It goes without saying that women are playing a larger and larger part of the kettlebell sport, and their energy, enthusiasm and determined spirit has become a vital part of the international community.
This is interview #1 of a series of interviews I plan to do focusing on women in the sport, and their own life trials and tribulations as people searching for a natural and functional way to keep fit, mobile and healthy.
I start with Estella Hom, who I predict is going to be one of the major personalities of the kettlbell world of the future.
Anyone meeting E is immediately aware of her indomitable spirit and infectious positive energy, which inevitably gets everyone fired up for some serious training. Then, from the very first set until the last, she puts her all into her training, and no one could accuse her of not trying her hardest for each and every repetition.
Estelle has gone through her own incredible physical transformation, from being an out-of-balance over achiever in one part of her life, to her current manifestation as all around dynamo, embodying the best of the human spirit.
But enough of me. Estelle can explain for herself.
GKJ- Hi Estella, Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with GKJ. Can we start by you telling us as little about yourself?
Hi Mark, thanks for having me on your blog. I am a Toronto-based graphic designer, athlete, and kettlebell instructor. Design and fitness are my two passions. I believe that good design and fitness should strive for the same high-level goal: to be simple, smart and usable – with a balance of function and aesthetics.
Since 2004, I’ve been using design to help businesses visually communicate their ideas, products and services through well conceived identities, printed materials, packaging, and websites. In that same year, I graduated from university, earning a Bachelor of Design Degree (BDes) from Canada’s most competitive design program. With that, came endless hours of computer work, sleep deprivation, and poor eating habits. I was under constant stress, had an unhealthy lifestyle, and gained 30lbs by the time I graduated.
I didn’t want to continue living like this and knew I had to take charge, so I made a commitment to adopt a healthier way of living. It was not until I quit the gym and started using kettlebells for strength training that I began seeing incredible results. From the moment I picked one up, I was hooked. Staying active soon became a lifestyle for me. I began competing in beach volleyball tournaments and was doing several other activities including Muay Thai boxing, ball hockey, rock climbing, bikram yoga, snowboarding, cycling, and rollerblading. By keeping kettlebells at the core of my training, it transferred over well to enhance my athletic performance.
I was getting lots of compliments and people asking me how I achieved those results, so I decided to share this information to benefit others. I have published my own kettlebell workout ebook and last summer I teamed up with pro beach volleyball player Marc Roberts to teach kettlebell boot camp classes. These experiences have allowed me to use my knowledge and personal experience to help my friends, family, and boot camp trainees achieve their fitness goals.
GKJ- I know that you have come through an incredible physical journey with kettlebells, both in terms of totally transforming your body and overcoming a very serious injury. Please tell us a bit about that.
In 2005, my amazing friend and personal trainer Ryan Shanahan introduced me to kettlebells. Unlike machines at the gym, kettlebell training is smart and requires mental focus. Your body becomes the machine. I wanted to lose my excess weight and become a healthy, strong athlete, so he took me under his wing and helped me go beyond what I expected to achieve. Ryan put me on an intense, well-rounded training program while showing me how to effectively use kettlebells for fat loss.
To me, this was both a physical and mental journey, where the mind and body were being strengthened as a whole. The most dramatic change happened within the first year I started using kettlebells. I changed my eating habits and was training 3-5 times a week. My workouts were 20 to 30 minutes, which fit perfectly into my busy schedule. I trained everywhere – on the beach, at the park, at home, and even at the office. Before I knew it, I had reshaped my body and became much more fit and athletic. My energy levels were higher, I got leaner, gained explosive strength, endurance, speed, agility, and muscle tone. Fat was melting off my body, and my metabolism was revved. I lost a total of 45lbs, 20 inches off my entire body, went from 35% body fat to 10%, and was down 7 dress sizes! It was an incredible feeling. Clothes began to fit better, I was more confident, outgoing, happier, and for the first time, was comfortable in the skin I’m in. The results have been life changing.
Last year, I had a slight setback when I broke my left collarbone in a cycling accident. Both ends of the bone were displaced and overlapping by 2cm. I was in and out of the hospital several times. Doctors told me that I would be weaker and never regain normal shoulder function.
For an active person, that was the last thing I wanted. I think that anything worth having is worth fighting for and with the right attitude, the battle is won even before it’s fought. Within the 14 weeks I waited for it to naturally heal, I regained a fair amount of my range of motion but the strength just wasn’t there. After that, I decided on surgery, seeing it would be my best option if I wanted to continue doing sports.
I trained around the injury then moved to a more aggressive training program where I did workouts using a light kettlebell to rebuild strength. Before lifting, it was important that I made sure I had the proper biomechanics, postural alignment, and shoulder stability for it. If you lack any of those, it may hamper progress or even lead to further injury.
Most of my rehab was done through MAT (Muscle Activation Technique) treatments to correct muscle imbalances and reduce pain, isometric exercises to strengthen and maintain muscle tone and minimize atrophy, and then Indian clubs to loosen the shoulder girdle and increase my range of motion. By doing all that, I regained my full ROM and strength within a quick 9 wks of surgery.
Since then, I’ve made a full comeback, reintroduced kettlebells into my program, am back on the beach volleyball court and enjoying a return back to sports. Setbacks will not hold you back unless you let them; they are challenges to rebuild yourself and come back stronger.
GKJ- As a woman living in today’s fast paced world, I know you have a pretty taxing job when it comes to time. What drives you to keep going? How do you keep yourself motivated?
My work keeps me very busy on a day-to-day basis. I currently have a full-time job as a project co-coordinator at a graphic arts studio and do freelance graphic design work on evenings and weekends. I’m usually faced with overtime, tight deadlines, and busy schedules. To counter that, I need to channel my stress into something positive, which is why fitness has been such an important element in my life. Aside from the physical benefits, it is very therapeutic, keeps me focused, and relieves stress. I want to feel and look good from the inside out while being fit and healthy. That is my main motivation. I keep things interesting by trying new sports and varying my workout routines. I need to maintain the results I’ve already achieved while continually learning and challenging myself to become better, stronger, and faster. I love the results, endorphin rush, am passionate about it and see it as an ongoing journey.
I have attended a couple of Mike Mahler and Steve Cotter kettlebell workshops to deepen my knowledge and delve further into the finer points of kettlebell lifting. There I learned a lot about the core kettlebell lifts, how to maximize leverage points, efficiency and get more work done in less time. Since then I have been committed to perfecting my technique, becoming proficient in all the core lifts, mastering my own bodyweight, and challenging myself with the heavier bells.
GKJ- It seems that a powerful part of the international kb community are the women that are out there getting serious about training right alongside the men. There are a lot of famous women celebrities out there as well who are into the sport. There may be some women out there are probably very interested in taking up kettlebells but are afraid of becoming too big or muscular. What’s your advice to those women?
This has been a topic of discussion almost every time I introduce women to kettlebells. I think that everyone can benefit from using kettlebells. Strength training is especially important for women since we naturally have less muscle mass. It is also a known fact that women do not produce enough natural testosterone to get big and muscular. Luckily, that is a very difficult look to achieve without using steroids, which adds a host of physiological responses of its own. Cardio alone is ineffective for fat loss and will not get you a fit and toned body (fat skinny, maybe, but who wants that?), so my advice would be to go for it and start lifting some kettlebells. By doing so, your body builds muscle – the most metabolically active tissue in the body. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest and during workouts.
Unlike machines at the gym that isolate each body part, kettlebell training will make you leaner, stronger and help tighten trouble spots faster, since it involves doing compound exercises that engage every muscle and work the body as one unit, in a greater range of movement. It is more aerobic, combining elements of cardio, resistance, flexibility, and core training. For beginners, I always start them off with a lighter weight, so that they can focus on perfecting form and technique first, then progress to a heavier weight. One perfect rep is better than a thousand imperfect reps.
In the grand scheme of things, it is about creating the optimal environment for your body to thrive. Fuel yourself with the right foods, reduce stress levels, get proper rest, add in the right movements, and the rest will take care of itself. The result will be a leaner body, improved health, and increased athletic, functional strength that will carry over well to everyday activities; plus you’ll look amazing and be in good shape. I think every woman would want that!
GKJ-I know you just got back from Mike Mahler’s Age of Quarrel seminar. How was that?
I had a great time! I flew to LA for the weekend to attend this 3-day seminar and am really glad I did. Mike Mahler’s events always impress, and never disappoint. The Age of Quarrel workshop covered a full spectrum of material, including the many ways to use the kettlebell, lifting efficiency, and program design for different goals. It was an amazing experience learning from the all star line up of strength coaches and being among the energetic trainees in attendance.
Steve Cotter focused on dynamic bodyweight drills, Qi Gong, animal movements for full body conditioning, and advanced kettlebell lifting techniques for long cycle and my personal favourite – squatting. Ken Blackburn gave tips on breathing, agility drills to improve athleticism, flexibility, joint mobility, and girevoy sport performance. Jason Dolby gave a great introduction to the ancient form of Indian Club swinging and lead us through a couple workouts to improve shoulder health and reduce soreness after a long day of kettlebell lifting; and Andrew Durniat shared his advanced kettlebell sport lifting techniques for the snatch and demonstrated some very impressive feats of strength with kettlebell and barbell juggling.
The information presented was comprehensive and I continue to be surprised by the many nuances to kettlebell lifting technique. I picked up on more ways to optimize efficiency, was able to clean up my lifting technique, and for once did not tear up my hands, as I learned to further adjust my grip. I was able to do presses with the 24kg bells and have a new found love for double jerks. I have incorporated Indian Clubs into my kettlebell routines and have seen improvements in my numbers for long cycle since implementing the tips on breathing and lifting technique. This workshop has given me several training tools and techniques to incorporate into my own training to improve everything from joint mobility, athletic performance, strength, and overall health.
GKJ-So what’s next for you? Any plans or dreams?
I am constantly changing and growing, so my plans tend to be pretty fluid. Business has been going well and there’s a lot happening for me at the moment. I am currently studying to write the R.G.D. Exam to earn my Registered Graphic Designer designation and focusing on expanding my freelance design business as I continue designing and producing the best work possible for my clients. I will go where my success and talent takes me then change directions as I see fit.
My next major fitness goal is to compete in a kettlebell sport competition doing 12kg long cycle and to achieve Rank 1 status. In 2010, I plan to become a Certified Kettlebell Teacher via the IKFF and if time permits, I will teach kettlebells at a greater capacity.
GKJ-Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, and we look forward to having you back in Japan sometime soon!