Kettlebells Graduation Mega-post GRADUATION POST
Alright! Finished the final workout without incident. I thought it would be cool to film it in a time lapse, so here I present to you, Warp Speed Kettlebells!
I've been looking for a good six week slot to fit this program in for a while. I'm glad I finally got around to it. I have a lot of thoughts, which I present to you now in no particular order.
• I had a 35 pound (1 pood) and 12 pound kettlebell for this program. I used the pood for almost all exercises. For some it was too light, for others it was a bit too heavy. It was interesting having a set weight and just dealing with it. This is much closer to circumstances you confront in real life when you need to move something heavy, and it doesn't politely dial the weight down. You have to learn how to position and stabilize your body to deal with it and know your limits.
• I got strong on this program but didn't gain much bulk. The kettlebell has a way of running through the arm line (pictured below) in a way that distributes the stimulation across a ton of fiber. This results in less mass but significant strength gains.
• Dealing with a kettlebell is super-functional. In real life you don't ever really curl anything, but you do often hold heavy things by the handle. I could really feel the difference holding a shopping basket in the store. Carrying around a gallon of milk feels easy now.
• My grip strength improved a lot. Below is a photo of my palming a 12 pack of sparkling water. I made my wife take the photo because I couldn't believe how light it felt. Finger, forearm, shoulder and back strength on point.
• My hands were getting really calloused by week 4. I started wearing workout gloves. There's no upside to me having really rough hands despite the "manly nature" of it.
• Aikido performance improved, as you would expect from a practice that uses grips and different parts of the arm and shoulder so much. My Aikido sensei wouldn't be happy to read that as he always says all Aikido comes from the hips. Yeah yeah I know but having strong-ass hands and arms is certainly helpful too, sensei!
• I had a hard time jumping rope on this program after my favorite rope broke. I ran 50 miles over the course of the program. I gotta figure out my rope situation!
• The nicest takeaway from kettlebells is not being intimidated by them anymore. I was always really cautious with kettlebells but now I'm feeling ready for some more advanced stuff like catching in the air and Turkish Get-ups.
• I was pretty strict on the diet and I'm taking a week off to eat and drink whatever I want. Then it's back to a lean diet in the run up to my birthday in July. Everything is on schedule for the 2019 plan, no injuries, illnesses, crises or hiccups so far. Going to enjoy a naughty week and then it's time for the big cut. 8 more weeks.
• Thanks everyone! I'll be catching up with the teams blogs this week! Kettlebell done and dusted! If you haven't done this program give it a try, it's fun and not nearly as grindy as I thought it would be!
Quick and dirty asparagus heaven:
Get some big ass asparagus, at least the thickness of your thumb.
Cut 'em down the middle exposing their juicy insides.
Place on a pan with the insides facing up.
Spray with olive oil spray. Really quick spray, you don't need much.
Sprinkle some big ass kosher salt crystals on top. This will create salt flavor explosions as you eat with low overall sodium content.
Squeeze a half a lemon of juice on top. Coat it liberally as it will soak in to the asparagus.
Bake at 400°F (200°C) for 10-12 minutes.
I would rather eat this than pretty much anything else right now.
One more week. No missed workouts, diet is good, bells are heavy!
I never pass up on an excuse for some Mexican food, and the indulgence coinciding with cinco de mayo, how could I resist.
Kept it simple, beans rice, one fish taco, one enchilada, and a sip of a margarita sample they were giving out for the holiday. Nice break from the diet, but definitely felt some digestive issues from the oils, cheese, and sodium.
Back to it for a final 3 weeks of clean living.
This week my trusty rope finally broke in half. It lasted 5 years. But since we moved and I started jumping in the street it's been taking a real beating. My former jumprope spot was a wood deck which barely caused any wear at all. Another thing to keep in mind when you choose your jumping area.
I still like these handles so I'm looking for sources of new ropes to bring it back to life. This rope is no longer in production and it has a special weighted middle core. Jumping with too light a rope (the actual rope part) is extremely frustrating to me. I've gotten so used to slicing through the air with this heavy one that everything else feels like I'm stuck in 1st gear and totally jams up my timing.
I know with practice I could get used to my lighter ropes, but I don't WANT to get used to them as the heavy rope works so well for me.
I've been subbing in running for the past few days, which I can't really do with the cycle cardio system. I guess I could run hard for 2 minutes, turn around and run back hard for 2 mins for a four minute cardio. I'll try that on Monday!
Training is good. Diet is on point, no workouts missed, and many days getting in extra cardio in Aikido and cycling now that the weather is good. Some days the big 35 pound bell actually feels kind of light, which is a great sensation. But the next day it's back to being heavy! Weird gravitational effects. Training in spring is pretty great, as you follow the natural coming-back-to-life of nature in your own body.
Some cool things:
I was having a lot of back and shoulder discomfort due to long hours working on the computer. 3 weeks of bells and all those aches are completely gone. I'm standing tall and even when I have a long day on the computer I feel fresh at the end (at least my back does). It's an example of what I've noticed with so many people, the solution to chronic, non-injury related issues isn't to stretch or take it easy, but to get some muscle on the weak areas and create an environment where the musculature realizes it needs to shape up and stop slacking.
I'm getting super strong but not feeling my range of motion impeded as I have with other weight based programs. The range of motion needed for the kettlebell moves is really helpful to avoid muscle-bound lockup.
Soreness has been extremely light on this program. It's good to not spend the day waddling around on sore legs or wincing every time I raise my arms. But results are good.
Photo is of my breakfast! Yum.
Results coming fast at this point, workouts are fun, weather is good, and that kettlebell is heavy! My biggest problem is that as my hands get sweaty I lose grip on the exercises that call for holding the bell by the horns. Guess it's time to bust out my cool guy workout gloves!
I'm finding my sense of accomplishment and "I did it!" joy is much greater on a cycle workout. Maybe because it's a bit grindier I'm more relieved when it's over.
How's everyone else doing? I need to catch up on the blogs. Tomorrow is blog day!
My daughter is in the sweet spot for easter egg painting and hunting. She told me she thinks Easter is a "top 3 holiday." We went a little overboard with the egg decoration this year!
Well, work and life certainly got busy the last seven days. We launched a new program in Japan and laid out the groundwork for new programs on the English side to come out in May. Have been nailing the workout every day and 90% on the diet with a few moments of weakness when an apple pie somehow made it home from the store. Will get the diet on full lockdown by the end of the week.
My only problem with the workout is my workout space isn't great for jumping rope then hitting the cycle. I jumprope outside on the street and do the workout in my bedroom so moving quickly between them is tough. So far I've been doing all the rope at first like a traditional workout. One day I'll have to do it right to see how it changes things.
Goblet squats are hard because all that weight is up in your front vs on your back in a barbell squat!
Right now our first Kenzai Body group of the year is coming off of their program. What a great group. Not many people know this but we have a page that shows all trainees who have written their final blog and gotten their graduation stamp (from yours truly).
Here at the beginning of a program it can be really inspiring to read people's stories at the end of the journey and remind yourself that it'll all be worth it.
Great work January team! And good luck to us Bellheads! Workout done and food was clean today!
I've been wanting to properly do this course for years and the timing finally worked out. Coming into it strong after a few weeks of eating right and hitting at least 15 mins of jumprope a day. Such a big difference than coming in dirty!
Felt good to lift some weight, kettlebell definitely brings on a primal feeling. Fun, functional strength! I'm not a perfectionist but looking to run a perfect program here, it's my favorite time of year to train and it looks like a clear six weeks of life is ahead. Have probably jinxed myself saying that but so be it.
Will try to do a daily post here, some instagram posts, and some video blogs. Gotta keep it fresh or training becomes even more of a grind.
Question for people to answer in the comments - What's the best thing about being strong for you? For me it's still being able to pick up my daughter, but it's getting harder every damn week!
Reach Complete GRADUATION POST
This was a training cycle in two halves. February was really strong and I could devote the right amount of time to flexibility training. March was much more packed, I did my best but definitely had some missed skillful movement sessions. Only missed morning stretches a few days and will continue to do them. They're probably the single most effective quality of life boost a person could do for themselves when you compare time put in for results that come out!
I can see how this program is hard for people. You have to let go of the usual workout rewards, there's not much hormonal feel-good-buzz for having a good stretch session, and you have to be really comfortable with discomfort every single day. It takes a certain kind of patience and I definitely rushed through some workouts and evening stretches. But the cumulative effect is so impressive, I hope trainees can see their way through the boredom.
Personally I gained about six inches on my forward bend, and improvement across every metric, especially shoulder mobility. Not feeling so rickety any more. Still feeling a bit of the "bison".
The last few weeks have been pretty stressful for me and my clean eating took a hit, but I'm feeling in a good place for a run up to my birthday with a few months of on point nutrition. The 2019 training plan survived its first skirmish with reality, just 9 more months of sticking with it and the year's done and time for a new plan!
Thanks for all the supportive comments and bearing with bird painting and other oddities. It was a great two months of reflection and figuring out what's important right now. I was also training a Kenzai Body group during this time and often was all blogged out by the end of the day, so apologies for being a lousy teammate this go around. The new Kenzai platform coming soon will make keeping up with your team a seamless experience. I can't wait to get it in your hands!
Can't believe this week is over! One of those weeks where I was busy every day but can't really point to any accomplishments. As predicted my focus is wearing thin here at the end of monk month. I'm down to making daily lists and checking things off mechanically without much sense of what or why.
I realize that one of the reason I try to have these hyperproductive Februaries is that I get so bummed out in winter. It's kind of a "just keep swimming" approach. When I stop being productive this time of year I feel so fatigued and listless. I used to think it was seasonal affective disorder but the most recent science points to that not being as plausible as once thought (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/study-finds-seasonal-affective-disorder-doesn-t-exist/) So I don't know what it is. I just really really hate being cold.
The good news. Flower buds are popping open all over the place. Tiny dots of color around every corner. I feel a weight lifted!
Reach is going fine. Got diet back on track and am showing up to the stretch sessions with workmanlike dispassion. Still holding strong to the monk month challenge, something creative every day and no zero days! Sick of painting birds but learning a lot with each one.
Goodness gracious my hamstrings are feeling strung out this program. I don't think a day has gone by without feeling sore back there. Goes to show how poorly I've been taking care of them sitting at this desk. As a result I've actually felt a limited range of motion, doing that old man thing where instead of just bending over and picking something up I'm sinking down slowly with a stooped back trying not to tweak the hamstrings. I know it'll all result in a more fluid and graceful body by the end. Gotta break down some walls before you renovate your house.
Monk month is wavering. 18 straight days of high productivity is frying my brain!
I painted a duck.
This week has been full of "life admin" stuff. Paperwork, taxes, car trouble. For the first time this morning I just plain forgot to do morning dynamic stretches. I realized at lunch that something felt off. Did them right after remembering but it's a good example to not get complacent and keep that beginner's mind strong.
It's been what I think of as cold. (mid 40°F / 5-7°C) I know most of the Northern Hemisphere has it worse I'm not complaining. But I'm no hero, when it's that chilly I don't go run, it makes something already unpleasant just plain awful. Also my wife's response to cold rainy weather is to make the most delicious japanese food and desserts. I've succumb to her culinary wiles far too many times. Time to tighten up!
Flexibility is improving in all areas. Whoever made this program knew what they were talking about. Also bird paintings every day!
The question of the week was about what in our lives is feeling stuck, and how we can regain a sense of openness around it. It may seem small but I'm having so many issues around email these days. Like most companies the Kenzai crew has moved all of our day to day conversations over to Slack, which eliminates the majority of "process email" (when's the meeting, where's that file, what's the status of this thing). That's great, but it means that mails that hit my real inbox are almost all what I call "real" mails. These are mails that require me to be present, to think about what I say and access empathy and intellect.
So what happens is that I'll get a "real mail", from a customer, family member, or friend, and I really want to sit down in a good frame of mind and answer it well, but that time isn't right then when I read the mail. So I don't answer it. But then time passes and answering it becomes even harder because not only do I need to really think about it but now I have to get over the shame of not answering sooner and go through the whole "sorry I didn't get back to you sooner I've had a lot on my plate" interaction. So I delay again.
A few weeks like that and everytime I open my inbox I'm filled with shame, regret, and self-loathing. I can ignore it as the old mails slip down and off to a second page, but I know it's still there, the unanswered mails vampire away mental energy during the day and will even cause me to wake up in the night.
So, how to create space around this tension?
I spent an afternoon getting within spitting distance of the fabled "inbox zero" with just a few (very tough) mails to write over the weekend. After I'm back to zero my plan is to be straightforward with people and write back quickly, even if it's just to say "I want to answer you but I don't have enough bandwidth to do it properly right now, please be patient!"
This email situation is really rough because every minute I spend in email is a minute I'm not creating something new, taking care of my food or exercise, spending time with my family, or engaging with the Kenzai community. I need to learn that most mails will never get the deep, thoughtful replies I want to write and be upfront with people on the other end. I know we all feel the same tension and everyone will understand.
What I've got to absolutely stop doing is the pattern of "I'll write a good response to this later." How many more years will I have to repeat that before I realize it never works!
Have been writing this in my 10 minutes seated forward bend. Another day knocked out and another bird painting done.
People don't think of Reach as a tough program, but I am feeling BEAT UP. Doing this with running for cardio is hitting my muscles in all sorts of strange ways. My tendons feel like old rubber bands stretched one too many times. The other day I was sitting on the edge of the bed after stretching and my wife said "You look like a burnt out Russian athlete in the 80s." Very specific reference thanks a lot.
Still kicking February's ass. Perfect attendance at Aikido. Quick bird painting every day. Making music again. On top of work. Reading good books. Being a not-horrible parent. It means going hard from first thing in the morning (dynamic stretches) to last thing at night (evening stretches with a book). Feels good but I know I can't keep it up more than a few weeks before my brain says "Alright dude chill!"