Monthly Archives: November 2013

My Return To Fitness and the 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge

This semester has been particularly trying for me and part of that has been a few weeks off of working out.  I’ve been generally worn out and well…lazy.  I’ve also noticed a new tightness at the waist of my pants.  This I do not support at all.  Unlike many individuals in this world when I discover my belly pressing a bit tighter against my pants I choose to work out harder.  I choose this instead of buying new pants.  Why do I do this?  Well: for one I own only a few pairs of pants that (generally) fit me very well and I’m too frugal to buy new pants anytime I get lazy. 2.) I see the tightness of my waist as a reminder and a wake up call. Not as an opportunity to spend money.  After searching for pants that looked nice, worked well on a bicycle (bike commuting) and fit well I discovered a few companies that served my purposes.  Those companies have been Betabrand and Rapha in particular. (No relation to the companies at all. I just love their clothes and you should to.)  Anyway, as I was saying, just a few months ago I was dead lifting 315 after two months of training at a body weight of 165.  Not a huge accomplishment for some but I was proud of myself.  I am a fitness enthusiast, food enthusiast, life enthusiast and amateur beer taster (bordering on pro some might say).  I am at all times generally healthier and fitter than most. Those who spend their days focussing on fitness would have an obvious edge over me. So when I focus on fitness and health I focus on life.  I am not interested in becoming the fittest man in the world.  I want to be as healthy as I can with minimal time and I do not want it to adversely affect my social life.  I desire efficient fitness. I love my gf too much to spend all day stressing about eating out.  If we are out on the town and we are hungry then it’s time to get some fantastic Austin, Texas trailer food (often organic anyways) and move on with our days.  Otherwise we eat great at home.

I know…i’m rambling some.  The point of this is that I might have done a bit too much of the unhealthy things and I might not have done enough of the healthy things.  Therefore I reached down and grabbed my kettlebell once again.  I started swinging it with great voracity.  It has been a few months since I’ve seriously attacked kettlebell swings.  I was focusing primarily on heavy bent press and dead lifts which left me fairly well exhausted at the end of the workout and I would simply whimper out or skip the kettlebell all together.  Well…the time for that has ended.  It was time to begin the war on fat (WOF) that my First Sergeant ensured many Marines in my company got to experience.  I was fortunate that I had essentially zero fat on my body as a US Marine and I was running (at that time) 21:30 three miles without breaking a sweat or breathing deeply at all.  

ok…ok…more rambling…

Time to get back on track.  So…on Oct 11th I started attacking swings again.  I started out with my 20 kg kettlebell (light) and set my clock for ten minutes.  At the beginning of every minute I performed 20 swings.  I had a plan for my war on fat.  These Marines did too.

A few years ago I had done this process.  I had recently gotten back from vacation and my EMS partner and I were at a middle school evaluating a child.  We were waiting on a parent to arrive.  The child was doing well.  My pants felt tight.  So I took my gear belt off and hopped onto a scale.  My eyes widened and I decided that the war on fat was starting then as well.  The process I chose was to add a minute of swings everyday until it was gone.  Therefore I started with ten minutes.  In a week I was up to 17 minutes.  I continued swinging my kettlebell 20 times every minute until I got to 20 minutes.  Then I started swinging it 25 times a minute until I was exhausted.  I definitely didn’t make it to 20 minutes with the 25 swings.  I did however continue up on that path until I was exhausted and needed a break from swings.  At the time of this break I had eliminated the fat on my body and people at work were asking me if I had been working out.  It was fantastic.

So…my workout consisted of 

Everyday:

Getups with 62 pound kettlebell

Bent Press with 62 pound kettlebell – 5-8 reps/2 sets

Dead lift – 5 reps/2sets – Power to the People style

and

Oct 11th – 10 minutes/swings

Oct 12th – 10 minutes/snatches

Oct 13th – 10 minutes/snatches

Oct 14th – 11 minutes/swings

Oct 15th – 12 minutes/swings

Oct 16th – 13 minutes/swings

Oct 17th – day off

Oct 18th – 14 minutes/swings

Oct 19th – 14 minutes/snatches

Oct 20th – 14 minutes/snatches

On Oct 20th I was at work and it was a slower day.  So I went online.  I was sifting through more information on kettlebell swings.  Then I ran across the 10,000 swings/month challenge.  This seemed a bit crazy and fantastic.  I was stoked.  Thanksgiving was coming up in a month and I was done with my tighter fitting pants.  So I decided to increase my swings dramatically.  If you do 500 swings 5 times a week then you are able to finish 10,000 swings in 4 weeks.  That sounded fair.  I knew that Thursday was a long day at school for me and that Sunday was a 12 hour shift at work.  Therefore I chose to perform my typical getups, bent press and dead lift on Monday, Wednesday and Friday like normal.  On top of this I was adding 500 swings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  The swings were performed with the 20kg and 24kg kettlebell.  Starting with the 24 kg kettlebell first.  I performed the initial swings with the continuation of the on the minute swing that I was already performing.  Then I would round of the set of 500 with a set of 10, 15, 25 and 50 swings.  If you do that set one time then you will have done 100 swings.  Therefore; 15 minutes of swings with 20 swings per minute will equal 300 swings.  Then I perform 10, 15, 25 and 50 swings twice to finish out the 500 total swings like follows.

Oct 21st – 15 minutes swings + 200 swings

20 swings every minute for 15 minutes = 300 swings.

10, 15, 25, 50 swings x 2 = 200 swings for a total of 500 swings that day.

Oct 22nd – 16 minutes swings + 180 swings

20 swings every minute for 16 minutes = 320 swings

10, 15, 25, 50 swings = 100 swings

10, 15, 25, 30 swings = 80 swings for a total of 500 swings.

Oct 23 – 17 min. 160 more swings 10,15,25,50 10,15, 25. 10
Oct 25 – 18 min. 140 more
10.15.25.50 10,15, 15
Oct 26 – 19 min. 120 more
10,15,25,50 10,10
 
Oct 28 – 20 min. 100 more
10,15,25,50 
Same as above : 
oct 29, 30, nov 1
Nov 2
(10.15,25.50) x 5
 
Nov 4 – 20 min. 100 more
10,15,25,50  felt a lot stronger in swings starting this week
Same as above
Nov 5 with first 400 swings all with 53lb kettlebells
 
Nov 6. Same as above except: Deadlift topped out at 270 1 set 5 1 set 3. Dropping down next workout. Initial weight was 225 on dead lift. 
Also pulled callous off of hand while dead lifting so using light (44lb) kettlebell on swings to allow some hand recovery today and tomorrow. 
 
Nov 8.  Deadlift 260 start. Swings 20 min. 100 more
10,15,25,50 
Nov 9. Nov 11, 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th Same as above (swings)

As you can see this can be an all encompassing but fun event to quickly throw yourself back into shape.  While doing this you should also remain vigilant towards overtraining as well.  On the last Friday workout I finished my workout well and quickly went to the farm in order to do some school hours that were required.  While I managed to get my hours done I did not take care of myself very well and ended up wearing myself out.  Therefore I put the last 500 swings off a couple of days until today instead of Saturday.   I would suggest to have a fair amount of experience with kettlebell prior to attempting this and/or get training from an RKC instructor.  I have never been to an instructor myself though.  Beyond that though you can see the difference that a month of swings can make.

I am fitter and my abs have far better definition now.  My obliques are starting to show up again which were a bit of a ways off when I first started.  I suspect that another month of normal work outs will get me back to my former self. 

There is a certain fierceness that is required to perform hard kettlebell swings. A strong focus along with determination. Kettlebells truly do create better individuals in my opinion. Whenever I work kettlebells hard I can feel a return to my previous focus and intensity that I had as a US Marine.

The Beauty of Barefoot

Remember growing up barefoot.  The brilliance of running, jumping and playing sans shoes.  Hardly a care in the world was envisioned as a barefooted child. There was always something grounding to it.  You felt more alive.  Truth is there is something to that.  There is good evidence that going barefoot allows you to be grounded to the Earth which then allows free electron transmission from the Earth to your body.  These electrons act as a very powerful antioxidant which could reduce inflammation in the body.  As we know, inflammation is the base cause of many chronic disease.  There is actually a documentary called Grounded that you can watch for a short time on YouTube covering a lot of this information. On the flipside a well respected Doctor that I work with recently stated that skin is not a very good conductor and he thinks that it is highly unlikely.  Of course as a Paramedic it is clear that the skin is capable of conducting electricity as shown through the example of defibrillation of a patient.  Beyond this I tend to side with nature and the simple fact that our long lost ancestors did not wear shoes and we are not born with shoes.

Beyond these aspects it has been shown that running barefoot or with barefoot/minimalist shoes is a great way to prevent injury.  Injuries are prevented by the natural changes in your running style that allow your body to use your lower extremities as the shock absorbers that they are.  With the current running shoe fad the heel of the foot strikers first while running.  This is caused by the shock absorber in the shoe eliminating the pain that you would otherwise have with this type of rhythmic event.  However, running this way causes the body to have a shock from the heel to the hip joint.  After years of this people begin to notice pain the the knees and hip joint from the constant rhythmic pounding.  On the other hand, when you run barefoot your toes touch the ground first and your heel touches down much lighter.  This creates a spring like motion that reduces the impact of the running.  Therefore your joints remain safer.  You also run with a smoother quicker motion that is more under your body instead of in front of your body when you run barefoot.  This quick video demonstrates many of these points.

Beyond all of this there is also information that is available that shows that barefoot or minimalist lifting is good for the body as well.  Two of these reasons are given in “Power to the People” by Pavel Tsatsouline.  Loads of other fitness resources and equipment such as kettlebells can be found at dragondoor.com.  Dragon Door is a fantastic resource.

1. Padded shoes can displace the center of gravity of the lifter leading to unnatural body mechanics.

2. There are reflexes that the body has based upon pressure the body senses.

Because of these issues I have chosen to lift barefoot outside these days.  I also perform all of my kettlebell exercises barefoot as well.  If it is too cold I will wear wear Chuck Taylors which many regard as the best all around shoes for weight training due to their minimalist design and thin soles.  Say nay to the naysayers and refuse those that would force your feet into a struggled tight existence.  Free your feet as nature intended and enjoy the world as we were meant to.  It just makes sense if you were to think about it.

As with every change you want to start out lighter and with less intensity for your body to be able to compensate for the changes.  These techniques should allow the body to compensate for any aspects of poor mechanics.  Your body will become stronger in the areas that you are weak which will then allow you to perform heavier more intense exercise without injury due to that misbalance.  Always remember to lift intelligently and within your limits.  It is important to remain healthy while you are becoming stronger.  That should certainly not scare you off of attempting heavier weights though.  Form is the key to remaining healthy. Challenge yourself within the limits of proper form.  

On a side note I just ran across StrongFirst: The School of Strength and I have become quite intrigued.  It looks as though Pavel Tsatsouline is the Chairman of StrongFirst.  I must look into it more.

Enjoy training one and all.  Lets get stronger.