Round 14: A New Hybrid

P90X_X2_Round-14Before my kettlebell infatuation was consummated, I went through the effort to create a 90 day, P90X2 / X3 Hybrid. I enjoyed and benefited from both those programs in the past, so I wanted to continue to reap those rewards, but with the added variety a hybrid offers.

But that hybrid calendar was set aside as I courted the kettlebell. And with all that swinging, I grew to really enjoy the program, the instructor–Michael Skogg–and the benefits that come just from doing something new and different.

After completing my kettlebell round and the successful singles season that went with it, I was keen to keep the kettlebell in my arsenal. So I revisited my X2/X3 Hybrid calendar and inserted a kettlebell routine into the beginning of each week. Doing so extends my 90 day calendar to 111 days, but this ain’t no big thing because I’m psychologically past the 90 day paradigm at this point.

Typically, I take two to three weeks off between rounds. But this time, I was getting antsy so I kicked off this round on May 6th. I was getting antsy because I know summer always brings more travel into my schedule and my 111 day calendar will surely be extended.

My first week was interrupted by a trip to Alaska, although I did manage to get a nice 3 1/2 hour walk in up Mineral Creek in Valdez one evening after work.

2015-05-12 16.42.52

Looking North up Mineral Creek. Valdez, Alaska

It was nice to have the chance to stretch my legs. This time of year, it stays light well into the night.

Today, I started my second week with another kettlebell routine. Both routines so far have been from my new Skogg at Home, Phase 1 DVD. Again, variety is the theme of this round, I suppose. It’s new, and different. Both clocked in at around 30 minutes.

It’s funny. Just re-introducing P90X3 back into my like this past week has left me sore as hell: in the abs and the shoulders from throwing around that 12 lb med ball in the CVX routine. This just reinforces my decision to proceed as planned. It’s clearly needed.

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Skogg System Kettlebell: Complete.

kettlebell-smileyToday I completed my latest workout round swinging my kettlebells through Skogg’s Ladders, level 4 workout.

With breaks for tennis, it took me 102 days to complete the 84 day calendar. Not a problem. I was working hard on those tennis days and doing extra yoga sessions to keep limber. And, I’m injury free!

The final three weeks of the Skogg System calendar had me at Level 4. Level 4 continues to add time and reps to the various workouts in the DVD set. As expected, adding that time and those reps initially made Level 4 very challenging. But fairly quickly–about half way through those final 3 weeks–I started imagining that I could soon increase my weights. When I began Level 4, I was using the 12 kg bell on all the routines.

The question was: how do I safely increase the weight? Go back to level 2 or 3 with the higher weight? I posted the question on Skogg’s facebook page, and was advised to stay at Level 4, increase the weight, but go back to the lower weight bell in the routine as I run out of gas. I followed this advice, with good success in my final three workouts: Roots, Intervals and Ladders.

Having completed this DVD set, I can report that I thoroughly enjoy the workouts and I am noticeably stronger everywhere. I’ve also clearly gained muscle mass in my thighs, butt, chest and arms. I think the kettlebell compliments tennis well, building both strength and endurance. And speed wasn’t compromised moving around the court.

So my decision to mix things up and try something new proved beneficial. I like Skogg’s approach and demeanor, so I purchased another of his DVDs: Skogg at Home, Phase 1.

Whatever I wind up doing next, kettlebells will figure into the plan.

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Back in the Swing

Boy swingingNow that we’ve had a few days in a row of warm temperatures, I feel I can officially announce that winter has finally released its icy grip on Atlanta.

All this cold, rainy weather we’ve been having this year has made scheduling tennis matches challenging. Consequentially, my singles and doubles matches got all clumped up into a very busy week. Because of all the tennis, I took a break from the kettlebelling. Singles tennis can be taxing enough. One of my matches–which I lost–went 3 sets and just shy of 3 hours. I did insert lots of yoga into my hiatus, though. Yoga is increasingly crucial for me to ensure I can stay limber and avoid injury.

It turned out to be a good singles season for me. I placed first in my division. Now, it’s on to the playoffs. More important than the winning, though, is that I played without injury and ended the season with all 10 toenails intact. My tennis elbow has not returned. The tendon is a bit tight the next day, but I would not characterize this as an “issue.”

Also, I have to think that all this kettlebell swinging will help because my forearms and wrists are already noticeably stronger. I started back up promptly after completing the regular singles season.

I’m now done with week 9 and on to the remaining 3 weeks and LEVEL 4. One of the things I like about kettlebells is that you can’t cheat. When swinging that bell, all muscles are firing, unlike when you do an isolated exercise and you can knowingly or unknowingly favor a strength over a weakness and not realize the intended benefit of the exercise.


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Heels Over Head

headstand_snoopyWeek 7 of the Skogg Kettlebell System upped the ante to “Level 3″ and brought with it yet another milestone.

The increased reps of level 3 had me somewhat nervous so I was surprised to find that in the Ladders and Flow routines I was able to keep up with the video during the first half of both. For the second half of each, I just paused the DVD and completed at my own pace. I was pleased that I could do all the reps and it gave me confidence that I should be able to complete this program up to the final Level 4 when asked to do so.

But while getting to Level 3 is a source of satisfaction to me, it doesn’t rise to the level of being a “milestone.”

So what’s the big event?

It came during one of my many yoga sessions I have for my stretch days. When it came time to do the crow pose, I opted instead to do a headstand. No big deal, I guess, except I hadn’t done a headstand since maybe the fifth grade. And I don’t know exactly what motivated me to try it. It kind of just popped in my head as a natural move to compliment crow, which has gotten very easy and routine for me. Well, I was surprised to find I could in fact do a headstand. And I actually think the kettlebell work helped give me the confidence to try, since good core stability was certainly involved in pulling off the move.

I also played and won my second singles tennis match of the season. Again, I felt strong with excellent endurance. Again, (since I won) Skogg Kettlebell gets full credit.

On to week 8.

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Kettlebell Halfway

Russian_stamps_no_534_—_Dumb-bell_liftingWith today’s yoga, I completed week 6 of the Skogg Kettlebell System. This marks the halfway point of the program.

Throughout the week, I performed the scheduled “level 2″ workouts. They are challenging, but not nearly as much as a couple of weeks ago. So, I suppose it’s fitting that with week 7 comes the “level 3″ workouts.

Over the past weekend, I was able to sneak in a singles tennis match between all the cold, rainy weather we’ve been having. It was an agreeable temperature, in the 50’s. I easily won the match. And my play was pretty good. More importantly, I played without any tennis elbow issues. The arm felt good, strong. Overall, I felt I was in good condition: solid. This, of course, was all due to the Skogg Kettlebell System and all the yoga I’ve been doing.

Had I lost, no fear, I would have been as quick to blame the kettlebells and yoga.

So far, I’ve managed to swing the kettlebell without dropping it on my foot, smashing my kneecap, or having it fly out of my hand, mid-swing, into the TV set. I make these statements with a combination of pride and relief. There have even been moments where my movements were almost fluid.

So, as my reward, I graduate to “level 3″ this coming week. This seemed quite impossible a few weeks ago. Now I’m actually looking forward to the challenge.

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Kettlebell: Week 5 & Flow

flowWeek 5 of the Skogg System Kettlebell workout is now done. In week 5, we are introduced to the fourth and final DVD which is called: Flow.

The Flow workout incorporates all 6 moves, in sequence first on the left side, then the right. For level 1, we begin with a single rep of each move and work up to three reps before going back down from three to two to one rep.

Once again, because this was my first time with this workout, I had trouble keeping up. So I just paused the DVD as necessary to complete the sequences. I expect my next attempt at Flow will go smoother.

We’re also introduced to a new warm up. This warm up incorporates dive bombers, which I’ve always hated. I dislike them because I’m not good at them. This, I know, means I need to do them to focus on the weakness. It’s just that I have so many weaknesses, sometimes it seems I never get to do anything I actually enjoy.

The next week 6 keeps me at level 2 for all the routines. This should allow the additional practice and development I’ll need to start introducing some of the level 3 routines in week 7. Sitting here at my keyboard, that sounds do-able.

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Kettlebell: I Walk the Line

frostWith today’s yoga, I’ll have completed week 4 of the Skogg Kettlebell System workout regimen.

In some respects it was a good week, in others, not so much.

The prior weekend’s backpacking went well. That is, until mile 5.5 where I rolled my ankle stepping off a log putting the full weight of my pack on it as I stumbled. The final 3.5 miles to camp that day were painful and slow. No permanent damage. It only hurt when I used it. The big bummer, really was that singles tennis started again this week and I had to defer play, waiting for this to heal up. I played some mixed doubles yesterday and proved that I can move aggressively at this point even though it’s not yet fully healed.

With week 4 of the Skogg System, I was introduced to the Ladders routine. Ladders incorporates the same six moves, this time in sequence, on your left side then your right.  You start with one rep of each move, left side, right side, rest, then two reps, rest, three, three, two, and one.

As with any new routine, even though these are all the same moves, adding variety to the sequence messed me up. I couldn’t keep up. I even grazed the inside of my left knee with a swinging kettlebell. That caught my attention. In fairness, I think it’s not entirely my fault. In this DVD, Michael Skogg says during the rest, after completing the first single-rep sequence, that the breaks will get longer as the reps in each sequence increase. Not only is this not the case, as the routine progresses, the promised breaks actually never happen at all. This is a mistake in the production of the Ladders routine. When swinging a kettlebell, it’s highly inconvenient to stop and repeatedly hit pause. So I’ve dealt with this going forward by simply hitting pause after the first sequence and performing the remaining moves on my own at my own pace. I then re-fire the DVD for the cool down stretch.

After Ladders, I looked at the next scheduled sessions and saw that Roots 2 was scheduled three times in a row, followed by Ladders 2. As I was unhappy with my first go at Ladders, I didn’t want my next attempt to be at Level 2. So I replaced one of the Roots 2 workouts with another round of Ladders 1. This was a good decision. It went much better the second time around.

I’m getting stronger. During my last Roots 2 routine, I was using the 16 kg kettlebell for the first 4 moves and the 12er for the final 2. That was very encouraging. Soon, I’ll need to start shopping for a heavier bell.

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Kettlebell, I’m Lovin’ It.

kettlebell_loveWith today’s yoga (and tomorrow’s rest), I’ve now completed week 3 of the Skogg Kettlebell System.

As the week progressed, I was introduced to Level 2 for the Intervals routine. And as with Roots, Level 2, I’m just amazed how quickly this gets difficult, by simply adding another 30 seconds to each move.

Technique-wise, the snatch remains my least fluid move. And so, with it comes the greatest risk for poor form related injury. On occasion, I have performed the move correctly, and I can feel the difference when doing so. As with any repetitive athletic effort, muscle memory is the key.

I’m also now fully committed to using the 12 kg bell for all the moves. The only exception for now is I am using the 16er for the squats in Roots. I have to say, it’s difficult to imagine extending these sets another 30 seconds with these weights. Toward the end of the routines, I’m having to really focus to keep all my muscles engaged so I don’t spaghetti-arm the weight. Looking ahead on the calendar, I see I’m not asked to move up to Level 3 until mid week 7. I expect strength, endurance and technique (efficiency) will continue to improve so that 4 weeks from now, what seems impossible will prove doable.

Things I find interesting with respect to this workout, thus far:

  • The core is a huge factor. I started this program with a pretty fit core. But it’s my core/abs that’s feeling it the most. Particularly with the squats.
  • I’m used to workouts that alternate each day focusing on different muscle groups. Now, with the kettlebells, every single muscle is engaged in every routine (including muscles in my feet). The whole-body soreness that follows is a new, weird feeling.
  • Initially, I was very, very sore. Now, with the very good post workout stretch routines in the Skogg program and my own use of yoga on stretch days, I’m not very sore at all. And, more importantly, I’m not tightening up.
  • Only 3 weeks in, I’m feeling stronger. Everywhere. Arms, legs, shoulders and back.

I’m really enjoying this program so far. For the first time in ages I am actually looking forward to my daily workout. I enjoy learning a new skill. And I love how I feel almost weightless after I put down the bell at the end of a routine.

Backpacking this weekend. We’ll see how this all translates into real world performance.

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Level 2. It’s a Little More Higher.


Ain’t no big thang.

Wow. What a difference 3o seconds makes.

Yesterday, I did the “Roots” kettlebell workout again. This time, the calendar called for doing Level 2. As Shaun T of Insanity fame says, “It’s Level 2. It’s a little more higher.”

The only thing that changes with Level 2 is adding 30 seconds to each move. That’s it. But just making that one change changes the workout from Level 1 “fun” to Level 2 “work.” I used the same bell weights as I had used in the prior two Roots, Level 1 sessions. So the only change was duration. Man, my heart rate went up. And I was tired when finished.  I was also worried I would be very sore today. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. So, perhaps my brief sojourn into kettlebells has already increased strength.

Today, stretch day, I again did P90X3 Yoga. Toward the end, I remembered a blog post I made way back in May 2011. It was early on in my second Round of P90X. I observed how far I was away from ever hoping to achieve a sitting forward fold with my elbows on the floor. I’ve been able to do that move now for about a year. For some reason, today was the day I noted the achievement of the “impossible.”

Who knows. Maybe I’ll be able to get into a full split at some point. I continue to make improvements, millimeter by millimeter.

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Round 13: Into Week 2 and Intervals

Dragon_Door_Kettlebells_in_Three_SizesI’m now into week 2 and I’ve completed Day 10 of the Skogg Kettlebell Regimen. Day 10 introduces a new variation on a separate DVD called “Intervals.”

As with the Roots workout, I began the Intervals routine at “Level 1.” Intervals begins with a new warm up which uses the scorpion stretch. I hate scorpion for the same reason I hate the yoga “Bow” pose. You lie prone, face in the carpet, and bend your back upwards as you attempt to lift your leg up and move your foot into the direction of the opposite hand which is extended out to your side. Bending backwards is my biggest (known) weakness for yoga and stretching. I lack the range of motion it demands. I suppose this is why I need it.  Admittedly, I’ve found that if I dislike a particular exercise, it’s precisely because it identifies a weakness that needs to be corrected. So, I do it, dust mites in the carpet and all.

Once the warm up is complete, the Intervals workout begins. With the Skogg System, you employ the same six kettlebell moves throughout the 12 weeks. I think this is good because: 1) they are clearly effective moves that target every muscle group and 2) it increases the chance that I may achieve competence with the moves through repetition.

Intervals adds the variation that you perform two moves in sequence, once per side before taking a break and moving on to the next sequence. Consequently, it’s more demanding and my heart rate was definitely higher than when doing the Roots, level 1 workout.

The cool down was another yoga-inspired sequence that did a good job relaxing the shoulders, lats, hip-flexors and hamstrings.

I continue to use P90X3 Yoga on alternating days and I find it’s an excellent compliment to the weights.

Tomorrow, it’s back to “Roots.” But I get to take it up a notch and see what “Level 2″ is all about.

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