It is POURING rain here in the Bay Area. I am packing up my stuff (or was, rather) so that I can fly out to Hawaii for a Kettlebell Instructor Certification course and a kettlebell competition.
I didn’t know what kettlebell was until two years ago, when I was visiting the boutique gym a friend of mine went to. I walked in the door and two buff as hell women were hoisting kettlebells over their heads. The taller of the two, with curly reddish blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, looked at me and said, “I’d say hi and all, but I’ve got to finish this set.” She then proceeded to count to eleventy billion, or 60, I’m not sure. It seemed to go on for ever.
She made it look really easy. And I wanted her arm muscles.
“How do I do kettlebell?” I asked her.
“You can’t afford me,” she said. She meant that literally. Her one on one sessions ran about $80 an hour at the time.
She was right, but I took it as a challenge and signed up for four personal training sessions, using the money I was supposed to be putting on a medical bill. I’ve gotten a lot more out of kettlebell than I would have gotten out of paying that medical bill, though the adult in me is grimacing at my general lack of fiscal responsibility. I’m like the dude in Back to the Future. Don’t call me yellow. Or in this case, don’t tell me I can’t afford you. Because I will afford you! Even if I can’t!
I’m a bit impulsive, in case you hadn’t noticed.
The first sessions of kettlebell were grueling. I thought I was going to die. My arms and legs and stomach have never been more sore in my life. I don’t know why I kept going back–probably because I started reading about how many calories kettlebell burns, and how it’s a combo of strength and cardio. Also, probably because I started losing inches and even my favorite jeans that I’d wanted to fit into forever were too big.
I’d been running a lot, and all of a sudden, doing kettlebell, I could run faster. My breathing capacity improved, I could endure more pain. I didn’t give up as quick. Instead of throwing in the towel at 2 miles, I could get through 5 with my long-legged running partners.
Kettlebell taught me how to push through self-imposed physical barriers.
At first, when I noticed, I thought everyone looked silly, exhaling and inhaling so loudly, dedicating entire workshops to breathing technique and form for this silly little ball with a handle. The more I applied the breathing technique though, the better everything else got.
Even getting tattooed felt less painful. I could get through 3 -4 hour sessions just by concentrating on my breathing. (The Zen of Being Tattooed).
It’s still teaching me a lot, kettlebell. About a year or so into it, I was still struggling with form. I took a weekend workshop and my form improved light years, and has been subtly tweaked over the past year to get better and better, through training with peers and working with my coach (friend) Juliet. Mostly, like any other art, it improves with practice.
Form is everything. You want your technique down, so that you can get the maximum number of reps during a certain period of time. When you compete, it’s usually ten minutes (for what I do). You are judged, and there is a time clock, and you are trying to get a certain number, based on your weight class and whether you’re aiming for Master of Sport.
It’s hard. It kicks your ass. And you dedicate four days a week to training for months before a competition. If you slack off, it’s your own self that suffers.
I remember when I looked at a 20kg bell and wondered if I would ever be able to get it over my head once.
Now my coach is having me train regularly with that damn purple bell.
I started out with a 12kg bell. Juliet was always telling me I’m stronger than I think I am. I didn’t believe her. And now, when I see newbies starting out, I know what she was talking about. They’re much stronger than they think, and they usually figure it out a lot quicker than I did.
I’ve always liked sports.
When I got back from reform school as a teen, I graduated high school early with a test and starting going to the local community college. I got into cross country and track. It saved my ass–being on a team, showing up every day to train from 3 – 5pm, having a coach. I felt like I was part of something, I didn’t feel tempted to screw off. I got straight A’s and did really well for someone who had never run before she turned 16.
All of the girls on my team had been running all through high school. I didn’t have that advantage, so I was always the slowest person. (Well, there was one person slower than me, but she had bulimia and was rapidly losing weight, so it was no wonder she couldn’t run very fast.)
In kettlebell, you compete against yourself for your own personal records. You can compete way past what is a prime age in other sports. At the last competition I went to, a woman in her 50′s smoked everyone’s ass. And she just did kettlebell sport for fun, on the side, to balance out her martial arts training. (A lot of people do kettlebell to round out martial arts training).
Anyhow, my whole point here is to say that kettlebell is a positive outlet for me, and it helps me to focus on my writing and music by easing my restless mind. It’s important to by physically active–I think a lot of human problems these days stem from how much we sit in cars, offices and on couches. It’s hard for anyone to stay in shape with that kind of a set up, especially with fast food around every corner and the need to be busy, busy, busy.
The best thing about kettlebell is that I can do it at home, with online training, going to the gym once or twice a week to work on form/technique, etc. It fits around my schedule. I can compete when I feel like it (though I hear talk about me competing with the 20kg bell in the Fall. Shoot me now).
Me and my husband scrimped and saved our pennies for months so that we could afford this trip for me…I literally rolled a giant jar of coins we’d been saving for two years.
Rest assured, fellow starving and non-starving artists alike. I’m still broke. I’ll be sleeping on the fold-out couch in a hotel room shared with my coach and another kettlebell sport person from my gym. My coach even bought me kettlebell shoes, in addition to letting me pay her in installments over the course of a few months, thank the lawd for her.
But maybe I’ll be able to teach kettlebell along with doing personal training in the future. Kettlebell is a growing sport, and I’ve really taken to it. This is like taking a college course to upgrade your marketplace skills, except the course is in Hawaii (I know, poor me). I’ll be paying off that plane flight for the next few months, but I’ll be certified. Woot.
I explained kettlebell sport in much more detail a while back in Kettlebell is like Writing, check it out if you’re still hell of confused. I’m sure you are. I just babbled in another language for almost 1,000 words.
And, when I’m not doing the competition and spending two days being certified, I will definitely try to enjoy the 80 degree weather and the smoothies and the tropical fruits and the beach…
And I may not be updating a lot for the next five days. Just sayin’.