So…. I don’t always think things through. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment of loving something (like competing in kettlebell sport) that I overextend myself and commit to doing too many things. Many months ago I was perusing the IKFF website. I like to check in regularly to see what competitions are coming up, especially ones close to Toronto. So when I saw the Chicago Classic happening in June 8th I couldn’t resist. Back in March this seemed like a good idea. Probably because back in March my kettlebell training was going amazing and I knew I was close to hitting the numbers I needed for my Rank 1 in the long cycle with the 16kg. Carl and I were talking about doing renovations but nothing was happening yet. It was a long way off from writing report cards so again, everything seemed like a great idea so I bought my plane ticket and registered. I also considered this to be extra insurance in case I didn’t hit my desired rank in April at Canadians, I had a backup plan. Turns out I didn’t need to have a backup plan since I hit my rank at the Agatsu Canadian Championships . But since my plane ticket was bought and I was registered, I decided there was no backing out, and it was a time to make a new goal. I decided I would try to finally hit triple digits and hit 100 reps. That weekend also marked almost to the day, the very first day Jason became my coach. I decided competing in this meet would be a tribute to my coach to thank him for his amazing instruction and dedication to my programming. I was also excited because even though my coach Jason wasn’t going to be at this competition, I had asked my friend Sincere Hogan if he would fill Jason’s seat and coach me through my set. He agreed, and his birthday was even going to be on the Sunday after the competition. So I now had double the motivation to hit a big number – 1 year with coach, and Sincere’s birthday.
Then all hell broke loose. Our house was gutted on the main floor, and then we unexpectedly added our only bathroom to the mix. For over a month I have been showering at StrengthBox every morning on my way to work. Wanting to make weight for this event I needed to watch my diet closely. Given that we have no kitchen (although we kept the fridge plugged in) our options were limited. I have basically been eating different but very similar versions of salad for over a month. We did cave and have take out due to living in a major construction zone, but even then I only ordered different salads. I’m pretty impressed because periods of stress generally make me crave shitty carbs but I was focused on my goal and commitment to the competition. Once May hit I was starting to feel the strain of the end of the school year and keeping on my timeline for covering the curriculum before the end of the reporting period. And ofcourse, I had to start thinking about writing report cards. These documents are so tedious and time consuming. It takes me over an hour per student to complete and I’m given no time during my work day to complete them. I was determined to finish them before the June 7th P.A day , and I came close, but still wound up being up until 3am after returning from Chicago finishing my last subject comments and editing them.
A week before the Chicago competition my world was rocked. One of my best friends (and cousin) in the whole world passed away. It came as a huge unexpected shock. Carl and I were both a mess. I thought several times about packing it in and canceling everything, but there was this little voice that was nagging at me to persevere and follow through. My cousin was a very competitive guy and amazing athlete. I would have loved for him to see me compete. I decided if there was ever a motivation to go and hit a big number, this was it. I also felt like I needed a cathartic escape to get out of town and clear my head, and hammer some kettle. It was definitely therapeutic.
The end result – I hammered hard (phrasing) and hit my goal of reaching the triple digits. I even set a PR of 14 reps from Agatsu Canadians which had only been 6 weeks previous. TOTAL – 113 reps. I really enjoyed every second of it. I had a lovely panel of judges who were super supportive and awesome, I met some new people and saw some inspiring lifters. Mission accomplished. There was a time (30lbs heavier ago) that I would constantly make excuses. I would look for any little thing to go wrong to avoid a difficult workout or competition. I would literally talk myself out of it and grant myself permission to quit. This time I was determined to carry out my goal in spite of the adversity (some of which I had created, others I had no control over). And in the end I showed that commitment and a solid routine can survive the most challenging and disruptive circumstances.
Here’s my set:
Dedicated to my cousin Matt. I love you brother.
Muscle ups are tricky… to the regular people of the world. Gymnastics – damn you all!!! I wish my parents hadn’t pulled me out of gymnastics after only 1 session. To a gymnast (or other fit lithe, free human being) it is the easiest move in the world. It just goes to show how out of touch with movement and our bodies we have become in this modern world. I am determined to reclaim this and get multiple repetitions of this move down.
A few years ago I dabbled in some specific training targeted at trying to get my muscle up. I wound up losing patience and getting frustrated and basically giving up on it. It is too vital a climbing technique to ignore. With renewed interest and fire in my belly I am going to take on this pet project for the next 4 weeks and see what happens. I feel leaner and stronger than I have felt in years so I feel primed to take on this challenge. Here’s how I plan to do it…
HOUSE OF CYN PUSH-PULL CHALLENGE 2013 (courtesy of Crossfit Wollongong)
|Monday = 38/12||Monday = 15/35||Monday = 22/38||Monday = 11/39|
|Tuesday = 31/19||Tuesday = 19/31||Tuesday = 25/25||Tuesday = 9/41|
|Wednesday = 25/25||Wednesday = 28/32||Wednesday = 27/33||Wednesday = 35/15|
|Thursday = 16/34||Thursday = 44/6||Thursday = 10/40||Thursday = 32/18|
|Friday = 9/44||Friday = 9 / 41||Friday = 37/13||Friday = 21/39|
|Saturday = 60 push ups||Saturday = 70 push ups||Saturday = 80 push ups||Saturday = 45 push ups|
|Sunday = rest||Sunday = rest||Sunday = rest||Sunday = rest|
|Total = 179push/134 pull||Total = 185push/145 pull||Total = 201push/149 pull||Total =153push/152 pull|
|Monday||Standard pushup from toes (chin/chest/thighs touch)||Ring muscle up from knees|
|Tuesday||Ring Pushups||Dead hang pullups|
|Wednesday||Standard pushup from toes (chin/chest/thighs touch)||Bear Grylls or Leg-Assisted Muscle ups on climbing structure|
|Friday||Standard pushup from toes||Bar Muscle Up Using Band|
|Saturday||AMRAP first, then broken as needed|
I’ve posted the video of my first muscle up. I haven’t really attempted multiple repetitions of muscleups and now is the time I will train to go get them.
I’m a nerd. I’m not afraid to admit it. There are certain topics I can read on and on, research and analyze, and over analyze to death and never be bored. Probably why I chose the sciences as my majors in university. I received a BSc in Biology from the University of Victoria and became fascinated by DNA and RNA extraction and advances in micro-biotechnology. I worked for over a year at the Centre for Plant Health in Victoria cloning plant viruses and using them as screening detection for fruit trees heading to all parts of Canada. The stress of relying on government grants to maintain a job got to me and sent me back to school. I had spent my undergrad working for several agencies supporting children and adults with disabilities. Many of the clients I supported also had epilepsy. I became fascinated by the “ketogenic diet” which I had administered to several clients and studied as an undergraduate project. This fascination resulted in my own project that I generated and submitted to Dr. Stephen Cunnane at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, Department of Nutritional Sciences. I convinced him to take me on as an MSc student so that I could learn more about the mechanism of action of this unique high-fat, low protein, low carb diet.
Upon completion of my MSc I was once again in the work force. This time as a Clinical Research Associate at Princess Margaret hospital with Dr. Paul Goss conducting clinical trials in breast cancer prevention, particularly looking at the role of n-3 fatty acids and it’s effect on breast cancer cells. This was an amazing experience and felt like being at school everyday as I learned from some of the top oncologists, nurses and researchers in Canada. Once again however, the stress of working from government grant, to government grant became more than I could handle and back to school I went to get my BEd to become an elementary school teacher. This is definitely my perfect career choice and I love what I do. In order to satisfy my need for research and measuring/evaluating things I frequently conduct action research within my own classrooms as I test out different teaching methodologies and evaluate their efficacy. However, this can sometimes become more qualitative than quantitative and my brain misses that side. My recent purchase of the Bio-force HRV system has become my new training toy and researching toy that has allowed me to satisfy the science obsessed side of my brain.
How it all started:
Well, if you have read any of my previous posts you will know about my love and adoration for kettlebell sport and my amazing coach Jason Dolby. Now that I have been training with a coach for a year I can confidently notice changes that I would attribute specifically to the sport of kettlebell – my body composition and overall fitness and conditioning/health are the 2 most noticeable differences. I have been competing in sports most of my life. My past experiences allbeit extremely ignorant (but based on outdated “facts”), dictated my training for decades; pain = gain, and in order to improve one’s health and aerobic capacity requires one to be beat down before you can be built up. I thought if I could barely climb stairs after EVERY workout meant that I must be doing something successful. I was constantly overtrained and injured but honestly believed I was doing it in the name of better health and “fitness”.
Then I met Jason. I questioned his coaching in the beginning because his workouts never left me sore, majorly fatigued or “beat down”. I finished every workout feeling like I could do more, and I looked forward to the next training session feeling fresh. The results (now after a year) obviously speak for themselves. My body fat is down between 12-14% which I am convinced would have been doubled (or more) a year+ ago, I have suffered no injuries in the last year and have actually noticed improvements in previous injuries sustained from other sports years ago, including chronic conditions like the osteoarthritis in my right knee. I knew that the combination of kettlebell sport specific training (SSP), as well as Jason’s choices for my general physical prep (GPP) were being prescribed in such a way that was maximizing my ability to utilize fat oxidation, and improving my athletic potential without sacrificing my health. I just had no data to support this except for my weight loss, competition results and overall feeling of badassness.
Like Meets Like
The great thing about any hobby or career choice (in my opinion) is when you meet like minded people who share the same passion for the same things you do. Within the OKC family we have an amazing network of athletes who span the globe, and the beauty of social media has allowed us the opportunity to connect with each other and share ideas, information and support. My friend BJ Bliffert introduced me to “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing” by Dr. Philip Maffetone. I will admit that I purchased the book and decided to read it based solely on BJ’s recommendation without really knowing what I was about to learn and discover as it applied to mykettlebell training. Reading it was seriously like an epiphany – similar to the one I had about food when I read Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s book “It Starts With Food.” I realized how archaic my training ideas had become and how they weren’t really based on sound physiology in the first place. Luckily the human body is very resilient and it is fairly easy to undo bad patterns by consistently replacing them with good ones.
I was also super excited when I hit p.136 of the book and read the testimonial by Dr. Stephen Gangemi who I had the honor and privilege of training with for 1 week on a MovNat retreat. He’s completed fifteen Ironman races and countless triathlons and is someone I grew to admire and respect in the time I spent with him. To know he was connected to Maffetone did not surprise me as he is one of the healthiest people I know despite having a career, family and is always in training for some intense and demanding multi-sport competition. The impact of reading the book and discussions with BJ, Stephen and some other Chu-Hu nerds as that I decided to purchase a heart rate monitor. I calculated my maximum aerobic training heart rate zone to be between 129 – 139bpm. I then decided to ensure that the GPP portion of my workouts were all done within this zone. I have no reason to work harder and tax my anaerobic system during this part of my workout which is only going to wear me down over time, as opposed to improving and building on my aerobic base. I also started recording my heart rate during my kettlebell sport specific sets. Here I was not trying to keep my heart rate within a certain range, but simply recorded the data to see where I am at and what my current “natural” trend is.
With the heart rate monitor I have noticed that during my GPP I naturally seem to fall comfortably within my aerobic zone. Although I don’t have the data to prove it, I feel like the improved responses to my overall feeling of health and well being is from this improved base that I have created over the last year. Staying within my aerobic zone also means I am using fat more efficiently as a fuel source, and that (in addition to an improved diet) explains my fat loss. What I have found most surprising is that in my kettlebell sport specific training sets I am also within a Maffetone aerobic threshold range. So far even at higher rpms my heart rate has not gone over 160bpm as a maximum, and is often under the high end of 139bpm as an average for the set. There are several things I attribute to this- these results are currently for the 16kg kettlebell which I have been competing and training with for a year so I think my body has more than adapted to this load. At the time I started measuring and recording my heart rates was only a couple of weeks from a competition where I would be in my peak performance state, and thus makes sense I could handle higher rpm at a lower heart rate. I look forward to continuing to record and measure my heart rate as I progress to heavier weighted kettlebells to see how that transition may change overtime and over the various stages of my training cycles.
Heart Rate Variability and Bio-Force
Little did I know that this heart rate monitoring would be the beginning of my nerdliness. BJ also introduced me to Joel Jamieson and his website . Joel is a walking index of useful information and research that many athletes from different sports can benefit from. What I love most about him is the way that he is using technology and creating an on-line data base that athletes can use and find real peer-reviewed literature and discussion from experts in a wide range of fields. Joel is very generous with his amazing expertise and many of his resources are free if you’re not so lazy you won’t read or watch a video! I’ve also never met such a highly regarded professional who responds so quickly to individual emails. He truly cares about helping others and learning from others and I LOVE that…and ofcourse naturally would choose to support a product created by such an individual.
My journey with Bio-Force HRV is only beginning. I can’t even begin to understand yet what it has to offer or what I am going to take away from using it. That being said, I have no doubt that it is going to be an incredibly useful tool, but is not for everyone. I think I will find success with this tool because of my nerdliness towards proper scientific data collection. For best results calculating HRV you have to measure your resting heart rate ideally at the same time each day, in a calm state. Obviously consistency is crucial in order to generate patterns that will be meaningful. For now I am content collecting data until I have obtained at least a month’s worth to start making interpretations of what it all means. It also buys me some time as I read through Jamieson’s HRV guide to try to understand more about HRV scores and patterns.
For now all I can say in the 10 days I have been measuring my HRV score is that on average it seems to be between 78 – 80 which corresponds to moderate-high aerobic fitness which is about where I would expect to find it. Again, I can’t wait to see what happens over time – will my training keep me in this score range, or will it increase further as I move up to the 20kg and eventually 24kg kettlebell? Only time will tell. Right now I am enjoying the process of data collection, and as a scientist I am smart enough to know the difference between using the tool to monitor my training, as opposed to letting scores dictate or justify how I think I “should” be feeling. I would definitely recommend this tool to any athlete who likes being physiologically connected to their training and understanding their body mechanics and how your training is influencing your overall health. I would also recommend it to the patient athlete who doesn’t mind slightly tedious data collection, and is interested in being a part of a larger data base of information that could also serve useful to others.
My current goals are to continue monitoring my heart rate during SSP and GPP training as well as daily calculation of my HRV score. By the end of the summer I will have finished reading Maffetone’s book as well as Jamieson’s HRV guide and I am sure I will have made some new revelations I look forward to sharing.
At 41 years of age I never expected to be in better physical condition then I was in my 20′s and 30′s. I have grown up being physically active and participating in competitive sports my entire life. Soccer, track, cross country, basketball, ultimate frisbee….I was always doing something. I’ve raced triathlons, ran half marathons….hiked the West Coast Trail….I love a challenge. I jokingly tell people that physical activity was my natural Ritalin. I’m sure if I was growing up today I would probably be medicated because of my hyper activity and difficulty focusing on any particular task for any particular length of time. Sports were different. If it was a sport I connected with I had all the patience in the world and could perform it repeatedly without ever getting distracted or bored.
Once I graduated university in 2000, things began to change. My diet was terrible and no amount of physical activity could make up for poor nutrition. As I hit my 30′s I could see the decline of my metabolism and could not understand how I could train for hours and hours a week and have such poor body composition. I also noticed an increase in autoimmune issues such as arthritis in my right knee. I was also constantly fighting bronchitis and lung infections.
In 2008 I knew I needed to make a change and knew that change had to include my approach to eating. I tried the Zone with limited success but chronic headaches and any body composition change was immediately met with bingeing as I found it to be a lifestyle I could not maintain. One good thing about the Zone was it made me realize how the fuel I put into my body had a direct correlation with how I felt, and of course how I looked. The power of gluten crack was really hard to kick. Around this time I met Robb Wolf, and the Whole 30 crew and tried (and failed) at several attempts of completing a Whole 30. Between 2009 – 2011 I also met the incredible Steve Maxwell and Erwan LeCorre.
These men began to change my philosophy towards my training – pain did not have to equal gain. Quality was much more important than quantity….and they introduced me to more efficient and beneficial ways to move that I still use today…and will continue to use for the rest of my life. Things were starting to change. And then it happened! In January 2012 I finally successfully completed a Whole 30!!! It was a month before my 40th birthday so I think I was extra motivated to stop making excuses. And funnily enough I wound up doing 40 days instead of 30. I felt the gluten-crack switch in my brain turn off. I felt more in control of the choices I was making, and which foods I reacted negatively to and felt strong enough to avoid (or at least limit) consuming them.
The year before that happened (2011) I met Jason Dolby and John Wild Buckley of the OKC. These amazing men introduced me to the awesomeness of kettlebell sport. They reignited my competitive side and motivated me to try my hand at learning the sport and competing. Unfortunately it took almost a year from the time we met until I actually had the courage to step on the platform, and make the necessary changes to my diet…. which happened in January 2012….which coincidentally was also the time I lost my first kettlebell competition. That, combined with my looming 40th birthday a month later helped me get off my ass and stop sucking! After my “Whole 40″ I had dropped over 10kg in 3 months and competed in my next kettlebell competition. And then I was officially bit by the kettlebell bug. Since that time I have managed to stay on track through my MovNat implementation – which supported both my movement patterns and eating patterns (thanks to Clifton Harski who taught me to be less of an asshole with my food choices), my mobility work (thanks to Steve Maxwell), and of course my kettlebell training with Jason Dolby, which I do really believe has enhanced my lean body composition as well as overall strength.
This entire journey has really been at least 4 years in the making - with the results being most noticeable in the last 2 years. I am so glad that I remained consistent and vigilant and met some amazing athletes who inspired, motivated and also lent me their support. Next month will mark my first year training under Jason Dolby and the OKC. With his guidance I continue to make huge gains in my performance as I continue to work my way up the GS ladder. Below are some stunning reminders of what a little (o.k – A LOT) of hard work can do.
I should also add that body composition was really the least of the gains I have made since making some serious changes to my lifestyle. The pictures are also photographic evidence of how much my kettlebell sport skills have dramatically improved and become much more badass!! I also went from contemplating surgery on my arthritic knee to laughing at the notion and living practically pain free (with zero interruptions to my training). My confidence and self-esteem has increased from constantly hiding behind baggy outfits to discovering the awesomeness of Glyder apparel and Lululemon Feats of strength I was able to perform at a heavier weight, I have still maintained being much leaner. Overall, I’m much more positive, optimistic, healthier and happier….
It has been quite some time since I posted something in this section of my blog. I have been neglecting a bit of my MovNat practice which I expect to change now that the spring is here and there are more opportunities for me to get outside and train. Although my main focus this past year has been on my kettlebell sport training, I haven’t forgotten about all of the amazing things MovNat does for my body, and I have actually been using them in my warmups on my kettlebell training days (I just haven’t been posting them). My ground work drills I am convinced have done wonders for the health of my knees which continues to allow me to compete in kettlebell. I have continued to work on my pullups and techniques for getting over the bar (e.g. bear grylls). I will also be incorporating Systema into my practice and working on my combat/defensive skills. Balancing and jumping are two areas I have probably avoided the most and will be working on this summer.
This video is an example of how I love to warmup for kettlebell. This past week we had some of the best weather we have had for 2013 and I was so excited to move my training equipment back outside. Having the backyard – although still quite a small space, is still larger than indoors and allows me to practice. I like to make a mini combo and spend 12-15 minutes on it before I even touch my kettlebells. I was so excited to be outside I had already done my warmup before I realized it would be a great idea to film it. I know I have some non-MovNat work in there like my head stand leg raises and ring dips but whatever…I just like to play Just a reminder I haven’t forgotten the importance of including this work into my training and to continue to develop my skills and challenge myself.
This year marks my 3rd year participating in the Tactical Strength Challenge. Deadlift was something I learned I was good at pretty quickly and is one of my favourite lifts. Pullups are something I have always thought to be important. The idea of being able to pull your entire body weight has so many practical and survival implications I have always been obsessed with being able to do as many as possible. I also love climbing and pullups were my first progression to being able to climb over and on top of things. My brother also inspired me to develop my pullups from the time I was about 7 years old as I saw him training them all the time, and sometimes he would have me hold his waist so he could do them weighted. Snatches were always the mortal enemy. But I have to say I am improving over time. The first time I did this event I had to constantly set the bell down to rest and could only manage about 5 reps per arm before having to hand switch. This year I was able to limit hand exchanges to 10 rep intervals.
I really love all of the events of this challenge. I also think they go well with my GS goals and conditioning for long cycle. In the future I would love to build to a 350# deadlift, 15-20 pullups and over 120 snatches….but that is going to take some serious work. My current training is definitely taking me in this direction so I’m going to chase after these numbers. The goal will be to incorporate more deadlifts and snatches into my GPP training. I literally spent 1 week preparing for this year so I’m really happy I was able to improve from last year, that being said, it would be nice to invest a bit more time to see what my full potential could be.
The Tactical Strength Challenge has also become important to me to participate in because it is also a fundraising event Greg Carver from StrengthBox has organized the last 2 years to raise fund for the Markham Stouffville hospital which runs programs and initiatives for children and adolescent mental health. As a teacher who loves her profession, the health and well-being of all children is something I care deeply about. I will always do whatever is within my power to make lives better for our youth.
Here’s a recap of my previous Challenges:
|Body Weight (lbs)||146.6||136||130|
|Dead hang pullups (reps)||6||13||14|
|16kg Snatches (5min) (reps)||86||99||105|
In two more months it will mark my first year of training for kettlebell sport. This weekend marked my third “official” competition – the Agatsu Canadian Kettlebell Sport Championships. Here’s a quick recap of my competitions to date which I have organized as:
BEFORE COACH JASON DOLBY
Canadian Kettlebell Sport Championships APRIL 2012 – 16kg LC 10 minutes, 65kg weight class. Final result – 121 reps, 1st place, Rank 2 (missed Rank 1 by 1 repetition! )
It was after this meet I contacted Jason to see if he was taking on any new students. Two months later we started preparing for IKFF Nationals in Novi, Michigan. After 6 months of training with Jason:
AFTER COACH JASON DOLBY
IKFF Nationals NOVEMBER 2012 – 16kg LC, 10 minutes, 59kg weight class. Final result – 83 reps, 2nd place, Rank 2
It is pretty obvious to see the difference Jason’s coaching is making on my technique, efficiency and overall conditioning. Jason’s programming along with super clean paleo living and I lost 11kg and dropped a weight class.
My next mission was to further dominate the sunshine bell and achieve my Rank 1. This is the necessary standard Jason requires before he will even consider allowing me to begin training and competing for the next weight up. My goal is to one day hit 120+ reps with the 16kg but with my next competition about 7 weeks away, that is unlikely to happen….but my next goal with the 16kg LC is to break the 100rep barrier I came close at this year’s Canadian Kettlebell Sport Championships.
Canadian Kettlebell Sport Championships APRIL 2013 – 16kg LC 10 minutes, 59kg weight class. Final result – 99 reps, 1st place, Rank 1
I’m flabbergasted with this result and couldn’t be happier. It is even more obvious to me the difference Jason’s coaching is making. My technique, efficiency and breathing…it’s all starting to click! I just need time to lay down a serious number of reps with these tools. I knew Kettle Cave Camp was going to pay off and it did, along with another 5 months of hard training…a 16 rep PB!!!!!
There is still so much left to do! For the next 6 months, my goals are:
1. To perform over 100 reps in 16kg Long Cycle (June)
2. Compete and survive my first 10 min set in the 20kg long cycle (August)
3. Perform over 400 reps at the 1HLC with the 16kg bell (October)
4. Try for another 10 min Long cycle PR with the 16kg (130+???) (November )
I’d love to get seriously sappy about how much I love my coach and OKC family and how much they inspire and motivate me to work hard every day….I’ll “man” up for Buckley and tone it down a notch. One of the toughest things I’ve found in this kettlebell sport experience has been my ability to trust myself – particularly when it comes to competition. I LOVE to train. Having the confidence to endure an insane workout is never an issue. For me, the terror comes when stepping on the platform where critiquing eyes are watching your every move. Where’s it’s you and the clock and you have to try to block everything out and focus on your goal…. while everyone can clearly see what and how you’re feeling every moment of your set. My mind goes insane with stupid “what if” scenarios that have never happened in training but I somehow am convinced will happen in competition. It was stupid fear thinking like this that prevented me from even trying it. It took my friend Boris over a year just to get me to enter a press competition. I had the same crazy fears racing track for over a decade. Luckily, I force myself to do shit that makes me uncomfortable, and once I taste that first competition I’m hooked to try againandagain. Having great teammates and a great coach helps the competition anxiety. Knowing how much faith Jason has in me and my training helped me believe when I began to feel doubtful. My teammates who kept reminding me to trust in my training, kept me focused and strong. That kind of support makes you invincible and ready for any challenge. I knew if I was going to get on the platform, my only option was a personal best.