Kettlebells Again

Last weekend I was Tom Corrigan‘s assistant for two two-hour introductory kettlebell classes at a fitness equipment store in Lynnwood. We had six people on Saturday and four on Sunday. In both classes was one person who’d been to Cappy’s Boxing Gym (where I went for three years pre-CrossFit) and two people who knew quite a bit about CrossFit or had tried it. It was fun to connect with all of these people who are interested enough in fitness to buy their own kettlebells and come to the class. And classes are a confidence builder because I see that I’m able to talk about technique and people respond positively.
Tom C. says that to build up to a heavier kettlebell lift–for example my wanting to snatch 24 kilos–I should do this:
-Perfect the form by doing the lift for high reps (like 50-plus) at a light weight;
-Do heavier presses
-Do the high one-arm swing with the slight bend at the top (i.e., the whole snatch except the finishing punch-through) with the heavy weight that I want to snatch.
For me that means many snatches at 12 kilos (I can already snatch 16), presses with the 16, and high one-arm swings with the 24. I’ll work on those on days I don’t go to the gym, starting two days ago and today.
Turns out I’m not so close to snatching the 24, because it’s hard for me to control it during the high one-arm swings with the elbow bend at the top. By the time I try that, I’ve already done a bunch of snatches with the 12 and presses with the 16, and besides the fatigue, the 24 is hard for me to grip with one hand. Its handle is thicker and my hands are sweaty by that time. Still I think with good form I can work up to it. After all, when you punch through and finish the snatch, there’s no grip issue. The grip problem comes when controlling the change of directions on the top and bottom of the swing.
It also turns out my endurance isn’t what I wish it were. I’ve been snatching the 12 kilos for nowhere near 50 reps per side. Today I did sets on right and left with 5-second breaks. The sets were 10, 10, 6, 10 snatches.
I’ll solve these two problems by doing the high swings with the 16 for a while; and by continuing to add sets of snatches with the 12 instead of psyching myself out by saying I’m going to do 30 without stopping.
I’m happy with my pressing strength for now and feel confident I can improve it. My right shoulder, after three Active Release Therapy sessions, is a lot more reliable and solid. I did five sets of two 16-kilo presses per side today.
I finished with two sets of 10 suitcase deadlifts, holding a 16 on one side and the 24 on the other side. It was a good workout and fun to do it in the backyard while looking at my flowers.

RKC certification, June 2007

I went to the Twin Cities June 7 through 10 and got certified as a kettlebell trainer (called an RKC, for Russian Kettlebell Challenge). This was three days of outdoor instruction, exercise drill practice, exercise drill troubleshooting and correction of another student, technique testing, workouts, and training of local volunteers. I was one of seven women out of 55 trainees; there were also several women RKCs assisting the team leaders. For workouts, we had three on Friday, three on Saturday, and one on Sunday, plus all the separate drills and practice sessions, plus “bonding.”
“Bonding” meant we had to carry one of our three kettlebells everywhere we went. Each person had at least three bells out on the field all the time, light, medium, and heavy, for use with various drills and workouts. Mine were 12, 16, and 20 kilos, except on Sunday when I quit trying to be tough and chose 8, 12, and 16 kilos. The one I “bonded” with was a 16. Going across the field, through the gym, down the hall and to the bathroom with 16 kilos was a LONG walk. The weather was sunny and about 80 to 88 degrees, though breezy enough, thank goodness.
It was gratifying and reassuring to find that the workouts themselves were not especially hard by CrossFit standards. But the weekend as a whole was a real challenge to stamina, mental focus, knowledge absorption, and attitude. Certain habits of Pavel and the senior RKC trainers seemed more difficult for us trainees than necessary (such as: lying on stomachs as the default listening position on the grass; squat-thrusts for the group as punishment if people couldn’t troubleshoot and correct someone’s exercise form on the spot; and proto-military-style yelling as motivation during workouts). But actually these things kept us organized and attentive and efficient. The yelling during the workouts probably does really motivate some people. Once I realized that the workouts were no harder than anything I was used to, the yelling became sort of charming in a macho-man way. And you never had trouble hearing what they were saying.
My team leader and his assistants never yelled. In fact, they were all on the softspoken, earnest side, and I really liked them. They repeatedly taped and retaped my hands when my calluses threatened to tear, without making me feel like a wimp, and they let me know I was keeping up well. Several people were complimentary to me, and every time, it meant a lot to me because I was working so hard. I’m sure all the trainees probably felt well treated and supported as well. So, though in years past I would have been skeptical of this statement, I found the positive experience of the whole thing far outweighed the discomfort of working in the sun, being called on and evaluated, getting dirty out on the field all day, and the hollering.
On Sunday, we all got to train one or two neighborhood volunteers and we were evaluated for safety and knowledge. I had two volunteers. Assisting Dave at the gym with Team Survivor fitness classes last year, I found, had taught me to focus on my client and nothing else. Thank goodness. So I ignored the RKC who was evaluating me unless he said something. The hour with the volunteers went by fast and my trainees took instruction very well.
I set out to describe the certification weekend and after all these paragraphs all I’ve done is describe my personal take on it. Typical female I guess! Tomorrow I’ll lay out the whole thing and leave the commentary out of it.
The following week, during our vacation in Chicago, friends and family asked what’s the relationship between CrossFit and kettlebell training. The answer is that kettlebells are used by some CrossFit trainers as one of many tools in the toolbox.