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.


  1. Love your story, Katie, and yes, it is very familiar to many, myself included, for whom the kettlebell was the "light clicking on"! Congratulations on your HKC--I'm going up for mine in a little over a month from now! [time to panic]

    1. Much luck to you! I was also freaking out the weeks before the HKC, mostly about the 30 second hold, which I must have obsessed about everyday. I was completely blown away by the amount of support I received at the workshop. You're going to do awesome. When you're in the company of incredible trainers who are also amazing people, so there's no where to go but up!

      Best of luck! Please message me after the workshop to let me know how it went. I guarantee you'll have a blast.


    2. I'm working with an RKC trainer, and we hit the flexed-arm hangs regularly! I thought it was just a 15-second hang, but we're overtraining, and I should be well-prepped to pull off a 30-second if necessary. My blog will tell the story! Please feel free to follow!