Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kettlebell Roadwork a la Maffetone

The concept is simple. You set two kettlebells somewhere between 40 and 100 yards apart. Do a few swings, then jog to the other kettlebell and do a few reps of something else. Alternately you could carry one bell back and fourth in a suitcase carry. I got the idea from from a fellow named Aussieluke over at Dave Draper's Iron Online.

Maffetone comes into play by trying to keep your heart rate in a target zone using his 180 formula. Another simple concept. Keep your heart rate in the target zone and avoid overtraining and make better gains.

What they don't tell you is how soon you'll want to smash your incessantly beeping heart rate monitor. For a guy who shies away from aerobic exercise until it's a necessity (it is a necessity in my line of work) it's damn hard keeping my heart rate in that target zone.

Much like easy strength this doesn't feel like enough work, which also adds to the temptation to push harder, until your heart rate monitor starts nagging again.

I'm not going cardio bunny just yet. I'm still hitting the weight room hard and throwing heavy things. However, I do need to maintain the ability to run a decent 1.5 mile and after not using my kettlebells for about eight weeks during my recent 5 x 5 work, I felt slow and heavy despite my strength gains. I got a lot of snap back in my throws and some pop back in my squat after just a few workouts with my bells.

Since I don't normally enjoy running (I can tolerate it, and relax enough to feel good doing it but that doesn't mean I care for it) and I was getting other good benefits out of KB work, it seemed natural to try kettlebells for aerobic work again. I've been looking for "runless running", a way to keep my run time at a reasonable level without actually running, for a while with little success.

I started by getting a baseline for a decent 1.5 mile. 14:35. Passing, but just barely. This would give me a score that would mean I'd have to re-take the AFPT eval every six months instead of once a year. That means more running and that just won't do.

The first KB aerobic workouts were a simple 15 minutes of constant swings, snatches, squats, push ups and planks. Doable, but brutal and with heart rates in the 175-190 range. Those high heart rates lead to me wanting to slow things down. You can't serve two masters, maximal strength and power comes at the cost of never reaching maximal aerobic capacity. "Specialization works, but at a cost"

If I was going to get what I wanted, without limiting my gains in the weight room and on the field, I needed efficiency. Flogging myself that hard would just wear me down. So after a week, I dropped the reps to twos, threes and fives to keep my form good, and added the jogging or loaded carry. I also picked locations with uneven ground and some easy obstacles, to keep my feet and ankles strong and limber for running without covering lots of distance. Thus was born Kettlebell roadwork a la Maffetone.

Will it work?

I don't know. I am certain that something is better than nothing. To keep my AFPT score in the once a year range I need something like an 11:30 1.5 mile (last time I took the test I was close to this, but it left me wiped out for an entire day afterwards). I plan to make another timed run in the first of July and hopefully that will give me some indication of success or not.

In the mean time, changing habits and listening for beeping continues.

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