Yesterday, after tweeting about working on my CK-FMS case study (**Update! I am CK-FMS certified!!!!!), someone remarked that “wow, you’re really drinking that koolaid.” My wacky personality responded that I was also taking baths in it and asked if my skin had turned a funny color yet. Pretty sure the intended outcome of the exchange was not to inspire me to poke fun at myself, do a little introspection and write a blog post, but whatever. We find inspiration where we find it, and I love to recycle thoughts, knowledge, paper, plastic, glass, polystyrene…
Disclaimer One: Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Part of why the Dragon Door programs, workshops etc. are so effective for me is that they suit certain aspects of my personality. I think that they CAN work for a whole lot of incredibly different people, but ultimately you have to do what works for you. This blog post is all about WHY this stuff works for me – it might inspire you to give it a try, it might cause you to run screaming. That’s up to you. If you already have something that works for you and that you like – then congrats and GO with it!!!
Disclaimer Two: Well aware that I’m not “normal” in terms of thought patterns, aesthetics, life choices – and occasional self-identification as a “statistical anomily.”
My Twitter friend went on to say that other popular programs like P90x and Crossfit are working well for people. Cool – no probs, and if that’s what’s working for them, then that’s what’s working. I have friends who thrive on the variety of P90x and Crossfit, friends who are certified Crossfit coaches, and who own their own gyms – the workout that works for you is the workout that you will do! I’m not about to switch though – and I’m not out there saying everyone has to do what I do. Hope that comes across – I don’t want to tell you what to do, unless you’re paying me to tell you what to do. Does that make any sense? This sort of talk gives me a headache – so let’s get to the fun stuff:
- Minimal equipment to buy.
Seriously you can do a LOT with just one kettlebell of the right weight and design – if I had to, I could very handily make due with a single Dragon Door 16kg kettlebell for a very very very long period of time. And even with my large collection of kettlebells that my clients and I use, they still take up less space than a half-decent treadmill and moderate collection of freeweights. You can take them literally anywhere and get a great all around workout – add in body weight exercises and you’re good to go. One of my clients recently bought 4 kettlebells from me – now, she’s set for years, if not forever.
- It doesn’t take hours and hours and hours…
Can’t tell you how many people have come to me wanting to find an alternative to the whole waking up super early so that they can do a follow along DVD workout for an HOUR AND A HALF?!?! Unless I’m testing a theory, or working out for fun, or at a workshop, or holding a micro workshop with a friend, or doing some kind of GTG thing, then my workouts tend to be 45min to 1hr “practice sessions” 3 to 4 times a week. That’s it. That’s all. Efficient. I like that – A LOT.
- It seems to have fixed problems I didn’t know I even had!
I’m more flexible, stronger and strong in a useful way. Its not just strength that works in the gym – kettlebell practice, the RKC principles, and the ideas in Convict Conditioning have literally rewired the way that I move. My posture has improved drastically, as has my flexibility – and since it’s not just “flexibility for flexibility’s sake” it’s useful stuff and has not detracted from my strength or stability. I feel more physically able for just about any task now.
- It doesn’t have to be competitive
Look… I know competition really motivates some people, but I consider us all apples, oranges, grapes, lemons, limes, bricks, baskets, etc. My biggest competitor is myself – besids that, I love to encourage others to do better and better. I don’t see the Iron Maiden Challenge as any sort of race or competition among participants, I see it as something we can all “high five” about. Besides, for someone always picked last for kickball since 1983, the fact that anyone asks me “what sports do/did you play?!” is like the best complement/punchline ever. People, the only team I was on in high school was the CHESS TEAM.
Sure there are opportunities to compete if you want – the Tactical Strength Challenge, and some people participate in Girevoy Sports, powerlifting, gymnastics etc etc etc. And that’s great – but even if I were to participate in the Tactical Strength Challenge (because it does interest me) the person I would really strive to beat would be… ME. Some people thrive on competition, I thrive on my own progression. Neither is better, neither is wrong. Do what works for you. Kettlebells can be an intense “team focused” workout, or a nearly meditative solitary practice. Personally, I like the versatility of these workouts – they can suit any mood. And I can choose my own music, or lack thereof.
- It WORKS.
I’ve tried a whole lot of other approaches and have met with a whole lotta fluff and not a lot of meat. This is especially true of things specifically marketed to women – and that’s INSULTING if you sit down for a second and think about it. Are we not WORTHY of a REAL system to change our bodies? As a culture, are we so scared of strong, physically empowered women that really really stupid ideas about working out (like omg I don’t wanna bulk up!) are perpetuated woman to woman and deeply ingrained in popular culture?! This is why I started to dig around in the furthest direction from mainstream “women’s fitness” as possible. I started looking for what the military used, police, firefighters, and martial artists. You know, the cool stuff, sometimes macho stuff, aka “badassery” as a friend of mine has said. If people depending on their physical fitness and performance were doing something then it was probably not just a bunch of pandering hype. Sure glad I did. Because you have my absolute word that the often simple concepts of RKC, Hardstyle, etc. actually work. You just need to do them correctly, and practice.
- No special outfits, upbeat fitness music, or expensive shoes required – unless you want that – it’s up to you.
Look…. I don’t like the “happy techno music,” bright colorful outfits and chirpy voices, even though I’ve endured them with a smile while trying to find something that works. But… You shouldn’t have to change who you are in order to get healthy. Don’t check your identity at the door of the gym. Besides – one of the first videos I saw from Dragon Door had Pavel running around in my beloved Chuck Taylors. I feel really stupid wearing the usual “athletic shoes,” they look fine on everyone in the world except for me. But Chucks… those are associated with decades of teen antics, alternative music, and instant, effortless style. (Besides you can get them in monochrome black). I don’t have to just keep them for the gym – they’re often my “go to” shoe. Then there’s the option to train barefoot – which I will do at home or when attending workshops. Some people like the Vibram shoes – there are all sorts of options – but the fact that robot-moon-sneakers aren’t required (actually we require you to take those squishy things OFF) was such an awesome thing. And if you want to wear a colorful outfit, its ok, we can still be friends – I’ll just keep my sunglasses on so you don’t blind me. Some folks may argue that we have a “uniform” in the RKC – we do seem to have our own aesthetic sometimes – from the outside it may look compulsary, but it isn’t—unless they’re assisting at an official workshop—it’s important to look professional, right? Many RKCs choose to wear the Patagonia pants, the Chucks or Vibrams, and the Oakleys because this stuff works for our kind of training. There’s also a fair amount of “I want to look cool like _____________ who I look up to as a coach!” going on as well. It’s a solid, practical outfit with pants that won’t split at the worst of times. Not to mention, my Oakley Enduring Pace sunglasses are one of the few women’s sunglasses designs that I can get to stay on my face during any sort of serious kettlebell work. Luckily, they look cool too.
- You don’t even have to leave home to do it
Once you know what you’re doing – a workout can happen literally ANYWHERE. Bodyweight exercises like those in Convict Conditioning can be done in a tiny cell, so finding enough room in your living space shouldn’t be hard. Finding somewhere to safely swing a kettlebell isn’t difficult either. Besides – you can do this all in a local park, at the beach, in your yard, or in a gym (I feel like I’m writing Green Eggs and Ham right now). One of the reasons that kettlebells seem to be becoming popular with stay at home moms, and entrepreneurs who work from home (or the combo of both of those roles), is that you DON’T have to get in the car and drive somewhere to get in shape. The TRX suspension trainer is also great for at home if you’re one of those variety-cravers.
- Learning something, moving better, preventing injuries
The RKC Hardstyle method of training helped me get back in touch with my body – I can do things now in terms of strength/agility/etc. that I couldn’t do even as a kid. I feel upgraded and in control. I am empowered to improve and change myself. I can move better, and am generally prepared for just about anything life hands to me physically. Mentally – learning what I can and can’t do has helped in the “mental toughness” department as well – I can’t even begin to say how much this has helped in everyday life. I know where my limits are – because they’ve been tested, I know when to stop and avoid injury. Any time I see one of those “get back to your high school jeans” ads I laugh because I wouldn’t want those frumpy old jeans now – I’m in better shape than I was as a teen, and next month I’ll be 35. Learning, honing and developing the skills related to kettlebell and bodyweight training seems to occupy the same part of my brain as my Tai Chi practice – I even think of the Get Up as being like a short short short martial arts form.
- An incredible, inspiring community – new friends and infinite possibilities….
Wow. I have made some incredible friends at these workshops, online, and in person. We get together and the ideas just start flowing – and we all come away from it better, stronger, and energized. So many great collaborations are in the works, and there’s just so many people to learn from – by example and directly. Many people in the RKC Community are extremely accessible, helpful and insightful. I could go on, but you might think I’m brown nosing. Really can’t say enough great things about all my new friends and opportunities.
So yeah, doing the backstroke in the koolaid over here if you really want to put it that way – and I have no regrets. The systems change and evolve over time – just in the short 3 years I have been training, the way we instruct has improved, the style has evolved, and new ideas are constantly being presented by members of the RKC community. It might not be for everyone, but it really works for me, and I had spent a long time searching. Woah, this was a long post!