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Old 06-26-2007, 03:46 PM   #1
Patrick Donnelly
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Today, I got some emails from my Cross Country coach, outlining our team's summer training schedule. 39 miles a week, 4.5 hours. He wants a log filled out and sent to him too.

Here was my reply, which I've been brooding over for the past several months:


Coach Kershes,

Please, get ready for a long read, and it'd be best to go over all of it in one go.

Thanks for the emails about summer training, however, there's no way I'm going to be able to follow that schedule. Since the end of last year's XC season, I've come to believe that running is honestly one of the worst ways to train for running. Racking up large mileages (like 39 a week or more) doesn't build any strength. Rather, it:
- raises levels of cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue
- inflames joins because of free radicals created by the breakdown of tissue
- leads to an overconsumption of carbohydrate that results in hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin) and stored bodyfat
- leaves the body with no chance to recover, leading to chronic injury and illness (such as the shin splints I had last year)

Last year, 5-6 miles a day not only left me injured, but I didn't even enjoy it. It became a chore, and it made me feel like c*** to do it.

Welcome to CrossFit.

Welcome to a conditioning program used by military, law enforcement, firefighters, fighters, weightlifters, sports players, marathon runners, office workers, and stay-at-home moms. Welcome to a set of varied, high-intensity, short duration, difficult, functional, gut wrenching and knee bending movements that build both strength and endurance, and will increase your abilities in every area of sport and of life. Welcome to conventional fitness turned upside-down, or rather, right-side-up again. And best of all, welcome to the ability to enjoy it.

These two links can better describe what CrossFit is, and it's goals.

This article is CrossFit's standards of "fitness," something that will make life long and enjoyable.

The CrossFit workouts, or ones with similar content, will improve your ability to run the 5k, 2 miles, mile, half, quarter, 100m, or any track event. The normal training pattern is:

Day 1: metabolic conditioning: That is, a workout that runs anywhere from 5-35 minutes long (usually 20, which is less than a Varsity XC race) and taxes all the body's energy systems by doing full body movements such as sprinting, bodyweight movements, weightlifting, or plyometrics at a high intensity.

Day 2: max effort lifting: This workout focuses on weightlifting and building strength. Either an upper (shoulder press, weighted pull-up, etc.), lower (deadlift, squat, etc.), or full body (clean & jerk, snatch, etc.) movement is chosen, and it is worked for 1-5 reps over seven sets. After a warm-up, the athlete begins the seven sets, working up the weight with each set, aiming to hit his old personal record on the fourth set. On sets 5-7, he tries his hardest to surpass it. Despite the low volume of work,and rest between rounds, these still prove to have a good intensity and they cause the nervous system to better utilize the muscles we already have.

Day 3: metabolic conditioning

Day 4: "active" rest: A little bit of exercise is done to keep off soreness, but little enough that no further soreness is induced. Your body has time to recover and this day, and you should enjoy it to the fullest.


As you can see, this is at odds with your 7 days per week running schedule, or the football team's 5 days per week weightlifting with weekend rest. However, if you doubt this system, go to CrossFit's main page, and read the paragraph on the left bar underneath the image. Now refresh the page and read it again. And again, and again, and again...

Here are a few example workouts, just so you can see what I've been ranting on about.

The workout "Fran" done by Brett Marshall, in 2:19:
At this pace, he's putting out about half a horsepower of work. That doesn't sound like alot, but compare a human to a stallion and you get a good idea of the true power there. The squat-thrusters he's doing work the whole body, and the kipping pull-ups are just as much an exercise for the posterior chain of leg muscles as they are for the arms. This guy is an elite, most times range 7-9 minutes for the same workout.

Dumbbell Clean&Jerk/Pull-up Ladder Workout:
In this one, both the clean and the jerk strengthened the hamstrings and quadriceps, while the dumbbells added a stability issue that caused the core to be worked too. The pull-ups help develop stronger arms and backs, which need to be kept pumping during any XC race.

75 repetitions of a 95lb overhead squat by Andy Hendel:
The endurance to do that is insane, especially while holding the weight overhead, which requires extreme tension throughout the upper body. I feel burned out after doing 75 squats without any weight at a fast pace.

Deadlift - Handstand Push-up - Vertical Jump workout:
I just liked this one.

For my current training, I'm doing a strength building program over the summer that will last me until about mid-August. I found myself too weak to do CrossFit-style workouts with any appreciable weight, and it is much easier for me to build strength, and then gain my endurance back once I have the strength. You can review my schedule, plan, and all my workouts in this link:

Now! What does all of this mean?
It means that I don't plan on running 5-6 miles a day this year, though I still want to be on Cross Country, and I hope I convinced you as to why. I have acquired all the equipment at home to do CrossFit-style training, from Olympic bumper plates, to a Concept II Rower, to gymnastics rings (home-made for about $15). Moreso, I'd like to take 2 or 3 other XC runners (preferably ones that do track too), and have them train with me as a test of this training method, and if it proves effective, making this the high standard for the track team's training.

I'm willing to put my Senior year XC race times on this training, that is how much I trust it!

Patrick Donnelly


I just spent over an hour typing all of that, and now I'm seriously late on my afternoon workout! Go time!
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Old 06-26-2007, 04:59 PM   #2
Anthony Marzolf
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I'm very curious to see what your Coach's reply is, if you feel like posting it. Keep us posted on your race times, too!
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Old 06-26-2007, 05:22 PM   #3
H. Giovanni Salazar
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This will be really a very interesting read once you post his reply. Right now he's possibly doing :
a) Swearing your name up and down because you will NOT follow his "recomended" workout.

b) Trying to tie in your workouts with his elite style running workotu. Who cares about strenght?

c) Injury? Why, you can run right through it. Heck, isn't that what was told to you last season? Wasn't it a blast?

Keep us posted. :crutch00:
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Old 06-27-2007, 05:31 AM   #4
Ron Fielder
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Thats an interesting letter, and a good read.
Good luck!
I hope that your coach will respect your ideas, and allow you to try CF against the rest of the team.
I will also be looking for his response.
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Old 06-27-2007, 06:34 AM   #5
Josh Everett
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No doubt your crossfit program is the best thing for your fitness. Depending on what level of a runner you are you may even improve your times. Just be aware that elite (college & pro) XC runners will go 75-120 miles per week depending on the time of the year. They use strength training to improve running mechanics, the ability to hold posture when fatigued, and to keep themselves healthy enough to log all of those miles.
If your goal is to be an elite distance runner you cannot do it without high mileage...use Xfit as a compliment to your training. If your goal is to be healthy and fit then by all means crossfit exclusively.
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Old 06-27-2007, 07:39 AM   #6
Daniel Freedman
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I can't wait to see how this turns out. The New York Post headline might be:

Athlete To Coach:
You Suck!

Runner Says: "I'm Right, You're Wrong, So Do It My Way."

Some coaches would interpret the email as a challenge to their authority and say "son, we're a team, not a bunch of individuals who do their own thing. There can only be one program: mine."

If the coach is smart, he'll call the runner in for a long one-on-one and commend him on his interest and diligence. What happens next is anyone's guess.
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Old 06-27-2007, 08:08 AM   #7
Robert Olajos
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I'm not a competitive xc runner, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Can you do both your coach's schedule as well as CF? That's along the philosophy of other athletes here who use CF to supplement their sport-specific preparation, not to supplant it.
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Old 06-27-2007, 08:17 AM   #8
Barry Cooper
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I think the question is open as to the best means of integrating CrossFit--General Physical Preparation--with specific sports--Specific Physical Preparation.

To take one obvious aspect of it, running penalizes bodyweight. Your top runners look--and generally are--emaciated, because as bodyweight goes down there is less tissue needing oxygen, and an optimal physical profile is one which is sufficient for running, but little else. You don't need to be able to do a pullup, for example.

Now, in terms of overall physical health this is often undesirable, although obviously health is an aspect of performance, so it can't be omitted even from a strictly pragmatic, winning-oriented mindset. From the perspective of overall athleticism, however, and the capacity to do more than one thing well, this is very bad.

It sounds like the program you were on was messing your motivation up, and increasing your rate of injury. For this reason, a CrossFit-esque program would actually likely increase your success, and probability of continuing, but I would think that if you want to win races, or do your best, then you need to keep the weight off, and the Max. Effort Day is likely not going to support that goal.

I was at a swim meet the other day, and got to thinking about the proper progression for monostructural events like swimming and running, and my feeling is that the proper progression is first developing perfect form, then developing pain tolerance, and then putting in the time.

For example, it would be interesting to do a workout of say 10x400 meters, and focus not on top speed, but on perfect form, economy of motion. What precisely this would look like is somewhat open, but I'm thinking of the POSE Method, or something like "Running with your whole body". If you need to increase your flexibility to possess perfect form, then this is part of your training.

Pain tolerance is something CrossFit does well, and it is, honestly, very hard to hurt exactly the same way, day after day, so this would be an excellent means of mixing things up. Make up WOD's that are about the amount of time your event lasts. Do say 100 wallball shots, 200 burpees, and 300 double-unders. Focus on leg movements, and just use the warmup (pullups, pushups, situps, squats) to maintain basic muscular balance.

Then, finally, do a lot of tempo runs, which as you likely know are race pace, but shorter. I don't think LSD does much. You need to either focus on speed or form, and LSD really doesn't do either well.

I have long had the feeling that one could achieve equivalent effects with less perceived intensity through smarter programming, and I think this basic template is likely a step in that direction.
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Old 06-27-2007, 08:51 AM   #9
Ben Kaminski
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Interested to hear the response!
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Old 06-27-2007, 02:05 PM   #10
Trevor Thompson
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You have to know that the best runners on the planet run...A LOT. when the US men were winning Olympic titles the Elite guys were running 100+miles a week for months, now in the long term it kills the body but in the short term the running is catapulted into the sratosphere. i would say Crossfit is more applicable BY ITSELF, along with technique training, as a means to the end of sprinting i.e. 800 meter and shorter. Be careful about giving up a volume of running when training for X-Country, to get good at something specific you MUST do that thing.

(Message edited by trevorthompson on June 27, 2007)
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