Fitness and Kettlebells for Women

... try the kettlebell and you'll never be the same, I promise ...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Here's the pitch

Mine is named Magda, and my husband's are Antonin and… uh, I forget the other’s name. Who cares. What is important is that we have got to talk to you about Kettlebells, a pretty new workout growing in our country, as well as others. Sales pitch? You bet. Let me lay it out for ya.

I have never been an athlete. In fact I hated all sports, and I dreaded kickball days in elementary school. I never considered myself strong or particularly fit. The good thing was that I didn’t have to worry much about it because I was skinny! In junior high a friend referred to me as “Twiggy.” So maybe I wasn’t that skinny but I sure didn’t have to worry about what I ate.

Fast forward ten years. While hibernating in Alaska, I gained fifteen pounds. Not too bad. I lost it for the most part when we got home before getting pregnant. While pregnant I didn’t workout a lick. I did Pilates a few times and walked…. a few times… and that was it.

After having my daughter, about six months later, I found myself sitting on the couch saying over and over again, “I really should workout.” I felt like I was in bad shape. It hurt to get off of the couch. I was taking care of an infant by myself and was hungry all the time. I had no energy. No sleep. No motivation. I credit my mother-in-law for saying one day that she felt the same way a time ago and finally had just had it. She started exercising and didn’t look back or make excuses. That’s what I decided to do.

My husband was in Iraq at the time, so I emailed him and wish I could have seen his face when I asked him if he minded if I purchased a kettlebell… and what weight should I get, by the way? I had watched him use kettlebells for um… maybe two years? That was from the couch. I couldn’t wait to get started so I worked out first with a 20 lb. handweight and practiced the movements I knew something about. When my kettlebell finally arrived, I went to it, hard.

May 18, 2005 was my first kettlebell workout (with the handweight). I took my measurements, weighed myself, and measured my body fat percentage (which was sad). My first workout looked like this:

TWO sets:
10 swings
5 deck squats
5 pushups

I am actually laughing as I type this because that workout would be a walk in the park right now. It is no longer considered a workout to me, but you know what? It got me started. Soon my kettlebell arrived along with the book, From Russia With Tough Love. I was still around five pounds over my pregnancy weight. Not bad, no, and I was thrilled about that, but I also had a different body than I had before.

My husband was overseas, and I had nothing to lose. I wanted to look so good when he got home! I also got my cholesterol taken around this time. When I discovered it was high, I realized I had another reason - besides vanity and disgust at my laziness - for exercise. I wanted to get fit for my daughter - to set a good example and to be around for a very long time.

So, that is how it all started for me. It has been about a year for me. I weigh approximately twelve pounds less than I weighed back then… I weigh less than I did when I got pregnant with Grace. But that’s not what’s important. I have not given up! This is the longest I have EVER lasted in an exercise program, and I’ve tried the Total Gym, running, Pilates, going to the gym, walking, Tai Bo, Ballet, Jazzercise, miscellaneous video tapes, you name it. I won’t lie - It is not always fun. Kettlebells are HARD work. Very hard. But they eliminate all of my excuses.

Excuse #1: I don’t have time.

Well you know what? That first workout I did way back then… it must have taken me about ten minutes (looking at it, I bet it was less!). Kettlebells are effective even if you start out working out for ten minutes a day. As you grow to love what you are doing and the results you are achieving, you will want to workout for longer. Now - a year later - my average workout is 45 minutes.

Excuse # 2: I hate to exercise.

Yup. I sure do. But I have found something I can definitely tolerate. I don’t always love it, but I do like it. It is hard, but I would rather workout with my kettlebell any day of the week than put on running shoes.

Excuse # 3: I can’t afford it.

Mmmm-hmmm. This is a good one too. Kettlebells can be expensive at first glance. But let me put it in perspective. How much money have you spent on the elliptical that is sitting in your garage or the treadmill that is buried under clothing in your bedroom? How much money do you spend on your gym membership? Buy a kettlebell and a video and you will be set. You can design your own workouts, and you never have to set foot in a gym if you don’t want to… ever again.

Excuse # 4: It’s so much work. I can’t weight-lift *and* do aerobics.

Well you don’t need to. My workouts are only with my kettlebell. Sometimes I do some Pilates to give my abs an extra workout here and there. Generally though, I use my kettlebell only. You are heaving a weight around but you are using all of the muscles in your body, your core, your stabilizing muscles. My heart rate routinely gets up to 160 during my workouts. So guess what? No aerobics for me! Woo hoo!!!!

Have I covered all of your excuses yet? If not, let me know what they are, and I bet I can solve them for ya. Seriously… the best thing about this is how much healthier I am, how much stronger, and how great I feel about myself. When I first tried to do a deck squat, I could barely get off the floor. Now they are not a big deal. This exercise routine has helped me in every area of my life, and I needed help. Now I can hold a toddler in one arm and hold three other things in my hand while simultaneously picking up another item from the floor. Can your legs handle that? Mine couldn’t before!

This is by far the best change I have made in myself in the last year. It is not easy. But it is SO worth it. Now let me have my husband tell you about his experience:

When I got out of the Army in May 2002, I spent the next nine months as a couch potato as far as my conditioning was concerned. By mid-January I had had enough of being a slug, so I started working out using products and techniques taught by Pavel Tsatsouline. Since then I have lost 16 lbs of fat and gained 4 lbs of muscle. More importantly, I am stronger than I have ever been and my workouts are only 20-45 minutes a day 3-4 days per week. (Rachel’s note: He currently has one of his kettlebells in Afghanistan with him!)

Pavel is a former Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces) trainer and currently lives in California teaching SWAT teams, military personnel and ordinary folks how to get leaner and stronger “without the dishonor of dieting and aerobics.”

For raw strength without adding useless bulk (like bodybuilders), I use the methods outlined in the book “Power to the People” (PTP). For fat loss, strength endurance and cardiovascular conditioning I have been using Kettlebells. A Kettlebell is a cannonball with a handle (otherwise known as a “Wile-E-Coyote weight” by my friend Joe) that builds phenomenal grip strength while conditioning your aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Bottom line: If you want to be lean, strong and have the endurance of an athlete I highly recommend all of Pavel’s products.

P.S. Since I find myself recommending these products to others anyway, I have become an affiliate of the Dragondoor website. If you buy any products using these links, I will get a small commission and you will get to be the envy of all your friends after a few months of using them!

Back to Rachel again. If you ever have questions, please ask. We have provided a lot of links here for you to get started.


For Women:

If you are just starting out, here are some recommendations!

Women’s Quick-start Kit: From Russia With Tough Love Book, DVD, and 18 lb. Kettlebell - there is a lighter Kettlebell for women at 9 lbs. and also at 13 lbs., but you may find they are too light. Much of the exercises involve swinging and using your hips to raise the Kettlebell. Rarely is it lifted with the strength of your arms or biceps. My Kettlebell is 18 lbs and is perfect. At some point I may graduate to the next weight.

From Russia With Tough Love, Pavel Tsatsouline - Book and DVD - more information on the book. “For the woman who wants it all - look way younger than your age, have a lean, graceful, athletic-looking body, feel amazing, feel vigorous, feel beautiful, have more energy and more strength to get more done in your day.”

As I mentioned you can design your own workouts with your Kettlebell. I did so for almost a year. Right now, however, I am LOVING these new DVDs. Check them out if your budget allows. If you are a beginner, volume I would be challenging for you and a great buy:

Kettlebells the IronCore Way, Volumes 1 and 2, Sarah Lurie - I currently try to do Volume 2 twice a week and Volume 1 once a week.

Volume 1 only For my detailed review of Volume 1, click here!

Volume 2 only For my detailed review of Volume 2, click here! - articles, kettlebells, forums, and answers to many of your questions. I also highly recommend the following book and used it early on. It offers detailed instructions for many, many exercises including ones not covered in the Tough Love book. There is also a section for pregnant or postpartum women.

Get in the Best Shape of Your Life, Lisa Shaffer


For Men:

My husband has ordered the newest book and video set called Enter the Kettlebell. It is perfect for beginners and is a significant upgrade from Pavel's Men's Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Order the DVD, companion book, and 35 lb. Kettlebell to get started.

I have not yet read Enter the Kettlebell, but based on its reviews, it looks to be a great improvement to Pavel's earlier books. The exercises are broken down for beginners with pictures to follow as well as routines to help you jump-start your new Kettlebell program!

Here is the link for a brand new Quick-Start kit - One 35 lb. Kettlebell, One Enter the Kettlebell book, and One Enter the Kettlebell DVD.


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