You may not know Doug Katona’s name but his programming is known worldwide. The two-time California state cycling champion and former NFL athlete training consultant is changing the way endurance athletes train, compete, and win all over the world. Doug and his partner Brian MacKenzie are the minds behind the growing CrossFit Endurance program. If you are familiar with the fitness sport of CrossFit, CrossFit Endurance (CFE) is considered a strength and conditioning program that incorporates CrossFit fundamentals with power and speed training crucial to endurance sports success. Doug recently sat down with Compete Every Day to share more about his story, the CFE program, and why he competes every day.
Doug, thank you for sitting down with us. To start, can you share a little about your background and what inspired this growth with CFE?
My background is in exercise science and I naturally played all kinds of sports growing up. Most people wouldn’t think it, but both Brian and I came from a strength & conditioning background and then transitioned into the endurance space. I spent time with the University of Southern California football program and then as a NFL athletic training consultant working with agent Leigh Steinberg and NFL Hall of Famer Warren Moon. My role was primarily to prepare running backs and defensive backs for the NFL Draft Combine and position-specific training to prepare them to compete at the highest level.
When CrossFit came out, it was the perfect blend of all expertise. I firmly believe you cannot coach what you haven’t done so I dove into CrossFit immediately. The endurance portion came out of my athleticism and activity in a variety of sports and then with Brian, we brought CrossFit to endurance athletes.
You are well-known as a coach to some of the CrossFit Games’ biggest names. How did that program come about with you training some of the sports’ best?
I actually never intended to coach any CrossFit Games or Regionals athletes. Many approached me and I found it as a great opportunity to pour into them as athletes and individuals. It is more than just preparing them physically, it’s about how to educate them throughout the process and make them better coaches and trainers back at their own affiliates (gyms). I just happened to always be working with some of the best, starting with Becca Voigt, and then things grew from there. It went from local, regional, to a national level, and now evolved into a nice family of athletes ranging from household names and regional competitors to some unknowns that will no doubt be at the CrossFit Games two years from now.
Doug, what makes CrossFit Endurance special? What is the philosophy behind this endurance sport programming?
At its core, I have two types of training programs – one for my endurance athletes and one for my CrossFit Games athletes. The endurance program is built with the foundation being CrossFit workouts 4-6 days per week, with 2-3 days of sport specific training, and 2-3 days of conjugate training system. We have structured approach to interval training utilizing a lot of short days with longer training days mixed in. On the CrossFit Games side, the training is incredibly athlete specific.
So does CrossFit Endurance primarily work on short distances? Does someone running a half-marathon only work their running distances up to 8-10 miles and never the full 13.1
We do use a number of shorter training days but mix in long days with our programming for a couple of reasons. First, I want them to have the experience of a long run and the mental preparation for it before the race. That is crucial. Second, during a long race, rarely does the aerobic system breakdown. Instead, its our body position and physical that breaks down. So we train to prepare for that.
Would you consider your CrossFit Games athlete training very similar to the NFL Draft prep work you did previously?
Actually, yes. Movement efficiency in any sport is absolutely crucial. We start with a biomechanical analysis – I want to see how you move – and then base the entire programming schedule off of that. The Games athletes are just like NFL specialists, with their own skill-specific training. I call them “fitness assassins.” I look at their entire daily routine – work, training, down time, everything – so I can build their training and most importantly, their rest time into it. Recovery is crucial, so I have to program things differently for someone who is seated as an accountant all day versus someone driving an UPS truck. Training is only 10% of their life, I have to still account for the remaining 90% for the optimum results.
So Doug, what is it that you compete for? What is driving you to continue pouring into these athletes day after day?
Honestly, I was telling CrossFit Faith the other day, my objective is to serve the most people possible, to educate and inspire them to be better human beings. My passion and heart is for being a coach, it’s an innate sense I have. And I love CrossFit. What Coach Glassman has done is create an amazing platform that we can serve people through. And I can’t get enough of it. If you show people there is really good coaching and programming out there, they can learn from it and take it back to their own gyms for the betterment of everyone.