Did I mention that I was never the athletic type? Somewhere in the shoe boxes full of photos of my childhood, there is one of me as an infant, a cloth diaper and a smile my only clothes. I hope that photo stays lost, because the last time I saw it, my eyes slammed shut to protect themselves: I was a BIG baby. I grew up chubby and stayed chubby, even when I used that word as a euphemism for what I really was in my head, and, increasingly, on the outside as well: obese.
But I did have some moments:
I remember a footrace that all the kids in my second or third grade were taking part in, setting off across a broad Texas field behind our school. I had that feeling you get in dreams sometimes–I love this feeling!–when your feet have wings, and you can just run forever and never get winded. I should clarify: I had this feeling for the first half of the race when I was running ahead of everyone! But then I got to the turn, saw everyone coming up behind me, and lost some of my steam. I didn’t win the race, but I sure never forgot that feeling of running so freely in first place!
That sweetness had to spread over a lot of years.
I also have a lovely memory of hauling hay one summer with my dad, a small farmer in Arkansas where I was a teenager. Usually my older brothers were his workers, but they had both headed out to start their own lives, and there was just me left behind. Despite his disappointment in having “just a girl” to help him, he loaded us up and headed out to the field. Imagine the surprise both of us felt when I managed to keep up with him, bale for bale, throughout that long hot day and night. I wrote this memory into a poem that has been well received and published in a couple of places. If you’re into poetry, please read and see if you can feel the pride I felt at being strong that day.
One last: I spent a senior semester abroad at the University of Salford, England, and I walked. And walked and walked and walked. That was one of my healthiest semesters in college, and I loved the fact that I didn’t need to worry about bus schedules, cab fares, train tickets or waiting on someone else–shoes on and out the door I went, and England was my map! Very fond memories of walking the Lake District, walking the ancient wall of the city of York, walking past Morris dancers and children, walking into my favorite tea and book and chip shops, walking to class, walking home–walking just to breathe in, drink in this whole new life.
So I’ve been reconnecting to these long-buried memories of health and exercise and strength in recent months, and I’ve come to realize that I am highly motivated by challenges. The challenge of beating all the other kids. Being as strong as my brothers, and sufficient to a very big task. Being independent and curious and sufficient on my own in a new country. It just seems to make something go “click” in my head, and my body seems to follow.
So I’ve begun to take on some training challenges in my kettlebell work as well. In November, for example, I had two challenges going on simultaneously:
- Josh Hillis’s 21-Day Kettlebell Swing Challenge–21 consecutive days of nothing but kettlebell swings in various combinations and progressions. Oh, there’s some bodyweight work as warm-up/cool-down–lunges, push-ups, planks. But mainly I swung. A lot. I needed a chance to focus on some corrections in my swing, and this challenge was perfect to let me do that.
- Kettlebell Inc.’s 3000-Burpee Challenge–100 burpees a day for the 30 days of November, 3000 in all. This took some planning and dedication, lemme tell you. I ended up loving burpees. Who knew?
So, all done, now it’s going on mid-December. What am I doing?
- The 4th Annual Idaho Kettlebells Turkish Get-up/Swing Challenge. 7000 swings over the course of the month, and a daily Turkish Get-Up ladder based on the day of the month: 1 TGU on December 1 . . . 7 TGUs on December 7 . . . . all the way up to 31 on December 31.
Yes, I know. I’m nuts. I’m not sure I’m going to survive this one, but we’ll see. It’s fun, it’s healthy competition with others, and again, it allows me to focus on one or two really foundational movements. As a relative newcomer to health, strength, and kettlebells, I need and appreciate that intense focus.
It also saves me from succumbing to the temptation–all the rage in some corners–to engage daily in “acts of random variety”, as one strength coach has famously warned. Focus on core moves that engage large groups of muscles–get the technique right to stay safe–get stronger.
Sounds like a pretty good prescription for getting and staying healthy, now that I think about it.
Go strong, friends.