I took time recently to interview Sincere Hogan, fellow IKFF member and owner of http://newwarriortraining.com, whom I have always admired as an athlete but as yet have not had the good fortune to meet in person. Since recently we have been training with the same coach, IKFF’s Ken Blackburn, Sincere and I have both discovered a commonality of purpose and experience, and he shared a few thoughts with us here.
1. Sincere, thanks for taking the time for an interview. Watched your video of your ten minute long cycle kettlebell set at the recent Michigan KB competition and was very impressed by your effort. As Ken Blackburn would say, you “left it all on the floor”. Before we jump off the deep end right into your Girevoy Sport training, perhaps you could tell us a little bit about you, and how you got into kettlebells initially.
Thanks a lot for having me, Mark. I really appreciate it.
Ha. Yeah, man. The kettlebell meet in Michigan, where that particular performance was filmed, was probably my most challenging, yet most fulfilling, thus far. I had so much fun at that meet, as I got a glimpse into seeing what direction my new training program was taking me, and I liked what I saw.
As far as my background, I wasn’t the kid who participated in sports, since they came out of the womb. I was the kid who was not afforded the chance to participate in youth sports, until I was in junior high school, due to growing up with severe asthma.
However, as suggested by my doctor, when I was about 10 or 11, I began to participate in organized sports. I’m a true Texan, as football was, is, and will always be my love. Once I began to play football, all of my asthma symptoms dissipated. Growing up in an athletic family, I’ve always felt the need to compete, and to leave my mark, as my other family members have done in whatever sport they participated in.
Somehow, that feeling never went away. Thus, I now use that attitude to fuel me as a kettlebell sport athlete. I’m 38 years young, and training with kettlebells has helped me see that I still have a lot left (and a long way to go), as a competitive athlete.
It’s so funny to even consider myself a competitive kettlebell athlete, when just a few years ago, I initially began training with kettlebells, in order to help rehab a bad shoulder.
2. Football! One of my addictions from living in the ‘States for ten years..but lets not go there today! haha! What made you get serious about Girevoy Sport style kb lifts? Were you daunted by the task at hand when you started serious training? How did you start to prepare yourself?
That’s a great question. As I previously stated, I began training with kettlebells as a way to help rehab a bad shoulder. Due to years of questionable form, overtraining, and often, going too heavy during my weight training, it all caught up with me. My range of motion had become quite limited in my right shoulder.
However, while doing a few online searches for shoulder rehab and shoulder stability exercises, I ran across Steve Cotter’s “The Martial Art of Strength Training” DVD series. Dude, he had me at “Martial Art,” as I have always loved martial arts. Factor in my other love, strength training, training outside of a gym (which I have never been a fan of the gym, nor training inside), plus, a DVD featuring this crazy, ripped dude moving like a ninja with some weighted black bowling ball with a handle, and I was more than curious.
Consequently, upon purchasing the DVD, I emailed Steve a few times about programming, as well as how I enjoyed the content of the DVD. A few years later, we again communicated via email, right around the time he returned from Europe and discovered the backbone of kettlebell training, Girevoy Sport.
Valery Fedorenko was coming to my area, about a month before Steve was to kick off his initial U.S. International Kettlebell & Fitness Federation (IKFF) certification, and as per Steve’s suggestion and his explanation of traditional kettlebell lifting, which in contrast to what was introduced to the West by Pavel Tsatsouline, I decided to attend Valery’s American Kettlebell Club certification, as well as Steve’s IKFF certification, a month later.
I must say, the exposure to various training, coaching, and teaching styles I’ve learned from great coaches such as Steve, Valery, Pavel, Mike Mahler, Steve Maxwell, Ken Blackburn, & others, has definitely helped me grow as an athlete, coach, and teacher.
Although I’ve trained and worked with some of the best in the sport aspect of kettlebell training, including some of those I just mentioned, I’ve never felt pressured to compete. I make my own decisions. However, I began to see the invaluable benefits of traditional kettlebell training and how it affords all that choose to take it on, the chance to become an athlete again or for the first time, in spite of age, gender, and even economic or social status. Such is not always the case in most competitive sports. Thus, it was hard not to get hooked, as I dove deeper into the history and potential of kettlebell training.
3. What was the biggest obstacle that you faced initially?
One of the biggest obstacles I had to “discover” the hard way was being specific in the direction I truly wanted to go with training with kettelbells and getting into kettlebell sport. I feel if you are not specific with your goals, no matter what you do in life, you’re just flying by the seat of your pants and losing time.
Once I discovered what I could do with competing in kettlebell sport, as well as deciding what I can gain from competing, it made taking on any upcoming obstacles along the way a lot less daunting. You have to have a plan, brotha.
4. One of the most important factors to GS success I feel is the mind game element. The fact that you have to relax, focus on the task at hand, and deal with the mounting stress as you work through each minute. What are your thoughts on this?
I truly agree. I feel another reason I am so attracted to this sport is how it is a truly holistic sport. You have to constantly been mentally, spiritually, and physically connected, when performing one timed set at a time. You truly have to be “present” and train, one rep at a time. While training, there’s no need to harp on how the last rep did not go as perfectly as planned, nor is it wise to focus on how you will execute the next rep or next few reps. You cannot change the reps you have already performed, nor can you focus on future reps that may not even be afforded to you.
You only have the rep you are performing at that moment. That is your one chance for greatness. Such is also the way we should live our daily lives, when we are not on the competition platform.
5. How do you support your training? I am 45, and find that I have to make sure I get enough rest and nutrition in order to perform well. Is that a significant factor in your life?
Brother, I feel you. As I get older, I know I definitely have to become calculated with my training, and even wiser with my recovery. I’ve accepted the fact that I cannot go hardcore with my training, as I did in my twenties. And yes, that was a very humbling experience, in the beginning. However, I’ve learned that our ego can be our biggest enemy. Most of the time, we let our egos hide our insecurities.
However, once we truly accept who we are and where we are in life, that insecurity turns into excitement. I get excited as I discover what foods truly help me with my recovery and training. I’m constantly reminded that everything I thought I knew, isn’t necessarily so.
I really have to take this moment to thanks folks such as Mike Mahler, Ray Peat, and Dr. Peter Rouse, whose constant research in the areas of hormone optimization, recovery, and aging, have truly helped me pick up and mend the pieces of one of the most important elements of my training and longevity programming.
6. What was this competition like? This is your third I believe. Has the experience changed from your first time? and in what way?
The Southeast Michigan Kettlebell Open, in December 2010, was indeed my third competition, and marked, what I feel, the beginning of where I want to go in this sport. Competing at the 2010 Arnold Sports Festival, my first competition, was more of a “Let me give this competition aspect of kettlebell training a try, just to have the experience.“ Plus, my thinking at that time was, “How can one truly teach someone else about the important aspects of kettlebell sport, if they’ve never stepped foot on that platform and competed?”
It reminds me of the state of mixed martial arts, here in the West. I get so irritated when fans “boo” competing fighters, whenever the fighters are competing at a tactical level, and not just attacking each other like savage animals. It’s really easy to mistakenly think a fighter is not working hard, and giving their all, if you’ve never stepped foot inside a cage or ring, and competed or trained consistently.
I’ve heard many coaches, trainers, and athletes, judge and question competing in kettlebell sport. As a matter of fact, I’ve often heard the common question, “How hard can it be to do the same move, over and over, for ten minutes?”
However, the game changes, when you put the same said coach, trainer, or athlete in the same situation, moving that odd-shaped iron/steel bell constantly, without any “true” rest, without setting the bell down, knowing when to relax, use force, utilizing flexibility and their full body, while performing ballistic movements repeatedly for minutes at a time. It’s a real humbling experience.
The difference between my first competition and my latest is the presence of a great coach. I owe a lot of where my training is now, and the direction it’s going, to Ken Blackburn. I’ve said on multiple occasions, every good coach “NEEDS” a great coach. A coach can help you see aspects of your game that you may not see, due to you being too involved emotionally to your programming. Plus, being so involved in the fitness game, can afford you more training tools than necessary. Thus, you may be aware of so many training options, that you never stick to the basic few you need to advance toward your goals.
A great coach will help simplify things, and give you less, so you can attain more. Ken has been very instrumental in helping me with those aspects of my training. Plus, nothing beats having someone to hold you accountable. When things get really hard, or life gets in the way, it’s really easy to get sidetracked and sidelined. However, I appreciate the fact that Ken has helped me get out of my own way, and focus on setting attainable goals, and attaining each one in a calculated, S.M.A.R.T. (specific/measurable/achievable/realistic/timely) manner.
7. One of the biggest revelations for me and my GS training has been the importance of stretching and overall mobility work. What do you do to support/supplement your GS training and prepare your body?
The importance of joint mobility, stretching, recovery, and relaxation is highly important, not only with the high demands of kettlebell sport training, but just about all aspects of any physical activity that places constant demand on your body and mind.
There’s nothing wrong with training like a machine. However, you have to commit to every aspect of being a machine 100%, and know that even a machine cannot function at full speed 100% of the time. If you are constantly training and living your life in high gear, you will eventually break down, as would a machine.
You have to give a car a tune up, oil change, tire rotation, change the brake pads, and windshield wipers, etc., in order to keep it running like a fine tuned machine. Otherwise, if you neglect these small things, it can lead to big problems in performance or a complete breakdown, which leads to costly repairs. Your body is no different.
In order to perform at your optimal best, you must spend just as much time in recovery mode, as you do in training mode. Life has to be balanced. Thus, before I start my GS training, I make sure I warm up properly. I often begin with various joint mobility exercises. Sometimes, I perform movements that mimic what I will perform during my training. These movements may include a combination of bodyweight movements, as well as added tools, such as Indian clubs, bands, lighter kettlebells, or my trusty jump rope.
All of the above also play a big part at the end of my training sessions. One of the most important tools I utilize before, during, and after my training is visualization and breathing. Both help me with my focus, and get me through tough times that my body sometimes chooses to no longer endure. However, mentally stepping outside of myself, in order to go deep within my true self, I can get past just about any physical obstacles I may endure. I’ve made peace with the fact that any pain I feel physically is only temporary, and will go away. It’s the mental pain that stays with you. There’s nothing more mentally painful than knowing I quit, and could have kept going.
8. So, you just won an award at this competition, and that must feel great. Where do you go from here? What’s the next challenge?
The biggest award I won at the Southeast Michigan meet was seeing the fruits of my new training program’s labor, attaining a new PR, and achieving Rank III. Those 3 aspects gave me the momentum I can use to move on to the next goal, which is competing with the 24kg bells, and eventually achieving Ranks II & I, and eventually CMS. However, my focus is on one goal at a time, which is tweaking what is necessary to help me complete 10 minutes with the 24kgs.
9. GPP work: I know that for a long time you have been doing this anyway, but how do you think it relates to your GS performance?
Is there anything special that you do that you recommend to others?
GPP is a big part of my training, and I feel, when programmed correctly, can have a great deal of carry-over with one’s specific sport event of choice. One of the cornerstones of my training has always been bodyweight training.
A few basic bodyweight exercises that truly have helped me with my lock out are handstand holds, handstand pushups, and dips, just to name a few. Also, I like hanging from a pull up bar to not only work on lat activation, but also help me stretch out, after a long timed set.
On GS-specific training days, I perform GPP work at the end of my training. However, there are things I do on days between training, such as skipping rope that actually aid me in my recovery, as well as help me mentally. Skipping rope is often my way of actively relaxing, as oxymoronic as that sounds. Wait; is that even a real word?
As for my recommendations for others, as I just mentioned, I think it’s better to save the GPP work for the end of your sports-specific training. On non-sports training days, keep it short and simple, and light, in order to avoid overtraining.
An example of an active recovery day may involve a 30-60 minute walk, a light 1 mile jog, or one of my favorites, hot yoga. Hot yoga gives me more bang for my recovery day buck, as it helps me improve my mental focus, work on my flexibility and stability, detox, and focus on being strong and relaxed, while being in a uncomfortable situation. All of these characteristics have a huge carry-over into my GS training. However, at the end of the day, GPP is simply assistance work, and never takes the place of my event-specific training.
10. Again, thanks for having me, Mark. Folks can find out more about me on my blog at http://newwarriortraining.com, on Facebook at http://facebook.com/peoplesfitcoach, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sincerehogan.