CrossFit and Endurance Athletics

Chris Carlson-middle of the WOD.

The recent article about CrossFit West Santa Cruz and endurance athletics in the Santa Cruz Sentinel written by Ironman competitor Gaylia Osterlund has prompted a host of calls and questions regarding CrossFit’s place in training for endurance events.

I think that CrossFit certainly has a part in endurance sport training. And I think that part is balance. Every sport engenders certain attributes in its athletes. An athlete tends to adapt to the demands of a sport, a successful athlete more so, and endurance sports primarily and overwhelmingly demand cardio-pulmonary endurance and stamina. Conversely, Olympic weightlifters, while extremely strong, powerful, and fairly flexible, have very little endurance and stamina.  Endurance athletes often lack in strength, power, flexibility, and other physical attributes outside of cardio-pulmonary endurance and muscle stamina. Success in their chosen sport simply does not demand the former attributes. However, balance does.

Enter CrossFit. The benefit of CrossFit in endurance training is by virtue of balance. As mentioned earlier, endurance athletes (and many other athletes) are usually imbalanced and CrossFit engenders balance. Strength work and weight lifting (of several varieties), stretching and mobility work, bodyweight calisthenics, and short intense workouts all serve to make an endurance athlete stronger, more pliable, mobile, injury free, faster, and agile. This can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of dedicated work a day/week, especially compared to the long hours needed for endurance sport workouts.

CrossFit is an excellent compliment to the endurance athlete’s primary training, not a substitute. As a sport, endurance racing demands sport specific training, just as a soccer player needs to practice soccer, but they both need a strength and conditioning program. A good strength and conditioning program suits the needs of the individual and the individual’s sport. It acts to develop the attributes that the athlete needs to excel at his or her sport and to shore up weaknesses that could hinder performance. CrossFit, with its wide focus and competence in strength building, mobility, speed, etc, is an ideal strength and conditioning program for the endurance athlete that needs a general physical makeover to combat repetition and percussive injuries and build strength.

While CrossFit has grown into a sport unto itself, and will continue to grow as a sport, as witnessed by this year’s CF Games, it was originally seen as a strength and conditioning program championing general physical preparedness (GPP). Although GPP is still the primary goal of many CrossFit adherents, many other people see CrossFit as a strength and conditioning program that perfectly compliments their chosen sport or activity or even profession.

Please post thoughts to Comments.


Front Squat

2 on the minute for 8 minutes. Go as heavy as you can.


4 ROunds

4 Muscle Ups

8 Hang Squat Snatches 95/65#

12 Burpees

Chris Morse-7:20