He’s a former three-time Olympic and four-time world championship rower but doing trail run hill repeats in Tyler State Park can almost mimic the pleasant pain of years gone by.
Holland’s Bob Kaehler finds off-road training nearly as challenging as those days when he helped the United States heavyweight eight boat win gold medals all over the world.
As a certified physical therapist, the 56-year-old Kaehler can tell you all about the benefits of navigating those roots, ruts and rocks through one of Bucks County’s finest sanctuaries.
Having pretty much put away the oars, Kaehler likes to go out and negotiate Tyler’s bridle paths on a regular basis.
Unlike running on flat paved or unpaved surfaces such as the Delaware Canal towpath, uneven footing really helps strengthen muscles in the legs, feet and even the core/mid-section.
“I do all the single-track horse trails,’’ Kaehler explained in a recent phone call. “I love rowing but it’s a lot of work to get ready. I like running because it’s so efficient.
“The thing I like about it is the intensity aspect.’’
Indeed. The past three years, Kaehler has geared his training to run in a team race at the Penn Relays. One lap around Franklin Field can feel like an eternity if you’re not properly prepared.
This year’s running of the Penn Relays was canceled due to the pandemic but Kaehler maintained his Tyler schedule partly because that’s his competitive nature. Only now he’s competing against himself.
“I didn’t recognize how powerful running was until I started doing track workouts,’’ said Kaehler, a California native who grew up on Long Island. “You’re moving all your body weight. To move 230 pounds at max speed, it takes a lot of energy.’’
Following his competitive rowing career, Kaehler took to coaching at the high school and college levels. In recent years, he’s started producing fitness machines, now called “Kaehler Core’’ devices, which work nearly every part of the body through resistance training.
His trail running fits right in with that philosophy.
“I really like the effectiveness of running Tyler, the hills because the vertical work is so critical, at least from my observation of strength training,’’ Kaehler said. “Flat running is one thing but when you move body weight like that (uphill), it’s a super effective workout.
“I have two loops, one 22-24 minutes and a longer one that’s 40 minutes. I run those and I’m not spending all day running. It’s up and down the whole way, so it’s like doing a double-amount (of mileage).’’
Just the challenge of staying upright on these trails can be beneficial.
“I think another thing that people don’t pay attention to a lot is that these are minor aggressive trails – there’s rocks and trees everywhere,’’ Kaehler said. “You have to pay attention every single second you run. To me, it’s a much more effective workout. When you’re watching TV while you’re running in a gym, to me, that’s passive engagement. That’s not really the same thing.’’
Biomechanically, it doesn’t get any better than the trails.
“You’re working on balance systems, and, as I said, you have to be focused in on every step you’re taking,’’ he said. “You’re going to get in lateral work. It’s a little different than a linear run, where you’re going in just one direction. In flat running, there’s not a lot of range of motion.
“You don’t have to go over rocks or logs. Running on single-track trails adds an element of strength.’’
This past month was the 20th anniversary of the Opening Ceremonies for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia (currently showing on the Olympic TV Network).
Those Olympics bring back fond memories for Kaehler, who also competed for the U.S. at Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996.
On the original NBC-TV broadcast, Kaehler is seen walking down the Olympic stadium track with his teammates, spots a camera, holds up a photo of his newly born daughter, Kira, and says, “This is my girl!’’
Announcer Bob Costas apparently misheard what Kaehler said and proclaimed, “Wish you were here!’’ Which would have worked anyway.
“I was not trying to get on a camera,’’ Kaehler explained. “I just wanted to see the whole atmosphere of the track. Then this guy (from NBC) comes up to me and says, ‘Do you want to get on TV?’
“I was like all right. Some of my buddies ran over when they saw the camera and got on. It was pretty funny.’’
While running through Tyler, Kaehler has time to recall those favorite moments but not dwell on them. There’s another rock just ahead that requires his undivided attention.
Warminster Run for Life 5K, 9:30 a.m., Tyler State Park, Richboro. Contact www.ababysbreath.com
Doylestown Stomps Cancer 5K, Doylestown. Contact www.runningintheusa.com