Archive for the ‘Kettlebells’ Category

Cleans for Cardio

Today was a planned cardio day.  Since I still have a cold, and all the typical cardio equipment was being used (also, have I mentioned how much I HATE traditional cardio??), I was looking for something different.  Sifting through my Google Reader, I came across a post by Dan John that, among other things, includes his musings on the kettlebell clean.  At the end of the article is a cardio workout using the clean.  As I’ve mentioned before, I ❤ Kettlebells, so it didn’t take much for me to pick this for my cardio workout.


Basically, the workout goes like this (quoted from the article linked above):

Let’s start with the Left Hand:
8 Single Kettlebell Cleans
3 Single Front Squats

Swing and Switch Hands

8 Single Kettlebell Cleans
3 Single Front Squats

Swing and Switch Hands

5 Single Kettlebell Cleans
2 Single Front Squats

Swing and Switch Hands

5 Single Kettlebell Cleans
2 Single Front Squats

Swing and Switch Hands

3 Single Kettlebell Cleans
1 Single Front Squats

Swing and Switch Hands

3 Single Kettlebell Cleans
1 Single Front Squats


I did a solid warm up, followed by 3 rounds with the 16kg bell.  It was the perfect balance of do-able and really tough.  The beauty of this workout is the active rest (squats).  It was enough of a drastic change in activity to allow me to prepare for another round of cleans, but challenging enough to boost the cardiovascular demand.  I’m definitely going to keep this routine in the rotation – especially for days I need to do a lot of work in a short period of time.


In other news:

I kind of sucked at the diet yesterday, but not in the way you would think.  Yesterday was a higher calorie day, and I missed by target by almost 500 calories.  I’m not really sure what happened.  I didn’t have time to eat as much as I usually do at work, plus I cleaned up some of my food choices.  When I got home at 8:30 p.m., I realized that I needed to eat 1000 more calories!  I couldn’t see stuffing myself, but I did make a point to eat some healthy, calorie dense foods.  I’m hoping that, since it’s the first week, I will only see the benefit of the increased deficit, but definitely plan to hit my targets more accurately from here on out.

Turkish Get Ups

I LOVE me some Turkish Get Ups.  This was not a crazy love-at-first-sight kind of situation.  TGUs were more of a slow burn.  They’re a fantastic full-body kettlebell exercise – but they BURN at first.

I’m not a “combat athlete” but I think this exercise is great for everyone.  Jeb has finally started drinking the kettlebell Kool Aid and has decided to start with the RKC program minimum (swings and TGUs).  For his first TGU workout, he asked me along.  Since yesterday was my rest day, I figured I would go and help him with form.  His workout was 5 minutes of TGUs.  Sounded sinister to me, but I couldn’t resist trying it out.  I did the workout (got 12 reps), and definitely felt a bit achy and sore in all the right places today!  So much for a rest day, but it didn’t negatively impact my recovery.  In fact, I think it helped keep my joints from tightening up since I had a good warm-up and got my heart rate up!

I think TGUs are fantastic for most people, but if you want to try them, please seek out an instructor who knows what they’re doing.  Start with light weight too!  It’s all fun and games until someone drops a kettlebell on their head!

Kettlebell class (and Renegade Row SUCCESS!)

I’ve had a long week.  Last night, when I was finally sitting down to unwind a bit before bed, I noticed a message on my Facebook page from the kettlebell instructor at my gym.  She was wondering if I was planning to attend class this morning, since the other woman who usually takes it would be out sick.  This is a drop-in class, and I take it whenever I can, but sometimes I’m just feeling too tired and I decide to take a rest day.  Of course, this doesn’t mean any extra sleep; Fridays are trash/recycling day in my neighborhood so my sleep is unfailingly interrupted by the sweet cacophony of my two dogs protecting the house (how’s that for poetic??).  Remembering this, I quickly replied that I was planning to attend (but omitted Jeb’s suggestion that I remind her that I need to function this weekend).  I had trouble sleeping last night, but got up on time and went to the gym.

The Class

I had time for a good warm-up, so I was ready to go when the instructor, Pam, arrived.  We started the workout, and Pam reminded me that I could rest as needed since there were no other participants.  Despite my long week, I felt great.  The longest round of the entire workout included sets of Renegade Rows.  Are you familiar with them?  Here’s a good video description of how to do them:

This guy makes them look easy, but they are NOT!  In the past, I simply hadn’t been able to do them.  They require a combination of strong core stability, shoulder stability, and plain strength while rowing.  I probably haven’t even attempted the exercise in a solid six months, so I was a little nervous.  I also knew that my strength had definitely improved so I decided to go for it.  I was able to get all my reps (except one on the first set) with 20kg!!  It is SO satisfying to have improvement like that!  I eeked out the rest of the workout, and felt energized when I left the gym.


And now, for the weekend…

We got some good news on the personal front this morning, so our moods are more relaxed than they have been in months!  We may run some errands tonight or tomorrow, and maybe even work on some painting and home improvements.  Jeb and I are thinking of having a New Year’s party, so we’re trying to get everything all fixed up.

Training log

I took a much-needed rest day yesterday, but got up early today to get in my 3rd lift from the new program.  I’m definitely feeling more comfortable with the routine and have been improving each workout – both with increasing the weights used and decreasing the rest times.  At the end of each workout, though, my muscles are burning!  For my “Grand Finale Conditioning” I did kettlebell snatches for my first set (intending to repeat for the other sets), but was so smoked that I switched to single-arm swings.


We’ve been having some really warm, muggy weather here in New England.  Today, the high temperature was 73°F!  Plus, the gym isn’t using the air conditioning anymore, so the humidity was even higher inside and I was REALLY sweaty.  When I left, it looked like I had been working out in the peak summer weather!


These workouts are challenging, but fun.  I don’t stop moving for more than a minute at a time, which is a dramatic change from 5/3/1.  Plus, even though my muscles are tired, my energy level is MUCH higher than normal.  I’m also quickly improving my cardio fitness, which is a plus.  I was worried that these workouts would seem less fun (and like more WORK – haha, I don’t want that!), and in a way, that is true.  My motivation remains high, though, and I feel really committed to finishing every rep of every set.


I am struggling a bit with my eating now.  I don’t feel any more hungry in between meals, but when I start eating, I just want to FEED.  Not sure what’s up with that, but I have to be careful!  My mindful approach to eating is still working, but I am worried that I will start to gradually slip.


Tomorrow, I’m planning a nice, slow run – should be gorgeous with the leaves changing!

Training log

For October 18 and October 19…

October 18, 2010

Squat (heavy) – 3 @ 125, 3 @ 145, 12 @ 160

KB Cleans – 8 @ 20kg, 5 @20kg, 5 @ 20kg

Squat (low weight, higher reps) – 2 sets of 15 @ 95

Barbell Cleans – 2 sets of 5 @65

Notes:  Felt great today.  Good mobility.  Glad to hit a PR in such dramatic fashion!

October 19, 2010

Military Press – 3 @ 65, 3 @ 75, 6 @ 85

DB Incline Press – 10 @ 40, 8 @ 45

DB Row – 12 @ 45, 10 @ 45

KB Long-cycle Clean and Jerk – 10 @ 16kg, 5 @ 20kg, 4 @ 20kg

Waiter’s Walk – 16kg, 16kg

Turkish Get Up – 1 @ 16kg, 1 @ 16kg

Notes:  Another great workout.  I wish I would improve faster on the  military press, but my other overhead work is improving dramatically.  While doing my TGUs, a trainer came over and told me I looked “impressive.”  It was just the pick-me-up I needed to complete my last set since I actually felt a little wobbly (maybe he was making sure I was ok!)!

Warrior Dash 2010 – Background and Training

Have you heard of the Warrior Dash?  It is a race that is marketed as the “Craziest Frickin’ Day of Your Life!”  On September 19, 2010, Jeb  and I completed it!

The Past

I should back up, though, since this race meant a TON to me emotionally.  I was an athlete in high school – not an all-star by any means, but I could hold my own and I really enjoyed physical activity.  When I started college, I immediately joined the crew team.  I was successful, but because of some negative influences and poor decision-making, I quit the team.  This was, perhaps, one of the biggest regrets of my life.  As time passed, I became increasingly sedentary and my food choices became atrocious.  I became an emotional eater, and struggled to make healthy choices for several year.  Strangely, though, I was unaware of how unhealthy I had become or of how poor my choices were.  Everything was fairly mindless during that time and, in retrospect, is such a blur.

In October 2008 (almost 2 years ago!), everything changed!  I stepped on the scale and saw a number that I NEVER wanted to see.  I was ashamed and frustrated, and started changing that day.  I was woefully out of shape, and while I knew that I needed to make a big change, I also knew that a major overhaul would lead to failure.  I made small changes, lost 55 pounds (and counting), and almost two years after I struggled to use the Wii Fit for 15 minutes, I completed the Warrior Dash (and I even had a cold!).


The Training

Training for the Warrior Dash was tricky – aside from a satellite image of the location and some pictures of potential obstacles, I didn’t really have a solid idea of the layout and intensity of the race.  This made structuring my training very difficult, so I opted to follow programs that would increase my running ability, mobility/flexibility, general fitness, and strength.  Such a narrow focus, huh?

Before training for the Dash, I had been working on general fat loss.  After completing Rachel Cosgrove’s “Female Body Breakthrough” program in February 2010, I needed a break from general barbell/dumbbell training.  I spent a couple months focusing exclusively on Kettlebell training, both by taking classes at my gym and by following the program in “Body Sculpting with Kettlebells for Women” by Lorna Kleidman.

After registering for the Dash in April, I began training for the running portion by completing Couch to 5k.  I had a handy little app on my iPod which made all the timing really easy, and rewarded myself for milestones by downloading some new music to help motivate me!  On the days I wasn’t running, I completed Leigh Peele’s Lean Being program.  This program was a challenge for me, since it used the TRX suspension trainer and bodyweight exercises, rather than the iron I was used to!  I won’t lie – there were definitely days that I struggled to stay motivated on this program.  The TRX is really unique and useful, and I felt that my body moved better across multiple planes after a couple weeks – but it is NOT my favorite way to work out.  I still use the TRX occasionally, but I will never use it exclusively again.  I did find Leigh Peele’s programming to be very balanced and at an appropriate intensity that I didn’t feel like I needed to eat everything in sight after my workouts!

For the last 6 weeks before the race, I maintained my running (by this time, I was comfortable running a 5k – slowly, but I could do it!) and shifted my focus to strength.  I began following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program, a powerlifting program that focuses on 3-4 “main” lifts – in my case, squat, deadlift, and overhead press – with some flexibility for accessory work.  Since I LOVE kettlebells, I decided to create a kettlebell accessory program to support my barbell lifting.  It’s been working well, and I think the combination was really effective in helping me prepare for all the physical demands of the race.  The kettlebells had a dual benefit of providing a cardio effect in addition to the strength and mobility components.  Also, the barbell training definitely helped me increase the weights in my kettlebell work, which increased the intensity.


Stay tuned for part 2 – the Race Day recap!