Friday, August 29, 2008

Brain Rule #1

Exercise boosts brain power.

A while back Rannoch of Kettlebells Scotland mentioned the book Brain Rules. I put it on my to-do list back then and have now started reading the book. I have to say it is a well written, easy to read and understand book that discusses how and why our brains work the way they do along with ways to improve our brain health and performance.

Rule #1 stems from the fact that our brains evolved to solve problems related to survival in an outdoor, uncertain environment while moving. Based upon man's migration patterns, scientists estimate that our ancestors typically walked an average of 12 miles each day. That's quite a bit of cardio!

So exercise boosts brain power. And it doesn't have to be a lot. At a minimum, it has been shown that at least walking every day increases brain power. Performing an aerobic workout for 30 minutes only 3 times per week has shown great results. Adding in a bit of resistance training goes even farther.

My take away... keep swinging them bells. You get the best of both worlds, keeping you both physically and mentally healthy into old age!

I'll continue to provide my brief review of the chapters as I make my way through the book. Swing 'em high y'all!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Pelvis is a Clock Face

As I lay on my back, face up, I tilt the clock face up and down at 12:00 and 6:00. Then again at 3:00 and 9:00. Finally, I trace around the entire clock face rotating up along each hour in a clockwise and then counterclockwise direction.

This is just one of the exercises that were given to me to practice by my physical therapist.

The full set of exercises that I am working on takes almost 30 minutes to complete. A bit of ice at the end finishes off my work.

This is typical of physical therapy work. While undergoing therapy, you work through many different exercises to get your muscles stronger. Problem is, once you are healed, it is difficult to continue working all of those exercises as you start to get back into your usual routine. My task is going to be figuring out how to keep at least the crucial elements of this therapy going so that I don't end up with the same injury again.

My current progress is slow. I am no longer getting any of the spasms that I got earlier, which is a good thing. I still have a pretty constant ache in my back. And as I have found to be usual, the early days of therapy might add to that somewhat as you work through the movements which will ultimately help you heal. No pain, but still some discomfort. I have also stopped taking OTC pain relievers, so that too is a step in the right direction.

So for now, full steam ahead....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Six Million Dollar Me

Better. Stronger. Faster.

Those were the instructions I gave to my physical therapist last night during our second session. She needs to rebuild me into a kettlebell lifting machine.

Actually, last night's session was very insightful and should lead to some real progress. After a bit of electrical stim, followed by a long series of lower back stretches and strengthening exercises, we sat together and watched the video I have on my website where I perform cleans (taped almost two months ago).

From the video, she was able to notice the difference in my form right side versus left. We then proceeded to have me demonstrate a clean using a dumbbell. After a few minutes of analysis from the various angles she was able to identify that cleans on the right side demonstrate a good neutral spine position while cleans on the left side cause my spine to leave neutral and bend to the left.

This could be a result of prior injuries, tightness in various muscles, and/or perhaps something yet to be uncovered. Another contributor to my pain is that I appear to hyper-extend my pelvis a lot. This could also be a contributor to some of the stress on my ligaments.

We will therefore continue to strengthen and stretch the back muscles while working to produce a better neutral alignment for my spine and pelvis.

When all is said and done, I plan to become a lifting machine! But for now, it is going to take some re-learning on my part to get back to pain-free movement. Let the process begin!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kettlebell BBQ in NY

Yesterday I had the honor of hosting a small get-together featuring some of the East Coast's premier kettlebell lifters and trainers.

First to arrive was Franklin Herman, AKC/RKC. Franklin these days, seems to be popping up across America, wherever a kettlebell may be found. He appeared in full tie-dyed fashion, representing both kettlebell camps...

Franklin, fresh out of the Functional Movement Screen Certification, proceeded to line us up one by one for movement screenings. I am happy to report I scored an "18". Franklin has the individual breakdown and my biggest issue turns out to be mid-back tightness as demonstrated during the overhead squat movement. Seems I need to spend more time working on my thorax.

Also in attendance were, from left to right, Master of Sport Ashley Hughes, AKC Kettlebellgirl/Clubbellgirl Laurie Rudach and AKC Coach and Yogi-Extraordinaire Stan Lee.

Lauri was kind enough to bring along a few of her clubbells and gave us a brief hands-on demonstration. I really liked the way these felt. Very different from kettlebells. At the same time, I immediately felt the strain in my back, so I opted to watch more than participate with these. Perhaps in the not too far off future, I will start to play with these.

Laurie and Stan also helped with a some Prasara transition movements that I was having trouble with. We were all over the place. You'll see in this pic, my friend Marion, laid out on the ground. I think the kettlebell women were too much for him. Trust me, he was smiling only moments before hitting the ground.

Once again Mother Nature was very kind to me. Another beautiful Saturday! I was very proud and honored to have such a fine group of friends visit me at the Kettlebells NY Ranch. Hopefully, this will be the first of many such get-togethers.

When things finally wrapped up, I popped two Aleves and iced my back. I was very pleased to wake up this morning feeling no worse for wear. Hopefully, it won't be too long before I am able to pick up a bell and start swinging for real again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And the Evaluation Is...

Strained ligaments in the lumbar spine. This was the result of my evaluation this evening with my physical therapist. (So my prediction was not too far off!)

Further, this injury appears to be the result of... can you guess it?... come on now, think... what do kettlebellers always complain about?...

That's right! Overly tight hip flexors!!

Apparently my hip flexors and quads are extremely tight. And they have created stress on the back muscles particularly where they attach to my lumbar spine. So my initial rehab work will focus on opening up the hip flexors and quads while strengthening my core, or transverse abdominis, to be exact. A strong transverse abdominis helps support the spine and will help reduce some of the stress imposed by the repetitive loading that results from kettlebell movements.

Lastly, I am going to have to tweak my standing posture (and we still have to go into this in more detail) but it appears that I might pitch my upper body a bit thereby loading my ligaments more so than others which may contribute to some of the stress.

Short-term work, between now and Monday, will consist of my own continued Z-Health along with 3 specific exercises to stretch and strengthen those muscles mentioned above.

Now, for all of you out there reading this, this goes out to you. DO NOT be reactive about your stretching like I was. Be sure you're stretching NOW, following your workout sessions. I never realized that I was tight. And even after the aching began, I thought the tightness was in my back, not originating from my hips. Even if you feel healthy and strong now, be sure to stretch. When I teach my classes, I always make sure we cool down and stretch at the end. When I work out myself, not so much. Be smart and take care of things while you are feeling good. Don't wait for the aches and pains like I did. If I had only ordered that Prasara Yoga tape 2-3 months ago!!

Just Hangin'

So here I am, just hangin'.

No, not hanging snatches, not hanging cleans. Just hangin'... doin' nothin'.

Actually I did do some Z. The last few mornings. I am scheduled at 5:45pm today to have my physical therapy evaluation. You know how much I like to jump into things and how I (sometimes) hate to wait when there's lead time involved (such as waiting for things to arrive in the mail). So these past few days have been tough. On a positive note, I've allowed myself to sleep an extra half hour the past few mornings!

But I really want to get started. I want this back of mine to be pain-free. I wants to TRAIN!! Am I a training addict? Maybe a little. But I have displayed patience and composure. Now it's time to get back to work - even if it means starting off again with the pink kettlebell.

I'll keep you posted...

Monday, August 18, 2008

And the Diagnosis Is...

Strained muscle in the lower/mid back underneath the rib cage.

Woohoo!! That's good news!

Prescribed 4 weeks of physical therapy, twice per week. Hopefully that will take care of things. I already have my initial visit lined up for early Wed evening. So for the immediate time, no bells just Z-Health.

Gotta go, wild child on my lap.....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Joint Mobility

Today was just a pass through Z-Health R Phase joint mobility. I back is still pretty bad. I've resigned myself to getting in to visit my physiatrist this week to have a look. I don't think it's a herniated disk. After a bit of research and self diagnosis, I'm thinking more along the lines of strained/sprained sacral ligament. But then again, I'm not a doctor.

I'm going to work on just joint mobility until I can get an appointment. The last thing I want to do is make things worse.

On a brighter note, I've posted pics from the IKFF Certification on my website at !!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday with Neti

You know, it truly is amazing how like minds and spirits seems to attract one another. Two friends from two different parts of the world each suggested I try using a neti pot to help get over this latest sinus attack I'm now dealing with.

And although I never brought it up, I already do have a neti pot and have been using it for years now!

The instructions that came with this neti pot said to add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the filled pot. This should provide a saline content on par with the natural concentrations within your sinus membranes. During past sinus attacks, I've gone as far as doubling up on the salt to induce shrinkage of the inflamed membranes (think, swimming in the ocean, the salt water does wonders for a sore throat or cold). My current sinus attack was so sudden and fierce that I dared to triple up on the salt. And I can say that it has made a world of difference! I still popped a Claritin this morning. If things continue along well, I just might try going without the drugs the remainder of the weekend.

As for today's activities, I taught class in the park this morning at 9am. We were fortunate to have another beautiful, sunny day. Later on at 11am, I then gave a demonstration/class to the owner of a local pilates studio along with another instructor. Things are looking positive for me to be able to use some of their space as the Fall now approaches. Starting a more structured class means I need to invest in a few more bells. For now I think pro grade bells might be out of the question, strictly from a financial investment viewpoint. I need a few more 8kg and 12kg bells for beginners. PerformBetter might be my best choice for the time being.

That's it for today (so far). If I get some time, I'm going to be attempting to work through some more of the Prasara DVD this weekend. That should be fun!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sick Son, Sick Dad

My two-year old has been sick all week, runny nose, cough - so like any good Dad, I got his cold.

As my sinuses are my Achilles' Heel, I got hit and hit hard. Knowing that tomorrow I have a kettlebell class to teach in the park, followed up by a demonstration class with a local Pilates studio owner, I decided that the best thing I could do for myself was get as much sleep these past two mornings as possible.

Therefore, no workouts since Wednesday. I am itching to get swinging the bells, but all good things in time. No need to push it just yet. Hopefully I'll get some needed rest over the weekend and come out swinging next week.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gradual Re-Entry...

Taking it a bit easy on myself this morning with my first kettlebell workout since the weekend. My right lower back/hip is SUPER tight still, at times over the past two days almost to the point of spasm. Yeowch! So today's focus was trying to stretch it out a bit without overdoing it.

Warm up consisted of Z-Health R-Phase from head to pelvis.

Turkish Get Up: 16kg - 5L/5R

Swing: 16kg - 10R/10L

Double Clean: 2x16kg - 2 minutes (10)

1-Arm Clean: 16kg - 4 minutes (32L/32R)

Swing: 16kg - 15R/15L

On the Double Cleans I was trying to get a good back stretch going while in the rack position. Focus wasn't on reps at all, even though these a more than twice as hard as the 1-Arm Clean.

Cool down consisted of stretches including some work on Diving Dolphin poses Downward Facing Dog, Dolphin Pose and Plow.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Woke up today just a tad stiff and sore. Traps are sore. Delts and quads are sore. Lower back tight. All the places you would expect after a few days of intense kettlebell work.

Over the weekend my postman was kind enough to deliver Scott Sonnon's Prasara Yoga DVD. "Perfect! Just what I need to help recuperate and loosen up!", was my first thought.

Started reviewing the Diving Dolphin sequence. Wow, this is harder than it looks. And I am SUPER tight today too. My Downward Facing Dog is downright painful. Not even going to attempt Dolphin Pose just yet. And my Plow isn't even close to plowing anything but air.

A new learning experience has begun!

I have yet to decide how to proceed now with my own training. Stick to the AKC Fitness Protocol? Alternate with some longer timed sets? Add a heavy day with some squats and core work? Sprinkle in some Prasara and Z-Health?

The road ahead is wide. I need to keep an open mind and a playful spirit. Kettlebells are FUN. At times painful, but still FUN. This is where things start to get interesting...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

IKFF Certified!!

The last person I said goodbye to on the way out of our second and final day of the IKFF Certification was Ken Blackburn. I shook his hand, gave him a man-hug and said, "I've never had friendships that were so painful."

I left Day 2, exhausted and sore, but at the same time ecstatic and energized. This was a FANTASTIC two days. I was very fortunate to have such a great group of guys and girls to experience this weekend with. We all worked our asses off! This weekend was physically and even more so, mentally challenging. And every one of us stuck it out and gave it our all and we did it together.

Mad props to Steve and Ken. They tag teamed throughout the two days and kept us going and going and going. Famous last words from the weekend, "Now let's review a more advanced variation." =)

I took away a lot of valuable information from this weekend that will both help me and my personal training as well as help me torture, I mean, train my students. I am going to need to relax tonight and put details down on paper before I forget, there was that much information.

By now you're probably wondering what Day 2 consisted of. We worked the Snatch. After the extensive timed sets of Day 1, I think Steve and Ken went easy on us with an 8 minute set. We then moved Double Swings and Cleans, which segued us into Double Front Squats. We did these for a short timed set. This then progressed into Single Overhead Squats. We worked these first for a 2 minute set, then a 4 minute set, followed by a 6 minute set. These were BRUTAL!!

Then it was on to Core work which included Get Ups, Windmills and other interesting movements, some of which I will be video taping for the website. Very cool though (sorry you'll have to wait to find out).

Following this it was evaluation time where we had to perform just about everything that was covered over the two days to Steve and Ken's satisfaction, one after the other after the other. Finishing off we then got to rest and discussed program design and some business development topics. Finally, the certificates were handed out and everyone, after many goodbyes and thank yous, dispersed.

What more can I say, it was a GREAT two days. Thank you Steve and Ken!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

IKFF Cert - Day 1




I don't know how to best describe Day 1 of the IKFF certification. Steve and Ken are two amazing guys. They worked us good today! I am pretty tired right now so this is going to be a very high level synopsis.

We started the day at 9:30am and we warmed up with various "skipping" exercises, forwards and backwards, left to right and right to left. We then moved on to various lunge walking exercises, forwards and backwards and eventually to a series of deck squat/burpee combinations that would (and I think did) make a grown man cry. We then proceeded to finer joint mobility movements.

Once we are pre-exhausted with all of these exercises we began with the Swing. We worked on technique and then worked for time on a small set. It was then on to cover the Clean. Once reviewing the technique we performed a timed set. Can you say, "18 Minute Set"???? Yes, 18 minutes without placing the bell down. Let me now say, that I chose to use a 16kg bell for the entire day. No more, no less. I need to be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning and make it to Day 2.

18 minutes brings you beyond exhaustion. I'm not exactly sure where it brought me, but I have never been so glad to put a kettlebell down.

Then following a break for lunch, we began with some more kung fu-like joint mobility and began our Pressing progression. First we covered the Press. Can you say "10 Minute Set"? I now found this set even harder than the cleans. My rack was exhausted by then and this was really tough and a bit painful, but the bell was never placed down.

After this we worked on the Push Press for technique and finally the 1-Arm Jerk. After breaking down the Jerk into its parts, we then performed, what? You guessed it, our timed set. Can you say, "14 Minute Set"?? Oddly, this was easier for me than the Pressing. But when it was over, wow. I was glad it was over.

To end Day 1, Steve then brought us through a series of yoga stretches which where excruciatingly difficult to help stretch out and decompress our spines. And to top it all off we lastly performed a qigong breathing series which was very nice and relaxing (I think we earned it by then).

Here's a pick of a few of us at the end of the day.

From left to right, Big John Wild, Mystery Lady, Ken, Dan, Steve and myself.

Now it's time to clean up and get some zzz's. For tomorrow we Snatch!

Note: Mystery Lady has been making appearances at various international kettlebell events. When will she make herself known? We were very fortunate to even get her face in this photo!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Give Me Some More Z's

Taking it easy today. Woke up and worked through Z-Health R-Phase. In preparation for this weekend's IKFF Certification (yes, it starts tomorrow morning!) perhaps I should carbo-load like a marathoner. Hmmm... how often does one get the opportunity to eat a lot and have a good excuse...?? =)

Aaahhh, I ALWAYS eat a lot, so that would be nothing new.

If you don't see a post from me tomorrow night, it means Steve and Ken pounded us into the ground and I did not have the energy to lift my fingers to type.

I am outie. See you on the other side!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Another Class

Last night I gave a kettlebell class to a group of coworkers. We spent about an hour and a half in total from warmup to cooldown. We covered a lot of material and I had a chance to run them through a few different timed sets.

I can sure say that giving a class like this definitely is a workout in itself. Considering that my personal workouts don't last more than a half hour, a class like this is a good opportunity for my body to incrementally experience longer sessions (even if it is not continuous the entire time through).

I slept like a log and didn't want to wake up this morning. Lower back/hip is hanging in there, no better, no worse. Until Saturday morning when I show up at the IKFF Cert, I will be taking it easy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No Intensity Day

I think I am starting to notice a trend here. When I perform the corpse pose with the associated breathing, as described by Scott Sonnon in RESET, just before going to sleep at night, I think I'm noticing that I am sleeping better and waking up early is easier. I'm going to have to start keeping notes on this. But it does seem to be more and more apparent on the nights when I do practice this.

Anyway, got up today at 5:15am and it was raining outside which made the entire house pitch black. Really weird. I guess Fall is approaching after all.

Performed a full Z-Health R-Phase program from head to toe.

I'm (a bit) surprised that I'm feeling as good as I am this morning after yesterday afternoon's kettlebell video shoot. Thighs are a bit sore, but that's understandable since I really haven't been doing any direct leg work as of late. And the back/hip isn't too bad either. I can definitely see how the right side of my body is affected by the tightness of my hip. It runs all the way up to my scapula on the same side. While performing my 'camshafts' on that side the tightness and resultant cracking and popping was tremendous. Left side, not so bad. So it is definitely an area that is going to continue getting some extra attention these days.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

And... Cut!

There was no early morning workout for me today. It happened to be unintentional as my body did not want to wake up this morning. But it turned out to be a good thing.

On my lunch hour today, a friend/colleague and I went out to a local park and shot some video footage of various lifts that I can use on my website for promotional purposes.

We were outside, in direct sunlight, for at least 30 minutes. And I was moving at a pretty good clip through various sequences - good preparation for this weekend's cert.

We taped the swing, clean, press, push press, single and double jerk, the various long cycle combinations, snatch, half snatch, double kb squat, and pistol.

At one point a local squad car approached us and we thought perhaps they were going to ask if we had a permit to be filming in the part. As I approached the police car and said hello, the officer who was driving pointed to his partner and said, "Hey, he works out with kettlebells too!" We proceeded to have a nice conversation after which they backed their car up so as not to disturb us and watched the remainder of the session. We had also at this time collected various onlookers. It was nice to have an audience!! =)

Right now, I am pooped! Need to eat and drink. The sun is a killer! More video shoots to come before we are ready to edit for the website. Stay tuned for more updates.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Prasara Yoga

My rear right hip/lower back is still bothering me. I had planned to work out this morning, but knowing that this weekend (IKFF Certification) I need to be healthy, I decided to let it rest a bit more today.

I first did some R-Phase pelvis, lumbar and thoracic movements, followed by a few 12kg Swings and then a bit of stretching. I'll take some Aleve today and continue with stretching and heat.

Realizing that this could be an indication of my old bones starting to grumble, I decided to take the plunge on Saturday and order Scott Sonnon's Prasara Yoga book/DVD package.

I've been proactive on the joint mobility front, but I admit reactive as of late when it comes to flexibility. I'm hoping that this provides me with structure and is enjoyable to perform. I only wish I could have downloaded the package. Why wait for shipping? I could have already been practicing!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday In The Park

Saturday in the park

I think it was the Fourth of July

Saturday in the park

I think it was the Fourth of July

People dancing, people laughing

A man selling ice cream

Singing Italian songs...

Well it was something like that. Taught class this morning in the park. We worked on the swing, clean, introduced the half snatch and snatch, push press and long cycle push press. Things are coming along nicely.

Then after I got home and took care of some things, performed my own "official" workout. Even though I'm demonstrating a lot while teaching, I don't like to count it as a workout. So here's this afternoon's work..

1-Arm Bottom Up Press: 12kg - 2 minutes (7L/10R)

1-Arm Press: 16kg - 2 minutes (12L/12R)

1-Arm Long Cycle Push Press: 16kg - 2 minutes (10L/10R)

That's it. More tomorrow!