Monthly Archives: July 2012

Saturday’s Workout: a KB Roadtrip!

For those interested or merely curious as to what a middling-aged desk jockey might do on her rare weekend off:

I took my twins Ivan and Stefan (my pair of 20lb kettlebells–I’ll post a pic when I’m on a different computer later) for a walk around our lovely neighborhood.  Early morning, so as not to scare the neighbors.

(You’re welcome.)

Except for a mug of half-caffeinated coffee (my own blend), I worked out in fasted state, and was interested to see how my energy levels would hold up. I’ll talk about that a little later.

I set my Gymboss for 20 cycles of 2:00/1:00 intervals, for a full hour.  Some of that time, I knew, I would be ignoring the timer, but it would keep me generally on track.  Here’s the work plan:

Walk from home to community pavilion, about 1K

  • 2:00 double farmer’s carry
  • 1:00 Double Kettlebell Hell: 5 dbl swings, 5 dbl high pulls, 5 dbl cleans, 5 dbl squat thrusters
  • 2:00 double racked carry
  • 1:00 Double Kettlebell Hell again!
  • Repeat until arrive at pavilion
  • One final round of DKH!

Not done yet, not by a long shot!

I stow the boys in the bushes near the pavilion (just in case), then set out for some walk/run intervals through a hilly loop of our neighborhood, about 18 minutes (6 cycles).

Returning to the pavilion nice and sweaty, I fetched the boys out of the grass for a few rounds of my favorite HKC prep, the Deep Six:

  • Turkish Get-Up 
  • 6 presses
  • 6 cleans
  • 6 squats
  • 6 swings
  • 6 snatches
  • Finish the Turkish Get-Down

Repeat on the other side=one round. Repeat for six rounds total.

Still not done, as I had to get my hot mess home! And I was truly a mess by then.  I simply alternated farmer’s carry and racked carry for the 1K back to the house, paying attention to keeping lats and core engaged.

Form is everything. Workout is practice.  Repeat this until you believe it!

So I rolled in right at 8am, just about an hour on the dot since setting out.  I felt energized rather than exhausted, and not starving or shaky.  Interesting.

I’ve been reading about Intermittent Fasting and its connection to the body’s natural cycles of muscle growth and energy conservation (read: fat storage)–how in particular the 3-5 small meal plan many of us have been working with for years can interfere with those natural cycles and end up skewing them toward storage rather than strength.

But . . . But . . . I have to have FUEL, right? I’m like a car, right? My tank is empty, and I’ll sputter to a stop, right?

Well, probably eventually, yes–but the body’s exquisite chemistry is such that it can mobilize energy as needed from the stores.  And if you remember, most of us–myself included–are storage experts, and have PUHLENTY where that came from.

This morning? I was just fine.  This body, she knows what she needs to do.

Obviously, where there are chemical or endocrine issues or impairments, other protocols must apply.  But for me, this pattern of intermittent fasting is something I’m continuing to investigate and experiment with–there are several recommended patterns, and I’m working to find one that seems to fit my life and body chemistry best.  More about that later!

What’s your work plan this weekend?

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At the Center, a Seed

The question came from a monk.

[Questions from monks, in case you were not aware of this, are not your average “What did YOU bring for lunch?” kinds of questions.  Questions from monks are the kind that raise the hair on the back of your neck.  That slam your mouth shut.  That drag reluctant burning tears from deep within, where they’ve been stored up in all their bitterness.  They’re funny that way.]

As I was preparing for the labyrinth walk this week, looking for ways to create sacred space for a community to grieve, comfort each other, and pray for peace after the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, the question came:

  • In ancient Greek stories, who is at the centre of the labyrinth?

And the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

I was searching scripture, poetry, liturgy for images and words that conveyed reassurance, comfort, and peace, and the monk wants this image in my mind? The Minotaur:  monster, bull-headed man, violent, bloody, ravenous murderer of innocents.  This was not the image I wanted in my preparation, not when . . . well.  Enough of violence and innocents murdered.

But the question, once asked, would not
un-ask itself.

We seek the center of the labyrinth as home, as the safe place where the Beloved awaits us.  I choose this image when I walk the labyrinth, use it in talking with others, in processing the experience of the labyrinth:  what was your experience of the center?  of coming so close to it, and then being turned away by the path?  of the longing for home?  Mine is a redeemed labyrinth, filtered through the lens of my faith:  the center offers safety, security, acceptance, protection.  It is where my soul is most itself, in the embrace of the Beloved.

The question–the monk’s question–challenged me deeply, painfully.  What if, at the center, I find that the violence which I imagine to be an external danger, which I imagine I can keep at arms’ length, has been carried there–within me?  If the labyrinth is a metaphor for (among other things) my own soul, does the shadow of the  Minotaur still lurk there?

I wrote back (finally–after much wrestling):

  • The minotaur–a monster born of violence, fed with violence, visiting violence upon the world. Do we too carry the seed of violence at our center? Will we feed that demon seed, or nourish the seed of peace instead?

No answer came for a long time.  I continued my preparations, but also continued to sit with this most uncomfortable, uncomforting question.  And I began to wonder–as no doubt the monk knew I would–whether our best response to that tragedy was to seek and provide comfort.  Soft chairs, candlelight, quiet music–far away from places where violence stalks, and madness in the eye becomes tangible and launches its death-wish with blood and fire.  So we arrange our lives, like furniture, and hope for the best.

Or would it be better to ask the question, and live with the hard truth?

When I snap at our son–just recently turned 13, and capable of producing many snap-worthy moments over the course of a day–can he sense the bared fangs behind the terse words?

When I snarl over this irritation or that disappointment at work, can my staff see the raging beast underneath, kept in check (just barely) under the forced smiles and careful politeness of ‘professional’ demeanor?

Here’s my uncomforting truth:  I feed the Minotaur every day.

And then I saw a response:

  • Yes . . . And the name of that bull-headed flesh eating man is significant. His name is  Asterion, meaning ‘star’. The creature at the centre is both earth and sky, darkness and radiant light. That ‘seed of peace’ is divine.

This brought tears.

In the quiet center, in the embrace of the Beloved, is there space for all of me, the dark and the light, the monstrous and the angelic?  The God-man who stepped willingly into our mud–can He redeem this in me, too?

The grotesque at the center of the Cretan labyrinth speaks truth of our divided nature; but he does not have the last word.  Another has taken up residence, One who embraces and blesses us where we are, One who teaches, who is the very seed of peace.

Seek Him.  Speak peace to each other and into a world stalked by madness.  In this way we change the turning of our days.  In this way we grow up this seed into a green branch, hope in this parched world.

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Called to Service Along the Path

Labyrinth of Remembrance and Peace

Thursday, July 26
Cumberland Room, Shepherd University
Noon-1:30pm

When tragedy strikes far away from us, especially when we don’t personally know any of the people involved, we may feel called to do something–but we don’t know what that something is. How can we help the healing process?

Walk the labyrinth in response to the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. Take time to quiet your mind, focus on your breath. Release. Speak what is on your mind and in your heart. Pray for peace. Listen.

Join us in a labyrinth walk sponsored by Counseling Services and the Division of Student Affairs, and facilitated by Tracy Seffers. If you do not wish to walk–or are far away–you are also welcome to simply join us in a quiet, reflective space for any portion of the time we’ve set aside. Let the healing begin.

(Invitation based on a programming suggestion by Veriditas, the organization for labyrinth facilitators: http://www.veriditas.org)

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A Good Day Deserves a Good Poem

But here’s the thing: poetry is meant for the human voice.

Too often, we leave poetry on the page, reading it in silence so as not to disturb anyone else.

Really?  Poetry ought to disturb, ought to take our brains and hearts and words and shake them, turn them upside-down, set them on a roller-coaster ride.  Rattle my cage, please!

So if you read this, you have to promise me:  read it out loud.  Especially this poem, which is so playful with language, words caressing and biting and clashing like lovers . . . It is meant to be read aloud, poet and reader and poem itself proudly crying out: “What I do is me; for that I came”!

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Did this poem move you? Change something in your heart or mood or brain?  Man, I sure hope so.  Tell me!  I’d love to chat with you about it.  Leave a comment or five below:

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“You are also a creature of spirit”: Notes from a Podcast

Last summer, I was honored to be asked to help with an extensive podcast series on wellness, being developed by Shanan Spencer in our university’s Counseling Center.  My topic, specifically, was to be “Spirituality and Wellness for College Students”–cool beans!  It took a while to work through the list of topics, so Shanan didn’t have a chance to interview me until June of this year.

Just this week, I got word that the podcast had been released to our internal network, Sakai.  While it’s not publicly available yet–eventually they’ll move the series out to their website, and then to iTunes University–I’m able to share here some of the questions and the conversation that developed.  I think it was a great conversation.  Well done, Shanan!

What struck me as I was listening to the recording was how pertinent the discussion was not just for college life, but for much of what we crazyplate people still wrestle with, post-college:  getting life into balance, trying to juggle all of our competing responsibilities and joys, trying to connect to something real.  In a sense, the conversation finds its extension in this blog–I think I even quote myself in the first posting!–and so offer here some excerpts from the transcript.

Go strong today.

SS:  What is your interest in spirituality?

  • It is part of what keeps me grounded, keeps me sane.  It is what keeps me well. . . it is part of who we are, this element of spirituality; and so in the process of becoming who we are as full human beings, and growing and learning through the college experience, exploring this part of ourselves is not to be neglected.

SS:  I’m curious as to how you see spirituality contributing to wellness?

  • If you think of wellness as balance . . . NCAA Division II Athletics [has as its motto] for student-athletes, “Life in the Balance” . . . and that is for me the essence of wellness.  It is often the first thing that goes out the window when you go off to college!  [Whether a young student or a non-traditional student], their ability to find that balance . . . is the most difficult thing to do, and yet it is the most essential thing to do.  Understanding that I am not just my job, I am not just my GPA . . . you are not just the job you may get in the future, or your major . . .you are not just your mind, you’re not just your body.  You are also a creature of spirit, and recognizing those things as equal and valid parts, and nourishing those things equally, finding opportunity to express and strengthen those things equally, is all part of finding Life in the Balance.

SS:  What do you see as the difference between spirituality and religion?

  • For me, religion provides the context, the structure within which spirituality can have a full and meaningful expression.  Spirituality without structure can be loosey-goosey, very me-centered, it’s all about me . . . on the other hand, religion for its own sake can become very rule-bound . . . and lose its connection to the larger community outside that faith tradition. 
  • Very often, students will come to college from within a faith tradition, and begin the process of examining that tradition, and asking uncomfortable questions. . . . faith communities struggle with this.  The truth is, many of those same college students still connect to the hunger for spiritual things. They may connect to it through a different tradition, a different faith community . . . and I don’t see that as an unhealthy thing, as long as they are not neglecting that part of themselves.  I believe that things of the spirit allow for this kind of exploration.

SS:  What is the importance of taking care of the spirit?

  • What happens when one leg of a bridge gives way?  What happens when one corner of your house falls down?  The rest of it will stay up for a while, but it weakens . . . we all lose as a community, the individual loses  opportunity for the growth that might be there, that feeds all of the other areas.  All of those things that are part of Life in the Balance, they tend to support each other; so that when I nurture and strengthen my body, my mind works better; and when my spirit is satisfied and I feel whole inside myself, my body functions better and my mind is good to go in the classroom.  All of those things function together . . . We forget to our detriment that these are not separate things that we can kind of pigeonhole . . . they all work together, and we neglect them and keep them separate to our own disadvantage.

SS:  What are some of the ways that students can practice and engage in spirituality?

  • There is always a spectrum, a range of ways to explore and express spirituality . . . from the individual to the communal.  Something as simple as getting up 15 minutes before your roommate gets up, or before your family gets up, and simply sitting in silence.  Don’t turn the screens on. Don’t turn the radio on.  Leave the iPod off–just sit in silence with your own counsel . . . Nan Merrill is a wonderful writer who talks about this connection to the spirit in silence as being connected to The Beloved.  And it didn’t matter what faith tradition, or no tradition, you came from–when you were in silence, you were in connection with The Beloved.  To be in silence and to listen–sometimes we have to shut up in order to hear what we need to hear!  We have to learn to listen. 
  • That’s one end of the spectrum . . . [at the other end] there are local churches and organizations who want to connect and create community for our college students. . . . I see signs that say, “Are you hungry?”–and they’re talking about feeding you actual food, they want to cook for you!–but they’re talking about that other hunger, too.
  • Our students are so creative, and you may not have thought that your own skills and abilities [can be] part of your spiritual expression.  I sing with the Masterworks Chorus, and have done so since I came here, since 2003; and for me, being part of that great big sound, 100 voices or more, is part of my spiritual expression, winging to heaven a big I LOVE YOU that I can’t produce on my own, you know?  But you might be an artist, or a musician with an instrument, or an athlete . . . do what you do, but do it for a purpose. 
  • Ultimately, wellness is about building you up as an individual and making you stronger, but it’s making you stronger for a purpose: to connect you to a greater world that needs your strength and service.  That also is what your education is about . . . so if you are developing your spiritual side, let that connect to service as well.

SS:  One of the things you do as part of our Meditation Mondays is to give people an opportunity to participate in the labyrinth.  Will you tell us about that?

  • It’s one of my loves.  It is an ancient construction–not a maze, which is  a different creature altogether, intended to confuse and confound.  The labyrinth is a single path spiraling into a  center, and out again, and is intended to connect us to some kind of spiritual journey.  I use it in teaching a class to first-year students as a way of connecting them to some of the larger questions they’re beginning to deal with as they enter this new path, this new stage of their journey.
  • This past spring [in the Meditation Mondays] we did a silent labyrinth, a traditional quiet labyrinth.  We used little electric candles, in silence, to walk and commune with their own spirits.  But then I changed it up a little, to allow people to have different experiences of the labyrinth:  we used drums one Monday in conjunction with the labyrinth . . . I brought in  my collection of hand drums, and they walked to a drum heartbeat, and then were invited to participate in that heartbeat.
  • [Another Monday] I used handchimes borrowed from the Music department–we used the tones for “Simple Gifts” . . .do you know that song?  When I walk the labyrinth, that song is often the soundtrack in my head because of the refrain:  “When true simplicity is gained/To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed/To turn, turn will be our delight/Til by turning, turning we come round right.”  For a labyrinth with its turning paths, where there’s no getting lost, you always end up home, you always end up coming round right . . . it’s an important reassurance to a college student, because there are so many times that the path takes the unexpected turn, and we have to reassure them: “Hang in there.  One step in front of the other.  Hang in there.  It will turn round right.” We did that one just before finals, and it was just perfect.  As they walked this path, there were handchimes laid along the path, and as they encountered a handchime, they’d ring it.  It sounded random at first but eventually this beautiful music just rose up–it was just phenomenal.
  • Even if they don’t have anything but a beautiful moment that nourishes them for an hour, and the rest of their day is crap–you know, sometimes that’s just enough to get you through–I’m satisfied.  But if there’s a moment of truth that they can connect with in their spirit, that feeds them for longer–then I’ve done my job.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

  • Two things:  not to make the mistake of being afraid to ask questions about your spirituality or other people’s.  Doubt is not the absence of faith. Doubt is part of it.  Questioning is part of it.  And whatever is your experience of spirituality, it is big enough and strong enough to stand up to your questions.  It will not crumble, it will not fall; the world will not end if you ask the questions.  So ask the questions.
  • Don’t neglect [your spirit]. Don’t ignore [your spirit].  Because then we are all impoverished.

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Filed under Life in the Balance, Music, Spirituality, Writing

In Which Cruel Jamie States, “OK, Now I’m Going to Get Picky.” Also, A Moment with Eeyore.

Which put me in an alternate-universe kind of moment, because what has she been doing since January, when we started training with her?! I ask.

But the 2-month countdown had begun on my preparation for the HKC instructor certification workshop, and  I had asked her to focus on those preparations. So, as my momma would say, be keerful what you ask for.

The three big basic movements that the HKC course focuses on are the kettlebell swing, the Turkish get-up, and the goblet squat.  HKC instructors have to be able not only to teach and troubleshoot these fundamentals of the RKC “school of strength and movement”, but to be able to execute them flawlessly themselves.  In addition, there is a strength test, which for women is a military standard: a 15-second flexed arm hang.

Guess what I did after work last night?

5 rounds of 30-second flexed arm hangs. My lats–which two years ago I didn’t even know existed–were screaming, and I didn’t make it through the full 30 seconds each round, but I did hit the 15-second mark each time, sometimes 20 seconds.  We overtrain, so that when the time comes, the actual standard to meet seems like a breeze (which it won’t, with nerves and sheer terror working their magic).

Swings, swings, and more swings.*  Swings standing on the ends of a rolled-up towel because my feet overpronate, a lifetime habit compensating for weak arches, and I lose the essential ‘rooting’ into the ground the RKC requires. Swings with my knees banded with a yoga strap because they tend to follow my feet outward. More swings to check the geometrics, the line of head, neck, back, arms, bell.  Do another set, locking the bell in line with the arm, controlling its pendulum upward. She ordered me to swing in front of a mirror so that I can watch and correct, watch and correct.

(Jabba D. Butt, who still lives inside my head, just screamed.)

Goblet squats–there, I’m gold! For whatever reason, I apparently am a natural at squatting. Which I won’t be putting on my resume anytime soon.

Turkish get-ups. What a complex series of movements, and surprisingly, one of my favorites–though I avoided it like the plague when I was first starting, because of its complexity. Based on the military realities of having to move from standing to prone, or from prone to standing, with a load–gun at ready, heavy pack, wounded comrade–it is a phenomenal full-body exercise that takes a couple of months initially to learn, but a lifetime to perfect. I’ve got a ways to go.

She took me through The Furnace workout, which alternates sets of heavy swings (on the 26k bell, or 53lb) with portions of the TGU–prone to elbow to upright sit, for example, repeated over and over–all holding the kettlebell locked out overhead. Then more heavy swings. Standing to reverse lunge. More heavy swings. Kneeling to column position and back. More heavy swings.  You get the picture.

She also gave me practice in coaching her through these moves.  I had to teach her the progression to the swing–box squat**, dead lift, plank, swing–and troubleshoot the common problems people have learning each move. I talked her through the Turkish get-up. I got to torment her with an endless plank, which was fun.

I really love my trainer, who pronounced me ready to tear it up in Pittsburgh. Ya heard?

 

*Thanks to Pat Flynn at Chronicles of Strength DOT com for the great reference videos!

**I shared with Jamie my Box Squat Moment of Revelation, which happened about four months into my work with kettlebells. In typical Earnest Tracy fashion, I had developed the habit of practicing my box squats around the house, any time I needed to bend over and pick something up or or get into a low cabinet.  Cooking pan? Box squat!  Run the microwave? Box squat!  I’d even announce it, and my family learned just to ignore me (a good strategy, I must admit).

One evening, I was setting up my coffee for the next morning, and executed a perfect box squat to get my coffee stuff out of a lower cabinet.  And I felt my glutes flex.  Hard.  I had an Eeyore moment, when I spun around a little, trying to figure out what was happening back there. And I confess:  I felt myself up a little, just to verify what seemed to be the case, that I had actual muscles, strong muscles! The gluteus maximus was not just a theory!

You have to understand where I’d been–swallowed whole by my couch for years–to know what a perception-altering moment that was. I was reclaiming my body from the pit, and it was responding with strength.

Me and Eeyore. We’ve been buds for a while.

Whatever you’re doing today, go strong. And be keerful what you ask for! 🙂

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Why Kettlebells? Well, doc, it all started . . .

I read a terrific blog post from a strength trainer this weekend, gathering up responses from her female clients to the question: Why do you train for strength?  This is a must-read, so take some time and read it here.

I don’t know about you, but I laughed and cried and yee-hawed my way through that posting.  One client’s response in particular made me sit up and take notice:

  • “Then I started remembering…growing up the youngest of 4 I frequently felt left out and inadequate.  One of my older brothers would (almost daily) decide to make me his unwilling wrestling partner.  He would pin me down while I screamed for my mother (or anyone) to help me.  Yet, no one came.  My childhood is full of similar memories of being overpowered, and feeling frightened, weak and helpless….Now as a grown woman and mother of 3 I have taken control of my life and these feelings and focus on being positive.  Does doing pushups make me feel strong? Sure.  Chin ups? You bet.  110 lb squats on my 120 lb frame? Oh yeah!!”

This really resonated with me.  I was the baby of seven children.  Standing in line–last, left out, inadequate, too little, not old/big/smart/fast enough–was my daily bread.  I learned early on that there was nothing I would attempt that had not been done before, better, stronger, faster, or with greater success by my older brothers or sisters.

And yes, the older-brother torture?  Tickling, for me–bouts that would start out as fun and light-hearted–what little kid doesn’t love the attention of the older brother?–but that would leave me crying and heaving for breath, occasionally losing control of my little-kid bladder, humiliated and utterly powerless.  Great game for them–unrelenting fear for me.

Long ago, I had pinpointed my birth order and these early feelings of littlest-and-least as the root of my sense of being called to, my feelings of satisfaction in my work:  helping students (who also often feel littlest-and-least in these big systems) navigate their way through university, connecting them to the tools, information, and people that will ease their way and move them toward their goal.  College was the one area where I had persisted and achieved above and beyond my siblings; I took that success and parlayed it into a deeply satisfying career.

Essentially, I never left college–perhaps because it was the first and only place I had found success on my own terms.

But this weekend, I suddenly had a new think to think!  Could that same root of fear, of powerlessness, be why the kettlebell has so taken hold of my heart?

When the doctor I worked with for a year gave me the go-ahead to add exercise–having controlled the scary stuff, and reorganized my eating into a pattern I could (literally) live with–he strongly urged that I experiment with new things, find something that “gets you excited to do it every day”.   In a lifetime of failed attempts to lose weight and get in shape, I had tried just about all of it, too:  aerobics, machines, gym membership, women-only gym membership.   But it was kettlebells that captured me–and in a sense, helped me save my own life.

The sheer muscular joy in strength of the women I saw on screen–that could be mine.  The utter competence required by the focus on proper technique to  manage greater and greater weights safely–I could do that.

I could be competent.  I could be strong.  And I could teach others.  Funny how it all fits into place.

Not just exercise:  blessing, both ways.

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Plan X . . . My Nefarious Plot Continues

You look at my profile picture, and I’m so innocent-looking.  Long girlish locks, pulled back like Alice in Wonderland, or pulled up in a desperation bun or ponytail (I call it “default hair”, when your crazyplate is too full to give you time for haircuts).  Demure, thick-lensed English major glasses, with trifocals, no less. No make-up to speak of.  Just my plainface hanging out there, no pretense, no  muss, no fuss.

Oh, but if you only knew the plans I’m planning.  [insert evil doctor laugh]

It hit me on the beach at Assateague, this plan.  Plan X.  I was searching the corners of my mind for a way to justify the expense and trouble of preparation for the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification (HKC) instructor’s workshop, which I’ve recently written about, and was longing to do.

I didn’t really think that I could or would start a kettlebell studio or anything, teach it full-time, or become one of the KB experts that I adore and follow on the web, who have helped me so much.  I’m just not there, won’t ever be there.

But in my spiritual life, in one of my own areas of ministry, we learn and teach each other that we can change our world one small circle at a time–first, change myself (check).  Then, my family.  Then, my neighborhood–my workplace–my town–on and on the ripples can spread, but the change always must begin in small ways.

I didn’t need to dream BIG–not yet.  I needed to look carefully, and close by, for the opportunities God had already planted in my path.

To wit:  a university where I spent my days.  A university with a Wellness Center.  Which hosts Wellness Wednesdays FREE to faculty and staff!!  Which, if they saw me often enough, and earnest enough, and changed enough, might also get interested in this crazy kettlebell thing that had kicked my sorry Jabba D. Butt into shape.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this summer.  And you should SEE the looks I get.

Big muscle-bound guys in what I’ve come to think of as “the men’s room”–the weights area.  I have yet to see women there doing much more than playing around with the cute pink-rubber-coated paperweights that pass for “weights for women.” They do NOT know what to think about me and Boris, who seriously looks like he’s been through a metal shredder. They DO, though, get out of my way.

Is she lost?  Is she nuts? (This is a possibility.)  One fellow, one of the staff, stopped to watch me practice some double kettlebell work:  a repeated sequence of 5-each swings, high pulls, cleans, presses, and squat-thrusters.  At some point he must have thought I’d given him the evil eye, because he cleared his throat and said, “You know, those things would be a lot easier if you’d just put them down.”

Haw. I smiled sweetly, squatted deeply, and said, “Yes, but they wouldn’t do me nearly as much good.”  And then I thrust. [thrusted?]

I have been known to clear a room:  when I start swinging, suddenly the people who are on the floor planking or Bosu ball-crunching or whatever it is?  They finish up in a hurry.  Why is that? [innocent blinky-eyes]

But others stay.  And ask questions, which I love!  Or just pop the eyebrows, which I love even more . . .

I plan my practice time very deliberately for high visibility:  alternating practice sessions in the weights area with grip strengthening circuits of the indoor track, with Boris (or Ivan/Stefan, my double-kb twins)  in farmers, racked, or overhead carry.  The indoor track has the advantage of taking me right through the cardio area.  I believe Pavel had something to say about traditional cardio.

Yeah.  Not for me, not any more.

So I plan my work, and I work my plan, and we’ll see where this goes.  Come September, if all goes well, I already have a session on the books with the Center’s director of group exercise!!

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Filed under Kettlebells, strength training

Insight from the Path

My family is blessed to live in a wonderful riverside neighborhood, and often walk its roads–a good 5k or more loop, with or without kettlebells!

Even more than the exercise, the time being in good company, or quiet together in nature, often brings with it a sudden glimmer–a glimpse of something that catches my attention in a deeper way, that nudges me later, keeps me awake at night to say, “Look at me again, turn me over, see what curves and depths are here, what gems are hidden in these hollows.”

A flock of crows.  Blackberry canes. Summer on the Blue Ridge.  Almost Heaven indeed, in West By God Virginia.

Messenger

Three crows, flying low across my path.  Once, walking south in twilight
along the river’s edge; twice, driving north in morning sun.  Same river.
Same road.  Same crows.  Same sun gleaming blackwing.

What augur do they bring?  The mountains tell us:  illness in the house?
Rain, or the unexpected guest?   That guest most unwanted, except when–
at the end of all pain—death appears as heaven’s most welcomed kindness?

Or perhaps, just this:  the bright lift of wings into air, canes arching over
the path,

berry’s darkling tumble into my palm,  summer burst ecstatic on my tongue?
If I may choose between messengers, my heart says yes:  let this sweetness in
at the door.

tls-2012

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Filed under Life in the Balance, Spirituality, Writing

The Countdown Begins!

As you saw in a previous post, I’ve done some guest blogging with one of my Twitter friends and kettlebell/fitness fiend Adrienne “Girya Girl” Harvey.  In a more recent post on her blog, I wrote about my experience as a volunteer “victim” for the May 2012 Russian Kettlebell Certification training workshop held in Vienna, Virginia.

An amazing experience, both for myself, and for the rite of passage I was privileged to witness in those being certified that day.

One of the questions that came out of the experience, posed by my coach (Salim, one of the new RKCs-in-the-making) was, “When are you going up for certification?”  And I had no answer for him.

I hadn’t thought, until that moment, beyond what the work I had done would accomplish for me.  Losing the “Jabba Butt”.  Getting healthy.  Gaining strength.  Putting energy back into my life, my smile, my walk, my everything!

But what if?  What could a certification–if I could manage it–do for others?

Are there other women, like me, approaching mid-life and stuck, or lost, behind the sad walls their own bodies and bad habits have built up over the years?  Other folks for whom the simple (yet phenomenally challenging) ballistics of an iron ball with a handle might work its strong magic?

September 15.  Pittsburgh.  HKC.  Let’s find out.

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Filed under Kettlebells, strength training