Thursday, August 16, 2012

Out of the Running

In my last blog post, I commented on how I had a failed relationship with running that deserved its very own blog post. This is that blog post.

[Disclaimer] Before I begin, I would just like to say that I'm not attacking the lifestyle of anyone who enjoys running. I am merely stating a personal experience that may or may not resonate with others. Feel free to agree or disagree with me, but I'm not here to argue.

It all started the summer before my freshman year of college. I decided I didn't want to be fat and I thought running would be the solution. Running's healthy, right? Thin people run! Running will make me thin and healthy, right?

So I ran and ran and ran and ran. For a LONG time. I HATED it. Even when I pretended to like it, I still deeply hated it. I would run about 3-5 miles a day, about four to five days a week, sometimes more. I intended to eventually run in a 5k, so I always tried to accomplish that distance or greater. On top of it I would count calories, track the length of my run, and input my food intake into a nice little calculator. Everything was so neat and tidy. The nice little calculator even told me I would be X lbs. thinner by the end of the week. The results?

Gained 5 pounds?!

"I'm too tired to run from you!"

Remember my last post about working out in the gym? That was going on too. And my diet? The same thing. My body was also inflamed. I had pain in my feet, ankles, and knees, yet I still continued to run. And for what? So I would eventually balloon up to the heaviest I've ever been in my life?

Being heavy almost wasn't the worst part. I experienced adrenal fatigue from this lifestyle. I had no energy, which led to fewer hours in the practice room. I even had inflammation in my shoulder muscles which physical therapy didn't alleviate. It was easy to get depressed.

I was a victim of what Mark Sisson refers to as "Chronic Cardio."

The reason I became that way was because I followed conventional wisdom's path to hell(th) and never questioned it. I believed frequent running to be healthy, so I did it. I believed eating Kashi was healthy, so I did it. The truth is that nothing changed until I started challenging what I believed in.

For me, that ultimately meant getting back to roots of it all. Human beings were not designed for chronic cardio. Our bodies were built for walking, lifting, and occasionally having to sprint for our food or from being something else's food.

"Can't run! Ate too much Kashi!"
Now sprinting is something I can do. I like sprinting.

Sprinting is a terrific alternative to running. Because it's high-intensity, you can accomplish a full-blown workout in a terrifically reduced amount of time than endurance running. I personally like doing Tabata-interval sprints.

20 seconds - sprint
10 seconds - rest
x 8 sets

8 sets = 4 minutes

The sprint time means "maximum effort." If your sprints are slower in the later sets, that's fine. Just put in the most effort you can muster. For beginners, I recommend starting with four to six sets and allowing more rest time in-between. And remember to use your arms to propel you! Sprints are a form of full-body strength training.

And there you have it. Four minutes, which is probably a better workout than running for an hour will do and less overall stress on the joints.

Ultimately, the reason why I dislike running is not only because of my weight gain, or even joint pain, but because it lacks the same efficiency as training with kettlebells or doing bodyweight exercises. I never gained muscle when running, not even in my legs which were doing most of the work. I never experienced progress in the same way. My day-to-day life became easier with strength training; the opposite is true for running.

Still not sure how to sprint? Just consult your local Greybeards!

Maybe you've had a similar experience with running. Maybe I've stirred an interest in kettlebell training. Perhaps you want to ask some questions? Feel free to contact me personally! Also, visit the Dragon Door instructor database to find a responsible and qualified trainer in your area.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Kettlebell Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Swing

Very recently, my husband decided to start training with me. By recently, I mean it's been about a week and we've had three training sessions together. I can't tell you how surprised I was by his interest, and how exciting it is to have him involved in doing workouts with me. It's just another way we spend time together, and it gives me an opportunity to hone my skills as a trainer. After his first session, his reaction was something along the lines of, "That was pretty fun. How long did we do that for? Only 25 minutes?" Next thing I knew, he's practicing kettlebell swings at home while I'm at work. This is big thing for my husband, since he's never really been into exercise.

His recent enthusiasm brought me back to a time long ago, before the rule of Emperor Titus Mede III*, to pre-kettlebell Katie; a time of confusion fraught with gym anxiety and college cafeteria food.

Pre-kettlebell me didn't like going to the gym, but did it anyway, though the visits followed a pattern of everyday for five days for an hour and a half, burnout, then coming back here and there for about three weeks. I didn't feel comfortable in a gym. Being overweight was the first reason, but was also my motivation for going to the gym. The second reason was because I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tools at my disposal; machines, bouncy balls, resistance bands, medicine balls, dumbells, elipticals, treadmills, and the list goes on! All of these resources were crammed together, with at least one person eying the machine I was using, waiting for their turn to curl their hamstrings while reading the latest Danielle Steele novel. I'm sure I got a wink and a smile from some weirdo who was thigh-blasting in the birthing stirrups.

One way to escape the gym was to go running, which I hated, despite the fact I pretended to like it. I even trained to run a race, which I didn't have the time, money, or motivation to do. My failed relationship with running might need it's own post.

Anyway, back to the gym. So you know all those resources I had at my disposal? I knew certain no-intensity to medium-intensity exercises that I could do that would target a certain group of muscles. I would do one exercise for shoulders, this one for triceps, another for quadriceps, another for glutes, another for thighs, another for my eyebrows...

I like to call this exercise the "Jack Nicholson."

Before you knew it, I was in the gym for two hours; sore, burnt out, and not much stronger. I can recall a few times that I felt better, at least until I ate at the cafeteria (I don't even need to go into detail).

So I was spending an hour and a half to two hours in a crowded space, doing repetitive motions, feeling uncomfortable because I had at least 30 pounds on the gal in short-shorts running at 20 mph on the treadmill next to me. I felt like I needed that huge amount of time to accomplish a full-body workout, and became attached to the idea that I needed that huge amount of time to work out if I was going to do it at all. I was also a full time undergrad music student. Would you be surprised if I eventually broke down and said the infamous words...


Of course, not having time is accompanied by the disappointment of not seeing any results from my short-lived hard work. My diet was not terrible in comparison to a dorm-dwelling college student, but I was definitely eating grains, way too many carbs, and way too much dairy. Not optimal by any stretch. And the self-hatred experienced by many overweight people in the pursuit of thinness? It was definitely raging. I would either maintain my weight or gain.

Oh yeah, then I was getting married so I didn't exercise at all, but lost weight and muscle mass and got super-crazy flabby. That also deserves it's own post!

Fast forward to post-graduation, when I discovered Adrienne Harvey (, to whom I owe my never-ending gratitude. Through Adrienne, I learned about kettlebells, an amazing tool for building strength. I was stunned by the philosophy of kettlebell training; simple tools, natural movements, optimum effectiveness. On top of that, she introduced me to bodyweight training. For the first time, working out felt focused. My mind and body were involved each other. Workouts are short and efficient. I can get an awesome workout in 30 minutes. Heck, I could get a workout in 10 minutes if I wanted. I continue to enjoy training. It's been over a year now. I've found something I can sustain.


Actually, that's not the best part. The best part is my body is strong and I continue to get stronger. My body composition continues to improve. I have muscle definition, which is something I had never seen until about 8 months ago.

I should also add that adopting a paleo diet has been just as important as exercise, and I am not diminishing its importance to my health. This blog is called Primal Homeskillet, right?

As you can see, it's been quite a journey and the journey continues. In January of this year, I became HKC certified, as a personal goal, but also to learn and thus be able to teach. My horrendous experience with the gym has shaped who I am as a trainer. I'm out to help other people who were like me, who feel that fitness had failed them.

Maybe you've had a similar experience with the gym. Maybe I've stirred an interest in kettlebell training. Visit the Dragon Door instructor database to find a responsible and qualified trainer in your area.

*Yes, I've fulfilled that Dark Brotherhood contract, for those of you who might be curious.