Recipes By Request

I like to photograph my meals as a visual idea bank. Looking at a photo is all I need to remember the recipe and steps I took to prepare a meal, or remind me which cookbook it came from. The down side with posting them publicly is that then people want the recipe. Lol!!! I don’t mind sharing, I’m just too lazy to write/ type it out. So here I will post a few things I have made recently that are slight variations on recipes I found from others.  They are so easy they definitely occur in my regular rotation. What I love most about them is their simplicity. It’s fantastic when you can make something yummy without it taking up a huge amount of time.

1. Meatza


This recipe is a simplified version of the one from Diane Sanfilippo’s Book, The 21 Day Sugar Detox.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

For the Crust:

1lb grass fed groundbeef

1tbsp coconut flour (almond flour was what Diane’s recipe called for)

1 egg beaten

1tsp granulated garlic

1tsp ground black pepper

2tsp Italian seasoning

1tsp Himalayan sea salt

To make the crust combine the above ingredients in a mixing bowl. I used a plastic ziplock bag so I could mix with my hands without them getting messy. Mix thoroughly and form into a ball. On a parchment lined baking sheet roll out the meat dough into a circle about 8-9inches wide and 1/4 inch thick.  Bake for 15-20min or until cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 425.

For the Toppings:

Do whatever you like!

I used :

2tbsp tomato sauce (pesto would be awesome too)

3 roasted garlic cloves

1/2 green bell pepper

1/2 red bell pepper

1 small tomato sliced

6 spinach leaves

1-2g Sharp aged cheddar (optional- leave out if you’re paleo)

I prepped the toppings while the crust was doing it’s thing. Once it was out of the oven and cool enough to go near, I put on toppings and then baked in the oven for another 5-10min until the toppings soften just a bit.

2. Sweet Potato Buffalo Chicken Caserole


I hear the word caserole and I am in! A meal in a bowl! A bit of work to prep but then always keeps on giving in the servings you get. This recipe is so dead simple its a no brainer. Best part is I can just post the link from the fine folks at Preppy Paleo. No recipe for me to type out! Lol!

3. Rogan Josh


This picture doesn’t do it justice but this meal is so comforting! I love it so much. From Melissa Joulwan’s book “Well Fed” I can once again be lazy and post the recipe from her blog. I like to serve this on cauliflower rice. There are a few different ways I like to make my cauliflower rice. Usually I will zap a head of cauliflower in my food processor until it is rice consistency. Then I will put it on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, and ground black pepper, maybe a sprinkle of sea salt.

4. Spaghetti


It has been years now since I have replaced grain pastas with vegetables. Spaghetti squash is my usual “noodle” but lately we have loved our veggie spiralizer and love making zucchini noodles. I still use the same sauce from Diane Sanfillipo’s book “Practical Paleo.”

Most of my food ideas weren’t original ideas of mine….I just saw something someone else did and wasn’t afraid to try it. Pinterest just blows my mind. I’ve only just begun to tap into it. When I take a picture of a healthy meal I made I throw it in my Eat Like A Champ photo album and the ideas grow. It reminds me that I can do it if I take the time to care about the way I’m fueling my body.


How I Spent My 2015 Summer Vacation

Although I have read no scientific literature on it’s absolute necessity, I have always held the firm belief that body weight training is mandatory for anyone that competes in any form of weight lfiting. Afterall, why would I ask my body to support substantial external loads, if I am incapable of supporting myself? Initially I wanted to write this post as a research based article on either the importance of gymnastics as a form of physical therapy for kettlebell sport lifters, OR the importance of body weight training to weight lifters. Instead of nerding out reading as much peer reviewed literature as I could find, I decided to just train. I conducted my own experiment and this post is a summary and reflection of my results and where I plan on taking things next. Of course the overall big picture of any goal I take on is improvement. In some way it has to make me better – and right now if there is the potential to help improve my efficiency as a kettlebell sport lifter, I’m going to be open minded about checking it out.

As a kid I was always obsessed with gymnastics. During the summer Olympics, I would say without question- track and field, gymnastics and swimming are my top 3 sports I LOVE to watch. Not gonna lie – when I was growing up there were next to no role models I could relate to in either gymnastics or swimming. They were sports I thought were made for skinny white kids….lol….but I was always envious and in awe of the control, skill and grace these athletes had in addition to a ton of strength. By the time I was able to see more diversity within the sport and even see some successful Canadian role models, I felt way too old to participate. I was clearly wrong. Upon discovering kettlebell sport and making the decision to be a competitive 40+ year old athlete I decided right from the start to do things right. Here there are also many amazing role models. Multi- world champions Sergey Rudnev and Sergei Rachinskiy are similar to my age and known for their physical feats with their own body weight as well as with kettlebells. All the things I ignorantly took advantage of in my youth I was going to make a priority – eat well, sleep well, respect the warmup and the cool down and put time into a flexibility program.

Over the last 3 years I have consistently worked on my mobility and flexibility and definitely give it credit for keeping my body healthier than just lifting kettlebells alone. Even with these awesome changes however, all is not right in the House of Cyn. I still have weaknesses and imbalances I need to be working on daily. Ofcourse I am not going to sit by and watch myself struggle in the same places or feel sore and weak in the same spots….nope. I tackle that shit head on. If you ever attend a workshop or certification with Shawn Mozen from Agatsu Fitness – that dude can lay some pretty dope advice if you are a good listener. He pretty much gives away the secret to being successful when learning any new skill, and you can tell (if you follow any social media) who does it and who doesn’t quite easily. My summer experiment was to enroll in a gymnastics class, which was going to make me confront head on my feelings about being too old to try it, combined with forcing me to confront the weaknesses in my lower kinetic chain and poor core control.

Words of Wisdom #1 – Spend time with people who are better than you. For the 8 weeks of summer I decided to take a gymnastics and focused flexibility cert by one of Gold Medal Bodies (GMB) lead trainers – Kirsty Grosart.  I have known Kirsty for a couple of years now so I know what a phenomenal athlete and coach she is. If I was going to confront the issues in my lower kinetic chain and core stability I needed some hands on help. The skill development and learning curve I made this summer has made me feel more confident to try out other amazing people I know in the handstand and flexibility world such as Sara-Clare Lajeuness from Agatsu and Andralyn Zayn from Deflying Fitness. I have a 3-5 year plan of courses I would like to take with each of them in addition to the yoga teacher training with Yoga Detour. So much time….so little money. Lol. Seriously though, if you want to learn to move your body better I recommend all of these people.

Words of Wisdom #2Invest the time to develop a consistent practice. Often times I hear people say “I want do more pullups, or I want a muscle up….or I want __________________.” They say this, but then put no real effort towards their goal. They don’t reaallllly want it! For 8 weeks I had the accountability of attending class twice a week for 2 hours. On the days I wasn’t in class I incorporated movements into my lifting warmup and cool down. I realized it was as simple as adding 4 extra movements to my routine to see improvement. Moving forward I feel much better equipped to maintain my routine and keep progressing.


Short story – the words of wisdom work. End of story. No real need to read further. Below I will post some pictures and highlight what improvements I noticed. I’ve divided my results into 4 sections. These are areas I think not only address my weaknesses but also important areas required for kettlebell sport. I am definitely going to continue to use photos to monitor (and hold myself accountable to) my progress as I continue forward with my practice. The process has also made me more curious about GMB’s programming and something I look forward to learning more about.



On top is my beginning pic and below is after. This was already a strength for me going in, but after 8 weeks I did notice more openness in my shoulders which allows for a better shape and ability to kick over. Moving forward I want to be able to work on going in to bridge from standing.

Hips, Knees, Ankles, Hamstrings


This section was the toughest for me. I did notice improvement in my hamstring flexibility but I still have significant work to do with my hips and ankles. Overall I think my progress was slightly hindered during the this testing period because I had done a kettlebell competition only a few days before these photos were taken. Still, to be completely honest and accountable I didn’t practice my lower body drills as much because of the discomfort and challenge. Moving forward I am going to attack this more tenaciously.



This one bums me out a bit because I did try to work on my shoulders much more diligently during this 8 week period. Again I blame a little bit on the timing of the pics falling after a competition and will admit my shoulders were feeling sore. Still….this is something I will add extra focus on my next training cycle.


A part from working on my weaknesses, adding some variety to my gpp, having serious fun acting like a kid and doing things I haven’t done in decades…I was hoping this work would really provide assistance to areas that would make me stronger and more prepared for kettlebell sport. The competition I had towards the end of this training cycle was my first 16kg biathlon. I pr’d by 10 reps in my jerk with a 170 total and did 128 snatches for a personal best total of 298. Although still a long way to go I did notice improvement in my core control and glute activation. I definitely do not attribute any negative impacts from the gymnastics training on my lifting. I do feel confirmed in my hypothesis of its importance and I will continue to strive to improve my badassery of physical autonomy for life! 🙂

Paleo Apologies

So…I’m feeling so guilty I have been a horrible human being! I am notorious for being addicted to buying books that I rarely get around to reading, or only read about 1/3. Such was the case when I purchased Cindy Sexton’s amazing cookbook “Paleo Takes 5-or-Fewer.” Cindy is a fellow teacher who is one of the most blessed people I know to have more than 1 career. Her blog and now cookbook inspire me not only to maintain my healthy “eat like a champ” lifestyle, but also to pursue all things I am passionate about. Naturally it was a no brainer when it came to purchasing her  book….I was just a dumbass who didn’t read it right away!

Last weekend I finally dusted her book off my cookbook shelf and started reading it. I then started cursing at the yummy new ideas I could have been eating…and then I got all the way to the end and saw in the Resources section she listed my blog!!!!

I truly feel like an asshole for taking so long….please forgive me Cindy!!!! Lol. My first of many of her recipes I intend to preview is the bacon -crusted chicken strips. I love the simplicity in the instructions and a way of using bacon I hadn’t thought of. The proportions for the coating were bang on perfect.  I used every last bit with no leftover and got ample coverage on all of the chicken. Usually I run out or have too much.


Cindy is fantastic for so many reasons…but what I love most is how passionately she pursues her interests and lives her life. Anything she is involved with is gold. She’s an outstanding and committed educator,  a talented writer – and for a teeny package she’s one feisty woman!

Thank you for the shout out Cindy!!!

No Excuses


I was sure I had already posted a blog about this, but since I cannot seem to find it I am going to take the risk and post what I should have about a year ago 🙂

Last year Carl and I decided to embark on some pretty major home renovations. This included a new kitchen. Ofcourse the project you think will take a month takes 4…and maybe still has some incomplete elements a year later…at any rate, going that long without a kitchen almost drove me insane. I was completely stressed out about what I would eat and how I would maintain my weight for competition. Turns out it wasn’t thaaaaat bad 🙂 One awesome feature to our renovation was getting a gas line outside so that we could bbq hassle free 🙂 It was basically like having an outdoor oven and stove. I also had to overcome my apprehension toward bbqing…definitely a growth experience 🙂

I found breakfast time to be the toughest. Microwaved egg variations on a paper plate became my instagram theme for quite some time. Then with the help of my friend and nutritionist, Summer Innanen I was able to awaken some creativity and breakfast kabobs were born.

Houseofcyn Breakfast Kabob 1



cherry tomatoes

green pepper


Marinade: pineapple juice, olive oil, sriracha, cinnamon

Houseofcyn Breakfast Kabob 2



green apple



Marinade: coconut milk, curry, cinnamon

It was so easy to whip up a batch of these. They also made great snacks. I think this will easily become a new food genre. 🙂

How Does Anything Happen? Move Past It!!!

The title of this post will be a test of your character. If you recognized it as a line from the show “Always Sunny In Philadelphia” then we would be fast friends! It’s brilliance is in the simplicity of it. Any potential stalkers out there may recall posts where I mention one of my dearest friends – Bryanna, and about our pact to do one thing daily that scares the crap out of us. I can get really comfortable in routine and the idea of changing things up can make me anxious. I’ve found the best cure to be to completely mix it up and throw myself into a new situation and confront my fears head on. Look, I was going to write a blog post recapping my year in kettle. When I began this sport just over 2 years ago I only had the intentions of attending 2, maybe 3 competitions a year. In October it will be my 5th competition, and in all likelihood I will be in Texas in December which will make it my 6th. It had been suggested to me that a year in review would make for an interesting post. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t want to go back. I made some excellent progress this year, but I am more excited about using those experiences to reshape my future, then to look back and reflect. The timing of this discovery was followed by a friend of mine posting this meme….or maybe the meme made me have the thought in the first place? Whatever. Let’s just move past it.


 I would rather tell you about my most recent experience that I feel has made me (and will continue to make me) a better kettlebell lifter. This summer I went to camp. That’s right. Full on day camp for adults…obviously perfect for teachers but mostly filled with other fitness professionals. Master’s of Movement is a very unique fitness experience and I have to say, I needed this. I needed to throw myself outside my comfort zone to find out which skills/energy systems of my kettlebell training would transfer over to activities that were completely new to me, or that I had not done for several years, and which skills/energy systems I still needed to develop. There was absolutely no question that Sara-Clare Lajeunesse and Shawn Mozen of Agatsu were the ones to do this with. A couple of years ago I had hired Sara for some private sessions to help me work on some body weight skills and knew she’s a brilliant teacher with a smile that makes you happy for days. I had the opportunity to get to know Shawn better when I took the Agatsu Upper Body Level 1 Mobility Certification.

These two really are masters of moving pain free and I honestly attribute much of my transformation to better health because of the prehab work I put into my warmups and cooldowns to work both mobility and flexibility. I’ve spent a lot of time crafting my routine from ideas I have gotten from my coach Jason Dolby, Steve Maxwell and Erwan LeCorre mostly. Agatsu is another place I love to go for professional development in this area. Basically, I chose their summer movement week so I could spend more time with them AND because they had booked the Mayhem Bros to have Hip Hop dance as one of the activities we would be exposed to throughout the week. I had worked with Mayhem Bros before – you may remember they helped choreograph a dance routine that I used with my grade 4 class (where Awesometown was born). I had been dying to have an opportunity to learn from them for ME. I knew with those 2 elements I would have a great time so I didn’t even pay attention to the rest of the line up (true story). Here’s just a small snippet of what I took away with me this week:

Photo Credit – Shawn Mozen/Agatsu Inc
Photo Credit – Sara-Clare Lajeunesse/Agatsu Inc

  1. Opposites are Good.

For 5 days I had the great opportunity to learn olympic weight lifting from the great Alexander Varbanov. If you do not know who he is….shame on you and go do some basic internet research and come back. I had actually known this would be a part of my week and I was also excited about this opportunity. I totally assumed being a kettlebell sport lifter that I would have the most in common with this activity compared to the rest, and therefore assumed I would enjoy it the most. Although I did enjoy it – it challenged/frustrated me way more than I was expecting. By the end, it had tapped into my competitive spirit in a way that is different from kettlebell sport, but I had to reign it in and avoid lifting beyond the capabilities of my right shoulder that was still sore after NorCal Open. For me, oly lifting was the most challenging of everything we did this week (with the exception of juggling and some of the club work). Lifting under tension has become a bit of a foreign concept to me…but it was exciting to reawaken and have the opportunity to practice. Spending time under tension made me more aware of the relaxation I am able to create in my kettlebell lifting and how that translates into increased endurance and reps over time. I also love exploring ranges of motion beyond what I need for kettlebell sport. It feels so awesome to squat deep and I know it has helped relieve the repetitive tension and limited range of motion I accumulate from continuous quarter squats jerking.


Photo Credit - Shawn Mozen/Agatsu Inc
Photo Credit – Shawn Mozen/Agatsu Inc

2. We are all full of shit.

All of our days were spent being engaged both mentally and physically. There were a couple brief moments of down time where we could sit and absorb new ideas… but still mentally were very much challenged. One of these moments was with Dhani Oks, co-founder of the Academy of Lions which was also the host location. Dhani provided a series on Coaching and Cueing really centered around many different ideas so I can’t even begin to sum up his talk here. But I will highlight one idea that made me feel something. He introduced me to the idea of the Pyramid of Shit. To oversimplify his model for the purposes of time – basically the higher the pyramid, the more emotional baggage you have in terms of how you deal with adversity. So at the top we would see those people with a negative world view (the world is shit), or a negative self view (I am shit) in response to something that didn’t go their way (e.g. a poor performance on the platform at a lifting competition). If you have ever been a coach you know that it takes a lot of creativity and emotional energy to pull these people into reality and further down the shit pyramid. These folks are the most difficult to coach.

Lower down on the pyramid you have those that can separate their shit and see it for what is. After lifting poorly in a competition they would not say “I am shit”, but rather “my lifting was shit, or I stepped in shit.” It is much easier to progress with a student who has this level of awareness because you can get right to the root of what needs working on, where the true focus needs to be. I realized that I have a Jekyll/Hyde with this pyramid. As a teacher/coach I am very low on the pyramid. I spend my days motivating my students and helping them escape the loneliness of the top of the pyramid. When I have a student caught in that shit funk I look for new and creative ways to pull them out of it while being sensitive to what they’re going through, but not taking it personally or attaching their shit to me. I get it, I’ve been there. It’s cold at that altitude, but I love to help.

As an athlete/student I realize that when I am trying to overcome the adversity of learning a new skill, or pushing through a barrier I can be very hard on myself and at the top of that pyramid. It sucks and I admit I can have a hard time pulling myself out of it. I’m very fortunate I have people around me that are experts at helping me and each new seemingly impossible challenge becomes easier and easier to face. My big take home was first and foremost having empathy for my coach – it ain’t easy… that’s when it hit home that I think it is important for coaches (who can especially have a tendency to be hard on themselves) to have good coaches in terms of their ability to communicate and deal with their shit. That relationship will be more solid if the person you have entrusted that role to is someone who can remain at the bottom of the pyramid and help pull you down off the frozen peak of shit when you need it.

Photo Credit - Dave Anderka
Photo Credit – Dave Anderka

3. Adaptive Bodywork is AMAZING!

The Agatsu mobility cert introduced me to the idea of muscle distraction and it’s use with mobility to help warm up joints. I started adding variations to my warm up. It definitely made me aware of “sensory rich areas” that were quite painful. Some I knew I had been avoiding and some areas I’m often surprised because I didn’t even realize they were sore. I have learned that the more I confront the sensory rich areas and work on releasing tension at the root cause, the better I feel, and the faster I heal. During my week of day camp we were able to experience a session of adaptive bodywork with John Sutherland. This was just a small taste of what is actually possible and my mind was blown at how much more effective it was than my current routine. I honestly believe that this will be one of the keys to keeping my joint integrity as I age and help me move the way I am now for a long time. I am definitely going to be pursuing certification in this at some point and will try to see John whenever he comes to Toronto!!!

Photo Credit - Sara-Clare Lajeunesse/Agatsu Inc
Photo Credit – Sara-Clare Lajeunesse/Agatsu Inc

4. Find love where you least expect it.

I love surprises! Possibly because I am terrible at giving them…so when they do happen, I remember how awesome they are and I should work harder at being better at them! Just another reason taking risks is awesome. You discover cool new things you had no idea you could do! Last year I had really wanted to attend Masters of Movement pretty much solely because Deflying Fitness was one of the presenters delivering a handstand series. Being able to go in and out of a controlled handstand is one of my top 3 goals. Anyway, my true love kettlebell sport was calling during that week last year and I was at a competition. I pretty much zoned out of everything else Deflying Fitness had to offer. I’m such an idiot. I had no idea what I was in for. A whole pile of awesome was what I fell into!!! For me it was such an interesting and challenging use of body weight strength. Some movements I was surprised were easy – but because I have put them into my regular practice (e.g. bear grylls). Other movements I felt as though I had the strength and mobility to execute but my brain just couldn’t send the right signals to the right places!

I have no problem being upside down, but I haven’t spent nearly enough time performing movements upside down. It felt amazing to scratch the surface at trying to create that new kind of awareness and has made practicing kind of addictive. I had no idea I was about to find an entirely new and fun way to work on my shoulder mobility. The entire workshop paid for itself the first session we used our wrist strap that came in our goodie bag. We did some awesome exercises that opened up my shoulder, deltoid and bicep like nothing else I had tried. It also gives me awesome feedback on how prepared I am for ring and bar work. Similar to gymnastics many of the movements and positions require a strong hollow body and ribs closed position. This is a challenge for me but I am finally able to distinguish the two positions and create more awareness of what each offers. Although break dancing was super fun and badass….the Deflying Fitness sessions were by far my favourite. Andralyn and Duane are pretty much the best people ever. I will definitely be doing handstands and flexibility with them…hopefully soon in Oakville…

Photo Credit - Shawn Mozen/Agatsu Inc
Photo Credit – Shawn Mozen/Agatsu Inc
Photo Credit - Shawn Mozen/Agatsu Inc
Photo Credit – Shawn Mozen/Agatsu Inc

  5. Always Attempt the Impossible

This week I felt the difference my kettlebell sport platform battles have given me in physical preparedness and mental confidence. My body was much better conditioned to participate fully in all of the activities. Olympic lifting was the only activity I was cautious with as I didn’t want to risk an injury.  That being said I still worked on my technique and was able to perform numerous repetitions. Anyway…. my point was that if I had tried this week of movement back was I was 35+ lbs heavier it would have sucked. I would have gotten through…but it would have sucked…and just barely in that “sucks so good” kind of way….mostly in the “if you’re lucky you’re just broken down, if you’re unlucky you’re injured”. It reminded me of the 5 day MovNat retreat where I was that heavy and by the last group workout my knee was the size of a grapefruit.  I did not miss a beat at the Master’s of Movement week, and I have to say the order of programming was exceptional. The sequencing I’m sure also contributed to how much better I feel compared to what I was expecting.  At the end of the week I was more mentally and emotionally tired than physically tired. Despite 5 days of constant activity I was more than ready to get back to training on Monday. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than doing things I previously thought I couldn’t do. In 5 days I took some risks, tried some new stuff, got uncomfortable, got too comfortable, collected new tools for my training tool box, met awesome people, drank great coffee, and felt super appreciative of my training and hard work….oh yeah, and smiled and laughed lots!!!!


…and go back to school…summer is almost over 😦

Taking the Next Step


Kettle life post- Cali Open has been interesting. I knew I was going to be competing at the end of April in the Agatsu Canadian Championships, but I did not feel ready to do long cycle on the platform only 5 weeks after the Cali Open. Jason and I agreed it would be a good idea for me to switch to jerk only for this short amount of time. The training would benefit my long cycle, and mentally for me I felt less pressure since I had never competed in 20kg jerk only event before. Even though this cycle was only 5 weeks in length, I think I learned the most about myself so far as a lifter. It was also the most strained my relationship with my coach had ever been – all completely coming from me, and so I have to say I learned the most this cycle about communication. Jason had pushed the pace hard for 5 weeks having me train at 15rpm  mostly with the 18kg, followed by heavy days (22k – 24k) of short long cycle sets at a slower pace. I found this challenging but for the most part do-able, but when I started to do short jerk only sets with the 20kg it was insanely challenging and I knew there would be no way I could complete a 10 minute set at  15rpm. I did not cope well with this and started to put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to try to hit Master of Sport numbers. The closer it got the competition, the more I realized I would not be ready for that game plan. The more I realized I could not sustain 15rpm, the bitchier I became and the more I questioned my program because I did not understand its design. This actually marked a significant turning point for me from being a “part to whole” learner to a “whole to part.” Allow me to explain –

Part to Whole

I know the end goal is to make my 10minute set with my competition weight bell and to maintain a pace pre-determined by my coach which would be something we had trained to prepare me for. In the beginning of my training I didn’t really need to understand the different stages of competition preparation, because I was more focused on technique and improving my efficiency. I trusted my coach completely and was able to do workouts in isolation without requiring to know how they were preparing me or why they were ordered the way they were. I could focus on the individual parts and just trying my best to hit my numbers taking it one workout at a time. At the end when I got on that platform and made my time and hit my goal number of reps I was then able to realize how those parts had worked together to create the whole performance.

 Whole to Part

Here’s where I am today. My technique is pretty efficient. I am able to feel and see instability and inefficiency and self-correct, or respond to the cues and feedback from my coach and apply his corrections and suggestions. My goals now are to raise my lifting to the level of Master of Sport. We know the numbers I need to hit in order to do that. What I need to stay motivated and focused on that task is to be included and involved in the understanding of the plan of attack. I need my coach to share his vision with me… or to even give me a theme that can give my training more intention and purpose. Then as I am working on the individual parts and sets I can carry that intention with me into each workout and envision how they are helping me climb that ladder to my goal. I’m excited that this is something Jason and I are going to be experimenting with for future competitions. I trust him completely and part of the reason I chose him for a coach was because of his creativity and innovation. I will follow where ever he leads, I just don’t want to be lead blindly. I’m excited to be more involved in the vision process and to be able to put my energy and intention into carrying it out.

A friend of mine coaches a high level competitive lacrosse team. He asked one of his players to come up with a theme for the season this year. I admire him having the trust to give that responsibility to one of his players to help them take ownership of their team. His athlete came back with the theme “burn the boats” which essentially comes from a historic conquest  where the Spanish conquistador was going into war and before he went into battle he commanded his men to “burn the boats” so that there was no turning back and they had to win in order to survive. There was no option to lose. His athlete thought it was a good theme for their lacrosse team because they needed to turn a new page this season and improve on the previous year. If they were going to go all the way this year there had to be 100% commitment and buy-in. It wasn’t good enough to just show up. He wanted his teammates to know that they all needed to show up and work together to succeed, because if they didn’t, there would be no tomorrow for them, no playoffs. Losing wasn’t an option. I positively love this. It reminds me of the documentary  “The Heart of the Game”, the 2005 sports documentary film about the Roosevelt Roughriders girls basketball team. The movie is centered around their star player Darnellia Russell and the Roughriders new coach Bill Resler who is quite the eccentric character. Each year he came up with a different theme that represented the mindset he wanted the team to have when they attacked every practice and game. One year he decided his team was going to focus on defense and press the entire game, every game. Their theme was a pack of wolves…they had to think like a pack of hungry wolves and work together on the hunt and kill of their prey. I totally dig that kind of shit. 🙂 I’m still trying to think of a theme that speaks to me for this journey to Master of Sport. 

Alas, I kinda got off topic. Back to the Agatsu Canadian Championships. Only 5 weeks of training and a lot of unnecessary pressure I placed on myself to rank and meet what I thought were my coach’s expectations (but actually weren’t) plus added confusion in not understanding my training plan for this cycle….basically turned me into a complete bitch and nervous wreck. Eventually Jason and I came head to head (like we do each cycle) and he reassured (and reminded) me that this break from long cycle was to create fun and less pressure. This competition wasn’t really apart of our schedule for my road to Master of Sport. I was also first-time coaching 5 women to compete at this event and that was really more where my priorities were focused for this competition. Ofcourse I’m a competitive freak and the closer it came, the more anxious I became. To make things worse this cycle I had been training with bare arms hoping that I could compete that way for this event. I could also tell I wasn’t ready for that. The final seed of insecurity came when my period was due the day of the competition. This had never happened for me in 2 years of competing. I’d love to do a scientific research study on the effect of weight lifting/weight bearing sports and hormone activity. I have always found with my training that the week before my period was due I would get a significant amount of pain and weakness in my forearms. But once my period arrives, it is gone. To have this feeling a week before competition sucks. I was genuinely scared. I wasn’t even sure if down grading to 18kg was going to be enough. It raised more doubt in my mind about my preparation. Luckily for me my period was 2 days early and the pain in my forearms had subsided and I was feeling better about being able to lift 20kg. I also had underestimated the amount coaching was physically and mentally draining and I know I took that stress out on my coach too.

Thank goodness for women lifters! I turned to some of my women lifter friends who I am close with to ask their advice on what I should do for the competition. They all said the same thing and gave me awesome advice that immediately reduced my stress. Add to that Jason reminding me to have fun and enjoy myself also really resonated with me.  And then something amazing happened. A few kettlebell lifters that I know only from meeting on Facebook wrote to me to send me positive wishes for the competition. One of my new friends reminded me to stay positive which I combined with Jason’s reminders to have fun and I spent the week before the competition really focusing on the positive feelings lifting gives me – that feeling when you crush a set and hit your numbers, that sense of pride when you know your technique is on and your reps are clean, the energy at every competition where lifters support one another and want to see you hit the best number you can hit…any time I caught myself trying to have a negative thought I overcrowded it with positive ones. So simple and yet so effective! It was also profound to me that these people took the time to write to me to share their positive sentiments. Completely restores my faith in humanity and was also overwhelming and felt undeserved. But I decided to use this profound kindness for the good that was intended. I wanted to make my new friends proud. I asked Sara-Clare Lajeunesse to stand in for Jason and coach me through my set. Something else I’ve decided I need for competition. That one person I can lock on to and tune out everything else. It’s just us, the clock and the judge. She was amazing. Before my set she told me to pick someone I would like to dedicate it to. Someone who I would NEVER let down in a million years. That way when things got rough, I could really draw on that strength to help me through.

My Kettlebell Students – my inspiration to never give up and leave it all on the platform. They all gave heroic performances and earned medals.

I decided to dedicate my set to Awesometown and my coach Jason Dolby. Jason wasn’t the only one I was taking out my shitty stress on, but I had been giving my students tough love all week and at times lecturing them about their poor decision making. I take my role modelling seriously and when I encourage my students to do things even if they are scared, I HAVE to show them I will do it too. With Jason, not only was I feeling bad for taking my stress and anxiety out on him, but I felt like I had really let him down at the Cali Open and my result was not reflective of the effort he had put into training me. I really wanted to make up for that this time. Although they were at the forefront of my brain during my set, I couldn’t help but also be moved to perform well in my home city, in front of my students and my friends. Due to the stress and pain in my arms I had decided to make my performance goals to last the full 10 minutes, and to try to get as close to 100 reps as possible, and hope that if I was feeling good, I could try to go for more. I was not going to go out at 15rpm. I decided to gamble and try 12rpm and slow down if I couldn’t maintain it.

Photo Credit – Tim Bell

So…the end result- 20kg Jerk only, 59kg weight class (I weighed in at 57.2), 119 reps and CMS! So far this would definitely go down as my best performance to date. My technique felt the most solid for the entire set than it has ever felt with 20kg. I could tell in the first 3 minutes I was going to be able to sustain 12rpm. I tried a couple of times to bump up to 13rpm but I could feel that was too risky, not time for that yet. However, I can really feel the investment in the Cali Open Sport Camp paying off. All of that time with the Russians and my coach was amazing. I can feel myself starting assimilate and apply what I learned. This result gives me a lot more confidence going back to long cycle. Jason also reminded me that in my last 3 consecutive platform appearances I have hit the CMS rank. I feel as though I am just on the cusp of hitting that next level. Everything is moving in the right direction, boxes are getting checked and I just need to continue my patience and stay the course. Now I have feelings of relief and excitement as I get back to long cycle and training. I owe Sara-Clare the hugest thanks. She really helped keep me calm and focused. She was with me every second and I locked on to her every word. She did a brilliant job of helping me out on the last minute of my set. Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” came on during the final minute and I immediately started to pick up the pace on the first 2 reps and Sara calmed me down and got me to settle back into my pace. “Save it for the last 30 seconds”,  she said. My arm crapped out before the end of the set, and part of that was because of how fast I went out that last minute, but I know if Sara hadn’t gotten me to respond as quickly as she did, I would not have hit CMS because my arm would have been done much sooner.

Here is the video of my set:


So many lessons learned – that the week before my menstrual cycle makes my arms hurt and turns me into a complete insecure bitch (and even though circumstances with the timing weren’t ideal I was still able to overcome the pms and make weight and lift the 20kg showing that it is not an excuse!), that I need to balance coaching stress and my own performance stress better – one way I can do this is by being more positive, and that I need to communicate more clearly with my coach before we begin a new training cycle. I need to know the general training strategy we are going to try so that I can put that intention into my workouts. The fact that I pulled out a great result in addition to these learning moments is a bonus….but also speaks to Jason’s great programming. Even though my highly structured brain needs the security of having that compass – sense of direction for my training….I also need to relax and not get so uptight when I don’t have that information. I’m in great hands and my results and technique speak for themselves. And ofcourse I can’t forget about the kindness of acquaintances. I love the kettlebell community and they motivate and inspire me to keep up the pursuit of being my best – as an athlete and a person. THANK YOU!!!!! ESPECIALLY THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU if you read this entire article! 🙂


The California Open – Time to Move On

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Time for the post I have been most dreading to write. I even considered avoiding altogether, but decided the public shaming and accountability will be the slap in the face I need to move on. During the sport camp Mishin told us that after he won a championship he did not spend any time gloating or strutting around, but instead went home, hung up his medal and it was Day 1 all over again. Just another day and another guy trying to see if he can win – the same as everybody else. Since he had next to no experience losing, and probably never had bad set in his life I can only assume he would apply this idea to underachieving as well. Why waste unnecessary energy dwelling on something you cannot change? I’m embarrassed that I do not remember if it was my coach or one of my beautiful teammates who said “Cynthia, you are the ONLY person still thinking about that set. Stop it.”  Whoever it was, I love them. Unfortunately, I’m a Master of Sport in Dwelling on Negative Shit and even now over a week later I’m finding it hard to type this.

I know that my training didn’t let me down. My coach Jason Dolby had programmed this perfectly (in my opinion). Despite having a shortened training cycle because of my stupid kidney shit I was still showing signs of being on pace to hit 100 reps. My 8 minute shark was practically perfect and left me feeling super confident I was good for a number in the 90’s at the least. Just to make myself feel better I am posting it again –

Then there’s the accountability piece. Choking under pressure. Listening to negative thoughts. Starting from having to take 8 weeks off training after Bay Area last year. Then 2 weeks before competition it starts creeping into my head – can I maintain 10rpm? If I’d had 8 more weeks of training 10rpm would feel so much easier. The cost of that stupidity? Probably 5 reps. Then there was the thoughts of being my coach’s first MS student, being one of what I can only assume to be a rare few (if any?) black women with an MS ranking, performing well for my grade 4 class who I was taking time away from their learning to pursue, performing well for my 5 new kettlebell sport students to continue to be an inspiring role model for….the list goes on. Usually this is a source of inspiration and fuels my workouts….however 2 weeks before competition I broke one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s commandments – I was afraid to fail. It’s amazing how energy expensive that is – I’d say 5 reps worth. Then there was the irrational crazy shit that sometimes gets in my head about 1 week out from competition – an intense panic and fear of dropping the bell. I will even obsessively practice hand to hand swings at light weight at random moments throughout the day…costs about 2 reps, and finally a shortened backswing which was probably the physical manifestation of all that negative shit – 6 reps. Then add the live feed, all of my teammates watching, having my coach watching in person and Sergey Rachinskiy judging my set…and choked pretty much sums it up. Definitely good for at least another 6 reps. Total – 22 reps short of my desired goal.

So without further ado – here’s my set. You can see the nerves right from the beginning which is why I didn’t bother deleting it. I’m wasting energy bouncing around the platform talking to people when I should be calming myself and focusing on my set and my game plan. Within the first minute my mind was racing as the bell I had chosen felt slippery and I started questioning using it. I even had a moment of looking at another purple bell beside me on the platform wishing I could switch and use it. I spent the 2nd minute trying to figure out where to look. I have never lifted at a meet of this size and was unprepared for what it felt like to have so many of my teammates staring at me while I lifted. The only space I could not see people was a small piece of wall near the ceiling. It was not an ideal place to look and strained my neck. Finally I tried finding my centre by looking at my coach. As my grip exhausted within the first 3 minutes of the set I felt like I could read the disappointment on his face. UGH!!! The worst part was that the negative crap inside my head actually manifested into physical gestures – for the first time ever I shook my head at several different points during the set. Technically speaking my backswing is way too shallow and I’m using too much of my forearm to pull the bell up towards me in the clean instead of feeling the bell and allowing gravity to help me. That’s really what killed my grip. I was also tense in fixation, my triceps should have been much more relaxed, and had more trust in my legs. End result was 78 reps, very short of my MS goal and worse than my result at Bay Area last year, although I will say I think my technique and fixation looks better now. I still managed to make CMS plus an extra 2 reps. Around the 70 rep mark I knew my chance was gone and became angry. Every part of my being wanted to quit at several points throughout that set. Finally I was pissed off. There was no way I was getting off that platform without those 6 reps. CMS again.

So it’s done. It’s over. I’m back at home. Back to training in our tiny little office space while the winter snow is still around. Today was my first day back at work. It was great to be back in Awesometown. I could tell my students had missed me while I was gone. I wore my medal to school today to show my students and told them about my trip. After work today I came home, took off my medal and hung it up just in the same style as Mishin. It is over. Now it is time to go back to work training to become a champion. Why not me? Why the heck not?