Addendum to the Crossfit post: full article from Competitor.com

The other day I derided wrote about the Crossfit program that Brian Mackenzie is deluded into believing convinced will revolutionize training for distance runners. At the time, the full article in the June issue of Competitor was not available online, but it is now, in Competitor’s nifty digital format.

A couple of notes. One, Richard Gibbens (not Gibbons) is incorrectly identified in the article as an exercise scientist. He has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, but that doesn’t make him a scientist, and this would hold true even if he were a bastion of sound analysis instead of a fifth-degree crank. If he’s an exercise scientist, then I’m a physicist, and anyone with a B.A. in psychology is a psychologist, and wouldn’t that be a colossal mess.

Two, and more importantly, it’s become clear to me that all of these guys pushing low-volume, high-intensity training for distance runners because they themselves became injured or otherwise wiped out by high-volume training have no idea how to train properly using high mileage. Mackenzie is very clearly an intense guy, as is Gibbens, a former Green Beret. I have no doubt that whatever mileage totals they reached in their previous lives included far too much work at the high end of the aerobic spectrum, and that they had no concept of how to properly execute recovery days. Had they gone about things the tried and true way, and maybe tried running more on grass and dirt and less on pavement, and learned that hammering away all the time is a bad idea, then they surely could have thrived on a greater overall workload. This is admittedly just a guess, but it’s not a blind one — I’ve seen their Type-A ilk in action and their ability to survive sane marathon training is limited by their personality traits unless they submit to being reined in regularly by a second set of eyes.

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  1. #1 by jomike on June 20, 2011 - 7:34 pm

    From that article a casual reader would conclude that conventional high-mileage training was solely and entirely the creation of Arthur Lydiard. Which could not be farther from the truth; he honed and perfected it in some respects, and the wild success of his runners certainly brought deserved attention, but he’d have been the first to point out that he was building on the foundations laboriously laid by others over the course of decades.

    The other major problem is that the article glides between arguments. On the one hand, it claims that lower-mileage, higher-intensity workouts are better than high mileage for some unknown large percentage of adults for the purpose of overall fitness and well-being. This may well be true; although not yet proved by research, it grooves with commonsense notions about fitness and functional strength and the like.

    But then it slides over into categorical claims that Crossfit-style training will prove better for all runners, competitive and elite runners included; and that is where MacKenzie (like Gibbens) goes off into the weeds. Until his methods prove out with real runners in real competitions, he’s just another in the endless stream of people hawking training regimens.

  2. #2 by kemibe on June 20, 2011 - 9:17 pm

    ” Until his methods prove out with real runners in real competitions…”

    And that, of course, is the beginning and the end of the issue. It’s why Competitor Magazine wasted space by writing about this guy. I don’t care that the dude is covered in tattoos and has no useful background in distance running and seems to relish fighting with people online about his training plans more than he likes implementing them or discussing the results they have brought (in this case, silence is deafening). He could be and do all of these things and if he had good results I’d still be impressed.

    I have yet to figure out the psychology of guys like him and Gibbens (Marshall Burt seems to be genuinely mentally ill, so he’s off the list). It’s one thing for someone to get all excited about ideas that he’s sure will bear fruit once people start using them, and overturn conventional wisdom (and years and years of direct evidence that CW is spot on in this realm). It’s another to keep singing the same song when there are no real-world results. None. Gibbens is a drone, but I’m certain that he’s bright enough to understand that the studies he’s tried to use to support his claims, and that I and others have thrown in his face because of their lack of applicability or support, do not in fact buttress his positions at all. I guess that once cranks are committed to a belief system, there is no way to disabuse them of it because something in their mindset categorically bars them from admitting being wrong. Maybe Gibbens doesn’t think he has any reason to keep running or talking about running unless he continues to fancy himself relevant and worth listening to.

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