Sunday, January 1, 2017
The December 3rd Jingle Bells Kettlebell Competition at Crossfit Sweetwater in Suburban Atlanta marked my first return to Kettlebell sport competition in over three years. Despite entering at the last minute, I was able to win the 2x24kg five minute long cycle event. I had not planned to compete in 2016. I started the year focusing on building my squat strength, and by the time my buddy Eric asked me to enter an October half marathon last spring, I had set a personal best in the full squat. Honestly, I'm not a gifted runner but I liked the idea of the challenge and the opportunity to take long training runs with my friend every weekend for several months. So I set the squat focus aside and embarked on a 20 week half marathon training schedule. Hurricane Matthew cancelled our race just as we were packing our car to leave. Suddenly my fitness challenge for the year had vanished and I wasn't sure what to do. That's when I was invited to enter the Jingle Bells Competition. Although I'd spent months working on an endurance base, I had not trained the competition lifts in three years. Bearing that in mind I registered to use the 20kg bells for the men's ten minute long cycle event instead of my usual 24kg bells. Having less than two months to train, I knew anything more than that would be too ambitious. i began training right away using the 16kg and 20kg bells. When the heat schedule arrived the night before the event, I saw that almost every male competitor was using the 16kg bells. I was the lone competitor using anything heavier. The only exception was a heavyweight crossfit athlete and competitive weightlifter who'd entered the 5 minute long cycle sprint event with 2x24kg. That got my interest. Since we were scheduled to lift next to each other, why not give the spectators a true head to head competition with 2x24kg? And, I have to admit, my competitive side was itching to lift against a younger, stronger athlete. This was truly a foolhardy decision. I literally had not picked up two 24kg bells for a set of clean and jerks in three years. Despite this fact, I emailed the organizer and asked to switch to the 2x24kg event. The day of the event I talked myself through the mechanics of the lift using heavier bells. The hard part, I knew, in adjusting to heavier bells is the jerk. Your legs are the last to acclimate to heavier bells, and it usually takes weeks for your legs to recalibrate the mechanics for the lift, in addition to adapting to the increased conditioning demands of the heavier weights. And not to state the obvious, but it's just harder to repeatedly jerk heavier bells overhead. I knew I'd need to have near perfect, efficient mechanics on every clean in order to save all my strength for the jerks. If did that, then I would maximize the reps I could complete. In talking through the preparation for my set with Kettlebell sport coach (and legend) Ken Blackburn, he estimated I'd average 8 to 8.5 rpm, or 40-45 reps. He hit it dead on the money as I finished with 43 reps. Although a far cry from my 60 rep personal best for five minutes, it was still good enough to win the event. I honestly didn't know if I could go the entire five minutes, but thankfully, I fell into a groove right away and the time passed,quickly. The overall event was friendly and well run. All of the competitors showed good sportsmanship, and there was a strong feeling of comraderie. Jenn Casey and her colleagues at Crossfit Sweawater were gracious hosts. And I can't overlook the awesome Mexican buffet that we all got to enjoy after lifting. I'll be looking forward to their next event. Happy New Year, and God bless you all!
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Since taking office as the DA, I'm not able to train for GS like I used to. It's not so much the time commitment - I exercise every morning before breakfast. The true limiting factor is the energy requirement to sustain that kind of training. Simply put, lifting kettlebells is like sprinting up a steep hill. It's hard to "ease" into it, or to work at a low intensity. You're either busting your butt or you're not. There's no halfway. I've written some posts about my struggles with tendinitis that first surfaced in 2011. For kettlebell sport lifters, it generally manifests itself as a soreness or even sharp pain in one or both elbows. And that's when the fun starts. Since I wrote my blog posts about my tendinitis struggles, several lifters have contacted me about their own experiences, and many have asked for advice. Given how many have asked, I thought I'd write this to help them and anyone else who faces the same struggles. The greatest asset of a kettlebell sport athlete is a solid endurance base. You can get that base from almost any aerobic activity. Running is the traditional form of GS crosstraining and endurance building, but it can also include rowing or cross country skiing or anything that provides a good endurance base. Considering that we're talking about overuse injuries, it's probably not a bad idea to do a variety of activities to keep any kind of overuse injury from developing. But relying on your GS exercises themselves for your endurance base? Forget about it. Why? Because... but it never truly goes far away. Yeah, so this is the worst part. Once you get tendinitis, you will always be subject to it coming back. Even after you're cleared by your doctor, even after you've returned to GS and broken all of your old records...it can come back. And if you don't monitor your activity to ensure you aren't training too hard too often, you are guaranteeing that it will come back sooner rather than later. The sad fact is that tendinitis hits athletes "of a certain age". Call it an arthritis or bursitis preview. But once it's a part of your life, you're going to have to deal with it. but it does mean you have to be intentional about how you train. What I recommend is training like you're going to run 5K road races. Run at least three days a week, and walk on the other days. Squats are a good way to maintain strength, although even deadlifts or swings can aggravate your injury if you haven't completely healed. Once all symptoms have gone away (for at least a month), then, and only then return to the kettlebell sport lifts. Use light weights as you resume, and even after you are hitting your old numbers with your competition weight kettlebells, continue to spend a large part of your time using lighter weights at higher rpms. Monitor your training carefully, and any day that you feel any soreness either do a sprint set with lighter bells, go for a run, or both.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
At a recent meet, some new lifters asked me for advice and the benefit of my experience. I think "benefit of my experience" is the more appropriate term, since I feel pretty inadequate when I consider the level of coaching available out there. Sergey Rudnev immediately comes to mind, although there are many, many great coaches available. Still, I get asked enough questions by enough folks that I thought it may be helpful to write a post that shares the insights I've gained and the limited knowledge I've accumulated during the countless hours I've spent lifting these funny shaped objects in my garage. I'll start with the basics: Kettlebell sport is an endurance sport. Anything you can do to increase your general endurance will help your numbers on the platform. If you are not running, you should start. If you can't run, find an alternative. Many Russian and Russian-coached GS athletes do circuit training to increase their GPP (they also run, of course). And i know more than a couple have used rowers. But running is the gold standard for additional conditioning work. Strength helps, but as of yet there's no statistically measurable benefit. Even Ultra-marathoners strength train, and from an injury prevention stand point, it's a good idea. And there are studies that show improvement in experienced runners who add strentgh training to their regimens, so it only stands to reason that GS athletes would also benefit. However, absolute strength, and even strength endurance, are not predictors of GS performance. The most persuasive reason for strength training for the GS athlete is that most of the top athletes are well-rounded in their conditioning. I will say this: I did my best numbers with the 2x24kg bells at a time when my arms were skinny and flabby and I'd spend most of the proceeding months just running, walking, and doing light squats. Look at strength training as an ancillary part of your training, not as an avenue to bigger numbers. but this method works best for me. There are many trainers with proven records of success that engage in different types of interval training. But I have found that knowing what your personal records are with a given weight for a given time always gives you something to work towards. Even if you don't feel like attempting to break your 10:00 record with your competition bell tonight, you might feel up to beating your 4:00 record with the next lighter set.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Eight weeks ago today I saw that Scott Shetler was hosting the AKA/IUKL Georgia State Kettlebell Championships. I started training for the event that night, and the next day I registered and paid my entry fee. Many of you know that I took off from kettlebell sport training for most of 2012 to run for DA in my district. I drastically reduced my workouts and intensity, and essentially was de-conditioned for almost a year. After winning the election, I resumed more rigorous workouts, but I had to take it slowly, and I wasn't training for kettlebell sport. Mostly, I worked on improving my squat and ran in charity 5k road races. All that changed 8 weeks ago when I saw the comp was scheduled. I paid the entry fee just to make myself train for the event. I knew that otherwise the demands of my job and family would keep me from serious sport training and I'd do something easy and "sensible". Merely paying the fee made me train, even when I was tired or it was inconvenient. It became very clear early on that my endurance had suffered greatly since last year. I had difficulty lifting the 24kg bells beyond 5 minutes, and I couldn't hold the same pace as I did before. Still, I lifted as often as possible (even on vacation at the beach) and I ran on the other days. Today was the comp, and I was fortunate enough to win the amateur men's heavyweight division for long cycle with 77 reps of 2x24kg. While that result is 20 reps shy of my personal best, it was good enough to earn a Rank I from the AKA/IUKL, and win the amateur division. It's also 1 rep better than when I won Best Male Lifter in 2009 at the Southeast Championships. I'll take it. So what's next? After successfully returning to competition, my next step is to begin training towards a pro ranking with the AKA/IUKL, and enter some road races to make me improve my overall conditioning. I'm running another 5K on Labor Day, and I hope to order some 32kg bells soon. For now, I'll leave you with photos of me and my friends Scott Shetler, Josh Dunn (who won the pro division and best male lifter), and Mike Sherman (who won best male lifter for biathlon):
Friday, January 4, 2013
Those of you who know me (either personally or on Facebook) know that this was not a year for athletic goals for me. Professional goals? Yes. Athletic? Not so much. I successfully ran for DA in my community, and running for office made severe demands on my time and my energy. I spent most of the year becoming deconditioned, and most workout involved five minutes of easy long cycle with two 20kg kettlebells. Since the election was over, I've resumed working out with a vengeance. The difference this time is the emphasis. I've heard it said that men in the 40's lose one pound of muscle per year. Many trainers recommend weight training to men in their 30's and 40's to prevent this natural decline. I've also thought that adding a basic weight training routine would help prevent the recurrence of tendinitis in my elbows. So after the campaign ended I started a regimen of cleaning and pressing (not jerking) a Kettlebell, and double Kettlebell front squats. A few days ago I shifted my focus to dead lifting, back squats and presses. I know that I'm best motivated by competition, and there are many powerlifting contests in my area. I've decided to set a goal of hitting the "intermediate" level of dead lifting for my weight class, which is 350 lbs. I may enter a 3 lift meet as well (bench press, squat and dead lift). Until then I'm enjoying working on a new challenge. I'll let you know how it goes. David
Sunday, June 10, 2012
So since my tendinitis came back earlier this year, I took some time off, then resumed lifting very slowly. I took great care to manage both the frequency, volume, and intensity of the training load so that the tendinitis didn't creep back up. This meant using the 20kg bells more often than the 24's (forget using the 28's, I've almost written them off). Despite all this care my elbows have been increasingly sore, and several days ago I had a sharp pain in the left elbow when I was doing some chores. Fantastic. So now it looks like I'm going back to running, walking and squats while my elbows heal. I suppose that I shouldn't be frustrated. This time last year I was in the same position. And after a summer of running I set several new personal records within weeks of resuming GS training. Nevertheless its quite frustrating that the tendinitis seems to hit me every time I near a competition, regardless of the care I take in managing the training load. I'm beginning to think that, once the elbows are healed, I should continue running and do nothing for my upper body but very low volume moderate intensity workouts. The idea would be to continue that for a year or so, and only then return to GS. In the meantime, I am enjoying running and walking at night. There are worse things than the runner's high. Until next time.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Yesterday was Saint Patrick's Day, a day I always celebrate because of my Irish heritage, and my appreciation for his work as an abolitionist and minister to the Irish People.
Fittingly, this week was my first to return to using the ubiquitous green 24kg kettlebells. Commonly referred to as "the people's bells" (I prefer that to the more derisive "mediocre balls") the 24kgs bells are the most common weight for amateur and senior men's competitions. I have heard that in Russia and Eastern Europe its not uncommon for some contests to be limited to 24kg-only for the men instead of including the 32kg weights for the pro-level athletes. Maybe I just like to remember that since my tendinitis has prevented me from lifting the heavier bells with the intensity I'd like.
In any event, on my first day back I limited myself to 40 repetitions. I was glad I completed that in 3:45, but I know it will be at least a couple months before I threaten the hundred rep barrier again. In the meantime, I'm lifting only 3-4 days a week (instead of my usual 5-6) and running the other days. I'm sure I'll use the 20kg bells occasionally just to keep my elbows rested. I'll let you know how it goes.