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Fergus Crawley: A Hybrid Athlete For a Greater Cause

The Scottish strength and endurance athlete trains to raise awareness for men's mental health issues.

Fergus Crawley of Scotland is a former powerlifter turned hybrid athlete (specializing in both strength and endurance), who performs endurance challenges for charity. Recently, he did a 227kg/501lb back squat, ran a sub 5 minute mile, and completed a marathon all in the same day

Check out our recent interview with Crawley here:

During his competitive powerlifting career, he competed in eight events and won gold in five of them. He only missed the podium twice. His career highlight being his first place finish in the Junior division at the 2016 Global Powerlifting Committee (GPC) European Championships in the -82.5kg weight class with a total of 600kg/1,322.7lb.

His transition to becoming a hybrid athlete came in part from a desire to raise awareness about men’s mental health issues and suicide prevention. He has dealt firsthand with severe depression, even so far as surviving a suicide attempt in May of 2016. Nowadays, he works alongside The Movember Foundation, a charity organization committed to men’s health issues.

According to a podcast that Crawley did with Bodybuilding.com in February of 2019, his personal mission statement is:

Be a man of more words, as talking saves lives.

We were fortunate enough to conduct a written interview with Crawley following his most recent endurance challenge. He shared what that challenge experience was like, details about his training process, a breakdown of his diet, what his future goals are, and more. But first, if you have not yet seen Crawley perform the 501lb back squat, sub 5 minute mile, and run the marathon in the same day, you can do so via the video below from his YouTube channel:

[Related: Adam Klink Ran a Sub 5 Minute Mile and Back Squatted 500lb In the Same Day]

From Powerlifting to Endurance Challenges

Crawley’s last powerlifting competition was a bronze finish at the 2017 GPC British Finals in the -100kg class. His move away from the sport came for several reasons, the first of which was he no longer enjoyed it:
 
“I was living in London and traveling an hour and 10 minutes on the tube each direction to get to a gym with specialist equipment/an environment that I enjoyed, and ultimately…just didn’t feel the love for it that I once did.”
 
After “defaulting to more hypertrophy training with a strength focus”, he committed to his first charity challenge for Movember in the summer of 2018. He attempted to squat a total of 500,000kg/1,102,311lb in 24 hours — a would be world record — to represent the number of annual male suicides globally. He ended up squatting 60kg/132lb 2100 times in 5 hours totaling 125,000kg/275,577.8lb before spraining his patella tendon and suffered a slight tear in his MCL.
 
 

[Related: 10 unconventional squat variations to build stronger legs]

In preparing for such a challenge, Crawley had to improve his aerobic base, and in doing so found a new love for hybrid training.
 
“I have been focused primarily on endurance goals for 2 years now, but I have adapted to it really well, which is mostly down to the programming and management from my coach Jonathan Pain.”
 

Planning the 500lb Squat/Sub 5 Minute Mile/50km Run

Crawley did not seek out this particular endurance challenge himself. The Scotland native had considered the challenge, but it was through the consistent tagging in a post by Garage Gym Reviews that ultimately convinced him to commit to it.
 
Through his training for the challenge, he “noticed Adam [Klink] and Dane Smith training for it too”. In his YouTube video covering his entire challenge, Crawley gave a shout out to Klink who had completed the challenge (minus the marathon) just days prior.
 
“I was following Adam closely out of a mutual interest and a healthy competitive interest! He smashed it!”
 

Crawley mentioned that it is important to “play to your strengths”, which for him, at the time, was running. 

“In short, I could not comprehend squatting after a max effort mile!”

Training

It went under the radar, but Crawley’s younger brother, Jamie, successfully performed a 226.8kg/500lb deadlift and ran a 4:53 mile in the same day at just 19 years old. Suffice to say, that made him a pretty good training partner in the Crawley home gym during the focused ten weeks of training that lead up to the endurance challenge.
 
For most events or challenges, Crawley’s training focuses on peak intensity at the start of each week and volume training towards the end. Here is a sample of what a typical day-to-day schedule looked like during his prep:
 

Monday — Heavy squats and squat assistance plus a track session.
Tuesday — Upper strength day.
Wednesday — One hour tempo run at just below threshold heart rate OR a wattbike session.
Thursday — Squat variations with assistance.
Friday — Upper hypertrophy, run 5 miles, sprints.
Saturday — 3 to 5 hour mountain run at a heart rate of 130-150bpm (only for the first 8 weeks)
Sunday — Rest day.

For endurance focused events, Crawley increases the volume and decreases the weight training.
 
“Specificity is king, and exercise/session selection is the main variable.”
 

[Related: 4 alternatives for when you don’t have cardio machines]

Diet

Crawley’s diet is designed with consistency in mind. His calorie intake wanes between a slight deficit to just above maintenance depending on recovery needs. With a bodyweight that is usually in the range of 88-93kg, his baseline calorie intake is calculated by adding together his body mass index (BMR) and his non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). He will then adjust that number based on what his specific goals are at the time and his body composition.

His calories during this particular prep hovered around 5,000 per day. As an athlete who does an immense amount of cardio, he is mindful to eat back the calories burned during cardio sessions so as to not be under fueled.

Are There Any Foods You Actively Avoid?

Aside from a peanut allergy, there is not any one particular food that Crawley won’t have — he actually ate pizza between running the sub 5 minute mile and the marathon in the same day. There are, however, foods that he routinely turns towards such as oats with whey protein, chicken, bagels, and more pizza after tough Saturday training sessions. For snacks, he leans on protein bars and smoothies.
 
“Generally, I take a carb source, I take a protein source, I take a fat source (all from sources that I enjoy), and make meals to fit around my intake goals – simple as that!”

Do You Get Cramps Often Or Was That a Peculiar Day?

While running the marathon after back squatting 227kg/501lb and hitting a 4:58 mile, Crawley suffered from cramps in his quads, slowing him down. Although he was equipped with a liter and a half of water and multiple sources of carbs and electrolytes on his running harness, he attributed the cramps to his body not knowing what to expect.

“I have never had this issue before! And having done Ironman Lanzarote in 22-28 degree celsius heat, I’d say that this was a unique problem I suffered as a result of the physiological confusion/challenge of the squat/mile ahead of the marathon.”

The cramps led to Crawley completing the marathon in about 5 hours via an average pace of 11:13/mile. He burned nearly an entire training day’s worth of calories. He stated upon completion that it was “the slowest marathon [he] will ever run.” For context, earlier in 2020 he ran a marathon in 3 hours and 17 minutes, so it was clear that the stress caused from the squat and full effort mile affected his performance in a significant way.
 
“The squat and mile had a HUGE effect — but that was ultimately the whole point, to see how it affected me.”
 

Why Add 50km/31 miles to an Already Grueling Challenge?  

“I had always thought about adding an endurance element to the challenge, before I had even committed to it, and the 50km was frankly just to fit with the number scheme!”

After Klink “claimed the pioneer status” as the first to successfully perform the 500lb back squat and sub 5 minute mile in one day, Crawley made the call to add the larger endurance element to make it more personal for himself.
 
“I redrafted the blueprint on it to fit with my own goals a little more.”

The Moment 50km Became a Marathon

After traversing 22km/13.7 miles at just over 2 hours, Crawley suffered the cramps in his quads and knew “something wasn’t right.” After they lingered for approximately 1km, he “reevaluated and scaled back [the] goal based off the reality of the challenge.”

The “Big, Big Endurance Challenge” in the Fall?

The day after finishing his immense endurance challenge, Crawley hinted at a “big, big endurance challenge” that he has in the works to be performed sometime in the fall. Unfortunately, he was unable to share the exact details. However, he was able to give a sense of just how large the challenge will be and that it will be unlike any other previous challenge:

“It will be a continuous 8-10 day effort to achieve a world first, and it will be in the Scottish mountains, starting on 11/1/2020 — plus, my coach is joining me for the entire thing this year which will help with the misery of it!”

The that start date coincides with Movember. Crawley hopes to raise £100,000 for men’s mental health and suicide prevention.

“I already have some great sponsors on board, as well as some fantastic community partnerships — so things are shaping up nicely.”

Future Plans for Additional Endurance Challenges

As for endurance challenges in addition to his Movember challenge in the Scottish mountains, Crawley has “a few crazy plans.”
 

…one step, one year at a time and see where I end up. I enjoy the process, I enjoy the training, I enjoy the effort — so I’m going to keep pushing myself until it stops making me happy!

Crawley’s plans to compete in large events this year, including the Celtman Extreme Triathlon in June, were canceled due to the ongoing global pandemic.

Featured image from Fergus Crawley’s Instagram page: @ferguscrawley

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