Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kettlebell training for runners

If you've been inside enough gyms -- particularly inside enough weight rooms -- you've probably seen kettlebells lying around, or maybe even spied one being used. But unless you've gotten awfully adventurous, it's possible you've never actually picked one up.

A kettlebell is a cast iron weight that sort of looks like a cannonball with a handle; its center of mass is extended beyond the hand, allowing for a wide variety of ballistic and swinging movements.

What does any of this have to do with running?Well, as it turns out, a growing number runners are using kettlebell exercises to develop both core and leg strength.

Lana Torkildsen, president of the Charlotte Track & Triathlon Club, recently shared her experience as a "kettlebell virgin" through a blog entry she wrote for Advanced Training Concepts. I'm republishing it below, with Lana's permission, for those who might be open to spicing up their cross training.
In early June of this year, I received an e-mail out of the blue from Cyrus Peterson of Advanced Training Concepts regarding kettlebell training for endurance athletes. He wrote a very appealing message about the sport of kettlebell lifting and its benefits for endurance athletes. I'm usually receptive to trying new things so we corresponded for awhile and set up a Kettlebell Introduction Seminar for the Charlotte Track and Triathlon Club (CTTC) where I am a board member.

Since I have never seen anyone use kettlebells except the miniature "toy bells" at the Y, I wasn't sure what this lifting concept would entail. I was enthralled during the seminar where three members of ATC were lifting the competition size kettlebells effortlessly while Coach Cyrus gave a detailed explanation of the movements and the body mechanics involved . It made me tired just watching them! During the hands on session for the CTTC members, I was astonished at the liter of sweat that poured from my body after only two to three minutes of kettlebell lifting! After Coach Cyrus provided more details about the history of kettlebell lifting and the benefits for runners and triathletes, I was intrigued to try it out and go into the EFP program. I could tell from Cyrus' presentation and physique that he had a great deal of training experience and education and I respected that.

After the seminar I joined ATC and commenced my training in the Kettlebell Elite Fitness Protocol (EFP). The timing of signing up for the EFP came in perfectly. 2010 is the year where I wanted to take a break from the monotony of running and triathlons. One experience's different terrains and towns during endurance events but there comes a point where it becomes just plain old running, cycling and swimming over again. I have been running seriously (marathons, half-marathons, and various smaller distances) since 1999 and participating in triathlons since 2006. The body and mind sometimes need a break from the repetition of speed work, hill work, cycling speed intervals and just trying to stay afloat in swimming.
I have 39 marathons, 30 half marathons, over 150 5K races, 20 sprint, and 6 Olympic distance triathlons under my belt. The common misconception I hear from runners and triathletes is that they are in good shape and can eat whatever they want. This is true to a point but we are only using a portion of our muscles and under-utilizing the rest, i.e., upper body, core area, hips and hamstrings. Most of us are guilty of not performing weight bearing exercises during marathon or triathlon training and as a result we lack the resiliency to injury that a solid strength and conditioning program can deliver to us. I thought I was in good shape until I started the EFP program!

Once I finished my last triathlon for the season and finished the Assessment and Orientation Program, I started EFP the second week of August. This new type of soreness I felt from training with kettlebells let me know where my weaknesses were and motivated me to become stronger in those areas . I was ready to take on a new challenge!

Week 1: A real eye opener. I realized quickly that I needed to consume a few more calories before going into an EFP session. I barely made it through two timed sets (we work for time not for repetitions) and was very fatigued at the end. Fortunately, Coach Cyrus was easy on me and very patient. I can be slow to learn new things but he was very attentive to make sure that my technique and form were correct. Patience and attention to detail...two must have qualities in a Coach.

Week 2: After consuming a high carbohydrate meal an hour before the session, I finished the three timed sets in style! I was very surprised of how fun the EFP sessions can be. Cyrus had a different routine every time which is so refreshing! I am still running on other days preparing for the Blue Ridge Relay where I am part of a 12 member team. The relay covers about 206 miles and is very hilly. TheWednesday morning run route entails some hill work where my girlfriends and I try to charge them. I noticed after my second week of EFP that taking hills seemed much less difficult. These hills were starting to feel like a piece of cake!

Week 3: It's dawning on me that Coach instills a lot of confidence in his students. I never thought I could do swings with almost half of my bodyweight, or graduate to the pinky competition size kettlebell (8 kilograms). This is what Cyrus has been referring to as the progression in this program.

I have not cycled or swam since the first weekend of August but I am curious to see the results once I get my mojo back on these and will blog about it. This is the week where I am scheduled to run the half-marathon in Disneyland. I have been a slacker on speed work so my goal for this event was to run it under 2 hours while giving the "high five" to all the Disney characters along the route. The route is relatively flat with a couple of bumps and I was not in any mood to push myself either. I was very pleased and surprised with my time and the way my legs felt strong during the race. Running felt effortless the whole time that I really enjoyed the sport! My legs usually feel fatigued around mile 10 but my legs had a lot of power left to keep on trucking for the last 3.1! I was also in my second week of running in orthotics so that was another variable to add to the mix.

Week 4: time for measurements and body composition again! I was tickled with the results from the body composition: lower body fat and a toner physique. My friends have been teasing me about my "peanut" sized biceps. One more week of EFP before the Blue Ridge Relay. Mountain goat I come!

One of the things I'm learning about kettlebell lifting is that it involves using your whole body to perform the movements. I'm actually enjoying the "juice" (sweat) pouring out of me while going through the sessions. This is something I did not experience from working out with the nautilus machines or free weights in the commercial gyms. I never anticipated how effortless running can be. My core area and legs feel much stronger only after one month. I can't deny the fact that with age and time, you lose muscle mass more quickly. I really dread the back fat and the "salt and pepper" jiggle creeping upon me so I am tickled to see lately, the transformation in the arms, shoulders and back.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Duke grad not your average 'Survivor'

Kelly Bruno has brains and brawn in equal quantities.

The 26-year-old graduated from Duke University in 2005 with a degree in biology, and currently is in her second year of studies at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (for the moment, she hopes to pursue a career in anesthesiology).

At the same time, Bruno is a serious endurance athlete who has completed races including full Ironman events in Arizona and Hawaii and the Bataan Memorial Death March, a marathon she ran earlier this year while carrying a 35-pound rucksack.

But neither her intelligence nor her athletic prowess will make her stand out initially when she makes her prime-time television debut on the season premiere of "Survivor: Nicaragua," set to air at 8 p.m. Wednesday on CBS.

Instead, much ado will likely be made about her disability: Bruno lost her right leg below the knee at 6 months old, the result of a congenital birth defect. She is the second amputee to compete on "Survivor," following Chad Crittenden ("Vanuatu," 2004).

In a recent interview, Bruno spoke with us about what she did to prepare for "Survivor," how being an amputee might affect her game, and the loss of her father, who was killed last January in the earthquake in Haiti, where he was performing missionary work.

Q. So prior to heading to Nicaragua, what’s the craziest thing you’d ever done in your life?

I went skydiving. That was probably like the riskiest thing I’ve ever done.

Q. The Bataan Death March sounds like it was pretty crazy, too.

It was awesome. It was so cool. I finished the race running a 10-minute mile at the end. I mean, it took me seven hours to do the whole thing. It was nuts. But I had a lot of energy left. It was a really great race.

Q. You doing anymore races this year?

Pinehurst Triathlon in October, and then probably the (Wrightsville Beach) Marathon (in Wilmington) in March.

Q. OK, so "Survivor": What was your motivation for applying to the show?

A friend recommended it to me, thought that I would be a good candidate for it. It seemed like an interesting adventure. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of challenges. I’m always looking for something to work towards, some kind of adventure, some kind of challenge, some kind of event. Most of the stuff I do is triathlon-related at this point, but I did a marathon last year with a 35-pound rucksack. (I like) stuff like that, unusual stuff, and so this one just seemed like the same kind of challenge to me. I had nothing to lose by applying is what I figured.

Q. Between the time you got cast and the time you left, what kinds of things did you do to get ready?

I started doing a lot more CrossFit training (CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program), since I figured the challenges would require more of that kind of skill and fitness. And then I did a lot of balance stuff, because I am an amputee and I knew the most difficult part for me would be balance-type events. I actually practiced some puzzle-type things on the computer just to kind of get my mind focused on how to piece things together because I knew the puzzles might be a challenge. I watched a lot of old episodes and seasons to see how people handled situations and tried to take notes on that – see what worked, see what didn’t work. But at the end of the day, I don’t know if there’s any great way to prepare for it. I mean, I certainly felt more prepared. I’m glad I did what I did. But there’s certainly a lot more I could have done, I think.

Q. Did you have a particular strategy going in?

The difficult thing for me was, because of my leg, I wanted to make sure that people didn’t see me as a liability, as a person with a physical disability. So I wanted to make sure I kind of proved myself, and that was a big part of kind of my strategy going in: making sure that people believed that I could do everything that they could. And then obviously I went with more the nice-girl personality, trying to make friends. Have friends everywhere.

Q. What was your initial reaction when you found out the theme for the season was going to be old vs. young?

Part of me was really surprised, I think, but part of me was a little disappointed almost because of the types of interaction that I’ve had. I kind of I grew up very early on, and I feel like I’m kind of older than my age, so I really actually tend to connect with older adults. I really thought that was gonna be an advantage for me, so when it ended up splitting, with the young people on one side and old people on the other, I mean … it kind of changes the dynamic of my plan. I think I relate better to 30-year-olds than 19-year-olds at this point, so I wasn’t thrilled. But you make the most of it.

Q. Having a full life’s worth of experience as an amputee and having been in all types of social situations, what was your sense as you prepared for this adventure of how your disability might help or hurt you in the game?

Well, going in I talked to some people about the possibility that it would actually make my game more difficult because I could potentially be a charity case. If I made it as far as everybody else did, there was that possibility that people would think that I might deserve it more than others. ... So weighing that with knowing that a lot of people don’t like to be beat by someone with one leg. It can be humbling, but I think that moreso, some people are threatened by it. I’ve been at races and people want to beat me because they don’t want to get beat by someone that has one leg. So I knew that was gonna be a challenge, too, to kind of convince people that we were on equal playing field and that I was the same as them and that I worked as hard as everyone else did to get where I was. Not that I deserved more, but I deserved the same as them. People are funny with these kinds of things. I think some people get it in their head that they’re gonna treat you one way, and without even realizing it will treat you like you’re not capable of doing things yourself. And that was something that I knew going in, like you said, from situations that I had been in in the past. Part of me doesn’t even really get fazed by those kinds of things at this point in my life, because I’ve seen it so often that I just kind of ignore it almost. I just do my thing and go about my life as I would.

Q. Did you go into Survivor thinking your level of fitness would be a definite advantage?

I did. Being a trained athlete and knowing that my physical fitness level was fairly good, I did think I would have an advantage physically, I think more because I know what it’s like to push yourself. When you have nothing left, you can keep going. When you hit that wall in the marathon, you still have something left and you can keep going. I think that kind of mental discipline is what I figured would get me through, moreso than I think the physical fitness part. Almost less physically and more mentally I thought I was really prepared for the situation -- you know, having no food, having those kinds of difficult situations.

Q. What would you do with a million dollars if you won it?

Probably donate some of it to Food For The Poor, (which) my dad was working with, and then pay off school loans.

Q. Speaking of your father, I was really sorry to hear that you lost him earlier this year. Looking back on the past eight months, how would you say your life perspective has changed having had a little time to grieve and reflect?

I guess day-to-day, my perspective hasn’t changed dramatically. I just look at I think enjoying everything in your life -- even the worst moments -- as much as you can, and I think I took that to "Survivor" with me. That knowing that you just don’t know what the future’s gonna hold, and making the most of what you have right now. I think that was really an important lesson for me, and just kind of a change in my perspective on life. It’s also cherishing the relationships that you have in your life, which when you’re in an environment where you’re not necessarily friends with everyone and you’re away from the people that are important to you, it kind of makes you realize how important those people are. And so that was a great thing when I came home. It was a reminder of what my family and friends mean to me, and I can really make sure that they know that. Unfortunately, with how unexpected my dad’s death was, I didn’t really get that chance to say goodbye and really make sure he knew how I felt. I mean, I think that he knew I loved him and everything, but not getting that chance to say goodbye is a very hard thing, and so it was just a reminder of (the fact that) you really can’t go about life alone. And that is definitely something you learn in “Survivor,” too -- you rely on other people, and you have to have a connection with other people, and so making sure you make the most of that.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Local duo completes TransRockies run

Here's an excerpt from a follow-up e-mail I received this week from Ken Bansemer, who recently completed the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run with friend Lynn Pettus (I blogged about them last month here):
"Wanted to share with you that Lynn and I completed the TransRockies Run last Friday! Ended up being about 118 miles over the six days, in nothing but beautiful weather (if not cold at night in the tents, with temps in the 30s). Finished in about 29:18 – good enough for 11th out of 21 in our age group. We had an absolute blast and would recommend this to anyone – the support crew was simply amazing and went out of their way to make all the runners feel comfortable. Great scenery, awesome trails, great mountains to climb and descend – couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
"We were able to make sure everyone out there knew about Emmah and our fundraising. Emmah’s parents (Jeff and Julie) did in fact make it there for the finish and were able to celebrate the moment with us.
"I continued to blog about it in the week leading up to and the days of the race, and have a few more posts to put up over the upcoming days. So if you want a recap, it can be found at"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fort Mill woman runs down her dream

Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming about taking your love of running to the next level, to one where it wasn't just a hobby, a passion, or a lifestyle ... but also a job?

I've talked to enough runners to know this is a pretty common fantasy. Few, though, make real plans. Fewer still will ever take action.

And then there are people like Jamie Dodge, a stay-at-home mom who had a dream about starting a running club in Fort Mill and turned it into a reality that now sees her coaching more than 30 South Carolina runners of varied skill levels who are training for everything from 5Ks to marathons.

Founded earlier this year, Dodge's icoachurun club is a seasonal running group that is built around eight-week sessions to be held each summer, fall, winter and spring.

"We meet (at 5:45 a.m.) on Tuesdays (at the Baxter YMCA) for some type of running workout that may include anything from tempos, fartleks, intervals, pick-ups, hills, hill sprints, drills, strengthen exercises, and post run stretch," says Dodge, 37, who moved here with her husband and two children from Seattle two years ago. "There also is a long run option on Sundays in the fall for runners building endurance for fall events."

New members pay $35 for the eight-week session, and renewing members pay $20; the long run option is additional. Dodge is a certified running coach, and her runners receive gait analysis and proper shoe fitting from Omega Sports in the Rivergate Shopping Center. The next eight-week training session begins Sept. 14, with the end-of-session race being the Dowd Y 5K on Nov. 6.

Read on for excerpts from a recent interview with Dodge.

Q. What was the impetus for starting this group?

So many reasons -- where do I begin? I love running. I believe it can help people in so many ways. I believe in the power of running to transform physical and mental health. I believe that most people can be runners, and I love helping people to realize their potential and achieve their goals. This is the motivation behind why I started icoachurun. It was clear to me that the Fort Mill area is underserved in runner resources such as running clubs, running shoe stores and coaches. I decide to fill a void with combining a running club with coaching services to help bring in new runners and help people train properly.

Q. What's been the biggest challenge for you so far, as a coach?

My goal is to build confidence, motivation and inspiration along with proper training techniques and sit back and watch them bloom. But I have learned that I really have to hold onto my beginners and provide more motivation early on. I think that beginners can become discouraged easily and life can distract them from their goals. Once the habit is established, then I can let go of my hold. I have learned that I really need a vise-like grib on them in the early weeks.

Q. You ran in high school, is that right? What kind of runner were you back then?

I did run both track and cross-country in high school. It is funny, as I had recently found a box of high school memorabilia in which I keep all my high school cross country statistics. I am actually a lot faster now than I was in high school. I was always pulling up the rear on my teams. I was there more for the social aspect of being a part of a team and cheering on my friends than being a competitor. I remember being bothered when I would have to quit chatting to run an event in track. In my senior year, I was actually an assistant to the coach as I hadn't trained as I was suppose to and didn't run. I really just wanted to be there with my friends. I was and I will always be more of a cheerleader than a competitor. There was no running in my college life.
Q. And you've recently become a pretty avid marathoner, correct?

Yes. I have run seven marathons in 16 months with two of those marathons at 3:46 just seconds shy of my BQ goal. All my marathons thus far have been amazing experiences and each one holds a special place. I think I would say the Virginia Beach Shamrock Marathon is one of my favorites because I met one of my closet friends at Mile 20 on that course. I loved the after-party on the beach, ease of getting to and from the start, and the course is flat. I loved the excitement, energy and sights at the Marine Corps, but falling sick to too much Powerade sort of took away from my complete enjoyment of the event.

Q. Do you plan to do another one anytime soon?

I will be heading to Chicago in seven weeks to hopefully and finally snag my 3:45. Then if recovery goes well, I will be doing a November marathon (to be determined) and then Thunder Road to complete the year.

Q. How much has focusing on the group forced you to compromise some of your goals as an individual runner?

When I started coaching, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to fully concentrate on my running goals as well as help others achieve theirs. I was wrong. Helping others to become the runners they want to be actually fuels me to be the best I can be. I am very fortunate to have a family that loves and support my running adventures. I believe I have found a balance between motherhood, coaching and running.

Q. Quick random question, since a lot of us don't get across the S.C. border very often: Where are the best places to run in Fort Mill?

You all should come visit Baxter Village in Fort Mill. I live and run mostly in Baxter. It is beautiful neighborhood where I can run endless miles in the safety of this community. Recently just five minutes from Baxter in Rock Hill, the Riverwalk Trail opened. I have been running lots there lately. It is a beautiful asphalt trail along the Catawba River that goes 2.25 miles out and back.

Q. And finally ... how has this whole experience changed you as an individual?

What I find the most profound about this journey to becoming a runner and a coach is that you are never too old to follow your passion and turn yourself into what you dreamed. Dreaming of doing or being something isn't just for children, teens or twentysomethings -- it’s really for anyone. Prior to being a stay-at-home mom, I completed college and worked as a corporate recruiter for a large wireless company. I had thought that this career path was the only one I was to follow, and had no idea that I could actually do something else in life. What is exciting is that I have rediscovered a joy of my early life and turned it into something I get to live every day. I've learned that if you dream it, you can do it.

Jamie Dodge, at left, with members of her icoachurun group
after last Saturday's Yiasou Greek Festival 5K.