After searching long and hard all summer for a suitable method to get myself fit for future trails and to ensure there would be no repeat of the disasters of the previous trip, I settled on working out with a Kettlebell from September through March to get me into shape.
I had never heard of a Kettlebell before, so when I first saw them I wondered what the heck I was looking at. A big lump of metal with a handle that people were swinging around like they were Tarzan in a Rain Forest looked a little dodgy to me at first, but when I looked at them closer I saw the benefits of this gruesome workout method.
As long as I learned the correct form and put safety first, this was a brutal, but perfect way to get into shape. Needing little space, they worked just about every muscle group we possess. Every part of me needed whipping into shape, from my legs, my core and my shoulders, right up to my arms and neck muscles. An added bonus was that a Kettlebell workout wasn’t just a strength workout – it was also an exhaustive cardio workout too, which I needed as badly as I needed anything else.
This was perfect. I could work around my physical limitations whilst at the same time getting into the best shape of my entire life. I would be more than ready for the next backpacking adventure!!
The premier website for Kettlebell information is www.dragondoor.com. Pavel Tsatsouline, the Russian who introduced the Kettlebell to the United States, publishes all his books and DVD’s at this site, and it is very informative.
According to Pavel, the average male should start with a 35lb Kettlebell. So – and this is where ego overtook all logic and reality – I decided that I was at least an average male, and even though I had already had a stroke and was weak on my left side, 35lbs didn’t sound all that bad. In fact, I convinced myself that I was a tough former British Soldier, who would make mincemeat out of such a puny device!! So I ordered it.
I had planned on beginning the workouts the week after our vacation in Las Vegas in September 2012. I ordered it online from the hotel in Vegas so that it would arrive after we got home, but well in time for the start of the next week.
I still had never seen one of these wonderful pieces of man breaking metal, and the Kettlebells at Dragondoor were a little on the expensive side. According to all the reviews I saw they are the best ones to get, but I was still unsure whether or not I could actually do it, so I looked for one that was slightly cheaper. I found a good selection at a site called www.performbetter.com, and I ordered mine from there. It was bright orange, 35lbs, and was going to be mastered in a matter of days!!
We arrived home from Las Vegas on a Tuesday, and the Kettlebell duly arrived the day after, Wednesday September 12th, 2012. The FedEx man rang the doorbell and left the box outside the front door.
I was excited as I went outside to get it. Then reality kicked in!! What was I thinking? Pavel Tsatsouline was out of his mind!! I struggled, rolled, kicked, pushed, pulled, tied a rope to it – but I couldn’t get it into the house. So I waited until my 4’10”, 110lb wife got home from work so she could carry it into the house for me!!
I was forlorn. I obviously wasn’t the average male. I couldn’t even lift it up with my left hand, and I couldn’t get it much past chest height with my right hand. Back to the drawing board, this time with my ego firmly in check.
I decided to wait until the next morning to see if I could find some of these brutal devices locally so I could lift them up to see what weight I should actually start with. Then disaster struck. As I detailed in another post here, I woke up the next morning in utter agony. It transpired that I had ruptured a disc in my neck, and that I would have to undergo surgery to repair the damage.
I wondered if my feeble attempts to lift the 35lb Orange monster had caused the disc to rupture, but as I never actually lifted it more than a few inches off the ground I quickly dispensed with that idea.
I had the surgery on my birthday in October, and then I had to wait for 12 weeks until it had healed sufficiently before I could try again to get fit. I had lost a three month window of opportunity to get fit, and now I was running out of time if this next trip wasn’t going to be another fitness disaster.
As the 12 week point drew closer, I kept returning to the Kettlebell fitness idea. I knew I would have to be very careful not to injure my neck again after the surgery, but I was doubly determined to get myself as fit as I could in the timeframe I had left before we left on March 2nd 2013 for our next adventure. The mean Orange just sneered at me from my closet, daring and goading me to even try to master it. I broke out into a sweat just looking at it. I knew it would be months, years, perhaps never before I would ever get around to working out with that monstrosity.
So I went to Wal-Mart and tried lifting several different Kettlebells. I was very wary of my neck injury, as well as my permanent weakness down my whole left side. Physically I wasn’t much use to anyone, not even myself, but I wasn’t giving up. I swallowed my pride and hid my embarrassment. I came home with my new workout tool – a sand filled, purple Kettlebell. That weighed a whole 5lbs!!
I found a very good app on the iPad from Lauren Brooks that not only showed the correct form and safety measures, but also had a good warm up and cooldown program either side of three different workout programs for beginners. I was in business!!
On Monday, January 14th 2013, I began working out with my new purple backbreaker. Even though it was very light, the workouts left me really sore the next day. I couldn’t stand up without groaning in agony for about a week such was the poor state of my fitness. I had mastered the swing, the snatch, the one armed row and the overhead press. Now I had to master how to do them more than once!!
After two weeks working out with Lauren’s excellent iPad program, I allowed my ego once again to get the better of me. Still keeping with big purple, I ordered the Extreme Kettlebell Cardio Workout DVD by Keith Weber from www.dragondoor.com. This workout is brutal in the extreme; especially if you use the same weight Kettlebell he does and follow him all the way to the end.
I don’t have much time to get fit, so I started this program today, Monday January 28th, 2013. I managed to do the first three workouts (there are seven in total), and I still used big purple. I want to get fit, but I am more concerned with protecting my neck and my weak left side than I am rushing into a fitness program that I physically cannot accomplish at this point.
This program rocks. Even though I am at the wimpy end of it, I can feel that it is going to benefit me enormously as I persevere with it. I am hopeful that I will be able to increase the weights slowly as time goes by, but I am also a realist, and I know that I will probably never get to use the Orange Monster sat in my closet. And I am fine with that. If I can get to 15lbs I will be happy.
Along with a few hiking trips I have planned between now and our start date, I should be in far better condition this time than I ever was last year. After a difficult year medically, I am grateful to be still breathing and semi healthy. I’ll take that every day, and I will enjoy the trail even if I come up short again on the mileage goals. At least I will be out there enjoying them, and that is all that counts.
I mention the above websites where I found and purchased Kettlebells and DVD’s. I have absolutely no relationship with these companies other than as a paying customer.