Being somewhat a novice, I did the first of two programs, humbly named the Program Minimum. It consists of two exercises you’ve probably never heard of, both of which I described in the original post. Kettlebells have a steep learning curve, and are about as forgiving as concrete, but I did okay.
Originally it was supposed to be a six-week experiment, during which I’d see how much of a physical bodily change I could muster in that period. As I neared the end of the six weeks I was assaulted by life itself, more specifically a badly-timed move, a badly-timed (but previously committed) trip to Ohio, and a badly-timed neck injury, all happening simultaneously, conspiring to put me out of commission for a good two weeks. So I gave myself a week to catch up, extending the total duration to nine weeks. Now time is officially up.
Talk is Cheap, So I Took Pictures
Historically I am prone to quitting stuff and starting again whenever I run into trouble. To cement my commitment to the program I took a before picture of myself with no shirt on and posted it here for all to see. Today I present my after picture.
Now, the goal was to see what visible physical changes could be accomplished in such a short time with a simple kettlebell workout. Kettlebell work is very intense, and for that reason, my workouts were very short, averaging 8-12 minutes. That sounds like nothing, but a few minutes can seem like an eternity when you’re swinging kettlebells around. Aside from some unfortunate schedule bumblings, I did four of these workouts a week, which only adds up to about forty minutes of actual exercise per week, or a total of less than five hours of exercise altogether, in the seven weeks I actually worked out. I did no other exercise.
I don’t look remarkably different, but I’m pleased with the results. One of the hallmarks of kettlebells is that they make you stronger without being a lot bigger. I have experienced some visible improvements in muscle definition and size (especially in my back,) but the main difference has been in my strength, not my shape. When I was moving boxes into my apartment, I was struck by how easy it was to lift everything and carry it long distances without fatigue.
My posture has improved and my back is not sore after sitting at the computer all day. I don’t get winded during football or basketball like I used to. I’m just altogether more resilient, and I’ve only just getting started with kettlebells.
I did not do my best. Or maybe I did, but my best was not very good sometimes. I handled my unexpected obstacles poorly, I let them get me off track for longer than I needed to be. In the last few weeks I missed a few workouts for no good reason at all. As I stated in my progress log, several times I skipped my normal after-work workout, reasoning that I could work out later. The problem was that after supper I naturally had less energy and did not feel up to giving my all. Since I was always trying to do better than last time, I would push the workout to the next day rather than work to disappointing numbers. A bad habit, and I will nip that one in the bud as I continue my strength training.
Towards the end I did lose much of my initial ferocity, and workouts started to become an obligation, rather than an opportunity to get stronger. Part of my kettlebell education has been reframing how I feel about the thought of working out, and what to do when I just don’t feel like that. I hit some rough spots in this sense, but I’ll level that out too.
All in all I consider it a success, just not the “smashing” kind.
What I Learned
Kettlebells deserve the hype. As I mentioned, I became substantially stronger in just five hours of work. I’m thrilled at what they’ve done in such a short time, and can only imagine what will happen when ramp up the volume and add to my repertoire of lifts. My joints and back feel awesome, I don’t tire of anything nearly as easily. Kettlebells are just beginning to catch on in the mainstream, and soon nobody won’t know what they are. If you’re looking for a way to workout that works in a short time, go buy a kettlebell, you won’t need a Bowflex or a treadmill or a gym membership.
Work out at the earliest opportunity. As a career procrastinator, I found myself choosing ‘later’ over ‘now’ when it didn’t really make sense to do so. And I always felt so awesome for the rest of the night when I did get my workout in early. There was a lot of needless procrastination in this experiment, I wonder what my results would have been like if I’d been airtight with my commitment. At any rate, I did get better at combating this lifelong discipline problem and I will continue to work it like I worked my lungs and heart. “Work out at the earliest opportunity” is a sound mantra that will guide me in the future.
Don’t shoot for a personal best each time, just do whatever your best is right then and there. This was a pit-trap for me, as I got into the habit of deferring my workout whenever I didn’t feel up to topping my last totals. If there is anything I wish to address in my further kettlebell adventures, this is it.
I still have discipline problems. I’m pleased with and proud of my results, but they could have been much more substantial if I had been determined not to miss my workouts for lame reasons. Much of the time it was just pure cowardice, no real excuses.
I always tilt my head to the left when getting my picture taken. Seriously, I don’t know why, but all pictures of me are like that.
I wasn’t sure what I’d do when I finished this experiment. Obviously I’m not going to pack up the kettlebells, I’m just getting warmed up. But I do need the accountability factor of posting my results online, so the experiment will continue. The Party approves.
I’m eager to try my hand at some more advanced kettlebell movements, so I’m going to transition to the second program, the triumphantly-named Rite of Passage. Snatches and overhead presses, with more swings and Turkish get ups. But I must practice these new lifts first.
Of course, when I leave Canada for New Zealand, I will not be able (or rather, willing) to carry my kettlebell in my backpack. So at that point I’ll have to switch to a bodyweight-only regimen.
I am still busy not doing drugs, but — as ever — there is another experiment on the horizon.
Photo by jay8085