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The Art of Cultivating Kettle

August 23, 2013

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For me the word kettle can be used as a noun, verb or adjective. It means many things to me. I have poured my heart and soul into that iron ball and it has not disappointed in the number of life lessons it has taught me. Last weekend I competed in the 2nd Annual Bay Area Open Kettlebell Championships put on by the one and only Orange Kettlebell Club. I had been preparing for this competition for months. Potentially even longer if you consider my goal since beginning the sport to climb as high up that GS ladder as I possibly can. Kettle has taught me that this must be a patient ascent, and yet I have quickly been making progress. My coach Jason Dolby has done an amazing job of keeping me humble and honest and does not just help me train my physical self, but my mental self as well. He has a list of books he likes his students to read that not only teach you life lessons but also give you insight into understanding him and the way he coaches and trains. I decided to read one of the books on his list on the plane flying to Oakland. Coach Wooden by Pat Williams is an excellent read and left me wanting to try even harder to be the best person I can be. Some of the ideas from this book really encapsulate what was so amazing about this weekend so I am going to try to link the two of them together.

BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

I am admittedly a very competitive person…perhaps borderline unhealthy competitive depending on the situation. There is a reason my husband won`t play chess with me anymore…but I have always been results and numbers oriented in terms of the way I defined success. If I ran the race in a certain amount of time or if I scored a certain number of points or completed a certain number of reps THEN I was successful. Anything else was unsuccessful. You did it or you didn’t.  I was definitely like this with kettle. Dolby would send me my workouts and I did whatever it took to make sure I hit my numbers (adequate sleep, good nutrition and 100% effort). For 14 months I did everything he asked of me and never missed my time or numbers. I thought this was normal, and the only reason I was experiencing success. Then, two weeks before the Cali Open I had a rude awakening. My epic 8min shark with the 20kg at 10rpm was waiting for me. I thought I was going to crush it. Nope.

I was finding my groove with kettle and reaching the max of my physical potential – for now, at this point in time. This set was the end of the line. Still, there is nothing wrong with accepting where your body is at. I know one day 10rpm with the 20kg is going to feel like the easiest thing. Ofcourse I did not take it that well at the time and had a full blown mental breakdown of tears… but then, Coach Wooden (and my childhood friend Mark Outram) helped me put it all in perspective. See Coach Wooden grew up striving to live up to 7 principles. The first one of those being to be true to yourself.

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” – Coach Wooden

As soon as I read this I immediately felt my nerves and anxiety over the competition subside. Who cares about one shitty workout? I was already successful and the shitty workout, and even the competition weren’t going to change that. Nothing could change the blood, sweat and tears I had put into 14 months of workouts without missing one day. I enjoyed every single workout, none of it ever feeling like a chore ever. I did absolutely everything my coach asked me to do and trusted him completely. I was ready to ride that 20kg kettle horse and see just how long I could stay on. In training Jason and I had been aiming for 10rpm for me and I knew I was close.  The closer it got to the competition the more I had to respect the fact that my body wasn’t quite ready for that pace. Still, for a first time performance using the 20kg I will take 81 reps (and CMS) any day of the week! I busted my ass for that! I know exactly what I need to work on and trust me, the next competition with the 20kg  will be just as epic and hopefully in the triple digits!

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OKC Bay Area Open Kettlebell Championships 2013 – Flight #13

 

HELP OTHERS

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The next Wooden principle that rang out to me this weekend was the principle of helping others. Wooden often said ” You cannot have a perfect day without helping others with no thought of getting something in return.” Something I love about all of my OKC kettlebell kin is their ginormous hearts. You may recall from my previous post about how supportive the OKC is of the talents and gifts their members possess, and how they look for ways to lift us up and promote in the most humble, generous and self-less way…. and here is another example. I am an ambassador for Kettlebells4Autism, founded by my friend and fellow lifter Christina Danos. In my next section I will be talking about friendship and everything I say easily applies to Christina. Knowing her just automatically makes my life better, she has the hugest heart. You would think starting a charitable organization would be easy, and it has been anything but. Christina handles the stress of this task with grace, beauty and strength as she pushes the movement forward. In February of this year I had done some promoting of Kettlebells4Autism through the 90sec charity lifting event that launched everything in motion.

After posting the  KB4A video my kettle family and friends became excited about it and some even pre-ordered t-shirts from me to bring to California. I told Christina she should bring a bunch to sell at the competition but she was too respectful and polite and did not want to encroach on the OKC event. I knew exactly how John, Jason, Juliet and Nazo would feel about it so I told them. How did they respond? They highlighted it on their Facebook page and encouraged everyone to support the cause. Those of us at the meet know the other big announcement the OKC made, but I will refrain from posting here so that Christina and KB4A can announce it when the time is right, but suffice to say Christina and I were “sweating emotions out our eyeballs” simply overwhelmed by the love and generosity. It’s about the lifting, AND it’s about soooooo much more!!!! Nothing made my heart melt more then looking at all of the photos of people in their KB4A t-shirts and to know that the message is getting out there. I need to move on before I short circuit my laptop with tears…

Ofcourse I can’t forget all of the little ways Chu Hus helped Chu-Hus this weekend – from giving rides places (Ken Black, Harshmans, Cara Bella), to letting Chu Hus spend the night, cooking crafts and bbq’s (Sarah Lightfoot), to providing medical aid (Tricia Dong), or that caffeine fix (Dave). Nothing was sexier then seeing the boys pitch in and dismantle everything as quickly and efficiently as they had set it up. Something about a guy in an OKC shirt, lifting heavy shit, and a truck…doesn’t get much sexier. So thanks boys…THAT was VERY helpful 😉

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MAKE FRIENDSHIP A FINE ART

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The last Wooden principle I want to make a connection with is making friendships a fine art. Let’s face it…I’m not a kid anymore. At 41 years of age I just have a super low tolerance for bullshit. Bottom line is this – if I am going to play a role in your life it is only going to be positive and supportive, and if I am letting you into mine, it has to work both ways. Something I love about kettlebell sport – and this possibly could be club specific to the OKC, but we compete without being competitive with each other. This does not mean that we don’t push each other, hell no! But at the end of the day we all struggle way more with our own inner demons and meeting our own goals. We don’t have time for the bullshit of comparing ourselves to others. We are here to support each other and drive each other to be the best versions of ourselves possible. For me, one of the most incredible parts of the weekend wasn’t even stepping on the platform and having a good result. It was about the amazing people I met, and how they have positively influenced my life.

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GOOD FRIENDS BUILD YOU UP

I am absolutely madly in love with everyone involved with the OKC (…duh!). I’m about to highlight some particularly special people that impacted my weekend, and if your name is not mentioned it is only for this post…you are always in my thoughts and I know your name will show up in my blog eventually… 🙂

If someone is truly your friend they challenge you to be the best version of yourself as possible. My home girl Cara Bella is this person in my life. She is such a perfectionist for technique and movement efficiency and it shows in every one of her sets which always look flawless. From the first time I saw her lift she inspired me to take the same care in my lifting to show the sport it’s highest respect by executing each repetition cleanly. We help each other stay grounded on this principle by keeping each other accountable to that standard and speaking up when it’s not there, and I love her for that. That sense of pride in my lifting inspires and influences the sense of pride and purpose I put into other areas of my life as well, these things tend to have a trickle down effect…. I would also like to add that in addition to Cara, I have grown up watching and admiring American lifters like Terri Parker, Juliet Lederle, Shermayne Sheppard and Christian Goldberg who all strive to understand and execute the sport in the most technically pure way possible. After the competition my admiration fan club has extended to the OKC-Juno peeps who I got to know for the first time. They respect technique like a sacred art form and put heart and soul into every rep. Thanks everyone for being so inspiring to watch and learn from!

Those of us within the OKC are part of a little diverse community of interests. True friends respect these differences and enjoy learning from them. I couldn’t move on from this section without mentioning my HRV Chu Hu nerds. I love that there are a group of us who are open to new ideas and not afraid to experiment with new technologies in the interests of better understanding our health and training. And ofcourse all of the insights we share and use to help others….or at the very least try to convert to becoming data collecting, pattern analyzing nerds like ourselves. My conversations and information sharing with BJ Bliffert, Rebecca Riggs, Juliet Lederle, and Sara Moore have really helped increase my understanding of our training macrocycles and helped me make a connection to my fellow lifters. For obsessive athletes like many of us it is often hard to accept the rest that our bodies need to recover and prepare for the next training session. I’ve found my HRV discussions with my teammates and coach have helped me immensely to make smarter decisions which ultimately prevents overtraining and injury.

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TRUE FRIENDS ARE ENCOURAGERS AND CHEERLEADERS

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True friends are encouraging and supportive and aren’t afraid to tell you how they feel about you. My teammates are simply the best at this. This sport is very new to me and having only been training for a little over a year, I listen to my Chu-Hus intently to learn what I can and take away those golden nuggets to improve myself. Without their honest feedback and positive encouragement I’m not sure I would still be lifting, and if I was I know I would not enjoy it as much. I love how completely out of nowhere, we will just check in and remind each other of our awesomeness, often intuitively timed during one of those low or insecure moments which has this amazing effect of injecting you with the inspirational fuel to continue.

For the competition I asked my friend and teammate John Harshman to coach me through my set. I really respect him as a coach and lifter and I knew with all of the athletes Jason had competing at the meet, plus competing himself he was going to be spread thin. There are very few people in this world I will let stand so close to me and support me through a lifting set. To me, it’s a personal exchange and one I honour greatly when asked. It’s one thing to count reps, and it’s another to coach. Chu-Hus have a way of knowing exactly what another Chu Hu needs. There were 3 distinct moments of panic for me during my set that Harshman helped me through:

Rep 30ish – I was still on my first arm (right) and I was shocked how taxed my grip felt so early into the set. A reminder to relax and I made a 5rep PR on this side.

Rep 66-67 – Jason had just yelled out that he believed in me and I swear my heart rate jumped another 20 bpm. My arms started to tremble as I tried pushing the pace to get in more reps, but was struggling to do so cleanly. Another calming reminder from Harshman reminded me that relaxation and slowing down the pace was going to get me through.

Rep 76 – The number I needed for CMS. I knew I only had a few reps left in my arm, I had already done 4 more reps then my previous personal best, and I was a minute over my longest set. We’re talkin’ real panic!! LOL! I barely made the clean when Harshman yelled “You’ve got it!” Our Chu connection was a calming one and somehow I sort of settled down enough to squeeze out 5 more reps. I couldn’t have done that without him.

I love my kettle brothers, John Harshman and Jonathan Moorehead. I love our conversations about our training and programming cycles. It’s awesome, and I think extremely important as a lifter to have those kinds of connections. We are like little 8 year olds before Christmas the night before we receive our workouts. I love playing the guessing game of what the next shark will be, and discussing with my teammates and coach the best/most fun/punishing forms of GPP we can experiment with next. It all just fuels my enthusiasm and love of my training and the sport.

At the risk of sounding even more cheesy then I already have I will end with a quote from a Swedish pop star. But I love it because I feel as though all of my Chu Hus have chosen to live life to the fullest, in the most positive, uplifting way possible with strength, respect, loyalty and trust….and with zero inhibitions about keeping it real whether it is mushy love or tough love. It’s a great life.

OKC Cali Open 201

“Life’s a game made for everyone and love is the prize.” Tim Bergling

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