Here is a guest blog from my Kettlebell Sport student, Laura Machuca. I think she did a fabulous job expressing her experience with Kettlebells as her love for lifting the bells have taken her cross-country. Share in her experience and read what she has to say. I think you will gain a new perspective on this rewarding form of fitness. -Bob Garon
Going Past 10: It's Been A Year In The Making
“Kettle-balls? What are those?”
“I didn't know that kettlebell was a sport.”
“Wow! You have to do that for 10 minutes without stopping?”
“That judge was really mean. He should be more understanding of the people who compete with the 8 kg and 12 kg bells.”
These are things people say when they learn that I am a kettlebell athlete. I’ve competed four times now, and at the age of 50 I am getting ready for my fifth competition, all in a little less than a year. Some of what I’ve learned:
1. There’s a lot more to it than simply lasting 10 minutes.
Let’s not kid ourselves; kettlebell or girevoy sport (GS), as it’s sometimes called, is pretty darn tough. Many GS athletes say it’s the toughest sport in the world. In my first three competitions, I worried about lasting the entire 10 minutes, common for beginners. Yet, I now think that worrying about finishing means I doubt my abilities, which just undercuts all the time I spend training. I’m also disrespecting the work my coach and I do to improve my technique. Technique is so important—I can’t just get up on the platform and simply swing the kettlebells around for 10 minutes. I have to do the repetitions correctly, or they don’t count! Proper technique also helps me perform most efficiently, which also means less fatigue.
However, if you go to IKFF Nationals in Novi, MI to watch the competitions—and you should do this—you’ll see seasoned GS athletes lifting freaking heavy bells who don’t always finish their 10 minutes. But you know what? They get up there and do it anyway. When I competed in May 2012, a man only did one minute of the jerk with two bells that weighed 32 kg (~70 pounds) apiece. Did he look upset afterward? Not in the least. He wanted to prove to himself that he could get up there and do it for one minute, and he did. Next time, he plans to go for two minutes.
2. It’s not just about the numbers.
Depending on the event, your weight, the weight of the bell, and how many repetitions (reps) you do correctly, you can achieve a rank of 3, 2, 1, Candidate Master of Sport (CMS), Master of Sport (MS), and Master of Sport International Class (MSIC). When I began competing, I reached a rank of three, which is the lowest. I haven’t achieved a rank of two yet. However, rank isn’t the most important thing to me anymore. Why not? During the first few minutes of my last competition in May 2012, I saw I wasn’t going to make the number of reps I had as a goal. Instead of getting upset, I decided to relax—to experience the flow of doing the long cycle (clean & jerk) for 10 minutes while striving for my personal best technique. Afterward, I received compliments from the judges, with zero no-counts, which was quite opposite from my prior competition, I also won first place in my weight class in my event! If I had tensed up about making rank, I would have enjoyed myself far less—and shouldn’t I have fun while I’m lifting the bells? This is something I want to truly enjoy while I am doing it for as long as I can. It is about the experience of the moment.
3. The only competitor you should worry about is yourself.
It’s normal to want to be like the amazing GS athletes I see. However, if I compare myself to others, I limit things and miss out on so much more! That mindset also makes it easier for me to watch and learn ways to improve my technique. One example is Nathan. In May, Nathan performed the long cycle with astonishing precision. He reminded me of a clock, as his movements were very regular and accurate. When I told him this, he thanked me and revealed that he is a classically trained pianist. He thinks of Mozart playing in his head while he competes, and adjusts his rhythm to match. While I don’t know if I will adopt his method, he certainly helped me stretch my mind to consider new ways of practicing and competing. An analogy to the movie, “Field of Dreams” comes to mind—if I build and improve my technique, the rank will come!
4. The judges are there to help you get better at it.
Sometimes judges can intimidate, but only if you let them. Don’t let them! Judges often ask you to demonstrate a few reps so that they can see if you have any physical irregularities. Maybe you can’t bend your knees as far or straighten your arm. You want the judges to know ahead of time so they don’t count it against you while you compete. The first time I had to demonstrate, the judge made a comment about “not letting the bell spin around my hand” that rattled me. I now know that she was only trying to warn me so I wouldn’t get any no-counts. In my competition in March 2012, the judge at the IKSFA New York Open asked me not to make the same mistake as several other people that day. I started to worry about looking bad and not finishing. My focus was wrong and I violated a rule seven minutes into the set. The judge told me I had to stop and put the bell down. Later, two ladies approached me and said that they thought he was too strict, and that “he should be more understanding of the people who compete with the 8 kg and 12 kg bells.”
I honestly did not feel the same way as they did. Instead, I saw myself at a fork in the road: I could point fingers, blame others, and complain about the judging; or I could work on improving my technique. Even though I felt a bit confused, did I want to be one who blames others when I don’t perform well? Was blaming the judge going to help me do better next time? I didn’t think so.
Kettlebell sport is a huge passion in my life, changing my life tremendously during the past year. My nutrition and my physique have improved because of my desire to be a better GS athlete. I’d love you to experience the joy of GS for yourself. Join me for my next competition at the “Bells Gone Wild” Kettlebell Sport competition on July 14 at Synergy Kettlebell Training in St. Charles!