Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008/10/30 - Moderate day (Strength oriented)

During my current 4x7 the moderate day is specifically aimed at correcting some weaknesses I discovered during the IKFF cert. I found that my overall strength has decreased during the period I was only training with lighter weights and timed sets. Steve encouraged me to start working heavier again, even in my timed sets. I also noticed that my squat form deteriorated dramatically. Although this is partially due to an injury I incurred earlier this year I realized that anything that is not trained will deteriorate - unless maybe if you are a highly skilled athlete. Today's session included some exercises to address my weak spots. I did:

Intuflow to warm up

Press (24kg): 2 minutes: 8/8
Press (24kg): 2 minutes: 8/8
Press (32kg) 3/3

After the presses I did some body weight squats, overhead body weight squats, hip mobility movements and walking lunges to prepare my body for the squats. I then did:

Front squats (24kg + 16kg): 3 sets of 5

Windmills (16kg): 5/5

I ended the session with some Prasara and Qi Gong

I thoroughly enjoyed this session and I feel energized and fresh after the work. I have forgotten how refreshing a slightly heavier but short session can be. It is obvious that this works a different energy system (anaerobic) rather than the more aerobic leanings of long sets.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2007/10/28 - Starting my post-IKFF 4x7

One thing that became very clear during the IKFF cert is that I have lost some strength during the past few months of just training GS/AKC style with a light weight. I also noticed that I lost some of my previous movement abilities, specifically related to squatting and lunging type movements. My new 4x7, starting today and ending on November 24 is designed to rectify (or at least begin to rectify) this. The plan will work as follows:

* Day 1: Intuflow and some IKFF mobility drills
* Day 2: Prasara yoga and some of the IKFF stretches
* Day 3: Strength oriented lifts like bottom up presses, get-ups and squats
* Day 4: GS style training / AKC sets

I started the programme today with Intuflow, some IKFF mobility drills and hip openers that will help with my squatting form. I also did a few overhead squats with a towel. The session was finished off with a few rounds of the Qi Gong set Steve taught this past weekend.

Monday, October 27, 2008

2008/10/27 - The day after

So today it was back to the real world (or perhaps it is the illusion) after a weekend of exploring the depths of human physical, mental and spiritual potential. I felt pretty tired most of today and also ate like a horse. I am quite surprised though that I'm not experiencing as much DOMS as I thought I would. I mainly feel super tight in the hamstrings and biceps. I'm actually glad about the sore hammies because it means that I used the right muscles for the job during the cert. The fact that my shoulders are not sore implies that I performed the lifts properly rather than trying to use too much strength. Naturally I'm not doing any training today - unless eating can be considered to be a type of physical training. I learned so much this weekend and am still trying to put together the pieces into a coherent framework. I am also pretty excited to start my new 4x7 very soon - maybe even tomorrow. I am not sure yet what it will entail but I'm kind of torn between a body weight protocol and a totally new kettlebell program based on what I got from Steve and John this weekend. Since I haven't yet received Scott's body weight DVD's I might go with an IKFF type 4x7 for now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

2008/10/26 - Pics and a vid from the IKFF cert

2008/10/26 - Certified

Wow, what a weekend! After two days of intense kettlebell work with Steve Cotter and John Buckley I'm very happy to report that I am now an IKFF certified kettlebell teacher. The weekend was a total blast that taught me things on so many levels that it is hard to put into words. Naturally I'll try anyway.

We started day 2 with an interesting proprioceptive drill designed to gently warm up the body and nervous system. This was followed by some more skipping and lunging drills and a thorough joint mobility session.

Next on the agenda was the dreaded snatch. We first went through a detailed instructional session designed to point out the finer details of this classic kettlebell lift. This was followed by four one minute sets that focused on learning how to rest in the lockout. Each set decreased the amount of reps until the last set which was only 6 reps a minute. Once we all knew how to relax and rest during the lockout phase we concluded the snatch training with a 6 minute set. I was amazed at how easy this last set was. There is just something about the way Steve teaches GS that fully drills efficiency of motion and mental relaxation deeply into ones neurology.

After a brief rest we continued with work on double swings, double cleans and double front squats. This was of course followed by the dreaded one arm overhead squat. Steve took us through some really cool drills designed to prepare the body for the rigors of the one arm overhead squat. We trained this lift via three sets using a descending weight ladder. Set one was a two minute set (for me with the 24kg), then a 4 minute set with the 16kg and finally a 6 minute set with the 12kg. These things really are brutal and I suffered quite a bit due to my hip / lower back injury. During our lunch break I discussed my problem with Steve and he showed me a really cool stretch to help in the rehab of the injury. I'm really happy to say that my overhead squats were significantly improved at the end of the day due to the drill Steve showed me.

After lunch we worked on core / ab work which consisted of Turkish get ups, get up sit ups, and low and high windmills. I really have to incorporate these into my training again.

This ab session was followed by John teaching the finer points of the bottoms up clean and bottoms up press. I was amazed that I could do a couple of perfect bottoms up presses with the 24kg after this very clear instruction by the big guy. My previous best was with the 16kg.

The last challenge of the day was a period of non-stop lifts that covered everything we did during the 2 days of the course. At this point it took some real focus and mental commitment to keep moving. I am however happy to report that every single participant gave it their all and received their certifications at the end of the day. What a truly great bunch of people.

Steve ended the day with a very genuine discussion of the philosophy of the IKFF. I must say that I really love the way he thinks about training and marketing. His approach is honest and compassionate and I can really relate to it. He shows none of the ego or extreme marketing tactics that have become common place in the fitness industry.

In conclusion I want to send out a huge THANK YOU to Dawn for organizing this event and also for being just a really great human being. Also, naturally thank you to Steve and big John for traveling half way across the world to impart their wisdom, wit, compassion and humanity. You guys really rock and I will miss hanging out with you - until we meet again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

2008/10/25 - VERY high intensity day

The morning of the IKFF kettlebell certification finally arrived. After coffee and a light breakfast I made my way to Fourways high school here in Johannesburg. When I arrived only two or three people were there but there was already a strong air of expectation. The rest of the group gradually arrived and eventually Dawn arrived with Steve and big John Buckley (or wildman for short).

Before giving you a bit of a rundown of the day just some general impressions. Both Steve and John are really great guys. Steve is relaxed but intense and energetic and John is a really laid back gentle giant. They both created a very relaxed atmosphere very conducive to learning and also just for having some fun.

We started the day with a dynamic warm up session consisting of various skipping movements around the class, lots of walking lunges and a very thorough joint mobility session that was not dissimilar from things like Intuflow and Z health. Steve also took us through a couple of mobility moves that I haven't seen before and they have a kind of Chinese martial art flavour - good stuff!

When we were all thoroughly warm and loose we started with the basic kettlebell lifts. First was a very thorough breakdown and practice of the swing - both two handed and one handed variations. Some very specific pointers by Steve and John quickly showed me some of the stuff that have been causing me lower back pain with the swing. From here the whole swing thing can only get better. After a brief 4 minute swing set we moved into the clean.

The clean was thoroughly unpacked and made really simple via some very specific pointers. These guys really know how to teach and make things as simple as possible. After the clean intro it was time for the longest set of the day - a 20 minute set of cleans. I planned on switching hands every minute to conserve my grip but lo and behold I finished the set with only one switch at the 10 minute mark - as did all the other participants. What a sense of accomplishment. The way Steve teaches really helps one to understand energy conservation and suddenly a 20 minute set is not nearly as hectic as it seems.

After lunch we moved on to pressing. Standing presses, chair presses and push presses were covered first. Each of these was finally drilled fully into our neurology via six minute sets.

After a brief rest we got some extensive instruction in the finer aspect of the jerk. The lift was broken down into all of the component parts and each part was practiced via very cleverly designed drills. Once the whole movement was put together we did our last set of the day with a ten minute set of jerks. Weirdly enough the jerk set felt quite easy. I guess there is something about a whole day of practice that helps your body to really get into the idea of efficiency of motion.

After all the hard work of the day Steve took us through a relaxing Qi Gong set. It was just what the doctor ordered and we all felt relaxed, yet pretty damn tired after a day well spent.

The day was really an amazing experience and it will take a while to really unpack and integrate everything I learned.

Apart from the hard work there were also some really fun moments during our lunch break. Watching big John doing a bottom up press with the bulldog was very humbling. He very nearly repeated the feat with the beast. The most impressive moment was however seeing him jerking an 80kg guy and then doing a windmill with the guy resting on his hand. WOW!

Anyway, I'm just going to have a quick bath and then I'm off to day 2.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2008/10/23 - Low intensity day

Today was probably my last training session before the IKFF certification this weekend. I am glad the time has finally arrived for Steve and John to show me the errors of my ways and to correct all the small (and probably large) technical errors in my lifting. Thus far I have learnt everything I know about kettlebells either from Pavel's RKC DVD, ETK and web based clips of the likes of Steve Cotter, Valerie Fedorenko and Mike Stefano demonstrating Girevoy sport methods. It would be great to finally learn from a master. I'm hoping to post my experiences on Saturday and Sunday evening after the cert days. Anyway, today I just did some Intuflow and Prasara Yoga.

I worked four times slowly through the Cricket flow and then did a few additional postures like the Cobra, Plough and some forward bends to loosen up stiff back muscles. I am making some good progress with the Cricket flow and it is quite surprising to notice the extent to which Prasara not only brings greater mobility but also a significant increase in strength. I'm really looking forward to spending more time on my yoga and other body weight methods after this weekend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2008/10/21 - Working on form

On my high intensity day I decided to focus on slower sets with an emphasis on form. The jerk form was OK but the snatches still suck - specifically the corkscrew motion. I'm beginning to suspect that the problem is with the bell I'm using. It is a DD 16kg and the handle might be a bit awkward. Who knows. Anyway, here is the result:


One Arm Jerk: 8 minutes @ 8rpm: 32/32
Snatch: 7 minutes @ 12 rpm: 42/42 - Hand switches at 2 minutes, 4 minutes and 5,5 minutes.

Some Prasara to finish off.

Monday, October 20, 2008

2008/10/20 - Cruising

I took the past three days completely off from any kind of training. My body has been feeling tight and tired for the last week or so and I decided to give it as much of a rest as possible. I also decided to take it relatively easy this week given that the IKFF cert is coming up this weekend. I did a moderate session today which consisted of:

Intuflow beginner level

24kg bell / 2 minutes / 1 minute rest:

Press: 12/12
Snatch: 12/12
One Arm Jerk: 12/12

Swing (40kg): 10/10

Prasara to end the session.

I'm not sure why I'm feeling tired but my analytical mind can come up with a million or more reasons. OK, maybe not a million. It has been one hell of a year starting with my injury in March, my mom in law's death in April, hectic work as usual and the armed robbery in August. I feel like booking myself into an Ashram in India for 6 weeks to get away from it all. I'm just really grateful that I managed to maintain some kind of training schedule through all of this. Once Steve and Ken has been here I'm going to take things easy for a while and just focus on enjoying training rather than preparing for something specific.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

2008/10/16 - Feeling tired

I was feeling tired and worn out today so I took it quite easy. I just did two short sets.

Intuflow beginner level

One arm jerk: 4 minutes @ 12rpm: 24/24
Snatch: 4 minutes @ 14rpm: 28/28

Some Prasara to finish the session.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

2008/10/15 - 24kg moderate day

The past two days I just did Intuflow and Yoga. Today I did a moderate session with the 24kg bell. My session went like this:

Intuflow beginner level

24kg / 3 minutes work / 1 minute rest

Press: 18/18
Half Snatch: 15/15
One Arm Jerk: 15/15

I ended the session of with some Prasara flows.

My work with the 24kg bell is definitely getting easier, albeit gradually. I'm looking forward to a change in schedule once the IKFF certification is over. I'm still thinking of taking a month off from the bells and just doing a body weight 4x7 but I'll see how I feel after the seminar.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

2008/10/12 - Sunday @ level 13

For my high intensity day I decided to do the Cincinasty. Here is how it all went:

Intuflow beginner level

16kg / 5 minutes work / 2 minutes rest:

Jerk: 30/30
Snatch: 32/32
Long cycle: 15/15

Swing (24kg): 20/20

I finished off with some Prasara body flows.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A bit of WOW!

Check this out! I am so getting Forward Pressure.

2008/10/11 - Staying with the program

I'm still moving ahead slowly with my prep for the Cotter cert in two weeks from now. The past two days were spent on joint mobility and yoga. Today I did the scheduled moderate day training which consisted of:

Intuflow beginner level

16kg / 4 minutes / 1 minute rest

Press: 24/24
Half Snatch: 20/20
Clean: 24/24

Swing (32kg): 10/10

Some Prasara flows to cool off and release built up tension.

I enjoyed the session and it didn't feel taxing. I'm probably ready to up the time on my moderate days but I think I'll wait until after Steve's cert before I change anything radically.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008/10/08 - Finally!!!!

Yesterday I decided to take a day off from training. For some reason I had a bit of DOMS from my moderate day and a busy day at work didn't help much - yes, I'm finally listening to my body. Today I was back in business and did my high intensity training. My plan was, come hell or high water, to do a 10 minute jerk set and a 10 minute snatch set. Snatches have always been my biggest problem and so today I decided to go for 10 minutes switching hands on the minute just to get a 10 minute set in. Maybe going through the psychological barrier would finally open up the whole realm of snatch success for me. Anyway, here is the result:

Intuflow beginner level

One Arm Jerk (16kg): 10 minutes @ 8rpm with one switch: 40/40
Snatch (16kg): 10 minutes @ 13rpm with hand switches on the minute: 65/65

I just did some light stretching afterwards to loosen up tight spots. All I can say is: WOW! My whole body was shaking after the session. After a few minutes of relaxing I reached some kind of weird physical / psychological high that I haven't experienced for years. I felt like I could take on the world and almost decided to start another training session. You've got to love endorphins. Now that the 10 minute snatch barrier has been reached it is a matter of upping the pace as well as minimizing the hand switches. Who knows, maybe next year I'll be a man among men when I do 200 snatches with the 24kg in 10 minutes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

2008/10/06 - Three days of training

The past two days were my no intensity and low intensity days respectively. As usual my training was based on Intuflow and Prasara. Today on my moderate day I did:

Intuflow beginner level

16kg / 4 minutes work / 1 minute rest

Press: 24/24
Half Snatch: 20/20
Clean: 24/24

Swing (24kg): 20/20

I finished off with some Prasara flows.

Friday, October 3, 2008

2008/10/03 - Slightly faster, slightly shorter

For my high intensity day I decided to yet again up the pace but keep the time a bit shorter. I did:

Intuflow intermediate level

One Arm Jerk (16kg): 6 minutes @ 12rpm: 36/36
Snatch (16kg): 6 minutes @ 15rpm: 45/45

Swing (32kg): 15/15

Some Prasara movement flows to finish.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

2008/10/02 - Moderate day with the 16kg

I just finished a nice and easy session with the 16kg bell. I did:

Intuflow intermediate

16kg bell / 4 minutes work / 1 minute rest

Press: 24/24
Half Snatch: 20/20
Clean: 20/20

Swing (32kg): 15/15

Some Prasara movements to end off the session.

The session felt pretty easy and I didn't feel like I was working hard. I guess the work with the 24kg bell over the last few weeks has made a difference. I am also gradually in the process of changing my attitude to training. I am starting to believe that slightly less actually ends up being more. My natural tendency is to go as hard as possible in every session - whether it is Intuflow, Yoga or kettlebells. The more I explore the way my body works and learn from people like Scott Sonnon the more aware I'm becoming of the fact that discomfort is good but only up to a point. Pushing yourself to the point of discomfort seems to be good (or else there will be no progress) but trying to push too far into discomfort seems counter-productive. I would rather still be training daily when I'm eighty than having to give up due to burnout at the age of 40. I am slowly learning to let go of impatience and developing a viewpoint that includes going the distance rather than sprinting for 400 metres but not being able to finish the marathon. If I listen to this inner voice that is developing I might still be blogging 40 years from now - if not, well, there is always the Google archives.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

2008/10/01 - Two days of light training

Yesterday I just worked through the Intuflow intermediate sequence. Today I did Intuflow again and also a few rounds of the Cricket and SeeSaw flows. For the last while I have been pushing myself in the yoga postures to get deeper and really feel a stretch. Today I stayed just outside the discomfort range and I actually feel better and looser than normal. I keep forgetting that Scott's methods are not about force - as he likes to say: "Move to the tension, not through the tension." I hope I remember to keep following his advice rather than overdoing it as I tend to do. I ended off my session today with Savasana (the corpse posture) which basically entails lying quietly on your back while mentally observing your body. I forgot how pleasant it can be to just do...well, nothing really. I felt relaxed and mentally calm after the session - something I desperately need after the last few weeks of stress and tension.