CrossFit: Preparation for the Unknown, Unknowable, and Half Marathons?!

CrossFit is a training methodology designed to develop and enhance General Physical Preparedness (GPP). As a strength and conditioning program, the purpose of CrossFit is to prepare individuals for the unknown and unknowable; to provide a broad, general, and inclusive fitness; to facilitate the engagement and completion of any physical task imaginable. “World Class Fitness in 100 Words,” a statement drafted by Greg Glassman, the Founder and CEO of CrossFit, elegantly depicts the training methodology:

  • Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.
  • Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J (clean and jerk), and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc., hard and fast.
  • Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense.
  • Regularly learn and play new sports.

In spite of the popularity and lure of CrossFit both as a training methodology and sport (The CrossFit Games), various entities and organizations such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) fail to acknowledge the effectiveness and influence of the program. However, that is an entirely separate discussion that I will address at a later date.

Lets get back on track. In “World Class Fitness in 100 Words,” with regards to training, it states, “five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense.” Short and intense. Does that sound like the type of training that would garner the physiologic adaptations necessary to successfully complete a 90+ minute event? Now you see why there are countless critics and skeptics disparaging the brand. However, I am living, breathing evidence to support the validity CrossFit. As stated in the title of this post, it truly does prepare you for the unknown and unknowable…even half marathons.

First and foremost, I am NOT a runner! In recent years, I have avoided running due to bilateral Quad Tendon tears. However, even prior to the injuries, I never enjoyed running. I recall telling multiple individuals (members, clients, friends, and family) that I would never run a half marathon, let alone a full marathon. I had absolutely zero desire to run 13.1 miles. I could not comprehend why people submit themselves to such cruel and unusual punishment! However, on September 18, 2017, I had a significant lapse in judgement and registered for the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

Let me clarify, I registered for the half marathon 12 hours before the start of the race. Did you catch that? I signed up 12 hours before the race! To provide context as to why I willfully signed my life away, lets look back at the events leading up to that life-altering moment:

  1. Months prior to the race, three of my friends registered for the event
  2. One of those friends, Ashley, was my training partner for CrossFit
  3. In the weeks and months leading up to the race, I witnessed Ashley progressively increase her mileage and strategically modify her split times
  4. Watching Ashley torture herself solidified my decision to never submit myself to the agony of training for such an event
  5. I continued to train CrossFit…A LOT
  6. My friends invited me to Philadelphia the weekend of the half marathon
  7. I traveled to the convention center with my friends to pick up their bibs and checkout the expo
  8. While standing in line at the registration booth, my friends begin trying to convince me to run the race
  9. I stand firm in my decision to never run 13.1 miles for fun
  11. I register for the race, pick up my bib, purchase a pair of Brooks running shoes (Ghost 10s…HIGHLY recommended, great shoes)

I have yet to decide if my undeniable-sense of obligation to defend CrossFit by running the half marathon was awesome or pathetic, but I like to think it was the former! Ultimately, I survived the race. Considering I had no prior training leading up to the event, my goal was simple: DO NOT STOP RUNNING. I achieved that goal! I ran the entire 13.1 miles. By no means was I running an impressive split, actually it was semi- embarrassing (I believe it was ~9:20 per mile).

So, do I believe that CrossFit was responsible for my ability to run a half marathon with no additional aerobic training? YES! Undoubtedly, the participation in constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensities provided the fitness necessary to complete the race. CrossFit is a remarkable training program. The concepts and methodologies are geared toward building better humans, preparing for the unknown and unknowable, and improving quality of life.

You need to ask yourself, do you want to be “in shape,” or do you want to be FIT?!

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