Five Lessons Learned from Strength Coaching in Small Group Classes

I have been blessed to work as a strength coach full-time for five years. Here are some key lessons I’ve learned teaching small classes:

  1. The more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know. It is that way in any field, but when you see people three or four times a week, you have a real opportunity to help people make serious changes in their lives. I continue to study, practice and teach daily to help you advance in their strength, movement and to improve your overall health. I appreciate your trust and patience; you inspire me to continue to learn and grow as a coach.
     
  2. Each person must be addressed individually and kept safe. You bring your movement history with you into class; that may include physical and emotional injuries and experiences that might not have been positive with fitness professionals. Personal attention is required to keep you safe. I am tough and set on my ‘no train with pain’ policy because there is no good long term result when you train with pain. Working with a medical professional to remove pain is always the appropriate course of action before starting a strength training program.
     
  3. Teach the basics well. People think they want variety, but what they need is to learn movements that will make them stronger and keep them functional in life, sports, hobbies and care-giving roles. Specifically: deadlifts, swings, goblet squats, presses, turkish getups, lunges, plank/pushup/pullup and carries deliver what we need. This is our core program. We can vary these, in many ways, but that’s not essential to meeting our goals of being strong for everyday life. If we do only these three movements well, we are going to see life-changing results: kettlebell swing, turkish getup and goblet squat.
     
  4. Not every person is a fit as a client. Strength training is a skill that takes years to perfect. It requires commitment, practice, mental focus, honesty and humility about what we can and cannot do. For many of us, proprioception, or an awareness of our limbs moving in space, is not something we’ve developed in our past, so learning to move and lift can take time (months or years). Perseverance, patience and an openness with your coach about how the movements feel in your body is necessary to make continued progress.
     
  5. Mobility is more important than strength. Moving well is a challenge for many of us because of how much we sit, were previously inactive or injured, or never coached on proper technique. Getting people moving with ease is why I do what I do. Helping people  safely explore a deep squat, learn the turkish getup (and do it gracefully), practice proper plank and pushup form, improve shoulder and t-spine mobility, hang on a bar with confidence, swing a kettlebell, and so on, makes me incredibly happy. I don’t care how much weight you lift, ever! If you are mobile, pain-free and lifting something that helps you leave the gym feeling better than when you walked in, then we are a successful team.

Move strong, be healthy, and never stop moving your body. ~Lori

Strength Training and Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is necessary for strength training and it is also a result of strength training.

Athletic endeavors reveal character, focus, attitude, thought patterns, motivation, determination and decision-making. Having confidence in yourself and in your physical and mental abilities can be helpful in unexpected ways at any time. 

Mental toughness may manifest in small ways, such as navigating a fall, or in bigger ways such as using your physical strength and mental acuity to save your life or the life of another.

The goal of everything we do in the gym is help us to move better and be stronger outside of the gym.

Patty applies her mobility and strength to all areas of her life; enjoying grandchildren, travel, walking, hiking, yoga and moving heavy things as needed.

Patty applies her mobility and strength to all areas of her life; enjoying grandchildren, travel, walking, hiking, yoga and moving heavy things as needed.

I believe that people who are mentally tough are often attracted to strength training because they desire the physical and mental challenge. I define strength training as lifting heavy things in different ways to increase physical and mental strength with application to everyday life.

Strength training produces positive changes in nearly every system in the body: integumentary (skin, nails, hair), skeletal, muscular, lymphatic, immune, respiratory, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and fascial. The key to strength training is to deliver the right dose; not too much and not too little. It is my job as a coach to manage that for my gym members.

Check out this article and other resources for understanding and developing mental toughness.

People of all fitness levels, and all ages, desire to move their bodies in interesting ways and to push safely to the edge of their ability. I believe that strength training is as much for the mind as  for the body. The result is increased confidence, enthusiasm, energy and mental toughness.

Steve deadlifts 245# and gets stronger almost every time he walks into the gym. He is mentally tough and physically tough and getting tougher each day.

Steve deadlifts 245# and gets stronger almost every time he walks into the gym. He is mentally tough and physically tough and getting tougher each day.

What we do with kettlebells, barbells and bodyweight movements requires serious focus and patient practice to complete the movements with safety and with precision. 

With strength-training, we learn to think and feel what our bodies are doing. This tuning it to what is happening both physically and mentally helps us feel more connected, more knowledgeable and honest about our physical and mental strengths and weaknesses; I argue that this contributes to our mental toughness. We become can-do people. What that means will vary for you and for me. We feel different and we are different after these training experiences.

Jennifer is new to us and is learning the 7-steps of the Turkish Getup. She is a professional organizer that places serious physical demands on her body. This training will help her get stronger and know how to move, lift and carry heavy boxes and other items on the job.

Jennifer is new to us and is learning the 7-steps of the Turkish Getup. She is a professional organizer that places serious physical demands on her body. This training will help her get stronger and know how to move, lift and carry heavy boxes and other items on the job.

With strength training, we can increase our strength if we are honest about what is truly happening in our thoughts and identifying what we feel in our bodies. As a coach, it is my job to help people focus on what they think and feel, help them stay positive and in-control as they manage how the load is reacting with their bodies.

The ability to dig deep and practice when we don’t feel like it, when we don’t like doing a particular lift or movement, when it’s difficult (but not dangerous), and even when we might even be a little unsure if we can do it, can help us develop mental toughness.

I am proud of people when they are honest about what they do well and can admit where they can improve. This is mental toughness. They persevere because they know they need it. They want to meet a challenge head-on. It requires being humble and confident at the same time. This is a skill that carries over into our professional lives, relationships, hobbies, and in serving at church and inn the community.

Terry is one of the hardest-working athletes in the gym. She is up for any challenge, but as a coach, she also knows when to back off; mental toughness is knowing when it is time to go and when it is time to stop.

Terry is one of the hardest-working athletes in the gym. She is up for any challenge, but as a coach, she also knows when to back off; mental toughness is knowing when it is time to go and when it is time to stop.

Many of our gym members are lifting weights they never dreamed they would be lifting. Some never considered themselves athletes or participated in anything athletic activities as a youth. Some are re-starting their athletic careers with strength training in their 50s and 60s after years of doing other activities.

A willingness to try new things is a sign of mental toughness. The willingness to hang in their when it gets harder reveals and builds mental toughness.

I argue that feeling physically strong gives you a mental edge that perhaps you can’t quite explain. You might feel happier, more confident, energetic and enthusiastic. There might be a new sense of freedom because you can do more physical work with ease. 

The RKC System of Strength requires safe lifting; we never go to failure. We are not seeking dangerous thrills. My gym members are not defending their country with our lives or working as first responders. I think the RKC Snatch Test (100 snatches at a prescribed weight in 5 minutes) is an incredible test of physical conditioning, but even mores a test of your mental toughness.

Eric prepared for the RKC with perseverance, focus and a great attitude. Mental toughness is one of his strengths and I believe as a new RKC he will be able to coach other people to do this well.

Eric prepared for the RKC with perseverance, focus and a great attitude. Mental toughness is one of his strengths and I believe as a new RKC he will be able to coach other people to do this well.

The result of our way of strength training is that we feel energized and invigorated, both physically and mentally. We feel good being challenged and we are mentally and physically renewed.

It is difficult to wrap the words around mental toughness because it is impacted by our upbringing, our athletic past, life experiences and personality traits. 

Mental toughness is revealed in our desire to get just a little bit better, in small ways, every day.

Being around other people who have that same desire also helps us build mental toughness. In our strength-training community, we learn from each other and we inspire each other to new levels of greatness. Cindy(video below) is an example of a gym member who greatly encourages and inspires others.

Getting just a little bit better gives us the courage to keep striving to improve, in some way, daily, weekly, monthly and over many years.. Mental toughness might not be why we started our strength journey, but it becomes a key reason we keep coming back for more.

Seasons of Training

Our physical training can have many seasons depending on factors such as our current state-of-health, goals, hobbies and current conditioning level.

We just hosted an RKC-I event at MoveStrong Kettlebells. The participants, including two from our gym, were focused on mastering the six skills they were required to test. They also prepared to test 100 snatches in 5 minutes with a prescribed kettlebell weight and they worked hard to increase their overall conditioning to make it through the 27 hours of the event. They were in the season of Event Preparation.

Event Preparation. When we have paid and registered to participate in a competition, workshop or certification event, very specific training is often necessary to get the most out of the event. In my experience, this includes at least 2-3 days of week of specific skill preparation. The other 2-3 days can include mobility/movements that complement the event preparation. Our two RKC candidates prepared by attending kettlebell classes regularly 3-4 days a week. I made sure the programming was appropriate for them with technique emphasis, conditioning and snatch test preparation. This same programming benefited all of our general kettlebell students with occasional modifications.

Standard Training. This is training to be happy, healthy and mobile in everyday life. This is how we (at MoveStrong Kettlebells) train most of the time. This is a mix of upper and lower body push and pull 3-4 days a week using hardstyle kettlebell movements and lifts, lots of mobility and bodyweight work and occasional barbells lifts. We seek to improve in some way in every session. Some coaches refer to this at the 1% rule (get 1% better at something every time you train.) Standard Training can actually be quite extraordinary because there is a lot of learning and progressing without the pressure of preparing for an event. Personally, this is my favorite way to train because it is a mix of light, medium, heavy training and exploratory movement, with rest days as needed, over the course of a week.

Training Toward a Personal Record. Our general physical preparation is varied, yet strategic, so that progress is made consistently over several months. If someone has a specific goal, we can train toward that over time. We don't always have to train, for example, barbell deadlifts, to keep that skill high. However, for an experienced athlete who is seeking to improve a lift by, for example, 20%, that athlete needs to train it regularly with attention to load, volume and rest to achieve that goal. That student may want to follow a specific written program with steps to progress intentionally to that goal. This can be challenging in a group setting where all the needs of the group must be met. Some additional work with your coach may be needed outside of classes. 

Adaptive Training. Sometimes a new or former injury fires up and we need to carefully step back and train differently to allow the body to strengthen and/or heal. Perhaps a weak area of the body is causing a compensation in another area. Special attention is needed to progress in our weak areas to protect our health and to keep safely progressing. For example, if low back pain occurs because of rounding in the lumbar during pulling activities, the focus is on improving pull technique, repositioning the load to prevent compensatory movement or perhaps using no load at all until the movement is perfected in the body. Some additional strengthening exercises, more mobility, or even time away from the gym may also be necessary to move back into Standard Training.

Specialized Sport Training. Many students have a specialized sport they enjoy for a portion of the training year. I like them to continue their strength and conditioning with us two days a week to keep their kettlebell skills high and to help them stay overall strong and therefore more resilient to injury. But of course, when they are in 'season', our general training is secondary to their primary sport. My goal is to keep them injury free and moving well. They are not training their heaviest with us when they are in season and I ask them to manage their overall physical and mental fatigue. I have found that hardstyle kettlebell training is highly complementary to specialized sports with appropriate loading and rest days.

Summary. Our gym members fall into different seasons of training at different times in their lives. Yet, we all train together in small group classes. How is that possible? It is surprisingly easy to do with the RKC System of Strength which allows each person to adapt with varied training loads, volume, intensity and rest. Small group training is a cost-effective and a safe way for people to train if they are moving safely and mindfully. With small group training, you have peers to support you, a coach to guide you, and the programming to help you progress at your own pace in a non-competitive environment.

Do you want to learn more about our training methods? Contact us as we'd love to share our training approach with you. ~Lori

Strong Member Spotlight: Kristina S.

When Kristina came to MoveStrong Kettlebells, she was timid about using the weights and a lot of the movements were new and challenging to her. She was very patient with her body, and with me! and she was willing get outside her comfort zone to learn, think and feel the movements.

She began to really enjoy the complex movements like the swing, snatch and Turkish Getup. She also enjoys barbell deadlifts and how powerful she feels doing them. 

I would say that Kristina is one of our most improved members. She is now moving with more grace and ease, using heavier weight than ever before, and most importantly, she is becoming more mobile and flexible every week. 

She believes in herself, enjoys her classmates and has a great attitude about training.

Her work schedule doesn't always allow her to come to class as much as she'd like, but she is very good about coming to Sat. Mobility class and doing some kettlebell work at home.

She has adopted a strength lifestyle and I am very proud of her progress, her willingness to take a rest day when her body needs it, and I am excited for her to continue to grow as a hardstyle kettlebell athlete and a confident young woman.

In Kristina's words ...

Why did you start kettlebell training?

“I needed more muscle!” That was one of the thoughts which came to mind. I was in need of becoming a stronger person. In the past, I have used different strength training methods, but with mixed results. I had not heard of kettlebells until recently. It looked interesting and was intrigued with swinging weights rather than just lifting weights.

What do you like most about kettlebell training?

I feel like I have accomplished something important for myself. I get excited about the progress I’ve made since I started. I love how it’s made me a stronger person both inside and out.

What is the biggest surprise about training with MoveStrong and with Kettlebells?

I love how the training is dynamic and ever changing to suit each of our needs. For instance, the last several months, Lori has incorporated stretching time at the ending of the workout into a five minute flow. My flexibility has improved. You can come to consecutive classes in the manner in which they are structured and focus on different muscle groups or focus more on grip strength or flexibility, etc.

What are your two favorite kettlebell or bodyweight movements and why?

Snatches and pendulum swings! Snatching is a complex movement. I remember when I first tried it. Now, I’ve grown into it. It’s a movement you must absolutely focus on. You must have all the muscles work together. I dare say it’s poetic! For pendulum swings, they feel relaxing to me on one level. At the same time, they tax my legs and other adjoining muscles in a good way.

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in getting started with kettlebells?

Make sure you find an instructor who teaches you the basic foundational movements safely. Once you have that, you can build upon it and grow. It took me a while to get adjusted to the movement of the kettlebell swing. Give your body time. Don’t give up. I’d say the first week is the most challenging. Every movement you do builds into something stronger. It’s amazing to think the body reshapes and rebuilds with more strength each time you apply yourself. So I will continue to do just that.

Is This Warmup or Workout?

I have heard this a lot lately in classes and it makes me happy.

Warmup is a series of dynamic movements to get blood and nutrients moving into your muscles and joints. 

Warmup wakes up the nervous system and helps us dial in our movement patterns. It reveals any tightnesses / strengths / weaknesses / imbalances that may need attention and it gives us a sense of how we feel that day.

Our particular way of training is about half-and-half strength and mobility -- and sometimes the mobility work, that spans both Warmup and Workout, feels harder than the strength work.

Warmup should relate in some way to the Workout. For example, squat prying is a good practice in warmup if you are squatting in the workout. T-spine, hip and shoulder opening is always helpful to prime the body for kettlebell lifts. 

Prepping complex movements with lighter weight, no weight or movement regressions in warmup makes sense. For example, we don’t train Snatch-to-Lunge without doing some light snatches and unweighted lunges -- separately beforehand.

Warmup can be weighted or unweighted.

Kettlebells. Bodyweight. Olympic Lifts. TRX. Calisthenics. Primal Movement. Play. Warmup and Workout mix and match to include upper body pull and push and lower body pull and push using varied tools and methods.

Master RKC Dan John advises no separation between warmup and workout and recommends warming up with a lighter version of what you will do in the workout. This is when I most often hear these words, ‘Is this workout yet?’

We know that skipping Warmup will negatively impact the Workout and put us at risk for injury. 

Once we truly dive into the Workout, there are more reps, higher intensity, heavier weight, and more more varied movements and rest periods than during Warmup. There is a more serious mental focus and perhaps an accumulation of fatigue that builds, needs to be monitored by checking biofeedback, and reduced with some calming mobility / flexibility movements between sets.

Warmup and Workout should work seamlessly together.

Train safely. Move to increase range of motion, add stability and increase flexibility. Get stronger while maintaining or improving movement quality. Build cardiovascular endurance (yes, you will begin to breath hard during warmup.)

My role is to facilitate your understanding of how your body is moving and dosing the specific movements in just the right amount so you feel energized, re-charged and renewed afterward. I try to expand your physical horizons with varied, but targeted, warmups and workouts.

The lines are blurred with Warmup and Workout, but this makes the experience rich and varied and keeps our training fresh. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

5 Formidable Benefits of Consistent Exercise

Your body is simply amazing, just as it is, since the day you were born.

Imagine if you challenged your amazing body with moderate physical activity on a consistent basis, starting right now, so that you learn to move, strengthen and lift in new ways that transform your outlook on life. According to the CDC, only about 20% of us get the recommended amount of exercise each week, so what is holding you back?

Matthew Closeup 2 hand swing low res.jpg

Now is the perfect time to start.

How does exercise transform your daily life? Your relationships? Your work? Your play? Your overall health? Your impact on others?

With the new year, people are thinking about exercise in relation to losing weight -- and that is fine, but I challenge you to look more deeply into the truly transformational role exercise can play in your daily life:

  1. Experience the thrill of learning something new. It is exciting to learn a new skill and engage the brain and the body in thought-provoking activity. We know that exercise promotes neurogenesis, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and grow new brain cells, at any age. Humans are meant to learn and thrive at all stages of life and exercise gives you a daily dose of this.
     
  2. Be the most energetic person you know. What you eat plays a role in your energy level of course, but so does the number of mitochondria you have. Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria transform energy from food and turn it into cellular energy. Exercise increases the number of mitochondria in your body, thus improving the body’s ability to produce energy. This helps you exercise with a higher energy output (i.e. faster and longer) and the result is you feel great. Side Note: train moderately with light, medium and heavy training days and lots of mobility work, but more importantly, train consistently (2-3-4-5 days a week - listen to your body.) Learn the doses you need and you will train well into your elder years.
     
  3. Feel calm and peaceful with more mental clarity. Exercise normalizes insulin resistance and boosts the natural “feel good” hormones and neurotransmitters associated with mood control, including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and more. The feeling of calm after exercise is real.  With regular exercise, changes in the heart occur, including potentially a decreased heart rate which can help you feel more calm. There are positive changes in the circulatory system. Many physiological and neuromuscular changes occur in the body during exercise that contribute to your overall sense of feeling good and feeling well.
     
  4. Tune in to your true appetite. It is widely accepted that exercise, along with eating to match activity level, can help individuals achieve optimal bodyweight. Exercise directly impacts appetite along with the individual’s resting metabolic rate, gastric adjustment to ingested food, changes in episodic peptides (such as insulin) as well as the amount of tonic peptides, such as leptin. So starting a new exercise program does not necessarily mean you will eat more; you may feel like eating less (hydrating more!), eating healthier or begin craving specific foods that your body needs for muscle repair. 
     
  5. Enjoy increased creativity, productivity, optimism, joy and confidence. When the body feels peaceful, strong, conditioned and purposeful, there is the potential for increased joy and confidence in daily life. Isn’t that what we want most? Research shows that exercise can enhance cognitive abilities related to creativity, productivity and optimism.

We are currently accepting new gym members, and during the month of January, 2016, you can take advantage of one month free with a three-month commitment. We invite you to experience our way of training in a strong community of men and women who seek to be their best every day, in every way, to live full and fulfilling lives.

Goals vs. Intentions

We recently did some goal-setting at the gym.

We focused on the areas of Mobility, Flexibility and Strength. We train to be better for everyday life, so many of our goals are related to improving moves and lifts, weights or times that are not easy for us.

A few of us also have specialized sports we enjoy so our strength goals have to support and work with those efforts as well.

There are always a few people who tell me their goal is to have a goal -- and that's okay too.

                                        Goals can be anything that challenges and excites you!

                                        Goals can be anything that challenges and excites you!

In every class, I see new goals emerge organically as we identify weak links in our bodies.

Turning weaknesses into strengths can help prevent injury and help us advance our training in ways we didn't know were possible.

Working to improve a snatch technique, or single-leg balance, working toward more ankle mobility, getting swings done with more weight, or with more ease, are goals that are attainable with dedicated practice.

Goal-setting is not a one-time activity. We may not realize it, but we do it every day, in little ways; you may consider them intentions rather than goals.

Goal-setting is a way for us to acknowledge potential areas of growth and to identify new challenges that excite us and give new focus to our physical and mental training.

It also helps guide me as your coach, to know what you feel needs improvement, to help you prepare and progress in ways that are meaningful to you.

There is some accountability involved when we state a goal out loud. Often goals are kept privately and that is fine too.

If we focus on daily intentions ... our little stepping stones of improvement, done on a regular basis, we can enjoy the strength journey, rather than be concerned about the end result.

If you’re bored with life - you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things - you don’t have enough goals.
— Lou Holtz

There is never a point at which we are done growing and improving; intentions / goals can be infinite.

Hopefully, put us on a path of self-growth, self-improvement and self-discovery.

I remember when I was practicing a lot of skills to prepare my body for the pistol squat; skills such as single-leg deadlifts, narrow squats, single-leg squat- to-box, single-leg squat on a raised surface, and  a lot of mobility/flexibility with hips, knees and ankles. I was preparing for the RKC-II so this was a goal imposed on me that I would not have worked on otherwise.

I learned a lot about my body and how to help others with this skill so it became a valuable goal. I rarely did full pistols in my preparation -- I had my daily intentions to work on I patiently progressed (over several months) to my goal of doing a pistol at the RKC-II.

A more traditional definition of a goal is this: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timebound (SMART). See a great article about this here.

Goals can help motivate us, dig us out of a rut and make training more interesting, especially if we are competitive-natured. Is anyone out there competitive? Yes, I thought so.

Goals can bring great changes to our routine and help us learn something new about ourselves in the process. If we aren't able to get to the goal -- our bodies might not be capable, and that's okay, as the journey is what matters most. ~Lori 

Outdoors

I believe it is essential to get outdoors and be physically active while the weather is good in Ohio -- whether in a park or urban area. I kick my gym members out of the gym sometimes -- and some of them are cheering and others ... not so much.

Yes it's air-conditioned, structured and tidy in the gym, but getting outdoors is necessary to challenge the brain and body in a different way. We have to deal with the sun and heat, different surroundings,, the ground surface (some of us are barefoot.)

Get outside. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there’s something good about feeling both.
— Amy Grant

Today is Saturday and we did our Mobilizing Tight Muscles class outdoors surrounded by trees, with the sun peeking over the treetops, with a light breeze, birds chirping and a mix of urban sounds.

We use kettlebells a lot during our weekday training, so when we can mix it up with different methods and tools on Saturday, it's refreshing and invigorating.

I don't care what you say about fitness; if people aren't having fun, they won't keep it going.

So after our stretching class, we trained with battling ropes, wall ball, sledge-to-tire, sled pulls, sandbags moves, jumping rope, handstands, balance on curbs, pistol squat practice and some kettlebell juggling give the nervous system something new to process and a lot of growth and fun comes out of that process.

I love watching our members practice, learn and explore functional fitness in different ways. The opportunity for growth is boundless. Interested in joining us? We'd love to have you.

 

Listening to Your Body

Listening to your body is the most important skill you will develop in the gym.

Much like learning the kettlebell swing, or the barbell deadlift, it takes time and practice to become a really good listener.

Many of us have spent a lot of time ignoring signals from our bodies, so this may be something totally new for you.

I promise there will be times when you want to do something in your brain, but your body doesn't feel ready -- and you know it and ignore it any way.

I can't tell you how many times I have trained alone and raised the 24kg KB to start a getup -- only to put it back down. My body says no ... over and over and over. My head says yes over and over and over. But it doesn't feel right. I feel wobbly and unsure. Fortunately, I detest being injured, so I have learned to listen and react accordlingly. I will continue to listen because I have learned through experience that ignoring my body will result in an issue I will have to REALLY listen to later.

Listening usually requires a response. So do it. You know I support you. If you want to go lighter, sit out, go heavier, stretch, or go home. I will support whatever your body tells you to do.

Listening is the essential skill to keep you safe and safely progressing in the gym.

I can't feel what you feel. I wish I could. I joke about attaching a meter to you to get the same feedback you are getting. I wish it were possible.

I do see signs of what you are feeling, but I depend on you to confirm them. And most of the time, you are great about listening. You are learning to take charge of your body so that you know what to do and how to respond no matter where you are and what physical activity you are doing.

I believe that listening is the greatest PR you can ever achieve. 

And what you hear and feel will change constantly. Once moment you might feel strong and fresh and ready to bump up weight. In an instant, there could be a muscle twinge, or an empty feeling like you just ran out of energy. You could feel like you are on top-of-the-world, or tired from a lack of sleep the night before. You will experience so many scenarios that I can't even begin to summarize them here. There is never a moment off from listening, feeling, discerning and learning.

Here are some tips to improve your listening ability:

  • Nourish your body with food, sleep, water and rest so that you can really hear what your body is saying to you when you train in the gym.
  • Train with a coach who will guide you and help you discern what your body is telling you.
  • Never let a muscle twinge or joint issue, or anything that feels weird, go unnoticed. Stop, assess and address.
  • Pay attention to changes, such as a loss of balance, reduced grip strength, extreme tightness, light-headedness, an inability to concentrate, pain and so on. Listen and react.
  • If in doubt about how much is too much, take a day off and rest! Training should not deplete you; it should energize you.
  • Keep a journal to log how you feel or use our online skills tracking program to log results/concerns in the Notes section. Review often. Share with your coach if you wish.
  • Add some gentle movement and stretching outside the gym "to feel it out" if your body is sending you signals of concern. Address the signals now.
  • Talk with your coach if you have questions or concerns. Don't stay quiet because you don't want to call attention to yourself in class. I always want to know.
  • Listen during the training session, afterward, later in the day, the next morning, two days later and at the end of the week, month, year. How do you feel? Yep, listening, and therefore, learning, never stops. 

Being a good listener will help you keep your body safe in the gym and in your everyday life. 

Never lose sight of why you are training in the first place: to be healthy, strong and vibrant for life and sport. Nothing is worth compromising that overarching goal.

Strong Member Spotlight: Maddie Revis

When Maddie joined the gym late last year, she was very motivated to get strong and she had just started on her weight loss journey. She learned to use kettlebells quickly and made a commitment to training with consistency and moderation. She loves being physically active and I admire how she has incorporated exercise into her social life with events like the Warrior Dash, Urban Obstacle, charity fitness events, softball and light runs in the park with friends.

Most of our members know Maddie because her work hours vary, so she is able to attend at different class times. She can occasionally attend two classes a day, but she is really good about listening to her body and resting or changing up her fitness activity when needed.

Maddie is a great team player who encourages and applauds others in class. She is already developing a coaches' eye. She is humble and a lot fun to coach. She is serious about her kettlebell training, but she has fun too -- the perfect combination to make fitness sustainable over a lifetime.

With her solid kettlebell technique, and consistent training, she has become very strong. Her body has been transforming since she started because of her commitment to staying active and maintaining life balance with work, rest, training and play.

I think, like many people, Maddie was surprised at the cardiovascular benefits of kettlebells ... and how you get hooked on how good it feels when you move well and move strong.

The Turkish Getup did not come easy for Maddie, but she is now using a 48# KB and moving with ease. That is what I am most proud of at this moment. That and how well she moves with kettlebell snatches ... because not everyone does -- they are challenging -- but she makes it look easy!

Maddie will continue to get stronger and leaner ... I see no limits to what she can do in the gym and I look forward to helping her reach her goal of the RKC-I in 2016. ~Lori

Maddie's fitness journey in her own words:

What do you like most about strength training with kettlebells?

Training with kettlebells keeps me interested. I feel challenged every time I pick up a kettlebell. I started training with kettlebells just a little over six months ago, and I am still intrigued with the shape, size and variety of weight there is to use. Training with kettlebells is not a job or a task, I look forward to it. Waking up at 5:45 a.m. to work out is no longer a chore. I get this excitement the night before because I know I will be indulging in a new challenge as soon I step foot in the gym. It doesn’t compare to any other workout – I get both strength and cardio conditioning. It is never choreographed or routine. What I like most is the immediate response from my body when I train with kettlebells—the after-workout soreness in various muscle groups and the endorphins kicking in.

What are your favorite movements and lifts?

The Snatch is my favorite kettlebell movement. I am fascinated with how beautiful it is and how much control it requires. The Snatch came to me relatively easily, and that may be why I like it so much. Just recently I found my passion for the Turkish Get Up. The TGU required a lot of practice for me.  From the get-go, my form lacked and I didn’t really understand the purpose of getups. I thought it was hard enough work to get up off the floor with just my body weight. After a lot, a lot, of practice, I finally nailed the form, and I am now challenging myself with heavier weight. Like the Snatch, the TGU is also a very beautiful, intriguing movement. As much as I despise squatting, it is also on my list of favorite movements, primarily because it uses legs, which in my opinion is the strongest part of my body. I love that it takes discipline to squat, and that with kettlebells, we mix it up with racked double bells or goblet squats. We also use barbells and I am proud to say that I can Zercher squat 123 lbs.

What are some results you have seen since you started strength training?

The major results I have seen with strength training include weight loss and development of muscle mass. It took 6 months for me to lose 52 lbs. in a healthy manner, with some adjustments to my diet, mainly eating smaller portions and more protein. While training with kettlebells, I have gained muscle mass in every area of my body, which has triggered a quicker metabolism. I am fascinated with how my body has changed, in fact every time I look in the mirror I am proud of it. You can ask anyone that I know—I am the happiest and most confident I have ever been. I feel great and I am pain free. On days that I go without strength training, I can feel my body craving it. Every movement I have learned with kettlebells is applicable to my daily life. I work in retail, where it is required to lift heavy objects and stand on my feet all day. I can say that both come easier to me since training with kettlebells.

Was there anything that surprised you in this process?

I think what surprised me most about training with kettlebells is how quickly I have seen results. When I started, I was focused on losing weight. I was committed to exercising every day of the week, sometimes twice a day, incorporating spinning and softball, and any other periodic outdoor activities. I have hit a plateau with my weight loss, but I can feel my body changing every day—both mentally and physically. I have slowed down a lot with the amount of extra cardio I am doing. I recently ran the Urban Obstacle 5k, and I didn’t even train for it. I was able to complete it with no problem, and I know it was due to the strength and cardio conditioning from training with kettlebells. I totally underestimated the passion that I have developed for kettlebells, and the confidence I have gained in my everyday life. It is liberating to know that not all progress made is physical.

What are your goals over the next year?

Over the next year, I will still be focusing on gaining muscle mass and losing fat. I will spend my time training to participate in the RKC certification in April, 2016. My short term goal is to barbell deadlift more than my body weight and to eventually master the strict pushup and pullup.