was an aggregate of most of the studies on endurance sport training over the past 20+ years. Most of the CFE ideas have been around the block before.

The study found that the best athletes in any endurance sport spend about 80% of their training time at low intensity, and about 20% at very high intensities. Many of these athletes participate in technique sports like swimming and XC skiing, and there is a pretty serious technique portion of sports like running and cycling, too.

The 80% easy (and I do mean EASY), 20% HARD program is what the majority of elite endurance athletes use. Racing is the ultimate testing ground, and this kind of program really works.

That said, if most elites are training 15-25 hours a week, that 20% would be anywhere from 4-6 hours a week, so not that far outside of a typical CFE week as far as time at intensity.

Just some more thoughts.


wrote …

Could you tell me the title of the article? I am interested to read it.



wrote …

here's the link to the meta-study I mentioned:


Tommy Marshman wrote …

The debate on CFE effectiveness aside. I found this avery concise, informative and well structured lesson.

Zach even-Esh makes a good point you don;t have to embrace the whole paradigm but look for something to take away that enhances your training, don;t throw out the baby with the bath water.


wrote …

This is a fantastic video. I have been practicing the Pose Running techniques as recommended by Brian, and although going through an adaptation period find myself moving more effortlessly and more efficiently, and most importantly without pain. Thank you! I would love some programing and training recommendations to train for running ultra distance (50 mile).



wrote …

Has anyone implemented crossfit endurance as a coach for a high school cross country team? If so what was your programing like? I am working with a high end runner that is coming off two stress fractures on her right foot. Any suggestions would be awesome!


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