Before I was a crossfitter and a coach, I was an endurance athlete. Marathons and triathlons were my forte and had never done any formal strength training before and certainly NEVER had done anything like CrossFit. In the beginning, even though I was muscularly weak, I could get through most of the workouts without stopping. My coaches at the time kept complementing me on my “motor” which translated to my aerobic capacity or endurance.
Endurance allows people to work out at a certain intensity or for an extended amount of time. There are a number of factors that contribute to create an athlete’s “endurance profile,” and two of the most important are VO2 max and lactate threshold.
VO2 max, or the maximum rate at which an athlete’s body can consume oxygen during exercise, is the most popular measurement of aerboic capacity. The higher your VO2 Max is, the better you can endure even the shortest CrossFit workout. Lactate threshold is the level of exertion at which lactate accumulates in the muscles. That’s that heavy, burning, tired feeling you get during a workout as lactic acid builds in the muscles. Luckily, it’s possible for virtually any type of athlete to improve both of these measures.
I firmly believe that keeping up with some form of cardio training can and will help you in the box. Think about workouts like “Cindy” that are strictly body weight movements over a 20 minute time span…the secret to a good score is to keep moving. Even a workout like “Grace” (although a much shorter workout) requires you to control your breathing so that you can move the weight without long breaks.
If you find yourself regularly sucking wind during your workouts, you may benefit from some cardio cross-training. Running, cycling, or swimming on your CrossFit “rest” days can train slow-twitch muscles to fuel workouts more efficiently and to fight fatigue. A continuous practice of purely cardiovascular training can also help condition fast-twitch muscles which will enhance endurance.
An example would be a 30 minute cycling session or a 30 minute run/walk interval session. I’m not suggesting you have to go for a 5 mile run to improve your cardiovascular fitness…just acclimate your body to a longer workout than what we typically see in our WODs. BUT…don’t get me wrong, CrossFit intensity is a different beast. Even the shortest of workouts can be vomit-inducing.
My best advice is…
Train smart. The gradual adaption principle—that is, slowly and steadily increasing mileage and building these workouts over a gradual increase in time increments, will help prevent injury from introducing a new element to your workout repetoire.