Adrienne: I met Tracy through giryagirl.com and twitter – and after she mentioned she was trying Josh Hillis’s 21 Day Kettlebell Swing Challenge, we started to converse more and more on twitter – Q&A, funny stories, recipes, encouragement etc. It’s been a great time!! Anyhow, after she completed the challenge, I encouraged Tracy to write up her experience with it and to tell us about her fitness journey. Normally we hear a lot from trainers, fitness professionals, aspiring HKCs and RKCs, but I thought that it would be really interesting, valuable, and encouraging to share Tracy’s story. She’s been able to improve her health and fitness with kettlebells and mindful eating – and of course still have a full and busy life. But enough from me – she tells it best.
Tracy S.: December 2010–I started my journey back to life, in many ways. Almost 45, 2 children, married 23 1/2 years, about 50 lbs overweight to show for it. Exhausted physically, spiritually, emotionally. On the verge of all the usual problems associated with that much weight on a 5 foot frame. Gaaah. I began working with a doctor to control diet and get blood pressure and the beginning stages of diabetes under control. Portion control, understanding nutrient balance and *timing* of nutrients was the magic. Dropped weight kind of by default–couldn’t possibly NOT lose weight by making those changes, right?
Once the critical things were under control, I got the go-ahead to add exercise. I was always a walker and a kayaker–one of the things that spurred me on to make serious changes was a kayaking picture taken in November 2010, which I’ve affectionately titled “Jabba D. Butt”. I’ll let your imagination roll that one around for awhile. (0_o). But it was time to get serious.
My husband was already working with kettlebells, but the big ones that I couldn’t even budge at that point. I was interested, but had to start a bit lower-rank. Did some research online–found what DVDs to avoid (Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper) and which I still wouldn’t be able to manage (Pavel, comrade!), but got a few others that I could work up to. Got a 10lb-er (I realize it’s a mere paperweight, now, but at that point it was working for me!) and started off.
It was like magic, except of course it wasn’t. My clothes kept having to be taken up, or given away and replaced (I held –ahem!– a memorable committee meeting where I stood up, and my skirt didn’t). About 4 months of the DVDs, and I started getting bored, so I did more research and started finding online trainers: GiryaGirl (yay!), Josh Hillis, Girls Gone Strong, several others as sources of great workout programming.
My first time through Josh’s 21-Day Challenge (beginning level), I was still not all that confident of my strength-building capability. I knew the 10lb weight was too easy, so I had purchased a 15-lb weight as well. My husband also had a range of kettlebells from 20lb up to 53lbs. So I set some goals: by the end of the Challenge, I would be entirely on the 15-lb bell, and I began working through the daily routines with that goal in mind. Truth is though, my strength and endurance improved so much that I set the 10lb down midway through week 1 and hit my goal THEN. Midway through week 2 I had blisters on my fingers because the handle on the 15lb bell was too small. So I started alternating sets with the 20lb bell. By the end of the Challenge, I was able to leave behind the 15lb bell as well, and was swinging exclusively on the 20lb bell
I felt really, really good about that, and my body was responding with more and more re-shaping: my weight loss had stabilized at 40lbs gone (I think I was trading muscle gain for fat lost–I’m OK with that!), but I was still dropping sizes, and clearly getting stronger.
Got another DVD, Andrea DuCane’s Goddess Workout, comrade! I was able to work on technique and form because of her great instruction, then wanted to get intense again. So I pulled out Josh’s 21-Day Challenge and looked at the intermediate level workouts. Yep, I can do that.
(Before I got too far into the workouts, I scheduled a training session for me and my husband with a local RKC trainer, Jamie Ballard. We both wanted to make sure that technique and form were good before we started moving into more serious weight levels. She was amazing, and within the first 10 minutes had identified and corrected problems in stance, alignment, balance–that’s where the training and the trainer’s eye is invaluable, and can’t be replaced by online or DVD instruction. We’ll continue to work with her in ongoing sessions just to stay on track.)
By the end of the 1st week, I had begun alternating the 35lb kettlebell into the sets, but primarily swung on the 20lb bell. 2nd week, I swung the 20lb on intense days (10 or more sets), but 35lb on light volume training days, but dropping back to 20lb when I felt that fatigue was setting in and I was losing form. 3rd week I was on target, and stayed on the 35lb the entire week without needing the 20lb bell as fall-back at all.
So–that’s where I am. Still stabilized at 41 lbs gone from where I was December 2010, but I’m HALF the woman I was: from size 16 (1X) to size 8 Petite.
It’s been an amazing year, and kettlebells (and Josh’s program) have been a really important part of the journey! Thanks for your energy and inspiration as well, and the great recipes (except for the borscht) and workouts. Keep them coming!