If your idea of a workout consists, as mine did, of a pleasant run and a few sit-ups, your first CrossFit session isn’t just a shock—it’s like being tased.
MacKenzie is a strong advertisement for what he preaches. A decade ago, he was a “gym ratty” powerlifter without a college degree who’d caught the triathlon bug. The arduous training for races like the Ironman, however, left him limping.
Two revelations changed everything. First, his coach—Nicholas Romanov, a sports scientist and the developer of the Pose Method of running, which emphasizes forefoot-strike landing instead of heel striking—forced him to dramatically lower his mileage while adding tempo runs and, as MacKenzie puts it, “hard-ass interval training.” Before long, he started destroying his old times. Then he rediscovered weight training, and he noticed benefits for both endurance and recovery. By late 2005, he’d come upon CrossFit and started toying around with that, too.
In 2007, MacKenzie entered the Angeles Crest 100 trail run. His training seemed irresponsible: using CrossFit as his foundation, he did runs of 13 miles or less and worked out about six hours per week. He finished 34th and felt great.
“The last four miles of that run, I was throwing down sub-eight-minute miles,” he recalls. “When I finished, I knew we had something.” He started CFE in late 2007. Today he makes his living by giving seminars around the world—attendees include U.S. Special Forces troops—and by coaching athletes online.
At the time of the Boulder event, he was also at work on a book, now out, called Power Speed Endurance. Judging by the effect the weekend has on participants, it will find a few buyers. After the seminar ends on Sunday after-noon, MacKenzie is approached by Robin Dahlman, a 48-year-old CrossFit dabbler.
“I think you changed my life!” Dahlman says, with tears in her eyes. Others draw near to thank MacKenzie and pepper him with questions. One woman pulls him close to smile for the camera. “Say ‘anaerobic!’” somebody says.
LAST SEPTEMBER, TO START my CFE experiment, I headed south from downtown Seattle for a meeting with Michael Ross, a chiropractor and the owner of SODO Health and Performance, a gym that offers CFE workouts. I had been resigned to never running a long race again; twice, a few years previous, I’d trained myself into iliotibial-band injuries while preparing for the New York City Marathon. Could CFE make me a marathoner again?
I told Ross I wanted to run a 3:20 in three months, 25 minutes faster than my last marathon five years ago. He drew up a plan. It was solid. But even Ross, a CFE instructor, included several long runs of up to 18 miles. His plan was, in a sense, periodized. If I wanted to test CFE’s core ideas, I’d have to get more radical. So I emailed the plan to MacKenzie, who tinkered with it.