-- Rachel Lilburn
When I think of an unfit person training to run a marathon, I think of a 4 to 6 month training schedule, with 2 or 3 shorter runs each week, one long run, building up each week until you are running almost the full marathon distance.
However, that’s not the only way to train for a marathon. Just ask Daniel. He’s just completed his first marathon using only CrossFit workouts to prepare.
Daniel came to CrossFit Auckland in June 2011, just 4 months before the Auckland marathon. He was for the most part unfit, and had done little exercise. He’s a night shift worker, which both plays havoc with the body and sleep patterns, AND makes it hard to create and stick to a schedule.
Daniel quickly realised he wouldn’t have the time to follow the traditional route of starting out slowly jogging and building up his times. He showed up at CrossFit Auckland and started training. His CrossFit training was 3 to 4 sessions a week, each session in a small group, with a coach, and was a maximum of one hour.
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning system built on constantly varied movements executed at high intensity. It’s a brand founded by former high-school gymnast Greg Glassman and his ex-wife Lauren Jenai in California in the early 1990’s, and has been very popular as a training method for police departments and military schools.
Instead of the repetitive jogging, or the common gym training of constant repetition of the same exercises, CrossFit Auckland athletes show up for their session with no idea what they will be doing. On any given day, training might include running, weightlifting, rowing, skipping, rope climbing or carrying odd objects, or a mashup of 2 or more activities. An example might be running 400m, followed by barbell lifts, repeated 5 times as fast as possible. CrossFit athletes frequently move large loads quickly over short distances, and use powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting techniques. They also use dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, and many bodyweight exercises.
Enthusiasts of CrossFit say that the fitness that CrossFit advocates and develops is broad, general, and inclusive. The specialty is not specializing, but general physical fitness at an elite level. Combat, survival, and life require this kind of fitness. Just think of the elite runner who struggles to lift heavy suitcases, or wobbles on a bike. CrossFit encourages the athlete to get rid of any fixed notions of sets, rest periods, reps, exercises, order of exercises or routines.
Alex Porter from CrossFit Auckland, who coached Daniel, also taught him the POSE method of running. Developed by a Russian Olympic Coach in the 70s, the POSE method teaches some basic positioning techniques, designed to make running easier and better, and reduce injuries, especially impact on the knees.
The key principals are running landing on the midfoot first, with the ball of the foot landing under your body. The body is at a slight lean to use gravity and fall into each stride, making running easier.
Daniel’s training didn’t consist of long slow distance work. He didn’t run long junk miles to “get his mileage up”. In fact, his running training consisted of 3 x 1.6km interval (broken up as either 100 /200/400 or 800meters) runs per week to perfect his POSE running - really only done to make sure his technique was correct.
Another runner following a “traditional” marathon training schedule will run between 30 to 70kms per week, depending on where they are at with their training.
Instead, Daniel’s running training came in CrossFit drills – high intensity work followed by a short break, for example one minute on, one minute off. This short and mid-distance work as a part of an overall CrossFit program prepared him to run the Auckland marathon in a respectable 4hrs 22mins.
Daniel trained, and ran, in inov-8 f-lite 230s. Compared to a “normal” running shoe, the f-lite 230’s have a 6mm differential, or heel-to-toe drop (the difference between the height of the heel and toe). Many “normal” road running shoes have a differential of 12-15mm, and a great deal of cushioning. This type of shoe makes the POSE method very difficult – it’s almost impossible to land on the ball of your foot when you are running in “heels”. The inov-8 f-lite 230 is very popular with Crossfitters as it’s suitable for the range of activities that they might do. Daniel told us "The inov-8's allowed me to do pose running correctly and provided greater feedback with the ground when running so I knew when I was doing it wrong. And they are super lightweight!"