BlogHer, Fitness

Trying Kettlebells: Swing, Snatch, Jerk, Press

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

I told a number of people last week that I’d be taking a kettlebell class, and most of them had never heard of it. I explained how kettlebells differ from dumbbells, and how the movements in a typical workout incorporate a lot more swinging and momentum-type moves than you would do with a regular dumbbell. I’d done a bit of research, and I’d seen kettlebell workouts in action on YouTube, but I’d never physically picked up one until yesterday.

In the past few months, a number of fitness bloggers have tried kettlebells for the first time and given them a positive review. I wanted to try them for myself, but the biggest obstacle holding me back was a possible risk of injury — a few of the bloggers, like Workout Mommy and MizFit, initially tried kettlebells by following instructions on a DVD. I wasn’t ecstatic about this option because 1) even though there are lot of people who like working out with DVDs, I’ve never been able to get excited about fitness via my TV screen; and 2) there would be no way to get feedback on my form if I did something incorrectly.

Enter the solution: Workout Mommy/Lisa decided to step away from her DVD and take a group kettlebell class. (She lives not far from me in northern Virginia, but we’ve only met in person when we both attended the BlogHer conference in San Francisco.) I read about her positive experience with the class and thought, Eureka! There had to be someone there who could tell me what to do and make sure I didn’t injure myself. Perfect solution!

I visited the Giryafit website [link no longer active] (girya is another term for kettlebell) and emailed Justin Case, the owner/instructor. I told him I was a complete beginner and asked which class I should take (I didn’t want to inadvertently show up to an advanced class and slow everyone down). He recommended a one-on-one session before joining a regular group class — he’d teach me the basics, and it would be a lot easier to keep an eye on me if there weren’t other people vying for his attention.

So yes, for the first time in my life I hired a fitness professional to give me a private lesson. I knew within the first few minutes that I’d made the right decision. Some people are able to see something demonstrated on TV, or hear instructions, and replicate it perfectly the first time they try. That person isn’t me, or at least not when it comes to certain things. And this was one of those things.

A kettlebell is a weight with a handle, you say. You just flip it and swing it around. How hard can it be? Plenty, actually. You really have to pay attention to what you’re doing, at least in the beginning when you’re getting used to it. (Dumbbells, on the other hand, seem a bit more straightforward — the motion is basically up and down and you’re not supposed to do crazy swinging things with them.)

There’s this one move (I apologize, I was told the names but I’ve already forgotten them — they include terms such as “press” and “clean” and “jerk”) that I must have attempted at least fifteen times before Justin finally said, “Good.” (And then I proceeded to do it incorrectly another five times before I did it correctly once again, but…baby steps, people.) I don’t know about you guys, but when I’ve attempted something so many times before I get it right? It’s a huge sense of accomplishment when I finally do.

I was more nervous about taking this class than I was about trying belly dancing, or krav maga, or strip aerobics. And yes, I know why. It’s the first time I would be learning something new while in a one-on-one setting. In a group class, it’s a lot easier to blend in with the crowd.

I’d read Justin’s bio before class, which factored into my initial feeling of intimidation. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since he spent six years training Marines, would he be all gruff and military-professional? As it turns out, he’s nothing like that — I even got him to laugh at some of the silly things I said (I tend to do that when I’m nervous). Most importantly though, he was never impatient. Like I said, I had to do some of the moves numerous times. He would demonstrate them over and over and talk me through them until I finally got it right. That’s why I’m 100% sure I made the right decision to take a private session rather than trying to follow a DVD.

I will definitely try kettlebells again. Has anyone else tried them? Like or dislike? Did you teach yourself? Use a DVD? Take a class?

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