I get asked quite alot how I first got into kettlebells, which inevitably leads to question ‘and why on earth would you want to stand there and lift heavy weights above your head for 10 mins! Are you mental?’.
In this blog post I’ll start at the beginning and try to answer the ultimate question of ‘why?’.
As a kid I was very much an all round athlete, I played football and rugby for my school, I ran at Sale Harriers, and represented my local Swimming Club at the national level. I did alot, and in the end it was a little to much for my skinny little frame to tolerate and I began to suffer from Osgood-Schlatter disease. It got to the point where there were days I could barely walk, my sports performances suffered as I was unable to train, it just got to much for me to cope with. So, I walked away from everything, all the sports I loved I walked away from. I simply couldn’t tolerate being beaten by guys I knew I was better than, but the disease was hampering me. I don’t like the term quit, I’m not a quitter. I look at it more as retired due to injury. Whichever way you look at it all those years spent training and competing were gone. Now what?
Well, like any young teenager I found alcohol and importantly girls. You can imagine the outcome so I won’t go there. Back to the blog…
So, where do kettlebells come into it?
I eventually got myself back into running, entered quite a few 5ks, 10ks and Half Marathons. I loved it, my passion was back, I could compete again! Alas, it was not for long though, my knees were again beginning to cause me issues. In the gym I was doing lots of legs training, lots of core work, all the things that runners should be doing but nothing was helping. I saw numerous physios, and the determining factor was that my glutes were misfiring. Yes, I had a lazy backside!
On a personal level I’ve never been big into weight-training, I did it as a means to an end. Quite frankly the thought of lying down on a bench and lifting a barbell, or standing infront of a mirror doing bicep curls simply bores the #### out of me. So a fellow Peronsal Trainer at the gym, a certain Jon Bond, introduced me to kettlebells. Jon showed me some swings and snatches and from there my love grew. I did what alot of regular gym goers do and scrolled through YouTube trying to find more exercises. The kettlebells were giving me my cardio fix without running, my wholebody became leaner and stronger as one unit since I started to supplement my training with them.
Now at this point I’m going to vere off and warn people of the dangers of YouTube. There are an awful lot of extremely poor techniques shown on YouTube, quite frankly some of it is appalling and alot of the time its from other trainers aswell. So please, if you’re looking to learn some kettlebell exercises, go and see someone who is qualified as a Kettlebell Instructor. For every decent Personal Trainer there are 5 truly terrible ones, so ask them for their qualifications. If they have no specific kettlebell qualifications walk away!
I gained numerous kettlebell qualifications over the preceeding years, and all of them helped me to develop my skills further, which then gave me a level of experience far greater than anyone else in the Manchester area. My clients were loving all the benefits the training was giving them. The co-ordination and skill levels required for some kettlebell exercises is pretty unique, and they were loving the fact that no-one else could do them. Lets face it, we all like to show-off a little, well I do anyway!
For myself, one of the main things the kettlebell gave me was the ability to run again. I couldn’t tell you how many swings I’ve done over the years, but I place the swing as the fundamental exercise that allowed me to introduce running back into my own training programme. The strength and power developed in the hamstrings, glutes and core muscles is incredible. My once lazy ass is now probably the strongest muscle in my body, and it’s all thanks to the kettlebell.
As my friend Lorna Kleidman, a World Champion in Kettlebell Sport says…
‘Kettlebell training keeps lean muscle, burns fat, and gives you a nice round butt you’re not going to get with yoga.’
So where does kettlebell sport come into this?
Well as with all training, I believe there comes a time when you just think…
What else is there? Where is this going? How else can I use these kettlebells?
For me, the natural progression was to try my hand at the competitve side of kettlebell training; Girevoy Sport or Kettlebell Sport. Originating in Cold War-era Russia in 1986, the rules are as brutal as they are simple; you have 10 minutes to perform as many reps as possible without putting the kettlebells down. Unlike the Russian Hardstyle, which is more strength-oriented, to be successful at Girevoy Sport (GS) requires strength, endurance and mental toughness.
This, for me, was the ultimate challenge and so it began. About a week after I decided to train up for an event I received and email from Kilkenny Kettlebell Club in Ireland. They invited me over to a workshop they were putting on with Gregor Sobocan; at the time a World Champion lifter in his own right. This was a perfect opportunity and one not to miss. So, to cut along story short as I am beginning to ramble, in Kilkenny I made some long term friends and found myself a brilliant coach who has guided me along this chosen path of mine.
But why? Am I mental?
Am I mental? Quite possibly! I think all Girevoy Sport athletes are a unique breed of dedicated, strong and slightly bonkers bunch of individuals. We have to be. To stand on a platform for 10 minutes and lift continuously without stopping, is somewhat of a daunting prospect for most people.
So why do I do it? Why do I love it?
I do it for the challenge, and it is a challenge. I do it for the camaraderie between the athletes. Were like one great big family. At every event you attend you make more friends, you get to see your fellow athletes lift, you get to see them perform PB’s and show immense courage and never, ever give up. Every event is remarkable in its own way. You see athletes who have only been lifting for a few months make the step up onto that somewhat daunting platform for the first time. Yes the training can be somewhat menotonous, it is hard, very hard. You have to show great dedication. You have to perservere through the difficult times. You have to have faith in your coach (if you have one). Have trust in them to lead you down the path that is right for you, to enable you to reach your goals.
I Love it. I love the fact its slightly bonkers. I love the look on peoples faces when you explain what the sport is. I love lifting heavy #### above my head. I love the feeling of proudness when I see the athletes I coach perform and perform well. I love it when I see them win, that sense of accomplishment across their face, the relief that the set is over and they survived. They owned the kettlebells for that 10 minutes!
I can’t think of any sport which is as mentally and physically challenging as Girevoy Sport. That’s why I love it. It takes a unique individual to make the move from using kettlebells for conditioning purposes to using them for competition purposes. I’m proud to be part of this family of nutters. The sport is growing event by event, year by year. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it and as long as I have my health I will continue to lead.
Coach of Manchester Kettlebell Club
Become strong, join the kettlebell sport community and become skinny strong!