Last Friday night, Husband and I returned from our work night engagement, poured ourselves and Quinn into bed, and panned over pages full of digital images from the day’s Guinness World Record setting event until well after it became Saturday. Scene after scene showed you all assembling, stretching, visiting, laughing and posing for phone snaps. Women in their skirts, hospital staff in their scrubs, Facilities guys in their jeans and keys, and Crossfitters representing in their wild socks, arm sleeves, and vintage running shorts. There were Whole U staffers and volunteers holding signs and swiping ID cards and sponsor tents full of goodies. In all, it was an incredible production, wasn’t it?
I thought I’d just stop in today and tell you what else I saw in the photographs– things that weren’t as obvious to me from the instructional stage four feet above the brawl.
As an instructor, you want to know that what you’re attempting to communicate is actually making some sense to people. That it might be sinking in is nice too, but one accepts that that particular usually comes with time and practice.
Look, I was raised in the country. There were more horses and cows in my zip code than there were people, probably exponentially so. We were more agrarian than grammarian, to be sure. With my lexicon more limited than that of you sophisticated types, I’m always worried I’m gonna say the way wrong thing at the way wrong time. Add an 1,100-person audience expecting you to help them NOT knock themselves out with a 10 pound iron ingot into the scenario, and a girl becomes just a bit terrified that her lack of command of language might be someone else’s broken teeth.
Since, as of yet, I’ve heard no report of any busted chins or fat lips (phew!), I’m thinking you all must have understood my safety instructions. Or, as I suspected, instructions such as these are often unnecessary in the first place because awareness of the risks is just sort of innate in us. But, you know, sometimes it’s safer to wear both belts and suspenders, so thanks for humoring me.
Squats: A four-letter word surrounded by esses (see, told you, country grammar). Squats are the pig flu of the exercise world. We hate ‘em! We avoid them at all costs. We cheat the depth when nobody’s looking and, whenever possible, we count to 20 by twos. So a trainer picks her battles when she’s got 1,000 athletes in front of her. She hopes you all get the message about a safe stance, an upright back with weight driving through the heels, and leaves the depth and minor form faults to fate (for now). From my perch, it was nearly impossible to decipher such details. I could see you all moving, synchronized to my counts, a sea of smiling heads on shoulders and that’s about it.
But the cameras got it all. And because they were there, I, retrospectively, got to see all of you there on ground level, doing your very, very best to nail your squats. The simple air squat is a foundational movement for variants like the kettlebell swing, weighted squat, and goblet squat. Your swings (incidentally also a four-letter word surrounded by esses, but with a “wing” in the middle, which ain’t a bad visual) and weighted squats were also impressive–and not just for a group comprised primarily of beginners. You all graduated from single-arm swings, wherein the body is a little freer to understand the newness of the bell, to the stiffer, more strenuous, two-handed grip version seamlessly. You eased into the rhythm of the swings and didn’t fight the bell. I know this because I could see it in the sea of heads.
Dozens of digital photographs, at different points in time, of hundreds of people all executing the movements together. And in all of them, not enough serious faults to count on two hands. Sure, there were a couple of knees tracking more in than out. And maybe several of us had a little air under our heels. And maybe a couple sets of heels were a little too close together, but nothing drastic…no impending doom, nothing that can’t be quickly fixed. There were far more beautiful, thoughtfully executed squats and swings than there were thoughtfully, but accidentally faulted squats and swings (my own squat is still in its immature stage and I’ve been working on it for years, by the way).
The images were stunning, particularly when balanced with the magnitude of the event.
One picture, in particular, moved me to tears (okay, tear…non-plural…I’m not a big crier…not at movies, not at funerals, not at the gym…okay, sometimes at the gym). It showed a field of athletes in varying degrees of depth in the squat. During the workout, I asked you all to carefully lower into the squat to whatever level your strength and flexibility would allow. The photo shows each of you putting forth your very best effort, pushing yourselves, and locating your flexibility thresholds.
There is a story on every face in the frame.
I suppose those stories all have a “Why I’m Here Today” component, a thought that I find awesome. And the idea that some of you will take the bell you were given and do something personally productive with it inspires me to want to help you try.
As the days go by this year, you and I will have lots of opportunities to connect. I, just as you, have lots I want to share and lots I want to learn. I can help you continue with your kettlebell work, and I can get you going on other fringe-dweller-fitness modalities. I can come to you if you assemble a group. Have kettlebell, will travel.
I can attend your poetry readings and your art exhibitions, your bake sales and your fun runs; you can attend my Scrambles and functional fitness sessions, my talent showcases and salons. I’ll show up whenever I possibly can, and you can do the same.
I want to know your stories.
With that overly sappy plea, I’ll leave you with a final thought:
Guys, if there’s one thing I know about getting ahold of ourselves when it comes to fitness and exercise and doing almost anything that requires strenuous, usually unpleasant effort, it’s that it is most often a fight. It’s a fight we have with our will power, or in my case, won’t power; a battle with health issues; a struggle to find the time for the care and feeding of our own wellbeing and that of our families. We fight the weight on our shoulders.
When we come together as a group, we stand up–together–against all of that stuff. We do it for each other, with each other. We come to scream in the face of our problems and reduce their power over us one rep at a time. We see each other at our worst, and in doing so, we see each other at our best. We come to brawl. And we don’t come to lose.
For my athletes who have requested a copy of the event set list, here it is.
TIP: After you’ve downloaded the songs from your preferred source, arrange them in their correct order and train the movements, song by song, for each song’s entirety, using the measures of the music to be your guide. I suggest you go in order because this workout is a progression, with deliberate warming of the core, shoulders, and hamstrings. It’s meant to start at a warming pace and then vary its path toward a burn. Don’t get hung up on the number of reps (who cares?), just change movements when the music signals you, or when your biceps or quads are begging for a change. The musical selections are good, natural pacers. When performed clear through, without interruptions for instruction, this is pretty much 30 minutes of kettle hell. I selected these familiar songs to help you stay connected to the rhythm of the type of work that I want you all focusing on right now—and because we can sing along and get a little lost in the music, the suffering is just that much more enjoyable. Of course, I encourage you to customize your work to suit your tastes. That’s how this becomes sustainable; it’s got to be at least a little fun, right?
SECTION ONE: WARM-UP
“Just Wanna Have Some Fun” –Steve Winwood
Box-step farmer carry R/L (2 big boxes each)
Box-step rack carry R/L
Box-step overhead carry R/L
8-count squats (about 4 reps) (eyes on the bell handle for neutral spine)
Touch off lunges (about 4 reps)(eyes on the bell handle for neutral spine, and just go low enough to tap the bell)
SECTION TWO: UP-BODY (ONE)
“Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough”-Michael Jackson
Halo R/L (about 5 reps each, then repeat and repeat)
Figure 8 front-to-back/back-to-front
SECTION THREE: UP-BODY (TWO)
“Start Me Up”- The Rolling Stones
A note on Hitchhiker curls: Be careful of your chins and teeth as you bring the uncovered bell handle along the body and toward your face. This curl is not just good for the arms and traps, it’s a good one for the toned, pretty pectorals nearest the armpit…it’s the curl that helps you look great in t-shirts and tank tops.
Hitchhiker R/L (about 5 reps at a time is good in this set)
Thinking curl R/L (Elbows tacked to your waistline in both types of curls)
Press (keep the bell on the OUTSIDE)
SECTION FOUR: HAMS FROM HELL
“Mickey” –Tony Basil
8-count squat X 5
8-count weighted squat X 5
8-count Good Morning (straight legs, flat back, bend at the hip) X 5
SECTION FIVE: SWINGS AND SOMETHING ELSE
“Hurts So Good” –John Mellencamp
KNEE TO ELBOW X 5 (kettlebell in the rack, return to solid, weighted stance after each knee lift)
Swing right X 5
Swing left X 5
Swing center X 5
SECTION SIX: REVIEW & COOL DOWN
“Eye of the Tiger” -Survivor
Halo R/L as desired
RTW R/L as desired
F8 R/L as desired
Swing R/L/C for 8 each
8-count Good Morning X 2
8-count weighted squat X 2
Hitchhikers R/L X 5 ea.
Curls R/L X 5 ea.
Press R/L X 5 ea