Thursday, December 25, 2008

Back to Basics.

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.

Lyrics from the Tool Song Lateralus
Those lyrics have stuck with me since I first heard them many years ago. I'm not going to profess to have really related to them all along. However, once I found myself immersed in physical culture, the lyrics had a special meaning to me.

There is a tendency with many of us to want to learn everything at over think. I think we don't always realize that we lack the capacity to immediately utilize all the knowledge available on a given topic or physical skill.

I think about my very wise Martial Arts instructor and Good friend, Jay Damato. He has said many times that when he works with someone in boxing, grappling, or Kali stick drills (really anything), they may be doing 5 or 6 things wrong, but he only points out one thing. Because in reality, fixing one thing at a time is all we are capable of doing. However, in fixing that one issue, the other issues may take care of themselves. Jay doesn't overwhelm someone and he controls the information going to them. Of course, some folks would rather Jay tell them everything at once, but Jay knows best.
I can tell someone everything I know about Kettlebell Lifting, i.e. the gross movements and every little subtle thing that I've figured out through tens of thousands reps. However, that would be too much information for most everyone especially anyone that has yet to master the basics. So, in taking a lesson from my friend Jay, I tend to focus on one thing when trying to fix a technique issue.

I also make it a point to not find little things wrong with what someone is doing. That is if what they are doing looks good, I don't look for little things or subtleties that I would change. Why? Those things come from more time and more reps and they are individual. Once someone owns the basics, those little things will be individual to them they will be things that they learn in the fire of training.

I will also not point out something minor because it could be mere nit-picking. As teachers or coaches, we often try to find something wrong just to show our superiority or that maybe we think hey they need me to find something because they are paying me; they need me to fix something.  But as teachers or coaches, we need to have the confidence to say, "you know, that looks good". In reality, many times what your students need is confidence. If you nit pick, you may cause them to over think or over analyze and that may in turn cause them to regress.

My Coach Valery Fedorenko is great in handing out the right information at the right time. He is good at disseminating the information in the proper doses. I remember one instance when Valery made a suggestion on someone's snatch. They said, "he said last time my snatch looked fine". I said, "Well, it probably did look good to him given how long you were doing it. Valery knew that you weren't ready for more information. He knew that if he presented you with that minor detail that you wouldn't focus on the things you were doing well."

If you want to learn a new physical skill, master the basics. If you want to coach and teach others, focus on teaching the basics and keep your students focused on them.. Get good at handing out the right information at the appropriate time. If you give to much information to soon, it may derail them.

As a coach and a student, I'm merely going to say don't over think or over analzye; Your body and mind need to work together and you want to build good basic movement patterns. If you are coaching, learn how to find out if the student has a grasp of the basics, get a sense for the information that they really need. Don't over think or over analyze the corrections they need to make. Their confidence in their abilities is more critical to their progression than any little minor change you could suggest.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ice Chamber Kettlebell Documentary

Steven and Maya owners of the Ice Chamber gym put together a great video. It includes training highlights, and their teams journey to the NAKF meet in Flint Michigan, and several highlights from the meet.


It is great to see a video of actual KB training in a great facility like the Ice Chamber. Moreover, it's great to see the enthusiasm about the lifting and how they are using it to meet their fitness goals. Lastly, it is great to see what a wonderful job Steve and Maya have done coaching their team. These ladies did great and I have no doubt they will do even better at the next competition.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kettlebell Immersed

I wrote this entry mainly for aspiring KB Lifters and Coaches, but you could substitute KBs for just about anything and it would still apply

Kettlebell Immersed

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Marko's Ogre Story

Check out Marko's blog. Marko is my Finnish friend and fellow KB Lifter. He has written a several part story about the competition in Ogre Latvia where he first met Team USA. I really enjoyed the account of his trip and was touched by the events leading up to it.

Be sure to check all the parts!

Marko's Ogre Story


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Congrats to Finland Kettlebell Lifters

Last weekend, some of our Finnish friends took part in the Ventspils Latvia IUKL Competition.

We've had the pleasure of meeting a couple of folks from the Finland team on separate occasions.

We first met Marko Suomi in November 2006 at the IGSF World Championships in Ogre, Latvia. Marko hadn't been lifting long. But, turned in a gutsy set with the 32s. I believe Marko was hooked and inspired after this competition. He is the "Lorraine Patten" of Finland. On his own, he has done a very good job of trying to promote the sport in his country and learn all he can about the lifting. This is hard when you don't have regular access to coaching, but Marko and the other lifters from Finland have stayed after it. In fact, Marko spearheaded a Virtual KB Lifting meet this weekend with participants from Finland, Australia and of course the USA.

Earlier this summer, we met Kukka Lasko in Hamburg. Kukka and I had corresponded online, and I gave her some training tips. Kukka is strong and when she gets her technique down, she will be putting up some bigger numbers. In Ventspils, she turned in a PR performance of 89 reps in the Snatch with a 16kg bell. She went 7.5 minutes. She did this in spite of being sick 3-4 weeks before the competition and being unable to train. Healthy, I have no doubts she would easily broken 100.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Training Bio

This is actually a repost of a blog I wrote on my old site Titled "We All Started Somewhere". However, given recent internet discussions and debates, I feel it is worth reposting and for me re-reading.

How did I get here to Kettlebell Lifting as my primary source of training and why is the journey important?

I started weightlifting when I was 13 years old at a summer weightlifting camp. I actually remember starting earlier than that when I would routinely grab my dad's dumbbells and try to curl them. I've always loved strength training and had a fascination with lifting heavy things.

In the 9th Grade, I tried out and failed to make the Jr. High basketball team. I was crushed. Sports and athletics had been something that I always wanted to do. I was afraid that I may actually have to enroll in a non-athletic program, and my friend said, hey what about Cross Country? I said, "do I look like a runner?" She said, "No, but the throwers get to enroll in Cross Country and they lift weights in the off-season". It was a dream come true. I enrolled in Cross Country. 3 of us had a simple but well-equipped weight room to ourselves. The other 2 were 2 years older than I was. We had basic olympic barbell weights, one lifting platform, and one or 2 squat cages. Most of our lifting comprised of compound movements, bench pressing, squatting, power cleans, ect. Mind you, we were lifting un-supervised for the most part. Two days a week we did running, sprints ect. I'll be the first to admit, we probably weren't the most adept lifters, but by the time I was 16, I had benched 150lbs, and squatted (although not a full squat), 300. We were strong for our age. At that time, I had no appreciation for the basic movements we were doing.. I also had little appreciation for the role of strength training, build, and other factors in athletics. I was arguably one of the strongest throwers, but was not one of the best.

After leaving High School, I didn't do any serious exercise for a couple of years. My idea of exercise was an occasional basketball or recreational softball game. I gained a lot of weight after high school. I ballooned up to 210. I managed to lose 60 pounds without serious exercise, but I knew I wouldn't keep the weight off, so I joined the gym. Even at 150 lbs, I was "fat". Several years of inactivity, and I no longer had any of my High School muscle. At the time, Gold's was running something called Nutrionanalysis. It really was a pre-cursor to body for life, but you basically ate 6 meals per day, worked out 5 or 6 days a week and did cardio. They took measurements at the beginning and after 12 weeks. All of the weight training consisted of machine circuits with 8-10 machines. Of course, I didn't fully appreciate the simplicity and the effectiveness of the High School weight room I had and thought that these modern machines were much better. Well, I went through the program with great results even on those blasted machines. I went from 150lbs - 30% bodyfat, to 165lbs-22% bodyfat. The trainer was stunned at the results. My clothes were definitely loose...and I was able to regain the lost muscle..with machines. But, I was consistent with my training and diet.....

For several years, I worked out at the gym and did a pretty good job maintaining what I had accomplished. I might have gained back a few pounds, but I was consistent and I enjoyed the routine of the gym; I enjoyed and took pride in my 30-45 minute bouts on the stairmaster or life cycle. Then life happened....

My Grandmother passed away in 1995. This was a life-changing event. I had lived with my Grandmother from the time I was 18 until the time she passed away when I was 23. Even when I was young, she only lived less than a mile from us. She was always a source of stability in our family when we went through some very hard times. Needless to say, her passing was a major milestone in my life and I fell into a depression as a result. I pretty much abandoned all exercise. I made it to work every night on the graveyard shift, but could rarely sleep more than 2 hours a day...I was ridden with insomnia and wasn't eating.

In January of 1996, I was given the opportunity for a promotion if I moved to St. Louis. This was my opportunity to get out on my own and grow up. Of course, this opportunity wasn't without it's challenges. I was on a startup project and I worked 4 or 5 months straight (on graveyards) without a day off, and sometimes worked as much as 100 hours per week (and this was for $27K per year). Needless to say, while I might have been minding my career, I had totally neglected my body. I gained back all the weight I had lost and stopped caring about the food I put into my mouth.

While the job I had taken was a good stepping stone, I knew there was no future in the company. I also knew that working the graveyard shift was not good for my long-term well being. So,I found a better paying job with better hours. After settling in to this position, I was quite content with work, but very unhappy with my appearance and my overall health. So, I rejoined the gym. For a few months, I went on an irregular basis. I was still in school at night working on my bachelors or routinely had to work late. So, it was hard for me to juggle the gym with school and work. Well, I knew that the only thing I could do was go in the mornings.

I started working out at Gold's Gym in downtown St. Louis in the morning at 5:30. I got the consistency back. I started back with a mix of barbell and machine lifts, and got back into a regular routine of cardio. I met some great people in the morning. The morning types were always friendly but were always there to work out-not socialize. It was here that I met Francine. She and I both recognized that we were both "strong" girls. We started working out together. Francine introduced me to some high intensity training, circuits and stuff. At that time, they were harder than anything I had done. I still did curls, leg machine stuff, but I had re-integrated squats, some ugly Power cleans, and bench pressing back into my training.

Francine also introduced me to California Martial Arts Academy where I've made some lifelong friends with folks like my instructor Jay Damato and his wife Robin Veale. CMAA is a mixed martial arts school. I loved learning BJJ, boxing, ect. However, I quickly realized that while I was strong, my strength did not serve me that well in this environment. It was like I was in high school..very strong, but the strength didn't readily benefit me for this type of sport. After I got my butt kicked several times, I began to realize that I needed to focus on relaxing and learning and practicing the specific skills.

My progress in the gym had stalled. I had been an avid reader of MM2K and seen several of Pavel's articles. I picked up a copy of PTP. I started regular deadlifting for the first time in my life, and applied the principles to the bench press while I worked to side press the olympic barbell. After 6 months or so of dedicated training, I had worked up to 265X5 on the deadlift and 210X3 on the bench press, and was finally able to side press the bar. It was around this time that Pavel had an article related to using dumbbells for KB lifts like swings, clean and jerks and snatches. So, based on his article, I started finishing my workouts with dumbbell swings, C&Js(although I hated them with dumbbells..they were awkward for high reps), and snatches. I immediately saw the benefits in this training. My conditioning was rapidly much so that the cardio equipment was a far less challenge.

After a year or so of this training, I finally forked over the cash for a 12kg and 16kg KB. I immediately discovered why everyone was saying they were far better than dumbbells for these lifts. I remember snatching the 16kg KB the first time and fighting to stabilize it at the top. I still did the barbell lifts at the gym, but by this time I had abandoned all single joint movements like curls, tricep extensions and leg extensions. I would do a strength session in the morning, and save the ballistics for the evening. Within a few months, I had noticed a tremendous increase in my endurance on the mat. I could outlast guys who were stronger and bigger. I also was just simply moving better. I started to appreciate the idea of training movement and not muscle!

I started posting a little on the DD forum about my results. I purchased a 24kg after 6 months. I was able to use it for swings, and worked diligently to press it. It was around this time that Kettlebell Sport or GS was a hot topic on DD. Chicago was hosting a meet in Jan of 2004, so I decided to make the drive and compete. I didn't have any anticipation of winning; I didn't train specifically for it. I think I did 95 total on my snatches and 30 jerks with the 16kg. I loved the atmoshpere and I met some very cool people that day.

In spite of a "strike scare" at work, I managed to make it on a last minute plane ticket deal to Sterling, VA in May 2004 for the NAKF Nationals. The results of the competition are unimportant, but what is important is that I finally got to meet Lorraine and Christine and made several other good friends through this meet. Steve Cotter was in attendance and I got to meet him for the first time. Like the Chicago competition, I loved the largely supportive atmoshpere and the grit of the competitors.

In June of 2004, I attended my first RKC. It was another great opportunity to meet great like-minded people. It was a fun and informative workshop.

I continued to attempt to improve my numbers in the Snatch and Jerk the only way I knew how. I continued to train some at the gym and some at home. In December of 2004, I finally squeaked by and made CMS numbers. In February 2005, I attended a Valery Federenko workshop in San Diego. It was here that I finally understood how to structure my training and that in turn caused me to look at my training differently.

Numbers are really important to most of us and for good reason; they are a representation of progress. I had to put my ego aside with this new information. I had to learn pacing and duration training. Moreover, I had to learn how to relax while stressed. I'm not talking about tension and relaxation although that is important...I'm talking about learning to breath; learning to accept discomfort and learning how to safely push through it. Endurance activities (aside from cardio machines) were things that I had generally avoided. I really wanted to make 10 minutes and learned to put the numbers aside and work towards that goal. In doing that, I not only went 10 minutes, but saw my numbers shoot up. I hit 183 by May of 2005.

Even with all these benefits, I viewed this type of training as a seasonal-competition thing. It wasn't that I didn't do snatches, jerks, ect. But, I didn't keep my attention on training for time until several months out for a meet. Even though I knew the benefits of this training, I still just did it for the sport. That's not to say that I stopped training or stopped training intensely.

This year has been another turning point in my training. I've come to really appreciate Kettlebell Lifting, not only for the sport or a specific competition but as a viable training modality in it's own right. My conditioning has never been better and neither has my recovery. Now that I'm finding consistency in my diet, I'm once again losing fat. What is the point of this very long-winded training bio?

Many of us are often zealous when it comes to our training. We are quick to judge others that may work on machines or do something we know or think is probably less effective. Remember that a large portion of our population doesn't do anything for exercise. I found success with machine training at the age of 20 because I was consistent with it and mindful of my diet. Was it the best thing I could have been doing? No. But, it served a purpose at that point in my life and I learned that consistency is extremely important as well as the diet.

I've come full circle....My garage gym is very similar in simplicity and effectiveness of my high school weight room from 20 years ago. I couldn't be happier with the arrangement even in the dead of winter when it is 20 degrees and in the summer when temps approach 110 in the evening.

Remember..we all started somewhere. It is the journey that makes me appreciate my current training modaility. I'm now reminded of the Rush Lyric "The point of the Journey is not to arrive". Every step in the journey has been a learning experience and the journey isn't over.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

IKFF/NAKF Meet in Michigan

Flew to Flint, MI last weekend to attend the IKFF/NAKF meet. This was a great meet in terms of competitor turnout and organization. We had over 50 competitors. I didn't compete this time around. I needed a mental break from competitions and it turned out to be a good decision as I caught a cold earlier in the week. In addition to that, it allowed me to lend a hand to Ken, Lorraine, and Matt and the rest of the volunteers to ensure the meet ran as smoothly as possible.

Just a few of the many noteworthy accomplishments: Marty Farrell returned to the platform after major surgery and did a 10 minute LCC&J set with 2-24kg bells. Scott Helsley made a valiant attempt at a MS ranking in the LCC&J with 2-32kg bells. He missed by only 4 reps. He's very close! Friend Boris Bachman was the sole competitor in the mens 32kg Biathlon. He did an impressive snatch set (over 50 total reps). Glad he made the trip. Chris Duffy turned in an awesome performance in the Biathlon and did 106 reps with 2-24kg bells. It has been fun to watch his progress since meeting him in Boston last September. Phillip Humphrey also did very well.

Andrew Durniat competed with the 24s since his time lately has been dedicated to his Strongman endeavors and he was recovering from a recent Strongman competition. Of course, he had an impressive performance. In addition to that, he did some awesome grip and strongman demonstrations. Unfortunately, we were busy tallying the results so I had to catch the highlights on the video.

The most rewarding thing about this competition was watching some folks that I have trained/Coached shine not only as competitors but as KB Lifting Coaches. Maya and Steven were both at the January Certification in San Diego. Steven was in my squad. They've taken information from Valery Fedorenko, AKC Coaches Like Jon Hoskins and myself, and have done very well at absorbing it and then disseminating it to their students at the Ice Chamber Gym. Their ability to learn and to coach was reflected in Maya's awesome 16kg LCC&J performance, and the awesome performance of all of their students.

It was also rewarding to watch up and coming lifters like Eric St. Onge and Sean Armstead. I worked with these guys in Toronto. Their technique is coming along and I'm really looking forward to watching their continued progress. Eric turned in gutsy performances in the 40kg LCC&J and Chair Press events.

There were many many other great performances. It was great seeing Liberty Gray and the rest of the Michigan crew. Liberty turned in some awesome 10 minute sets including going the full 10 on the 24kg LCC&J event.

Our Irongarm friend Andy (Andy74) made the trip to watch the event. If you don't know about Irongarm, you probably shouldn't ask. He seemed bored initially, but quickly got into it. Lorraine and I were so thankful he stuck around for the evening festivities. It was great seeing him again. We hadn't seen him since the Sterling, VA competition in May 2004. Thanks for coming down and hanging out Andy! Along those lines, our friend Peter Silverman also made it to the competition to watch. He couldn't stick around for the party, but it was good to see him again.

We had a great dinner on Saturday night. It was fun hanging out with the competitors and of course knocking back some cold ones with my steak. I had a little too much to drink, but my cold is gone now.

Thanks to Ken, Matt and Lorraine for helping organize the event and to all folks who volunteered as judges. Thanks to Valery, Eric and Marty for making the trip from Cincinnati to show your support. Most importantly, thanks to all the folks for making the trip and stepping onto the platform. The turnout will defiitely help the continued growth of this sport.

I did a poor job of taking photos again (got a few to download of Lorraine and Andy). Here are a couple of great links that detail the event along with the photos.

Ice Chamber Blog

Boris Bachman's Account of the Festivities

Check out the last 2 posts in Scott's Blog...

Funny Guy Scott Helsley's Twist on the Events.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Do you need more Strength?

This seems like a stupid question. Many who likely visit this site have an interest in Strength and Conditioning and building strength in some capacity may likely be a primary goal. Stick with me....

I assisted at an AKC certification in Toronto nearly 2 weeks ago. On Sunday of the certification, I was asked to give a talk. I was asked the following question: "Should I do some sort of gripper or grip strength work for my snatches?" This was a great question because there are a lot of misconceptions on assistance exercises and how much strength you need for Kettlebell Sport. So, needless to say I went on a productive tangent.

Clearly in a sport like Powerlifting, maximal strength is the goal. I would imagine that maximal strength would be the primary factor in a Strongman competition. In a sport like Weightlifting (Olympic Lifting), strength is a major component. Obviously, if you cannot deadlift 300lbs or Front Squat 300lbs, you aren't going to be able to do a clean with 300lbs. However, there are other attributes in Weightlifting that are very important; Timing, Speed and Flexibility (I'm sure there are others, but I don't know shit about Weightlifting). So, if you can Front Squat over 320lbs and deadlift over 350lbs, but can't clean 300lbs WTF is your problem :) ?

For the sake of this discussion, we'll talk about Kettlebell Sport because it is really the only thing I like to discuss.

Kettlebell Sport is very new in the USA. The folks who have done well in this country tend to have a decent (and in some cases elite) strength background.

It seems intuitive to us that the stronger we get, the better we will get at the KB Sport lifts. If I strengthen my grip, I will last longer on my snatches. If I strengthen my press, my Jerks will get better. My favorite one is "I need to build more leg strength with squats". This all assumes that strength is the limiting attribute. In my observations, this usually isn't the case.

Now, is there anything inherently wrong with any of those things, Squats, Grip exercises, presses? Hell No.

The issue is misapplication of those principles. The focus on strength (Maximal Strength) may keep folks from actually bettering their technique and progressing. We know that you need strength to build strength endurance. However, if you are relatively strong, the tendency may be to rely solely on that strength instead of building the other important attributes of the lifts; Speed, Flexibility, Timing and Tension/Relaxation mastery ect.(NOTE: I'm not even talking about pacing in a set, just the actual attributes of the lifts).

I would propose that if you are really strong, that you may have a harder time developing the other attributes out of the blocks even if you are otherwise very athletic. Your strength will serve you well initially and may even give you a false sense that your technique is adequate. If you're really strong, you will look good relative to your peers with equal experience. Once you make the decision to jump out of the small pond (Local Meets) and across the ocean (International), you'll discover that strength isn't enough.

How do I know this? I know from my own experience. In 2005, I was getting better at snatches..slowly. However, I couldn't Jerk my way out of a paper bag. I couldn't do more than 40 reps with 2-16kg bells and couldn't go longer than 4 minutes. Yet, I could press a pair of 24kg bells for probably 8-10 reps, and press a single 32kg bell for reps. Why couldn't I do more Jerks? Well, I didn't have the flexibility for the rack and I didn't have the speed/timing for getting under the bells for starters(there were many other issues). I simply wasn't that athletic. After 30 reps, my shoulders were toast. My initial reaction was to build more strength. More strength would have maybe added a few reps, but it wasn't going to push my reps into a respectable range, i.e. double them.

As stated in other posts; In 2007, I abandoned all low rep strength training and focused on building my skills and other attributes with the primary KB Lifts. Where am I today? Well, last week I did 66 reps in 5 minutes with 2-16kg bells; This was not a max effort, i.e. I could have kept going albeit at a slower pace. I haven't trained double jerks in 4 or 5 months. The last time I did a 10 minute set, I believe I did close to 90 reps. I have a feeling that 100 reps in 10 min is doable now. I can also go a while with a pair of 20s. On a good day, I can still press the 32kg for a single. I don't quite have the pressing strength I had back when I did more pressing, yet I can do 2 times the amount of Jerks (and I weigh 35lbs less than I did in 2005).

During my Sunday Speech, I drew a parallel to grappling. When I started grappling (BJJ/Sambo) in 1999, I was pretty damn strong (300lb+ Backsquat/200lb Bench Press). I would rely on my strength when rolling and slowly realized that it wasn't about that. Sure, before I knew the techniques, strength would allow me to keep from getting tapped as quickly if I were rolling around with another novice. However, it didn't mean much when going against someone experienced. And as long as I relied on my strength, it kept me from developing the other attributes. When I learned to relax, became more flexible, and improved my technique (by learning to properly utilize my strength and flexibility), my performance drastically improved.

The argument will always be that more strength will not hurt you in your sport. I would propose that folks learn to properly utilize their existing strength by learning when and how to apply it in concert with all of the other attributes. What good are super strong legs for a 10 minute set if you haven't developed the speed and timing to get under the bells on a Jerk? Your legs won't be what fails you. It will be your shoulders and your arms.

What good is a great grip if you don't have the timing and quickness on the snatch for a crisp (stop on a dime) lockout? A good lockout ensures the bell lands in the right spot. If you are pacing yourself, this position is critical to utilize the skeletal system. That is the way we support the weight of the bell overhead; grip will get taxed overhead-not just on the downswing. This position is also critical for longevity since it builds shoulder stability.

Why do I say all of this? Because there are only 24 hours in a day. Most of us have jobs and limited time to train. If your goal is to improve your numbers in these lifts, then you may be spinning your wheels if you try to inject pure strength training into your regimen in hopes that it will be a silver bullet. For one thing, your CNS can only handle so much. If you are still trying to build the other attributes, that construction may be hampered by supplemental training (that may be unnecessary).

So, am I saying to not do it? No. What I'm saying is that you need to understand the role of it in the sport. You need to know if it is really what you need or if you are choosing to do it because it is what you like to do or because you are good at doing it and it makes you feel better about yourself :) Ultimately, if it keeps you from addressing your weaknesses, then I would say it shouldn't be in your regimen if your primary goal is to improve your numbers.

Now, if you've got very good technique and possess all the aforementioned attributes and you want to focus on maximal strength, knock yourself out as long as it doesn't set you back. Who knows, then it may be the thing that you need or at least a good mental break. However, most of us are not yet in that position. We are plenty strong. We are just slow or inflexible or both :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The WKC is moving to the 20kg at the Toronto meet this year. I’m in total agreement with this move in terms of the Professional Women’s division. Knowing that, I wanted to make a very good showing in Vegas and in Hamburg with the 16kg. As many know, we didn’t get our chance to take the platform in San Diego at the IGSF Worlds. So, Hamburg was another chance to compete with some of the best in the world.

This winter and spring, I trained very diligently. I missed maybe one snatch and one Jerk workout in 3 months, and most weeks snatched and jerked 6 days in a row. I snatched even when my hands hurt and even when I didn’t feel 100%. I would throttle back the pace or duration, but I lifted the Kettlebells.

In May, I had a disappointing set in Vegas. I didn’t hit what I had planned in Jerks or Snatches. What I didn’t disclose to many folks was that one week prior to Vegas I was in a car accident. Luckily, I was uninjured ($6500 damage to the truck), but didn’t really account for the toll on my nervous system. It showed in my final training sets, but I didn’t really put two and two together. I just fatigued faster and unable to move with the same precision that I had the week before the accident. It wasn’t until after I returned from Vegas that I had really given it any thought. I shrugged it off and focused on Hamburg.

When I got to Hamburg, I felt good. Sure, there was jet lag. But, I hydrated (something I didn’t do in Vegas very well). I slept. So, when I only managed 187 reps (That is a competition low for me since Latvia), I was extremely shocked and disappointed. There was a lot of second guessing myself. Like maybe if I had come out at this pace or that pace, or did I really push hard enough? Clearly, I couldn’t sustain the 24rpm pace I had planned. I had 114 reps in 4:40 but found it hard to breath and slowed down significantly in the last 5 minutes.

I tend to set lofty goals for myself. In some respects, I am very much a risk taker. With risk there can be reward but sometimes there is disappointment.

That being said…I did what I had trained to do and it just didn’t work out on that day. I took the risk of coming out fast. Now, if I had paced myself differently, I may have had a shot at first place. The first place winner did 211 reps. That was not anywhere near her best effort. Then again, I had a number in mind and not a place or medal. So, that is where the experience comes into play. Even though it was a competition, I looked at it as more of a platform for me to push myself.

I’ve thought a lot about this. I realized that while I’ve been training consistently on the KB lifts for several years, I’m still relatively inexperienced when it comes to competing. Before Kettlebell Sport, I had not really seriously competed in anything since 10th grade Track and Field 20 years ago. I’m certainly not experienced when it comes to any sort of International competition. One attribute that I still lack is the ability to gauge how I feel on competition day and make the necessary adjustments to my pace. It’s funny that I do this in training all the time. For all the awareness I have now that I didn’t have prior to this training, I know that it could be much better.

Upon returning from Hamburg, I started training again. I realized that I’m not defined by one or two competitions. I am defined by my ability to keep training and keep competing. I am a Kettlebell Lifter. I am resilient. In my opinion, Resilience is the hallmark of a Kettlebell Lifter. I’m not just talking physical resilience, but emotional resilience. It is the ability to look at the big picture and the long term goals in your training and learn from the experience of every competition whether it be good or bad.

Resilience is forged by the modality itself. It is further solidified by lifting when your hands are sore, or lifting in a hot or cold garage and of course lifting on those days when you don’t quite feel up to it….or bouncing back after some lackluster competitions ;)

When I got back from Hamburg, I reread a blog post from last year titled “Why do you Compete?” That’s the great thing about blogging, it is a way to get your thoughts down for future reference. There is much more to it than the number, the place or the ranking. I just need to quiet my ego and remember that more often.

The competition was but one aspect of the Hamburg trip. Certainly it was the facilitator for the travel and the trip, but the overall experience was indeed very valuable. Thanks again to all who participated.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Hamburg Experience

Last week/weekend, I traveled to Hamburg, Germany for an International Kettlebell Lifting competition. Actually, it was the World Championship for Long Cycle Clean and Jerk (LCC&J). The womens competition was Snatch only and an International Meet.

I flew out on Wednesday and arrived in Germany on Thursday afternoon when I met up with Team America. Upon arriving, I was quickly briefed on the rules of walking on the sidewalks. Evidently, the bike lanes are marked (in some cases) with a different color of brick.

Some of our team stayed in Ahrensburg, a suburb of sorts outside of Hamburg. Our friend and fellow KB Lifter Stefan lived only a couple of blocks down the street from our quaint hotel. Here is the site: Leave it to me to not take pictures... It was very convenient in that we could easily meet up with Stefan and his lovely wife Maneula or we could easily catch a bus into town.

The town center of Ahrensburg was very cool. Plenty of great places to eat. Many people walking around, riding bikes, ect. I loved this place. The atmosphere was very laid back and relaxing. Did I mention the near perfect weather?

On Saturday, we traveled into Hamburg for the competition by rented VW Bus. Some of our team rented the bus for the group, but more importantly so that we could transport the weights needed for Andrew’s Attempt at a WR Double Overhand Axle DeadLift.

At the sports hall, we connected with the rest of our teammates and Head Coach Valery Fedorenko. We weighed and registered, and sat and sat and sat…You get the idea…We got there at 9am and I don't think I was on the platform until 4pm. Jet lag was setting in and I was dozing off in the stands. Some of the delay was due to the fact that they use the “Just In Time” methodology for building platforms which ended up being very shoddy, but what can you do?

Andrew Durniat was the first on our team to compete. He competed in the LCC&J. He did an impressive 45 Reps with 2-32kg bells.

As always, there were many great performances. Anytime I get to watch someone like Fedor Fuglev do 85 reps with 2-32kg bells, I’m amazed! The lighter weight class guys were probably the most impressive overall.

Our new Ukranian Friend, Alona (who spoke excellent English) turned in an awesome snatch set in the 60kg class with 174 reps. I get the feeling that she hasn’t been doing this very long and she was personally coached by Yuri Scherbina (IGSF President). We will be staying in touch with her.

Lubya the WR Holder from the Ukraine took the 70kg class (of course) even though her numbers were quite lower than what we know she is capable of doing. She had some blister issues and stopped her set a little early to save the hands and ended up with 190 reps.

In spite of having some asthma issues, Lorraine Patten turned in a gutsy performance and took 1st in her age division. Our friend Kukka from Finland who is very new to this sport had a good performance and improved her numbers significantly from the last competition. She is very strong and when she gets more technically adept, she will be one to watch.

Susanna and I were in the same flight. Susanna did a good paced 10 min set and took third with 155 reps.. I took second even though I had a relatively bad set and got 187 reps. I will elaborate on that experience in another blog post. 1st place for the 70+kg class was a very talented girl from the Ukraine (I say girl because she looks young). She did 211 reps. Her numbers were down from what I saw her do in San Diego, so it wasn’t a great day for most of us snatching.

After the women, the men Masters lifted. Teammate David Zink turned in an awesome performance of 85 reps with 2-24kg bells.. David has come a long way. He took his age division in the 75kg class with a first place Trophy!

Our German Friends, Stefan and Harry, turned in great performances in the Masters Division. We also watched Fedor Fuglev lift a second time in the Masters division. He did 101 reps with the 24s in less than 10 min.

The awards ceremony was a great moment to watch several on our team take the platform for Medals and Trophies. Of course, I didn't get pics of this, but I know video and photos were taken. Stay tuned.

After the competition, some of us grabbed beers and some of us(not me) loaded up the Axle with 461 pounds. We then watched Andrew Durniat set a new WR for the Double Overhand Axle Deadlift. It was great to watch him do this in person especially while drinking a beer. The lift was made official because our new German Friend, Dr. Hermann Korte from Ironmind made the trip to Hamburg to Witness it!

Stefan also loaded up his inch dumbbell. It was fun to watch all the guys try to lift and then to watch Andrew come over and lift it...easily.

On Saturday night, Stefan and his lovely wife Manuela had us over to their house for a great barbecue…We played around with KBs, grip stuff, ect. If someone asked me about my idea of Heaven, I might point them to this barbecue. It was a perfect evening filled with Good Food, Good Beer, and most importantly Great Friends. It was a great ending to a challenging day.

On Sunday, we made several trips to Ahrensburg and a trip into Hamburg. We had to find a bunch of Euros to pay cash for our quaint hotel. We said goodbye to our Finnish friend Kukka. We’ll be seeing her again...

On Sunday evening, we met up with our friends for dinner..I finally found one of my favorite beers at this restaurant....Berliner Weiss. It is a very light (Probably low-alcohol) almost champagne like beer. That beer along with Franziskaner and a good steak made for another great meal.

Our German friends were great and very hospitable. Stefan and Manuela are 2 of the nicest folks I’ve ever met. They made this trip painless on so many levels. It was great to meet Harry. I've corresponded with him and seen his posts for years on several forums. He and I exchanged T-Shirts. It was great to meet Hermann Korte. We will likely be seeing all these folks again as we plan to do more traveling to Europe later this year and next year for more competitions.

Thanks to Lorraine for basically spearheading this trip and making the hotel arrangements for many of us. Thanks to Matt M for offering moral support and humor throughout the entire trip. As you can see from the Photo above, Matt will be the new Spokesman for Billy Boy Condoms :). Matt and Susanna also spent a lot of time coordinating the uniforms that were generously provided by the AKC. Thanks to David, Andrew, Ashley, Susanna and Lorraine for competing and providing a great representation of KB lifters from the USA!
Thanks to Steve Cotter and his lovely family for attending the competition and supporting the team!

Last but not least, thanks to our Head Coach Valery Fedorenko. It was rewarding that the Europeans had noticed our significant improvement. We fit in well this time. I had several folks come up to me including the IGSF figureheads and congratulate me. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, it was clear that they were impressed with our collective performance. We’ve all come a long way and I don’t believe our improvement since our last International Competition would have been possible without our Coach!


Monday, May 12, 2008

AKC Classic and Training Update

It's been too long since my last blog post. But, I've really been focused on my training.

May 3rd the AKC Classic was held in Las Vegas. As always this was a great time to catch up with many friends like Ken Blackburn and Steve Cotter (and of Course Fellow Team Captain Marty!) and there were also many new faces. I was very happy to finally meet Scott Shetler. I feel like I know the guy from seeing him post online. He didn't disappoint. It was great seeing Steven and Maya again. They brought down several folks from the "Ice Chamber" in Berkeley, CA to compete. Kevin Jodrey brought in several impressive athletes. This competition was very cool in that Gyms and Clubs were represented!

In addition to having many new men and women step onto the platform, we had several Junior athletes (under 18 boys) compete. I'm told there were 40 competitors. There were many inspiring performances and the attendance at this meet I believe signifies the growth of this sport in the USA.

On Saturday, we got to see Ivan Denisov attempt to break his own World Record. He fell a little short. But, how many times do you get to see someone do 169 jerks with 2-32kg bells in 10 minutes?

My performance was lackluster compared to other competitions. This is the first competition where I didn't hit what I expected based on my training. There were several factors or excuses :) I'm not going to dwell on those. It was just not a good day and it wasn't for lack of preparation. Head Coach Valery Fedorenko looked at this meet as a training day and further preparation for Hamburg.

Regardless of my disappointing performance, I had a great time. I got to spend more time with Ivan Denisov (Towering over me above). He came over and helped several of us at the certification. He's a really cool guy with really nice thighs :) The man is an awesome athlete and did several jaw dropping demonstrations that I'm sure will be on Youtube soon...stay tuned.

On Sunday and Monday, I assisted at the AKC Certification. I did several demos. Some of which included a 6 min 20kg Jerk set, and 6 min LCC&J set with the 24kg with one hand switch. I also managed to Jerk the 36kg bell. I was happy I could do this since I wasn't feeling "quick" all weekend. Before this weekend, I hadn't put anything over my head except the 16kg bell since early March.

It was great meeting several new folks at the cert and catching up with friends like Lisa Shaffer and Mike Mahler who attended the cert. Thanks to the folks in my Squad. You were a great group and I enjoyed working with all of you.

Thanks to Chris St. Onge, Jon Hoskins, Valery Fedorenko, Michael Stefano and of course Eric Liford. Thanks to all who helped Judge and Organize the Competition and Certification. These events would not be possible without your great effort. Thanks to all the competitors for traveling and stepping onto the platform!

Valery gave me most of last week to recuperate from the Competition, Certification and Travel. Of course I didn't actually need recuperation from Vegas itself. Kelly and I didn't partake in any gambling or "Show Girls" even though we had the hookup (Mahler ;) !

This week I'm back to training for Hamburg. Now is the moment of truth. I've got some very definitive but challenging goals in terms of what I would like to accomplish with the 16kg snatch before moving to the 20kg. It is now or never. So, I'm dropping most jerk work for the next few weeks and focusing on the snatch, swings and some rowing.

My next blog will likely be the Hamburg blog after June 9th!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Test Days

If you've been doing KB Lifting for a while and sticking to a prescribed protocol of Jerks and Snatches with the same weight, every once in a while you get a hankering to do something different. I call these test days. How I conduct my test days will change depending on the circumstance and how I feel. The last AKC Training day in December was a test day. I did a 20 min LCC&J set w/24kg switching hands on the minute and then followed it up with a 20 minute 12kg Snatch Set (one hand switch).

My test days may be something like 1000 reps with the 12kg. Every once in a while, I will test my capacity for other things and do thrusters, rowing, bodyweight stuff but not KB Specific stuff.

Some of you may have read about the triathlon challenge (created by David Zink), that is 10 minutes of LCC&J, 10 Minutes Snatches, and 10 min Jerks. These are performed all back to back with no rest. If you are a guy who is well versed with 24kg Jerks and snatches, you would try this first with the 16s. I've done it with the 12s and the 16s. Actually, last time I was in Madison, Kelly and I did this together. My pace was nothing like Mr. Zink, but like most people who do a triathlon, I was just happy to finish.

Yesterday, I started out with a couple of sets of 32kg Jerks. That's nothing out of the ordinary. But, I've been curious as to whether or not I could still do Jerks with a pair of 24s. I rarely train with a pair of 24s and don't do that much double work right now at all. Most of my training right now is single 24kg Jerks and 16kg snatches. Much to my delight and surprise, I could still knock out 20 reps. I've done 20 one other time, but I actually paced myself this time and went just over 4 minutes. All the reps were strong, and I focused on getting under the bells quickly and getting a very solid lockout. I had a few reps left, but wisely ended it at 20. Someday, I'll go for a PR and break 20, but I won't do as many 32kg Jerks beforehand.

After that, I wanted to snatch. However, I knew that the 16kg may be a little challenging from an overhead stabilization standpoint and I was "feeling" the need to go light and really break a good sweat to contrast the heavy work and loosen up a bit. So, I thought well I'll try a 20 min Snatch set with a 12kg and I'll try to maintain a 20rpm pace. I didn't know whether I could maintain the pace but I knew I could do the 20 minutes. I made it...200L/200R = 400 reps with one hand switch. It was tough especially in the last 2 minutes. But, I felt good after I was done.

So, if you've been training a while on a healthy diet of Jerks, Snatches or Long Cycle, give yourself a test day. I think it is a good way to display how training a couple of lifts consistently will carryover to other challenges. For some, a test day may be going out for a long run or row and finding that you've got the conditioning to complete it. I recently did a 10K row. I've only done that one other time and this time I did it in less time and without puking. It may be grabbing a bell and doing a non-stop set for 30 min or an hour. If all else fails, give one of the things I stated above a try. Of course, this assumes you have a good grasp of the basics and that you've done an adequate pace and duration with the traditional lifts.

In addition to being a good "test", Test Days are a great way to give yourself mental break from the rigor of the usual timed sets that one may perform especially when training for a competition.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Continuing Minimalism in 2008

I'm always hesitant to state New Years resolutions. So, there was no obligatory New Years Post because well, I rarely feel obligated to do anything. But, since we're into January and I've had time to reflect, I'll be happy to give my thoughts on my goals. I won't call them "resolutions" because they are not really that. They are a refinement and further commitment to things I've already been doing.

I'm not one to set a bunch of goals for the year for training or anything. Now, I do have a couple of goals and yes they even have numbers attached to them. However, these goals will be the results of higher level goals or initiatives. Those initiatives and their proper execution are what matters; the results or the numbers usually take care of themselves.

Continue Minimalism. That's the high level goal; the goal in which all other goals and initiatives are derived. If it doesn't fit in under that one, it is an antagonist..

This takes the guess work out of a large part of my training. I don't have to worry about doing 10 different things. I can stay out of analysis paralysis hell. I can continue to pour my focus and my energy into a few movements and in turn, I will continue my journey to mastery of those things.

You see, I don't think it is necessarily easy or natural for many of us to narrow our focus to a few things even in training. It is counter-intuitive in our complex culture. I see it at work all the time. We get inundated with many initiatives and information. Consequently, we get overwhelmed. The end result is usually low and/or sub-standard productivity even though we work harder and longer.

Prioritization seems to be a rare skill in my work and in some of the training I witness. Commitment is also rare. If you prioritize things, you inherently make a commitment to something; You've made a decision to elevate something above everything else. So, the inability to prioritize is also the inability to commit, and it is also the inability to decide.

That's why minimalism will continue to be my friend. It is easier to prioritize things when the list is shorter. It is easier to make commitments when you don't over extend yourself. Decisions are easier to make when you have fewer choices.

So, the lower-level goals (and I'll stick to training and personal goals):

Training: Jerks and Snatches 4-5 times per week and progressively increase the volume when training for the competitions. Row 10-15K meters per week. Do some sort of joint mobility and squatting everyday even if it is for 5 minutes. If I have time and energy, do a few circuit or met-con workouts per week. It won't be at the expense of the Jerks or Snatches. It will provide a break from any monotony I might feel and provide an additional conditioning challenge. When I'm not training for a competition (and that won't likely be until after September), then I may take up learning a new skill like Weightlifting.

The goal of that training will yield results and those results will be a noticeable improvement over the last competition. The other and equally important goal of that training will be to maintain strength and continue to enhance my mobility and conditioning.

Diet: When I'm not traveling, continue to consume large servings of veggies through the vitamix. I find that when I do this, my diet naturally gets cleaner and my cravings for crap diminish and my appetite is reduced. Drink 2 liters of water per day. My bodyweight will drop further if I stick to this plan.

Other: Travel and spend more time with friends here in St. Louis and in the rest of the country. Attend Martial Arts class when possible. Read a couple of books per month. Write a couple of blog entries a month. These goals will enable me to be a good friend, keep my mind active, and maintain balance.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

1000 Snatches

The article is up on the American Kettlebell Club Blog Now!