Redeeming the Years: My Shot at the HKC

All the work, all the worry, all the hope and fear.  It’s done, friends.

I did it.

At the end of Saturday’s amazing workshop, I confess that I had a moment when the tears flowed. I was thinking back to the person I was not quite two years before:  not even 45 years old and already facing the prospect of serious physical problems related to obesity–already living the disastrous impact it was having on my family and relationships–considering the call for 911 assistance while on retreat–facing the prospect of “this is as good as it’s gonna get.”

Considering the possibility that there was no way out of the prison my body had become.

Among my tears, then, were residual guilt and grief, “for the years eaten by locusts” (Joel 2:25).  But mostly they were tears of happiness, gratitude, relief–so many emotions!–for the fulfillment of the promise contained in that verse.

The years eaten by locusts have been redeemed.

In all their sadness and ugliness, they brought me to this place, a sweaty padded-floor gym where I was surrounded by kettlebells and new friends, sitting on a Reebok stepper.  I’ve never been a gym rat, never been an athlete or even vaguely athletically-inclined–yet this place felt very comfortable to me.

In this tucked-away storefront gym in a corner of the Pittsburgh metro area, I had been lifted up by Master RKC Brett Jones (himself!) to the pull-up bar to face my first test–my first fear:  not just to perform the 15-second flexed-arm hang, but to do so with others watching.

You have to know, every alarm bell was ringing like mad in this cautious, failure-avoiding, risk-averse soul of mine.  I could fail.  Others would see.  They’d know me as a washed-up middle-aging desk-jockey wanna-be, and my long humiliation would be complete.

But I didn’t fail.

I let myself down from the bar after the required 15 seconds and turned to find the whole room smiling, giving me high-fives and “good job”s and shoulder pounds.  Only at that point did I start to breathe again–realizing that I had been holding my breath for a couple of weeks. And so in relief and gratitude, the day began.

I was initially disappointed that the HKC workshop did not seem as strenuous as I thought it would be (I even brought some changes of clothes, anticipating sweating through everything in the morning!).  In retrospect, though, I understand that the HKC is all about form, all about technique:  my own, in the performance of the three core moves in Pavel’s Russian Kettlebell Challenge methodology; and that of my future clients.  So instead of nonstop swinging and lifting and squatting–which I was prepared to do–instead, we’d break down each portion of a move, learn a variety of progression drills, then apply it to the skill:

  • Glutes-to-Wall Drill–then practice the hip hinge (initial movement of the kettlebell swing)
  • Shoulder-packing Drill–then practice the Turkish Get-up
  • Leg Flexion Drill–then practice the goblet squat

These are just a few of the progression drills we learned  in great detail, then practiced.  With each additional drill, we took turns coaching each other, learning how to spot, identify, and correct problems in each other’s technique.  Thus we became responsible for each other’s improvement–a mental and ethical grounding essential for the coach-client relationship.  Fascinating, too, was the way each new drill not only supported the specific move we were learning, but fed back into the moves learned earlier.  In this manner, we experienced the “layering of instruction” that is also central to Pavel’s method.

(I will say this, though:  the cumulative effect of “just 10 swings–or squats–or get-ups” over the course of EIGHT SOLID HOURS made itself known to me the next morning.  And last night.  And this morning.  Mama’s hurtin’, baby.)

The day ended with individual testing of the three core moves:  we lined up and, one by one, stepped forward in front of our instructors and fellow candidates, and performed a final set each of the kettlebell swing, Turkish get-up, and goblet squat.  Nervewracking!  Again, the alarm bells for me were going off:  I could fail, and everyone will see.

But I didn’t fail.  I passed.

And so, in gratitude and relief–and some quiet tears in my Reebok stepper corner–my day ended, a new journey began.  I don’t know where this particular road will lead me . . . but it’s been a hard, beautiful journey so far.  I’m grateful for every step and every friend along the way.

Go strong today, friends. Better:  go hardstyleIt’s the only way to go!

     (My awesome HKC partner Janelle and our even    MORE awesome Master RKC, Brett Jones! And of course, my beautiful and scary-strong RKC trainer, Cruel Jamie–who earned her HKC and RKC with Brett Jones as well!)



Filed under Kettlebells, strength training

18 responses to “Redeeming the Years: My Shot at the HKC

  1. 828618

    Way to go Tracy! You should be very proud of yourself!

  2. you are an amazing, beautiful, strong, resilient person. wow! and, congratulations for slaying those demons and burying them deep, deep under the rubble of old storylines.

    that rubble provides a strong foundation upon which to stand.

    happy hkc to you!

  3. I’m so proud of you sweetie…you’re a goddess! a beast! a HEAVY METAL QUEEN! remember what the BIG BOOK said about you? when you learn something…? and how brave to post that picture of “the turning point”..I remember that walk along the beach with you…you amaze and inspire me!

  4. That is so great, Tracy! I’d love to see more photos of the actual kettle ball and techniques. You look great! I’m inspired! Now… how do I find a kettleball place in Indiana?? Hugs! Martha

  5. Oh my… I meant kettleBELLs… my apologies to you and your whole culture of kettlebells!

    • Kettle BALL??! How DARE you?! 🙂 \

      People do get exercised about that common slip (pun intended), but we have only ourselves to blame– It’s neither a tea kettle nor a musical bell! It’s a dang cannonball with a handle, so “kettleball” makes as much sense as anything. No biggie.

  6. Congratulations, Tracy! I was sore for 2 days after my HKC. You definitely earned your HKC! WTG!!!

  7. kettlebellqueen

    You are fab! I hope the hamstrings have stopped hurting, mine hurt for several days!
    I remember that fear of failure and not sleeping for the week before. I was the only woman during my HKC and nobody spoke to me for the first hour or so – but, like you, I proved myself and everyone was really friendly by the end the day. The experience brings you together, along with that great feeling when you pass. I smiled all the way home.

    Now for RKC? Much tougher but all the more rewarding, you can do it, you’ve got the right mental attitude! Happy training!

  8. My HKC partner Janelle (above in the picture) is going for her RKC in April, so I’m officially a cheerleader for her! I don’t see myself going that far with it, but I didn’t foresee wanting the HKC, either, and here I am . . . 🙂

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