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September 8, 2014

3 Ways I Used Kettlebells to Improve My 5k Time

Ahhh running, you devil you! I love you, I hate you. I love to hate you.

Back in 2004, I ran my first 5k. And I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m running, all I want is for the actual running part to be over, so I typically run fast as possible for as long as possible, and then just die at the end. And that strategy, ironically, has served me well! Ha! My fastest 5k was 18:21 and my fastest half-marathon was 1h 33m. And I am no runner. But what I am is a strong ass woman with thunder thighs and muscular glutes that generate power like a mofo.

And it’s been my muscle that has always been the primary driver for my speed. Yes, I had a base of stamina/cardio but what allowed me to power up hills and sprint out the remaining minutes of any race has been my ability to muscle my way through it. And though I was always heavier than most runners, the extra muscle I was carrying helped me run strong and powerful. 

And so, I don’t know that just getting as small/thin as possible is really the end-all-be-all when it comes to speed. I think it’s a combination of endurance, form and power. And the power part only comes when you get stronger.

Power is of course, strength + speed.

And you get faster by getting stronger.

Well, since I promptly quit competitive running in 2008 *wink* … I asked JillFit Ambassador and Kettlebell HKC-certfied trainer (and former crazy runner!) Jill Jacobs, to provide a great guest post on how using her training tool of choice — kettlebells — has helped her get faster and stronger for endurance, along with a sample workout. Below is a guest post from Jill! I love this, and I hope you do too! Ox, Jill 

In 2009, I was exclusively a runner. I ran anywhere from 3-6 times per week and I was constantly focused on my next 5k. My continuous goal was to beat my previous time. That was my motivation- beating myself! But honestly, my 5k time remained SLOW and I really didn’t understand why??? I seemed to be training and running ALL.THE.TIME.

Enter kettlebells.

I began training with kettlebells in 2011.

I also QUIT running.

I’m certainly not suggesting that you do the same. I think we all need to do the exercises that we enjoy and that we will ACTUALLY do! For me, I saw how kettlebells offered me a TWO-IN-ONE workout- both cardio and strength training, together in one package. As a busy mom that homeschools her two boys, this was a huge bonus that kettlebell training brought to the table for me. It was a no-brainer.

After training with kettlebells for 6 months, I decided to enter a 5k just for kicks and giggles. Surprisingly, I set a new PR with a crazy better time than before! I had decreased my time from 2009 of 32:21 to 25:33 just 2 short years later!!! Yeah! Who knew? I even won my age group against many other women who were “daily runners”. And who shaves nearly 7 minutes off of a short distance run like 5 kilometers? THAT is what kettlebells can do for YOU!

This experience proved to me that kettlebell training “truly speaks for itself”.


How can this happen? How does one quit running and yet improve their 5k time with a round ball of iron with a handle on top? Let me splain…

Here are the top 3 ways that Kettlebells will improve your 5k time:

1) Kettlebells increase your power.

Through ballistic movements like swings and snatches, kettlebell training can truly improve your power and explosiveness in running. The swing is a hip hinge, hip dominant movement. The Russian kettlebell swing is well known for building a nice posterior chain (hello glutes and hammies!) giving you the famous kettle “booty.” And who doesn’t want that!

Having increased power from a strong posterior chain will certainly increase your speed and endurance during your run!

2) Kettlebells increase your strength.

Kettlebells can be utilized for traditional movements like the squat and the deadlift. Because of the kettlebell’s unique shape and size, kettlebell trainees are required to use a lot of force, core strength, and coordinated movement which in turn increases overall body strength. The control needed throughout kettlebell exercises magnifies your core strength for what I call a kettle “CORE.” :)

Having a strong backside and a strong core is a great way to improve your performance and decrease your chances for injury in ANY sport!

3) Kettlebells increase your endurance.

Kettlebells have the unique ability to combine both cardio and strength training in one. Utilizing the same explosive movements that increase your power, your endurance will also increase as you advance with kettlebell training. Your ability to swing a higher number of reps, to swing heavier bells, and by tracking your 5 minute snatch test results (fun, fun!!) can all help to measure your endurance progress. Your progress will also be revealed through decreased race times!

Your Quickie KB Circuit:

Set your timer for 20 minutes and go through the circuit AMRAP (as many rounds as possible):

  • 5 Swing Cleans (right)
  • 5 Squat Presses (right)
  • 5 Swing Cleans (left)
  • 5 Squat Presses (left)
  • 5 Rows each, R then L arm
  • 20 Kettlebell Swings

Do this circuit 1-2x/week for best results!

If you are a runner, I can tell you from experience that cross training (with kettlebells) will not only build a toned, leaner physique, but it will improve your race times and performance. The kettlebell has proven to be the perfect tool for me. It completely changed my physique and my performance, I’ll never go back!

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