Less mileage, more efficient running

David J. Buckles, ATC

We’ve all heard the benefits of cross training as a supplement to your already great running routine.  But how about using cross training INSTEAD of some of your running?  Hear me out before you totally discount it… I used to run 40-50 miles per week, hired on coaches, trained for ironman triathlons, duathlons, marathons, and every other distance known to the racing circuit, always with similar results.  yeah, i sculpted the sinewy, prepubescent look of an elite runner; yeah, i was plagued with almost every running-induced injury known to man, and yeah, i was becoming a functional weakling…oh wait, those aren’t good things.

Several years ago, I started training with kettlebells, you know, those iron-clad beasts that look like cannonballs with handles.  Due to scheduling conflicts and life getting in the way, I had to seriously curtail some of my mileage.  Not only did the kettlebells morph my prepubscent running profile into a Michaelangelo’s David-esque physique, but my run times improved dramatically.  And best of all, because of the lower volume of miles, I have been injury free for years.  All it took was a total re-evaluation of my training routine, go figure.

When we run, a curious thing happens, when we run long miles, curiosity sometimes takes a backseat to injury and boredom.  When runners hit long distances, the anatomical functionality of the human body dwindles.  Shoulders slump forward, losing the lung’s capacity to fully expand.  We start to lose the gazelle-like spring in our step, leading to devastating impact with every step we take, enter running injuries.  I recognized this, and strengthened my body.  Kettlebell swings, kettlebell snatches, Turkish Get Ups, and squats totally revitalized my running engine.  My lung capacity drastically improved.  My posture, enhanced by kettlebell training, improved the overall quality of running, my stamina, and endurance.  My hamstrings and posterior chain, when working properly, show no sign of deterioration from the miles that I put on them now.

I hadn’t run more than 10 miles at a stretch since 2008, but i intrepidly signed up for the Salt Lake City half marathon this past April.  Doubting my ability to finish, let alone challenge my PR at the half marathon with only running 8 miles as my long run, I toed the line.  I finished 1 minute under my PR and recovered quicker as a result of kettlebell training.  I currently train 4 days of kettlebells and run approximately 15 miles per week (usually one long run and one fast run), and i’m looking to smash my 10k time in the Deseret News 10K this year.  I’ve been bangin’ out 10-15 mile trail runs quicker than it takes for crap to go through a goose, and I feel better than I ever thought possible.

If you think you have what it takes to become a better runner, higher mileages might not be the answer.  Seek out a professional kettlebell trainer, learn the moves, and watch your times improve, your injuries decrease, and your overall health reach levels most people can only dream of.   Better yet, let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll set you up on my kettlebell protocol.


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