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Struggling to sustain competition pace? Find yourself flagging after a few miles? Feel like you’re constantly fighting fatigue?
This workout has been designed to help improve your running performance. The exercises and training method selected can build muscle endurance in the legs while boosting stamina in the aerobic system.
But this kettlebell workout for runners is not all about increasing your average mile time. Improving your running ability is as much about keeping injury-free as it is about keeping consistent with your regime.
The problem is that running too frequently can cause over-training – a precursor of injury. A classic catch-22 situation: To get better at running you’ve got to run regularly. Yet, running regularly puts you at greater risk of sustaining soft tissue damage. And even a mild strain can put a stop to training.
Related: The best-rated running trainers by a mile >
Why use this kettlebell workout for runners
A simple way to avoid (read reduce your risk of) incurring an injury is to mix up your run sessions and training routine. Matt Fitzgerald, author of 80/20 Running, tells us that the ‘secret of becoming a speedier runner’ is to vary your intensity. ‘Running too hard too often is the single most common and detrimental mistake in the sport,’ (80/20 Running – p1).
Another way to reduce injury risk and improve performance is to alternate training methodologies. As we’ve seen, pounding the pavement too often and at high intensities puts you at risk of over-training. Fitzgerald identifies this as one of the 'biggest mistakes made by most runners.'
Interspersing run sessions with the occasional resistance workout is a tried and tested method of mitigating injury. And as long as the workout involves running-related exercises and tasks, it’s unlikely to adversely impact on your run times.
Kettlebell workouts can strengthen connective tissues
Building muscular strength through resistance training has been shown to decrease low-level injury risk while improving performance. Anita Bean identifies the former benefit in her book The Complete Guide to Strength Training.
Bean observes that resistance exercises – such as kettlebell swings, squats, and lunges – strengthen connective tissues. As the authors of Stronger Legs and Lower Body note, ‘Many experts believe that this form of training helps to prevent injury, building tensile strength in the bones,’ ligaments, and tendons.
Pavel Tsatsouline lists this benefit as one of the primary attributes of kettlebell training. [reference?] (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge). He argues that robust connective tissues are better able to absorb the shocks and impacts that are an unavoidable consequence of exercises such as running.
Kettlebell workout could improve running
Emerging evidence suggests that resistance training can improve performance in unrelated disciplines. In a previous article (Kettlebell Complex Made Simple), I referred to research conducted by Russian strength and conditioning coaches showing that kettlebell training increased the run times of elite-level athletes.
More generally, the authors of Physiology Of Sport And Exercise maintain that most sporting disciplines ‘can benefit from resistance training.’ They base this statement on the fact that ‘each [sporting discipline] has basic strength requirements that must be met to achieve optimal performance,’ (Physiology Of Sport And Exercise – p107).
How to do this kettlebell workout for runners
I’ve created two training routes for you to try out. The first is supposed to replicate a steady-pace Sunday morning bible through the country lanes. Using a light kettlebell, your objective is to complete the pre-specified sets and reps. (Need advice on choosing the right kettlebell weight?)
You’ll notice that the training volume leans towards muscle endurance. This is consistent with the aim of workout one: to promote stamina in the muscles of the legs.
Route two, by contrast, is supposed to simulate a quad-punishing cross-country competition. Consisting of CrossFit-style AMRAPs, you’ll be battling against the clock as you fight to amass as many reps as possible.
Because the training volume is high, workout two possesses the capacity to stimulate your cardiovascular system while also promoting muscle endurance in the legs and heart.
Running workout key points
Ensure to warm up thoroughly before setting off.
Select the route most suited to your training goals and desired fitness outcomes. To recap:
Route one is a low-intensity muscle endurance-building workout that involves progressing through a series of sets and reps.
Route two consists of high-intensity AMRAPs that aim to promote muscle endurance and aerobic conditioning.
Conclude the workout with a cool-down and stretch.
Kettlebell workout for runners hints and tips
The temptation is to include running bouts somewhere (anywhere!) in the workout. I had to stop myself from doing this on at least three separate occasions. Of course, the purpose of this workout is to activate the same muscles and physiological systems as running, but without running. If achieved, we can still promote relevant fitness gains without running the risk of over-training. So, while you might want to sneak in a cheeky three-miler, it’s advisable to out-pace this temptation. Keep this a resistance training-only workout.
Related: Try this Kettlebell Circuit
I’ve selected the exercises based on their recognised effectiveness at developing lower body muscles that can translate to improved running performance. Of squats and lunges, for example, the authors of Stronger Legs and Lower Body maintain that they not only train the muscles to maintain correct ankle, knee, and hip alignment but also strengthen the muscles and connective tissues.’ As we saw above, they go on to suggest that such exercises can ‘prevent injury.’ They go on to say that ‘these exercises recruit a higher response from your muscles so that they’re engaging more muscle fibre with each rep.’ Put simply, you get more bang for your buck.
Related: HIIT Running workout
But if for whatever you need to replace an exercise, you should do so. Don’t worry about deviating from the plans. If it helps, use them as a framework. However, when changing exercises, try substituting it with a close alternative. For example, let’s say you can’t perform plyometric squat jumps, perhaps because you’ve got sore knees from too much pavement pounding, instead you could settle for plain old air squats or depth jumps on a crash mat.
Enjoyed this workout?
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About Adam Priest –
A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or firstname.lastname@example.org.