Running...ugh! It’s something I have avoided like the plague for years. But, this year, I’ve decided to give it a try in hopes of getting the whole family involved so we can enjoy all the great races around town. In fact, my New Year’s resolution for this year was to run five 5k races by year end. Well, here we are more than halfway through the year and we haven’t done a one! And, it’s totally my fault. I’ve gone for a couple of runs in my neighborhood but I struggled so much that I gave up. My legs get so fatigued they feel like tree stumps. It’s incredibly frustrating and I was ready to throw in the towel on the whole thing when I was introduced to Matt Blankenship, owner of Move. Lift. Run.
Matt’s philosophy on running has changed my attitude and has inspired me to keep trying. He believes that far too often people take to the streets to start running without doing the necessary “leg work” (pardon the pun) to prepare. He explains that people should “get in shape to run” rather than “run to get in shape.” Building your strength on the front end, prepares your muscles for the impact running creates and helps prevent injuries and/or pain.
After all, you wouldn’t start weight lifting expecting to bench press 450 pounds on your first day. You have to take baby steps to properly prepare your body and build strength for those things. Well, running is no different but I never thought about it that way.
To be a successful runner, you have to strengthen your muscles, not just in your legs but in your entire body. For distance runners, strength training improves leg strength, endurance and run time to exhaustion. At Move. Lift. Run., Matt provides the strength training you need to become a strong and efficient runner. So with my personal struggles becoming more and more frustrating, I pounced at the opportunity to try a group class. These are kettlebell classes…something completely new for me.
Ok, first things first, what is a kettlebell? Wikipedia defines a kettlebell as “a cast-iron weight (resembling a cannonball with a handle) used to perform ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. Unlike traditional dumbbells, the kettlebell's center of mass is extended beyond the hand…This facilitates ballistic and swinging movements.” They’re big, they’re heavy and they’re tough as hell to use. But, when used properly, they provide one of the most effective strength building workouts you can get.
Because this was my very first experience with kettlebells, Matt spent the majority of the 30-minute class teaching me the proper technique necessary to avoid injury. While I was learning the basic movements, I was able to observe the other class participants as they followed Matt’s instructions for the day. Swings, lunges, squats, Russian twists, planks and more. Talk about a workout! I hurt just watching them! Wow!
All the while, I continued to work with Matt on my technique. With kettlebells, your movement stems from the hips as opposed to the legs. It takes some getting used to (at least for me it did) but it felt good. Towards the end of the session, I was able to do a quick 10 minute workout with Matt calling out the moves. It doesn’t take much to get your heart pumping and the sweat dripping. The beauty of kettlebells is that they require the use of multiple muscles for a single movement creating an intense but quick workout that is extraordinarily effective.
So the question is, did it help me with my running? Although it was just one quick class, the answer is yes! Not because I miraculously got stronger, but because Matt has changed my attitude and I've continued building on the movements he taught me . Instead of getting frustrated with what I can’t do, I’m paying attention to my body and understand that it takes time and work to improve. Gradually, I am noticing that the muscles I am using for running are getting stronger and, more importantly, my muscular endurance is improving dramatically. Even if running was not my ultimate goal, I would still continue training with Matt. Strength training is something that has been missing from my usual workout routine (Jazzercise, tennis and, now, running) and something we can all use no matter our fitness goals.