The Foundation of Fitness?

9 02 2008

rebar.jpgDuring the course of the weekend that I attended the AKC: Kettlebell Lifting Coach Certification, as each hour passed, the idea that this system, working for high reps under a load thru dynamic, full body movements ( I think with the addition of some joint mobility work), should very well be the foundation of everyones fitness, began to take up residence.

Now, I’m not just regurgitating what we were being told at the Certification. Actually, it was quite refreshing that we didn’t get into the topic and that the coaches didn’t bombard us with propaganda about why their system is the “stuff”. And I’m most definitely not a band wagon jumper. I tend to research things to death before I make up my mind (sometimes to a fault, working on that;). On the flip side, when something really just makes sense, it also clicks with me right away. I am drawn to the value of “IT”, not the value OTHERS place on “it”.

It was thru the stories and experiences shared, thru the demonstrations provided and the practical, physical results that lifting in such a manner produces, that caused this idea to push it’s way to the forefront of my thoughts.

This type of exercise produces a strength not many, in North America anyway, are acquainted with. It strengthens your connective tissue, your ligaments and tendons. It builds an immense work capacity, it develops strong mental fortitude. It is strength that lasts, meaning it will stick with you for a looooong time (even if, once the foundation is laid, you don’t come back to it for a prolonged period). Because of the nature of the movements, combine with the nature of the weight and the training progression, it also decreases the risk and frequency of injury. And that’s not all. There’s tons more. But I’m not going to get into those because you can develop the other benefits thru various other activities as well. The idea that this system should very well be the foundation for everyones fitness doesn’t come from all that. It comes from just the ones I mentioned above.

Thinking about my time in high school (with all the sports I played and the subsequent injuries I suffered), I thought “man, what I wouldn’t have given to have this back then”. Being a dad now, my thoughts also went to the youth and what immense benefit this would be for them. Then my thoughts went to my Dad and Mom, thinking how beneficial this would be for those that are getting on in years, just to stay fit, strong, independent and maintain a high quality of life as they get older. Then my thoughts went to everyone in between and to those who maintain a very physical lifestyle, but I’ll come back to that.

My thoughts were reverberated back to me when I spoke with one of the coaches (I broached the subject, as it was getting rather loud inside my head). Out of respect for those involved in the conversation I won’t name names, but one of the coaches said they’d presented the kettlebell lifting to a top ranking professional athlete and coach in his own sport, and the first words the coach said when he saw it was “this needs to get into schools and introduced to kids”. This athlete/coach, with all his success, knowledge and years of experience recognized immediately the value of having kettlebell lifting taught as the foundation that would lead to fitness, longevity and sports performance.

Back to everyone in between and to those who maintain a very physical lifestyle (ie: athletes). I am in no way saying kettlebell lifting (as presented by the AKC) is the best and only physical endeavor to achieve great fitness. Or that it should replace any of it. Or that it’s all you should do. Everyone should still, most definitely, pursue whatever physical activity (whether for fitness, enjoyment or competition) they love to partake in. Hockey, football, swimming, hiking, CrossFit, rugby, martial arts, dance, RKC Kettlebelling, sailing, bodybuilding, climbing mountains, rowing, triathlons, marathons, yoga, powerlifting…..all of it. What I AM saying, though, is I believe that this system of Kettlebell Lifting is the strongest, most sensible foundation of general physical preparedness from which all these other endeavors would do best to launch from.

At the risk of exposing my totally geek side, I want to share an analogy that kept coming back to me throughout the weekend and I think may make a connection for alot of people. The lasting strengthening effect on the connective tissue throughout our bodies, that lifting like this develops, could be likened to the bonding of adamantium to the skeletal system of Wolverine (yes, as in X-Men)…………. Now truthfully, who hasn’t thought about how cool that would be……and who in their right mind would pass up on the opportunity (yes, we’re supposing you would survive the procedure;). I just throw that out there.

Is the potential foundation of fitness for the future sitting right here at our doorstep? Grab a couple bells, start lifting and find out:)



AKC Certified:)

8 02 2008

I just realized it’s already been 2 weeks and I hadn’t had a chance to post about it. I wentcopy-2-of-dscn3274.jpg down to San Diego to attend the American Kettlebell Club: Kettlebell Lifting Coach Certification. It was hosted by Steve Cotter at Tim Larkin’s TFT Academy. Steve is as generous a host as he is a person (note: not that he’s any less generous as a trainer and professional. In fact, he’s very “generous”. You need to be ready and prepared, warming up your willpower, courage and perseverance when you’re about to be on the receiving end of that “generosity”;).

Saturday morning, having each been individually and warmly welcomed by Steve himself with that beaming smile, we all waited to get started. There was of course, as there always is, the anticipation in the air of the weekend to come and the learning to be done. Friendly, but quiet. Friends chatting in small groups, some reunions of those who have trained before at previous workshops, individuals stretching (actually, in these circles, most people don’t stretch, they do joint mobility:). I was impressed by the numbers that showed up (from as far away as Iceland).

copy-of-dscn3259.jpgThere was a group of folks with AKC shirts on that were conducting the registration and conferring with each other about the plans for the day. Then one of them, recognizable as Valery Fedorenko (world champion, Honored Master of Sport, Head Coach for the AKC, Lifter of Kettlebells), walks over and gets the kettlebells set up. As he begins to chalk up one of the bells (it struck me, as it was done with a tenderness and respect) another coach walks over. Marty Farrell….young, wiry, Master of Sport, Coach, Lifter of Kettlebells. I started to grin to myself (just out of a sincere observation) realizing that there was a similar quality in the way he moved to the way Valery moved (my brain going to the connection of the fact that they both lift kettlebells quite seriously). Relaxed, unassuming, fluid. It was the same with all the Coaches: Cathrine Imes, John Hoskins, Eric Liford (well, okay, Eric moved around the room with a seeming sense of purpose, the drive of someone who organizes events, yet still very relaxed). This doesn’t mean they were not without each their own defining qualities, which they most certainly were. Each very unique in their own right. But they shared a quiet humility, not ones to draw attention to themselves (okay, okay, Eric was definitely more chatty. But it was acopy-of-dscn3261.jpg nice balance, as he spoke for the gang, outside of the official program, sharing tidbits and anecdotes that the rest would not share, out of their modest nature, but that are often keys to ones training and inspiration:). Yet it was not meek or self defeating. Rather, there was a strength and energy that radiated forth from them (whether they wanted it to or not:).

copy-of-dscn3260.jpgAnd these qualities carried over into their coaching,copy-of-dscn3273.jpg demonstrations and interactions with us. No sense of self-importance, I know it all and you don’t, snobbishness or elitism. They were sincere, attentive to each of us individually (you don’t get this kind of one on one at almost any kind of workshop), honest, passionate, thorough. They cared. This was not just some money-maker certification. They really cared about what they were teaching, they cared that we got it right, that we understood, they cared that we got our questions answered, they cared that we all got the best coaching that could be offered in those two days.

I think they really achieved their goal (if we all payed close enough attention) of not just making us capable of teaching great technique, but of showing us, by sheer example of the way they carried themselves, the qualities of being great coaches.copy-of-dscn3262.jpg

It was such a blast and I count myself lucky to be a part of all this as I continue to learn, grow and move along my path. If there was one thing that I really came away from this weekend feeling, it was wanting to start putting my “time under the bells” and earn what we were given.


From the Top of the Ladder….

7 02 2008

I’d written a post about a month ago, “Kettlebells vs Kettlebells“, touching on some differences between the lifting presented by the RKC and the lifting presented by the AKC. Well I just found this great article on just that subject, written by one of those that is at the top of their game and a forerunner in the world of kettlebell lifting, Steve Cotter. From it, you can draw a very clear picture of what each represents and be able to come to a clearer understanding of where they fit into your fitness endeavors. Have a read and enjoy!


Different Pace, Same Race

4 02 2008

clock.jpgI’ve been talking a lot lately about this whole “slowing the pace down”. In doing so, I also want to be sure there is an understanding that this is about a change in the pace, not a change in the race. And I’ll use training Crossfit style vs training with Kettlebells in the more classical (ie: American Kettlebell Club) style.

This blog, Gym Jane, sprouted out of a commitment Chris and I made (as we’ve each moved into a new stage in our lives, having each become fathers in the last few years) to truly challenge ourselves, to keep us fit (physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally), to ensure we continue to grow, that nothing becomes stagnant, that we maintain and improve upon the vitality we had when we were younger and to transfer that energy, excitement, adventurousness and desire to learn over to our kids, that they may carry that with them throughout the duration of their lives.

In doing so, we’ve climbed mountains and pushed ourselves to the brinks of our limits (in our workouts) with our modified version (a la Gym Jones) of Crossfit. It was these physical endeavors that provided the location for our continued efforts to be honest with ourselves, the forge where we burnt off the excess of complacency and got closer to the mettle that we are made of.

Crossfit is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It is a fast-paced, heart-thumping, gut-wrenching, full out dose of insanity;). Each workout is a gut-check, a moment needing to be taken beforehand to come to terms with the little voice that says “NNOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!” and tell it, it must step aside now. It is explosive! You do not think about the last rep, you charge full out to the next ones to come, willing the power within you to take yourself to the end of this seeming insurmountable task. Like a blazing star, shooting across the clear black night, you explode across it’s canvas with spectacle. Then, barely able to give your body the oxygen it needs to recover from this period of time that you asked everything of it (and more), you reflect on what you just accomplished (as it’s almost the only thing you can do;). Once again, your mind proved a powerful translator for your spirit, in it’s call to the body. You’ve proven you can face the intensity when called upon (again!). Now you can breath, you can relax, it is over. You can get on with your day, knowing you can deal with any little disruption that may come your way.

Lifting the Kettlebells (for time) is one of the most deceptive agents of fitness. It is simplicity at it’s finest, consisting mainly of just 3 movements. You come up to these two bells, hands chalked, feeling invincible as you tower over these two little hunks of metal. “One move (the Jerk), 10 mins and I just take my time?”. You grin a devilish grin, look at your clock for the start time, then clean the bells and begin. Working at a slow but steady pace, you move thru the minute. With time to rest in the rack position, you catch your breath as you proceed to the next rep, thru the next minute (two). No problem, things are going well. As you proceed thru minute 3, you think, “aaah here we go, finally, feeling like I’m getting a bit of a workout”. Before you know it, minute 4 is upon you and you realize you are starting to feel out of breath as the bells come crushing down on your chest cavity, constricting the amount of air you can hold in your lungs. You are suddenly aware that your legs feel like they’ve just taken you up a huge steep hill. You focus on your breath, each rest not feeling long enough. You barely have time to think about how your last rep went, when you need to put everything into making your next rep the epitome of efficiency, so as to make the work a bit easier on your tired and uncomfortable body. You now have come into minute 5, your forearms are screaming at you to put the bells down, while your mind, soothing, encouraging, patient, tells you “that’s okay, you can put them down, there’s no rush, we’re taking our time here, no need to BLAST thru it, ha ha ha, just go ahead and set them down, we’ll get to it eventually, put them down and take a breather”. You think, “yeah, we’re in no rush here I can just….wait a sec….that’s not right. I have to get to 10 mins…..” You look at the clock, your only half way there! Each breath is labored, sweat is streaming down your face, your eyes sting, you can just barely see the clock in the blur of it all (is it sweat or tears?). 6 minutes. The bells slip slightly. Oh No! The sweat is spreading it’s slow acting poison throughout, sapping your strength in tiny increments with each rep. You want nothing more than to scream, speed up and blaze thru to ten minutes. But you can’t. You can’t speed up the time and to go full out now would completely burn you out, making it impossible to complete the task at hand. 7 minutes. You have to be here, hyper-focused on each rep, but relaxed at the same time, sharp as the razors edge, and walk that cutting line with a sense of contentment. 8 minutes. You have to face the ugly beast straight on, not fight it or run from it, just “be” with it. Be able to take it’s ridiculing taunts, it’s disarming lullabies, it’s punishing jabs, it’s tempting offers……..all with a smile on your face and a streadfastness of your resolve. 9 minutes. This is pure Strength-Endurance. Strength of character, Endurance of spirit. 10 mins. The bells are dropped. No words are said. Your mind pulls back in relief from the concentration needed to be maintained for what was surely an eternity. The muscles hang as meat from a hook. You faced it. You faced it and “lived” with it. To live with it is to have the ability to live and interact, deal, overcome, move past and continue to live, with anything.

Starting with your next set for time…….of snatches;).