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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Round 13: Skogg Roots

gi-grounded-manI write this having completed Day 5 of the Skogg System Kettlebell workout regimen. Day 5 marks the second iteration of the “Roots” DVD.

The Roots workout DVD contains four levels through which I hope to advance during this 12 week regimen. This being Week 1, I began with level 1 for each of these routines, as detailed in the Skogg System Workout Calendar.

Roots Level 1 takes you through a warm up, the workout and a cool down stretch. For the warm up, we are instructed to use a light kettlebell (I used my 8 kg, 17 lb kettlebell). With that kettlebell, you then perform various moves, revolving the bell around your head, around your body and through your legs. It is exactly that. A warm up in the traditional sense. Your body becomes engaged and is warmed as you begin the routine. This, unlike the Insanity “warm up” which involves 10 minutes of cardio hell, the better to separate the wheat from the chaff and the fluids from your body.

So I wasn’t sweating after the brief warm up. In fact, I never broke a sweat in any of the two iterations of Roots in this Week 1. This conforms to various other accounts I read about in the Skogg DVD reviews prior to purchasing. Rest assured, I read, the sweat will be flying in subsequent workouts.

I don’t consider this a negative at all. In fact, I like the idea of “easing” into something new. Hopefully, I’m learning and getting my form right so I can leverage this as the demands increase.

In my first attempt at the Roots workout on Day 3, I opted to use my lightest 8 kg kettlebell throughout and focus on learning the moves. On Day 4, my stretch day, I did another P90X3 Yoga session. Today, prior to taking on Roots for the second time, I was happy to notice I was nowhere near as sore as I had been following my first introduction to the Kettlebell over a week ago when I was playing with the Skogg 101 DVD.

Since I was relatively pain free, I decided beforehand to vary the kettlebell weights based on the exercise. As a result, I was significantly more winded (still no sweat) than I was after completing Roots the first time.

In this Roots DVD, we perform 6 kettlebell moves in the main workout. As the levels advance from 1 through 4, the pace, load and duration increases. At level 1, each of the six moves are performed once per side for 30 seconds each. I made sure to complete at least 10 reps of each move per side. After each move, there is a 60 second recovery period before continuing on to the next move.

For the record, here are the six moves, and the weights I employed on my second round of Roots, Level 1:

  1. Swing, 12 kg (26 lbs)
  2. Clean, 12 kg
  3. Clean & Press, 12 kg
  4. Squat, 16 kg (35 lbs)
  5. High Pull, 12 kg
  6. Snatch, 8 kg (17 lbs)

I handled each of these weights with relative ease. The reason I opted for the 8’er on the Snatch was because this is my least graceful move. I need to get the form better before I up the weight.

The Roots, Level 1 workout portion lasts about 11 minutes (6 moves x 30 sec/move/side x 2 sides) + 5, 1 minute rests. So, long enough to get the heart rate up, but not quite enough to break a sweat. It will be interesting to see if I experience any significant change in achiness over the next two days as a result of the increased weights.

The DVD concludes with a nice cool down stretch that introduced–to me–new ways to stretch various muscle groups.

No jokes, no clowning around, ala Tony Horton of P90X fame. But Michael Skogg serves up clear instructions, with a nice demeanor and in a very non-intimidating way. Enjoying this very much.

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Round 13: Hello Kettlebell

skogg_logoHello 2015.
It’s a new year, and with it comes a new Round.

This Round 13 marks the beginning of my 5th year pursuing personal fitness in earnest and in the privacy of my basement.

All along, I’ve worked hard and enjoyed good success with various programs sold by Beachbody, LLC, specifically: P90X, P90X2, P90X3, Insanity and Tai Cheng. And as I was completing my latest round of Insanity, looking forward into this year, I put together a 90 day Hybrid routine of P90X2 and X3.

But, as much as I was looking forward to starting the year with that Hybrid, I also had the nagging feeling that I was getting into a bit of a rut. And that maybe it would be better for me to start the new year with something entirely new. I’ll likely proceed to the X2/X3 Hybrid later this year.

So I started reading about kettlebells. It sounded appealing. Strength training with movement that requires cardio and core. But it also sounded like a great way to get injured in my basement if my form wasn’t good. Not eager to go out into the cold and seek professional tutelage, I researched instructional DVD workout programs that had solid reviews regarding the quality of the instruction.

This research let me to the 5 DVD Skogg System. The instructor, Michael Skogg, takes you on a 12 week journey of progressively advanced kettleball work. Having completed the Skogg 101 intro DVD, I can say I like Mr. Skogg’s calm demeanor and clear, repetitive instructions.

I also purchased three kettlebells: 8, 12 and 16 kg. Here’s why:

During my between round recovery period, between yoga and Tai Cheng Neural Reboots, I started with the Skogg 101 Introduction DVD. It’s a 30 minute primer on the basic moves and techniques of the kettlebell. When I first attempted this, I possessed one, 12 kg kettlebell. During this first attempt, I decided that it was too heavy for a novice like myself and it would be better if I started with a lighter weight so I could better focus on form. I also found out a couple of days later that my entire body was sore from just 20 minutes of swinging that 12 kg kettlebell. Very sore. And the soreness lasted for about four days. How much of this soreness was due to poor technique versus too much weight I cannot say. But it very clearly underscored a weakness that screamed to be corrected.

Based on this initial attempt, I purchased two additional kettlebells: the 8 and the 16 kg. The rationale for the 8’er I’ve already explained. The reason I also purchased the 16 kg kettlebell was because I felt I could already handle that for the squats. The first kettlebell I purchased was a RKC Kettlebell. The next two were Kettlebells USA Metrixx e-coat kettlebells. I went this route because the Kettlebell USA kettlebells seemed of the same quality for a substantially lower price.

My chosen instruments of torture for the next 12 weeks.

My chosen instruments of torture for the next 12 weeks.

Since purchasing the Skogg System, I’ve completed the 101 video four times. Saturday, January 17 was the fourth time. And that’s also when I decided to count it as Day 1 of the 12 week Skogg System journey. Every other day of the calendar allows for a stretch/recovery day. On these days, I intend to choose from Yoga (X, X2 or X3), Dynamix (X3), Recovery & Mobility (X2), Cardio Recovery (Insanity) or Tai Cheng Neural Reboot 4.

Today, I proceed with the “Roots” DVD. Wish me luck!

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