Ask GiryaGirl!

A Q&A Column - your questions answered from communications here, Facebook, Twitter and real life!

Ask GiryaGirl: I just learned the kettlebell swing... Now what?!

So - you may have had your first visit with an RKC or HKC instructor and learned to do the kettlebell Swing ! (Big shout out to Mark, Nick, and Tony!)   Now you're back home, have given yourself a rest and are no longer gnashing your teeth because of being sore in weird places.

Where to start?!   Here's a couple of routines you can use to reinforce and practice what you learned:

Joint Mobility warm up to begin

Then snag a dowel or broom and practice the hip hinge - keeping the dowel down the center of your back, in contact with the back of your head, the middle of your back, and your tail bone.   Remember sit back with the hips - the knees will naturally bend a LITTLE but that shouldn't be the big part of the movement.  

Here's a video about the hip hinge for review:

Practice face the wall squats, concentrate on pulling yourself down, don't just drop.

Remember that whenever you touch a kettlebell, even just to move it, keep your abs tight - this will help to protect your back - and will give you good habits for working with heavier weights.  

"Jump" through your heels, keeping all four corners of your feet in contact with the ground.

With your swings, always focus on quality over quantity - make each rep count, learn from each rep and make the next one better.  If you need to, grab the dowel and remind yourself of the hip hinge movement pattern.   Always lock out at the top of the Swing.  If something feels wrong or you get out of your groove, stop, re-hike the kettlebell and start again.

If you're starting from a fairly sedentary lifestyle you may wish to just start with this on most days:

Alternately - you can mix it up:

Or

 

Get "fancy" with a "twisted ladder"

10 swings, 1 deadlift (or body weight squat, wall squat etc.)

9 swings, 2 deadlifts

8 swings, 3 deadlifts

down to 1 Swing, 10 deadlifts

 

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!  This isn't really just a workout - you're learning a skill - and all skills need practice.  We're all still working on our Swing - I most certainly am, my strength coach is, and everyone that really wants to get better, fitter, stronger all the way up to Master level RKCs are constantly looking to improve and hone their skills.   Never stop learning, and don't discount the power of consistant practice.   Stop before you get so tired that your form suffers.   Your conditioning will improve over time as well - don't think you have to run yourself into the ground every time, especially not while you're trying to learn the basics at first.

Safety first, and always rest when necessary - keep moving, don't sit down or lay down - its bad for your heart.

Remember to check in with your RKC or HKC to make sure you're on the right track, and ask lots of questions - we love questions.

 

 

Recommended materials to reinforce what you're learning with your local RKC or HKC:

For after you get going with the basics:

Ask GiryaGirl: A Kettlebell Technique Get-Up PET PEEVE and How to Fix It...

How to fix a kettlebell technique problem with the get-up

First of all, before anyone thinks I'm about to get all preachy over here about the get-up, let's get some things straight... many years ago before even training with an RKC instructor (I had a hard time finding one at the time) I tried to teach myself the get-up.  And I really wish that I had video of that to show you, because I would somehow end up facing the opposite direction by the time I got back to the floor!  At the time that's not what I wanted to do, but now I want to figure out a safe/legit way to do that and use it in a kind of flowing kettlebell circuit etc.  I love to put those things together.  The point of that story is, that until I did really begin to seriously train with an instructor (and start to prepare for my first RKC workshop) I DID NOT LIKE the get-up!  It was frustrating, complex, seemingly illogical, gaaahh!  Seven parts?! WHAT?!?!

Fortunately, breaking it down into its component parts solved a lot of problems, and even today I love to use the individual portions of the get-up along with the full get-up in workouts.  Working on those small but powerful chunks one at a time--and their transitions can add a cool variety to your workout as well as strengthen your understanding and enjoyment of the full on regulation get-up. Good times!!!

Q: Should my straight leg pop up/fly up/etc. during the first part of the Turkish get-up?
A: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! And here's a video about why and how to fix it!

Read the RKC Blog post by Master RKC Dan John referenced in the video here.
Register for an upcoming HKC (Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification) workshop
Register for the February 2016 RKC taught by Dan John in San Jose, California!

Ask GiryaGirl: Confusion with HKC, RKC, SFG, Photoshoots, Grab n Go Foods

This has been the week for very meaningful conversations. In addition to many messages, emails, and phone calls with friends and fellow instructors/trainers and aspiring instructors, I've conducted over 5 very intensive interviews this past week (and this week isn't nearly over yet). I can't wait for them to be ready to share. Some of the personal stories are inspiring to say the least.  But I don't want to give anything away just yet.     Many of the non-interview conversations brought up a number of questions that more people may want to hear answered, so I'll address them here too!

Q:

I'm confused about this whole RKC and SFG thing, is something going away? Is something replacing something? Are my certifications still valid?! WHAT?!?!?!?!? *insert random freakout here*

A:

Great news! Nothing is going away!  RKC and HKC are continuing, you may even notice that there's been a few more RKC workshops scheduled in the near future - some of which are limited to 25 participants (small class size = more individual attention.. hmmmmmm tempting.).  HKC continuing as well.   SFG = Strong First Girevik(?) and is the kettlebell certification from StrongFirst, which is Pavel's new organization.   As you may have seen there's a lot of hub-bub and bizarre speculation going on online for the past few weeks, months, uggh feels like forever.   Thing is - some folks are making it into an "us vs them" thing and that's simply not necessary.   StrongFirst is new and so far seems to have a somewhat different philosophy and outlook from Dragon Door.   Take that how you will.   One will appeal to some, both may appeal to others, end of the tale= it's all good.   Your RKC and HKC certifications are as valid as ever (assuming you are keeping up with your recerts every 2 years as you should be anyway), and you'll need to check with SF about the details of their program, but at least for a while, they are honoring your certs over there.   It's not "converting" or "replacing" it's "adding."    My advice is to follow your heart.

Q:

That's nice... so what are YOU going to do, GiryaGirl?

A:

I've actually thought a whole lot about this, and the answer may or may not surprise you, depending on how much we hang out, or how obsessively you stalk me online.   I'm sticking with RKC and Dragon Door - and not just because I write interviews for them on occasion.  Notice the little yellow box and the phrase "Hand-Picked Resources for Optimal Living."   While I think that strength is of course incredibly important, I don't necessarily place it above everything.  For many years, I've sought a healthy lifestyle with balance (literal and figurative definitions), efficiency—and optimum performance physically AND mentally.   All of the resulting practices I constantly research are required to be sustainable for the long term, and must not result in injury (no question, I will bail on a lift if it starts going wrong).  As I approach the ripe old age of 36 (I'm being sarcastic about "old age") in a few months, this is ever more at the helm of my thoughts.   Yes, strength is very important and is something I work on all the time.  On any given day, and at a bodyweight which fluctuates between about 125-128lbs, I can press the 24kg (53lbs) kettlebell on my right and left sides, as well as do a pistol (1 leg squat) with it on both sides (as I did just for the heck of it yesterday morning).  Get ups, same thing.   I haven't tested it in a while but I was also able to do a get up with a 28kg kettlebell a few months ago.  I Swing the 48kg, 106lb "Beast" kettlebell for reps without qualms.  Muscle ups without a kip, got it recently from a dead hang - they're ugly but they're happening.  So yes, strength is important to me, however I'm also very much interested in mobility practices like Primal Move, the pin point screening from CK-FMS, my tai chi/qigong practice (which has existed in some form since 2000), all the great calisthenics approaches, and various other topics.   I also like to try some strange things from time to time, and maintain an open mind (sometimes disturbingly so).   I'm not saying that this isn't happening other places, but I have seen the track record of Dragon Door and have full faith that they'll be continuing in a direction that's very much in line with my own philosophies on training.  

Looking forward to what the future holds for everyone and I am still and always will be friends with you all, regardless of the path you choose.   I'm not an "us and them" person by any stretch of the imagination.  NEXT!

Q:

I saw a couple of pictures with you in them that are supposidly going to be in an upcoming book from Al Kavaldo, how do you prepare for a photoshoot like that?

A:

I prepare for a photoshoot by finding out what they want to shoot, if I need to bring any particular outfits (if they want something other than black that means I have to go shopping haha). Also, I make sure that I'm able to perform the moves they want.   Then I pack a bag and go.   That's it.   I don't change anything with how I eat or train, unless I need to dial in a skill or two.  I'm in what I call "perpetual maintenance mode" with a tendency to slowly crawl towards greater skill and strength.   This is not the norm for the fitness industry.  The people you see in women's fitness magazines often diet way down for a shoot, and then might be photoshopped into oblivion.  To each their own, but it's not my style - and I'm sure you won't find my "style" in mainstream mags anyway...(Question #2 on this other post explains the hairdo)  In my world, I feel like I should be able to roll out of bed and be reasonably presentable as is, or within 5-10 minutes—before makeup and including my questionable kung-fu looking pajamas.  Also, if I tell you I can do something in terms of strength or skill, it means I can do it under a variety of conditions.  Fortunately I don't hold anyone else to these sort of standards, but before you nag me about being too hard on myself, know that I have ever-evolving, self-designed systems which make all of this happen with relative ease.

Q:

I'm a student/parent/entrepreneur/etc. (or some combination of all those things) and therefore am making excuses for eating crummy things.   All the recipe books I've found have recipes they call "simple" but have so many blasted ingredients that I end up spending too much time and money, and then... might not even like the dish.  I need some grab n go options!

A:

You are in luck!  On this recent trip to Ohio, I was really happy to see that not only had Cibo Express in the airport terminal kept up their supply of unusual and interesting snack bars, but that they'd added things like 2 packs of hardboiled eggs (including packets of sea salt and pepper), various cheeses, nuts, fruit and more.   If you're in an airport, find one of these - its easy and fast.    Apply the same logic for snacking on the go when you're at home.   Often on the weekend I'll hardcook a half dozen or full dozen eggs - grabbing 2 or 3 with black coffee is a nice simple breakfast I genuinely enjoy.   Bags of mixed nuts (if you have portion issues, get those 1/2 size "snack bags" from ziplock and measure out your own grab n go bags using a food scale.  Do this while the eggs are cooking for extra credit.  Sometimes I'll just eat a whole avocado sprinkled with salt, pepper, and lime juice... I cut it in half and eat it right out of the skin with a spoon!   Sometimes I just eat them this way plain too.   On Mondays, I typically cook up a large quantity of ground grassfed beef - and season it a particular way - maybe it's taco meat for example - at that point I add salad items and it's a meal.  I save the rest for a different meal later - I sometimes start with diced sweet potato or mixed vegetables, mostly browned in a pan of coconut oil - then add the crumbled beef, mixing to reheat and combine.  Served with guacamole, that's a favorite regular meal.  This recipe can be assembled almost anywhere - the items don't really need refrigeration from morning until lunchtime or at your hiking destination!   There's some more ideas buried in the holiday tips article, and in the cookbook and strategy guide I've been working on for you.

Hope all that helps - and please send me more questions! :)

Ask GiryaGirl: Convict Conditioning for Women, Why not 1,000 swings?

Last week was the NPE Mega Training seminar/workshop/event, and I was around to help out and occasionally answer questions, etc. at the Dragon Door table.  If you were there, please say hello!  I'm currently playing "phone tag" with some new local contacts and reviewing/organizing notes from all the really great presentations.   Of course it's always a lot of fun to hear Dan Kennedy speak (and see what kind of wild outfit he has on - the current theme seems to be stripes, in case you were wondering).  Another neat thing about the Mega Training event was it allowed me to talk to other fitness professionals from different backgrounds and who are working with diverse demographics.   This meant some different questions than I've heard in a while.  There was lots of talk about Convict Conditioning, RKC, HKC, and Primal Move, but hearing from gym owners, instructors, and personal trainers led to an interesting and fresh perspective.

Since I made no secret of the fact that I'm nuts about Convict Conditioning, some of the questions from women were interesting.   This seemingly "men only" treasure trove of information with its rugged manly exterior and graphic design is of course fantastic for nearly any trainee. 

Q: Is Convict Conditioning ok for women?

A: Ok is an understatement.   The Convict Conditioning programs and progressions are fantastic for women.   Nearly everyone (with doctor's approval) can at least get started on the first steps immediately.   I've used the ideas, cues and progressions with incredibly athletic men and women as well as a few grandmothers who are just wanting to enjoy life more.  The first steps of the push up and pull up are actually incredibly great for people who are very overweight as well.   The program meets you where you are - and with diligence (but often short sessions), a freakish amount of progress can be made in a relatively short amount of time.  I've found that women in particular (myself included) really like the idea of working on their way to real and true, time tested displays of strength.   Not to mention the short workout times and the fact that they can be done anywhere is fantastic for women - who tend to have some pretty insane schedules.   A lot of my own Convict Conditioning work is done with household chores as the "active rest".  While at first some of the Master Steps can be seen as nearly impossible, they aren't with time and dedication.  Besides, its inspiring to see... and one day that one arm chin up will be mine.  

As someone who travels a fair amount, I really appreciate the fact that I can get in a Convict Conditioning session just about anywhere - sometimes without even leaving the privacy of my own hotel room.   City parks also present great opportunities with pull up bars, dip bars, etc. Or take it to the beach!  Granted, if you're someone who likes to buy contraptions for the sake of the twisted fitness branch of retail therapy, then this barebones mega-efficient method (much like kettlebell training which just requires a purchase of 1 or 2 kettlebells) may take some mental adjustment.  Save up what you would have wasted on gadgets and go get yourself a massage, day at the spa, or some incredible local food.

Q: I see all this talk on Facebook and Twitter about very high rep 1,000+ kettlebell Swing workouts, why aren't you doing them?

A: As you may have guessed from the answer to the previous question, I am moderately obsessed with efficiency.   One of the things which really attracted me to kettlebell training was the fact that I wouldn't have to spend hours and hours doing this stuff.   I could get a LOT of very meaningful training done quickly and then move on to my other world-domination-related projects.  I'm a "sprinter" not a "marathoner."   One of my more annoying jokes: if it's longer than a 5K, I'll go get the car.    But a LOT of folks are really into marathons, and I think that's great - do what excites you, do what inspires YOU!   For example, Tracy Reifkind is really into mega high rep, lengthy workouts- which I would personally classify as more "marathons."  I really admire her, her programs, and her incredibly inspirational story of transformation.  However, I'm not a marathoner.  At a workshop or special event I might consider doing something super high rep as a kind of challenge or special thing, but you won't catch me doing it on my own time.  

What are my "sprints" like?  Choosing a moderate to heavy kettlebell (which is different for everyone, so I won't post weights here) and in a given amount of time, or with a short rep range, performing strong, fast-hip snap, straight arm, glute-driven, feet destroying the ground with their grip, abs rock-hard, full intensity kettlebell swings.  I rest when I need to, and stop before my grip fails, or before damage is done to my hands.  Similarly, if I feel something odd happening to my form, I stop and either reset or rest and reset if necessary.   But that's me.  That's what I do.  I never was a "runner" or into prolonged endurance training.  

Yesterday at my small group class, we got an incredible amount of strength and fat loss work done in just 30 minutes - enough time to sandwich it all with Primal Move as our warm up and cool down.  I'll post that workout later, it's a fun one.  

As an aside, Geoff Neupert author of the Kettlebell Burn programs (highly recommended) sent out an email yesterday talking about how in some cases, super high volume training can lead to effects which may be counter to your fitness goals.  Especially for women who are wanting to trim down...  so... are you doing "billions and billions" (Carl Sagan moment) of swings because you love endurance training—or are you doing these long high rep workouts because you feel like you're obligated to do them for fat loss?   It's not a requirement... short, intense and form-focused gets the job done too.   It's up to you, so do what you love.

Ask GiryaGirl: Family Influence, Coconut Oil, etc.

It was a good weekend - I hope yours was too!   My parents were in town and we had a good time talking about food, etc. and trying one of the new local restaurants which had some incredible things on the menu - regular Girya Girl favorites like roasted Brussels sprouts (they had paired them with carrots and parsnips!!!!), an incredible fritatta, and even a little "Faleo" on my part - since the three of us shared a (are you sitting down) specialty pizza.   Now, before you freak out, I probably actually needed the carbs - I'd gotten pretty close to the "madness range*" a few days prior and this was actually a good thing.   You may or may not

have experienced the uhhh interesting effect of going too low carb for too long.  I have and it makes me a little... unhinged.   Needless to say, I have a few things planned this week to keep myself on track - including a neat way to make sweet potatos, and a "Thanksgiving Style" favorite remade for the Primal or Paleo eating crowd.   A friend of mine from school remarked on Facebook last week that "every day is like Paleo Thanksgiving for you, what's the deal?!"   So I'm further tempted to do that for fun.   Might be fun to have friends over for something like that anyway.

Q: Why are you so food-obsessed?   Is your family like this too?!

My parents are also really into healthy eating, which is probably where I can point the "blame."   We would often cook together when I was growing up, and I was always involved in some capacity in the kitchen with either or both Mom & Dad.   Dad and I would often take on more of what I'd call "project foods" which sometimes would get us kicked out on the patio with the deep fryer making huge egg rolls, tempura, smoked meats, lobster, etc.   Mom and I would also cook - but it was usually a little more on the more practical side.  Even through the turmoil of teen years (I think something happens to the adults too - just a theory), there seemed to be an unspoken rule that the kitchen was a safe zone.  If there was nothing else to agree on, at least we all liked a good steak.   Food has always been very important to our extended family as well with almost all the men and women being able to cook well.   I have generations of great examples on both sides.  One of which I've been reminded of a lot recently - my Great Grandmother on my Mom's side - she was seriously old school and would be very amused at certain of my trendy friends talking about keeping chickens in their NorCal apartments.  Mema always had plenty of cast iron skillets around, and a huge backyard garden.   She would show me how and when to pick pole beans, black eyed peas, muscadine grapes, citrus, collard greens, turnips and much much more.  I would also help her prepare these things in the kitchen.   Dad would always try and decypher what she would do into standardized recipes - but Mema's cooking didn't work that way, it was intuitive and adaptive.  What was fresh today?  What did we have the right ingredients to make?  Has the great granddaughter drank all the cultured buttermilk?  (I'm not really sure why I would do that as a kid, but it came back to me as soon as I had a sip of Beyond Organic's Amasai which is seriously good stuff.)  Mema taught me all about the use and care of cast iron by example, and occasionally would tell me about how things like cane syrup were made (as in - a mule walked around pushing this thing).  I also heard plenty of stories about livestock and hunting - I've never really wondered where "food comes from" and I think that's important.   It also explains why I'm against being wasteful - respect the animal by using as much of it as possible.   Anyway, while I may have fancy-schmancy dishes from Williams Sonoma, 9 out of 10 meals are cooked in a humble cast iron skillet given to me by my Dad's Mom - and I think it may have been given to her.  NO IDEA how old that thing is - but there's no reason to replace it.  All of that being said, as adults I think it's important that we are good examples for healthy, conscious eating.  The kids are watching, even if they aren't YOUR kids, and they see what we put on our plates.  

Q: What do I do with coconut oil?

Mom has gotten into coconut oil in a very big way - but since it is kind of an unusual ingredient, she wants to know how else to use it.   WELL!   This arguably expensive, solid-at-room-temp wonder in a jar does seem a little intimidating at first - BUT - you soon get very used to it, and very hesitant to use much else!    Personally, I use it to cook eggs, lean meats (especially great for adobo seasoned fajita steak!), it's brilliant with pan frying white fleshed fish, start your stir fry with it for an exotic twist.   I use it in Primal baked goods all the time, and coat veggies destined to be roasted or even grilled.   Grilled asparagus coated with spices and coconut oil is seriously good stuff.   It also has a particular affinity for things like sweet potatoes and hard Winter squashes.  I coat the insides of delicata, butternut and acorn squash with it before roasting.  

Click here for a short list of recipes on GiryaGirl.com that use coconut oil

 

Ask GiryaGirl: How Can I Get Arms Like That? How Do Kettlebells Work on Arms?

At least once every other week, someone has an arm-related question for me.   Sometimes they're amusingly rhetorical questions, sometimes not.  But there is a whole lot of thinking about arms going on in the world--and with everyone.  So here's my answers to a few of the more common "arm related questions" that keep popping up.  And please feel free to add your own "arm questions" to the comments section below this entry too!

Q: You must do a TON of curls, right?
A: Nope!  In fact, up until a few months ago I hadn't done any form of barbell or dumbbell curls in a matter of years (I was staying in a hotel that had a gym and after doing some get ups while holding a straight curling bar for fun, I did a few random curls with the barbell for the sake of nostalgia). 

Q: Ok, Where do "the guns" come from?  

A: Well.. let's work up from the hands - all the grip work and extensor work (I'd encourage you to do some of this to balance out all that pull up bar gripping and kettlebell gripping you might be doing*) will really shape the forearms.  Kettlebells in particular with their intense work of the grip will ensure shapely strong-looking forearms on most men and women.  Ok well I know you were really wanting to know more about biceps... 

most of my bicep development is actually a result of pull ups and chin ups!  Though holding the kettlebell in position for goblet squats will also work them as well--as I am sure you've experienced!!   And while kettlebell "crush curls" are more of an intense chest exercise if done properly, they do also really hit the arms as well.

Q: How do I get arms like yours?

A: By keeping active with kettlebell ballistics and grinds while working up to intermediate/advanced calisthenics, and maintaining a relatively low percentage body fat.  I don't practice "isolation" exercises for my arms specifically, but they do get a great deal of attention during all forms of push ups, pull ups, and even human flag training... and all those kettlebell exercises mentioned above.  Honestly if I listed out all the exercises and moves I love to do that "accidentally" hit the arms this would be a very long article :)  I will say this, if you DO want the visible bicep vein (it comes and goes on me according to what I'm doing and eating) then it takes a very low body fat percentage which may or may not be sustainable (everybody is different) for your situation.  It's one of those weird things - guys of course seem to get it very easily, but again, everyBODY is different.

Q: I need to be less puny, but don't have any workout equipment at home... what do I do!?
A: (I did actually have someone ask this question verbatim last week, and they used the phrase "less puny" which I thought was pretty funny.  I asked her about that particular choice of words, and what she specifically meant was she wanted to be able to things which require strength, but did not want to necessarily end up looking like She-Hulk.)  Good news!  Not only will you not turn into a green-skinned She-Hulk by doing calisthenics exercises, you can get started right now and not buy a darned thing!  I absolutely love that about the ideas in Convict Conditioning.   My friend who asked this question is wanting to eventually do legit full push ups, and is currently able to do them from the knees.   After our discussion, she's going to be continuing to work on the pushups, but with straight legs and with her hands raised on a bench height, and instead of doing a bunch of crunches, she's now working on intense plank practice, cross-core coordination exercises from a crawling (knees off the floor, only hands and toes down, knees are bent though) position.  She's also working on the first step towards pull ups from Convict Conditioning.  It's all great stuff and she can get it all done at home!

Q: How do I get rid of THIS!?!? (Person asking question grabs their tricep area and shakes vigorously while scowling)

A: By making the tricep a little bigger, and dialing in your food!   Tricep-activating exercises like dips, "self assisted" at first (keep your feet under you, applying just enough "help" to get you moving) or with a band or training partner can also help.  Also working on push ups or the "chaturanga" set of movements in yoga will go a long way.   But cleaning up the diet, getting rid of excess sugars, alcohol etc. seems to speed this process amazingly.  Personally, a low carb Primal Blueprint-like food approach works great for me.  Find what is sustainable and works for you!

Q: What do kettlebells do to your arms?
A:
As discussed above, they can really develop and shape the forearms, develop a nice solid grip, and assist in both building muscle and reducing fat.  All these things lead to nice shapely arms for all genders!  HURRAH!   Sometimes women get concerned that kettlebells might make their arms "too big" in that case it's important to see what's going on with body composition - are the newly activated arm muscles really getting that "big" or are they simply appearing that way due to a layer of extra body fat.  The truth of the matter is, it's usually a body fat issue.  HOWEVER... that's not always the case.  Defined muscles on women is still (surprisingly) kind of shocking to some people (women included) outside of the fitness industry.  What I think of as "normal and healthy looking" isn't the same as what is seen on TV, movies, and those dreaded "women's magazines".  So many times the female arms displayed in mainstream media have hardly any muscle at all -- and if that's the goal, kettlebells may work against you.   I would encourage you however to closely examine those ideals and consider how good muscle tone and a little development can help us stay young looking for longer and longer.   Besides - all extra muscle burns more fat and helps us maintain the beautiful, healthy, strong and active bodies that allow for fun and adventurous lives! 

*Extensor work--you know those big rubber bands you get on all the fresh organic broccoli I know you're buying?  Those are GREAT to counteract some of that grip work.  Just place the rubber band around your thumb and fingertips then gently stretch the band using only those fingers.   The other thing you can do is to perform careful fingertip push ups (from the feet or from the knees, or even just holding that top position from feet or knees).  Be gentle with those little muscles and tendons of the hands while working to keep them in balance.  Trust me it's worth it!!

Ask GiryaGirl: I Only Have One or Two Kettlebells, What Else Can I Do? What is Your Skincare Routine?

Ask GiryaGirl

First off, there's been a TON of especially great stuff on the Dragon Door blogs these past couple weeks/months... If you haven't already, visit and bookmark the RKC Blog, the PCC Blog, and the Strong Medicine Blog for a curated steady stream of great info every week.

Q: I only have one kettlebell, it's the one I started with so it's a little light for most of the things I've been practicing... what do I do until I can order more later this month?

A: Last week's RKC blog from Josh Henkin brought up some ideas that are really great if you have or haven't already heard them.  They're extremely valuable for kettlebell instructors, enthusiasts, and especially people who like to work out at home or when they just have access to one or two kettlebells.  As we all know, a good quality kettlebell like the ones from Dragon Door will last a lifetime, but they are not cheap.  Personally, I think it's a great idea to just get one good kettlebell for a while until you're ready to step up--instead of getting a crummy cheap kettlebell that chews up your hands. Josh's article has all kinds of great ideas for when you're working with limited kettlebell resources... or even if you have nearly pairs of every size as I do, for those times when you just want to take one to the park, the beach, the lake, wherever and get a complete workout with just one kettlebell.

Some highlights from his post with some additional commentary:

"Pauses, slow speed get ups, squats and presses can make a light kettlebell get real heavy real fast."  Click to Tweet This!

This next question is somewhat off topic but was asked today by an aesthetician, so I paid attention.  Today I tried out a new thing in town, an Aqua Facial at Asim Medical here in Winter Park.  An interesting machine is used to clean and exfoliate the skin while also hydrating.  All of this is done with sterile saline solution applied with a sort of wand that distributes what felt like a cold vapor.  The effect is very similar to a gentle chemical peel, but without the redness/irritation.  Serums and nutrients were further added using RF.  While I'm not unhappy with my skin, and am pretty much universally not considered to be a "girly girl" I do appreciate the value of skincare and non-invasive methods of upkeep.  I'll be 40 in a couple years and I don't plan on looking or acting like it. Besides "weird" but gentle and low risk spa and non-invasive medspa treatments (big fan of IPL photofacial, and gentle chemical peels) are something I do occasionally enjoy.  If this is a topic you'd like to hear more about, please let me know--if not that's ok too!  Anyway she asked what my "skin care routine" was since I'm managing to keep things together pretty well.


Unlike dorky "celebrities" I'm not "brave" for showing you a post-facial picture with no makeup. The word "brave" should be reserved for acts of actual bravery... seriously... c'mon people...

It's very simple, if it involved a whole time of time or a ton of products, I know me, it just wouldn't happen!  First off, I like to stick to just 1 to 2 quality brands.  While they are not nearly the most expensive out there, I found that these two work best for me (La Mer made me break out, and an all organic line--which shall remain nameless--actually made me look visibly older within a few months).  So for now, here's what goes on around here:

Night (meaning before I go to sleep, which is usually technically morning*):

Morning (after waking up - hey, it's always "morning" somewhere in the world, right?):

Post Workout (It's Florida, not showering afterwards is NOT an option)

General Notes:

  1. A little tube of Image Skincare's Ormedic Organic Balancing Lip Enhancement Complex is always at hand or in my bag.  While this product seems to be for people recovering from some kind lip-related medical enhancement procedure it seems to work VERY well on natural lips.
  2. This is a trick answer.  I consider the real skincare to be what I actually eat and drink - healthy fats from organic grass fed beef, grass fed dairy, coconut oil, whole organic eggs in abundance, loads of leafy greens, apples, mangos, nuts, seeds, and shots of questionable tasting juices like turmeric and ginger shots, and swigs of aloe juice at the beginning and end of the day.  While I will admit to abusing espresso, I also drink loads of water both still and sparkling, and I haven't had any alcohol in about 6 years.  When I see someone my age who is looking a little ragged it usually turns out that they're hitting the wine bar a bit much... or are still boozing it up at the clubs. It's funny, when she first asked me about skincare I almost immediately talked about food... then realized she was asking about products.  But I consider what I eat (and don't eat) to be as--if not MORE important than what I put on my face, and I am loathe to make compromises.

BONUS QUESTION!!
Right after I finished getting my one-leg (one leg is straight, th other is tucked) human flag on video at the end of yesterday's #MonkeyBarMonday video, a couple of kids who were on the swings asked if I did gymnastics.  I said no, but I wish that I had but that I like to do these things as exercise.  I asked them if they did gymnastics, and they said yes!  Definitely encouraged them to continue, because imagine what they could do if they stick with it until and past my age? 

*I go to bed too late, and get up early for things which worth it either in enjoyment, info, payment, or preferably all three.  LOL but really I am not a morning person naturally at all...

Ask GiryaGirl: I want to work out today, but have no idea what to do?! What's GTG?

Q: I want to work out, but have no idea what to do, I'm between programs or haven't decided what I really need to work on.  The internet has filled my head with conflicting info and lists of 1,203 different exercises that I now feel compelled to work on RIGHT NOW!  What to do?!?

A Short Answer: Do some kettlebell (or even just bodyweight) get-ups!!   After a bad run-in with the "cold from hell" which some have theorized was "the flu" my first workout after recovering, was single get ups - beginning with 50 bodyweight get ups done throughout the day, then adding in a couple of reasonably light kettlebell get ups with pauses, and a few kettlebell "bottoms up" thrown in there for variety.  The key to this is of course impeccable form, and taking the time to make sure each get-up done is given full attention... every time I do this sort of thing, I learn something.

Long Answer:  Right now it's very trendy to bash mult-tasking, but I don't bash multi-tasking in all cases... if you can do it and do it well, then why not.   Granted, the example below is more in the category of "very useful active rest" or "leveraging my time."  I inherited a "special" habit from my Dad... and that's creating stacks of things, usually books, notes, lists, etc.  I can remember as a kid carefully navigating the temporary obstacle course of books and papers which would appear in his home office if Dad was working on a particularly engrossing project.  Guess what?  I do it too, and will say, "Uh oh it's gotten all 'term-papery' around here"  So last night I wanted to work on very strict form dead hang pull ups, which is a great opportunity for a workout that involves tidying up (putting books back in their category, evaluating to-do lists and adding items to the project management software when necessary, and generally just putting things away).

The following is an example of how to leverage boring chores into active rest: 
I set one of my interval timer apps to chime on the minute every minute for 100 minutes.  On the minute, every minute, I would perform ONE very strict, chest or neck to the bar dead hang pull up, starting and ending with a motionless hang. Each rep was without any form of cheat like "legs raising up" towards the top of the pull etc. I also made sure to engage everything (abs, glutes, etc) on each rep as well. During the remainder of the minute I would complete, or partially complete a small "tidying" task... so after 100 minutes, I've done 100 very very good pull ups, everything is tidy, and my project management tasks have been updated and assigned for timed completion next week.

There's also a self-timed "dishes" workout if you must know... involves a near-max set of something and then the washing/drying of 2-3 dish items, or folding 1-2 laundry items.  Similarly a timer can also be set for 2 minutes or more... though if I am going for longer rest periods, I just let them happen as they do, and stick to whatever "# of sets" goal happens.  For something extremely maximal (for me at the time) like progressions towards human flag, I'll have a goal of 10 sets of 1/1 each side throughout the evening with however much rest I'll need.    Similar treatment is for heavy weighted pull ups, or anything you may currently find extremely challenging.  This method will also cut down on potential frustration and annoyance.

Basically, the above examples are just specific implementations of the "GTG" concept of "grease the groove" which is essentially performing the exercise throughout the day, low reps, but impeccable form.  The carryover of this kind of practice is just incredible.  It's also a little addictive :)

Ask GiryaGirl: Should I go for the RKC the HKC or the PCC? Master the Kettlebell or Enter the Kettlebell?

Which workshop should I go to? HKC, RKC, and PCC

These questions pop up a lot in day to day life online, in person, and always in email.  So, it seems more than fair to answer them here for you too!

Q: I'm a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, strength coach, exercise enthusiast, etc. I want to learn more about kettlebells and fitness in an intensive way, which workshop should I choose?  What's the difference between the HKC, RKC, and PCC? And why would I choose one over the other? Should I take them all?

A: Congrats on wanting to futher your knowledge!  First off, anyone can take the HKC, RKC, and PCC workshops, instructors, trainers, and people from other fields who are just THAT into it!  The HKC stands for Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification and is a one day, 8 hour workshop that focuses on the absolute fundamentals of kettlebell training focusing on the kettlebell Swing, goblet squat, and the get-up.  While that might sound overly simplistic, the real power of the HKC is that it leads towards mastery of these movements.  Anyone already involved with kettlebells knows the extreme transformative power of a CORRECTLY performed kettlebell Swing, and the heartbreakingly horrible look of an incorrect Swing like popular media and tv fitness personalities love to shove into the collective consciousness.

Chances are if someone says they have "figured out" the Swing without specific coaching, they're not getting the full benefits from it at the very least.  Worst case they're en route to injury.  The HKC workshop will give you the tools, knowledge, and mental framework to troubleshoot the most crucial (and most transformative) elements of the kettlebell basics. So if you or your clients have "tried everything" and still aren't getting dramatic results from kettlebell training, I would strongly encourage you to sign up for an HKC in your area immediately.  The newly revised, upgraded HKC manual is also incredibly valuable as it includes everything covered that day along with sample workouts, and a comprehensive joint mobility warmup.  The HKC is also a great precursor to the RKC Workshop for those who wish to take their kettlebell training to the next level.

The HKC also really breaks down the get-up, a powerful sequence of movements that can really seem perplexing at the beginning.  When I teach it, I break it down big time, and so does the HKC--all while teaching you how to teach it too. Unlike many fitness "certifications" out there, even this entry level certification is physically rigorous and the testing is taken very seriously.  Arrive prepared if you plan to pass the HKC at the workshop.  Certified HKC instructors in good standing receive an instant $200 discount when they register for the RKC....

The RKC or Russian Kettlebell Certification workshop is a three day comprehensive workshop that goes into even more detail with the basics and expands into the subtles of the kettlebell clean, front squat, military press, and kettlebell snatch.  Testing is taken very seriously, and you should absolutely review the requirements for your age and weight class before signing up for the RKC.  Working with an RKC instructor in your area before going is also a really REALLY good idea. After passing the three day RKC workshop, you will be poised to become the kettlebell expert of your area and have the opportunity to really set yourself apart as a trainer/instructor who gets results for all fitness levels safely.  The RKC also comes with a newly revised, updated, and expanded manual, which I think is vastly superior to the one I originally received when I first went through the certification in 2010.  The same can be said for the new manual for the RKC-II by the way.  Recerting in both is highly encouraged as the info is constantly evolving and improving!

The PCC is actually not a kettlebell workshop at all and stands for Progressive Calisthenics Certification. This is a full three day workshop comparable in scope and intensity to the RKC--but for bodyweight exercise. It stands alone as its own complete system, or can add to your RKC or HKC knowledge in a very compatible way.  The way I train (myself and others) is a very seamless blend of the info from the RKC and the PCC, so many of the programming ideas can be used from both with both to great effect.  While there's always a lot of very impressive photos that end up on social media from PCC workshops, the true power of the PCC is the philosophy and early progressions you will learn, and learn how to teach to people of all fitness levels.

This is also something I've always loved about Convict Conditioning the emphasis on the powere of the basics at the beginning.  It always used to kill me when I'd substitute teach a local boot camp when I'd see people banging out terrible push up reps, not wanting to improve their form, only wanting to get in those numbers and "that burn". If only they could see how they looked when doing these things!

I'll talk about it more on another post for another day, but I like to make sure that whatever I demonstrate--whether a beginner move or not--I want it to be an expression of strength, power, and control. And yes, that is absolutely possible with something as humble as a wall push up or knee push up. And having that kind of attention to detail REALLY comes in handy down the road in your own training. Getting these movement patterns down (or back) can literally put you or your clients back in "the game".

The PCC info is also really great for approaching populations who may not want to venture into a gym environment, as you will now know how to get in a great workout or lead a great workout anywhere for anyone. 

This new post on the RKC Blog is so good that it needs its own little info box:

Fundamental Human Movements and Training in Opposite Planes of Motion by Sebastian Müller

Q: Which kettlebell book should I buy?

Battle of the Books!  Master the Kettlebell vs Enter the Kettlebell

So... you're looking to purchase a kettlebell book as a reference or to enhance your training and there are choices on Dragon Door... the venerable Enter the Kettlebell or the new Master the Kettlebell.  Short answer, is I'm recommending Master the Kettlebell, it's a consise and fully updated book on kettlebell training that echos what is currently taught at the RKC Workshops. It's a clearly written reference and has additional info on mobility, and self-massage at the beginning.  Also, I may be biased because my own approach to exercise programming is similar, but Max really lays out the details and basics of his highly effective approach to creating workouts for himself, clients, and groups.

While neither books (in my opinion) are meant to be replacements for in person training with a qualified instructor, they can help your reinforce and remember what you learned during your session.

Master the Kettlebell
is my current choice as go-to kettlebell book for reference and for recommending to others, it's fully up to date with clear photos (of Max Shank AND Beth Andrews) demonstrating the exercises.  It's great to have male and female examples of the movements and these two accomplished athletes and coaches are just perfect for the job.  You can see what they're doing and then read all about it.  Master the Kettlebell is also a fantastic resource and reference for creating your own program and has plenty of starter examples you can use right away.

This is not to say that Enter the Kettlebell no longer has value.  It absolutely does.  Someone experienced with kettlebells who is able to get the ideas though the form has evolved since then will find a lot of value in it.  Fans of Pavel will also be inspired and amused by the wisdom, catchphrases, and seemingly unintentional humor (well at least that's how I took it). There's also some nice basic approaches to programming. 

Ask GiryaGirl: Thanksgiving, Anywhere Workouts... and a Few Random Ones...

While Thanksgiving is tomorrow, some of this Q+A may be a little on the "late" side but maybe not!

Heritage Turkeys

Q: What are you cooking or sharing for Thanksgiving?

A: Even though some of the family has said "don't worry we have it all here",  I'm always one to bring something.  For one I like to share, and for two it means I know that there will be a lower carb option with no hidden surprises.   Having discovered last year that turkey meat eaten in great quantites actually gives me a "reminder of the teen years" style acne breakout, it will be very easy not to gorge myself tomorrow anyway.   That being said, here's some items that are always crowd pleasers, even if the crowd is simply you and a friend:

 

Heritage turkeys!!!!

A video posted by @giryagirl on

Something else to consider, for those who have smaller family situations, the idea (and burden) of preparing an entire turkey can be daunting.  Fortunately there's tons of other great things you can do -- personally I like any excuse for a good beef roast, but other options include a home-roasted chicken, if you haven't done that in a while, it's surprisingly simple and really really good. You'll never even be tempted by store-purchase rotisserie that's for sure.   Also, in the meat case (or ask your butcher) you can often find a rolled turkey breast, it'll be in a kind of cook-able twine-mesh bag that holds it together for even cooking.  It's a great shape for easy carving (no bones) cooks relatively quickly, and makes for good sandwich style meat slices later if any is left.  For people wanting to have a real "Rennaissance Fair" feel for the holidays, why not roast some turkey legs for the lords and ladies!  Turkey legs are very economical too.  Cornish game hens also cook quickly and each person gets one so that's kind of fun as well.  If you're feeling adventurous, and are having a good year, why not try your hand at a richly flavored roast duck or small goose!?

Vegetarians do have that tofurky thing available, but roasting a beautiful squash and filling it with savory vegetable and nut "stuffings" seems like a lot more fun (granted you would also run the risk of having to share it with someone like me too).  I've even seen neat presentations with a golden roasted large crookneck squash that was vaguely goose-shaped!

Q: Oh no! I will be traveling away from my usual gym and have this idea from social media that I need to pack an unweildy amount of equipment for holiday workouts away from home!

A: While I personally avoid hotel workout rooms (cramped spaces, little if anything useful inside, creepers, etc.) if they have a decent set of dumbbells, it can be fun to do various combinations of overhead presses, squats, rows, etc.  BUT many times I'd rather not be bothered with going there and the risk of awkward conversations or someone's unruly children they've unleashed on the place.  During travel, many of the Convict Conditioning plans work incredibly well. Even if you are not currently working on the specific progressions, good old fashioned push up variations, bridges, bodyweight squats (and pistol squats, and shrimp squats), lunges, jump lunges, headstands, handstands etc can really fit the bill -- worst case? If you're feeling extra antsy, knock out some burpees or sprawls by yourself or with a partner.  Choosing move variations that are challenging enough and with enough workout intensity and focus will absolutely keep you active and strong over the holidays -- without the need of dragging around an entire gym with you.  Granted, an Ultimate Sandbag can easily go places with you too -- OR get creative with the ideas like those in Zach Even-Esh's Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning (including pushing cars, trucks and rocks around!)...  the possibilities are endless.  Imagination and creativity negate excuses.

Q: Do you have any tattoos?

A: No, I have "forever commitment" issues, and a couple of adventure related small scars. But I can appreciate them on other people.  Even after all this time, at a given PCC Workshop dinner, it never fails that I'll notice a tattoo that Al or Danny has had on an arm all along!

Q: Coffee or tea?

A: Both, but not in the same cup or mug. :)

I am hoping to make some new how-to videos soon for another couple of Q+A answers that are better shown than written too, so keep watching for that.  Have a great Thanksgiving, there's so much to be thankful for!

Ask GiryaGirl: To Chalk or Not to Chalk When Swinging or Snatching Kettlebells?

A lively discussion erupted online the other day surrounding the use of chalk with kettlebells.   This is another one of those interesting situations where there's no one right answer, there's the right answer for you--which also may or may not be situation dependent!  So in an effort to hopefully help you or your clients, here's some of my personal observations which may or may not help you.   Please also realize that most of my personal workouts take place in ever-so-humid Florida.  And for whatever reason I get moist hands pretty easily (to the point at which I could WATCH it materialize on my fingertips the other day when I was practicing some of my qigong exercises).  While I don't have a "hyperhydrosis" thing going on, I do notice that when things get "neurologically interesting" (euphemism for "omg this kind of scares me") as in certain upside down human flag progressions, and/or walking down/up the wall bridge variations, then my hands will sweat and absolutely need some form of grip help (let's hear it for Dry Hands!).   AND... I do know that in GS (girvoy sport) chalk plays a different role too, but while I respect GS, I don't practice it or have enough experience with it to reference it within the experiences related below.   In other words, the kettlebell use described below is all RKC Hardstyle.

To Chalk or Not to Chalk??

Back in 2009-2010 I was using quite a bit of chalk.  The kettlebell swings and snatches were unusual to me, and absolutely made my hands sweat like mad.   I also didn't have a handle (haha pun intended) on the grip timing or the grip strength needed just yet.  In 2009, even though I met the weight requirement to use the 12kg kettlebell for the 100 snatches in 5 minutes test for the RKC, I still needed to use chalk at that time to make it happen.  Should also add that even halfway through 2010, I would still get a blister EVERY time I'd practice the test too.   It was very frustrating.   Then one day I decided to do a little experiment--even though I had zero faith that it would be successful.   I tried the test without chalk, making sure to first shave down my calluses with a Ped-Egg.  I still blistered a little bit, but now realize that it was only because I was still really dialing in the technique and timing of the grip.   Soon, I was able to complete the test without any hand-destruction or chalk.  

An interesting thing happened when I started to use heavier kettlebells for snatching, I went through the same process (in a very much abbreviated way).  I'd need to use chalk and/or some form of hand protection until I got used to snatching a given kettlebell for 100 reps straight through.  Now, with the updated testing requirements, I'm snatching the 14kg for my weight class with no problems and no chalk.   Sometimes I do the test at home for fun and to see what kind of amusing numbers I can get on heart rate monitor charts.  That Armour39 is a whole lot of fun for that, btw.  Sometimes I do the test with the 16kg for fun too.   Regardless, the chalk stays in its bag for that now.   Thankfully.

Now... if it's super humid and I can feel the kettlebell sliding around in my damn hand--and for whatever reason just drying my hands and the handle with a towel isn't doing the trick--I will grab the chalk for low-rep work.   Beast (48kg) swings outside on a humid day?  You bet I have the chalk handy--otherwise I run the risk of making a nice big crater in the ground.   It's also amusing to note that even snatching something like a 20kg, 22kg, or 24kg kettlebell for very low reps might get my hands going in a way that needs chalk too.   I guess the take away is observe your own performance.   Many people are blessed with naturally dry hands, or live in dryer climates...   And as your hands become conditioned to working with the kettlebells, you may find that they toughen up over time too.   I haven't totally found this to be the case in my own experience (even while using the venerable "Corn Huskers' Lotion"), but again everyone's a little different at least.

It's another case of do what you gotta do.   For me, I feel like I've made progress in my performance of certain exercises if I DON'T need to use chalk or as much chalk.   The walking down/up the wall bridge is a perfect example of this.   Once I became more confident that I wouldn't drop myself on my head at the bottom of this exercises (taking the hands one by one from the wall to the floor is an intense moment), then suddenly my hands stopped getting so damp--and I was able to do those bridge variations without tracking chalk all over the wall.   

Is using chalk "bad" or "good" or "right" or "wrong"?  Nope!  It's very much an individual thing.  I started tracking results of using it vs not using it in the corner of my workout log books and found my pattern that way.   I'd encourage you to do the same!  

So, what have been YOUR experiences with using chalk and kettlebells and other exercises that are hand-dependent?

Ask GiryaGirl: Troubleshooting the Pistol - a Q&A discussion

Recently I posted a link to the new Shot-At-Alcatraz Convict Conditioning Bodyweight Squat DVD.   I had also recently posted a my review at that same link.   Yes, the price is daunting - but if you're serious about mastering the pistol (aka the one leg squat) then this will be a worthwhile investment.  ESPECIALLY if you are training others—this is essentially on-demand coaching in DVD and manual form.   Having read, studied and applied the info from Pavel's Naked Warrior along with Convict Conditioning 1 & 2 I was really pleased with the new ground covered on this DVD—the hidden steps and variants alone are incredibly cool.   Anyhow, a discussion ensured after I posted the link/review/etc. with a facebook friend—here are the highlights—maybe some of it will help you! :)

Legend: G= GiryaGirl; F=Friend

F: Are there any tips for those who can do close squats and pistols with a counterweight, but not with bodyweight only? That was one of the issues with the book for me, many of the steps can't be done if you need a counterweight.

G: Did you try assisted (with a basketball or medicine ball under the straight leg? How about box pistols - just going half way down?) What happens when you do those? Is it a balance issue? Check your shoes/feet/toes are they gripping the floor or flopping around? (I like troubleshooting the pistol... can you tell?) The answer to your other question is that the DVD/Manual really goes into greater depth of the hidden steps and progressions than the book. LOTS of subtleties - which are absolutely crucial with this exercise (in my opinion)

F: I tried them with the basketball, and it didn't work because I fall backward without a counterweight. Not a balance issue, just a body proportions issue. Have done many many many box pistols over the years, I find them to be of no help whatsoever. Ditto for assisted pistols holding on to a pole in front. With an 8kg kettlebell, no issues. Yes, gripping with the toes etc.

G: Ok... how about... are you flexible enough to grab the toe of the straight leg at the bottom of the pistol? How about any hamstring flexibility issues?

F: At the moment I can't do it; I'd gotten to the point last fall where I could get into the bottom position with support, grab the opposite foot, and hold briefly, with great difficulty, but it didn't seem to translate into the eccentric at all. Does that make sense? I was thinking L sit practice and stiff legged deadlifts to improve flexibility, and see if that helps. I'm close to full front and side splits now, would like to get the rest of the way, so it would serve two purposes.

G: I can't do a full split of any kind (but I haven't worked on that either). Hamstring flexibility might be part of the issue though, I'll be curious to see what happens with your plan. Also, try hanging out down in the bottom position for longer and longer - even just a few seconds, I actually consider it a "rest" and occasionally "hang out" down there and talk on the phone!

F:  I re-read the section from Convict Conditioning on the Pistol. Yes, there are good recommendations for building up strength to do the pistol well. I am taking your advice to be persistent. I have a few questions; hope you have time to address them.

  1. When you're descending into the squat are you at the same time tensing the entire body and support leg as you go down?
  2. When you were learning the pistol squat, what technique was the most effective one for accomplishing it?
  3. Each day I get closer and closer to accomplishing it, but it has been taking me a while. I should have started this stuff when I was younger

G: If it's any consolation, it took me a full year to do it (2008-2009) - I was also increasing my general fitness and losing weight at the time too.

  1. As I descend, I focus more on the planted foot - I think of pulling myself down and reaching forward. There's a combination of tension, but also some relaxation since we need to move too. Have you tried any with a thin book under your heal? (try that unweighted)
  2. It's been a while, and Convict Conditioning hadn't been published yet.  I did a combo of drills from Naked Warrior and a whole lot of experimentation. Since you can do them with a counterweight - try gradually bringing the weight closer and closer to you over time. Oddly enough a game changer for the balance part was to practice hanging out in the bottom of a close squat - sometimes you'll see pictures of people in other countries in this position to talk on their cell phones!
  3. Age is a number, not a fate!  Be patient!

Ask GiryaGirl: Why Am I Sliding With Aussie Pull-Ups? Why Are All Your Product Reviews Positive?

Q: Help! My feet keep sliding when I perform Aussie Pull Ups and I need to practice them because I'm planning to attend the PCC and they are a required part of the women's test!!!

A: Hurrah!!!!   I am so glad you are coming to the PCC, and that you are asking me about the women's Century Test.   So far the ladies have been a little under-represented at the PCC and I'm on a personal mission to change that.   I mean.... not going to complain, it's really nice to be in a room full of cool, super fit men, but ladies it's time to step up!  Absolutely PROMISE that we aren't doing 3,023,043 muscle ups over the weekend and of the three PCC Workshops where I've instructed, everyone seems to finds several exercises that they really do very well, and refine further.

Actually, at every PCC Workshop I've been to, each of the women in attendence seemed to surprise themselves with their own strength or skill... usually a bit of both.   So let's get it going, ladies... these exercises are super practical especially for busy women and their busy clients!   No gym necessary, train people wherever, get into the great outdoors... you see where I am going with this... besides considering how many women are into yoga, adding in calisthenics is accessible and a great way to add strength training. 

Calisthenics are great for everyone, but women can especially benefit from these powerful exercises which have progressions and regressions suitable for any fitness level (and you'll learn these at the PCC).  A lot of women are hypermobile (I'm not, but we know I'm weird) and working on strength as well as mobility can help with preventing injury in our lives by training good movement patterns and by strengthening our bones.   The same is also true for men of course, but considering the demographic that normally shows up to the PCC, I felt it necessary to point this out especially for women.  We can all be strong and have fun getting there.

Back to your question!   The first thing to look at is your position under the bar, you'll want to think of being under the bar so that somewhere between your chest collarbone comes to the bar, not your tummy.  You want to be "down under" the bar (get it) not behind the bar if that makes sense.  I recommend playing around with your position under the bar slide back and forth a little to see where you are most stable/comfortable.  And keep your elbows close to the body.  ALSO make sure the ground is not slick (or in the case of one time at the park, not a bunch of sandy slide-y dirt!).  As in the photo above, I am also flexing my feet since I'm making myself into "one piece" like a plank.  The rubber soles of my shoes further keep me in place too.   At the worst case, if you haven't yet found "your place" under the bar, you can have a friend stand so that they are keeping your feet from sliding until you do.   Persistence and just playing with the exercise will do the trick though.   Here's more info on The Century Test for both men and women with the full requirements AND video demonstrations from some people you probably know.... :)

Besides, Aussie pull-ups and variations thereof are great fun.  The one arm version is one of my absolute favorites... RARRRR!!!!

Q:  So you have quite a few product reviews on your site, and all of them are positive reviews? What's that about?

A: It's a personal policy I've had since 1995--only post positive reviews.   It started back when I was writing local restaurant reviews for my college newspaper.   Our school was in a very small town and right away I realized... I am going to have to live here for 4 years... I don't want a bunch of angry restaurant owners coming after me!   That and why waste precious column inches on stuff that isn't cool?   This personal policy (that still persists to this day on here on Yelp, and on various websites) has led me to only publically review things, items, places that I either like, or totally love.   I love trying new things and if I totally love something, I want you to know about it.   There's so much negativity out there in the world, in print, and ESPECIALLY on the internet, that I like the idea of making my site an oasis of "here's some things that I think are awesome and I hope you think they are great too!"  

Similarly, some of you who are real sticklers for details will notice that occasionally I will feature a "sponsored" product, or review something that a company has sent for my evaluation.   Before I even agree to participate, I make sure to do plenty of research to determine if 1. It's something that's relevant to me (and hopefully to YOU)  2. That it's something I will like.   Sometimes by very very happy accident a company will offer to send me something that I have used in the past or am currently using and loving.  Only on rare occasion has anything slipped through the cracks and become something that I was not comfortable reviewing (this hasn't happened in a couple of years, so if you have sent me something in the past month and have not yet seen a review, don't be nervous, it's on the way!).

But the main thing is I like to focus on sharing the best of the best with the readers of this site.  If I don't like something, I move on to a better product.   As Mercedes Benz says (and as I say when going through my clothes to look for stuff to donate) "The best or nothing."  

Ask GiryaGirl: YOUR Questions About Push Ups, Flags, Neuro-Grips, Hip Hinges, Youngevity?

Been meaning to compile some of these for a while.  A number of regular readers of this site send really good questions via email and they are usually things that others will want to know too.   This is just barely scratching the surface, but here we go!

Q: Is it better to do push ups from kettlebell handles or should I just do regular ones?

A: I wouldn’t say “better” just different.   Obviously the grip is different — and the slight raising of the upper body above the feet will make the push ups slightly “easier” in some regards as compared to doing them from the floor.  However that same height difference allows for the possibility of a larger range of motion, which can present its own set of challenges.

Personally I think it’s good to practice both from time to time, and to evaluate how the differences listed above may or may not help you accomplish a particular goal.  As a side note, people who are uncomfortable with their hands flat on the ground for push ups might find this variation to be a lot more comfortable.   In the "advanced" corner, if you can use large enough kettlebells (they must be large ones, or the flat base is too small and becomes a safety issue) then you can do the infamous "Manmaker" or "plank row" combo: Row right, push up, row left, push up... repeat.  Grip HARD.

Q: I am having problems with the hip hinge movement for my kettlebell Swing. It's just unlike anything else I've done in the gym. How can I practice it, and why does everyone tell me to "get a dowel?" What is a dowel?!?  I still overuse my arms and have a tough time hitting a good position at the bottom of the Swing with the kettlebell.  I tend to squat rather than Swing the through my legs if that makes sense.

A: First off, so that there's no more confusion, a dowel is basically a straight wooden stick or pole.  Think broomstick without a broom, or for martial arts people, it's similar to a basic jō staff. For our purposes one that's about 4-5 feet long will be more than adequate.

(For those of you who have been there, do you remember the hip hinge drill (with the dowel) from your RKC or HKC workshop? Your homework is to check that out in the manual, and practice it. )  The basic drill is to put the down down your back, making sure to keep it in contact with the back of your head (ladies and long-haired gents, watch those ponytails),  the upper back, and the tailbone.  Maintain those 3 points of contact while sitting back with your hips.  Be sure the movement is primarily hip-based and the knees are not dropping into a squat.  We want to just push back (crass but very effective cue: stick your butt out) almost into a "tennis ready" type position.  If you think about it, this is actually the "ready" position in many sports or in a general athletic context.  There's a reason, you can generate a lot of power from here... depending on where you plan to go next.

This drill will not work if you rush through it, or are not mindful of those three points of contact.  The first time you do it, most likely it will either pop up off of your tailbone, or you will lose the upper back connection entirely.  Keep the back of your head in contact with the stick to re-learn a neutral position for your head.  Your posture will thank you.  Good posture is rare these days, so learn or maintain it and "wear" it with pride.  I do, and people promptly seem to forget that I'm 5'3.5" (yes the half inch does matter).

Something I encourage people who are learning the kettlebell Swing to do is to practice the hip hinge with the dowel, then immediately practice their kettlebell deadlift.  We groove the pattern and associate the movements that way.  It's a good way to put it all into context before we move to the surprisingly complex dynamic and life-changing movement known as the kettlebell Swing.   Likewise, if you feel like your swings are "a little off" it's good to review the movement and erradicate a bad habit that might have sneaked in with a combo like the following:

Get that pattern grooved. go for quality, not speed.... as many rounds as you feel like, but remember no one will be impressed with a "hip hinge world record attempt" be smart.

A slightly different small description of the hip hinge drill:
Line up the dowel on your back, and keep it in contact with the back of your head, your upper back, and your sacrum (tailbone) as you "sit back." be sure your upper back, doesn't pop away from the dowel, and/or the dowel does not pop off of your tailbone. If you squat too much, it will. Keep your knees bendable, but do not just squat down.

Q: Do you have any tips on using the Neuro-Grips? I can't even do ONE, which I find very surprising-- I have some shoulder injuries, but I'm a MAN! I thought I'd at least be able to do ONE pushup with them!

Neuro-Grip Push-Ups

A: They're REALLY strange--as you already know. One of the guys in our small group class has some long-standing martial-arts related shoulder issues and injuries.  For his situation, holding a straight arm plank with them while being mindful of actively engaging and supporting his shoulders is very challenging for him. And he's a tough, strong guy. 

Check with your doctor to make sure your shoulder is healed up and safe before trying them again--it's not worth injuring yourself over.

The Neuro-Grips take a LOT of shoulder stability and abdominal engagement as well. I've been havig fun coming up with a whole series of progressions with them and will be posting a video soon.  Long story short: Practice straight arm planks with wide feet (for balance) if that's easy, bring your feet together. Next try some very strict knee push ups with the Neuro-Grips before moving on to a full push up with wide feet for stability, then feet together.   We've had guys do some impressive things at recent PCC workshops - 1 arm push-ups for REPS on a Neuro-Grip... INSANE!!!

Here's a fun but advanced Neuro-Grip variation from new PCC Instructor, Jeanne Le Bailly of Calisthenfit.com in Dublin Ireland. (It helps if you have small hands) take ahold of a single Neuro-Grip and keeping the elbows in tight, perform a close-grip push up! OOOF!!!!!  A SLIGHTLY easier way is to have your feet farther apart.  For reasons of vanity, I had to teach myself to do it with feet together:

Q: What do you think of sandbag training?

A: Sandbags are TON of fun — and not just saying that because I’m in the new DVRT book, I went to the DVRT 1+2 workshops with Josh Henkin a little bit ago and it’s really great stuff to “fill in the gaps.”  Warning: you will feel a little uncoordinated at first — I sure did!! As Josh wrote in a recent article, they will add rotational and anti-rotational challenges to your training as well as delightfully weird offset training opportunities, freakish grip variations, and wobbly challenges to work against.  Can get very fun and game-like quickly.  Oh and you're going to definitely eat a big dinner afterwards... sandbag training volume will sneak up on you!!!

Q: I have used convict conditioning training for the last few years along with Al Kavadlo's books. I was quite impressed when I saw the picture of you at a PCC Workshop holding a human flag. I can do a clutch flag but have been unable to get the ball rolling on the harder version. I would appreciate any advice you may offer--pre-requisites, etc.

A: Thanks — still very much working on that move to hold it for longer and longer. I was lucky that Dennis happened to be in the right place during that in 1-2 second hold of the press flag and that he caught it so well on camera.

Thankfully, there’s a whole slew of lead-up drills that I really like in Convict Conditioning Vol 2.

I’ll describe the first couple from memory, because no matter where you are in the flag they are still useful.

Find a pull up bar that also has a solid horizontal support (this might be just the sides, or in my case at home, the sides of the end of the hallway. Grab the pull up bar in the middle, then with your other hand “the bottom hand” push against that solid side. You’re going to want to really make sure your body stays in a straight line, imagine being a flat, straight plank and just push yourself as one piece straight out to the side like this:

Most people make quick progress with that hold, and to make it more and more difficult move your hands “closer together” for instance you’ll start with the hand on the overhead bar in the middle of the bar, the more advanced progression will be to move that hand closer and closer towards the horizontal upright that you’re using to push off of with the other hand.

Even though I’ve moved past that progression, I use it as a sort of “warm up drill” to get my mind right. The flag is very very mental, and you have probably already figured that out by now, but short sets, lots of rest and not overdoing it are key. Also, keep with your clutch flags for time. Just being able to approach the beginning of the press flag progressions with a good solid 30-45 second clutch flag hold will seriously help you out.

The next biggest hurdle (in my case at least) was learning the weird grip needed to do the press flag from a pole. This oddly enough just takes time to figure out where you “fit” into it. Starting from the suggestions in CC Vol2, slightly vary the distance that your hands are apart. Pay close attention to where your fingers of each hand are pointing, and practice getting your body squared up. I took a lot of time with this process and as soon as things started to “feel right” began to just slightly pick my toes up off the ground. Over time the toes get further and further from the ground as you get used to this very weird and very leverage-disadvantaged position!

It’s taken me a good year, year and a half to get as far as I am now…. it’s a struggle for sure, don't be fooled when you see guys make this look easy, chances are what looks "easy" has taken years and years of practice. Make sure to keep those shoulders healthy and safe too.

Q: What is Youngevity? What does it have to do with Beyond Organic?  Why are they sending me emails?!

A: Those of you who are/were into Beyond Organic (and are hopefully part of my team) but are confused by the Youngevity (or wondering why you are getting emails from some weird thing called "Youngevity" or "90 for life") merge... don't worry, I'm sorting it out over here and will be making a blog post and FAQ to explain in plain, quick terms the "new deal". I will also be transitioning that part of GiryaGirl.com to best reflect and clarify the changes too.

The good news is, it's ALL GOOD NEWS.

First order of business: that ever-addictive Amasai grass fed raw milk product is still available, and will continue to be available, along with a bunch of other (over 400?!?!!??!) new products since the Youngevity merge.

In addition to the Amasai I'll personally be ordering this month I will also be trying a number of the new products that appeal to me (and hopefully to you as well) and that fit the nutritional profile/lifestyle of GiryaGirl.com. In the mean time, if you want to check out what's going on with the new available products (and don't freak out, some are a little strange...) then visit http://giryagirl.youngevity.com or http://giryagirl.my90forlife.com If you are currently on my Beyond Organic team and want to talk about how to best make this transition and what your options are (without having to listen to any recorded conf calls, let's set up a time to chat next week--message me, or go ahead and email).

The short answer is, the options are GREAT and I'm cautiously kind of very stoked about it. Local people, I will be dusting off the "tasting dishes" and considering a time/place for a party. I'm also putting together a nice little "prize pack" reflecting some of the new product ranges for someone to win... I just need to figure out what I want you guys to do to earn your chance at winning!!! :)

I'm working on figuring out the best way to tell you about the new strategies I will be employing with this product line, and have tons of ideas for you--to build a business from scratch or how to really enhance your existing gym/studio offerings with these new products that I think people will really love.  (I have some weird ideas* that just might be game changers... maybe you want to help test that out.) Just about guaranteed no one else has thought of some of this yet..... :) :) 

Convinced already? Join my Youngevity team by clicking here.  And/or let's figure out a time to talk shop very soon.

*Imagine that...

Ask Giryagirl: More Tips to Fix Your Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing [VIDEOS!]

Ask Girya Girl

Every now and then, friends and former clients who've moved away will send along a video of their kettlebell Swing.  "Does this look right?!" or "What am I doing wrong?!" etc. And before we even get to the fact of the different legitimate styles of kettlebell swings (I practice and teach the RKC hardstyle kettlebell Swing, but there's also a GS "Girvoy Sport" style of Swing, CrossFit etc.), there are tons of very questionable videos out there online.  The questionable videos are often aimed at women and that of course drives me bonkers.  So, with very little prompting it's easy enough to get me to run outside and shoot a video or two to help people who might need a few pointers to really dial-in their hardstyle kettlebell swings.  

In response to a post on the Dragon Door forums yesterday (which by the way has been made to work very nicely on your phone now) I figured that it would be easier to demonstrate a couple of fundamental tips on video than to just try to write it out.  Considering these are some pretty common issues, even for people who are already fit, but who are adjusting to the different movement (there's nothing in a mainstream gym like it), please give the video a view and let me know what you think.  By the way, its by the strict application of these principles that a small person like myself can Swing extremely heavy kettlebells like the 48kg Beast, and the newest 60kg Monster kettlebell.  Below the new video I've also included the hip hinge video mentioned in it for your convenience!  Hope all this helps! :)

Barbell Deadlift - Color Theory - Random Advice Time Warning

This is kind of a strange article - won't deny that... also going to warn you, we're approaching my birthday, which always makes me get "a little weird" (I know what you're thinking... ).  This is mainly because I get reflective in terms of "what have I learned this past year?", "have I kept my promises, goals etc?"   Those of you who know me in "real life" know there have been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of triumphs, and some sad things too.  Anyway, I hate talking about feelings on the internet - so let's start with a snippit of a video from yesterday's visit to the St. Cloud Institute of Human Performance - featuring work on the Barbell Deadlift with RKC, Chris Davis:

 

Q: Why do you wear all black all the time?!  

 

A: The age old question, if I had a $1 for every time I've been asked this since high school I'd have at least 2 of the cars I have pinned on Pinterest or that make Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear squeal like a little girl (which is hilarious, btw).   Here's the fun part - only recently have I actually figured out the REAL ANSWER to this question, which is mainly contained in #4.   As in, I figured out how to articulate it last week.  There are several reasons, some more interesting than others:

  1. It's easy, I don't have to be bothered with matching things.  It's no secret that I don't enjoy the mall that much - unless I'm going to spend time with a friend, have some coffee in hand, and am allowed to people watch.  It's also a good time to research that strange, perplexing, ever-changing animal known as Mainstream America.
  2. As a computer scientist, I consider black to be the color of "rest" or "potential" basically each pixel on the screen is black before it is anything else.   It's the default - the starting point.
  3. No one knows if you spill your coffee, tea or espresso on it...
  4. It's the color of "certainty." I don't consider many things in our world to be "certain" other than stuff like gravity (more on that later).  Black is certain*, I know where it stands, I know it won't change.  Nearly everything else changes, and if you live a life of barely controlled chaos like I do - then it's good to have some anchors.  This is why I hate that phrase " _________" is the new black.   No it's not.  NOTHING is the "new" black. Black is neither new nor old, it just is, and I like that about it.  
  5. It's easy enough to change a couple things and have people think you're dressed appropriately for a given situation.
  6. I like to be taken seriously - and as a 5'3" woman, I may have a Napoleon complex in this regard, but if I dress very colorfully, there is always the chance of being mistaken for a child or teenager.  Besides, wearing black is incredibly flattering.

Q: But but "pink is the new black" why do refuse to wear it?!

 

A: I feel like a jerk wearing pink for whatever reason - not sure why.  Similarly, some other colors make me feel too conspicuous.  Not claiming to be normal over here.  I own a few shirts in other colors (dark purple, dark green, charcoal, red), but usually it's because I either like their design or cut - or more likely, they're related somehow to the RKC and I'm always proud to wear that stuff.   But back to pink...sure it looks fine on other people, and some people really LIKE wearing it.  I believe they find it to be a "fun color" and if that's empowering to someone then by all means - WEAR IT.   I've just seen it used to dumb things down, to make things "accessible" to the general public.   Pink is often used to make something "safe" to make something "fun" to make something "cute."  Again, I'm 5'3" and don't want to be mistaken for a child.  So if you see me wearing pink, it means I've either been talked into it by coach (he thinks this is amusing for some reason), or maybe there's just an incredibly HUGE amount of $ on the table.  Huge like, I'm going to go buy a ridiculous black sports car to compensate for the previous humiliation (see previous Jeremy Clarkson statement).    I wonder when FitFluential will have their new non-pink badge ready?  I can't wait!


Birthday Stuff...   ok, hopefully it doesn't get too annoying, but this time of year I tend to make remarks of the bumper sticker variety - here's my birthday-advice, since I'll be 35 soon.

I remember when my Dad turned 35 - I had just learned in school that someone had to be at least 35 years old to run for President.   As a kid, it was perplexing that Dad wasn't going to run, I thought he'd do a good job.   Not a fan of politics over here, so sorry, I will not be running for President after turning 35 next month.   Whether that brings disappointment or a great sigh of relief, I just had to put that out there.  LOL!!!

Girya Girl's Top 5 List of SECRET INGREDIENTS!!!

My local friends know I'm always in search of interesting things to eat - and with that in mind... here we go!

5: Organic Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil from The Ancient Olive

Drizzle this and a little vinegar over salad greens and you've got an instant salad.   Saute mushrooms in it - toss with steamed green beans and walnut pieces - add a swirl of it to the top of your spaghetti squash and meat red sauce - you get the idea.  Great super high quality olive oil just loaded with flavor - a great multi purpose ingredient you can use in a pinch.  From The Ancient Olive

4: Shao Hsing Hua Tiao Chiew Chinese Cooking Wine

This is the source of the dark rich flavor in your home made Chinese food experiments.  In a pinch use it in a ratio of 1-teaspoon to each1 tablespoon of soy sauce or wheat free tamari as a great beef marinade.   Better yet - see how it really works by trying my recipe for Beef with Broccoli for One.

3: Tropical Traditions Coconut Flour

Check out the full review here: Tropical Traditions Coconut Flour.  This super fine milled alternative flour doesn't work like regular wheat flour, but that's ok too - its oddly almost hydroscopic.  Once you figure it out - you'll want to keep a bag of it around - especially if you're looking to cook grain or gluten free.  It's the magic that helps to hold these crab cakes together too!

2: Beyond Organic Plain Amasai

Chock full of delicious flavor and probiotics, this unique kefir like beverage is also great alternative to yogurt or the basis of an incredible blue cheese salad dressing.   Mix it half and half with mango juice and you have the world's easiest mango lassi ever.  Check out all of the Beyond Organic Products here: Brutally Honest Beyond Organic Product Tasting Notes

1: Spice and Tea Exchange's Ghost Pepper Sea Salt

This is the lynch pin special ingredient to a lot of my recipes, especially the ones that I throw together on the fly.   I brought it to a Thanksgiving meal where it added an extra special kick when sprinkled on top of Deviled Eggs.  The Spice and Tea Exchange has all kinds of useful spice blends, by the way.

My recipes that feature this delicious devious ingredient:

Energizing Trail Mix Bark

Adults Only Paleo Fridge Fudge

Guacamole

Hellraiser Crock Pot Chili

Ghost in the Crock Pot Pulled Pork

Happy 4th of July, What Kind of Kettlebells, Program Design for Groups

First off, Happy 4th to all my American friends! :)

People ask me a LOT of questions daily—somtimes I even know the answers!   Granted, a lot of the questions don't have clear cut answers, but are very individualized.   For instance - someone asked if they should get competition style kettlebells or the cast iron Dragon Door kettlebells (pretty sure you regular readers already know at least part of my answer).    Like anything though, it depends on what you're doing.   If you aspire to compete in GS, then you should absolutely get competition kettlebells.  No question.  

Personally, I don't like all those distracting colors cluttering up the visual space.*   Here's some more reasons why I train with cast iron kettlebells from Dragon Door:

These are just my reasons - and they may or may not apply to your situation - whatever you choose, make sure it's the best choice for you.   Click here for more specific-to-Dragon-Door-Kettlebells reasons.

I mean... look at the handle on ol' 48kg (106lbs) Ivan!

The other thing I get asked about A LOT is program design.   Probably because there are over 60 workouts on GiryaGirl.com now - and I intend on continuing to add more and more.  I've even heard that a few of you who are instructors have been using adapted versions of the workouts on this site for your classes—it's an honor to hear this, btw.  Of course the key is to adapt them to your ability and the ability of the people in your class.   Program design for small and medium sized groups became a snap after I'd been put on the spot so many times to have adaptations or substitutions for people who either didn't know a particular drill (and one with a steep learning curve) or who were working around an injury or other limitation. 

As an instructor, I can't overstate the importance of

  1. Being able to demo anything and everything in your planned workout at any time under any circumstances.
  2. Being able to provide multiple exercise substitutions on the fly and nearly instantly (this takes practice, focus and a great memory - start working on this today, no excuses)
  3. Being able to adapt the workout to fit the situation - providing sufficient challenge without taking things too far and compromising safety.  Learn to read faces for exertion.

Other than that - if you are still struggling to come up with workouts for your class ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Are *THEY* bored with the workouts, or is it *YOU* who is bored with their workouts?  If you are leading multiple classes per day, and no one is complaining, then it's probably you who's bored.
  2. Do you have a mentor in program design?  If not - get one!  David Whitley and Geoff Neupert are great people to look to for great ideas.  Whitley's free report 101 Kettlebell Workouts is a great document to look for effective programming, structures etc.
  3. Get out your HKC, RKC, and RKCII Manuals - there's program design hints all over those.   I was particularly impressed with the simple and effective ideas in the HKC manual.   Do it!
  4. Are you only comfortable teaching a few basic kettlebell exercises?  That's ok!  Remember to add in farmer's walks, planks, halos, and pieces/parts of the get up for infinite variations.
  5. Practice writing out workouts for a few weeks at a time - look at them together and make sure you keep it varied, but working towards building strength and skills.

You should also check out this fab article from RKC Team Leader, Lauren Brooks - she get's specific AND has some great examples: A Simple Guide to Designing a Workout for Kettlebell Instructors

ALMOST forgot - Bonus question answered!

Q: Help! My hubby thought he had ordered the Amasai variety pack, but ordered 2 6-packs of the plain and our kids won't drink that as is!!! What do I do?

A: Amasai... not just for drinking anymore!  Because I'm mega picky about any and all sugars, even naturally occuring sugars (honey, fruit, etc. all still count, people!) I choose to only order the plain Amasai - even though the fruit flavors are absolutely delicious.  TOO delicious I might even argue.   People with kids and teens will concur - these nutritious treats will disappear out of your fridge.   But don't despair - your husband's minor mistake is going to end up being a whole new treat.   Plain Amasai is brilliant for other purposes as well-  here are my original recipes for this power house of an ingredient.

 

 

*That's kind of an oblique joke for those of you who know me in real life.

Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification (HKC) Questions and Answers

GiryaGirl.com user Montana Badboy asked some great questions about the HKC and how to prepare for it:

Q:   It's possible that an HKC training event will be coming close to my area, I am thinking about attending. Do you know anything about the HKC training and how it differs from RKC. It sounds like it's exactly what I'm looking for, and any suggestions on preparation would be greatly appreciated. I already own an copy of Enter the Kettlebell and have read it many many times, in addition to some of Pavel's other books, and I train with my 35lb kb every day ( swings, one-arm swings, clean and pressget up, snatches, windmills, renegade rows, and high pulls) and do pullups 5-6 days a week, anything I should really focus on? I want to be prepared.

 

A:

Hi, the HKC is the "entry level" kettlebell certification offered by Dragon Door - you cover the essential basics - which are extremely versatile and effective methods of training to use with your clients, and yourself.  MANY of the concepts of the RKC are covered, including theory/practice, program design and more.  You will leave there with a LOT to work with.

The physical test at the HKC for men is 5 strict pull ups or chin ups, for women, it is a 15 second flex arm hang (GiryaGirl, a fanatical pull up maniac finds that to be a little lax)

Make sure you are super solid with your kettlebell deadlift, Swing (1 hand, two hand), and get up.  If you haven't already, track down an RKC instructor and have them check your form

I will be adding more HKC certifications to the searchable calendar on here for convenience, in the mean time, the following certs are fairly close to you in Montana, but will still require some travel:

How Do You Roast Vegetables?!

Zooming down I4 today on the way to meet up with some friends who have fantastic production company here in town when I hear my phone make that message sound.   Finally after parking I see that its from a good friend and fellow RKC Level 2, and she's written something slightly cryptic:

"How do you roast vegetables?"

Immediately thinking of roasting about 5 different veggies off the top of my head I reply "which ones?!?!" then think of how it would be cool to write a general guide to roasting vegetables... hmmmm.    Because not only is it easy, it tastes great and leaves you free to cook other things while they are safely roasting away in the oven.

The following is a quick basic guide and not to be taken as pure science.  Every oven is different and pretty much, most of them lie, so check your veggies for doneness as they cook:

Veggie Roasting Chart
Vegetable Temperature Prep Method Time
Asparagus 350-400 F slather in olive or coconut oil, salt+pepper 20-25 min, flipping once if you wish
Parsnips 400 F Sliced into 1/4" thick coins, oil, pepper, salt 30-40min flipping once
Beets 350-375 F Scrubbed, quartered, oil and salt covered baking dish, approx 1 hr or until tender, flip once.
Green Beans 375-400 F Ends trimmed, oil and salt, one layer on a cookie sheet 20-25 Mins, flipping once
Butternut Squash 400 F Cut in half longways, scoop out the seeds, coat with oil, salt and pepper Put on baking pan or cookie sheet, cut sides facing up, bake 25 mins or until tender
Sweet Potatoes 400 F Choose small sweet potatoes.  Scrub, prick with fork all over, rub with a little oil Bake approx 45mins or until tender
Zucchini 400-425 F Trim stem and end, quarter lengthwise.  Oil, salt, pepper 15 mins, checking every 5 minutes or so
Carrots 400 F Choose slim carrots, trim tops and ends, peel if you want.  Oil, salt, pepper. approx 35 mins, checking for tenderness and flipping once
Red Bell Peppers 500 F Halve and remove seeds, stems, ribs.  Put on cookie sheet with cut sides down. Roast carefully until slightly charred, approx 15 mins. Be careful!

 

Hope this is a good starting point for you, please try some more adventurous seasonings, as I have just listed the absolute bare minimum.  Adding minced garlic etc to some of these would be great.   Let me know what you come up with!

 

Additional fun things like roasted cauliflower, and roasted Brussels sprouts (that anyone would like) are featured in the Primal Blueprint Cookbook :)

How do I care for my cast iron cookware?!

Cast iron cookware has a life and personality of its own - sometimes being passed down generation to generation in families - as is the case with my larger skillet which I use to prepare about 90% of my at home meals.   Yesterday I found a two pack of mini 6.5" Lodge Lodgic skillets at Williams Sonoma for only $20 (!)  They're the perfect size for (large) single serving fritattas, a couple eggs, a sirloin steak etc.   I also plan on developing some Primal friendly gratin recipes for them.   BUT... as hinted at before, cast iron does require some care and maintenance, a little diligence, but its a good way to work on your self discipline and takes that scary non-stick teflon stuff right out of your life.   

Straight from the horse's mouth, or rather from the side of the box from Lodge, we have the care instructions- written out in a way which I could not improve.   So I will copy it below for you:

To use (preseasoned) cast iron:

Rinse with hot water, do not use soap, and dry thoroughly.

Before cooking, apply vegetable oil (GiryaGirl uses coconut oil or bacon grease saved for this purpose) to the cooking surface of your pan and preheat the pan slowly (always start on low heat, increasing the temperature slowly)

Once the pan is properly preheated, you are ready to cook!

Care:

Do not use soap.

Do not place pan in the dishwasher.

After cooking, clean pan with a stiff nylon brush and hot water.  Avoid putting a hot pan into cold water - thermal shock can occur, causing the metal to warp or crack.

Towel dry the pan immediately and apply a light coating of oil to the pan while it is still warm.

Store in a cool, dry place.

Re-seasoning if necessary:

If your pan develops a metallic smell or taste, or rust spots (shame on you!), simply scour it with fine-grade sandpaperor steel wool.  Rinse and dry completely.  Next, apply a thin, even coating of melted vegetable shortening (I use coconut oil or bacon grease) to the cookware inside and out.  Set oven at 350-400 Degrees Fahrenheit (180-200 Degrees Celcius).  Placing a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom rack will insure against oil dripping.   Seet the cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven and bake the cookware for at least 1 hour.  After that time, turn the oven off and let the pan(s) cool in the oven.

Pumpkin Spice Season, Jeff Fish and the Atlanta Falcons, Overhead Kettlebell Carries

It is officially October - which means everything is suddenly available in "pumpkin spice flavor." The evidence of the line-out-the-door at any given sbux when the pumpkin drinks arrive let me know that some people really like that pumpkin spice flavor. Personally, outside of those Primal Blueprint pumpkin muffins (here's a snippit about them in a past episode of Dragon Door TV) and the occasional bowl of a weird snack I call faux pie—canned organic pumpkin mixed with spices and kind of fried in a small skillet full of coconut oil, then topped with crushed pecans... I'll write it out for you sometime, it's odd but good—I don't really experience the intense pumpkin-mania that seems to take people over at this time of year. BUT, I can appreciate it. Just now used some pumpkin spice flavoring to perk up the last of some vanilla protein powder that I wasn't so crazy about (it's from no one you know). So here's what you can do for a super easy pumpkin spice protein shake - choose your favorite vanilla protein powder and make the shake following the directions on the package, then... add in about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground pumpkin pie spice - I like the organic pumpkin pie spice blend from Frontier. Its a super quick and easy way to jazz up what could be a bland smoothie. Granted, I can't wait to try this with my current favorite protein powder from my new friends at Triton Nutrition - this would work great with the whey or the vegan protein options they have. Let me know if you try it.

I am really proud to have had the chance to interview Jeff Fish, the Director of Athletic Performance of the Atlanta Falcons recently - you can check this out on Dragon Door (it went live today) and the interview also features photos of a few of the athletes themselves performing kettlebell exercises.   Jeff Fish is a big proponent of the FMS (Functional Movement Screen) as well.   The Falcons are already doing fantastic this season, go read the interview and find out what's been happening behind the scenes.

We've been having a fun discussion about overhead (overhead lockout) and rack position kettlebell holds and carries on Facebook.   And because of it, I received a question - especially useful for those who haven't trained with our small group, or with an RKC.

Q: The overhead lockout... is that a kettlebell snatch with a hold at the top?

A: It's simply holding the kettlebell overhead for time (or while walking a set distance) using proper form.  You can snatch or press it up there, it doesn't matter which you choose, just keep the abs tight (braced), the wrist and elbow straight, and the shoulder down.  Overhead carries, and carries from the rack position are both very powerful moves to help your press, shoulder stability, and improve your technique in general.

Talking about Primal Move on Nico de Haan's Living a Primal Lifestyle Radio Show

It's always great to chat on the air - here's the recap - Topics - Primal Move, Primal Blueprint, working out anywhere, and duck eggs! You can check out archives of previous shows, and learn more about Nico de Haan on his profile page.

The Key to the Kettlebell Swing: The Hip Hinge

Kettlebell Swing Hip Hinge Drill

No matter how much we talk about the hip hinge, revisiting it is always time well spent.  In fact it's a good idea to revisit the hip hinge whenever your kettlebell Swing just isn't... feeling right or if you're wondering why a weird little 5'3" 125-130lb almost-middle-aged woman with a questionable hairdo is able to Swing a 106lb kettlebell.

The kettlebell Swing is a simple movement, but with some specific "rules" at least as they are performed "Hardstyle" AKA in the HKC, RKC style.  Of course there are other styles out there like Kettlebell Sport (also called GS or Girvoy Sport) which have a different approach.  While I respect the other style, the RKC style is what I practice and have practiced since about 2009 and is what seems to be suited to my needs. SO that's what we'll be talking about today.

The infamous "hip hinge" is one of the primary movers of the kettlebell Swing, it's the crucial point where the energy from the ground is transferred to really make the Swing happen.  And although this movement seems to be logically "normal" many people in modern times have simply forgotten that they can really bend at the hips. And through no fault of their own many tv fitness "experts" thinking that they can just pick this thing up have demonstrated very squat-based swings to the general public.  And don't get me started about the double edged sword known as YouTube. For this reason you'll find all kinds of amusing analogies good coaches have come up with to get this concept across to people.  For instance, some will even reference the "bend and snap" scene from "Legally Blonde".  Apparently, for certain demographics that just makes the lightbulb come on for excellent swings.  Yes the hip hinge is a very athletic, but not very "ladylike" movement.

The hip hinge, and learning to maintain it with abdominal strength really is the key to kettlebell swings, at any weight and for any number of reps.  Strengthening the abdominals will take pressure off the back during swings and other related activities, and if practiced regularly you'll find the carry over to everyday life is pure gold. With inactive lifestyles being the norm, practicing the kettlebell Swing and hip hinge skills can provide so many strength (and preventative) benefits that they are almost too many to name.

That being said, these "special powers" really become evident when these movement patterns become habit and automatic.  Practicing these movements patiently over time and getting with an RKC Instructor to help you further refine them is really the way to go.  Unlike so much in "fitness" the Swing is something you can spend a lifetime working on--it's more like a movement from martial arts in that regard. 

So after all that babbling, here's a video I recorded just before a huge rain/thunderstorm hit.  It's not edited at all, so for those of you who enjoy quirks along with your kettlebell tips, then you're in for a treat.  Others will hopefully not strain themselves while rolling their eyes.  Either way, hope this helps.
  

What do you eat when you're really busy?

"Just perusing your blog (again) and looking at your cooking section.
Made me wonder... What does Girya Girl do for chow when she's REALLY
busy? In other words, do you have a handful of standby "side dishes"
that you prefer?

 

Good question - I do a lot of make-ahead stuff (pyrex containers with lids are your friends).

Yesterday would be a good example:

(late) Breakfast - 2 boiled ahead hardboiled eggs, espresso. chocolate egg shake(snack),  Lunch - 2 pre-cooked (by me, 1/4lb each) grassfed beef patties in a couple savoy cabbage leaves with tomato slices, pickles, mustard. 72% local chocolate bar with whole almonds... and giant unsweet green tea snaaaaaaaaack :) Dinner - large portion of pre-cooked wickedly hot chicken coconut curry (crock potted over the weekend) in a bowl over a whole avocado. "dessert" was coconut milk chai and the last of the almond butter... with a spoon (very common for me to do - it's funny)

Some days are labeled as "aggressive snacking" - and I'll either eat stuff I always have on hand: walnuts, almonds, goat cheese, goat yogurt, various protein items like the egg drink as well as sometimes stuff from Greens+ (I like a couple of their bars and the greens+whey is good), pre-cooked meats I've made ahead - taco meat on top of lettuce with other things makes a salad in 2 minutes - or tacos in lettuce or cabbage shells.  Pre-cooked Chinese lettuce wrap meat (recipe forthcoming - its stupidly easy and inexpensive as I use organic ground pork for this) in lettuce or cabbage leaves again, I have also been known to eat these pork sausage patties made ahead right out of the fridge (2 ingredients to make them, btw) because they are that good.    Other times I have a stash of primal blueprint pumpkin muffins, or extremely calorie dense nut/fat/etc based snacks as go-tos.

Other days its like... ok... what's left and how can I make it into a meal?  OH right - 3 omelets in 1 day - but all different...   I eat a LOT of "breakfast foods" as a general rule.   most of these start with 2 strips of bacon, then a green vegetable and/or a "starchy" veg like parsnips, hard squash etc (often I will shred it ahead of time and have it in a container in the fridge - similar to those bags of pre-cut potatoes people use for hashbrowns)   Need to buy some eggs, now that I think of it it - THANK YOU.

I will admit an EXTREME advantage by working close to or at home essentially - though when traveling I tend to pretty much eat the same - fajitas with extra veg instead of the sides, bunless burgers are standards, as are almonds and espresso from Starbucks, Greens+ bars I pack, big bags of mixed nuts from whole foods, several bars of dark chocolate etc...

Here's an "ingredient list" I had saved from a different typical day taking advantage of having bought 1lb of tilapia for $6:
1 greens plus protein bar, 2 small onions, 1/2 bunch organic dandelion greens, 1 can black beans (normally I don't eat a lot of beans, this was an experiment), 1 bar 87% Dagoba chocolate, 2 liters of home made Tazo mint green tea, 4 shots espresso, little bottle of Odwalla mango juice, Kind brand fruit and nut bar, 1 pound tilapia, 1 lemon, 1 egg, 1 cup raw pecan pieces, 1/8th cup coconut flour, 4 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp coconut oil, 2 tbsp capers

To answer the question you HAVEN'T asked - I am currently working on a cookbook for busy people - students, trainers, entrepreneurs etc who are either single or live with one other person - make-aheads will feature, as will related strategies for travel, for packed meals etc.  One of my big "secrets" of success is to have things on hand that can be quickly thrown together into good meals.  The cookbook will also feature a bunch of weird stuff that's good eating and less expensive.

What do you eat with you're really busy? Part 2

A good friend and fellow RKC asked some time ago about what I eat when I'm really busy - and considering that today I'm leading 2 classes (one down, one to go), dealing with some banking issues, reinstalling XP Pro on the main computer, juggling a few consulting jobs, finishing up some important and fun writing projects, oh and yeah did I mention I got back from the CK-FMS last night at midnight?

Fortunately - I had the wherewithal last night to take a 1lb package of grass fed ground beef from the freezer and put it in the fridge before passing out on the minimalist Danish sleeper sofa that serves as my bed. (It kinda looks like a psychiatrist's couch, interpret that as you will).

SO... I was a little lazy this morning, and I needed to check in on the status of the renovations at my usual coffee place so I walked there, and then kept walking to an undisclosed location which as of this morning has claimed the esteemed prize as being the "best espresso in town."   The spinach and feta omelet with 2 side orders of bacon (the guy who brought it to the table was confused and I had to laugh) was also quite good.    Normally I don't eat out for breakfast, but since I'm down to one computer right now, it was fun to get some things done on their wifi while someone else delt with breakfast.

OK, back to the point...  around "normal people lunch" time - meaning "noon".  I had a sizeable snack of a partially frozen mango (seriously, better than ice cream) and two small fist fulls of raw almonds.   For mid afternoon - about 4-5pm I usually have some kind of early dinner - today it was 1/2lb of the grass fed beef prepared quickly with a snobby version of taco seasoning I purchase in bulk :)  Truthfully, any taco seasoning will do but this one has a certain LACK of weird chemical names.  So early dinner was quick guacamole as made in the Guacamole Day video, topped with fresh tomato and 1/2lb taco meat.  Its essentially all the parts of a taco salad that I enjoy and nothing else.   You can also make a quick version by putting this on top of salad greens, OR putting these items into a lettuce or tender (napa) cabbage leaf.   Add some hot sauce, salsa or whatever you want- its good - or at least I think so.

Later this evening during "Laundry, Heavy Swings and Convict Conditioning Time" I'll most likely bake a final experimental batch of some extremely top secret Primal Blueprint and Paleo compatible dark chocolate muffins.  I may eat the rest of the thawed beef - if nothing else I will cook it into patties or as grounds - haven't decided yet....

What is Primal Move?!

Q: What were you guys doing in the park that day? At first I thought it was maybe yoga or tai chi or tumbling crossed with field day. Then, you were all laughing too. What's going on?!

A: It's a new program called Primal Move - check it out:

....Read MORE!

A few members of my kettlebell small group, and a private client or two have tried some of the Primal Move material with me - and it is incredibly cool stuff. Not to mention a lot of fun. We were out in the local park working on some of the sequences and the effect on passersby was absolutely magnetic - because they could see we were having fun. This has got to be the most fun you will have working on mobility/stability issues, and the effect on general coordination has been so profound that I've noticed I move with greater efficiency in daily tasks already... after just a month of practicing. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Check out this interview with Peter Lakatos, Creator of Primal Move

Primal Move can have incredible benefits for nearly everyone (athletes, martial artists, fitness enthusiasts, office workers, anyone!). I've even found that it helps me think even more clearly when problem solving (a benefit of a non-traditional work environment is I take frequent "exercise snack" breaks). You may recognize some of the moves from martial arts, dance, gymnastics, yoga and more, but they have now been put together in a special way that incorporates the information from FMS and CK-FMS. While I love the FMS/CK-FMS, I absolutely have to get honest and say that my PERSONAL commitment to performing correctives has improved because of Primal Move. Why? Because Primal Move is a LOT of fun... and let me be vain for a moment... it also looks REALLY cool. I'll see a demonstration from Peter Lakatos and think—I WANT TO DO THAT! Keep watching, I'll be making some announcements soon for how YOU can try it too!  

Attend the Primal Move Instructor Workshop in Winter Park on November 2nd with me!

Or go here to find a Primal Move Instructor Certification Workshop in your area!

What's the FitFluential Thing? A Heart to Heart and 7 Tips for Starting Your Fitness Journey

If you've been on twitter this weekend, last week etc - you may have seen me toss around a strange almost-word: "FitFluential."  For those of you wondering what in the world that is - here's the official description:

FitFluential is a nationwide network of fitness enthusiasts sharing their journey both online and offline via multiple social media platforms. FitFluential is also a social media agency that creates unique contextual marketing campaigns for brands interested in connecting with fitness enthusiasts.

 

Hot pink logo aside (what's with everyone and all the pink stuff all the time?!), I've decided to accept their invite and join up with them - and so far its been a whole lot of fun.  I've also met a ton of new friends and learned a LOT of really interesting stuff about branding and social media.   Learning is good.  Besides, I think they need an amusingly logical, odd-humor-inclined, mildly obsessive weirdo, mad-exercise-scientist, or whatever it is I am, to balance things out, right?   Hope they're prepared for all the talk of kettlebells, pull up variations, meats, martial arts movies, bacon, grim determination...

 

Perhaps I'm FitFluential because I've proved you can live a healthy lifestyle and still BE YOU.  Whoever that is - in order to be healthy we don't all have to look the same, we don't have to rush out, get a tan and cram ourselves into the newest "cute fitness outfit."  We don't have to force ourselves to jump around and dance to "upbeat music" if we're not so inclined.   If I did that I'd feel like a jerk - it wouldn't empower me.  It works for some people, a LOT of people, but just because it might not work for you doesn't mean you're a bad person or that you'll never be fit. 

 

I was the kid in school that Coach picked on for wearing black socks, for being pale. (Amusingly enough, my current and seriously awesome strength coach picks on me for being pale.  HEY! Anyone with Exercise Science bachelor's degree: do they teach a special course on that?)   In elementary school, I was tiny and often picked last for kick ball, but did especially well on any day that involved obstacles or climbing etc.  In college, my involvement with sports consisted of being dragged along to a random intramural game to check out some guy a friend thought was cute, or more often dodging the soccer team's quick feet in the cafeteria rush*.   Fortunately I discovered strength training and weight lifting one summer home from college.  It was in the right direction, but still not exactly what I was looking for, which would come later with qigong, tai chi, kettlebells, and bodyweight training.  Find what works for you - it might be different than anything your friends are into, but that's ok.  Find YOUR strength - and get stronger, find your weaknesses and work on them even harder.

 

I have very few illusions about the mainstream fitness industry - most of the stuff out there, especially the stuff marketed to women is complete and utter bunk.  It's usually not designed for you to methodically and meticulously follow over a long period of time.   It's designed for someone to make a quick buck from the people who seem content to lose and then regain the same 5-10lbs year after year.  The people who want to pay for something so that they can say that they're doing something, the people who buy a gym membership and who show up 1-2 times a month to socialize.  This is extremely frustrating for those of us who want to make a real change.  If you feel like you've honestly "tried everything and nothing works" the problem might not be you, it might be the things you've tried.   Look outside the norm a little bit, adventure is calling! 

 

Personally, I started finding the good stuff when I was poking around on some really manly-man websites where I kept hearing about kettlebells, Pavel Tsatsouline, military special operations training, etc.   All that talk of "raw power," "agility of a tiger," "kettlebells let you hack the fat off your meat - without the dishonor of aerobics or dieting" on the back of the original book: The Russian Kettlebell Challenge was a breath of fresh air.  Besides, it appealed to the side of me that not-so-secretly wants to be the female equivalent of James Bond - but that's another blog article entirely.

 

One of the hidden benefits of kettlebell training in the style of the RKC and Dragon Door is the mental strength you get - partially from pushing through and accomplishing something, partially from meeting incredible people.  Watching people making changes, exploring, and becoming stronger - lets you know YOU can do it too.  It takes effort, determination, discipline.  And I guarantee you it's all worth it - and worth it in ways that you might not have thought of too!

 

The point is that you have to seek out the best teachers and coaches, look into and go places where you might not normally go, and fall in with all kinds of interesting people.   Fortunately I REALLY like to do stuff like that, and love to share the info (if you're not quite as brave/crazy as me yet, keep checking this blog!)   In just this past year the number of amazing** people whose accomplishments, triumph over illness and/or injury, adventures, discoveries, inventions are staggering.   Sometimes it can be overwhelming.   Sometimes I wonder why I'm not "there yet" or that I should be further along than I am.   But - like everything - it seldom happens overnight.  I'm happy with the progress I've made so far, and continue to make.  Patience is also a skill - and as I said on twitter a while back: patience makes you dangerous, I like being dangerous.   

 

You might feel like you're stuck somewhere, stuck in a body you don't like and that you can't change.  A body that doesn't do what you want it to, that can't keep up with you.   A body that maybe doesn't visually express who you really are.   I want you to know that you can change your body.  It won't happen overnight, and it won't necessarily be "kwik n easy." You're going to make mistakes, you're going to fall down. What matters is getting back up, small victories, practice and persistence.  Never giving up. You've got way too much at stake to ever give up, this is your life - and you can make it into what you want.

SO - without further babbling - my 7 Tips for Starting Out on Your Fitness Journey:

  1. It doesn't matter where you start, or how unfit you feel you are - it matters that you DO start.  Even if it just means taking a walk around the neighborhood.  Do something, do it today, MOVE.   Check with your doctor too, by the way.
  2. Think of it as an adventure - and try new things, you might find a hidden talent or aptitude, and really take off in a new skill that ends up turning your health and fitness into a fun hobby you love instead of a chore.
  3. Don't worry about "fitting in" at the gym - wear what makes you comfortable - the gym can be awkward enough without you feeling physically uncomfortable in clothes you've felt compelled to buy.  Better yet - look for workout opportunities OUTSIDE of a traditional gym setting.
  4. Find a MENTOR, a hero, or someone who inspires YOU.  This person doesn't have to be an athlete or fit pro - there are tons of people out there who are living healthy active lifestyles who are artists, musicians, your neighbor, etc.
  5. Find a GREAT COACH or trainer.  Forget about buying expensive gadgets that you won't use in a couple of weeks - learn exercises and skills you can use over your whole lifetime.   Besides, a good trainer or coach can help you find the best exercise equipment for you.  You'll save in the long run.
  6. Find support - even if its just an online friend or online forum.  Your local friends may not always understand your drive to be healthy - some may even try to sabotage you (sometimes unintentionally!).  Be on the lookout for this and find people who are positive about the same sort of goals that you have.
  7. Think long term - is what you've chosen something you are willing to maintain over years and years and years?  Do you love it like I love kettlebells and bacon?   The quick fix often doesn't work for lifestyle change... ask yourself if a particular diet is something you would be happy to do forever. 

 

 And unofficial #8: Let me know how you're doing.  Join the GiryaGirl website and make comments here or on the forum, reach out on Twitter and Facebook - :)

 

 *So yeah, those of you who forget that this whole "athlete thing" is really new to me and ask "what sport I played in college" there's your answer: checking out guys, not getting stepped on in the cafeteria by college athletes, running around super late at night making weird video projects (often involved sprinting, jumping over/under things actually), and the occasional incredibly abstract "prank".  More on abstract pranks later.

**Ok, here are some words that get overused by 98% of my fit-pro friends... "amazing" and "awesome"  you know who you are.  I keep threatening to start a 10 day Amazing-Awesome-Challenge where none of us are allowed to say "amazing" or "awesome" or we put a quarter in a jar for charity.   We should choose the charity carefully because I suspect they'll be getting a LOT of $ from us.

Yes, "but you're different" and other interesting excuses for unhealthy eating on the road...

The question of the day was "Well if you don't eat at McDonald's and you're on the road and extremely hungry, what do you do?"   Usually accompanied by the phrase that I like to rail against with actions every day "Well, you know you gotta."   No, I don't "gotta," there are always other ways.  Raise the flag of rebellion!  Decent snacking in the face of mass marketed crap food! Because, as my friend and fellow RKC, Jen Sinkler says - Being Healthy is a Revolutionary Act!

Usually this problem doesn't really happen with me - because I always have SOME kind of snack - usually raw nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts), an apple or two, and/or high end jerky (Tanka Bar, Ostrim, etc.) sometimes I'll bring along bars from Greens+ or Larabar.  Occasionally I'll put all the dry ingredients of a protein shake into a clean and dry blender bottle, that way, when it's snack time, just add water and shake.   You'll also be hard pressed to find me anywhere without some extremely dark chocolate at hand.  Alternately Primal or Paleo cookies (I make mine more like very nutty scones), or coconut flour, eggs and pumpkin based muffins.   In a pinch I was coming back from a friend's house (I was house sitting) and had a small container of pre-cooked grass fed hamburger patties.   Not wanting to stop, at a red light I ate one cold - pretty sure it looked like I was eating a cookie.   I don't expect that "normal" people would want to do that, but it sure was 1,000 times better than having to go to a fast food restaurant and not only suffer the gut-punch pain, but also the knowledge that I've eaten something so diametrically opposed to my health and fitness goals that it isn't even funny.

NOW - assuming for some reason I haven't done any of that, or more realistically, gnomes have stolen my snacking bag.  What would I do?!   Here are the easy solutions:

 

 

So there you go - no excuses, and no more thinking that you can't do it, and that I'm some kind of hyper-self-disciplined weirdo.  Errrr whatever.

Meatballs, Beyond Organic Discussions, The Top Fruits/Veggies to Buy Organic

Q: Oh no!  I got invited out to another Italian restaurant and/or buffet, etc. etc. what to do?!?!

 

A: I was at a wedding this past weekend and they had a neat thing going at the buffet line - make your own pasta - you chose from 5 or so different shapes, chose toppings and a sauce or two.   It was great until I realized that I haven't personally considered pasta to be a "food item" in close to two years.  Luckily they had some great tasting meatballs and I made up a

large plate of salad and meatballs - topped with some sauce and sundried tomatos.   The servers were horrified, but I'm used to that reaction by now - I had a long drive home ahead so a pasta-induced-coma was just not on the schedule.  The meatballs were very good.   If you're in an Italian restaurant, there's usually an option to add grilled chicken or steak to a salad, and pasta side dishes are often easily replaced with the seasonal veggie or side salad.

Q: So this Beyond Organic thing.... how much will the __________ be?

A: Also this past weekend I was talking to a few random people about the Beyond Organic company and products - they wanted to know the prices of many items.   Of course now that the main site is live - you can just click here on the words Beyond Organic and check everything out yourself.   Local people, keep your eyes and ears open, when my giant shipment of food arrives, I'm going to throw a little cookout party so we can all try the full range of products.   Depending on the "party" location I may bring kettlebells, the infamous battling rope and maybe a TRX so newbies can try those things out too and work up an appetite.   Again, all this is TBA.....

 

Related to the above conversation - they asked what should they do if they can't afford to buy ALL organic fruits and veggies...   Q: Which produce products matter most when buying organic?  Can I fudge on some of them?!

A: Good news - because of thick skins and/or cultivation methods, some conventional fruits/veggies are relatively free from pesticide contamination - the lists seem to change from time to time, so feel free to do your own research.   The Environmental Working Group has put together a printable take-along set of lists as well on this page: www.ewg.org/foodnews

Here's just a few to get you thinking....

Most Pesticide Laden:

 Least Pesticides:

RKC vs HKC, Adrienne's Weird Hair, Bacon

1. What's the difference between an RKC and HKC certification?

The RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) is the gold standard kettlebell certification from Dragon Door - this very difficult but extremely rewarding 3 day workshop requires a lot of preparation, physical and mental tests, not to mention a good deal of strength and endurance. The 6 core RKC exercises (Swing, clean, press, front squat, snatch, get up) plus many related drills and corrective drills are covered in detail - a marketing lecture and other extremely useful talks are also given.  You also receive the RKC Manual which is kept handy here at GiryaGirl HQ since I reference it at least every other day - it really is that useful.

The HKC (Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification) is the entry level kettlebell certification from Dragon Door which also requires serious preparation, a time commitment of one full day, and plenty of challenging tests - the program minimum exercises (Swing, goblet squat, get up) and related drills are covered in detail.  HKC also has a manual and a LOT of information.

A list of the upcoming certification workshops can be found here: Dragon Door Upcoming Workshops

2.What's the deal with your hair?! Sometimes it looks nice and normal and then other times it's up and you look like you don't have any hair at all?  Is this a wig?

Actually had a fellow RKC candidate ask me (on Sunday) if I had worn a wig to the Saturday night banquet!   I thought that was pretty funny! My haircut is somewhat unusual for the US, but is more common overseas among industrial music or gothic subcultures.  You may remember seeing it in the US in the 1990s (it can be argued with some degree of truth that I am stuck in the 1990s anyway).   Basically the top part of my hair is long, and the rest of it is regularly clippered off by my trusty friend at Floyd's Barbershop.  I can do it myself with 2 mirrors and cordless clippers, but it's a pain.   Here in Florida with the extreme heat it helps to be able to temporarily "get rid of" my hair by putting it up into a ponytail or bun, plus I think it looks cool (stuck in the 1990s).

3. Isn't bacon HORRIBLE for you?

Not necessarily - choose a high quality, organic uncured bacon (My current fave is Applegate Farms Sunday Bacon) and you have a great source of flavor for a surprisingly low number of calories - click the link to see that 2 strips of my chosen brand only have 60 calories. If you're following along and making recipes from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook you'll have plenty of examples of how bacon can enhance a low carbohydrate diet in amazing delicious ways.

RKC Prep Assorted Questions!!!

A fellow forum user on the Dragon Door website messaged several questions about preparation for the RKC certification weekend - here are some of her questions with my answers, maybe some of them will be useful to you too!

K:

Would you say that the volume was the most challenging aspect of the weekend? What else should I know?

Adrienne:

The volume was definitely way way up there, though not impossible - if you have been training with this in mind for a few months beforehand then it shouldn't be a problem at all. Be sure to make sure that you really know and study the material on the webste BEFORE you go - which means training with an RKC certified instructor a lot, getting those basic 6 down so that when you are there you are just fine tuning your form and really learning how to teach others, spot problems and learn the corrective drills. The corrective drills are worth the cost of admission alone!

Keep your spirits up, take lots of notes, keep your eyes and ears open, come back from breaks on time, do what they say when they say it and you should be golden!

...and don't be late... seriously, set several alarm clocks do whatever you need to do.  You had mentioned that you would be attending the RKC in a different time zone, go ahead and start adjusting to that now.

K:

There's a lot of double kettlebell work?  Do I have to use the snatch test kettlebell for that?  I am not sure I can do double 16K kettlebells all weekend?

Adrienne:

If you are struggling, they will most likely let you drop down to 12K or smaller for double kettlebell work - The main thing is that you learn and demonstrate the form and can TEACH it to others.

K:

...And everything about the flex arm hang keeps me up at night. I've never been able to hold myself on a bar, not even a dead hang. In elementary school, I was the kid that could never get across the monkey bars. In fact, I was that kid that fell off on the first rung. I'm also too heavy right now (working on this, but not enough time). Holding full tension, and breathing under that tension complicate the problem. Need to practice hardcore!

Adrienne:

YES, practice - even just straight arm hangs for time, sounds like grip strength may be a factor and... consider dropping some pounds if you can.   I've had some amazing success with Primal Blueprint and LOOOOVE the food.  Try to pinpoint your "weak link" in terms of the flex arm hang and really work at it- chances are its something you have been avoiding consciously or subconsciously.  Also, there's an article on the Dragon Door website about "breathing behind the shield" talking about working around the tension while breathing, etc. might be a good read for you!  Please let us know how you do!

 

Ask GiryaGirl: What's the difference between a Hass Avocado and a Florida Avocado? [video]

Ask GiryaGirl

Let's be clear... I love ALL avocados, however during this time of year we sometimes get more choices in the avocado department. While all the avocados are wonderful, some are better suited (flavor and texture) for different applications. While I prefer to make guacamole with the Hass variety, I like to add the sweeter, more hydrating tasting Florida avocados to salads like the one linked below. Try both and see how you like to use each one. Also discussed is how to remove the pits from each.

Hurrah for avocados!!!!!!!!!

And... for "WorkoutWednesday"
Workout Wednesdaycheck out this neat approach (and two example workouts) from Master RKC Phil Ross on the RKC Blog today! :) 

Bonus Podcast! 2016 Kickoff Experiement - "Questions From Google" Kettlebells, Bodies, Bums, and Challenges

Bonus Podcast!!!!! Kicking off 2016 with a little retrospective of questions, phrases, and search strings that people have typed into Google... and then ended up on my site.  Some are super important, some are silly (and yet still important at the same time).  I had fun with this one.

Going to be hitting the road again very soon, and decided that it was as good of an excuse as any to test out the secondary audio recorder I have... it's small and very roadworthy, but I was concerned about sound quality.  To my great and happy surprise, it recorded this podcast with ease, low noise and at a very nice quality.  It's earned a place in my bag for this trip, which is a great relief because the other recorder (which is great for pro audio and has XLR inputs and phantom power) is a bit clunky and conspicuous. 

I'll be guest teaching at Momentum Fitness in NYC, and two classes are already waiting list only, so get over there and sign up now while you still can! People don't usually register this far in advance apparently so... click here to sign up for a selection of bodyweight, kettlebell, sandbag and metcon classes taught by yours truly at Momentum Fitness in the Upper West Side. I'm really looking forward to this... at the same time I'll also be talking to some industry icons, friends, gym owners, authors, and thinkers... brace yourself for the onslaught of awesome content soon!!!


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More Questions about RKC Workshops

Q: How big a deal is it to stay at the hotel? I'm local to the cert, and it wouldn't be a huge deal to drive home (15-30 mins depending on traffic). Also, I have a 2 1/2 yr old and a 7-month old, and I'm thinking that putting my mommy hat back on might bring me out of a zone I need to stay in. Every time I think that staying in a hotel so close to home is silly, I think about how you collapsed in your dinner clothes. I also think about how I was pretty much a pile of mush when I went back to my hotel after the HKC. Do people tend to group together and socialize back at the hotel? In Chicago, lunches are provided but there isn't a Saturday night dinner. I'd love your advice on this one.

 

A: It's really convenient to stay at the hotel and a lot less to worry about - especially since you don't want to be late at the morning - I would advise staying at the hotel if for no reason other than you will want to be able to recover as much as possible each night with little to no distraction. Even at the RKC2 I would just come back and soak in the tub, eat something, check critical emails for my other business then get into bed with a book or just go to sleep. People do tend to meet up for dinner though which is a great opportunity for networking - its a short window since everyone is usually really in need of recovery etc. Dragon Door usually makes sure that there is food either available at the hotel restaurant or nearby - it's just a lot lot lot less to worry about if you are at or next door to the official hotel. Besides you can catch the shuttles with everyone to the training site - and not have to worry about parking, getting directions etc.  Plus you'll be with the group the whole time - again networking and no chance of messing the timing. This weekend needs to be about you being as focused as possible on the RKC.

Q:  Any chance you can share the secret sauce for initiating the pullup you learned at the RKC Level 2?

Are you pulling your shoulders tightly into their sockets even before initiating the movement?  Tighten EVERYTHING especially abdominals, quads, your feet can come forward just a teeny bit even with this - think of making your body into a flattened out "c" shape.   My internal cue is "I am one piece"   I can elaborate on this more as well.    How far are you getting?   Have you determined exactly where your "weak link" is?   Let me know and we can figure this one out as well!

Q: Do you have a cue for the rack position for lady comrades?  All I ever hear is that women need to change the rack position, but I've never heard any specific advice on cues, even after having training sessions with an RKCII, a TL and a Sr.  I guess I should have asked but I never really thought much about it.  But now, I'm trying do dial in everything as much as possible.  After some trial and error, it seems like if I bring my hand so that it would be in a position that I could hook my thumb under my bra strap (not that I would), that would be good geometry.  But that's just a guess.

 

Tim Shuman, RKC Level 2, gave me a great cue - when you're in the rack position stick out your thumb - you should hit your clavicle or the very inside of your deltoid, depending on what bra you're wearing this is probably the same place as you are talking about - I did it just now and hit a strap with my thumbnail.    Which Dragon Door books do you own?  We can reference some photos on specific pages if you like.  The main thing is that everyone is going to be a little different - they just want to make sure that you do not hit your breast with the kettlebell or your arms at all.  At the same time, elbows should be in tight, thinking of a boxer protecting their ribcage on the sides.

Mosquito Repellent and Dragon Door Kettlebells - Problem and Solution!

Q: OMG!!! I wore some bug repellent and now the rust resistant e-coat is coming off my Dragon Door kettlebells and attaching itself to my wrists, arms, etc????  How do I make this stop??

 

A: Here in Florida we deal with extreme heat, humidity and... MOSQUITOS when training outdoors.   However, this year seems to be the Summer of the Mosquito Plague - at least here in Winter Park, FL during the early evening classes near the lake.   And they are SWARMING some nights - and we're forced to use bug repellent - which I hate, but it's a necessary evil.   I went with my old standby "Deep Woods Off"originally then experienced this "what are all these black splotches on me" phenomenon as well.   One of my small group participants must have really loaded up on the bug repellent because not only did the e-coat start coming off the kettlebells and attaching it to her arms, it also started sticking BACK ON the kettlebell and pulling on her skin!   Needless to say I had to find a solution.   Deep Woods Off and various other bug repellents that actually work, often contain a high concentration of the chemical DEET (C12H17NO aka N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide).  DEET, which isn't all that safe really also has solvent properties and likes to break down certain things like paints, varnishes, plastics, man-made fabrics and related materials. 

2015 UPDATE!

Fortunately there are alternatives!  

Check out this recipe from our friends at Natural Training Center... it's worked for us now for YEARS! (at least since about 2013) One of the guys who trains with us is a total mosquito magnet too... so if it works for him it will work for you.

Name Three Things... that will help me become more fit and gain strength

Recently a friend on Facebook asked me the following question:

"Name three things you would suggest to me, in order to become more fit and gain strength. I've decided to make you my inspirational voice to get moving with my goals, since I've seen you become the person you are today, over the past 10 years!"

I answered with the following - granted, some of this is specific to my friend, but a lot of it is universal as well - maybe there's something helpful in there for you:

 

First off... 1.CONSISTENCY - make sure you are doing your chosen exercise modality at the right intensity consistently - if this means Kettlebell Program Minimum for 5 days a week, then ...hop to it! I will be talking about how to develop a system, or how to ask your trainer for a system on here soon!


2. Enough sleep and stress management - this will help you to remain consistent, win the war on cortisol, allow strength and muscle gains to happen, and improve general happy wellness feelings (that's a scientific phrase)


3. Cutting way back, or cutting all together booze and sweets - boozin' it up can really mess with your strength even 2-3 days after a big party... not to mention mess with proper sleep and obviously effect consistency of working out and having a healthy lifestyle. Also, booze makes us more apt to binge on other things like curly fries and cheeseburgers of a dubious nature.

Perfect Hardboiled Eggs or... a Primal / Paleo use for that Pasta Spoon

As a child I hated hardboiled eggs... sure, they were fun to decorate at Easter, but eating them?  EWWW NO WAY!!!  Why?  Well, sad to say, but my family had the habit of cooking them to death - creating those chalky yolks with the sulfurous black/green edges.   Oddly enough, I would eat hardboiled eggs from restaurants, or when overseas (just thinking about the delightful orange yolked eggs in Germany made me hungry right now), but didn't think that this would be possible at home.   As if the restaurants had access to some kind of special, elite egg cooking technology.   Shame on me.

Once again, Alton Brown to the rescue.  Granted, even he had some help with this one, as this is the traditional (Julia Child also demonstrated this method) way to cook hardboiled eggs.  Don't worry, even with all this name-dropping, its very very easy.

Before you start, make sure you have:

 

OK!  Ready?   Put the eggs in your chosen cooking vessel, once again, in a single layer.  Add cold tap water water - enough to cover them completely with at least 1"-2" of water above them - but not so much that you'll risk them boiling over.   I don't ever really boil them that hard anyway, but... you never know.  Place the eggs on the stovetop and set the burner to "high" and bring to a rolling boil.   As soon as the boiling is rolling however (and you must pay attention), remove the pot/pan from the heat and let it sit undisturbed for 10-12 minutes (I only do this for 10 minutes, because I like ever-so-slightly undercooked eggs).  While the eggs are sitting, go ahead and put the ice cubes and cold tap water in the large mixing bowl in the sink.   When time is up, carefully remove the eggs from the hot water and place them in the icy cold water.   This is where your previously useless pasta spoon comes in handy.  

Let them cool very well (I usually let them sit in the ice water for a while - 30 minutes even), then store them (after eating a few) in a gallon ziplock bag in the fridge.  You want to store them in some kind of container as they can give off an odor in your refrigerator.  Eat all of them in 5 days - as if that is really going to be a problem...

 

Podcast with People Magazine's Sexiest Trainer Alive, and Inventor of Intrinsic Strength Training, Angelo Grinceri!

But FIRST! Here's how to do Angelo Grinceri's Intrinsic Strength Training Pull Ups!

One of the many reasons for this NYC trip was to meet up with some of the people I've been working with from a distance... and to talk them into podcasts when possible!  Yesterday's meeting with Angelo Grinceri was a TON of fun.  We’d already been babbling incessantly over Blue Bottle coffee, lamb salads, and Mast Brothers sheep’s milk chocolate–which was surprisingly and delightfully sheepy. Like sheep’s milk cheese and chocolate all at the same time. But when the conversation turned to grilled octopus I knew it was time to hit record… what follows is a rollicking conversation that traverses multiple subjects around more adventurous forms of health and fitness. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Keep watching for Angelo’s upcoming book with Dragon Door Publications, Intrinsic Strength Training.  View full post here to see the Instagram embeded videos from training with Angelo!

Link to a recent Dragon Door Interview with Angelo

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Some sneak preview videos of a little bit of Intrinsic Strength Training with Angelo Grinceri:

 

Preview of mini session with People Magazine's Sexiest Trainer Alive, @angelogrinceri!!! #NYC #IntrensicStrengthTraining

A video posted by @giryagirl on

 

More #IntrensicStrengthTraining #NYC with @angelogrinceri

A video posted by @giryagirl on

The Girya Girl Kitchen - Bare Essentials

Here are the absolute basics, and linked to what I actually use with brand and size specificity etc. where appropriate.  This is a fairly basic list, as I tend to cook in a style that uses few specialized gadgets.  The food is "fancy" the prep tools don't have to be - they just need to be of high quality for maximum efficiency and enjoyment.

 

Bonus Hardware:

 

*I could (and probably will) write an entire article on why you, no matter who you are, should own a food scale.

**Absolute must, and yes, we will talk about it in the future...

 

 

Three Kettlebell Get-Up Game Changers... (and a bonus controversial one) With VIDEO

Hope I’m not giving the impression that the get-up is chock full of pitfalls, peril, and potential catastrophe. But I do know that the get-up can be overwhelming and frustrating not only for kettlebell newbies but also for people trying to teach it. This post is aimed at both the people who may be new to the get up as well as the people who might be TEACHING the get up.

First of all, if you haven’t already checked it out, and if you’re having a hard time with your get-up from the very first few movements, please check out my “Get-Up Pet Peeves” post and video. Speaking of video… even if you have no aspirations to become a YouTube or Instagram star, one of the most effective training tools you have might be in your pocket or gym bag right now—the camera on your phone! The common mistakes mentioned below can all be easily spotted by a training partner, your instructor or coach, or… if neither are available, you can check yourself by taking a short video.

1. Not keeping the elbow locked out. Even the best of us fall victim to this one, especially as we get tired, or on that last get-up of the workout. Beginners and fatigued experts alike can have difficulty feeling when that elbow starts bending a little, but it is SO important to keep that arm locked—and not just because it looks cooler, it’s also keeping you safe. With a locked out arm, there’s no way to drop that kettlebell on your head. Have your instructor, trainer, or workout partner (or trusted bystander) watch your elbow during the whole get-up, but especially as you’re coming back down.

If you are experienced and are still having issues with the elbow bending, it could be as simple as a bad habit, OR you could be using too much weight. I had the very **exciting** (read: hair-raising) experience of spotting someone doing an extremely heavy get-up, and if I hadn’t been watching his elbow right from the very beginning, we could have had a big problem (as in a big dint in the floor) or the real risk of a serious injury.

2. Not keeping the kettlebell-holding wrist straight.
This is usually more of a “rookie mistake” than the other two mistakes on this list, but still warrants a mention. While people who are in the habit of RKC Hardstyle kettlebell training typically keep their wrist straight out of habit, those who are new, or who are experienced exercisers in the habit of having a bent wrist with barbell training will need to give this point some attention. Fortunately, this is a pretty easy fix, though with the first tip, you may need an instructor, workout partner, or video camera to let you know when you’re letting that wrist bend back.

Besides, once you get the hang of this, you’ll see that it not only feels better for heavier weights, it looks cooler, and more powerful. My favorite cue to help folks with this (and to also keep in my own head) are “punch the sky”. Many people also respond well to the idea of over exaggerating bending the wrist forward and the correlating cue of “gooseneck the wrist".  A word of caution: with lighter kettlebells I find that I can actually push my fist forward, which is not the point here, and some people misunderstand “gooseneck” and make the bent-wrist problem worse instead of better. Try “punch the sky” and see what happens.

You can also work on the habit of a straight wrist by doing get-ups while balancing something flat and lightweight on the tops of your knuckles. Common objects used for this purpose at HKC and RKC certifications are a shoe, a yoga block, etc. This is also a great mindfulness challenge. No focus and that object is on the ground in no time.

3. Not giving yourself “enough room” when coming back down.
If you feel like you’re getting all tangled up with yourself when you’re coming back down from the standing position in the get-up, it might be for a very simple reason. You might not be taking a big enough step back on that step-back lunge! For whatever reason I find that men often underestimate how much space they need to get back down. “Give yourself enough room” and “make sure you make room for you” are the two cues I use besides the most obvious “BIG step back, bigger than you think you might need”. This is yet another occasion that an instructor, workout partner, or video camera will come in handy.

A related issue is that some people will have problems with their workout surface – often that towel or yoga mat below you will turn against you… this can be dangerous so make sure to check your materials first and do NOT let the location/position/size of your mat or towel dictate your movement with the get up. You have the brain, the mat does not, so make sure you’re the boss. You may find yourself moving off the mat or needing much more space than the mat provides. This is the case for me, and I’m a petite woman. If you’re a 6’ tall guy, and confining yourself to a standard yoga mat, you’re robbing yourself! Seize your destiny and give yourself enough room—during setup and especially with the step back on your lunge!

These last tip is reaaalllly nitpicky and controversial, so it may or may not apply to you. Personally and professionally, it’s been a game changer for me, but not everyone would agree for their own situations. But if you’re struggling to really find your get-up power, or your clients/students seem especially confused when you work on the get-up with them, then this cue have a whole lot of value for you.

FIND where your non-kettlebell-holding-hand needs to be, then LEAVE IT THERE.
None of this adjusting, picking up and putting down, sliding backwards business. Yes, ROTATE the palm and fingers at the dictated times, but leave the palm on the floor in the same place. On your own time, find where you fit into the movement so that you can leave the hand in one place… it takes some experimenting over a few minutes, but it can be a great investment of your time. I have also observed that beginners learned the get-up faster and with less confusion when it is demonstrated without any extraneous hand movements. All that moving around and adjusting the back hand can really confuse your beginners. While they will probably still move their hand around since they’re finding their way, they’ll do it naturally, and NOT because they think that it’s a required part of an already complex movement. Chances are they’re already overthinking and most likely overwhelmed by the standard, required bits of the get-up at first, so why introduce even more distracting movement!

A long time ago, I was observing a workshop where many of the participants were confused by get-up rules which were simply too loose. They wanted to know “where to put their other hand” and while the explanation from the instructor was not technically incorrect, there was not enough information for them to work with. Just like anything, having ridged guidelines at least at the beginning can accelerate the learning process. When the beginner fully understands the movement from this basic platform, then they can intelligently experiment if they wish—or they may find that they have so much power from this proven position that they continue to use it for years. That’s what I’ve done! ☺

Video Double Feature! Mini Ask Girya Girl and Space Girl Organics Delivery Unboxing... Plus Meal Ideas and a Workout!

Happy Wednesday! If you're dialed in with Space Girl Organics (tell 'em I sent you) in Central Florida then you know that Wednesday is delivery day! HURRAH!!! So of course there's an unboxing video below which includes meal ideas for each item, and how I plan to eat everything!  Also there's a brief discussion about how fitness can fit into your lifestyle... actually, I want to write more about that here in greater detail...

The other day, a new friend and I had an interesting discussion. It started when he walked in and saw that I was livestreaming a video about a minor repair to an old computer I wanted to bring back online. This old computer will hopefully be the "brains" running a 3D printer that I'll be building from a kit after I finish a large writing project (the kit purchase is one of a few technology-themed reward/prizes I'm giving myself upon that project's completion). Anyway my friend was glad to see that even though I am very fit, I'm also into other things.  This observation gave him hope for this own efforts to get in shape.
  


There are still spots left!!! One-Day Strength Calisthenics Certification in Gaithersburg, MD!  Come train with me and get your SCC certification! Mike Krivka's gym, CrossFit Koncepts is IDEAL for this workshop, I hope to see you there, it's shaping up to be a great group of awesome fit pros and enthusiasts looking to step up their game. Join us! :)


In most online marketing and social media circles the party line advice (from so many sources!) is to pick one topic and ONLY talk about that topic on your various accounts and channels.  This is something I pointedly defy. I don't like being pigeonholed, or categorized, or minimized into one subject. Then, after talking to my friend I realized how important it was (at least for the people I like to reach) that I keep occasionally posting about these other non-fitness-related topics like technology, computers, 3d printers, drones, and more.

After our discussion, my friend realized that not only does he NOT have to give up every ounce of his free time and his identity to become fit, but that getting strong and more coordinated will actually benefit everything else in his life.

So, am I "just another fitness person"? No. And neither are you. But no matter who you are and what you're into, being fit, agile, and within a healthy weight range will help your brain work better, and bring a level of childlike confidence to all your responsibilities, activities, and interests.  So no, buddy, you don't have to start dressing a certain way and spending 2-3 hrs in the gym every day putting up with top 40 music while taking selfies doing curls in the squat rack.  HAHAHA! :) 

Conversely, I am now better equipped to think clearly, solve problems, and maybe even climb up a tree or over a fence to retrieve a crashed drone! My strong grip means I can do more with tools, I can carry heavy objects safely with confidence. Hurrah! I used to have a neighbor who kept insisting that I "must be running 10 miles a day" or "constantly working out". NOPE.

I like the occasional sprint (see workout below video), but I do not do distance running, and I do not constantly workout. If you enjoy distance running, then great, go for it! (And be sure to counteract the wear-and-tear of that sport with some strength training...) But it is not something I enjoy, so I do other things.  I do love calisthenics, kettlebells, sandbags, and a mish-mash of odd object lifting and training.

Fortunately, I can really do a lot for my physical well-being by just 2-4 short workouts a week. On a particularly crazy week, I might just do two "formal" 45 min to 1hr workouts and just little things at home even! That's far from the theorized mainstream idea of "omg you must be like at the gym like everyday for like 2-3 hours!"

With smart training, you can do yourself a LOT of good in 3x 30-45min sessions a week! That leaves plenty of time for family, friends, hobbies, school, music, learning, curiosity... etc.

Alright, on to the video:

So here's yesterday's park workout... I'll list the advanced version and add the intermediate options...

We warmed up with Joint Mobility and the CC2 Trifecta then...

10 rounds of...

Following this, we got out the kettlebells and did some intense intervals of single kettlebell thrusters, and a burpee/Swing alternating interval pattern:

First combo moderate to heavy weight if you have the energy! This is a great move for POWER!
4x

Second combo (also done 4x):

Cool down with joint mobility and the trifecta again.  And then I somehow had the energy to do this silly thing:  Please note that I keep my head tucked in a timely way so that there is ZERO pressure on my neck...  (it's ok, Mom, I promise)

Speaking of kettlebells, please check out this super awesome article and video about kettlebell cleans from the one and only Steve "Coach Fury" Holiner! Need to dial in your kettlebell clean so you dont keep banging your arm? Steve has the answers!

What are the proper steps I should take to become RKC certified?

From a new friend on Twitter:

Hello! I just recently became addicted to kettlebells, and am wondering what the proper steps are to becoming certified RKC?

 

Congrats on picking a great exercise modality!   Kettlebells have been absolutely indispensable in my quest for fitness - a total game changer (pardon the cliche) that have helped me achieve a level of fitness I didn't even think was possible.  At age 34 I look and feel better than I did in college - SERIOUSLY.  Not to mention I've become surprisingly strong - physically and mentally. 

Steps to getting RKC certified?  In my opinion -

  1. Find a local RKC Certified Instructor to train with - you can locate instructors in your area by searching the Dragon Door website's Instructor Page.  The RKC Certified Instructor will help you learn the exercises properly so you will be ready to learn how to teach the drills to others, how to best use the corrective drills and of course to pass the rigorous testing.   Your RKC Instructor will also help you design a training program that will develop the necessary strength to pass the physical tests and to endure the high volume training of the weekend.  They can also assess your fitness level and help you pick an appropriate date for your certification workshop adventure.
  2. Study up - read all the requirements of the RKC certification on the Dragon Door website - make sure you understand what will be expected of you before you arrive.  Make sure to follow the training recommendations and discuss these with your local instructor.  Review any and all recent books and dvds from Dragon Door - get on the forums, become involved with the online community.  Ask questions.
  3. Pay attention to joint mobility and flexibility - have a CK-FMS assessment if you can - determine where weaknesses and imbalances are and fix them. 
  4. Take time to learn about yourself and how you respond to strenuous training - find out where "the line" is and when to slow down - where is the breaking point? What happens if you push past it?  This sounds weird, but its a good thing to know.
  5. Study up on hand care and practice it diligently - you'll be able to train harder and for longer periods of time.
  6. Learn what foods/supplements really work for you, find out what you can take with you that will keep you going if necessary - I just totally ran out of steam on Saturday and thankfully had planned ahead - had a snack and then was back in business before anyone even knew what was going on with me.
  7. Determine which testing class you fall within - if you are a woman 123.5lbs or lighter, you can test with the 12kg kettlebell - if you're close enough to that weight then make adjustments to your diet/training and be able to meet it with a safe margin.
  8. One of the main reasons people don't pass is that they don't take preparation for the RKC certification workshop seriously enough.  This is NOT like other CEC programs or other certifications where you just show up, watch a presentation, maybe take a little multiple choice test then are handed a certificate.  You MUST pass all the tests, exemplify a great character and really BECOME an RKC.   Take this very seriously and work hard.   Think of training for this like training for a prestigious competition - because it is - you're competing with yourself to be the best you possibly can be.

This is far from the final word on the subject, and this will be revised this over and over - but I wanted to be sure to answer this question in a timely manner so that you can get started ASAP!

 

More tips from the RKC Community!:

From Master RKC Instructor, Mark Reifkind (Check out his site and blogs: GiryaStrength.com and Rifsblog)

One very important thing to remember: this is an Instructor Course and you must be able to teach, as well as demonstrate, the skills, drills and progressions.

Although it's vital it's not enough to show up in good condition, pass the snatch test, the pullup or hang, the technique testing and the Grad Workout. You must also be able to TEACH your victim at the end of the weekend and demonstrate your ability as an kettlebell instructor.

I have had more candidates fail from poor teaching than poor technique.

 

RKC Instructor, Boris Bachmann  (SquatRx.blogspot.com) had been fielding similar questions on the Dragon Door forum about the snatch test requirement of the RKC certification -

The RKC is an instructor's course. Candidates need to be competent with the bells and competent at teaching coming in. That's not to say there won't be many a-ha moments, it just that you/they shouldn't come in with they expectation that they'll be taught and coddled from zero.

The snatch test is a "fitness test" that answers the question "Is this RKC candidate physically fit enough to be an RKC?" Nothing more, nothing less.

 

RKCII Instructor, Giovanna Pozza, added:

In the Winter 2008 # of Hardstyle there is an article from Brett Jones: "It`s called a challenge for good reason" How to prepare for-and pass- the RKC Instructor Certification Workshop.
Very useful!

 

RKC Team Leader, Steve Freides sums it all up elegantly: (kbnj.com):

"Enter The Kettlebell" - buy it, read it, follow its training plan, and follow ETK's recommendation of getting appropriate expert guidance along the way as needed - physician clearance to start, screening by a movement specialist, and RKC for the actual lifts. That's not everything you need to do, but it's where to start.

 

RKC Instructor, Noah Maxwell, adds a word of caution!

As you train for the intensity and volume of the weekend don't get caught up in the excitement so much that you go in to the weekend over-trained or injured. Seeing a RKC for direction or program development should take care of this, but it can be easy to overlook. Don't spoil months or years of training by pushing too hard just before the big weekend. On the other side I tell the few people who ask me, to go into the weekend in the best possible shape (all aspects of fitness). Not just to pass the requirements but so they don't spend the entire lecture portions recovering, and therefor have the capacity to actually learn while the're there. Just like everything its a balance.

Current RKCs - please feel free to add to this by posting your opinions in the comments section! :)

What is the kettlebell physique? What will they make you look like?!

Google Webmaster Tools told me your collective dark secret: you want to know what you'll look like if you train with kettlebells diligently over a long period of time.You may have heard enough about functional strength, athletic ability, optimum health, stamina, and fat loss, your search terms have given you all away... you want to know...

WHAT WILL YOU LOOK LIKE if you train with these barbaric looking (I like that about them) arguably heavy solid iron kettlebells?

Short Answer: Kettlebell use will cause your forearms to be visibly stronger, upper arms and shoulders toned and more defined as fat is lost, legs and rear tighter and more shapely, posture will improve.  You will appear (and be) balanced, stronger and more graceful with a general air of healthy athleticism.  Hopefully you will also make peace with and come to LIKE your own body as I have!

 

RKC Adrienne Harvey Kettlebell Physique

It's a perfectly valid question, and you shouldn't feel guilty for asking. Like it or not, our world is highly visual.  Everyone notices your physique, and will make judgements (sometimes subconscious, but often otherwise) almost instantaneously based on how you look.  In a "perfect world" we would like to think that this wouldn't matter, but how we look says a lot about us, so before diving into this whole "kettlebell thing" it would be wise of you to consider what you may end up looking like!

If you watch competitive sports at all, it's obvious that certain types of builds seem to favor a certain sport, OR certain builds result FROM a sport.  The Olympics provide a great, internationally diverse situation to observe this effect  - swimmers seem have a certain build, all the individual track events seem to have their particular builds, etc.  In some way we are dealing with a chicken vs. egg situation, however no matter what you start with, the body will begin to adapt to the specific stimulous of a given activity in a specific way.   Which is why kettlebell training is so interesting, in many cases it seems to help a person "balance" their physique.   In The Russian Kettlebell Challenge, Pavel talks about the type of changes men can expect after training with kettlebells - that you can choose to bulk with heavy work, or slim down to a "Greek Statue" classical physique with more standard high repetition ballistic kettlebell practice.  In other words, you can control your look to a fairly high degree depending on the type of exercises you choose. 

Generally speaking, most men and women adapt in the following ways - forearm development, latissimus dorsi development, slight chest development (but not in the sometimes "too much" way commonly seen in bodybuilding), and nicely toned arms including some development in the forearms corresponding with the grip strength incidentally developed with high repetition ballistic kettlebell exercises like the Swing and snatch. (RKC Melody Schoenfeld reports that her forearms stole the show in a recent photo with several other attractive women!)  Assuming you're not overeating the wrong things (more on this in an upcoming ebook!), the general physique looks similar to the sort of trim but strong look of a gymnast or martial artist     The main thing people seem to notice right away is the amazing effect kettlebell training has on the back, buttocks, and hamstrings.  One of my favorite "side effects" has been the development of a whole "new curve" that comes with hamstring development - without waxing too poetic about it, the powerful but graceful effect of this curve on the entire leg is seriously notable.  Also, it serves to demark the upper leg from the rear - and this looks fantastic at the beach, with shorts of a certain length (nearly caused an accident on Park last week... sorry.....) and in Brazilian jeans :)

Most women (myself EXCLUDED*) seem horrified of "bulking up" in the slightest way, thankfully it is easy to train with kettlebells without gaining any sort of excessive muscular "bulk" - sticking to the high intensity cardio and keeping calories under control will focus more on the generic "toning" and fat loss.  You may appear "bulky" at first if there is a layer of fat above your newly growing muscles, but rest assured, those muscles are helping you to shed that layer.  Did your P.E. teacher or other fitness instructor ever show you those amusing rubber models of a pound of fat and a pound of muscle?  Remember that the little teeny pound of muscle was sooo much smaller than the big chunk of fluffy fat.  Keep this in mind especially when/if you start to lose inches without the needle on the scale moving - more on this later too! 

With kettlebell training, there will be some adaptive changes to your musculature of course, but nothing drastic.  Your legs and arms will tone - as will your abdominal muscles and rear - you are doing full body movements with most of the RKC standard exercises - which is why you can get a great workout in less time. 

Some people seem to think I look "drastic" or a little overbuilt, rest assured, I look this way because I really really like looking this way and have been willing to effect the lifestyle changesRKC Adrienne Harvey Kettlebell Press and self-discipline necessary to do so - it doesn't happen by accident.  I have a rather strict (by modern American standards) eating strategy - a version of Primal Blueprint and Paleo diets (more on this in an upcoming ebook!).  In addition to habitual kettlebell training, I practice Convict Conditioning and Naked Warrior style calisthenic training beyond what is considered to be "normal" for women.   So if my visibly developed upper trapezius and shoulder muscles freak you out - rest assured that these have come from extensive non-kipping strict tactical pull ups done in high volume over a long period of time. Kettlebell swings won't do this to you - but they will shred the fat off of you and TOTALLY tone your backside in ways that those wimpy machines at the gym will never ever touch. 

The other thing which will effect how you end up looking after training with kettlebells is your genetic predisposition - where you store fat, your bone structure, etc.  So someone could do identical workouts while eating the same meals I am and still end up looking a bit different than I do.   Now, that being said - coming from a long long long line of genetic "big booty havers" nothing, I repeat NOTHING has had the shaping, toning and thankfully lifting effect on my rear that kettlebells have had.   Seriously, before starting with kettlebells a few years ago I had literallly tried everything - every gym machine (I regularly lifted the entire 220lb weight stack on the "butt blaster" for multiple sets of high reps with one leg at a time), barbell squats,VERY heavy leg presses, hamstring curls, endless boring cardio, goofy women's magazine "toning exercises", extreme diets (4 years vegetarian,1 solid year vegan, raw veganism, a full 10 day "lemonade" detox fast), you name it.  As early as high school, I threw myself into step aerobics (it was the 1990s!) several times a week at the YMCA hoping to get my rear under control.  All to no avail - then... as the book title goes - Enter the Kettlebell - problem solved.  A lot of men and women talk about getting a "kettlebell booty" BUTT the opposite is also true - it seems that kettlebells will balance out a given physique into it's more athletic, capable, and hopefully aesthetically pleasing version.  While many people have gained inches and extra curvature to their rears, I have brought mine under control - losing over 3 full inches in circumference.  (Much like abdominal training, some of your work will be done in a workout setting the other critical component is what you allow yourself to eat.)   While many men and women have reported getting a rounder and in some cases larger rear, other people will find that their proportionally large rears will tone down.   Unlike traditional bodybuilding exercises, kettlebells seem to also have the ability to help you slim down "heavy legs"  I always hated my "short, heavy legs" but doing a LOT of kettlebell swings, snatches, and cleans helped to reduce the circumference of my thighs - nothing else has done this.  Cellulite, which seems to also plague other members of my family and had started appearing around age 30 has completely disappeared.  The confidence gained from this fact alone was worth the effort.   RKC Dave Clancy, 46 of Buckeye Kettlebells also reports that he has gained strength but lost thigh circumference as a former "heavy legs haver".

 

Devil's Advocate Corner:

One thing which surprised me was the development of my abdominal obliques - mainly due to all the abdominal stabilization involved in each and every kettlebell exercise.  I will admit that at first I was not pleased with this as it can sometimes give the appearance of a "thicker" waist depending on what you are wearing.   After shedding another few percent body fat, and realizing what they allow me to do functionally (I LOVE being able to do impressive exercises like Dragon Flags now...) I have made peace with their appearance.  Also, they have partially solved a problem I had always had with pants which fit at the rear being too large at the lower waist.  Go obliques!   It is completely obvious that they are not a "muffin top", and this is a very very athletic look, which I think is a plus, but honestly it did take some getting used to.  Some women may not like extreme oblique development - at least not on themselves - though they do seem to like men with the tale-tell "Adonis Belt"

 

*I adhere to a self-made physical ideal partially shaped by extremely old school natural female body builders (look up Rachel McLish), gymnasts/acrobats and certain strength/power athletes.  The look I strive for favors visible strength, grace and dramatic curves.  Some people love it, others are intimidated and/or have expressed negativity.  People will do that with whatever you do - so figure out what you want to look like and GO FOR IT!

Where do you get these amazing fruits and vegetables?!?

Three separate people asked me JUST TODAY where I get the vegetables, fruits and general produce for the recipes here and which is pictured in the various breakfasts, lunches and dinners I post on twitter.   There are two answers - one for locals (Orlando/Winter Park) and a more general answer for those of you in other parts of the country/world:

Locals (this is not an exclusive list - there are more and I will add them):

Non-Locals - general guidelines - look for the following in your community:

Ask GiryaGirl: 10,000 Swing Challenge Help! What do you eat for breakfast? Healthy Hot Cocoa?

This morning was a flurry of activity as you slackers finally came back to work from long holiday weekends and all decided to call, email, text, facebook, twitter, etc. Joking about the slackers part, I just wanted to poke fun at you all - since it was hard to get a few tasks going while carrying on about 6 different trains of thought/conversations.   But I'm pretty ok at that for some reason. WHATEVER.   Here are some highlights from this morning's mad dash of Q&A:

Q: How's your 2012 going? I started mine with 500 swings for a friend's b-day.... Now I'm doing the double KB version of System Six.. Going to try it for 16 weeks. We'll see how that goes.

A: Josh Hillis's System Six should do well for you - and since you're an advanced kettlebell maniac, the double version should work quick.  Be sure that you're eating enough, and always remember, Josh is extremely accessable on twitter, facebook, for support.  Likewise he's been known to stop in on this website to answer questions as well.   There's even a spot on the forum for System Six questions.   FYI everyone, there is a forum here - I haven't promoted it much yet - wasn't sure if it was redundant with all the other social media.   Main difference, I consider it a "safe haven" and we can even set it for registered users only if you'd prefer.  LET ME KNOW! :)

Q: I'm working through getting all "paleo'd" up around the house (at least mostly) and I was wondering how you typically do breakfast? I know you eat a lot of bacon (as do I) and that also leads me to wonder how you prepare it? Pan? Oven? Sun cooked? :)

At any rate, I don't mind bacon and eggs but I would like to offer a tad more variety if possible.

A: This morning was a fairly typical breakfast for me: 2 strips of bacon in the cast iron skillet, browned then kept the oil in there (this skillet is slick as all get out - its practically a housepet, I'm weird about 'Grandma's skillet' it gets very special treatment)  Tossed in some chopped Swiss chard (5 large leaves/stems), sauteed down.  Today I added some crumbled ground Greenfed beef from Beyond Organic (I'd cooked it the night before and had it in a pyrex container in the fridge) - after that was heated through, I spread everything evenly in the pan and added 3 beaten eggs.   Usually I top that with crumbled goat cheese or whatnot.   Brown on the bottom and if I've added cheese, I broil the top for about a minute or less (don't walk away... seriously).  If I haven't added cheese, it all just gets flipped it in the pan.

In the skillet is usually how bacon is cooked here, but sometimes I'll bake bacon in the oven.  Use a little rack on top of a cookie sheet - put the bacon out in a single layer on the rack.  Oven at 250, check at 30 minutes, flip if necessary.  Depending on if you like bacon chewy or crunchy, or what you'll be using precooked bacon for, cook from 45mins-1hr in the oven.  If you've used good quality, organic bacon from happily pastured pigs, carefully pour off the grease into another little pyrex container and use that to season your skillets, for cooking, etc. as it is high quality lard and is your buddy if you're doing Paleo or Primal. A word of warning: having access to precooked bacon can be a test of your will.  If you ever thought potato chips were a temptation, this is sooo far beyond that. SO FAR BEYOND THAT.

For variety, I switch up the cheese (Purple Haze from Cypress Grove, Raw Milk Cheddar or Havarti from Beyond Organic, some form of chèvre, heck... pepperjack is good too).  Also switch up the veggies - broccoli, spinach, chard, zucchini, dandilion greens, find what you like.  On my site there are a few recipes for things like using sweet potatoes or butternut squash as "homefries" or "hashbrowns"

My upcoming cookbook will actually feature a full explanation of my obscure omelet theories and how to apply them with a handy-man-cooking-friendly chart!  Cuz guys like charts and arrows and stuff, right?  I sure hope so.

Q: What's the healthiest possible way to make hot chocolate?!

 

A: A good friend and fellow RKC Level 2 instructor texted me from the grocery store this morning needing a healthy low carb version of hot chocolate.   Glad she asked, because this one is a lot of fun - and there's plenty of room for variation too!

OK!  Depending on how you feel about dairy, allergies etc - you can either do this with organic grassfed full fat milk (they carry it at my local butcher shop, The Meat House, much love for those guys actually).  OR if you want to go non-dairy*, and/or want to take this camping (no refrigeration required) go with coconut milk.   My current fave is the organic 365 Whole Foods store brand in terms of value and no-scary-ingredients.  OK!!!

This is super easy - I choose to make it by the cup on demand - you'll want to adjust the recipe to your taste - and once you find that sweet spot - write it down - then you can scale it up to make a dry mix for travel etc.  Store it in a jar and shake it up before using of course.

Mix dry ingredients first, heat the milk of your choosing gently. then add it all together.  If using honey, add it last to the hot mixture so it will melt into it easily.

 

*When I was vegan I'd skip a further step and go with sweetened (ugghh) vanilla flavored almond milk.  At that point all you have to do is gently heat the almond milk, stir in 1-2 teaspoons cocoa powder and a couple grains of salt, and the optional pinch of cayenne pepper.

**Can't find unsweetened cocoa?  Get out of the Swiss Miss zone - try the baking aisle - guarantee it's there.   Want to get snobby with your cocoa?  I like the Italian kind they sell at Williams Sonoma - :)

Q: I'm somewhat of a beginner (woman) and am doing the 10,000 Swing challenge this month, and I have a 12kg and 16kg kettlebell- the 12kg feels "too light" but the 16kg gets heavy quick - I'm doing sets of 25 swings...

 

A: Well... it's a good idea to start mixing things up - we're still VERY early in the month of January and you're going to get bored otherwise.   Also make sure to vary the intensity - some days just use the 12kg, especially if you have other activities planned for that day.  Remember "too light" can also be in your head - use a light day to focus even more on your form - make those the best swings ever.   Also - feel free to do one arm swings - 10 right, 10 left instead of just 20 2 hand swings if you're getting bored.    With the 16kg kettlebell be sure not to burn out early by doing shorter sets, but more sets - 10 sets of 10 is an easy 100 - and space it out throughout the day if you need to - it doesn't matter with the 10,000 Swing challenge WHEN the swings are done during the day - learn to manage your fatigue - that's another great skill to practice along with your Swing.   A challenge like this will teach you a lot if you let it :)  Congratuations on picking this challenge and best of luck! 

6 Ways to Stay on Track Over the Holidays (it was supposed to be 5.. OOPS!)

For many people, the holiday season can be a time of fun, excitement, parties.  It can also really wreck your hard won fitness progress, weight loss, strength gains, and the healthy lifestyle changes you've been making.  Here's a short list of suggestions to help stay on track during this stressed out consumption-crazy time of year.

 

1. Value your sanity.   Remember, its OK to say no - you don't have to attend EVERY party. If you're not getting enough "recharge" time, and feel pulled in several directions at once, give yourself a quiet moment to sort it out.  Check your breathing - if you're getting stressed out you might be breathing in a shallow, panicked way - stop and slow it down, breathe down to your belly.  This past weekend I explained crocodile breathing (mentioned by Andrea Du Cane at the Ageless Body Workshop and also demonstrated at the CK-FMS workshop) to a friend to help her cope

with stress.  It's a great way to just "reset" too.   No matter what, make sure to schedule in some downtime - for relaxing activities like tai chi, qigong, yoga or just a quiet moment with a favorite book. Likewise think about sneaking in just a 15 minute workout here and there.

 

2. Lay off the booze, or limit your consumption.  Not only can it goof up your judgement in social situations (my college girl neighbor had a green sharpie mustache drawn on her at some point last weekend, when I saw her in the laundry room I could barely contain my laughter), consuming too much alcohol (and don't forget it has calories too) can lead to really bad food choices.  Greasy, bready late night pizza, fast food, and other things you'd done so well to avoid are chomped down without a thought after too many rum & cokes, vodka redbulls, jager shots or whatever it is you crazy kids are drinking these days.  If you must imbibe, keep it to red wine and get some antioxidants while you're at it.

 

3. Think of healthy activities friends and family can do together - my parents and I typically take a nice long walk after the big holiday meals, while most everyone else passes out in a food coma (we've also avoided the sugars and starches too, amusingly enough).  But something active - it doesn't have to be anything crazy like skydiving (though that could be an interesting choice), but ice skating, etc. Even just walking around somewhere cool - indoors or outdoors.

 

4. Healthy alternatives to heavy meals, and how to avoid dietary disaster.   Since I eat mostly Primal and/or Paleo-ish its pretty easy to stay on track during these holiday meals, if you can show a little discipline.   Things to avoid: heavy rich sauced casseroles of mystery (they're usually chock full of processed foods, refined flours and possibly sugars), bready and starchy items like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese (I wasn't kidding about the discipline part).   My plate usually has a generous portion of  whatever meats are presented (mmm turkey, roast beef, ham, etc.) and simply prepared veggies (I'll offer to bring one or more if I think there might be few options).  I might sneak a small piece of pie and a cup of black coffee.   Alternately instead of mashed potatoes you can serve some of the alternatives like the parsnip mash in the Primal Blueprint Cookbook, or roasted veggies like on my chart.   A nice big salad with a big variety of things like nuts, olives, seeds etc on top is usually welcome at any gathering, and you can use that to make a nice plate of meat and salad - something I love to eat anyway.

 

5. Remember, short and intense workouts count too!   Don't worry about making a long drive to the gym and back - especially if you have house guests.  Now's the time to be thankful that you can sneak off to a back room with your kettlebell, gymboss timer, TRX, or just YOU and get in a great workout with basic powerful moves like the kettlebell Swing, the get up, pushups, pull ups (if possible), TRX rows, suspended pushups, planks etc. etc. etc.  I could go on and on - don't tempt me I may make up a whole series of traveling holiday workouts - leave a comment on this page if that appeals to you.    Likewise if you're traveling on an airplane you may wish to leave the kettlebell at home and just take your TRX and door anchor, or just your gym boss.   Before traveling sometimes I'll review where I am in my Convict Conditioning progressions and write up a week of new workouts that I can do ANYWHERE and still progress in my strength, balance, coordination etc.  If you aren't that creative, remember... you can ALWAYS do burpees!

 

This was supposed to be a list of 5, but... I have to break the rules sometimes. So here's suggestion #6!

6. Don't forget to eat!   When there's a lot of extra activity, unusual schedules, extra people around with their different schedules (and eating habits) its easy to overeat, but its ALSO very easy to forget to eat, or get stuck in a situation where you're having to skip a meal.   This can force you into eating stuff you really don't want to eat.   So, pack along some snacks!  No matter where I am, I've usually got SOMETHING with me, might be a (not so) little bag of raw organic mixed nuts, or a Larabar, or jerky (current fave - Ostrim ostrich and beef jerky, any flavor), or Tanka Bars are incredible too - real buffalo and cranberry!  Things that are a "little weird" might also help to keep relatives from stealing your stash of snacks too.   Sometimes I'll sneak along a couple of blender bottles with just the dry ingredients of a protein shake inside - just add water and you're good!

 

So those are my tips - do you have any to share?  Leave some comments!  Everything that isn't spam gets approved! :)

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