Although Sunday is my official sleep in day, the late Summer sun has me awake and firing on all cylinders by 7am. I decided to head on down to the river that flows near my house and to do my Qigong on the riverbank.
Sunday- a day to go out and have some fun and plan your strategy for fitness goals this week.
Get out there- recharge, and get ready!
You may have been wondering where I have disappeared to over the last few weeks, but I have been subjecting myself to eight weeks of online training with IKFF key member and all round great guy, Ken Blackburn. After having had quite few months off due to surgery, and resigning myself to building my strength back up from not far off scratch, lets just say that the regimen has been a boot camp for me as I start the long journey back to form, and beyond, towards a level of fitness that will allow me to compete in the Girevoy Sport.
The way I have started to accomplish this goal is by online training.
So what is online training all about? It is a combination of intense weekly schedule exercise routine, video recording and fitness level observation and adjustment which aims at taking your current fitness status to the next level and beyond. In all honesty, for me, that has been a combination of physical re-boot and ongoing foundation preparation for competition within the next year or so.
Sitting now at week seven, with about one week left to go, I can say that it has been a long and arduous journey, confirming my view that the older you get, the more that the balance of all the elements in your life come critically into play. Since I am not a professional athlete and I have to fit my training schedule around a busy daily schedule here in Japan, this makes that balance all the more important.
The big three
I am concentrating on the three standard competition lifts: the kettlebell jerk, the snatch, and the Long Cycle/Kettlebell Clean and Jerk. In all honesty, the biggest improvement has been the snatch, and the exercise is akin to a delicate dance with yourself; to be able to generate enough power to bring the bell overhead repeatedly for up to ten minutes at a time, and be able to walk away without having half the skin of your hand ripped off from over gripping.
What I have learned the hard way
Its not just about strength; its more about overall flexibility, your level of conditioning, and your all round ongoing physical maintenance that makes this form of sport so compelling. For many looking in from the outside, they can say, well what’s the point? The fact that serious practitioners of the sport can continue to compete well into their 50’S, 60’s and even 70’s is proof positive of the overall benefits to health and wellbeing that the Girevoy sport has to offer.
I believe I am not alone in saying that many kettlebell practitioners do not stretch enough., especially me For the Russian gireviks and other international athletes of the sport, stretching is integral to their training sessions, before working out, between sets and afterwards in cool down. It is through this constant maintenance and confirmation of basic postural mobility that strength is truly built. Without it, we are walking down a path towards injury and interruption to our overall goals as athletes.
I haven’t been stretching enough. Some of the long cycle work that I started to do with Ken was initially excruciating in the sense that I became all too aware of the lack of flexibility in my spine, and the effects that caused me when working out intensely, with ‘bells extended above my head or just trying to stand in rack position.
I sit at a desk eight hours a day, and if I don’t do some kind of maintenance and stretching it will eventually relegate me to permanent poor postural alignment and poor athletic performance regardless of what activity I choose.
Stretching, band work, yoga, and regular checking in with your body area the keys.
Its all about doing it- regularly.
Blow by blow
The program started off gradually enough, and I managed to get through the first week without any hand damage at all, despite the long sets and higher workload. Ken had promised not to kill me straight out of the gate, and rolled on the workload gradually till by the end of the second week I was operating pretty much at maximum capacity. As the workload increase I started to notice that some muscles were just tiring out much faster than other parts of my body, and that tension and energy leaks were showing up everywhere.
Tension tension tension- I was a bundle of nerves and tightness, panting and sweating trying to deal with a body that hadn’t been challenged in quite a while. Then the wear an tear started to show as the amount of reps I was doing and length of the sets started to increase. End of week two I ripped a chunk of skin off my right hand.
And we wont even discuss into the GPP work which came at the end of the session twice a week…
Ken had me video my performance of the exercises, and the first few views were humbling to say the least. It made me realize that video and feedback are excellent tools for any student of the kettlebell sport and that added to personal coaching, nothing could make you improve faster.
Grip strength and forearms
Doing serious sets of snatches for up to ten minutes at a time will beat your hands up, period. I found that my forearms were just pumping up so much that the heart rate monitor was cutting into my wrist by the end of the set, even when I had set it fairly loose at the get go. Surprisingly, the hand that has shown the most tendency to get beat up is my right hand, on the stronger side of my body, indicating clearly to me that although stronger than the left side, I was more prone to tension on the right side of my body.
By the beginning of week three there was a feeling of obvious trepidation every time Ken sent me an update for that week’s workout. The interesting thing was- he wasn’t killing me, and my desire to overcome my own physical limitations kept me fueled up enough to make my training preparations a daily occurrence- stretching, getting enough sleep, keeping my food intake balanced enough to support the workload.
I found it harder to train by myself than when my buddy Jan Kaszuba came by to train with me. His sense of humor, encouragement and shared experience of training hard kept me focused. I kept hitting right up against my own physical limitations week after week, but Ken’s encouragement and affirmation of what I was doing right kept me from dwelling too much on what I was doing wrong. Which believe me, felt like a lot.
A Girevik isn’t built in a day.
To be continued…..
Having had a few months off, albeit unwillingly, I am back on track with my fitness regimen, but I also realize that more than anything, its about balancing the different parts of my lifestyle to support each other, which is easier said than done as many of you know.
Realizing too that all these personal fitness goals revolve symbiotically with a 9-5 work lifestyle, which is the financial fuel which fires the sustaining my own fitness goals. You have to pay the bills too…
Diet and rest are key components here- letting the body rebuild itself in peace after a good workout, and not getting in the way of my own development. Also, maintaining good flexibility with the higher workloads is important lest I step towards bad form, leading myself to injury.
Making sure that my daily lifestyle also doesnt get in the way of letting me achieve my goals is an important one- getting to sleep at a regular time, eating enough and with the right frequency, seriously paying attention to stress and the effect that it has on my daily life, and doing all the things that I need to take care of me; exercise, time with my partner, walking the dog, meditation etc
I am excited, and daunted by the prospect of what the next few months can provide if I maintain both my focus and my health. The key for me in all this is in training hard and fast (sensibly), with plenty of rest and good nutrition in between. More so, the ability to really listen to what my body is telling me from day to day and catch any early warning signs that I might be doing too much, or the times when I can push it a little harder.
Recovery is critical- the ability of the body to recharge after a burst of energy, how long that takes, how many days I can sustain that type of activity before I need a rest, all these things again, in balance with each other. Supplements definitely help in a big way.
I am lucky to be able to have an expert like Steve Cotter to talk to, who is willing to give me the time to talk about my own goals and help me develop a solid regimen. When you see the workload that man puts out each week, its easy to get inspired!
All in all, make sure you set some targets for yourself over the coming cool months,no matter how little or large they may be, and prepare your life accordingly to facilitate your success. The rest is up to you!
For more information on the article, click here
Now, these guys are working hard. This is what a long cycle set looks like. Ten minutes is the usual competition time period.
Notice how relaxed their bodies are and how they pace themselves- one rep according to a set time line. If you want the ultimate in conditioning, this is where kettlebells will take you.
We all need personal goals. Without them, it makes our day to day activities seem without reason or purpose.
For me at the moment, still coming back into serious training after four months off earlier this year, it boils down to one word- rebuild.
The thing about kettlebells is just that- its not just about kettlebells. The more I learn how to be a good proponent of the sport, the more I learn about taking care of the whole. Its about a much more holistic approach to taking care of my body and making sure that it can perform at optimum levels. Let me explain.
Building a stronger body is not going to help me if my postural alignment is all out of whack.
Just training with the bells doesn’t ensure that my body is ready to work. At 45, I need to consider my posture, warm-up, precise performance of technique, breathing, ramping my workload over time, and building my body back up for GS style Long Cycle kb work. That some muscles are at present weak in relation to others, and I am actually looking for all round performance, so that means creating balance.
If it seems like a challenge, it is.
And it doesnt end there. I need the right kinds of food in my body, to be sure that I am getting all the nutrients I need and in appropriate levels. That I am getting enough sleep. That I get a rest day in there when I need it. That variety lays a part of what I do as well.
Challenge? Its an exciting time.
Music’s effect on your workout- fact or fiction?
NYT has done it again with another interesting article relating to the effects of listening to music while training.
Not just any music and any tempo, but certain ranges which seem to induce better athletic performance.
Well, it does work for me. I regularly jump rope for sessions lasting longer than 20 mins, and the music I use helps keep me focused and psyched, making the time spent go by faster and encouraging me to work a little longer.Music for me induces a trance like state where I can focus on breathing and relaxing my body to allow peak efficiency, regardless what I am doing. As a responsible athlete, this means I need to be conscious that this state of mind probably doesn’t suit pedaling through rush hour traffic, and I need to be paying attention to what is going on around me as well.
Read the article, and ask yourself- whats the right balance for you?