Yesterday I did a short set of intervals with a light kettlebell and walking on the treadmill. I also did some other things, like skipping, skater squats, wall pushups, bicycle crunches and reverse crunches, but it's the kettlebells I want to talk about, because Spark featured an article about 'bells with links that about gave me a tummy ache.
I love Spark, but I worry about slides and a short paragraph describing complicated moves. Kettlebells are NOT dumbells. They are intentionally unbalanced weights. Much of the calorie burning awesomeness is due to the fact that the moves are done at explosive speeds, with these unbalanced weights swung from behind to in front to above to in front to back behind you. The weight, due to gravitational forces, becomes in turns significantly heavier, lighter, and heavier - and it also shifts in your hand, causing further weight stresses!
I tutor anatomy and physiology so let me be a smarty pants for a moment. Here's a little picture of the spinal column.
Below the cervical vertebrae, the thoracic vertebrae (in the torso) are the only ones that are designed to allow both forward/backwards and side to side twisting motions. The lumbar vertebrae (larger, below them) are only supposed to move forwards and backwards, but may be accidentally twisted during sudden or ballistic weight lifting movements. This causes lower back injury, sometimes with disc herniation that requires surgical repair. So be careful, ok? At least seek out a video by a truly qualified instructor and go very slowly. Better still, seek in person instruction and go slowly. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but I would not go to a fitness instructor, whether they were "certified" or not. I would seek out an IKFF or IKSFA instructor as my first choice. If neither of them were available, then a WKC or AKC instructor. These men and women live, eat, drink, sleep and tour girevoy sport. They have seen it all. (At the very bottom there is a link to an introductory video by Valery Fedorenko. No, I am not being paid.)
If you feel really compelled to try it alone, at least start with a two handed swing and a light bell. Master that, then move on.
That said, if you are properly trained and do not have overstress any weak links in your own body, you can make significant fitness strides very quickly with kettlebells. I personally, because of worn vertebral discs, weak wrists, poor knee cartilage and not the best lungs in the world, only use them for a few minutes at a time, despite proper training from a bonafide expert. I do not intend to injure myself. But I do like the intense calorie burn. So I use them for 4-8 minutes at a time maximum, then move to the treadmill, then return to the bells. I never work to exhaustion because that's how injuries happen.
I'm going to touch on a couple of details that I don't think were adequately addressed, but with my own personal notes. I keep my back straight to prevent compressing nerves. Although many gireviks look straight ahead, I personally cannot do that because of cervical disc damage so also align my neck with the rest of my spine. In other words, I may be looking at the floor or straight ahead at any given second. That might make others dizzy, which would be a very bad thing while swinging heavy weights around, but having lived with the nerve damage for some time now, I am used to it.
Competitive gireviks do not squat low. You can't adequately pass the bell between your legs if you go too low, and there's no point in excessive knee strain. The goal is to squat just low enough and uncoil your knees and tighten your glutes simultaneously, which help to provide significant momentum for the bell swing. If you let your arms do all the work, you'll be seeing an orthopedic or hand surgeon in your near future. Let your lower body carry much of it.
If you do it right, you don't have to be a spring chicken. Here's a link to my husband competing at Arnold in 2010. I originally posted another one that was more current, but felt bad for a very nice fellow we know who put down his bells next to my husband and gave up. But I don't know the guy who gave up next to him in this video, so I don't feel bad at all! Heh, heh.
My husband is 67, almost 68 now. He recently retired from competition due to injury, but he was #1 in the US for years. He still uses bells, but lighter ones. I was sorry he hurt himself, but he recovered beautifully. (Unlike me) he still looks mighty fine and his cardiorespiratory health is tremendous. We're exploring what we can do together. Hiking? Running? Him biking beside me while I run?
Ok, enough about yesterday, kettlebells and my hubby.
Last night was another bad allergy night, but today, by the time I was free I had cleared up and felt pretty good.
Unfortunately, I had to stand in line for a long time waiting for immunizations for school and then when it was my turn, I had been daydreaming. I told the pharmacist I wanted my second Hep A and B and Meningitis. Du'oh! I meant MEASLES! Those dang M words! Meningitis was on my list, too, but I needed Measles first. Dang it. Now I need to see who I can convince to give me another shot even though I just had all those done, if I can convince anyone.
I decided to go to the gym right after my shots. Yeah, yeah, I know you're supposed to wait and make sure you don't have a reaction, but I was breathing pretty well and I had to get home soon so I wanted to get on with it!
Unfortunately, I was wearing the New Balances I bought a few weeks ago and they aren't very comfortable. (However, I LOVE my Nike Frees. They are extremely light and the tongue is hardly noticeable.) And although it was 70 outside, I knew it would be at least 5 or 6 degrees warmer in the cardio room, which is upstairs. But I was breathing, and that's important! And besides, according to Hansons Marathon Method (when you see my time below, it will be a joke that I am reading this!) you can build up heat tolerance if you keep working in it. I sure hope so because I am hot ALL the time.
I ended up doing 2.9 miles in 40 minutes, which includes my 4 minute warm up, several 1 minute walk breaks and a longer walk break in the middle. Then I slowed down for my cool down until I hit 3.1 miles. Actual run/walk time (rather than warm up/cool down time) was about 13 min/mile.
I'm in the 5k your way program and have decided if I still need this longer walk break in the middle, I'll just repeat week 3. (I just finished week 2.) I think I can probably give up some of the 1 minute walk breaks, but I'm not sure that it won't lengthen my recovery in the middle. In any case, my legs are ready to run straight through, but my lungs are not. And they're just a wee little bit important.
Below is a link to an introductory video about how to use kettlebells from Valery Fedorenko, a true girevik from Russia. (My husband trained with him in St. Petersburg. He is the real deal.) This video goes into incredible detail and if you watch it carefully and apply its advice, it may save you some pain.
I also re-copied the link to Arnold because it didn't seem to be working for me earlier in the paragraph above unless I cut and pasted it right onto Google. So here it is again: