Because I intend to dedicate a large measure of this blog reporting on exploring the CrossFit model for preparing for running races, I plan to spend a fair amount of time talking about my experience in testing out the methods explained in Brian MacKenzie’s new book, “Power Speed Endurance–A Skill-Based Approach to Endurance Training.”
The book was released last week. It’s a 416-page tome that, with a great amount of how-to, covers MacKenzie’s CrossFit Endurance approach to running, cycling and swimming. As the subtitle of the book indicates, skill is a keyword in MacKenzie’s philosophy.
Not a surprise to anyone following the controversy MacKenzie’s program has sparked in the running and triathlon worlds, the book aggressively lays out a brand of training that–unlike most books on running–is a meaningful alternative to the Lydiard school of running. Most running programs are in fact different interpretations of Lydiard’s protocol—build a base of LSD mileage, then transition to a strength/hill phase to prepare for track workouts, and the third phase is a speed/sharpening phase that includes racing. The athlete then tapers for a seasonal peak. In MacKenzie’s approach “running as a skill” is considered foundational and the principle of “specificity” is altered to allow for the transfer of stamina work from functional movement training (CrossFit) is combined with speed endurance work with really no classic formula of periodization involved.
From a first reading, I see MacKenzie’s book as a tool kit for endurance athletes. It’s also going to be a must-have for anyone following a CrossFit Endurance program and wanting a textbook to refer to.
My suspicion is that traditionalists who are open minded to some new ideas will definitely find a benefit at least one new idea, drill or exercise as being valuable. The first section of “Running as a Skill” doesn’t spend chapters talking about physics and biomechanics but rather covers the philosophy (based on the Pose Technique by Dr. Nicolas Romanov—MacKenzie apprenticed under him) in a concise two-page spread and then jumps into how to do it.
Those who make up the 80% or so of runners who are injured every year may look to MacKenzie’s emphasis on overhauling running form as a potential remedy to chronic injury.
I’m already convinced that the CFE approach is a way to avoid injury. For one thing, it’s logical: use a form that reduces impact stress, eliminates movement habits that create shear on soft tissues, shift the power generation from the quads and hip flexors to the hamstrings and glutes, and exchange long slow distance base training for a speed endurance running schedule that absorbs conditioning work from CrossFit met-con workouts. I’ve experimented enough on my own to know to see that there’s a there there. For example, I went through a five month period where my only training was CrossFit training–no additional run training at all–and at the end of the period I tested myself with a 3-mile tempo run. I was able to hold the same speed and heart rate that immediately previous to the last injury I had before I started the CrossFit path that had been the product of a year of standard Lydiard-style training.
Pure CFE does include high-specific running workouts. And what I’m interested in learning about in the coming year is how it stacks up as a path to improving performance. In the past year I’ve talked to a number of athletes and coaches at CrossFit gyms who provide me their anecdotal reports of personal records using CFE. The proper way to review a book like this is to actually try the stuff talked about and report how it works or doesn’t work out.
I’ve invested myself and my personal hobby that is running in this new world of CrossFit. My review of “Power Speed Endurance” — of which I wrote the Foreword, as a matter of fact, is something I’m looking to publishing here in posts over however many months it takes to fully report on the experience.
Inside the Box: How CrossFit® Shredded the Rules, Stripped Down the Gym, and Rebuilt My Body is available from these online retailers: