Smart Kettlebell Training for Competitive Endurance Athletes

by Aaron Pierson on September 17, 2014

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Erika Woolsey RKC from Fort Collins, Colorado running the Boston marathon

Erika Woolsey, RKC from Fort Collins, Colorado running the Boston Marathon

For endurance athletes, time well spent is time working toward a specific goal. Unfortunately this often means strength training takes a back seat or becomes obsolete. In the world of strength and conditioning we like to believe that getting stronger solves all our problems. How much strength does the endurance athlete really need?

For those looking to take on the challenge of completing a 50 or 100 mile run, a 100 mile mountain bike race, the Iron Man, or marathon the specific training alone consumes most people. No amount of time in the gym is going to replace the time spent on the road or trail. Taking time and energy away from their specific training to focus on building a bigger press or deadlift, is time wasted. These people don’t need to focus on raw strength. Instead the focus should be spent developing relative strength. Remember they only need to be strong enough to avoid injury.

If we already know that preparing for endurance events requires a lot of time on the road then we must assume there is very little time for other forms of training. This is where the kettlebell can become a quick and easy tool of choice.

Goblet Squat (with a pry):

The goblet squat is great exercise for many of these athletes. It allows the athlete to maintain or improve their squat pattern, build leg and core strength without excessive weight to overly fatigue the legs. By adding the prying element to this squat we allow the athlete to work on the hip mobility which so many runners and cyclist struggle with.

Turkish Get-Up:

The Turkish get-up is a must for any athlete especially those who require a great deal of core strength to get through the later stages of an endurance event. The get-up will also provide a great deal of thoracic mobility as well as increased stability in the trunk and hips.

Single-Leg Deadlift:

The single leg deadlift might be the single most important skill for injury prevention in these athletes. Improved glute and hamstring strength, balance and rotational stability is going to pay dividends when it comes to IT band issues.

Kettlebell Swing:

I prefer to train the swing primarily in the off-season due to the excessive fatigue of endurance training. The swing is an outstanding exercise to develop powerful hip drive and strong legs. It is also one of the best ways to build strength endurance in the core which is something every endurance athlete requires.

When we combine these exercises with basic push-ups and pull-ups we are creating a successful recipe for almost any endurance athlete. Remember the goal is not to be the best in the gym. The goal is to keep them healthy and injury free so they can put in the miles and time required to succeed outside the gym.

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About Aaron Pierson RKC Team Leader: Aaron has been apart of the RKC since 2010. He currently works full time as an EMT and owns Fundamental Strength in Fort Collins, Colorado. He can be reached at aaron@fundamentalstrengthllc.com or by visiting www.fundamentalstrengthllc.com

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Why I Run and How I Keep My Motivation

by Phil Ross on September 3, 2014

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Master RKC Phil Ross Running
Technically, I’m on my one week vacation, but I had some thoughts coursing through my head as I was on a 4 mile jaunt this morning. For those of you who have been following my Dirty Dozen exercise blog posts, don’t worry, the installments for the final two movements, #11 The Kettlebell Snatch and #12 The Push-Up are forthcoming. They happen to be my two favorite exercises, so I’m really looking forward to getting the information out.

Why should I run? I do kettlebells, bodyweight and a significant amount of Martial Arts–do I really need to run? Can’t I simply move my bodyweight around, do a weight training circuit, swing some bells or maybe do a little yoga? Ever since the 1970’s I’ve observed a running regimen. I have many reasons not to, there are a vast amount of alternative cardio training methods that I could employ, but yet, I still run.

I run because I hate it.

That statement sounds silly on the onset, but there is a method to my madness. I hate to run, but I love the results and the euphoria when I am done. Years ago, when I was around 18 or so, my instructor and I were discussing running. Despite the fact that I was reasonably fast and had good form, I hated to run. He proceeded to explain to me that it was very important to do something that you hated to do, especially if you were a fighter. It was part of the sacrifice that forged the mettle of your soul. When you are fighting, a lot of things go through your head. You see, if you are in a tough bout and this guy has you in the corner and is pounding away on you, you start to think. You think about the miles that you ran, how much it hurt and how hard you pushed, all of the sacrifices you made and then you start firing back. You didn’t make all of those sacrifices and go through all of that pain to lose to this clown! NO WAY!

If people see me, they think that I have no issue keeping my weight down. WRONG. I can easily put on 10 pounds in one weekend. My grandfather on my mother’s side’s nickname was “The Whale”, my paternal grandfather had 7 strokes and 2 heart attacks and the third one finished him at the age of 72. My father passed away due to congestive heart failure at the ripe old age of 66. Walking around at 5’8” and being 285 lbs is not the best way to achieve a long, healthy life. I am of Italian-American Heritage and love to eat. Therefore, I’m in a constant battle. Running helps me win the life-long war. I want to do everything in my power to avoid the pitfall of succumbing to my natural genetic disposition. Look at it this way, if I want to eat something that is not super healthy, I think about how much I have to work to get rid of it, I then choose a healthier option. However, if I put in a good run and have some hard training sessions, I reward myself. I don’t really do “Cheat Days”, I prefer to partake in “Reward Meals”. It’s a good thing to reward yourself for the sacrifices that you make.

If you don’t make sacrifices, you don’t have discipline. If you have no discipline, you are soft. If you allow yourself to become soft, you will not have what it takes to deal with real adversity and emerge triumphant. Adding running to my training regimen is one of the easiest ways for me to keep my weight down.

Running clears my head. When I first start my run, the toughest part is to “get my feet to hit the floor”. Once I get out there, the rest is easy. Although runs can be difficult at times in the beginning, the first 1/2 mile of a run stinks. Everything hurts, I feel slow and tired. However, I push. Before you know it, I’m cranking away! I do a great deal of thinking when I’m running, but my clarity only comes after I’ve gotten into my zone. I come up with ideas, release frustration and get lost in my thoughts. I do not run with any music, I practice Zen Running. I count my breaths, give myself little goals like, “run to that telephone pole” or “make it to that corner.” By focusing on minor goals, the run does not seem as overwhelming. The task, like most, is better handled by conquering the smaller pieces. I am in-tune with my environment and I listen to sounds, pay attention to sights and am aware to what is happening in my body. Once I have this going for me, the rest of the run is awesome! I’m “In the Zone” and thoughts flow freely. Now I can begin to push my body. The blood fills my quads, my lungs burn and my breath becomes more labored as I pump my arms harder and pick up speed. Yeah, this is the fun part.

You never know when you’ll have to run. I’ve seen those shirts that say, “Running Promotes Cowardice.” Cute. What if you have to catch someone? You have to run then. I may have to run after someone or run to the aid of one of my family or friends. In the face of a catastrophic event you will need to exit the area in an expeditious manner. There are plenty of other occasions that will require you to get from Point A to Point B and quickly. So, you will need be able to run. As with any other skill, if you are not practiced at it, you will not be able to accomplish it. The mechanics of your stride will not be smooth nor will they be efficient.

Running is a basic human movement. As humans, we are supposed to be able to run. Human beings were designed as one of the world’s best long distance, warm weather runners as referenced in this article from Popular Mechanics. We are basically hairless, stand upright and have an endocrine system suited to producing sweat to keep our skin cool and dissipate heat. We can out run a horse or a deer. If you want to consider “Paleo”, we used to track our prey down relentlessly in prehistoric times. So if you have a body or training regimen that does not facilitate running, you are not doing what your body was designed to do.

Running is a very inexpensive activity, especially if you look at the ridiculous amount of money people spend on fitness gadgets, unused gym memberships and expensive machines that wind up collecting dust. Depending upon how much you run, you will need to buy a new pair of shoes once or twice a year. You can get a great pair of shoes for under $100.00. I run outside, so I don’t have to spend money on a treadmill. If I were meant to be a hamster, I’d live in a cage and have a penchant for seeds and grain. Running on a treadmill is not the same as road, beach or trail running. Get outside! Compare the costs of a good pair of running shoes to what a road bike costs–entry level competition grade road bikes are around $7,000.00! I know others who have bikes that cost more than my car. No offense directed toward my cyclist friends, but with three kids, two of which are in college, spending a years worth of tuition on a bicycle is not in the cards for me!

Running is time efficient. In about a half an hour, I can get a great run in. I don’t want you to think I’m picking on the cyclists again but how long does it take to get a meaningful bike ride in? To be fair to my cyclist buddies, let’s consider swimming. Unless you live in a warm weather zone or have an indoor pool, look at the time that it takes to get in the car, head to the pool, change, swim, shower and then drive either back home or head to work. It’s a great deal of time compared to throwing your shorts, t-shirt and running shoes on then heading out the door.

This blog is primarily dedicated to what I consider distance running. Generally, I don’t run less than three or more than five miles. Sprints and more often intervals, were a large part of my running training when I was competing. However, I don’t feel the need to do a lot of sprinting, because I do a great deal of other explosive training work and use my running as more of a restorative training session. Plus, I generally end my runs at a pretty good clip.

There are many more compelling reasons to run. The aforementioned are the main ones for me. I’m certain that you’ll come up with your own. Good luck with your roadwork. Running is one of the basic human movements, and should be worked into your training regimen.

Strength & Honor

Coach Phil

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About Master RKC Phil Ross: Master RKC, 8th Degree Black Belt, Specialist in Bodyweight Strength, PCC and CK-FMS Certified. His name is synonymous with Martial Arts and Fitness. He is known as the area’s Kettlebell King and has successfully competed on the National Level in…  Read more here.

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