What You Need to Know About CrossFit Endurance

What is CrossFit Endurance? First we need to define “endurance.” Endurance is defined as “the ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue.”

Isn’t that CrossFit in general? In all seriousness, cardiovascular and respiratory endurance is only one of the ten fitness domains that make up the core of CrossFit. The other domains include stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. A well-rounded CrossFit program should include varied exercises that promote physical competence in all ten areas.

A person needs to improve their “engine” to truly excel at CrossFit. There are several ways you can improve your engine.  Working on various endurance aspects such as aerobic threshold, lactate threshold, VO2 max, and speed endurance will all help you reach your full potential. The fittest men and women on earth incorporate these components to constantly refine their endurance capacity.

How do you start? How do you build better engines? How do you increase your endurance capacity? The good news is you already have a great base program.  Our daily CrossFit training is all inclusive and touches on all ten fitness domains. Anytime you see rowing, running, and an assault bike in a workout you can pretty much guarantee that you are working on refining your endurance capacity in some way. In fact, many Crossfitters can attest to the fact that the CrossFit training methodology has led to PRs in their race times without really “training” for a race. The old logic of training for races by running long distances (without predetermined workout goals) for hours on end is out. CrossFit Endurance training eliminates the unnecessary volume of training while increasing intensity. Let us take a minute to define and explain each of the aspects CrossFit Endurance will incorporate.

The aerobic threshold is the level of effort at which anaerobic energy pathways start to become a significant part of energy production. Runners want to increase their aerobic threshold because this will enable them to run a faster pace for a longer time before tapping into the anaerobic metabolism. This is important because the anaerobic metabolism cannot be sustained as long at the aerobic pathways. Aerobic threshold workouts are steady workouts at a moderate intensity to develop fuel efficiency (burn fat), the muscular skeletal system, and aerobic endurance (1).

Lactate threshold is defined as the intensity of exercise in which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed. This becomes problematic because the unbuffered acid in the blood makes you feel like you have to stop right away (2). Lactate threshold workouts are higher volume workouts with longer distance intervals at higher “threshold” intensities with less rest between reps and/or sets (1).

V02 max is defined as the maximal volume of oxygen that the body can deliver to the working muscles per minute. Although your VO2 max is largely genetic, studies have shown that targeted VO2 max training can improve your V02 max up to 15%. VO2 Max workouts are generally lower volume workouts, shorter distance intervals at higher intensities, with more rest between reps and/or sets (1, 3). An example of a workout to improve your VO2 max is a 60:60 where you work for 60 seconds max effort and 60 seconds easy recovery. If you’re running, this will be faster than 5k race pace and then recovering at a lower pace for 15-20 rounds (3).

Speed endurance is the ability to prolong the amount of time where a near maximal speed can be maintained. Speed endurance workouts are generally very low volume workouts with intervals less than 60 seconds (1, 4).  They are performed at extremely high intensities, and they are used to recruit fast twitch fibers.  The body is forced to adapt to these conditions, which leads to better endurance and recovery between reps and/or sets. An example of speed endurance workout would be something like 6 sets of shuttle run sprints (up to 30 meters) with 90 seconds rest in between sets (4).

OPCF will be launching our 6 week CrossFit Endurance program April 25th.  The program will be available to members, as well as non-members, and it is a great supplement to our current CrossFit training program. Our program will incorporate all aspects of CrossFit endurance training from aerobic capacity, lactate threshold, VO2 max, and speed endurance training. Let’s build those engines!!!!  If you are an OPCF bootcamp member or not a member of OPCF, sign up here today!


(1) http://aerobiccapacity.com/training-plans

(2) http://www.active.com/triathlon/articles/lactate-threshold-and-v02-max-explained

(3) https://breakingmuscle.com/learn/training-to-increase-your-vo2-max

(4) http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/speedendurance.html