Tag Archives: kettlebells

Do The Work: My Path to StrongFirst

14 Nov

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Bang Fitness in Toronto to participate in a StrongFirst Level 1 Kettlebell certification.


I am beyond excited.  And a little bit (or rather a huge, massive, heaving bit) scared.  I have trained all year for this weekend.  I have followed a meticulous training schedule (thanks Brett Jones!).  I have read theory, watched videos, and attended workshops (thanks Chris Lopez!).  I’ve tried to dial in my diet, and I’ve been progressive and particular about weighting up my bells.  I’ve done countless swings, squats, get-ups, cleans, presses, and snatches.  In short, I’ve tried to do the work necessary to become certified at the end of the weekend.

Here’s the thing – I still might not pass.  I might end the weekend with a bunch of knowledge, and more work to do.

Strongfirst is a very challenging certification.  You need to be able to demonstrate your ability to teach, perform, and persevere.  The lifting standards are detailed.  The workouts are grueling.  The weekend is long, and hard on the body and mind (so I’ve heard).  It’s also incredibly rewarding and, pass or fail, you come home better and stronger than you were.


So, what does this have to do with roller derby?

More than you’d think, actually.

As you know, I train all of our fresh meat.  I also train our league skaters. I have seen a lot of girls try to become derby skaters.  I have seen a lot of them succeed, and I have seen a lot of them quit.

Please note, I’ve not mentioned seeing anyone fail.  Derby is tough on you – both physically and mentally.  Derby takes a lot of commitment, time, and energy.  Derby forces you to be honest about what you can do, and what you have yet to be able to accomplish.

You only fail if you cease to try.

That’s how I’m looking at this certification – either I’m ready to pass, or I still need more work before I’m ready to pass.  I don’t fail.  I don’t suck at everything.  The instructors won’t be wrong and biased and just have it out for me – either I’m ready now or I’m not yet.

Derby is the same way.  I have seen dozens of girls lose their bananas over not being drafted, rostered, or played.  I have seen them call themselves all sorts of names, and beat themselves into the ground.  Over and over again, I’ve seen skaters call themselves failures, and then I’ve seen them spiral into self-doubt and poor play.  I’ve also seen skaters pull themselves up after missing the draft (or roster or line) and come back at it hard.  I’ve seen them attack their challenges like mad dogs and turn those challenges into the skills that they dominate.

Want to guess which strategy makes better derby skaters?

What matters is not always the outcome – we can’t control the outcome most of the time.  What matters is the input.  What matters is doing the work, and being confident that you’ve done the work.  Sometimes you’re just not the right person for the job, sometimes you’re not the one who needs to be on the roster, or the one who makes the team.  But if you did the work, you have nothing to be ashamed of if the output isn’t quite what you wanted.

Don’t get me wrong – if I don’t pass this weekend, I’ll likely be upset and I’ll go through some “what did I do wrong” drama with myself.   Not getting what you want when you feel like you’ve worked hard for it STINKS.   Especially when you feel like you’ve done all you can do.  But if that happens, it will likely be that I just wasn’t ready yet.  And accepting when you’re not yet ready is a pretty important skill to learn.   It’s one I’m still working on.  But I’m thinking of it this way, no matter which way things go – I spent a full year dedicated to a very specific goal.  I worked my tail off, and have already accomplished things I never thought I could when I started.  I met some wonderful people.  If all I focus on is 5 minutes at the end of a 3-day weekend, I’m not giving myself nearly enough credit for all of the amazingness that I’ve already achieved.  If you focus on one roster (or line or whatever), you’re not giving your whole derby journey nearly the weight it deserves.


photo courtesy Joe Mac

So whether in derby, or training for a tough kettlebell certification, or anything you’re excited about – do the work.  Don’t avoid your challenges.  No one ever became a champion by ONLY doing things they were already good at.   Ask for help when you need it.   Do the work with confidence.   Let that confidence show no matter the outcome.


What I Learned At: The HKC Certification Course

16 Dec


First the exciting news: I’m HKC certified!  I attended the Toronto Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification course on December the 2nd, and despite having what ended up being pneumonia, I passed my exam and got my certification!  The pneumonia, of course, has meant this incredibly long blogging hiatus, and a ridiculous amount of not training and forcing myself to actually rest and recover (not my strong suit).  But onwards and upwards!

The course was held at Bang Fitness, which let me tell you, is an awesome facility full of lovely people.  If you are a Toronto dweller, you should absolutely check it out.

Our instructor for the course was Master RKC Jon Engum, who was an awesome instructor.

pointing_jonHis passion for the subject matter, practical tips, masterful correctives, and overall smartness made the course a goldmine of useful information.

I’ve been wanting to get a kettlebell certification for a while now.  I love using kettlebells in my own training, and find that they’re an incredible tool for almost everyone.   They are a fantastic way to condition the whole body as  a unit and really zero in on movement patterns and body synergy.  They’re an efficient tool as well, working multiple muscle groups and energy systems, meaning bigger bang for your training buck.  In a 2010 study conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), participants burned approximately 20 calories per minute performing kb snatches -that’s 1,200 calories per hour, not counting the additional calories burned following the exercise from the substantial oxygen debt built up from anaerobic training.  Kettlebell training also focuses on ideal range of motion, mindful movement, and precise practice, all of which are cornerstones in what I think is important in training.  I’ve also found that people (especially women) tend to have fewer preconceived notions about kettlebells.  A woman who might initially balk at a barbell will gladly do the same movement pattern with a kettlebell, and to me, this is a great way to introduce them to heavier and more challenging loads.  Barbell fear happens – I’ve seen it.  Kettlebell fear, I have yet to see.  Mostly, the women I train get super-excited about using them, and that makes my job a heck of a lot easier.

Here were the big takeaways from the course:

  • Obviously there were about a million tips on how to coach the swing, get-up, and goblet squat.  I won’t get into them here.  I will say, if you are interested in kettlebell practice, it is well worth your while to seek out an HKC or RKC certified instructor to learn.  I thought I knew how to coach a swing reasonably well before – what I learned at the course made me realize how much more clear I could be in my breakdown, and the best steps to take to get someone moving better in a pretty short amount of time.  Long story short – I feel about a million times more confident in my ability to coach these movements, and I am incredibly glad that I came in ready to learn.
  • Think of, and refer to, those you train as students rather than clients.  Also, think of yourself as a student of movement.  Good idea – that way, I’m on the hook to teach something each session.  And my trainee gets to come in with a learning mindset each session, helping them to absorb what we’re doing more efficiently.  I think this carries over into derby too.  This off-season, my league is structuring things a little differently (in that we’re being really structured).  We’re running clinics on individual skills to get everyone up par on the basics, before we get into teamwork at the start of season.  Each trainer is coming in with a teaching plan, rather than a page full of drills, and I think skaters are responding well.  So, be a student of your physical activity – learn each time you train and get better.
  • This is one that I’ve been using for quite some time (since my first FMS course), but the HKC reenforced the effectiveness of feeding the mistake.  When someone has a faulty pattern or a weird compensation, pull them further into the mistake.  Make then feel what the correction feels like.  They’ll remember what a good pattern feels like SO much more easily when they’ve corrected it themselves, rather than you positioning them correctly.   Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for coaches to manipulate their students into the right position, but this approach works wonders.  Again, derby crossover – Wonky stride?  Exaggerate it.  Get the skater to feel their weakness and actively fight against it.  When I first learned to do this, it blew my mind.  When I see it work with someone who is struggling to groove a pattern, it still does.

All in all, the HKC was awesome, and I’m excited to be certified.  It’s further stoked my love of kettlebells, and I hope to keep going and maybe take some more courses down the line.  In the meantime, I’ll be helping lots of folks get their swing on (and their get-up, and their squat).

Things are looking up, and so am I – the plan this week is to get back to breathing, training, and blogging regularly.  As long as the first one holds up, the other two should be easy.