Its not often that you come across another person over the internet that you immediately feel an affinity for, but it is a testament to Rannoch Donald’s strength of character and enthusiasm for everything he does that permeates even over the ether.
Ranked the #4 RKC trainer in the world by his legions of happy customers, Rannoch has carved a path of his own, working with both the IKFF and Steve Cotter, while at other times with such RKC heavyweights like Mark Cheng, bringing his students and customers sound advice and the practical means to achieve their best. With all around him, he maintains a rock solid integrity; you can be sure that if you ask Rannoch’s opinion, he will tell it to you straight, and it is his frankness and willingness to listen that has earned him a place at the very top rank of the international kettlebell community.
I took some time out recently to ask Rannoch a series of questions, mostly regarding his current activities in Scotland and the latest developments of his own activities as a teacher and self-practice.
Here is the first part, from a man who is known by one name…
GK. Hi Rannoch, thank you for your time today. Lets start off by please telling us a bit about you, your background, your interest in kettlebells and physical fitness in general .
Thanks for the questions. I am 47, have trained in some form or other most of my life. My first passion was martial arts and over the years I’ve been lucky enough to train with some exceptional instructors in a number of disciplines. I am a product of the 70’s martial arts boom. One of my earliest instructors was a charismatic Malaysian called Jarrod Lee who opened my eyes to the sheer diversity out there.
For many years I labored under the illusion that being fit was the purpose of training. I had something of a wake up call when I broke my leg a few years ago and realized that not only was I not as fit as I thought I was, I wasn’t healthy and I really struggled to bounce back.
The traditional rehab methods offered little improvement, so I did my homework and began with simple mobility drills, moved on to include body weight exercises and finally introduced kettlebell practice. Within a short time I found myself in better shape than I’d been in 15 years. What really amazed me was I could achieve this in a fraction of the time I used to “work out”. And the great thing is this is available to, and achievable by, everyone.
I realized that my previous efforts did not reflect certain key criteria.
- Firstly, I needed to be honest with myself regarding the time I have available, not just to train but to recover.
- Secondly, as a father of three with a full time job, understanding the methods required to enhance my health, not just my fitness, were absolutely critical.
- Thirdly, that those methods reflect my abilities, are sustainable and not based on the latest routine of some professional sports star with an entourage of personal chefs, physios and coaches.
- Finally, that my practice reflects my interests. For example, as a middle aged martial artist, I am looking for balance, symmetry and strength, not massive muscles. My practice, and what I teach, is designed to create and promote power. And that is what every aging athlete should be after.
The key to all this is to treat you efforts as practice. The object is to get better at what you do and remain injury free. That what you do is sustainable. The endless desire to add weight to the bar is ultimately self defeating, there will come a time when the tide turns and all you have are over use injuries and creaking joints.
So I think in terms of tai chi and yoga masters whose movement and performance improves with age. This is key; performance is a product of practice. Practice allows you the time and space to refine what you do. Ultimately that manifests itself when you come to perform.
On this subject, many people decide to get back “in shape” by taking up a sport. A word of caution – you will be lousy at the sport and you wont get fit. Technical skill and physical preparedness are two different things. This goes back to your practice reflecting your needs and interests. So we need a method that creates resilient, healthy, lean and strong individuals who can transfer those benefits to the activities they pursue.
GK. What, in your opinion, is the state of kettlebells today?Its been 8-9 years now since the rediscovery/reintroduction to the general population, and we have seen it gradually integrating itself into the sporting community. What do you see is the future? Where is this all heading?
It’s been great to see how kettlebells training has re-evolved. If we can ensure a high level of coaching then Kettlebells will become standard issue in any progressive training environment. Unfortunately the “hard core” perception of KBs has had an inverse effect with some commercial interests trying to “aerobicize” them, creating bizarre drills and turning them into yet another craze. But when used properly Kettlebells provide a unique challenge. Few tools provide such intensity and such a wide range of benefits across strength, endurance, speed, flexibility and co-ordination. For me, kettebells provide the essential base for my practice. They are not a magic bullet. Nothing is. Used correctly they provide a fantastic return in a relatively short period of time. But as with so many things ultimately effort = results.
My own focus is in promoting in everybody an integrated practice, so along with mobility and body weight, kettlebells provide a well rounded approach.
GK. Many of the readers here, both young and old, are in the process of training or are looking at building themselves a new program. Probably most of them fit these goals around daily work commitments and families as well. What key ingredients do you feel are necessary for an effective long-term fitness strategy for a man or woman who works 9-5? How would you suggest a person assesses their current workout regimen?
Firstly, consider your needs. This requires a tremendous degree of courage because most of us have to first accept we are not as fit, young and healthy as we thought. Many people who come to my workshops get the kind of wake up call I had a few years back. But all this is good because it provides a realistic base from which to start. What I really want is people to take charge of their own well being and the easiest way to do that is to take a serious look at where you are right now.
Once you know where you are you can map out where you want to go. One step at a time, one session at a time. Real fitness and well being is not hemmed in by the constraints of prescriptive programs and inflexible routines. It works because it responds to your life style, your schedule and your abilities. In addition, your practice must leave you with the resources to get on with your life, deal with your job, take care of your family. Anything that leaves you spent is not sustainable.
Also, the mental benefits of training are well documented and can’t be underestimated. There is a self sustaining energy that comes with regular practice.
GK. You and I have had many discussions about the concept of sustainability in terms of a life long approach to fitness. Can you explain in a nutshell what we are talking about here?
It’s important to be open to variety with regard to the methodology of your workout routine and change that is naturally occurring in your body on a day to day basis, but it’s equally important to not become a victim to novelty. Focus on the basics. Choose a few things and learn to do them exceptionally well. This in turn will pay massive dividends when it comes to tackling bigger tasks. On of my favorite quotes is –
“Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things well“. -J. Friedrich von Schiller.
GK. In your own personal journey, what is the greatest challenge for you?
It’s the same as everyone else. Simply getting on with what I know needs to be done. Simple as that.
GK. Rannoch, what drives you? What keeps you going?
The prospect of growing old disgracefully! Being around to see my kids and grow into the the amazing adults I know they will be. I often speak at workshops about our responsibility to the tribe, or in other words, the society we live and work in. Once you stop contributing, you become a burden. I want to contribute as long as I can. I simply want to be awake for the journey; we all need to be participants, not observers and realize that vibrant health is our natural state. We’ll all go the same way at the end of the day but you can influence how present you are for the trip.
GK. What is Simple Strength about? I see you have been developing your site- can you tell the readers a little about what you are working on?
The new Simple Strength website will be unveiled in the next week or so. it will integrate the Simple Strength blog and Kettlebells Scotland under one roof, making it easy to access information, workshop details and articles. It will also highlight events like the forthcoming IKFF CKT Certification in September and our workshop with Frank Forencich of Exhuberant Animal.
GK.So..what is the future for you? Where do you go from here?
As much fun as it is to rub shoulders with Martial artists and athletes I am really interest in people exactly like you and me who simply want to be fit and healthy. This stuff is not the domain of commercial gyms, nutrition companies and personal trainers. It is the natural right of everyone. All you have to do is get on with it.
GK. Thanks for your time Rannoch. I am sure we will be chatting with you again in the near future!
If you have a question for Rannoch, please feel free to write in. Here is a link to his Simple Strength site: