6 Things the Fitness Practice of Kettlebells Has Taught Me (and a bonus!)

Bent

1) My Mind Sets the Limits – My Body is Amazing

I can’t do it.
I’m not strong enough.
I can’t handle this.
I’ve never been able to …..

My brain – for all it’s smarts and capacity – is almost more my enemy, than friend. It is the part of me that doubts my ability, and comes up reasons and excuses and criticisms. It judges and rationalizes and determines whether I win or lose before I’ve even begun. Yeah, yeah… it provides me with creative ideas, and insight and the right words and the ability to think, but there are times when the last thing I need in my life is more thinking. (said from the deepest part of my over-thinker’s heart)

My body continues to astound me with it’s ability to twist, lift, bend, lift, beat, breathe and sweat. My body is loyal. It’s my mind that thinks up reasons why I can’t do something. I choose to believe my body was built to be strong and healthy.

Bent22) How to Be Here Now 

I have spent my whole life in my head – thinking (or worrying) about what might happen in the future or what has to be done next – or pondering things that have happened in the past. There is no absentmindedness when 44lbs of iron hover above my skull.

I have discovered a level of presence through my kettlebell practice that I’ve never experienced before. In that training space – I am thinking about my grip, packing my shoulders, a solid core, squeezing my glutes, releasing tension from my neck, breathing from my diaphragm, and the power I need to harness to complete a series of movements.

I am not thinking about grade seven daughter drama, bills that need to be paid, who isn’t pulling their weight at work,  or how … or why  … or what if …. or when…

I am completely engaged in the moment – no outside thoughts wander in. It has taught me laser focus.

Bent33) My Body Knows Exactly What It Needs If I’m Willing to Pay Attention To It

Like many people, I’ve spent my life pushing my body around. “Don’t eat that … I should eat this instead … Don’t go there … Ew, that’s gross … I can’t look like this … I should be more …”  I learned to ignore base desires and how to override my natural instincts for rest, downtime, silence, and nourishment.

This lifestyle I’ve chosen demands that I pay attention to my body and I’ve grown willing to trust that it always knows exactly what I need – food, sleep, rest, fun. There are days my body wants to work harder, and I know the signals – energy surges, restlessness, and impatience.  There are days my body wants rest – mostly deep, restorative sleep. And when I have come through a real growth phase – physical or mental or emotional – it’s not uncommon for my body to require a whole week off from rules and regiment and (extra) work. (Life still happens afterall.) 

The challenge has been learning to catch it on the whisper; to pay attention so I can pick up the cues  and to practice not overriding this internal wisdom. If my body says yes, I do it. If my body says no, I don’t. My body always knows exactly what I need. Always.

FullSizeRender4) How to Be Comfortable with Uncomfortable

A kettlebell workout is not for the faint of heart. Every muscle group is activated working to fatigue. The brain is keeping track of reps and monitoring postures and tension. The heart is working at it’s maximum intensity for a round of sequences. The lung are recruited to feed oxygen into blood and muscles. Sweat drips into my eyes and down my back. My sports bra and underwear are wet. I’m a hot mess and my mind screams, ‘Stop!!! I can’t take anymore…’ but my body perseveres with it’s amazing endurance and strength.

There are moments it feels awful, but I’ve learned to just be with it. I’m not comfortable right now, but just sit with it a minute. What does it feel like?

Adjust. Settle into it. Relax. Ease off a bit and come right back to it. Breathe deeper. Recover. And know when to take it to the next level. I’m not dying. It doesn’t feel good, but that’s okay. This too shall pass. Hang on. You’ll get through it.

These have been such powerful messages of reassurance for me.

IMG_01845) Sometime I Gotta Go Lower Before I Can Rise

This photo is the bottom of the Bent Press. 44lbs suspended above my head, core totally recruited, inner thighs tight and screaming and she says, ‘Now get under it. Lower.’ And I do. How the hell am I gonna get up now?

Such a cool metaphor: I’m in a stressful situation, feeling maxed out, pressure is on, with additional demands – I don’t think I can take any more. But I can. And I do. And then I summon my strength, and I stand up straight.

When I’m at my lowest, it’s tough to remember I have the capacity to stand up straight again. But that’s part of the ebb and flow of life. I’m being taught to roll with it. To recruit all my skillsets. To rest and recover when I can and to summon my strength and channel all my power when necessary.

And to trust – to know and believe – I will get up, again.

IMG_01856) I am Far More Powerful Than I Know

I love this picture because it reminds me to be kind to myself. I thought the expression on my face was so hideous, I shouldn’t post it. But, herein lies (part of) the point.

Until recently, I have been my harshest critic – often filled with doubt. I’ve sold myself short. Given up too soon. Let others lead. Backed away when I should have stepped forward. Thought I couldn’t do it – but I can. And I have. And I will.

I am only now getting a clear picture of what I am truly capable of – and I am not talking about the size of my kettlebell or how many times I can press it.  I am speaking of silence, contentment, creativity, collaboration, teamwork, ideas, love, partnership and yes, health and fitness.

I am Joyful. Strong. Healthy. Vibrant. Capable. Loving. Deserving. But SO ARE YOU.

BONUS: 7) Showing Up is Half the Battle

No matter how I perform on the mat, I have already won just because I showed up that day.

I’ve heard that part of the practice of Yoga is to meet yourself on the mat, wherever you are. Kettlebells (or bootcamp) is like this for me. The days I feel tight and restricted or limited outweigh the days I feel flexible, supple and invincible. But, I’m there – ready to try again. Ready to lean into it – push when I need to and back off when my body says so.

Again, just like life: showing up ready to work, whether I am feeling it or not, is the hardest part. What I’ve discovered is that I often surprise myself. Often, the days I pushed myself to stay committed – to just show up and try – were the days I broke through old limits, accomplished something new, or set a new personal best.

Showing up ready to try means I’ve already won. 

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