Workshop Experiences

Adrienne Harvey InterviewsPersonal experience journals and reviews of various workshops (usually Dragon Door, but there will be others too!)  The Orlando RKC Journal is complete, the RKC Level 2 is on the way, as is the CK-FMS and Bodyweight Exercise workshop experiences.

Some Big Lessons From a Smaller Workshop--Hanging with Zach Even Esh in NJ

Decided to get out of town and have some fun, so I very recently (as in this past Saturday) met up with Amber of in Somerville, MA (Boston area) and trekked down to New Jersey to help her photograph/video one of Zach's 4 hour workshops at his decidedly underground gym.   What a fun place he has--it was about the size of the warehouse I used to have for my previous business (ecommerce/light manuf. small place) but built out in such a way that there was plenty of room for turf, kettlebells, sandbags, barbell platforms, pull up bars, seriously difficult pull up alternatives (Sorinex, you are evil for those mighty mitts thick vertical items--and it is awesome), and some fairly epic metal stall bars... and all sorts of other stuff like giant tires etc etc.   Recently I'd had the pleasure to look through Zach's upcoming book which will be coming out on Dragon Door, so I was extra jazzed to see what he was like in person and what his gym was like in real life.

Zach is very much who he is, and that is fantastic.  Humble nearly to a fault, he has great skills related to coaching, programming, and motivation.  But what impressed me the most and what I can relate to the most is his extreme creativity, and his ability to work with somewhat chaotic conditions--to his best advantage.

This plays into the PCC (Progressive Calisthenics Certification) ethic and also to DVRT (Dynamic Variable Resistance Training) in so many ways.  Before I forget, I must mention one of the many great little tips that I got from Zach's workshop was the idea of filling an Ultimate Sandbag with mulch instead of sand--to create a lighter, but seriously unstable and unwieldy larger bag.  I am considering taking it one step further and using rubber mulch (because in humid humid Florida that stuff would grow mold for the ages).  Needless to say in an ongoing trend for that day during a break, I picked up the "Burly" Ultimate Sandbag that had about 70-80lbs of mulch in it and did a clean or two.  That'll wake you up for sure.   I like to do the occasional heavy clean with a large kettlebell (24kg, 28kg, 32kg...) or heavy doubles for fun (actually prefer doing singles if I am being heavy because it's easier for me to keep safe, AND it really gets the anti-rotational action going).  But back to the bag... this big ol' unruly Burly USB was too much fun to play with, and I'm looking forward to getting one to add to my collection... with that lighter filling because I think it'd be a riot to clean and press regularly.  As it was the other day I enjoyed checking out squats with it--the clean and the chaos the bag provided was not unlike some sloshpipe work in some respects.

But back to Zach... his demographic was a little different than what I'm used to seeing at other workshops, but very very related.  Many of the people in attendance were high school athletic coaches and/or CrossFit coaches.  Their level of skill and fitness was very impressive, and while there were only three women actively taking the course (not counting us--3 women and about 23 men), ONCE AGAIN I feel the need to say that this stuff works just as well (if not even better) for women.  Odd object lifting is an everyday part of the human experience, as is coordination, adaptation to any and all lifting situations, and dealing with the imperfect conditions everyone has with workouts--whether at home, out in the park, at a gym, etc.  Doing well with what you have, or what is available is such a valuable skill--for everyone.   Strength aside, the injury prevention potential of learning to work with odd objects and unfavorable leverage is worth the price of admission alone.  Athletic performance aside, the lifestyle enhancement potential is also just HUGE.

And since my only previous experiences in New Jersey involved a quick train ride to the EWR airport, I'm very pleased to report that even though I might have sang a few overly-impassioned bars of "Livin' on a Prayer" during a trip through the docks area, I was impressed with the lively and friendly people near the coast.  We had a great time and were only met with tons of hospitality and found an incredible restaurant right near Zach's gym.   The Committed Pig.  As soon as Zach mentioned it's name I was sold on it.  They served up some very high quality delicious (and at my request no bun) burgers and this thing called "pork roll" which was new and delicious (at least to us... I had to ask what in the world it even was!).  

But enough about food for now.  Here's a tip from Zach's workshop you can use with your next workout, let's assume you have 3-5 rounds through a circuit... each way through, vary the "grip" of the given exercises.   Here's a small made up example using just the pull-up as the variable:

First Round:

Second Round:

Third Round:

I could go on and on, but you see the possibilities I hope.   Good stuff!  Definitely looking forward to Zach's book coming out.

DVRT Dynamic Variable Resistance Training Ultimate Sandbag Book by Josh HenkinSpeaking of books, I've been preparing quite the write up for both the DVRT 1+2 Certs I recently attended, as well as Josh Henkin's new DVRT book which has recently come out.   For those of you who think that you know all there is to know about sandbag training, this will give you some whole new challenges and progressions.   As with the certification workshops, I was really pleased with how challenging the sandbags are both for strength as well as for developing ninja-like coordination.  This is some surprisingly "youth giving" stuff.  I'm certainly more coordinated at 37 than I was when I was younger (and I wasn't exactly a klutz). 

An inside page view too:

What do Personal Trainers, Strength Coaches, Federal Agents, and Breakdancers Have in Common?

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The answer of course is a love of Progressive Calisthenics!   This past weekend was the first ever PCC (Progressive Calisthenics Certification) Workshop, and I'm still honestly just reeling in joy with how well it went.   We all had high expectations - as instructors, as participants etc.   But I can safely say that everyone's expectations were exceeded.   I was honored to be an instructor (as a PCC Team Leader) along with Al Kavadlo, Danny Kavadlo, and Steven Low.  When a workshop is brand new like this, you never really know how it's going to go until you start it up.  It was very clear as soon as we got going that this one was going to blow the roof off.  Al and Danny set a tone of friendly leadership that was so natural that it was a sheer joy to support them.  I told Al at one of our instructor meeting dinners (we may have collectively eaten a small farm over the weekend, by the way.  There might be a lamb shortage in MN for a few weeks) that with the leadership tone he set, helping to instruct the highly motivated group felt nearly effortless.   Order was easily maintained because everyone really wanted the info.  Not to mention all the highly valuable comments, cues, and experiences which were contributed by the participants themselves.   I'm confident to say that EVERYONE, myself included has come away from this weekend a better instructor than just a few days ago.

Friends on Facebook are already demanding a weekend recap - and I must apologize that I'm still taking it all in - it was a whirlwind in many regards, even for someone as time/space challenged as myself (long story, but my unusual schedule lends itself to thinking of time in less linear ways than "normal"). Back at home this update will be expanded and photos added etc etc. For now though, didn't want to leave you hanging. On the first day, right from the start we knew we were all in for a treat as each attendee was handed the mic to briefly introduce themselves. It was a real who's who. What really struck me though was the enthusiasm that everyone had in common. I've said it about a million times over the weekend, but it still holds true - those who are really into this type of training seem to have a level of self-knowledge that's very unique. Without sounding like some kind of hippie weirdo, to really delve into Progressive Calisthenics does require a level of humility and understanding. Even at the "easy" levels, if you can't do it right, if you haven't made the committment of time and practice then it's just not going to happen. People ask Al all the time "what's the trick to ____________" and he always responds that there is no trick - you just have to DO it. Before anyone gets discouraged that they need to quit their job to work on calisthenics 24/7, it needs to be said that this practice can happen here and there in little bits throughout the day. I do a lot of practice between other tasks and even as a way to goad myself into completing some not-so-fun chores. These skills can really be practiced anywhere. Danny and I were compulsively scouting all the sign posts, and random items on the sidewalk from the event hotel all the way to one of the restaurants we were using as a meeting spot. we can't help it! It's an obsession!!!!

Since I'm en route home and without the usual electronic accoutrements, this will just be a "tide you over" type update. Look for more fun and fancier updates soon.

After arriving at the now legendary Dayton's Bluff Community Center, where tons and tons and tons of Dragon Door certification workshops have happened over the years, the attendees began to register and get their hands on the giant spiralbound 600+ page PCC Instructor manuals which were written by Paul Wade. These manuals are incredible.... and I would say probably the best instructor manuals I've ever seen - thorough, complete with diagrams, no errors, page numbers right on the money, and just chock full of info.... I was actually worried that some of the attendees would do what I did when I received my version of the manual in advance.... and that's to STAY UP ALL NIGHT reading the darned thing! Fortunately I think they were tired enough from the first day not to do that. Anyhow - we started right in with push up progressions and right away it was evident how accomplished this group was - the Q+A portion was evidence of that alone. Next we moved onto one of my original loves (other than caffeine)--pull ups!! The whole time, Amanda Salas and Spencer were capturing every moment on video, and interviewing attendees and instructors alike. So you can look forward to a whole lot of fun video from them. Not going to tell you what it is, but they managed to catch me on video doing some surprising feats too! :) After working up a considerable appetite, we all enjoyed one of the delicious catered lunches you can expect from a Dragon Door workshop - always with plenty of good meat and salad, so I was more than happy about that.

Following lunch we came to a portion that is a new obsession of mine - to the point of which I've actually installed the right kind of pole to practice these at home. Over the past few months I've been really wanting to show very good progress towards a full on human flag (aka press flag) which is very rare for women. Dragon Door had specially purchased free standing "dancer poles" which can take a whole lot of torque (thankfully) and they stood gleaming in that chrome-y way at the front of the room. While Al spoke, Danny and I did matching demos of the techniques (let's see you try and address a crowd on a microphone while holding any form of flag!!!) It was so fun to participate in this way, and I only hope the visual impact was as amusing for the group as it was for Danny and I.

Personally, coaching people into their first clutch flag has been something that I've loved for the past year - and have come up with a whole lot of (often humorous) cues that seem to click with folks. Apparently, Al, Danny, and Steven have a lot of those cues as well because an incredible number (I''ll get the exact number for you when I get the chance) of people got their very first fully legit 90-degree clutch flag on the first day. THEN several went on to nail a press flag for the first time as well. Something about Al and Danny in the room made my press flag go higher too! PLUS we all learned how to really spot someone for their maximum learning in the press flag too. People just couldn't get enough of flagging - clutch or press... it's just such a fun and unusual movement... and let's be honest it makes you feel like some kind of ninja... :) And well, many of us want that.

We ended the day on quite an intense subject -- the often illusive muscle-up and again - many people got their very first muscle up that day. Even though people were approaching fatigue, the looks of determination were on many faces as they tried different techniques, responded to new cues, created new cues, and then ultimately landed near or on top of the bar for the very first time. Many attendees were also so skilled that they were doing reps of muscle ups too. It was an inspiring sight for all (and I'll be sharing some cues here as well)

Time for me to get some much needed lunch, but rest assured the updates will be coming along VERY steadily as I want to document a lot of the experience for myself as well. PLEASE post your questions and comments below so I can get into the details that you want to hear most!

Didn't make it to the first PCC? Don't worry! We're doing it again in August -- and hope to have some more upcoming dates for you as well. Click here and see all the upcoming PCC Workshops. See you there!

Primal Move Comes to Gaithersburg and a Visit with Mike Krivka and Phil Ross

The recent Primal Move certification workshop in Gaithersburg (near Washington DC) went really really well. Mike Krivka's gym, CrossFit Koncepts was the perfect location for Primal Move as well as the RKC Recertification with Master RKC Phil Ross on the following day. A large open space, and good heaters running. Between you and me, I was a little concerned that we'd freeze in there—I'm from Florida and consider anything 50 Degrees Fahrenheit or below to be "cold".     En route, I had to make a connection in Cincinnati, and while stepping off the plane thought to myself "wow this is a nice airport* here in Cincinnati, too bad my layover is so short, I'd like to poke around and get a snack." Well... I must have thought that too loud because no sooner than I rush to the connecting gate than I see that the flight to DC has been delayed because of poor visibility in DC for landing. The delay ends up being only about 1.5hrs so I have time for espresso, almonds, a few phone calls, including detailed Q+A about an upcoming "how to rock affiliate sales" webinar I'm working on.  All and all not a bad thing - besides I knew the next flight was short and I had an upgrade to 1st - so all was good.

RKC Team Leader (and good friend - we recently worked on his awesome ebook Code Name: Indestructible together - and have more plans in the works!) Mike Krivka graciously offered to pick me up at the airport and we headed out for a much needed steak.  There seems to be a "hospitality contest" going on right now between a few people and well, I'm more than happy to support this venture, because no matter who wins... I win, and that seems to involve some great meals and very good times.   After staring at a frozen lake outside my Marriott room, I got some much needed sleep - the next day's Primal Move Workshop would demand as much from me mentally as physically- the added shock of what I consider "extreme cold" (native Floridian over here) and foreign concepts like "snow" I considered as additional "stressors."   Mike and I further conspired over a solid breakfast and espresso before heading to his fantastic warehouse gym, CrossFit Koncepts.  The morning class was finishing up and between their enthusiastic kettlebell swings and the heaters, the gym was toasty enough.  

The group for Primal Move was wonderfully diverse - we had RKCs, HKCs, Chiros, Krav Maga instructors, a psychologist, and recreational athletes/fitness/healthnuts just to name a few.  The main thing was, they were all really psyched about the program and ready to learn.   I don't like to be loud, but it was worth it to keep the heaters on, and this crowd was so enthusiastic that it wasn't hard to crank up my personal volume a little more than usual.  For our example Primal Move session we all worked up a well needed warmth too - as my trusty iPad valiantly pulsed its Primal Move Playlist tunes through Mike's formidable sound system.  Right away from our first time through the Primal Move Warmup/Evaluation I could tell we were going to have a great workshop - people were catching on quickly, and already feeling how these effective movement patterns fit in with their activities.  As I warned everyone from the beginning - this one day workshop would be a total information and mobility exercise OVERLOAD.   No one has ever disputed that, by the way.   It is always so interesting though, towards the end of the workshop I like to add in some memory based and problem solving games that can serve to review so much of the movement info they received earlier - a lot of retention seems to happen with this - and in some cases, people have created little combinations they can start practicing or using immediately.   At the very least, it helps to show even further how exploring the different moves is fun, and how they can be strung together to create something fun and beautiful to practice.

Already I have received individual private messages from a few people who have already seen their FMS score improve since attending and practicing some of the moves regularly.   This is great to hear as Primal Move is really built on the principles and movement patterns of the FMS.   (If you were wondering what the difference between Primal Move and other systems like MovNat, Animal Flow, Becoming Bulletproof etc, the FMS tie-in is the easiest answer.  Btw, those other systems are really great too - and if you are already familiar with them as an instructor, you may wish to add PM to your skill set as well.)

That night we went to a really cool restaurant (the kind you can tell has been there for a long time...) called The Golden Bull - the sign out front said "Famous for Prime Rib and Crabcakes"  so I knew were in for a treat... and that's exactly what I ordered... and it was great!  (Didn't want to say it at the time, but after all that workshop leading, movement demonstrating, and generally thinking on my feet, I probably could have ordered 2 dinners and put them both away with ease...).

The next day was the RKC Recertification with Master RKC Phil Ross - and I had every intention of taking it easy (I had just led a full day workshop the day before!) just observing on occasion, helping out with photos, but mainly getting a lot of writing work done at the same time.   If you know me though, you know what really happened...  I got a teeny tiny bit of writing done, but took a fair amount of pictures, observed a whole lot but mainly I had to get in there and participate too!   Those kettlebells you know? You just have to use them too - it's compulsive!   A smart group of people showed up to recertify and really were treated to a LOT of new and updated information, not to mention strategies from all three of us.   I feel like we bonded a bit as a group too - especially after hearing everyone's client success stories AND form improvements at the workshop and all those great "AHA! moments" which always seem to occur whenever you get at least 2 RKCs in one room.  Among many other things I scribbled down as they were working through their materials was a nice simple kettlebell Swing combo from Phil - it's designed for you to go straight through:

 I've since used this as a timing component in some group workouts involving stations and other implements like rope climbs, etc.   Great stuff!!

There will be more pictures down the line on Facebook etc - but in the mean time I had to get a picture with the Kettlebell King, Phil Ross and his royal ride:


*I like nice airports, and can name favorites from all over the world...

My First Time Leading a Certification Workshop - Primal Move Winter Park Florida

Its no secret that I'm nuts about Primal Move.  Ever since being introduced to it in Seattle, I've enjoyed adding it to my small group's sessions, and exploring the movements at home. They've had a great effect on my own practice and have added infinite value to my CK-FMS knowledge. And while I was a little nervous to teach the first ever Primal Move Certification Workshop here in Florida—and the first certification workshop I have ever personally led—the awesome vibe of the people who showed up made it a total JOY. Which is really what Primal Move is all about.

Bringing back the childlike curiosity, fun, and adventurousness to our fitness programs can be incredibly powerful. So many times it's easy to get caught up in a fierce, competitive attitude - which can be an effective motivator for many people - but can lead to injury as well. I've spent a lot of time thinking about what most people ultimately want from their fitness program.   It's a similar question to what do most people want for their lives?  Hope I'm not the only one thinking about this stuff... 

Maybe its because I live in Florida and have a lot of older friends, but I think about the long-term repercussions of what I do in my programs.  I also am looking for some fairly simple things in my own life - freedom and prosperity.  Personal freedom by my definition absolutely requires good health, a high level of fitness, and smart time management.  I want to be ready to take on any opportunity or adventure that I can.   I'm not really concerned with doing stunts (though if you subscribe to my youtube channel you might think otherwise), or competing with others.  I want to keep improving my own practice, becoming a better coach, and hopefully inspiring others, regardless of their fitness level.  If you've ever tried to provoke me or get overly competitive and are annoyed at my lack of response, it's because every single day that I am healthy, happy, and living free, I am already winning the big prize.  Everything beyond that is gravy—and believe me there's so much gravy.*

Now, don't mistake my joyfulness and talk of curiosity and fun as weakness.   As anyone who was at yesterday's Primal Move workshop will tell you - this stuff is NOT child's play.   There are some seriously tough moves, transitions, and strength requirements for the intermediate and advanced movements.  Heck - some of the very basic moves can be difficult - physically and neurologically, but the rewards of practice are HUGE.  Besides, it looks cool when you start to improve the moves - let's admit it - we all want to look cool.   I do!!!!  

The 8 hour workshop seemed to just fly by - we had a LOT of material to cover - both in lecture form and in hands on let's try it out, let's work with it form.   Yellow notecard meant "talking" pink notecard meant "doing."   (A derivative of one of my goofy catch phrases "Less Talking, MORE DOING!") and as everyone can attest, yesterday there was PLENTY of doing.   There's just so much great stuff - and nearly infinite possibilities with the Primal Move system - which is one of the reasons that I just love it.   When we did one of our last game sessions of the day, I was incredibly impressed with the way that everyone was able to remember, adapt, and work with small flows of multiple movements - on the fly!   Even though people were getting tired and stuffed full of information, they were remembering, sequencing, challenging, laughing, learning from each other, retaining, and demonstrating a high level of understanding of the material already!  Granted, the people who attended were some of the top trainers in their areas, and definitely braniacs.   Anyway... this was an incredible experience for me as an instructor, and I can only hope to do this more and more - improving every time.   A huge thank you to everyone in attendance, and Dragon Door for these incredible workshop opportunities.

I'm going to go make some Primal Blueprint pumpkin muffins now, and finish up some writing tasks.  Want to make some pumpkin muffins too?  Check it out below (recipe starts at 2:11):


Any other Gen-Xer's remember that one?

CK-FMS Workshop Experience 2011

Personal experience journals and related info about the Dragon Door CK-FMS workshop - I'm not done with this section yet - so keep checking back!!!

Day One of CK-FMS - Incredible and Incredibly Humbling!!

Day one of CK-FMS is in the books - what a fact and action filled and day - a bit more "lecture" component than what I'm used to with Dragon Door workshops, but completely understandable considering the massive amount of info we are and will be covering.  Besides, the dynamic personalities of Brett Jones and Gray Cook assure that there's never ever ever a dull moment.   The day began with optional recertification for RKC, since I had just attended the RKCII this past July, this wasn't necessary for me this time - but it was good to be supportive of those who were retesting, and its always a great opportunity to review the form - which we are doing here and there during the weekend as well.  I can't stress enough how important it is to constantly work on your basic RKC 6 Kettlebell exercises.   Some people may think that you can get "bored" of "just 6 exercises" but the fascinating and crucial nuances and subtleties are what make good movements into excellent movements with seemingly "magic" results.


Today we were introduced to the actual Functional Movement Screen, a system of 7 tests, seemingly simple but again nuance and accuracy being the key.   Sometimes it felt like splitting hairs, but that's where the answers often were.  Part of the challenge administering the FMS is to not OVER think or overanalyze what's going on.   You save that part for later - you administer the screen - and try not to color it with interpretation until later.  Even the wording of the cues you give the client are designed in such a way that the screen is standardized.   Being the daughter of a psychologist, and having been subjected (thanks for the m&ms) to many different tests, screens, questionaires over the years (you have to practice them on someone, might as well use family?) I have a real appreciation for a well designed test.   Especially ones that reach conclusive results which can then be used as a baseline for improvement.   There's a particular elegance to the CK-FMS system that when applied correctly has so much value - I am already excited about screening my current clients, and am debating who I want to talk into being the "case study."   If any of you guys are reading this and are extra interested in being the "case study" please let me know asap - if several of you are in "the running" thats ok too - because extra practice is just fine by me.


I was also screened and will be screened several times over the weekend - and well, I know I have some shortcomings, but it is always humbling to see those quantified and charted out.  And let me just say, some of the tests are REALLY REALLY difficult... you will feel like you have not only 2 left feet, but maybe 2 left arms as well.  


Tomorrow is starting early and I am determined to get some of that great local Dunn Brother's Coffee before it all gets started.  So it's night night time for me.

Day Three CK-FMS - Can I Possibly Be Any More Inspired? You Never Know With Dragon Door!!!

Wow wow wow... ok you are probably tired of me going on and on and gushing about this stuff - but I can't help it - seriously the information that I've been exposed to these past few days has had such incredible value.  Mark and Nikki Snow of SG Human Performance made a presentation today that really had me rethinking larger classes - they have been able (with documented proof!) to implement CK-FMS with their kettlebell classes.   Fitness and quality of life improvements have literally been off the charts - we even got to go through what would be a sample of one of their workouts - and I found several ideas that I will start to use with my small group almost immediately. 

Likewise - many really important concepts about training that helped to justify the way I train myself.   Its a somewhat well known fact I'm not a fan of cardio for cardio's sake - incidental cardio, sure, but I've never been a fan of running, jogging, spinning, cycling, or any of the "cardio dance classes" but I LOVE the incidental and very serious results that come from kettlebell training.   Not to mention the surprising strength and unmatched aesthetic results (trust me I have tried nearly everything, nothing works like this stuff....)  

The really fascinating thing about CK-FMS and FMS in general is that it is a standardized screen - when you find a problem that needs the attention of an actual doctor or clinician, you can intelligently send them on their way and vise versa - its a whole new "language" of sorts.  AND you can also use it to track and show progress, figure out what's going on, what may be holding someone back and how to help them on their corrective journey.   The screen is also a great way to gauge the effectiveness of the workout plans you have for a given client or yourself - is the plan improving your screen score or is it causing harm?   Important stuff!!!   Incorporating the kettlebell and the RKC concepts into the FMS is also really neat as it doesn't necessarily require me to go out and buy more stuff in order to help clients (and myself) even more than before.

Something both Brett Jones and Gray Cook stressed was that the word "functional" has come to mean a bunch of things - some of which are pretty silly - and that the RKC is very much a School of Strength, not a school of little fruity methods and light weights - we use corrective exercise to exaggerate a problem, test to make sure we have the right problem, to see if we've fixed a problem, or to "flip" a mental "switch" to allow greater mobility or stability.   This of course will allow greater performance, heavier lifting and all the wonderful benefits which accompany both and more.

Chicago RKC 2011 - Conducting Interviews and Making Friends

I observed and conducted interviews with some of the very top people in the RKC community here at the Chicago RKC - the first in the Chicago area.  More importantly, this marks the 10 year anniversary of the certification program.  Needless to say spirits are high and LOTS of learning is going on. 

Hanging with DragonDoorTV and friends at the Chicago RKC this weekend!!

Promise I'll be back to writing articles for you soon! Right now as in this very second, I am observing and conducting interviews with some of the very top people in the RKC community here at the Chicago RKC - the first in the Chicago area.  More importantly, this marks the 10 year anniversary of the certification program.  Needless to say spirits are high and LOTS of learning is going on.  

Tagging along at the "Media Table" with Amanda Salas and Spencer of DragonDoor.TV is really too much fun - we've even had the chance to get video of some UNBELIEVEABLE kettlebell juggling!!

It's only the first day but already I've talked to so many super inspiring people and not only am I getting this info for Dragon Door, I am asking questions specific to YOU - the readers of  Interestingly (not to mention surprising and just a little bit bewildering) several people have recognized me from this website and Facebook.   Long time reader Laura even came up to me with a batch of the Chocolatey Pecan Date Coconut Treats - she added some cayenne pepper and they were DELICIOUS (yes, I took a picture and will be uploading it very soon).

So far I have had great conversations with several Senior RKCs, Master RKCs, Level 2s and accomplished RKC instructors from all over the world.  And not to worry, you will hear all about it - from me and from the Dragon Door website.  By the way, I have a newfound respect for my folks' effort on past Christmas Eves... I helped the teaching assistants unpack and organize all the kettlebells for the certification- there are several hundred here of ALL sizes... a surprisingly big job for all involved.

Chicago RKC Day Two Recap

Writing to you from the midst of the 2nd day of the Chicago RKC certification workshop - hanging with DragonDoor.TV's Amanda Salas and getting her hooked on my rapidly disappearing stash of Green & Black's 85% cacao chocolate.  We are having a great time and getting a ton of important interviews.  There are so many impressive and inspiring people involved with this community - and not just those in leadership - the participants themselves all bring an amazing amount of experience, practice and diligence. 

Had an extensive talk with Geoff Neupert, author of the Kettlebell Burn 2 - he has some pretty wild new items in the works that I can't wait to get.   Pavel answered a question that will really help one of my small group participants too - and of course, I've been jotting down workouts like crazy.   So many great combinations for strength, stamina and above all technique practice and development.   Hope you're ready to get some work done.   Also - some amazingly inspiring information from people who's health and lives have literally been turned around because of RKC style kettlebell training.  So their next course of action is to be HERE getting their RKC certification so that they can share this super effective training modality with others.  

Back to it - and back to regular posting soon :)

Chicago RKC Day 3 - Marketing, Testing, Networking... Getting Victimized!

The third and final day of any given RKC workshop is always intense - and the last day is always very emotional for most people.  You may have read my account of the Orlando RKC 2011 - and the last day there was certainly no exception to this emotional experience. 


The teams first gathered to warm up with joint mobility - I got there early because the word "recharge" was on the schedule and thought it might be an opportunity to do some qigong like we did in Orlando - alas I was mistaken.   The air grew thick with anticipation as the teams began to start in with technique testing.  Following that, the formidable kettlebell snatch test - now performed at the END of the workshop instead of the beginning like it used to be.  So you have ONE SHOT to get it right.  Not to mention its been the RKC workshop weekend - I kept asking to see people's hands all weekend - hope that wasn't annoying - but I proud to say that a LOT of the participants had taken great care of their hands - I got some new hand care tips from some of them as well.   (its in my notes, I'm in the Chicago airport writing this right now, so look for that in a future update to this entry)  Anyhow - after the testing period they took a brief break before the always valuable marketing lecture.  I sat in on that as marketing is something that I always need to work on - having only over the past year discovered that it isn't the exclusive domain of cheeseballs, con artists and other annoying people I don't like.  And not to mention you DON'T have to be a cheeseball to get things done - contrary to what some people believe, there isn't just one way to market.   Even though I didn't have my RKC manual with me - which has the "big ideas to implement" (my paraphrase) page where you jot down ideas that may come to you during the lecture, I did have my notepad.  Even though I have heard a version of this lecture last October, I came up with 51 new ideas to implement across my various projects and DBAs - (woohoo gonna make that accountant work for it this year).  John DuCane delivers the marketing lecture and it's chock full of his personal experiences with building Dragon Door, how it got started, etc.   For those of us who have struggled and continue to struggle on our way to establish our training or information businesses this presentation is especially encouraging.  So many people present this type of info with such a rosey tint that when you don't first succeed you feel like something is wrong with you - or that your personality isn't "right."  Something else I like about the presentation is that you are challenged to find ways to communicate your value as a person, a trainer, etc. as part of your marketing - to NOT hide your personality/individuality - blandness may sell initially, but after a while most people will detect this fake act and drift away from you and your product - no matter what kind of gimmicky hard sell techniques you try to dish out.  Or maybe it works, but what kind of fun is that anyway.  For me and my... "distinctive" personality, its reassuring to hear that maybe that might not be a detriment to my businesses and maybe even a plus point.  Maybe I'm too "hardcore" for the mainstream, but since when did I care about that? 


Admittedly, I did discover over the weekend exactly how much of a (please pardon the phrase) hardass instructor I really am - fellow RKC Level 2 (and honorary big brother), Tim Shuman would be proud as I am carrying on our tradition of nit-pickery in the quest for constant and unending improvement of our performance and instruction of the RKC style of kettlebell lifting.  From the sidelines it was fun to watch for movement problems in the candidates and to think of which cue I would give and how I would handle the correction if they were in one of my classes.   The key is - don't try to fix everything at once - you don't want to overwhelm the person in question, but at the same time they need to know what to fix first to avoid injury and to also avoid getting into a bad habit.  Basically, don't come to me if you just care about banging out meaningless sloppy reps, you'll just be angry that I don't blare your favorite pop music tunes and I *gasp* might make you do corrective drills.  Come to my classes if you want to learn, if you want to get stronger - you will probably also "accidentally on purpose" lose a lot of fat, become more fit, flexible and (reaching for an airline barfbag right now because I hate this word) more.... TONED.  GAAAHHHHH!!!!  More on "the 't word'" later.  For now if you want to read about the kettlebell physique click here for my article on that.  Remember this will all only happen if you're serious about your training and you're training with someone serious.  Ok enough yelling and ranting, because this brings me to the next subject.... I wanted to be a victim!


Heard it through the grapevine that they were a tad short on local participants for the teaching of complete strangers how to do basic kettlebell exercises, so I volunteered to "forget everything I know" and be a "victim" (that's the pet name they have for kettlebell students/clients/etc.).  There were several reasons I wanted to do this - and not all of them were purely selfish:

  1. As a member of the RKC community I wanted to be sure that everyone had a good workshop experience and no one was shorted out of the teaching portion of testing.  This little scrap of "real world" experience is so important - it makes you use all the corrective drills and info that you've learned over the past few days.  I wanted to pay that forward.
  2. Wanted to see if they had some new corrective drills for a lot of the common problems I see with my own clients - so I made sure to try and replicate some of the common things I'd seen over the past year.
  3. I wanted to be sure that these guys were tested well... and see how well they knew their stuff.
  4. It was fun to pretend to know nothing - and to tap into my old past awkwardness - though I really really hope no one saw that intentionally crappy plank/wonky swings/fake mobility issues I did for the sole purpose of hoping to hear their corrections (they did great, I am pleased to say).  Though one of the candidates was quick to point out that while I did the drills incorrectly that when I was just moving around and/or picking up items from the floor etc my good movement patterns betrayed me.  BUSTED!!!!
  5. This was another opportunity to start a dialog about teaching techniques - how to relate to others.  We had a great discussion after and during the break about the physical and psychological boundaries men and women have - body issues and how to make sure your client is comfortable with the learning situation.  Personally, I have pretty good proof that my clients don't mind being "karate chopped" in the abs/rear/etc. but not everyone is "blessed" to have such willing participants.   Its always good to ask first before delivering any of our RKC "tough love."   Other areas of discussion took me way back to summer camp, when a camp counselor talked to us about body dysmorphia and how some people are extremely sensitive to particular wording and descriptions when talking about their (and others) bodies.  We need to think ahead on how we can make sure that our clients are learning full body tension - without intruding on their personal boundaries.   I was shocked to find that a collegue's former client had NOT been activating his abdominal muscles AT ALL during kettlebell swings - and discovered this only due to some tough love.  We've been fixing this bad habit with a brutal mix of "extreme planking funtime*" and of course more swings and more tough love.  But it has been a harder obstacle than I would have originally imagined - you MUST make sure your 'victims' are keeping their abs tight the second they even touch a kettlebell.


Following the teaching test and a brief break, Shaun Cairns, Sr. RKC and the FIRST Beast Tamer (yes we had a rather involved discussion about this!!!) led the Grad Workout.  Winter Park Small Group:  you're doing this workout on Wednesday...   Not going to give it away here - but just know it was a great example of the simple yet elegant way kettlebell workouts can be created for maximum effect in a minimum of time/space/equipment.  You don't need loads of gimmicky crap and filler bunk to get massive results with kettlebell training, and this workout was proof positive.


After the grad workout I ran around like a maniac trying to get everyone else on my list of "must have" conversations - while team leaders and teaching assistants worked hard to determine everyone's results.   Tension and anticipation hung heavy in the air.  Following all the verdicts people collected their belongings and began their journeys home - all forever changed by the experience of the RKC weekend.   My mind was certainly racing - and I wasn't even a candidate!  No matter the end result, everyone left with a powerful experience and more information to be absorbed.  No doubt lives were changed - I know mine was at the Orlando event.


I stuck around to help pack up the remaining kettlebells and was amused to put my 10+ years of internet mailorder retail mad tape-gun skillz (skillz with a 'z') to work.  Its all in the wrist btw, the quick snap at the beginning and end of the single taping stroke is the secret - as is setting the tension of the tape roll clutch.  Don't make me write a pdf of the hardstyle method of box taping.  It was fun to work side by side with some of the best fitness leadership in the country, and especially carrying boxes around with Chief Pavel himself, as he pitched in on this task as well.


While I enjoyed some very good food over the weekend, I do miss my kitchen and its seemingly endless source of bacon/eggs/beef/veggies.... 


Real quick... many RKC candidates came up to me and said that they read - please contact me if you were at the Chicago RKC and are a GiryaGirl reader - I want to have a special article about YOUR experiences - contact adrienne @ for more info.  Please contact soon or I will be forced to read through the roster and track you down individually - and don't think that I won't.   Can't tell you how honored and humbled I am that so many of you read and keep up with this website - still getting used to the idea that anyone reads it!!   THANKS for your continued readership and support!


*everyone loves "extreme planking funtime" right???????

Dragon Door Bodyweight Workshop Experience - 2011

Collection of journal entries and related information about the newly offered Dragon Door Bodyweight Exercise workshop.

Bodyweight Workshop Begins Tomorrow!!!

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!  Due to overwhelming response, Dragon Door has decided to offer the Bodyweight Workshop again this coming August!


Ok I am about to turn in for the night because tomorrow promises to be a REALLY huge day - the FIRST EVER Dragon Door Bodyweight Exercise workshop begins - led by Pavel, Mark Reifkind and Max Shank.   Tonight's meet and greet felt like some kind of star studded event (complete with bacon wrapped scallops) as I stood there listening at a table only to realize... HEY.... I know that guy over there... I HAVE HIS DVD!  Then it happened again, and again.   Some of my new friends from the CK-FMS workshop were there along with many friends from past RKC workshops, the Level 2 and of course... online networking.   I finally met someone face to face who I've helped redesign 3 of their websites.   Then there was of course the ongoing "battle of the shoes" though I would have to say I'm very pleased with the "shoe team" where I ended up.   Monochrome black Chuck Taylors forever! (Or at least until something else comes along.)


Before the meet and greet, I did a little work on a side project known to about 3 people in total.  Don't spill the beans, folks - its nothing super huge, but its something that I hope will help a lot of my fellow fitness pros and actually it might be good for others too.   You'll have to be the judge - I'll keep you posted.    Its brisk outside for sure here in St. Paul MN - high 30s!!! And to think, back at home in Florida it was just starting to get nice out (in Floridian "nice out" means "not disgustingly hot, air not thick and/or full of mosquitos").


I just re-read the course description again and got all excited... wow I love this stuff - hoping to come home with a fine-tuned idea of how to progress to a clutch flag or human flag... because you just don't really see women doing those, and I want to change that.   And I'm stalled on my one arm chin up project.... stalled at a good place but still - this weekend should hold the answer of what to do next.   Feels like Christmas Eve over here.   I'll try and sleep.... hope it works.

The First EVER Dragon Door Bodyweight Workshop

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!  Due to overwhelming response, Dragon Door has decided to offer the Bodyweight Workshop again this coming August!


Can't tell you how elated I was to find out that Dragon Door was offering this workshop - next to kettlebell training, bodyweight training is my other favorite way to train.   Since discovering Convict Conditioning and Naked Warrior a year or so ago, I have really managed to regain a lot of what I think of as "child strength" since I spent a good portion of my childhood dangling out of trees and generally climbing around.  Paired with kettlebell training, the correct execution of bodyweight exercises is an incredibly efficient and easy* way to round out your training - and gain nearly acrobat-like abilities.   Not to mention the random person totally making your day by asking if you work for Cirque.  Which brings me to the other thing I like so much about bodyweight exercise - like kettlebell work, it brings the body into balance - all the "parts" start learning to work together - and you'll soon find that the flexibility and abilities of your youth begin to return.   Likewise the coordination required for many of the exercises is great for your mind and carries over to sports performance, dance, martial arts, etc.   

 Anyway, enough fanfare - you want to know what happened!   Wrote a little about the meet & greet in a previous post Day one started with a discussion - and that we should focus on trying to "stay fresh" during the course of the weekend - no maximal efforts - 80-90% would be the top effort - so that we could continue to try the progressions, regressions, etc. We would be varying the focus throughout each day as to let our other "parts" rest - which was great functionally, but it has made reviewing my notes slightly nightmarish (part of that is my fault for having such hideous handwriting). Mark Reifkind started with a great explanation of "Why Bodyweight?" Mainly that it is the foundation - the center of the athlete - and that the very beginning of resistance training is our resistance to gravity. Progressive resistance can be achieved by varying our leverage, position, plane, etc.  And don't forget balance - none of it works without being able to keep your balance within all planes of movement.... all the sudden working out with minimal to no equipment doesn't sound so simple anymore does it?   As in the RKC principles, tension and movement together form the basis of bodyweight training.

So... I FINALLY got to try out a Pavelizer... after bugging friends etc on twitter for months... ouch. ow dang. ummm yeah - that's effective... its one of those things where if you do it incorrectly its easy, if you do it correctly your midsection is on FIRE.   May have to get one... because I'd love to see the faces some of my clients will no doubt make while using this thing.  And well - because it WORKS!    After having humbled us all with this cruel device, they mercifully led us through several abdominal stretches that we would be using extensively through the next 3 days - we then went through several plank variations all of which will be unleashed on my unsuspecting clients over the next few months.  

Oh and we did handstands and handstand push ups and variations of how to make them easier/harder etc.  One of the neat things about the whole workshop was again how Pavel, Max Shank, and Mark Reifkind basically "tag teamed" and cycled the exercises so that we could recover from one while learning/practicing another - utterly ingenious.  No wasted time - and while some people might think I was utterly CRAZY (ok some of you think that anyway but whatever) for doing this workshop back to back with CK-FMS, it honestly was a great basis for it - as we touched into CK-FMS topics from time to time, as well as mobility drills with which I had just become familiar - so it was great to reinforce that and have time for Q&A

Oh and the hollow position and the press up to headstand and and and and and... seriously I don't even know where to start.   We even straightened out my bridge and I got HIGHER.... then we had really good food... all three days... lunch... yum.   But seriously, I just counted and I have 29 pages of handwritten notes - stuffed with little pictures in the margins... it was like 3 days of Convict Conditioning, CC2, and Naked Warrior rolled into one.   Speaking of Naked Warrior - I got Pavel to sign my book!!!!!!   Bet you are envious!!

More later - but its errand time now - the short answer is - great workshop, would attend again, would encourage you to attend.   BUT I would say that it was very good that I had been training with the above-mentioned books as I felt that it made me get the most out of the workshop - having been able to progress through the basics and on into the advanced drills.  Some of which were so advanced that no everyone could even do them!   Like all Dragon Door offerings, this is not a workshop to be taking lightly.


*easy.... we like that word in fitness marketing... by "easy" here I mean with minimal equipment, and can be done anywhere.  You still need to do the work and put in the time - though that time can be in very small doses.  For instance, when I used to lead a friend's fitness boot camp, if I arrived very early I'd get in some pistol and handstand pushups practice - maybe some pull ups if the required equip (or tree branch) was available (used to do some qigong, but apparently I look spooky doing that?!? So it gets done on the 'beloved rug' at home).  This really adds up over time and this type of GTG training (I do this at home with pull ups alternated with small household chores) is highly effective for useable strength.   It is solely responsible for me being able to now do 13-14 strict tactical pull ups in a row, instead of just 5-8 a few years ago.

Bodyweight Exercise Workshop - St. Paul, MN - August 3-5 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012 - 00:00 - Sunday, August 5, 2012 - 23:00

An RKC-Only Training with RKC Chief Instructor Pavel, Master RKC Mark Reifkind and
RKC Team Leader, Max Shank

Bodyweight Exercise Workshop
St. Paul, Minnesota • August 3-5, 2012


Workshop Code # WPKB80 Register on-line NOW! :)


Get a Treasure Chest of Advanced New
Bodyweight Training Secrets to Restore,
Revitalize and Reinforce Your Strength and Power…
Bodyweight Exercise Workshop is for those RKCs who wish to (check all that apply):


   Deliver highly effective performance-enhancement training to a wide spectrum of clients
   Significantly increase their income as a trainer
   Radically upgrade their own performance skills and capabilities
   Establish themselves as a leader in the performance-training market
   Add greater perceived value to their training business profile
   Join and network with an elite group of high-level RKC instructors
   Develop significant new levels of power, strength, conditioning and physical resilience
Is this YOU? Then click here to read more and register for the bodyweight workshop now!

Orlando RKC Weekend 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010 - 07:00 - Sunday, October 17, 2010 - 23:00


Orlando RKC Weekend at Disney's Wide World of Sports - detailed journal, related notes and various other things.  Sorry it took so long to complete, I was dragging my feet because I didn't want it to be over.  Now that I have completed the RKC Level 2, be watching for that! :)


Orlando RKC 2010 Full Recap Video! See if you recognize anyone!

Recognize anyone at 0:36 doing one hand swings?

It was fun, it was challenging, I don't remember her asking me all those questions...? What do you think - could you do it? Are you ready for a challenge?

What do you wish you'd brought, done, known etc, before the RKC Weekend???

Last night I tweeted, twittered, whatever you call it, a question to my fellow kettlebell maniac friends, a group which includes MANY people who are RKC certified.   Since I've read a good deal about what people bring to the RKC, and what they think they need etc, I thought I'd ask:


Hey RKCs! What do you wish you had known/done/brought with you to the #RKC certification weekend??? #kettlebell #certification


Right off the bat, I got several really good responses - the first was from girlhero who suggested bringing extra food (oh yes I am!), calling the hotel to make sure there's a refrigerator and microwave in the room, and bring something to pop blisters (OUCH!) if necessary. faizalenu further suggested handcare items, portable food (btw I am SOOOOO making a box full of those addictive paleo coconut/date/cocoa balls), layered clothes (going to check the weather report again), extra socks (good call), sunscreen (Got it), tape, muscle relaxer (I'm going to bring my foam roller!). bobyorr jokingly suggested a snow suit (guess he certified somewhere cold!) but seriously suggested liquid skin (good call, I'm a fan of this stuff!), flip flops, towel, pens, flexibility and to be rested. Last but not least, kravmascara stressed the importance of having tape for your hands. Please add your suggestions! :)

Dragon Door TV features video highlights from the Orlando RKC!

Look for me at 0:36 doing one handed swings!

RKC Orlando 2010 Recap Part One: Thursday Night

After getting settled in (and not having a confrontation with the VERY aggressive bell boys) at the Disney area, official hotel, I made sure to fire up my netbook to see about the wifi - little did I know that after Saturday I just wouldn't have it in me to type for a while.   Then, of course it was time to listen to a short list of "motivating songs" which are probably not motivating to anyone but me, and will not be named here because you will have proof of my "total weirdo" status.


Off to the meet+greet I went, carrying Tim's newly repaired Vibram 5-finger shoe.  His big toe had somehow busted a side seam and I stitched it up the day before with heavy duty button sewing thread and fray block.  I'm curious to see how the repair performed over the weekend - since obviously I didn't know a way to turn a Vibram shoe inside out, and all of the repair was done from the outside.  He didn't have any complaints, so I'm assuming it held over the weekend.


Our nametags were all laid out, and I noticed a few people I knew were already inside.  Then a very very funny thing happened - I started recognizing people from Facebook and Twitter!      The great thing about the RKC weekend is that no matter where you were, you could just introduce yourself and meet someone who was into the same workout stuff that you are.   There was no reason to stand around alone at any time, just sit next to anyone, say hi and there was pretty much a guaranteed great conversation to follow, not to mention serious opportunities to learn about successful businesses, etc.

Also at the meet and greet we found out our teams (I was on Team Snideman, with RKC Team Leader Franz Snideman, RKC Alicia Streger, RKC Chris Newton, and RKC Thayne Shatah).   There are no bad choices with teams, as each are lead by extremely accomplished, published and inspiring people.   Slowly I began to realize that MOST people who came to the weekend flew in from all over - from Canada, and as far away as Japan attended.  I was a short (depending on traffic haha) 30 minute drive away from home - but I'm so glad I stayed at the conference hotel, to have the full experience - and to pretty much have the easiest way to get to the meetings on time.


Master RKC Andrea DuCane (someone I really look up to) was there, wearing a really cool green sweater.   I asked her about the upcoming Kettlebells for the baby boomer population DVD as I have several clients in that demographic - and it sounds like it's going to be super useful and close to release!  She also filled us in on some of the behind the scenes info on older Dragon Door DVD releases like From Russia with Tough Love, where she was relatively new to kettlebells at the time of the filming. 


I had to weigh in the next morning and if I was going to be able to use the 12 Kilo kettlebell for the snatch test, I would need to weigh less than 123.5lbs.    I've maintained under that weight for the past 6-7 months in preparation for this, so I was NOT about to let the giant steam tray full of delicious empanadas throw me off - even though they tasted like a cross between 2 of my favorite kryptonite foods (pizza rolls and fried wontons).  I ate two of them, picked up my RKC manual and turned in for the night.   Because Friday.... was going to be a BIG day.

RKC Orlando 2010 Recap Part Two: Friday part 1

Friday morning began at a merciful 8:15am with many of us piling onto the shuttle bus to the Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.   I just kept thinking... how my P.E. teachers from the past would really get a laugh out of ME doing something like this - I was never a "sports" person by any stretch of the imagination, and usually last to be picked for kick ball.    Then there was the whole issue of the black socks thing... but that's another story...


 Having just taken small sips from a large bottle full of water and unnamed sports drink (lol let's see if they have an affiliate program haha) and itsy bitsy bites of a Greens Plus Protein Bar (I love these.... nom nom nom).   Even though I knew I'd weigh in well under 123.5lbs, I wasn't about to take any chances at this point.   At the RKC, women who weigh in at 123.5 or less can use the 12 Kilo kettlebell for the kettlebell snatch test (part of the requirement for becoming an RKC).  What is this test?  Well, you must, regardless of bodyweight, complete 100 regulation, strict form kettlebell snatches in 5 minutes.   I've been able to for several months now, and have been doing the test at least once a week for said several months - just because I didn't want to get all stressed out about it.   And... the weight of the kettlebell used for the test also determined the weight of kettlebells you would use throughout the weekend.  


We arrived at the Wide World of Sports quickly enough, and bounded off the bus with our "omg we will not sue Disney under any circumstances, and yes, Disney may use our pictures/images/videos to promote us FOREVER!" waivers (I kept thinking of Metalocalypse and their "pain waivers" lol) in hand.   Now... imagine a place that's as big as a theme park... but is made up of baseball/softball/football(American)/football(soccer)/volleyball/track/etc fields.....   make each of these areas flawless, perfect and pristine... that's the Wide World of Sports, and its frankly almost a little intimidating.    I had a brief moment of "what am I doing here!!!" but got over it quickly as we assembled into a large field which was covered with a GIANT canvas canopy - something that none of us would take for granted.   I was slathered in SPF70 as usual, and conditioned to train outside in the sun at all hours, however, shade would certainly give everyone an advantage AND would cut down on potential medical emergencies.   John DuCane gave us a brief greeting, followed by Pavel who stated his expectations of us for the weekend.   Cortez Hull lead us in a joint mobility complex (I love this stuff), then Franz Snideman introduced the snatch test rules and expectations.  Immediately we assembled back into our teams and began the snatch testing process - I weighed in at 119.7 (whew) and grabbed a 12 Kilo kettlebell with a nice smooth handle.   Franz stood by with a stopwatch and began counting my reps - I did 20 on the right, then 20 on the left, then 15 and 15 (I think), at this point I started getting into the zone... I wasn't going to stop until I heard him say "100".  I had trained to go without stopping.... "good pace!" I heard him say a few times, but I was zeroed in... looking at the far wall without seeing it, just hearing the counting, and thinking of the form making every single snatch the best possible one I could.  All the sudden I remember hearing him say 97... I started slowing down... 98.. because I wanted to remember forever the moment he said... 99 and then 100.  Time slowed down and nothing felt real for a few seconds.. I did it... holy crap I did it!    At this point I'm parched and not thinking - a little from exertion, but mostly from accomplishing something I have had in my head for over a year.  Franz said something numbers to me that I somewhat realized was the time I took to do it, and I tried to smile and nod while catching my breath.   Because its me, I immediately felt bad that I wasn't able to carry on a full convo (I'm weird).   After chugging some water, jogging around a little in place and shaking my hands like a crazy person, I felt rather normal - and most importantly... my hands were intact... because as everyone now knows, the snatch test - is JUST the beginning...



Chocolate-y Pecan Date Coconut Treats


Amazingly tempting treat that will keep you going under extreme circumstances (like the RKC Certification Workshop). These can also help you make friends if you share them.


1cpecans (Raw, shelled pecans, loosely packed)
12 dates (I prefer the gloriously gooey Medjool variety)
3Tcocoa powder (I added a little extra for dusting at the end)
4Tcoconut butter (Artisana calls it Coconut Butter, Tropical Traditions calls it Coconut Cream Concentrate - its the same thing)
4Tcoconut (shredded, unsweetened) (Plus extra if you want to roll them in it)
1pncayenne pepper (Optional - but delicious!)


These are best stored in the refigerator.   I sometimes refer to them as "little healthy fat bombs", in other words, they are a good for you snack, but DON'T eat them all at one sitting... seriously... that would be bad.


This recipe absolutely positively requires the use of a food processor.   Even if you are using a large and powerful one, I would suggest doing the initial chopping/mixing in batches, this is a thick mixture full of healthy fatty oils.   A good strategy is to put all the ingredients into a bowl, mix it by hand, then drop 1/4 of it at a time into your processor - eventually mixing it all together at the end.

When you have a food processor that is full of this amazing energy-giving paste, its time to get creative - you can form it into little bars, balls, patties etc.    Personally I prefer to make little truffle-looking servings.   After you have rolled them (quickly, they're MELTY!) into whatever shape you want, dust with cocoa powder, coat with coconut shreds, or squish a pecan half into the top.    Store in tupperware containers in the refrigerator.   For particularly oily batches, I like to put a little "bedding" of shredded coconut mixed with cocoa powder in the bottom of each box.

I made sure to have a chilled box of these in my backpack EVERYDAY of the RKC weekend - they really kept me going.  Other participants and instructors really enjoyed them too - so here is the recipe as promised.   Enjoy and please put your own personal spin on them.

RKC Orlando 2010 Recap Part Three: Friday part 2

After the snatch test, we took a short break (literally, breaks would be approx 10 minutes and DON'T even think about being late....)


Everyone assembled back into the main building and gathered around since Pavel himself was going to give a demonstration on the Goblet Squat.  Not one of the actual "RKC 6" exercises, but still a VERY powerful and accessible squatting method which is great for most clients.   The Goblet Squat IS part of the HKC certification and many of the people who attended the RKC weekend had the HKC cert - they appeared to show some relief that this learning session would start with an "old friend".   The Goblet Squat can also be used as a basic field assessment a client's (or your) strength, flexibility, and kinesthetic awareness.  And... this would be the first step to teaching the Swing.


Pavel took center stage and showed us how to think of elongating our spines at the bottom of the Goblet Squat - as well as a "wow that's weird, but it totally WORKS" cue to get practically anyone to do it without excessive effort (train with me and I'll show you).   We were also introduced to the concept of "prying" at the bottom of the squat in order to increase the depth of the squat while finding our optimum squat stance (it's different for everyone).    ALSO a big cue for the Goblet Squat is to make sure that no matter what, your chest is up with an expanded feeling - you don't want to be leaning over or have your shoulders collapse inward.  Also by twisting the handle (hint, it won't actually "twist" haha) you can even engage your latissimus dorsi muscles - talk about big bang for the buck on a humble little squat variation.  All throughout this interactive lecture, we would take a few moments to try the movements and cues ourselves and with a partner - then to hurry back for the rest of the lecture - again... don't even think about being late - or it was "everyone pick up a kettlebell and walk around the outside of the pavillion" time.  I was glad I had "prepared" for this by carrying kettlebells up and down the stairs and across the condo complex for the previous 6 months...

RKC Orlando 2010 Recap Part Four: Friday part 3

Following a short (strictly timed) 10 minute break we came back to our places on the unforgiving astroturf and got into 1 of 2 approved "learning positions" (yes, I know how this sounds, but there's a logic to it - neither of these put the body into flexion, and can help stretch in a gentle way, the one most of us chose had us on our bellies in something similar to a "cobra" pose in yoga, or the way you sometimes see children watch tv from the floor).   For some of us, this unusual position was the cause of some discomfort.   I'd been trying to do things like read, watch Top Gear, etc for the previous months while on the floor in this way - especially since there was mention that the Spetsnaz (not the band) were required to read/study in this position and I am a TOTAL NERD about stuff like that.   The only problem that arose was the astroturf, which began to aggressively exfoliate everyone's knees and elbows after a while.   Small price to pay for the nice shade structure, so I'm not going to pretend to complain.


We came back and Pavel continued his talk, transitioning from the Goblet Squat towards the Swing.   Since certain celebrity trainers (ahem) have been getting bad press for bad form lately, the average new client will probably come to us with some strange ideas of how to do a kettlebell Swing - so our job was to basically trick them into doing it correctly - instead of saying OK we are now going to do kettlebell swings - and have them do whatever preconceived notion is in their head (and possibly causing injury and/or bad habits etc).  This is when the super essential hip hinge movement was introduced - which you can read more about here as well as the idea of "tricking" a client into doing their first Swing. The hip hinge is so essential to many of the kettlebell exercises - so it is a very good idea to be extremely comfortable with this movement. So - after teaching us the hike pass to get the kettlebell moving behind us, Pavel had us do this a few times then told us to stand up at a critical moment - congrats that was a Swing. Then by some kind of odd twist of fate/sitting up front they chose me to demonstrate this! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. So there I am... Pavel, The Pavel, with that accent is telling me to do what we just did basically, but three hikes then stand up, 2 hikes then stand up and well everyone is watching intently and I'm trying not to forget what numbers are. Managed to keep my cool though and not mess anything up - btw the mantra for that is "normal...normal...normal...normal". He's really cool btw, later on I'll try and remember some of the "Russian Jokes" he told throughout the program. We were given several corrective drills for common problems or misconceptions that a given person will have when learning the kettlebell Swing.


Brett Jones began his talk on the Get Up, the oft loved, oft hated complex 7 part exercise. There are so many reasons to do the get up regularly - it really has something for everyone: shoulder stability, strength, core activation, balance, upper body, lower body all with a heavy dose of kinesthetic awareness development.  I had been doing about 105 Get Ups per week in training for the RKC so I was ready for this lesson and excited to hear what Brett Jones would have to say about it. However, my relationship with the get up was not always so amicable (this is common).  Its a fight at first - you feel like you've got not only 2 left feet but maybe 3 left feet and one wobbly arm and none of these haphazard limbs are doing what they should be doing - oh and you can't really see what's going on either... All the more reason to make sure you learn this from someone who's RKC or HKC certified. The last thing you want to do is learn/practice bad habits - its hard to unlearn things.


After a class photo and much appreciated catered lunch we came back for the Beast/IronMaiden challenge. The "Beast" kettlebell weighs 106lbs and the challenge is men have to do a weighted pull up with it, a pistol (one legged squat) and strict military press (don't even think about turning it into a side or bent press). Women must do the same thing, but with a 24 kilo kettlebell. It personally irks the heck out of me that I can't yet press a 24 kilo kettlebell, but that's a discussion for another time. Chris Davis of Orlando decided to give it a go. He knocked out the pull up and nearly made it look easy - the pistol gave him some pause, but as the Star Spangled Banner played and wafted over from the ballfield next door, he managed to do it! All that was left was the press... the evil evil press. He was REALLY close, but will need to try again another time - it was an amazing attempt and I'm very proud to say that he's from our town here.


More lecture and troubleshooting various exercises and how to teach them followed - concluding with us getting back into our teams and practicing swings, and practicing coaching swings.


Then they began a lecture about troubleshooting the get up - you know the 7 part exercise we talked about before? That one... and there's all kinds of stuff that can go wrong - not to scare you - you should try it anyway, just don't use a kettlebell until you know what you're doing. We partnered up and practiced troubleshooting each other's technique, finding metaphors that spoke to our given partner. I had been paired up with someone who had an extensive golf background, so the golf Swing came into play with great results... I'm going to remember that. We assembled back as a large group and Pavel asked for someone to volunteer to have us all fix their get up - he specifically asked for someone who was having multiple problems etc.  Pavel then said that everyone should gather around close because one of US would be picked to critique and help this person. We all moved closer, but as we did, he began his get up. I did see most of it, which is a very very good thing because Andrea DuCane, Senior RKC and the Kettlebell Goddess herself closed her eyes and randomly pointed into the crowd... which was to say randomly pointed right at me. AAA!!!!!!!  I was completely nervous, hadn't seen the very beginning of this get up and was immediately handed a microphone. Pavel was looking at me, Andrea DuCane was looking at me, everyone was waiting. OH GAWD. I have a microphone in my hand and it isn't live band karaoke night!! What to do what to do what to do what to do. Thankfully this volunteer's get up had a few problems to choose from so I racked my brain to remember a few - which I did - then asked him to repeat the beginning - where I nearly gasped when I saw how extremely hyperextended his elbows would get - gah! It was hard not to make a face about it - ouch ouch ouch ouch. Really rare to find this with a male, but everyone is different and that's part of the fun/challenge of training. Pavel discussed corrective exercises for this condition, and we continued to work through his get up. Finally, I gratefully handed back the microphone. WHEW!!!


Following that adventure, we broke up into our teams and practiced troubleshooting the get up amongst ourselves - following a break we did our first group workout: A Franz Snideman original circuit repeated into infinity. Following the workout Pavel told us not to go drinking (haha) and we boarded the bus back to the hotel. I was doing pretty well, endurance/physically but my brain was going a million miles an hour - some of that was dedicated to getting into my backpack and eating whatever was inside. After sitting in the hotel room going "buuuhhhhh" for a bit I decided to walk down to Downtown Disney to find a burger or pizza or whatever other item I'd sworn off of in order to help make the weigh in... I ended up at Wolfgang Puck's and sorta stuffed my face - but had leftovers - which would be useful later. While walking around I noticed that my posture seemed to have improved... and when I got back, and fired up my netbook, I felt odd sitting on the bed... I had already been somewhat conditioned to the learning position, and got back to that - which is not so great for typing but whatever. I didn't stay up late though, because I had been warned of the heavy volume that would be taking place the next day... Saturday....

RKC Orlando 2010 Recap Part Five: Saturday Part 1

I felt a LOT less silly for setting 3 alarm clocks after the one from the hotel decided not to work Saturday morning.  There was NO WAY I was going to be late for the infamous high volume (work and learning) Saturday that we'd all been warned about.   After we all trundled onto the bus headed for the ESPN Wide World of Sports, some of us still artificially chipper from our various methods of caffeine consumption, we began our various tweets and conversations.   The bus ride was a little on the long-ish side so it was a good time to meet as many new people as possible - it was neat to find out what/why people had sought out the RKC certification and how they felt about the challenges thus far.   Many attendees had family members who were enjoying the Disney parks while we studying/practicing/etc.   I was continually impressed by a small group of people who attended the RKC for non-commercial reasons - some had lost over 100lbs thanks to kettlebell training and were attending to accomplish yet another landmark goal.   This really put things into perspective - yes, kettlebells have changed me for the better - I am now in better shape than I have ever been (even as a kid), and the confidence I get from that is simply undeniable.  And then there's all the health benefits and strength/endurance that carry over into sports and everyday activities.   When people see me, they KNOW I must be involved with the fitness industry in some way, and that is absolutely because of all this kettlebell training.  However, that pales in comparison to some of these people who have completely transformed their body, lifestyle, and health future by losing 100+lbs eating sensibly and training hard with kettlebells.


Saturday began with a Qigong Recharge session with Dragon Door CEO John DuCane.  This was particularly exciting to me as I have practiced a strange local form of a Qigong breathing exercise for over 10 years and was curious to see what other forms were out there.   John DuCane did not disappoint - he led us through a series of exercises which both got us warmed up but yet relaxed for the infamously grueling Saturday we had all been warned about.   I particularly liked the variations on the silk-reeling movements.   Not everyone seems to dig this sort of thing (a certain RKC friend of mine just can't stand to move slowly?!), but I can see how it is directly related to the focus on breath, bodily awareness, and centeredness which are so essential to proper kettlebell exercise form.


Immediately following this warmup, we gathered in our groups, I was with Team Snideman, also led by Alicia Streger and Thayne Shatah.   There we had an hour to practice, review, and continue warming up with the kettlebell Swing, the goblet squat, and get up.  Next up was Dan John, a colorful, knowledgeable Senior RKC who would teach us the intricacies of the properly executed Kettlebell Clean.  He explained that as well as being a great way to bring the kettlebell up to the shoulder for presses and other exercises, the kettlebell clean itself is a great exercise for general conditioning as well as "collision" or impact sports.   It is very important that the client learns that the arm just directs the clean, and that it is not some bizarre form of curling exercise.  Also, keeping our shoulders packed into the sockets is essential - and a good way to make this a habit is to think of the kettlebell as resting on the elbow at the top of the clean.   Women's and Men's cleans are slightly different and I plan on writing a whole article on this subject - so hang on!  We then graduated to double cleans, which are a whole different game at least at first - you must be sure to get your fingers out of the way at the top (a particular risk for men).   We were also taught to think of the kettlebell clean as a Swing with "quiet elbows" in other words, the elbow is involved gently, but not as extremely as is the case with the kettlebell snatch.  Often overlooked, the kettlebell clean and double clean are brilliant exercises in and of themselves, and should be emphasized in workouts especially for athletes and fighters. Following a break, Pavel took the stage once again and helped us to troubleshoot the clean with some great cues.   A couple of them were - focus on the horizon at the top, make sure you are rooted to the ground - there should be no wobbling back and forth (ever), have clients think of the clean as a short Swing with the arm directing the bell.  All of this should be done while maintaining full body tension at all times.   Not an easy thing to do, but very very effective.

Can you find my RKC comments?

Dragon Door posted their recap of many of our comments and feedback about the RKC weekend experience - Can you find my comments? I'll give you a hint - there's a joke about something in the 1990s... And not to worry, I am still busy writing up the day by day recaps - the 2nd half of Friday is almost done!!

Presses, Pull ups, Squats and the fun of going heavier... (Saturday Part 2) Orlando RKC Recap

Following yet another strictly timed and much needed break, we came back to learn about the Press as introduced and taught by RKC Team Leader Cortez Hull.   The proper performance of a kettlebell military press is highly dependent on the quality of the clean used to get the kettlebell to the pressing (rack) position - so it was obvious as to why we had learned the clean first.  It is commonly said by RKCs that the press is only as good as the clean - and this is absolutely the case - a bad clean that throws you off balance or worse will definitely not set up a powerful (or even successful) press.   Further discussion yielded differences in grip for the press vs the jerk - in the press, the handle of the kettlebell should be parallel to the calluses as opposed to diagonal (as in the jerk).  When you squeeze the handle of the kettlebell while executing a press, further activation of supporting musculature occurs and can make a press that much stronger and beneficial.   Likewise, full body tension is so necessary to the press - some people choose to clench their non-lifting fist at their side in order to increase and reinforce this tension.



Things got interesting as we started to go heavier...  the adherence to strict form became even more crucial - its ALWAYS crucial... but a heavier kettlebell will tell you immediately if you're doing something wrong.   Of course during this heavier phase and during a break, my good friend and trainer Tim Shuman decides its time for me to demo a couple tactical pull ups for a friend of his (I can't remember who!).   On one hand - this is good... a whole lot of pressing definitely gets you warmed up for this sort of thing, BUT I also knew I was getting a bit fatigued... especially before lunch.   So I wouldn't be about to throw down with a personal record that's for sure, but I would get to check out the really nifty portable Tactical Athlete Pull up System they had set up.   It was larger than I had pictured, but extremely stable and had a nice matte non-slip finish on it.   It looked very adjustable, but we didn't have much time so I had to jump to reach the bar, but whatever - I'm used to that, being only 5'3.5" tall.   I did 3 really pretty strict tactical pull ups before calling it quits because I knew we were going right back to heavy presses after the break... sorry Tim, that's all you get today.    It did remind me of a neat workout involving ladders of presses and ladders of pull ups - will have to post that one of these days.   And I really want one of those pull up bars now... this particular exercise has been a real passion for the past couple of years - but that's an other article entirely.   Following that very brief break, we went back to our learning and applied the tension techniques and tricks to attempt a personal best record with pressing.   It was irksome that I could still not press the 24 Kilo kettlebell, however it was very significant that I could still press the 20 Kilo kettlebell a couple times on each side after all that we had done.    I will press the 24 Kilo.... one day.


A further discussion of tension subtleties by Pavel - including talk of drills like the tightrope (feet in line, one in front of the other) press and bottoms up press - which really require high high tension (also try the halo exercise this way... WOW!).    Following a lunch where I quite literally stuffed my face (I think at least 3 hard boiled eggs were involved along with sandwiches, fruit, etc. not to mention all the things I had been eating out of my backpack throughout), we got back to troublshooting the press with Pavel - learning several drills to help with the most common problems clients and people new to the press have.    Personally - I really like to practice these corrective drills, since when practicing alone you can run the risk of developing a bad habit without knowing it - reviewing the appropriate corrective drill can fix this potentially problematic situation.   While taking notes and listening intently to this talk I noticed something odd began to happen to me... I started shutting down - I had somehow managed to burn through lunch already and was doing that whole "jerking to stay awake" thing - while not even being sleepy...   needless to say over the next break and team practice I ate more Chocolate-y Pecan Date Coconut Balls from the snack-filled backpack along with a vanilla Orgain RTD that somehow was INFINITELY more tasty than normal. Five minutes later I was completely back to normal - thankfully - as I didn't want to miss a second of valuable info. Alicia Streger commented that she'd never seen me tired before! HA!

Next we learned about the Front Squat with Master RKC Andrea Du Cane - building on the knowledge and flexibility requirements learned from the goblet squat on the previous day.  The kettlebell front squat, either with one kettlebell or two is an amazingly effective exercise that requires abdominal pressurization along with the development of very useful flexibility.   One of the main things to think about when learning or performing a kettlebell front squat is the idea of pulling yourself down into the squat instead of bouncing or falling into it - in this way you are much much safer and once again getting the full benefit of the exercise.   Strongly engaging the glutes with the front squat exercise is also the best way of making sure that the back is safe.  This was very evident when we started doing double kettlebell front squats, cleans, presses - given the extra weight, people tend to start leaning backwards at the top of swings, squats, cleans etc - and this is not a good thing - strongly squeezing the glutes will keep the back upright not leaning backwards.

To be continued... with talk of guacamole and passing out face down.

Kettlebell Snatch, VO2 Max Protocol, Guacamole, Steak and Passing Out Face Down (RKC Saturday Part 3)

Fresh, or fresh enough back from another break, we were introduced (or rather re-introduced, since most everyone had prepared for the initial RKC snatch test) to the kettlebell snatch by RKC Team Leader Franz Snideman.  The snatch is often referred to in the RKC as the "Czar of the kettlebell lifts" - mainly because practicing this intense exercise can lead to amazing strength and endurance gains.   The snatch and Swing have done so much for me personally that its nearly hard to describe - the effect on other activities like running (people, having seen what I can do have said "I didn't know you were a runner!" I reply "uummm I'm NOT!"), jumping higher, and over all general athleticism.  Things are just... easier.. in general.  Besides, doing high rep snatches over long periods of time, like with the training protocols set forth in Viking Warrior Conditioning, will allow you to destroy those silly elliptical machines, should you feel the need to (more on that later). 


Like the Swing, the kettlebell snatch is very much a ballistic/explosive full body exercise - effecting everything right down to the grip strength of your individual fingers.  Visualization is key in teaching the snatch to someone - as the movement can sometimes be very unusual at first.  We were encouraged to teach the snatch almost from a negative standpoint - having the client press a kettlebell overhead, adjusting this locked out position (shoulder down, please) and becoming comfortable with it.  This is also a good way to screen for flexibility issues - sometimes people will have a hard time keeping the kettlebell slightly behind themselves at the lock out position - some people simply will not be ready to learn the snatch without extra training and drills.  With a combination of demonstration and breaking down the component parts of the snatch movement we were further taught to teach the snatch version of the "hike pass" and several remedial drills to drive home the concept of the drop and subsequent hike pass.  It is hard sometimes, having practiced the movement so much ourselves to imagine potential problems or common errors someone completely new to kettlebell exercises would have - so one of the many great benefits of attending the RKC workshop is to hear of these common problems and the quick "aha drills" which can make all the difference when teaching and coaching.       A very common problem with the snatch is the management of acceleration and deceleration during the Swing portion of the movement - we were told a rather (to be tried OUTSIDE ONLY and at a safe location) extreme way to quickly teach this concept would be to have a student attempt a light kettlebell snatch with a soapy slippery hand!  In this way, the student acutely sees when and where the motion changes and when to manage gripping.    Speaking of grip - if you really want to challenge yours, be sure to try snatches by hooking just your fingers around the handle of the kettlebell.   Always be safe and aware of your surroundings of course.


 After breaks and practice with our teams, Franz Snideman delivered a really cool and personal lecture titled "What is RKC?"  Which touched on the subjects of what we do in the RKC, why we do it and what we are.  The RKC is a school of strength, and a school of thought - an ever growing, evolving and changing think tank, a community of people concerned with improving themselves, their clients, and the fitness industry.   These are bold statements, but the RKC community and program is so much more than just slinging a metal thing around in a certain way.   Similar to martial arts training, we focus on where/how our force is generated, where it goes, and instead of working out, we practice.   The RKC teaches principles of biomechanics, injury prevention, anatomical considerations.  Most importantly, the Russian Kettlebell Challenge has, as an interactive system, broken down the steps of healthy proper movement into manageable bite size pieces which are teachable.   As members of this School of Strength, we adhere to a code of conduct and do our best to support and encourage each other. 


Following all this inspiration, we began the final workout of the day, the VO2Max snatch workout as lead by Cortez Hull.   I will admit, there wasn't much left of me by this time.  Being once again very grateful that I'd weighed in under 123.5, we were instructed to get a kettlebell at or one size below the snatch test kettlebell we had used.   I have never been so glad to see an 8Kilo kettlebell in my life.  :)   This workout was essentially the Viking Warrior Conditioning 15:15 protocol - 15 seconds of work, 15 seconds of rest - and trying to keep with our repetition goal for the 15 seconds of work - trying to remember, I think my goal was 8 reps.   Which was met fairly easily as we started.  Towards the end of course it was a struggle to keep up, but I did, because I was there for a reason, I had trained all year to do this and was not going to stop now... (wait until you read about Sunday).   We had no idea how many rounds of this 15:15 program we would do - and I wasn't about to speculate - having learned earlier that no matter what you speculate, go ahead and add half again onto that!   Just keep going, and focus on the form/quality would yet again be the order of the day.   My fingers were on fire, and the dampness of my palms was nearly causing the skin on my hands and minor callusing to liquify.  During the day I had to keep letting them dry out - by removing the Tracy Reifkind inspired sock-sleeves (I used children's socks and added a stabilizing thumb whole - which kept them in place and gave a sort of punk rock appearance) from time to time.   A strange feeling to look forward to letting your hands "dry out" overnight.   I eventually lost count of how many rounds we did, so I have no idea, and since time was getting slippery as well, there is no way to estimate how long this workout lasted - other than maybe a half hour or so?   We walked back to the bus a bit slowly after this, and had our big banquet meal to look forward to - I was mentally picturing the steak dinner that had been chosen some months prior.


After standing in the shower for quite a while going "buuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh" I managed to make myself presentable enough to be seen in public by respectable people.   Eschewing the cash bar, I immediately zeroed in on the gigantic punchbowl of guacamole on the snack bar.  For those of you who are not familiar with me in person, in my world, guacamole is actually a food group all by itself.    For what are probably reasons of self preservation, I often crave foods with high potassium and certain saturated fats - no idea, but it seems to work.  The chips.. merely an afterthought/delivery device as I try to maintain civil human dignity while quickly eating as much guacamole as possible, even though I kind of wanted to just pick up the bowl and stick my head in it.   Somehow I managed to have some very cool conversations with the Dragon Door crowd and my fellow RKC candidates - most of which I can remember between recurring thoughts of... guacamole.   We all eventually sat down at tables which were decorated with pictures taken so far at the event.   I sat with new and old friends, my strength coach, Tim Shuman, and his star pupils - Alicia Streger and Carrie Kukuda.   Franz Snideman entertained all of us with some great adventure tales of the early days of the RKC certification and training with Pavel going back to 2001!   Finally the steak arrived, and in a breach of etiquette, Carrie and I swapped steaks - hers being "too rare" (there's such a thing?) and mine being rather well done.    Following dinner, we all socialized a little more, but it was obvious everyone was rather tired.   Did manage to be in this great photo though!


Left to Right: Tim Shuman, Pavel Tsatsouline, Me, Franz Snideman, Thayne Shatah


After this, everyone headed back to their rooms for some much needed rest.  I didn't even bother to check out facebook that night (!!?!!) and opted to "just lay down for a sec" before getting organized for Sunday.   Four hours later I woke up, still wearing what I had on for the banquet and lying face down, diagonally across the hotel bed, having left a perfectly identifiable makeup print on the sheet and embarrassingly a bit of drool.   Thankfully I woke up in time to set the three alarm clocks and finish the grab and go staging area I had been setting up on a little table by the door.   Then it was time for some much needed Real Sleep, as the final and extremely crucial Sunday awaited - technique testing, instructing others testing and the formidable GRAD WORKOUT!

Sunday started a little easier.... in some ways (Orlando RKC Recap Sunday Part 1)

**Picking up where we left off a long long time ago recounting the Saturday night.  I have been hesitant to write the Sunday recaps for several reasons -

1. Felt like if I finished them, then somehow that would make it "over" - but now that the RKC2 looms brightly on the horizon of next month that is no longer a concern at all!

2. It gets emotional and a little surreal towards the middle/end.  Plus its come to my attention that a lot more people than I even knew about have been reading these recaps.  With my 'unusual' sense of humor (fun fact: sometimes it’s a stress coping mechanism!) there’s potential for harsh criticism.

3. It's going to force me to write about weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  While I acknowledge and work on those in real life, putting them out on the internet is scary.


Even though we were able to sleep in a little bit (We just had to walk downstairs at 7:30AM instead of boarding the shuttle buses earlier to be ready to start at Disney's Wide World of Sports at 7:30AM) I still woke up with the three different alarm clocks on Sunday morning.  After trying to make myself presentable I grabbed the last of the leftover Wolfgang Puck pizza purchased on Friday night from the mini fridge and headed down to the lecture. We would be leaving straight from the lecture to the shuttle buses so the backpack was packed and ready to go for the day. By this point I had given up on my trusty Chuck Taylors and was wandering around in flip flops, having switched to training barefoot since Friday. Actually prefer training barefoot anyhow.  My morning "eating and supplement routine" was also packed in the backpack along with plenty of "emergency need food now” items like Orgain RTD, the last of the homemade chocolatey pecan date coconut treats and a couple tubes of Zipfizz as backup. Even with being acclimated to higher temperatures than we were experiencing (I just start to wobble around 103 Degrees F), I needed to keep my electrolyte balance up and be ready for anything.  As you will read later, I simply could not afford to fail.  I trained for this weekend, this day, these tests, these moments for over a year in the hot Florida sun.  This was in essence my "Olympics," and what I hoped would be the start of a new life*.


Arrived early of course, being the chronic over-achiever goody-two-shoes who likes to sit up front in class while taking too many notes. The extra time was also necessary to quickly scarf down the pizza... because the last thing any presenter wants to deal with first thing in the morning is the pungent smell of garlic wafting up to the podium. Certainly didn't want to be the cause of that. The idea of a marketing lecture was intriguing, marketing just wasn't my strong suit in any stretch of the imagination, and here was someone obviously making it work in a big big way.     John DuCane began the lecture by telling us a good bit about himself, his education and vast array of experiences and adventures.  We were also treated to the story of  how Dragon Door came to be - as well as plenty of real world examples illustrating some seriously effective marketing techniques.  I was all ears.  Even right now, from reviewing my handwritten notes to write this article, I've already gotten even MORE marketing ideas to try out.  Interestingly, when looking over the things I wrote down on the worksheet for "RKC Marketing Ideas" at the back of the printed lecture handout, I see that I've implemented some of them already, as recently as just this past week. 


This lecture was the first in a series of "wake up calls" that have caused bigger thinking, less cynicism and the desire to move beyond a survival mindset toward a larger vision.  Needless to say I was particularly annoyed when "nature called" and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs demanded that I miss a few minutes of the lecture.  Literally sprinted down the hall and back.   The ideas about cultivating your personality, telling your story and the success stories of people who have worked with you was a huge take-away as well.  John DuCane illustrated that people like to train and purchase from other real people who they can relate to and like.  Not everyone will like you (I know that for a good solid rock hard fact), but those that do will be some of your best and most successful training clients and "customers".


This was good news to hear for someone who's a little "different".  Seems like there's a big gap in the fitness world - not everyone is comfortable talking to someone who seems like a competitive athlete - some of us were in drama club, marching band, or the chess team.   (Fun Fact: I was voted “most unusual” of my high school’s senior class)  When I first started training with different coaches around town, I often had to go home and look up some of the sports terminology online. 

In P.E. class I had been the "odd but pretty good at tennis" kid Coach picked on in gym class for wearing black socks.  (You can wear any color of clothes or socks around me as long as they're clean and I promise not to pick on you.  But if you whine about the workout, watch out!).  Those coaches would be so amused to find out what I do now...


What John DuCane kept coming back to with the lecture was that having enthusiasm and a passionate belief in what you are doing is absolutely required.  Constant research, living it and being a good visible example in your community combined with your belief in and delivery of a quality product. I took a lot away from the lecture and look forward to one day attending the Mastermind Intensive, considering what I have used from this 2 hour lecture at the RKC, it would be totally worth it.


Brains on fire, we all loaded into the shuttle buses and headed to the final and ever so crucial day of the RKC workshop.   The bus ride seemed to take forever as I tried to keep scribbling in the notes section from the lecture while we bounded (uuuffff my stomach!) down the road.  After finally getting everything written down, I made sure to see how the nearby RKC candidates were doing, and if their families were enjoying Disney (I joke that as a citizen of Orlando, I'm required to ask this or risk being kicked out of town).  Many people were nervous about today - and how it would go - we were all tired too.  There was no stopping now... no way.  I'd waited and trained for this day for over a year, a lot at stake, more than I care to admit right now.*  Having arrived we lumbered down the somewhat long walk to the pavilion, Tim Shuman saw me walking, somewhat burdened by all the stuff I had packed for the day (all of it would be consumed by the end of the day) and took one of my bags.  Thanks, Coach.  It was one of those sports-movie moments that I hadn’t understood until then.  

*More on this later as courage returns.

A Much Needed Recharge, Technique Testing & a Gifted 'Beginner's' 'Sexy Exercise' - Sunday Part 2

Sunday at the Disney Wide World of Sports Pavilion thankfully began with another much needed Qigong Morning Recharge session - which unfortunately seemed all too short.   ...Could easily be talked into attending a certification workshop for this as well - (HINT HINT, Dragon Door).  Afterwards we reassembled into our teams for one final practice of the crucial RKC 6 exercises - the form tests would soon follow so this last time to run through everything and ask those last questions was super important.  The group "troubleshooting" sessions (where we would watch someone perform an exercise, then help them with fine tuning or whatever else needed fixing) were particularly beneficial - the critical thinking practice there continues to help me (and those who train with me).  At the time of the certification I was (and still continue) to work on some confidence issues, and the troubleshooting sections really helped with real-world scenarios.  Long after the workshop was over, I heard second hand remarks of "why does she second guess herself? She knows the right answer!"  Not going to elaborate much other than sometimes it feels like the friends I have and have made through the RKC have helped me to climb out of something best visualized like this. Not fully out of there yet, but I do have a good firm grip on a railing at the edge. And thanks to all the heavy swings, cleans, snatches and pull up practice I have a wicked wicked grip. Anyhow, enough with being what could be construed as overly "dramatic".


The teams then fragmented into smaller groups so that each RKC candidate could be individually tested on each exercise - I was in a group of 3 other people with Thayne Shatah in charge of checking our form (other teaching assistants and team leaders came by and offered additional support/criticaleye as well).  We went down the line, performing each exercise as Thayne watched and took detailed notes.  Tension (not just the bodily sort required for correct hardstyle kettlebell work) was very high at this point.  Again, I really had been training diligently for over a year for this day - the thought of not passing was literally too devastating to consider.  At a few points throughout the day I had to watch not to psych myself out - I would need a lot of courage and confidence to survive the "teaching of the general public" not to mention the initiation rites, erm I mean "Grad Workout" which still awaited us.  Technique testing ended up being fairly quick and painless - I stayed focused and in the moment, aware of myself in space but also aware of my surroundings - but with a balanced approach, not obsessive or fixated - similar to the feeling of when Deborah and I would practice Tai Chi back in DeLand, FL.


A break and Q&A with Pavel immediately followed.  These Q&A sessions were quite valuable - imagine having Pavel and tons of other top people in the RKC community right there, ready to answer any question.  Advice: jot down questions before you get there, and during your time at the workshop for these opportunities.  Sometimes it's difficult to remember a crucial question after you've been working hard, or after being tested!  We were then given the course evaluation sheets to fill out - these were rather extensive and they thankfully gave us about half an hour to complete them.  Make sure you do a good job, your comments may be chosen to appear on the Dragon Door website - mine were! :)  During this time our team leaders and teaching assistants were meeting to evaluate OUR performance as well - and to decide who would pass the technique portion.


Just before lunch, Andrea Du Cane explained how the training of the "victims" would work - and what we should do.  Part of the challenge of passing the RKC is to be able to teach someone how to perform the drills - we are afterall training to be instructors!  Took a lot of notes during this part - to make sure that I'd be ready - the main thing was to not try and fix EVERYTHING at once - which is great advice for the training then as well as when introducing people to kettlebells.  Don't want to give too much away here, but I was really nervous - in the past practicing teaching others,  I was too verbose or tried to fix too many things at once.  As an instructor it's important to find your groove and style of teaching - and to communicate effectively.     We would be teaching the Swing (using our teaching drills), starting the get up and creating a mini workout. I still have the original notes from this and reference them before giving intro classes even almost a year later.  Did I mention you'll get a LOT of valuable info at the RKC?


While we ate, the "victims" were outside being organized.  I was curious to see who all would show up from our local area - I had sent the sign up link to a lot of local people - some who knew each other, and generally a wide variety of friends.  Going to admit, I was seriously nervous about messing this part up - its hard to be put on the spot one on one, though this does get a lot easier with experience - the training I have done over the past year would have been a real help to my confidence there.  Guess what I'm trying to say is that you should definitely practice teaching someone - at the very least, a family member, friend or roommate - just make sure to mix it up so you can communicate effectively with whoever you may be paired!


I was paired up with a very active looking guy about my own age - who insisted he had never used kettlebells before.  We began with some joint mobility exercises and amusingly, he seemed to be rather entertained with some of the hip mobility exercises, remarking "oh! this is very SEXY exercise!"  My useful alter ego "all-business-cap'n-clueless" popped into action and responded with a subtle snort but kept me from a mixture of cracking up/losing it/turning-an-odd-shade-of-red.  As we went through the rest of the warm up/joint mobility exercises I noticed that he had great mobility, flexibility and a whole lot of proprioception going on.  So I asked if he was into martial arts or yoga - again "nope!". Hmmmm.....   Oh well!  As we began the drills which lead to the kettlebell Swing, he was doing REALLY rather well with everything - so well that I was disappointed that I wasn't able to point out too much going wrong - and was not getting much of a chance to use some of the new corrective drills we had been learning.   I did manage to work in a few during the session - as explanations rather than corrections, which seemed to go over well, he did exhibit some small improvements at that point too.   When we finally came around to doing a kettlebell Swing - I said - OK.... how long have you been working with kettlebells, seriously.   At that point he owned up and said that he had been training with someone for a while - and had been involved with Taekwondo since childhood.  AHA!  Note to would-be-victims - if you're going to try and pull a fast one like this, goof up (but be safe) your form a bit ok?   During all of this, our team leaders and teaching assistants were walking around, helping people out when necessary, observing our performance, taking notes.  After just a little bit, we were asked to come up with a workout on the fly and use the last 10 minutes to give our "victims" a good sweat.   In addition to swings, I added in some plank variations, farmer's walks, and some basic drills.  Managed to wear him out a good bit - which was satisfying after all that deception!

End of Orlando RKC - Sunday Part Three - The Love of Friends, Heavy Shadows, Victory, Resolve.

It was such a great feeling knowing that 90% of the people I invited to participate as "victims" for the teaching test portion of the Orlando RKC showed up - but what I didn't know is that many of them stuck around to watch the grueling conclusion... the dreaded oft-talked-about-in-hushed-tones GRAD WORKOUT.   This workout must be completed in order to become an RKC - even if you pass the initial testing, the teaching test, the form tests etc etc, a whole lot hinges on this final Grad Workout - each one is different, each one is designed by a different high ranking RKC - but you can always be certain: it WILL BE TOUGH.   Not to mention you are totally and completely mentally and physically worn out by this point.   At least I was.   Started approaching a mildly delirious state (this seems to happen to me at extremely strenuous events - the best cure (for me at least) is - don't laugh - eating about 1/2 a bar of Green&Black's 85% cacao and a whole lot of water*).  It was in my head that I simply absolutely positively was not allowed to fail.  Prepared to use everything, the only way that I was going to NOT complete the grad workout would have been if my body had physically failed, at which point I would be found face down somewhere on the field.  I could tell that was not actually going to happen (as I have gone close to that edge before in harsher heat and managed to pull back in time), but mentally - I was honestly concerned about the Grad Workout.  FYI this is probably not the "healthiest" attitude to have, but again, life circumstances going on which will be hinted at in a future article (working title "using something heavy to dig yourself out of a hole").   The other problem was simply that the Grad Workout signaled the beginning of the end of the RKC Workshop and I wasn't ready to go home just yet.  "Home" wasn't a friendly place at that time and here I was, for the past 3 days getting nothing but the most top quality instruction, support and opportunities for new friendships with incredibly accomplished and positive people.   ...Would have gladly slept outside in a tent for at least 6 months or more to keep that going.  Some of my local friends, who knew how much the RKC meant to me, and how had I had been working towards it for over a year stuck around (I didn't know this at the time) in the top of the bleachers to watch the Grad Workout.


We were able to use the kettlebells from the teaching test to do the workout - the teaching assistants had made some arrangements with the kettlebells, while we waited.  A large group of us stood talking in the shade of a scoreboard, mostly about how we hoped we would pass, and how great the workshop had been so far.  My mood had begun to shift into that weird place of "grim resolve", my body had been pushed  a good bit and I was nervous about how well I would be able to manage the fatigue while maintaining form etc.  Even though I had weighed in under 123.5lbs and gotten into the smallest weight class, sometimes I would still be given the heavier kettlebells because of my strength, so I wasn't too sure how much was left in some regards. (This theme would continue at the RKCII, on Team Whitley - he saw that I could press the 24Kg during the Iron Maiden Challenge and didn't take it easy on me.  But who shows up to the RKC or RKCII looking for an easy time?  Certainly NOT ME.)   Amanda Salas of DragonDoor.TV fame came by and started interviewing us all - I snapped out of "grim resolve" thankfully and managed to get a few words out about humor and stress, then promptly forgot about this until hearing a friend mention months later that the Orlando RKC recap video was up on the Dragon Door site (panicked a little while hoping I didn't look like an idiot!).


Portions of the grad workout are fuzzy in my head, I know we walked the length of the field a few times, did a LOT of swings, a LOT of squats in some brutally well designed complexes.  These were performed together as a group as well as some very long planks.  Sometimes there's a soundtrack in my head that I use to time things and it had long since kicked in.  We were in a circle for most of the workout with the Team Leaders and Teaching assistants in the center watching us, or walking around the edge.  Likewise, Pavel and the Master RKCs present were circulating.  They gave cues and corrections on our form to keep us on track.  While we were in planks, I could almost literally feel them walking by as we were trying our hardest to maintain the position.  I heard a woman's voice after a while, and even though she's petite like me, when Andrea Du Cane, the Kettlebell Goddess herself, walked by and gave me some pointers (full tension!!) on my plank and then remained there watching me, I could have sworn her shadow weighed about 3,000lbs.  If anyone from my intensive small group class is reading this, now you know the origin of the ominous "do you feel my HEAVY SHADOW?!?!?" catch phrase.  Sweat and sunscreen were running in my eyes and off the tip of my nose and chin.  As it dried I could feel crystals forming my my face.  Glad I drink a lot of water all the time.  Then just like that... the workout was over.  We had survived!  I looked around and noticed that there was a pretty good number of people at the top of the bleachers and wondered who they were, then they started waving - and I could just begin to pick out faces... I knew them all.  Sweat or sunscreen or tears or who knows what combination of all three began to stream down my face - glad I had those trusty sunglasses...


Still a little dazed I helped to carry kettlebells back to the pavilion, grabbed more water and snacks (all about the snacks).  It was then that I realized that my friends who didn't know each other had all gathered together at the same spot to watch the workout, slowly figuring out that they all had a common friend.  Though by now, most of them had that concerned look on their faces.  Which was appropriate as my face was probably an unusual shade of red.  I was surprised anyone would want to get near me considering the serious amount of sweat/grunge/driedsweat but here they were - and some even brought some graduation presents - which I wanted to wait to open until the verdict was given for all our teams.   


The leaders of each team were huddled around, checking over notes and making the tough decisions of who would and would not pass.   It was hard to wait - in my "it's never a done deal until its over, take nothing for granted" world, this was a total cliffhanger, and there was a lot hanging in the balance, I had put everything into this, almost literally.  The hope was that getting this certification would be the turning point for me, a new career path, and ultimately a way out of the situation at home.   Seemed like my team was taking forever - they began to call us over, one by one - giving each person verbal feedback and our exit packet folder.  I was one of the last people to be called over, but it was worth the wait as they had VERY GOOD NEWS for me!  I had passed!  I WAS NOW AN RKC!!!   It didn't quite hit me fully until I told my team and friends.  We took a great group picture! Back in the pavillion I was so proud to get my picture taken with Pavel himself and with my coach Tim Shuman.  Standing around I realized... the shuttle back to the hotel was leaving soon - and even though I didn't want to leave, I had to.   Jogging the last of the way with some of my newly minted RKC pals, we barely made the bus - and the ride seemed all too short back to the hotel this time, there were too many goodbyes to say all at once, I wished there had been more time at the pavilion and at the hotel. 


My bags were already at the front desk since I checked out before we left for the lecture that morning, and I waited for my roommate to pick me up.  Unfortunately on the phone it sounded like he was in another foul mood.  His car pulled up to the front doors and I quickly put everything in the trunk.  As he aggressively weaved through traffic all the old panic come back for a second, but I squashed it.  I had been on the top of the world for 3 days, in the company of so many amazing and positive people.  Unable to contain myself and while thinking back on the day and talking a little about the workshop, I started to sniffle.  He saw this and in a mocking voice said "you're going to cry now?"  I shut up, put the sunglasses on, bit my lip and closed my eyes.  Feeling the car surge and lurch through traffic, I focused on remembering details of the weekend, all the inspiring new friends, the love of local friends and the hope of a much brighter future ahead.  I started gathering even more resolve, and the courage necessary to make more changes and start building a life that I wanted to live.


*I was seen at the RKC Level 2 this past July walking outside with a kettlebell in each hand and a big piece of extremely dark chocolate hanging out of my mouth... so ladylike... ha!

RKC Level 2 Workshop Experience Journal 2011

I'll be adding a whole lot more to this very very soon -

Strength Trumps the Scale...

Welcome to a tale of 20-20 hindsight!!  A decision has been made, and those of you who know me in real life might be pretty happy about it.  I'm only 5'3.5" tall and hover around 123-128lbs normally depending on the time of day, how much water I've chugged etc.  Most people's weight will fluctuate throughout the day - I have been known to have variances as large as 5-6 lbs in 24hrs, and not look or feel different.   The problem is WHY I know this.   About 6 months prior to attending the 2010 Orlando RKC workshop I decided to see if I'd be able to naturally be 123.5 or below without a fight.  Turns out that yes, I was - at the time I weighed about 125 or so and wasn't eating as strategically as I am now - still going out for giant plates of restaurant made chicken Marsala on top of whole wheat pasta that I would eat in its entirety.  Going out for pizza and salad, etc.  Not taking the buns off of burgers and eating a whole lot of buckwheat (which I would bake up with eggs/yogurt/cheese from the neat Ukrainian recipe and still occasionally enjoy).  Hadn't gone Primal/Paleo yet so there was quite a bit of leeway - even with my body fat percentage within the "athletic" range, calories could be cut back a little with ease and without any real effort.  So for 6 months I held steady at around 120lbs.   Weighed in at 119.6, passed the snatch test with the 12kg kettlebell and then immediately began to snacking. (on stuff like this: Chocolatey Pecan Date Coconut Treats never should have given the food processor to my neighbor...) 


After the RKC, I discovered by accident (Hey Alicia, what's this tasty looking cookbook you have on this table at the health fair?!  Can I borrow it?!) the Primal Blueprint plan.  I borrowed it because all the recipes made me hungry... and I felt LOADS better eating this way - cutting out grains, some dairy and focusing on unprocessed good foods.  I was already a meat snob so why not?!  Without meaning to, I dropped a random 3lbs and was visibly much more lean - but in a good way.  In order to keep up with my workouts and crazy schedule I upped the portions and was still very happy with what was going on - the weight loss dropped off and I put the random 3lbs back on, but was significantly stronger and fitting into even smaller clothes.  This continued, and I just went ahead and got rid of my scale when I moved out of my previous apartment. 


Life got crazy, I kept up with training, kept up with eating well but "heavy" (my word for supplementing the day's food with a lot of healthy fats).  Then my little dog died unexpectedly and out of utter despair, for a couple weeks I did whatever I wanted (this just translates into eating fistfuls of nuts and dark chocolate and lifting more heavy things).  Once again, got stronger, maybe gained a random pound or two.  Then... as the RKC Level 2 workshop approached, I panicked - oh no 125-128lbs!  Have to get down under 123.5 so I can use the 12kg kettlebell!!!  But, unlike before, there wasn't much leeway left in my diet - other than the insane snacking - which for my activity level turned out to be necessary.   So I started to cut back on the snacking and portion size - thinking it wasn't any big deal.  I was also training for the Iron Maiden Challenge - which was another good reason not to drop weight - I had gotten a LOT stronger in the months since the October 2010 RKC, and what was left of me was pretty much all essential.  Besides, when I weighed in at the RKC2 at 121.6lbs this time there was a lot of  "oh geez... REALLY" sentiment - especially after David Whitley saw me press the 24kg kettlebell - it was a litany of "you're going heavier because I know you can".


After talking to some very accomplished new friends in the RKC community this week it dawned on me - what's this all about?  Why have I always tried to do the snatch test with the 12kg kettlebell?  Because I was afraid of even having a slight chance of failure, because I'm "close enough to 123.5lbs anyway", because I'm small, because... I hadn't really seriously tried it?!  In the rush of my other training, somehow I hadn't gotten around to trying the test with the 16kg kettlebell.  Pardon me... time to go to make "duuuuhhhh" faces into a mirror.  I can do the test with the 12kg kettlebell with 1-1.5 mins to spare depending on personal choice that day, it's not a problem, how far off was the 16kg test?  As of this afternoon... not far at all - and when I try it outside with a better kettlebell - the 16kg ones I have at the moment are an inferior unnamed brand... with an odd coating that doesn't get along with my hands for high rep exercises.  But even with those excuses I was able to safely complete 100 snatches (60 before stopping to check my hands for damage), then the remaining 40 with sock sleeves at a slower pace (they drive me nuts).  I gave up the delightful snacking for this? …Could have done this... and not gotten all cross-eyed and spacey a couple times too.  Who knows, maybe I could have even gotten the Iron Maiden 24kg weighted pull up.   But the past is the past and the lesson is learned.

The RKC is a school of strength, and I need to set a better example for my clients (who I should have listened to when they said things like "You're getting even MORE vascular?!" which probably meant "Uhhh what are you doing? Are you eating enough?").  For as much as I bash "women's magazine diets" and that "toning" mentality, the logical solution is to just get stronger.  The irony is that I won't look much different if at all - might be a little smarter too - so watch out! 


Wore this today to try and get rid of that darned "tank top tan" but shows how at 126lbs I probably should't try to get under 123.5 again.

Orlando HKC Experience - My First Time Helping Out! (Part 1)

HKC CertificationFor reasons no one can remember, the recent Orlando HKC was scheduled on a Sunday. Tim Shuman, Franz Snideman, Laurel Blackburn, Ryan Blackburn, myself, and of course Chris Davis (the official host) all arrived early to make sure we were all set up and ready to go.   Tim's truck was riding heavy with kettlebells (thankfully he has a custom box for such things). After getting a fairly early start, we accidentally took the longer route among the nearly identical groupings of warehouse buildings before seeing Chris waving.   We unloaded all the kettlebells and put them safely out of the way and towards the back of the gym - I was proud to see my "tough love heart" marked Dragon Door kettlebells among those to be used for the workshop.  [My 48kg "Beast" kettlebell at home looks especially amusing with it's little red heart marking]   As participants arrived, we handed them their manuals (I'd never seen an HKC manual before this time) and the usual stack of paperwork, liability forms etc.  I suddenly had even MORE respect for Nicole Du Cane's organizational skills as she makes this potentially chaotic process look so effortless with waaaay more people involved at all the RKC, RKCII, CK-FMS etc. workshops.  After everyone arrived with paperwork completed, we all went into the main room and made our introductions.   I am always fascinated by these first meetings, because it's interesting to watch how people grow, develop and change over the course of a workshop.  Even though an HKC workshop is a single day, the next 8 hrs or so we would all spend together would be transformative and crammed full of information.   It was cool to see that people of all ages, fitness levels, confidence levels, and backgrounds were present.  There were more men than women present, but the ladies managed to represent just fine, thank you. 

Since I had trained to go straight to the RKC back in October 2010, this would also be my first direct experience with an HKC workshop - so I was just as excited as the participants.   I also hadn't had the opportunity to officially help out at an event yet, so I was there, in my regulation khaki pants and RKC Instructor shirt - ready to help!   [These are the first khaki pants I have owned in over a decade—this is a big deal for someone who wears only black, dark grey, or tiny bits of red.  They look a LOT like the ones you see Pavel (his are Patagonia brand - which are insanely cool and durable) wearing in many photos and DVDs.  Mine are from a brand called ExOfficio and are ridiculously comfortable.]  After we all went around the circle for introductions, it was time for the initial strength testing—even though no one really knew each other—the atmosphere was very supportive as each person completed their strength test.  That's something I really love about the community surrounding the HKC, RKC, and Dragon Door: the strong sense of community and support.  The strength requirements were: Men: 5 dead hang pull ups or chin ups, Women: 15 second flex arm hang OR opt to do the pullups/chinups instead.  More on pull ups later, but it's no secret that this is literally one of my favorite exercises ever.  By the way, have you seen Al Kavadlo's new book??!!

Tim was testing the camera with this picture, but I wanted you to see that I was actually wearing khaki pants.  Those of you who have tried and failed to get me to wear something other than black should realize it takes a leadership responsibility, plus a heavy dose of "if Pavel wears them, then they must be cool" to go with it.  They are incredible practical by the way.  Need more in black... 

A lot of people on the internet regularly ask me what's the difference between HKC, Hardstyle, RKC, etc.   The basic answer is that the HKC is the "entry level" kettlebell certification workshop from Dragon Door.  You learn the kettlebell Swing, the get up and the goblet squat - which are extremely powerful exercises.  Ask my small group and you'll soon find out exactly how much can be done with those three movements.   The HKC is attended by fitness professionals as well as "regular people" who see it is a great goal and a great skill to develop for their own lifelong health.  One of my clients was eventually inspired to attend an HKC. After she moved to California, she attended an HKC workshop, became certified and has been training clients of her own now!  I couldn't be more proud!  The RKC Workshop lasts for 3 intense days and covers the basic "RKC 6" exercises: Swing, clean, press, squat, snatch, and get up.   But we all train "Hardstyle" which is defined towards the very beginning of the HKC manual as: "The reverse engineered body language of the most powerful people in the world"*   The word or phrase hard style (outside of techno music circles at least) is often found in martial arts - refering to fast, powerful movements that utilize a good deal of controlled body tension, or hard style vs soft style, referencing external vs internal martial arts practices.

Every good lesson begins with the rules - kettlebell safety is always massively important - because these are such powerful and dynamic exercises, there are risks involved if we don't know how to be safe. Like all exercise modalities, always check with your doctors first - but especially with kettlebell training as it is especially intense.   Always be aware of your surroundings, wear the right (or no) shoes, practice common sense, keep moving when you take a break, stop before your form deteriorates, don't slump!  Always always always use good judgement and err on the side of caution.   That's just the tip of the iceberg, so I would encourage you to get out your favorite kettlebell book or manual and review that section in the beginning.  Go ahead and give it a good read right now.   This is good information and we should all remind ourselves of it regularly!

Next, Franz Snideman led us through a joint mobility complex.   It was a little different from the one I had been practicing for my own workouts and for the small group.  It's more involved in some areas and less in others.  I really liked the warmup as presented to the HKCs - it's a nice standardized, step by step process that can be used by people in a variety of fitness situations as well.   And really, any excuse to do the prying cobra move is totally ok by me.

Much to everyone's excitement - it was time to begin the Swing - we reviewed the kettlebell Swing standard (description) and began the drills leading up to learning it.  One of the most crucial elements to the Swing (and athletic movement in general) is the hip hinge.   Personally, learning the hip hinge has changed SO MUCH about how I move - and my awareness of how I move.  Because of the simple hip hinge I can Swing extremely heavy kettlebells for reps (For example: the Beast kettlebell which is currently %84 of my bodyweight!), lift incredibly heavy objects (heavy in relation to my mass), and move safely during daily life.  Also, I simply just don't experience lower back pain and haven't for years.  We also learned the kettlebell deadlift - which is not only an essential step towards learning the Swing, but a powerful and relatively easy lift to add to workouts.   When I bring out the heavy kettlebells for my small group, we sometimes deadlift them for practice and for the fun of "hey I picked up something very heavy today and did it safely."  Next was a discussion of how and when to breathe (this practice has been especially helpful with singing, but also really reminded me of certain aspects of tai chi and qigong - where often the breath accompanies the movement in a powerful and useful way.)  Related to breathing of course was the tension in our bodies - and how to start learning the timing of the breath as it relates to the kettlebell Swing.   Finally we went outside to do a favorite drill to learn the hike pass - or the beginning of the Swing movement.  

If there's one thing that you should learn from kettlebell swings, it's how to use your hips.  Shakira jokes aside, I like to say that the hips comprise the biggest hinge in the body. When you can coordinate that movement within the kettlebell Swing, the amount of power you can generate by using your whole body is simply amazing.  You WILL surprise yourself.  Learning to generate and control and release the full body tension necessary for the Swing will also make sure that the Swing really IS a full body exercise.  And trust me on this, I've been able to FINALLY get the fitness results I've wanted because of the kettlebell Swing.  Results which previously had eluded me through trying nearly everything.  Not even going to list everything I've tried over the years because frankly, it's embarrassing!   Kettlebell swings... they get the job done quickly and you can even keep your dignity!

In this picture, we are very excited about the top of the Swing.  It's so crucial to have maximum tension, shoulders back and down, elbows straight, glutes and abs engaged STRONGLY, feet rooted firmly into the ground.   Then as the kettlebell comes down with gravity, you go with it, hike it back again strongly and begin again.  Control, tension, relaxation, timing, strength, coodination... the kettlebell Swing really does have it all.  This is why it's so crucial you learn the correct form for performing a Swing from an HKC or RKC instructor.  Otherwise just flapping the kettlebell around, or doing some kind of lame front raise meets the squat combo isn't going to give you the full benefit of this powerhouse exercise.  Not to mention, safety is of the utmost.  Who cares how fit you are if you're always in pain, right?   Let's all get stronger together!  After a whole lot of Swing practice, troubleshooting, and variations (1 hand, hand to hand, etc.) it was time for a well deserved break - involving the group picture you see above and lunch.

Bonus Box!


*I also recently read the ever so interesting book In The Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food the amusing quote from the author Stewart Lee Allen:  "Eating well is, of course, the ultimate expression of power..."  So I'm feeling pretty powerful over here right about now.....

Orlando HKC Experience - Testing, Making People Nervous (oops), and More! (Part 3)

Finally back to the last installment of the Orlando HKC Recap! We further worked on the Get Up, with a troubleshooting section.  People who felt like they had a problem somewhere with their get up volunteered to demo and have the HKC participants and instructors help them improve their form. It's fun to watch this learning process even as a helper AND it's a great time to pick up or refine coaching cues and tools. Of course, the most important thing is to make sure that everyone stays safe. If someone is going heavier than normal, or isn't feeling quite confident with a new kettlebell, it's important to learn how to spot someone in the get up. If you've never spotted someone in this capacity, practice with a friend and a light kettlebell- you may be surprised at how much moving around YOU need to do!


Sometimes, people treat the "get up" and the "get down" differently - truth be known, if someone were to take a picture at any point in the get up they shouldn't be able to tell if you were going up or down. "Try to make it match" is a favorite cue of mine in many contexts - especially the get up. Frequently, I ask people to tell me why it seemed easier for them on the way up or the way down, or vise/versa as the situation dictates. "Make it match" is a favorite verbal cue which is also useful for other kettlebell drills. But more on that in another post. So, I challenge you to make a video of yourself performing the get up - with or without a kettlebell or other weight and "make it match." Also, I bet you're moving your hand on the ground all over the place. While technically not "incorrect" in terms of the RKC standard for the get up, I've noticed that people who frequently have to make many adjustments to the position of the feet and hands during the exercise tend to "travel" with the movement and end up in uncomfortable, weak positions. Find where you need to be with that hand - the strongest place, and leave it there - rotate the fingers, sure, but plant the palm. Later when/if you decide to go heavy you'll find these 90 degree angles etc you're forming on the half kneeling windmill will come to your total advantage. I could wax poetic on the get up for hours, so I'll spare you here. Fun fact, the get up was originally a source of extreme personal frustration and tooth gnashing. Now it's a favorite - I get on the floor or a particularly nice patch of grass and practice them (and things like pistols etc) without weight. The movement patterns are just that worthwhile. The trick is to find where the get up fits with your body, and where your body fits with the get up, then you'll begin to love it all the more. I joke that the get up is like a super short tai chi form, hence my constant honing of it with and without weight. As in tai chi, hand and foot position is also extremely important, as is intent. Approach the get up slowly and mindfully - breaking up the 7 steps if necessary for variety and further study/exploration.


Next we came to more group troubleshooting of swings, squats, etc. And a very nice discussion of program design. The program design section was one of the many reasons I was super glad to snag an extra manual that had been slightly damaged during one of the demonstrations. Some people think that since the HKC only covers 3 basic exercises, that this would only result in very boring, repetitive workouts, and bored clients. This couldn't be further from the truth. The beauty of the exercises from the HKC, RKC, and RKC2 is that while they are "simple" they can be literally programmed infinite ways. Even with a class of total beginners with questionable proprioception and coordination, the drills leading up to the kettlebell Swing can be used together to create client confidence, coordination, strength and of course, the ever sought after calorie burn. Adding in a few thoughtful bodyweight or "traditional fitness bootcamp" exercises like step ups, push ups, etc. can help to round out a class if people are unable to really perform the Swing just yet. I am currently developing a small info product for "your first class of beginners" so keep watch for that! :)


Sometimes, kettlebell exercises are seen as much different than other exercises to program, so the discussion and examples given in the HKC manual are not only very important, they're well thought out and concise. All you have to do is commit to executing the program and you really will get some astonishing results for individuals and/or groups. The ability to put together effective, compelling workouts with just a few exercises is an important skill to cultivate. Always consider that you're a client as well- how is your personal programming? Do you prefer specific plans or are your workouts intuitive? How would you take a 20 minute time period and make the most of it for either strength, conditioning, or both? Would you work in skills practice? I should hope so! What if you only have access to a few kettlebells at once? How do you program for a mixed level group? I constantly challenge myself with these ideas. Here's a word problem for you (no math, don't panic!): 2 beginners (1 man, 1 woman) and an advanced woman - you have a 30 minute small group session with them and access to a single 8kg, 16kg, and 24kg kettlebells only. What do you do? Do you have alternative drills ready? Will you use timed sets? I go you go? Teams? How do you keep everyone motivated, challenged and not overwhelmed? It's easy with a good handle on program design and the exercises presented at the HKC.


Next, the participants created workouts for each other, and practiced coaching each other. Because soon, it would be time to test. I was extremely honored to be assigned a group to test on technique and teaching abilities, and of course didn't take this honor lightly. For whatever reason, despite my constant smiling, people think I have an incredibly stern and type-a aspect as well. I guess that's true, but it's because I want us all to do our best and to know how to do our best.


I remember being very little and upon encountering a green garter snake out in the yard and jumping no less than 5 feet in the air (pretty good accomplishment for someone who was probably only 42" tall at the time). Dad told me the snake was more scared of me than I was of it. Sorry Dad, but I found that to be incredibly hard to believe and took refuge up in a tree where I could watch at a safer distance. Such was the same when it came around to the last portion of the Orlando HKC. The three people assigned to me for testing looked pretty darned nervous. I was a little nervous as well though, as I wanted to make sure to do the right thing and uphold the standards of the HKC, the RKC and Dragon Door. I also wanted to make sure that these three participants got as much knowledge and help from this HKC Workshop as humanly possible. This of course meant that I was constantly scrawling down detailed notes, watching very closely and unintentionally making everyone even more nervous. Proud to say, my group all passed with flying colors and left with their certifications and pages of hopefully legible cues, hints, and corrections. Sorry if I overwhelmed anyone in the process.


We ended the day by passing out the certificates of completion and actual HKC certifications to those who had passed. Each participant also received verbal recommendations and encouragements. More group photos were taken, business cards and phone numbers exchanged. We loaded up the kettlebells, helped to tidy the gym and considered which restaurant to utterly and completely destroy. Fortunately for me, it wasn't really over yet! After we ate and said our goodbyes it turned out that Franz Snideman wouldn't be flying home until tomorrow, and I would be able to interview him and otherwise pick his brain on a number of fitness subjects. Franz had been my team leader at the Orlando RKC, and also the instructor for an HKC one of my clients attended and passed earlier this year out in California, so I feel a particular kinship with him. Keep your eye on the Dragon Door website for his interview which is coming very soon.



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Orlando MovNat Workshop November 12 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011 - 09:00 - 16:00

Train first-hand with a MovNat certified coach Clifton Harski and take your fitness training to new heights. 

This 7 hours initiation course will introduce you to the fundamentals that will allow you to get started with your own MovNat training:

The workshop is open to all fitness levels.  Space is limited to 14 participants per clinic. Book now to secure your spot!

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Workshop Experiences by Guest Writers

Here's a small but growing collection of workshop experiences by guest writers - check out the RKC, HKC and more from different perspectives - AND if you have an experience to share, PLEASE contact Adrienne - you may be selected to write it up!!!!