Cross Training

Top Ultrarunner and Coach Jeff Browning on Training through the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jeff Browning (aka Bronco Billy), 48, is a veteran ultrarunner and ultra-endurance coach. He has finished over 120 ultramarathons, racking up over 30  wins, 21 in the 100-mile distance (third most in history). He also holds multiple course records, including The Double record for the fastest combined times of Western States 100 and Hardrock 100, just 19 days apart.

He resides in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife and three children.

We spoke with him about how he’s weathering the coronavirus storm.

What races did you have on the books that are canceled?

So far, Hellbender 100 [in Old Fort, North Carolina] has been postponed and rescheduled to the fall, and Western States [in Auburn, California] has been cancelled.

What is your home life like now with job and family since CV outbreak?

We homeschool our kids and I work from home, so our everyday routine has not changed much besides no social interaction in our community. That’s been challenging, as we’re a pretty social family.

How are you continuing to train?

Montana has a shelter-in-place mandate, but we are permitted to go to our local parks and trailheads as long as we maintain social-distancing recommendations.

I’ve been running many of my normal routes and also utilizing my treadmill for some workouts. I have backed off the intensity of my quality workouts in order to keep my immune system strong.


Ladder Hill Repeats: 20 min warm-up at flat grade, easy pace; 10 x 2 min at 5% grade at comfortably hard effort, followed by 2 min easy running at -3% grade; easy cooldown

Power Hike Repeats: 20 min warm-up at flat grade, easy pace; 5 x 3 min at 25-30-35-40-25% grade at hard power-hike pace, with 3 min strong aerobic running at -3% grade in between; easy cooldown

VO2 Max Intervals: 20 min warm-up at flat grade, easy pace; 4 x 4 min at threshold pace w/ 2 min easy running between; easy cooldown

Mountain Climb: 15 min warm-up at flat grade, easy pace; 30 min strong power hike at @15-40%; finish with 10 min at -3% at aerobic pace; easy cooldown.

Have you focused more on cross training?

I’m still running everyday, and I’ve always prioritized strength and mobility in my weekly routines. However, I’ve upped my strength sessions and started a strength challenge with my coached athletes—a daily bodyweight routine everyone has to complete and check-in to the GoBroncoBilly Coaching group.

Why is strength important?

Mobility and strength are just as important as running. If you don’t have strength through a full range of motion or good movement patterns, the body will compensate for those imbalances and eventually, you’ll either be injured or have a setback. That’s obviously something runners want to avoid.

Browning firing Bulgarian split squats in his garage gym.

What are the primary cross-training exercises you recommend to trail runners?

I’m a big advocate of mobility as a warm-up before moving onto full-body strength training, and ending with a power movement such as deep push-press thrusters.

I personally do weighted strength training one to three times per week, depending on what phase of the season I’m in. I do a lot of dumbbell workouts. [Example:]

When you’re out running, wave and make eye contact with your neighbors. Say hello. People are fearful right now and you can be a light!

Are you scheming on any new running or non-running projects that you’re stoked about?

I’m working on improving my home gym with kid-friendly additions for my highly energetic youngest son, building new garden beds in my yard, and other home improvement projects. I have also been using this time to explore new adventure routes in my backyard as the snow melts.

What are ways for people keep their spirits up?

Positive mental speak and visualization. Reign in negative thoughts. Turn off social media and the news. Check it once a day and go outside and get fresh air.

When you’re out running, wave and make eye contact with your neighbors. Say hello. People are fearful right now and you can be a light! Plus, you’ll be practicing your mental prowess for when things get tough in your next ultra! Giddyup.