Adversity, Focus, Discipline

These are just a few of the words that come across my mind at this very moment. I’m lucky enough to be able to spend my life with a woman that has an equal if not greater passion for health and fitness as I do. We just finished a training session, and although with different programs and different goals, we still enjoyed sharing the same space and working to better our lives.

A month ago, after purchasing a couple kettlebells (10lb and 15lb) I began teaching my fiancée, Lauren Sparrow, the technique of the kettlebell 2-handed swing, a skill’s success, which in my mind, is determined on 3 things:

1) efficiency of body’s movement
2) breathing pattern
3) confidence in your own strength

Efficiency is one of the keys to the swing (or any kettlebell lift for that matter) because most workouts call for either one of two things: a lighter overall weight for a longer duration, or a heavier weight overall for shorter but multiple amounts of sets. This calls for the body to need to find a way to work only as hard as it needs to for each repetition as so it can complete the desired workout without injury. Thus, efficiency of movement was born into kettlebell training.

A natural athlete she is, however, she had trouble with the timing of the movement and the ability to keep the kettlebell close to her center of gravity. As you can imagine, swinging a weighted object on a longer lever arm than necessary will eventually damage the fulcrum point, in this case, her lower back. After bringing her swings along gradually in volume and duration, she continued to have trouble with her back due to the lack of total efficiency. Being a woman that seems to always catch on to athletic movements right away, her frustration began to steam like a teapot.

Breathing pattern goes a long way with swinging a kettlebell as well. Depending upon your weight and duration, you have 2 types of patterns to choose from. Paradoxical breathing is utilized in traditional weightlifting and with heavier sets of work. Think squatting for example: most people have learned to take a breath in on the way down into the squat and exhale as they stand up. Lauren happens to be one of those athletes and let me tell you, old habits die hard!

Anatomical breathing is the opposite and is most utilized in competitive kettlebell lifting. As the bell swings through your legs, you exhale either once or twice, and then inhale as the weight rises on the upswing. This is so that when the weight of the bell strikes your body through the forearm, the breath is not fighting the movement. Think boxing for example: when someone punches you in the stomach, the body’s reaction is to exhale greatly due to the force it is accepting. Same thing occurs with kettlebell training. You get the picture at this point. To do the opposite of what’s natural for the body for an extended duration would cause a massive spike in heart rate and would prematurely end your workout for more than one reason (too tired, technique goes away, overly sweaty palms).

Lauren has always been taught to breathe paradoxically and couldn’t seem to adapt and would eventually have to stop the exercise due to her body feeling out of rhythm. Add this together with efficiency leaks and you can start waving a towel at the fire alarm due to the amount of steam in the house. “Ashley” used to be her middle name that day, however, we both agreed that “Frustration” showed up on her birth certificate for quite a while.

Confidence in your strength seals the deal for me. To have it means you pick up a kettlebell no matter the weight and give it your best shot for as long as you can. Lacking confidence means you walk up to the bell and say to yourself, “Well, I’m just going to go for about 10 of these at most cause I know it’s out of my range and I don’t want to look like a fool when I start to struggle in front of all these people.”

Knowing that she was already strong enough to handle the 15lb (as I continued to watch her swing it high in the air over and over), I had her try to feel what "heavy" for her felt like, handing her the 16kg that I have in my arsenal. She struggled with picking it up and swinging it a few times. Frustration was no longer the issue at this point. She was beyond pissed. She dropped the bell now known to her as “Big Bertha”, exclaiming, "there’s no way I could EVER do that.” The word "ever" had a little bit of her Sparrow ‘swag’ to it, thus the all-caps.

I recently signed her up to Lisa Shaffer’s 10,000 Kettlebell Swings in January, knowing that through her hard work and ability to overcome obstacles, she’d find nothing but success. That amount of success was completely underrated.

For the first few days now, she’s knocked out each workout designed by me to get her to the goal with her 15lb kettlebell, while grooving a great pattern of swinging and tempo.

Today, she decided to take on a different challenge. After completing 7 rounds of 50 swings with the 15lb’er, she declared to me during a quick water break that she was going for the 16KG for the last set of 8. I didn’t try to stop her. I could see the efficiency of movement sinking in, I could hear the breathing staying steady and sharp, and her blue eyes glared with confidence as she stared at Big Bertha.

“Go for it baby” were my only simple instructions to my amazing fiancée.

Needless to say, she cranked out 50 reps in a row with great technique, finished her treadmill intervals, and walked into the living room with hands thrusted high a la Rocky Balboa. 

As I finished my set, I came in and watched her knock out yet another set of 50 reps with the 16kg. 100 total. Her choice, not mine.

She faced the challenge within herself and created adversity out of it. She stepped back from the situation to gain focus. She performed quality practice, which developed discipline. She accomplished way more than 10,000 swings that month; she found a new level of belief in herself in the challenge called “life”.

When was the last time you said, “There’s no way I could EVER do that!!” Whatever “that” may be, go give it a shot; you never know how it might turn out and who you’ll be afterwards.

Bill Meyer, SCE, CKT
Owner, Meyer Fitness

Bill Meyer is a fitness enthusiast that loves to provide clients with new ways to challenge themselves in the world of health. As a Certified Personal Trainer and IKFF Certified Kettlebell Teacher, he owns his own training studio called Meyer Fitness in Norfolk, Virginia, determined to change the lives of the community around him one by one. Bill and Lauren have 2 black labs and 1 cat, and are getting married June 4th, 2011.

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