If I hadn’t been so tired last night I would have written that it was my favourite day of the week so far…however today some pretty awesome things happened, but they are going to get their own post. Day 4 I had a morning training session with Sergei Merkulin. This man is incredible. Not only is he one of the most decorated Russian kettlebell sport champions, but he is also the most kind, attentive and gentle human being ever!
I started my session with Sergei by demonstrating some long cycle repetitions at light weight. Right off the bat I turned into putty as he said my technique was very good, in fact good enough to move the 24kg kettlebell. I felt this was the hugest compliment to both me and my coach Jason Dolby. From the first moment we started working together he has always insisted on executing movements as efficiently as possible, and has not allowed me to increase the weight of the bell until I had achieved a required standard at a lighter weight. This gradual progression has allowed my technique to blossom and become better and better. I had never attempted long cycle, and cleans with the 24kg and I have to say I’ve barely done any swings with it either. The fact that Merkulin would be so positive and supportive and encourage me to try the 24kg made me feel AMAZING. I almost wish the camp had taken place before the competition because I learned so much that I wish I could go back in time and change my set. However, instantly after he told me this my heart raced a little as I wondered if he would ask me to do some lifting with the 24kg. We continued to do some light weight work and there was very little he wanted to change in my technique. One thing he did have me work on was the drop of the kettlebell into the swing on the reclean. He had me using more of a pendulum motion so that it would create a larger amplitude for my back swing which would make it easier to put my back and legs into the movement, thus sparing my arms. He also had me play around with some light weight two arm long cycle (TALC) which felt awkward on the clean and the drop. Otherwise, super fun to jerk.
After playing around with both one and two arm long cycle technique practice it was time to do some working sets. We focused back on one arm long cycle. I had heard some of my teammates describe doing “the Merkulin ladder” in their training sessions and I was hoping to do one as well. He did not disappoint.
Worked from light to heavy and then heavy to light (repeated the 24kg on the way back down the ladder) taking only 30sec rest between each weight. I was able to complete 5 reps each arm with the 24kg bell no problem. I tried my hardest to be relaxed but likely held a little too much tension in my legs in fixation.
Afterwards it was GPP time! This was awesome because Sergei worked in with me and we alternated sets. There is something badass about getting to train along side your coach. I love when I have those rare opportunities to train with my coach Jason in The Cave. I love counting his sets and exchanging reps.
Sergei had me do 3sets of 20 reps of barbell jump squats at 45lbs, 75lbs and 95lbs respectively
We followed this up with 3×20 good mornings @ 95#. Last but not least we finished off with 50 V-situps, and 50 bicycle crunches and stretching.
I was so geeked up after my private session with Merkulin I couldn’t come down. I knew for sure that switching disciplines at this point would be positively stupid….sometimes it takes me a while to have these sensible epiphanies. By the end of the session I knew I needed to stick with long cycle and finish the journey my coach and I have started. More and more I am realizing that I have all of the individual requirements of a successful lifter, but I am lacking focus and relaxation to go to the next level and achieve the reps I need for higher rankings. It is within me to hit these numbers, but there is still a lot of tweaking and fine tuning to do.
Just when I thought the day could not possibly get any better – the most wonderful thing happened. I was introduced to the amazing and undisputed Ultimate Girevik – Sergey Mishin.
Mishin is such an honest and humble man. I’m not going to lie but I was moved to tears within the first couple of minutes of his talk. Sergei Marasanov did a fantastic job translating and delivering Mishin’s thoughts and ideas to us. Back 13 years ago I took a workshop on Teaching Anti-Racism. That sounds strange I know – what does that have to do with the great Mishin? Well, one of the most powerful things I obtained from that workshop was the idea of connecting with people through your own life experience. Mishin had me almost crying (definite lump in my throat and sweat emotions welling up in my eyes) within his first few minutes of speaking. He told of us of his childhood in which taking on challenges particularly physical ones was discouraged to avoid anything potentially uncomfortable. As a result he became an overweight child with low self-esteem. Naturally as you might expect he quickly became a target for bullies and often found himself a target of the cruelty of kids. I immediately connected with him as I recalled my unhappy childhood experiences in which I was victim of cruelty from bullying and racism. Luckily for me my parent’s encouraged discomfort and in hindsight I think did so intentionally to strengthen us from the difficult life they knew we were in for. Sports was my outlet where I could truly be free and keep my mind off of anything trying to bring me down. From a young age I always enjoyed feeling fit and strong because it was the one thing I could control and no one could take away from me. Mishin didn’t have this. When he cultivated his path to fitness and wellness he had to do it on his own. He was able to bring others together through sport and created his own support group from the kettlebell lifting community. When he discovered kettlebell training he immediately fell in love with the sport the way so many of us have. He trained with an intense focus on becoming a champion. And guess what? He did it. And he did it well – he was undefeated from 1983 – 2007!!
- 21 time Champion of Russia
- 7 time Champion of the USSR
- Winner of the 10th Spartakiada of the USSR in 1991
- Winner of the Championship of the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1992
- 11 time World Champion
- 11 time European Champion.
In Long Cycle:
- 6 time winner of Cup of Russia and World Cup
Mishin spoke to us about only giving out positive energy and feelings. I can’t even begin to explain how dope this is and how much it matches the philosophy of the Orange Kettlebell Club. Definitely the reason I chose to be apart of this group and I’m so grateful everyday that they welcomed me into their community. Here you have one of the most decorated lifters in the history of kettlebell sport and you could not find a greater sportsman. He is truly only interested in being competitive with himself. He does not wish any ill will towards his competitors, but merely wants the best result he can for himself – which for him is the best result possible of anyone who lifts against him on a given day. He is the epitome of integrity and respect. He simply loves kettlebell sport. Never was there a more honorable role model for a sport. He exemplifies following your goals and dreams no matter what others tell you. Never was there a more tenacious athlete who took on a sport that is not only intensely physically demanding, but is also very intellectual. Kettlebell sport is a sport where you always need to think. You need to be able to relax your body while executing technical movements and the only way that can happen is through the mind. Mishin thought about being a champion and said “why not me?” He demonstrates how there is no one right way or one mould to become a champion. I know this is such a cliche but he really shows us that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.
I took this selfie with Mishin on the very first day of the camp, but I saved it to post here. I love this photo because he is not known to be very expressive and did not smile very much during the weekend so it was a little difficult to tell what he was thinking. I love that he was not only willing to have his picture taken with me but he gave me the most handsome smile. Neither of us really knew what an incredible kettle experience we were about to have, but we put out all of the positive energy we had…that’s just how we roll.