My Half Marathon Training Plan (Inspired by CrossFit Endurance)

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Ok, maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve decided to use a different kind of training plan to get myself ready for the Rock ”˜N’ Roll USA Half Marathon. My new plan is inspired by the single sport endurance workouts from CrossFit Endurance (CFE). After talking to one of my CrossFit coaches and exploring the CFE website, this type of training is really starting to make sense to me as a way to prepare for the half marathon.

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If you’re a long-time reader of CNC, you know all about my running-related injuries. Without fail, once I start to increase my mileage, my body starts to break down and injuries pop up. Instead of feeling stronger as my training progressed, I felt weaker.

All of my long runs focused on distance and “time on my feet,” but my level of effort was never close to 100%. Of course, there are many benefits to this type of aerobic training (increased cardiovascular function, better fat cultivation, etc.), but there are plenty of drawbacks, too. According to CFE, running these long, slow distances results in “being less powerful, less lean and more prone to injury, low energy and abbreviated sports longevity.”

If you’re a runner, you know that it’s important to build an aerobic fitness “base” to build your endurance, so you can run for miles and miles. Most of us have been told that to build this base, we need to do long, slow aerobic workouts. Well, some experts say these adaptions can occur in less time with high-intensity runs. Here’s a study from Runner’s World (February) that demonstrates this idea:

“If you do 400-meter repeats, the vast majority of energy is coming from aerobic metabolism, making sprints a very potent aerobic stimulus,” says Martin Gibala, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Gibala and his colleagues found that people who did short (25 minutes) cycling workouts with a serious of 30-second sprits improved their fitness over two weeks at the same rate as those who rode for two hours at a less intensity. “Pretty much every adaption we measured could be realized through high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and lower volume.

Interesting, right? So, perhaps I can get similar results by increasing the intensity of my workouts, but not running as many miles? I definitely think it’s possible! I know I can run a half marathon, but imagine if I could get stronger and faster by runner fewer miles? Wouldn’t that be awesome?! This is also a pretty cool training experiment, so why not give it a whirl? Plus, I’d love to share my training adventures on CNC with you guys!

Progression is key to CrossFit Endurance, so I’m starting with Short Intervals Week 1 Day 1 (aka the very first CFE workout) and going from there. A typical workout week might look something like this:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: CFE Short Intervals + CrossFit
  • Tuesday: CrossFit
  • Wednesday: CFE Long Intervals + CrossFit
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: CFE Tempo/Time Trial
  • Saturday: CrossFit

As you can see, there are no easy or recovery runs in CFE. You’re either on or you’re off for the day. The thinking behind this is that taking a rest day will likely improve your performance because you’re reducing your total training load and actually getting rest instead of making yourself more tired with an easy/recovery run.

Ok, that was a lot of info. Hopefully, I explained everything alright. If I didn’t, just let me know, and I’ll do my best to answer your question (or ask one of my CrossFit coaches for the right answer). For more info on CrossFit Endurance and how it works, check out the FAQ page. It answered a lot of my questions. The Runner’s World article (“Totally Fit”) in the February issue was also really helpful.

So, here I go with a new half marathon training plan! (I’ll put my plan on one page on CNC so you can follow along.) My goal is to feel more balanced, not get injured, and, hopefully, run faster! I guess we’ll see how my new training plan worked on March 17th!

Weekly Workouts

With that said, here’s this week’s workout schedule:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: CFE Short Intervals + CrossFit
  • Tuesday: CrossFit
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: CFE Tempo/Time Trial
  • Friday: CrossFit
  • Saturday: CrossFit

Breakfast

This morning’s breakfast started out as pancakes, but ended up as a mushy mess in a bowl. I wanted to make sweet potato-quinoa pancakes, but they didn’t turn out as planned, so I just scrambled up everything.

In the mix: mashed sweet potato, cooked quinoa, egg whites, ground flaxseed meal, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and peanut butter.

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Off to tackle those CFE Short Intervals!

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85 Comments

  1. Very interesting! How long do your crossfit classes usually last and is it cardio and stength combined? I would luv to try your plan?

    1. Most of my CrossFit workouts last an hour or less, but the WOD is often really short (sometimes less than 10 minutes), but every workout combines cardio and strength.

      1. Can you sign up for help with a training schedule on the crossfit endurance website. We do not have a CrossFit by us and I would love to work it into my training schedule too if I could do a modified at home on or at the gym. Do you have any suggestions on where I could get help doing that?

        Thank you so much!
        Heather

        1. @Heather: You can either copy/modify the WOD from the CrossFit website (they post a new one everyday) or use Travel WODs, which don’t require equipment. Both are great options to do CrossFit without belonging to a gym/box! 🙂

  2. So glad to see you are getting the hang of the crossfit training and methodology! I knew you would get hooked immediately and almost convert into a straight up cross-fitter! good luck and embrace it

  3. I’m so glad you posted this! I am running the DC Rock N Roll 1/2 in March too and I just started training last week. This is going to be my 3rd half and I’m ready to try and reach a PR. I’m a bit nervous because I am running this by myself so I need to make sure I have a strict training schedule in order to stay motivated! While I don’t have a Crossfit near to me, I will try short and intense work outs! Thanks!

  4. Hey Tina, read always, comment rarely:) just wanted to say that I thought this post was really interesting, straight forward and well written. Thanks!

  5. Kust came back from my first CrossFit workout. Loved it! Now I just need to get my husband on board to justify the cost. 🙂

  6. Hi Tina-

    Frequent reader, rarely comment but wanted to say I really enjoyed your post and decision to follow a new training method/plan. I am also running the USA half and think this plan will help mix up the dull winter treadmill training and increase my odds of emerging injury free before the race! Thanks for the post!

  7. Hi Tina,
    I love your blog! I just wanted to comment on the rowing machine because I know CrossFit incorporates it for sprints, but it is also a great tool for longer, injury-free workouts. I rowed in college, and we used to do a ton of long aerobic workouts on the erg. This definitely helped me transition into running. I actually ran my first marathon this fall by erging three days a week and running two- and I somehow qualified for Boston! Might be another idea for alternative training!

  8. I am doing the RnR USA Marathon that day!!! It will be my first marathon! How cool!

    That being said, after I wrote a second comment on your blog about the article in Runner’s World (And reading it myself), I revamped my workout schedule too and it looks similar to yours. Thanks for the website too for CFE, I am going to check it out. I am not getting rid of my long runs though seeing as this is my first marathon. Its funny though, I always felt the way you said you did when I trained for my half marathons. Like I felt worse off. I always thought more strength training would really help me but it seemed all running training plans were set against that idea! I should have followed my instincts!

    Good luck with all your training! I am sure I will be popping in for workout inspiration quite often since we are sort of in the same training place right now!
    ~Ang

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  10. LOVE crosfit!!! Been a crossfitter for 2+ years and trained minimally last year for a half marathon with great sucess. Looking forward to it again and will follow along in your training program!

  11. OMGosh. Are you kidding me? I got to target EVERY Sunday with my mom and sister-in-law. No one EVER gets out of there without spending at least 50$!! they have EVERYTHING, what’s not to love!

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  13. Hi,

    I am training for a half marathon on May 27th…it’s my first one…i have been debated the running program vs. CFE program….looking at the CFE website, I feel like a lot of the CFE workouts are too advanced for me (I.e. yesterday was a 10k at 85% of 10k race pace, and then today is the same thing…i could run 6 miles, but not well, and not 2 days in a row without really hurting). I just feel like i need to ease into it better. I’ve done CF in the past, but the last year my workouts have been scattered due to being pregnant and having a newborn. I like how you laid out your week…its easier to understand/follow then the CFE website, but i’m wondering about long runs…there aren’t any (that i can tell) in your training plan, and it makes me nervous to prepare for a 13 mile race when my longest run has never been more than 6 miles…what are your thoughts on the importance of the long runs and how/if they should be incorporated. Thanks!

  14. tina, thanks for this! i have been doing crossfit now since feb. and LOVE it! i am running the va. beach rock n roll half in sept and most training programs are 12 or less weeks. when should i start training like this? i have been following hal higdon’s programs, which i’m sure you know does not involve much x-training. i am missing my box SO much because i cut back to increase milage. make sense? any advice is greatly appreciated!

  15. Hi! I’m planning on running my first full marathon in November, but love my Crossfit workouts. Did you find that only doing CFE workouts twice a week fully prepared you for a half marathon without any longer runs?

  16. Just curious, how did your half-marathon training go for this particular race using this method? 🙂

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