Thursday, October 31, 2013

100 swing warm up...or once, twice, three times a workout?

Keeping it real in Croatia!  Before dinner on Monday night, just up from a nap I had to do some kind of workout!  Here is 4 sets of swings I've been using, pretty much, as a typical warm up to a longer workout.  Days before I left for this trip I had done a workout repeating only the last set of this warm up making it into an entire workout by changing up the rest intervals.  Here is the first part, a quick warm up to practice until the real workout comes in a couple of days;

10 2 hand swing (15 sec/15 sec)
10 2 hd swings + 10 tr (20 reps 30 sec/30 sec)
10 2 hd swings + 10 transfer swings + 5/5 one had sw (30 reps 45 sec/45 sec
10 2 hd swings + 10 transfer sw + 5/5 one hd sw + 10 2 hd sw (40 reps 1 min/1 min)

100 swings 5 min

You can practice this once, twice, three times and get a nice little workout done, and when I post the rest of it you'll be ready for more!  Of course I changed the workout a bit from this video to the next!  I can't help myself, it's so much fun!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The First "Strong First Girya" Croatia! Part 1

It's Tuesday, late morning, one week since we left home, five days since arriving in Croatia.  The first four days we had pretty nice weather, but we were kind of busy, well, Mark was, as he was the one teaching and leading the first Croatian SFG Instructor Certification course (many pictures and details to come soon).  

I say "first" because we've been invited back next year and I couldn't be more thrilled.  Of course I'm thrilled to come back, but even more so for the athletes, trainers and coaches in Croatia to have the opportunity to earn their SFG certification, the gold standard of kettlebell training.

On the first day, Friday, I was lucky to lead the group through one of my favorite swing routines, a very short, but brutal, power swing ladder I call my
"PowerFUL Swing Ladder" (8 minutes).  I've shared it here in my blog and it's a routine I lead at most every workshop and guest teaching class.  I continued on afterwards, "next door" with 30 more minutes of my own swing workout w/16kg with a dozen rounds of Sinister Swing.  Short of 45 minutes of training, but it was enough!

The next day I tried to start early with some GS sets.  I had 16kg jerks and snatches to do.  I felt as if I had been hit by a bus!  My jerk set was a disaster so I had to try and find some sort of redemption! I modified the workout by doing some shorter sets and one last long set with the 12kg (150 jerks, 15rpm, 75/75, 10 min set).  On to my snatches...

The Saturday before I left I did a 16kg 20 rpm six minute set (60/60) and the bell felt as if it were floating!  No so much on Saturday!  In fact every rep felt like a lead brick.  Looking at the video it didn't look that bad, but technique flew out the window and I just had to gut out every last rep.  In fact I was watching the clock mentally begging the six minutes to be over!  We've all had those sets, haven't we?

At that point I put the comp bells away because I knew I had one more swing workout to lead the SFG candidates through just before lunch, another short but "powerful swing" workout.

Later that second day (Sat), Marla, a friend and fellow KBer from NM traveling through eastern Europe on her sabbatical met up with me here in Kastav!  I was able to set her up in the apartment next door and we made plans to travel to a nearby town the next day.  Sunday is the last day of the course and the final day of testing strength, technique and teaching ability, so I'm not needed, and I also like to stay out of the way.  It's the most important day for the candidates, but I do like to be there first thing, during the snatch test, and last thing, the Grad workout!  In between I felt was the best time to sneak away and do a little tourist-ing!  Off we went to Opatija....part 2 coming soon!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Greeting from Croatia

It's Friday morning....about 2:00am!  I don't mind waking up so early but I know better than to make some coffee yet!  I had some trouble trying to get on the internet last night so I just got out of bed to try and catch up a little.

We arrived in Veince Italy on Wednesday afternoon and after a short nap we were treated to an amazing pizza dinner and an even more amazing bottle of wine by our host MSFG Fabio Zonin.  Although I was no where near acclimated eating until almost 10 at night just never feels right.  I had planned on getting up early and walking off some of those heavy carbs, but when we got up around 6:00am it was still very dark, and rainy.  It stayed dark until way past 8:00am and I decided I was not familiar with my surroundings enough to feel comfortable.  My back was still feeling muscle tightness from the super crazy workout I did hours before we left the day before AND carrying my computer and gym bag through the airport!  Recovery was much more important, and besides I actually felt good when I woke up.

11:00am we checked out and got in the car to drive to Croatia.  Fabio first took us to SFG Italy headquarters to pick up a few things we needed for the Instructor Certification Mark is teaching this weekend (starting in about 6 hours!).  We needed a couple of banners, and to pick up three competition kettlebells Fabio had delivered for me to use during our 2 week stay!  (guess what I'll be doing later this morning?)

We arrived in Kastav, Croatia around 4:00pm to meet our host Sasa Rajnovic who brought us to our apartment and took us for a short walk around the town.  We are also here with Mike Sousa SFG 2 (Full Force PT, Modesto) who Mark requested to assist here at the Cert.  It's Mike's first time in Europe so it's fun watching his excitement about the experience.  Dinner was planned for....7:00pm....ugh.  I was beat, still a bit jet lagged, but mostly I just didn't want to wake up this morning with a late dinner still in my stomach, so I passed and stayed home.  

I'm sorry I missed meeting all of the new SFG candidates, but I thought it was going to be just the guys.  I'll meet everybody this morning and watch the first part of the Cert, which is always the swing!  (maybe they'll let me do a few reps?)

See you all again soon! I'm tired again!  Maybe I can catch another hour of sleep....and then coffee!

The view from Mike's room in Kastav, Croatia

So far so good!  Really good as a matter of fact!  We've been in Europe only for a couple of days, driving from Venice, Italy, yesterday with MSFG Fabio Zonin to Kastav Croatia.  We are staying in a bed and breakfast type of apartment with a kitchen and washing machine!  Wow!  I wasn't expecting a washing machine, but I'll make sure to do our laundry before we leave.  The photo above is the view from our friend Mike Sousa's room.  He came to help assist at the SFG Instructor Cert that starts in about 6 hours! (yes, it's the middle of the night and I can't sleep!)  Mark and I have a street view and were offered to switch rooms after the weekend for a similar view, but once I've settled into room I'm not going to want to move...maybe...would you?

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Take and Take"! The beginning of the advanced series....

If I had to pick out my favorite workout of all time it would be my Give and Take workouts!  They are the workouts that "fit" almost every level of kettlebeller, beginning to advanced with so many variations.  It's a workout that I've lead Instructors through at previous Certs that I've been assisting at and I'm always complimented afterwards about how fun and challenging it was, and often asked for the routine itself!

Which is why I chose to do a second DVD of just Give and Take routines, and dragged Jeff Sokol SFG to join me!  Jeff had never done any of my routines, not even Give and Take #1, but he jumped right in, or I should say, "swung right in"!  But I'm not so sure he'd be ready for the first advanced workout!

Both Give and Take DVD's always have an "equal work to rest" ratio of swing reps.  The difference between #1 and #2 is that the first workouts in "Give and Take" never have more that 20 reps per minute of work.  The 20 reps are distributed in easy rep ladders within that minute of work, but never more.  In "Give and Take #2", also and equal work to rest, increase in reps to 30 reps per 1.5 min intervals, and 40 reps per 2 min intervals.  That is the main difference, which is why #2 is more advanced, but still appropriate at a beginning level, and Jeff and I demonstrate how to scale it back if you chose to start with #2.  I do have to caution that the instruction in #2 will be much more clear if you have the experience of the first Give and Take DVD.

That being said....  Increasing rep counts from 20 to 30 to 40 is just one way of advancing to a new level, but doing those reps (workloads) with less than equal rest is another kind of challenge!  The complimentary video I've included at the top of this post shows how you can use another one of my methods ("work into rest") to progressively decrease the rest periods while increasing the rep count at the same time!  Yikes!  Fun stuff!  Enjoy!

You will find the links to purchase all of my current DVD's here in my blog in the left side bar. If you have any questions about which would be best for you please ask!  The biggest reason why I give so many short companion workouts away is to thank all of you that have supported me these past years by buying my products, reading/commenting on my blog and facebook, and come to my classes.  I want to keep doing what I do, which is designing and creating fun efficient workouts for kettlebell athletes of all levels using only one movement, The Swing!  I need motivation too!

Thank you all!

Whoops....did I forget to mention that I also video taped a super duper advanced Give and Take?  Sorry...  You better practice up because in about two weeks I'll post another even more advanced workout.  How much more advanced?  Well, let's just say the longest swing set is 56 continuous reps!  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mystery Cooking

I bought what I thought were yellow Canary lentils at the market the other day.  I'm always excited to try new products and ingredients in my pressure cooker, because it opens up an entirely new world of cooking meals and foods quickly and nutritiously.  But until you use new products and/or ingredients it's really a mystery.  Not just about how they will taste, but how will they cook and how will they blend with other ingredients?

I love lentils.  I love cooking lentils, I love eating lentils!  Mostly what is available is the standard brown (large in comparison), green (also known as French lentils), red (used in Indian cooking and completely break down).  When I was cruising the gourmet bean isle at a local specialty market I came across these yellow Canary Lentils.  Awesome...I thought!  I didn't have my glasses on for a better look but I bought them anyway.

When I got home, and put my glasses on (!), I took a good look at them for the first time.  Hmnn...they look like yellow split peas!  Did I just pay $7 bucks for yellow split peas?  That was not a good feeling. I didn't want peas, I wanted lentils, never mind the price.

I googled yellow lentils versus yellow split pea and found out that the two are different, but the same.  Different because one is a lentil and one is a pea, the same because both have to be "split".  Okay then, I'll give them a go, and fingers crossed I bought lentils....very expensive lentils!

In my first experience I decided to use 1/2 c. to thicken up my carrot and squash soup, as the directions indicated that as the lentils cooked they would become "creamy".  After the soup cooled and I was portioning it out in containers I noticed a familiar texture.....kind of like split pea soup!  Argh!  I specifically did NOT want split pea soup!  I would have used split pea if I wanted split pea, not a product labeled "yellow lentils" for $7 a pkg!  Again I googled how to tell the difference and supposedly there are two completely different products.

Sooooo.....Mark asked me to make some split pea and ham soup!  Well, I happen to have all the ingredients, including, what I suspect are yellow split peas!  And they better be good for $7 a package!  What a good opportunity to make split pea soup with yellow lentils!  The worst that could happen is that I'll end up with some delicious, smoky, yellow lentil and ham soup!  What happened?

I was actually excited at the idea of yellow lentil and ham soup!  And that's what I got!  Yay! I'm now convinced that what I purchased is indeed NOT split peas! Whew!  I could see a difference in texture and smell.  These yellow lentils did not break down completely as a split pea would (not sure if the picture is a good enough example), and they smell different.  Nuttier, earthier.  And the flavor is 100% not split pea!  I think I kind of like it....a lot!  Well, Mark certainly did because he just finished a small bowl of it!

Have you ever bought an ingredient you had no idea how it would turn out?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Value of Video, and a blast from the past!

I started video taping my workouts quite by accident!  Originally I had a Cannon camera that would allow me to video 3 minutes at a time and I started video taping my swing progressions and workout demos to post on my original blog (Rediscovering Strength which turned into Living My Physical Potential).  At the time I never even spoke!  I forgot I could actually talk into the camera until one day, about 6 months of blogging, I just did!  It was a bit freaky at the time, but we all know what came of it by now, don't we?  Me being my bossy self, shouting out ONE, TWO, THREE....okay, okay, enough already!  lol

Although I was video taping demonstrations of my workouts it quickly became obvious how valuable it was for me to watch and evaluate my own movement and training. This is why, with all of the simple technology these days, I just can't imagine anybody who trains on a regular basis (or irregular for that matter!) that would not video tape at least parts of their training.  And if you are ever interested in becoming an Instructor then it's a must in my opinion.  You MUST be able to see and make corrections in your own practice to help others do the same.

So yes, I do video tape 95% of all my training...but lots of times I cut off my head!  Not a big deal, since I've seen my head plenty of times, but in the case of my GS snatch reps a big technique focus for me to be able to evaluate is where my grip end up at the top of the movement! So, it's not the decapitation that sucks when I don't get it right, it's that I can't see what it is that is most important to me.  It still has a ton of value though.

This video, which is a 16kg snatch, 8 min. set done at a 10 rpm pace (40 + 40)....yes, you read that right!  Ten reps per minute, NOT per 30 seconds, which is as slow as molasses!  Wow, I knew it had potential to be a challenge, and I was right!  (more about snatch pacing another time) The challenge was the overhead holds near the end of each side (R and L), left mostly because at that point I've already been snatching and holding for almost 8 minutes (one hand switch).  I loved every bit of it!  It was also nice that the 16kg snatch felt light for the first time in almost two weeks!

After the video I'm posting three still images, taken in succession,  as I'm about to snatch the next rep.  I'm posting them for my training partners to see how I use my entire body to "get under" the snatch, pulling back with my right shoulder, instead of letting the bell come way out in front of me I'm actually starting to move my body under the bell.  Also to show how long my upper arm stays connected with my torso allowing me to use my body, not just my arm, guide the bell overhead.  But this post is not about teaching technique, it's about showing an example of how to use video tape to capture, frame by frame, what you may be doing right, or wrong, and do it more/better, or change it to make improvements.

And here at the end of this post, just for kicks and giggles I'm also including my very first, very boring, swing video taken by Mark of the first time (or second time) I did 1000 24kg two hand swings (15/15), way way back in November 2006!  Good golly!  That's almost 7 years ago!  Enjoy!  Some of it or all of it!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Good Yoga

I've been having a hell of a time with my Bikrams yoga practice for a very long time now, and in fact I really can't remember when I looked forward to class the way I used to.  I do remember almost making a comeback just before my March SFG, and then the hamstring injury happened, simultaneously menopause hit and took me down hard and fast....but looking back on it, it was fine. I'm not going to say it was a "good" thing, but it wasn't a "bad" thing either.  When I realized the hamstring issue was a ticking time bomb because of my Bikrams practice, NOT because of the SFG weekend, I calmed down and went back to focusing on starting over from the beginning, which made my yoga practice stronger.

I started my Bikram's practice in November 2005, (I think the 27th), so I'm coming up on my 8th anniversary!  Zow!  Even I'm surprised at how long I've been practicing!  No matter how I felt about it in the last 8 years, mostly good, mostly great, only recently not so much, I've never skipped because I let myself get lazy.  What I mean by that is I've never skipped because I didn't feel like it.  Sometimes I don't feel like doing a lot of things I know I should, but I do them anyway because I know in the long run, at the end of the day it will, these things will indeed, improve my life, and my yoga practice does improve my life....until it doesn't, and at that time I hope I'll know how to tell the difference!

Back to the point of this post which is that I had a good class this afternoon for the first time in a long time!  A big part of that has to do with my teacher, Katie Larion.  I have a very short list of teachers whose classes I look forward to and Katie is at the top of my list!  And she hasn't been teaching that long either!

I remember when she came back from teacher training, I'm sure I was in one of her first few classes if not her first.  In fact I remember her as a student and I would have never picked her out as someone that aspired to become a teacher.  I never knew her personally, in fact I'm sure I didn't even know her name before, but she came across as somewhat shy, so you can imagine my surprise when a few weeks later while in her class for the second time I was surprised as her confidence as a leader became very obvious. Katie was a natural!

Well, that's my assessment of her!  I can only imagine what she would say about me! She might describe me as that angry lady in the back row! And she would be right most of the time!  I'm not proud of it, and my attitude towards my Bikrams practice perplexes me most of the time, as I'm sure it does Mark too (since I'm always bitching to him about it).  What I like about how Katie leads class is that she sticks to the dialogue, she stays on time, and she is enthusiastic, passionate enough (not too much) and entertaining in a way that is fun, without being a Bikram's nazi.  (Katie, if you are reading this, please DO NOT turn into a Bikrams nazi!  Seriously, just keep doing what you are doing!)

I have a list of reasons why I continue a regular practice, and I have a list of reasons why I should possibly look at a different type of yoga to practice.  It's easier to just bitch about what I hate. I know hate is a strong word, and when I use it, when I reflect on why I chose that word, I have no defense.  I know it's NOT the yoga that I'm hating.  It's how I feel about myself when I'm doing the yoga.

Wow.  Really?  Yes, really.

Bikram's yoga is a 90 minute practice where you stand in front of a mirror, looking at yourself, and in fact being able to see yourself is part of the practice.  When was the last time you looked at yourself in a mirror for 90 minutes?  Do you like what you see?  It's not so much what my body or my face looks like that bothers me, it's what my practice looks like.  Do you get it?

In the mirror I see, or I should say, I don't see what I used to.  I don't see the practice I had when other students asked me if I was a Bikrams teacher!  I don't see the practice I once had.  And when I start judging myself, judging my practice, I start defending myself to myself!  I go down the list of reasons why it's not the same, or better, than it once was.

I'm not going to do that now (go down any kind of lists pointing out what I think is wrong), all this post is about is that I had a good yoga practice this afternoon.  I had a great class in part to a teacher that is reliably easy going and dependable.  Thank you Katie.

PS now I've got to get some of those cute crops with the mesh panels!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Snatch Practice Workout

Mark and I have to produce a "Learn to Snatch" video!  Getting things like this done haven't exactly been easy convenient or profitable so the motivation to do a bunch of work doesn't put things like this at the top of the priority list.  But mostly, I think, when it comes to teaching the snatch it can be easy to under teach and over teach.  So this is NOT a learn to snatch video that I'm posting, although I do demonstrate a common mistake in the last few sets of snatches. 

Often times students visualize only the top part of the snatch, which is the overhead lockout position and forget that they have to get the bell overhead in the first place with a "big 'ol" swing!  Trying to snatch the bell before you finish the swing results in a jerky and dangerous movement. It's better to swing a really light bell soooo high that it will actually turn over on itself!  Never try learning to snatch a bell that you cannot hold or press overhead in the first place.

This video is a short workout to practice swings and snatches together once you learn the snatch to a semi comfortable level.  This exact workout is really designed for one of my new Big Sur friends, Nadine.  With the help of my other two new friends, Meredith and Selena, we successfully planted the "snatch bug" and taught Nadine the skill last weekend!

Using my snatch progressions, as I teach and lead my newest snatch students with, I meant to video a short workout...but it kind of turned into a 20 min workout!  If you want a longer workout, either repeat the last snatch set of 5/5 five more times, OR repeat the entire workout or you least favorite part of it! (because that's the part you probably need the most! lol).


Friday, October 4, 2013

Creamy Delicata Squash and Vegetable Soup, and Esalen Kale Salad

I am going to take a risk at sounding like a snob, but I am sooooo OVER Butternut Squash Soup in restaurants, especially when it's the "special" soup of the day.  Butternut squash soup is the easiest of the easiest ever soups so it's just not that "special"!  I even include an easy of the easiest Butternut Squash Soup recipe in my book, The Swing.  Butternut squash and stock (or water), period, that's it.  Can it get any easier?

Sure you can make it fancy smancy, like roasting the squash first, or adding apple, ginger, garlic, spices, etc., but it's not a big deal.  I think it just sounds like a big deal!  One more rant....I especially do not care for the offering of it out of season!  I mean in spring or summer, what the heck?  Okay...let's move on....

I made THE best vegetable soup two days ago!  I only wanted a thick, maybe chunky, basic vegetable soup.  I really think the magic to my soups is my stock.  Ever since I've been pressure cooking my stocks I can (and do) use tons of bones and veg scraps to make the most concentrated stocks ever.  Even if I never used the PC, I would still use tons of bones and scraps in a stock pot, for up to 8 hours, to make a nutritious and flavorful soup base....why not?  It's easy.  "Fast" has nothing to do with it because making stock requires no energy, just time.  Throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and let it go.  The pressure cooker does it quickly, but a large pot does the same job.  Really the biggest investment of time is when it comes to straining the liquid.  Personally I like to strain it through a flour sack kitchen towel to get all the crazy icky bits out, but really, at the end of the day, would anybody notice?  (trust me, I've had those few times of pouring it through a large strainer only!)

I confess.  I will buy, cook, and eat most any kind of chicken from most any kind of market.  Sure, I would LOVE to prepare and eat only pasture fed and raised chicken, but I'm just not going to pay $30-35 for a chicken.  I'm not convinced I'm going to die if I don't.  (I know I'm going to die some day, but I refuse to believe I'll die sooner because of a Foster Farms chicken....but that's just me).  I will also confess that I have fallen victim to the threat of being less healthy by extracting "health" from the remains of the animals I consume.  Am I making some sort of crazy sense?

I can feel fine about eating the meat from a various "quality" of animals, but I do feel a deeper emotion when it comes to making stock.  Animal soup stock, to me, is more than the meat, it's the essence of the animal.  In this particular post I won't go further, only to say that for whatever reason, at this point in my life, if I can afford to buy "better" stock ingredients, then I do.

Back to the soup!

I bought two Delicata squashes at Trader Joe's (crazy I should preach about quality and then admit I shop at TJ's!), they are the first of the season.  I didn't have a plan for them, I just couldn't resist my favorite squash for $.99 each, so they sat on my kitchen counter for a couple of days.  I had some super rich chicken stock that I knew I wanted to make soup with, but what kind of soup?  A basic vegetable soup, onion, celery, carrot, with some fresh thyme maybe?  The rich stock could carry the flavor but somehow it was still a bit plain and unexciting.  At the last minute I peeled and diced one of the Delicata squashes and threw it into the PC along with the other ingredients, knowing it would add thickness, depth and flavor (I also made it "carrot heavy").  I cooked it on high pressure for about 15 minutes because I had decided to blend it, with my immersion blender, to a creamy thick consistency, instead of leaving the veggies chunky, surrounded by broth.  The squash also helped to make the soup thick (and extra carrots).

Viola!  Perfection....almost!  Should I actually add some real cream?  You know, the heavy stuff?  Sure, why not?  1/4 c. was all I used and it turned out glorious!  Butternut Squash Soup has nothing on this recipe!  Mark loved it so much it looks as if I'll be making more this weekend!

1 tbl olive oil
1 lg onion, lg dice
2 celery stalks, lg dice
3-4 lg carrots, lg dice (normally I would use only 1-2)
chicken stock (to cover veggies)
fresh thyme
1 Delicata squash, peeled and diced
S & P
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream (optional!)

You can saute onion and celery, along with fresh thyme leaves, until soft and translucent, add carrots, saute for another 3-5 min.  Cover with stock, add diced squash and cook until all ingredients are soft.  Use an immersion blender to make smooth, and add cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I predict that butternut squash soup will be replaced with other squash soup options, mark my words!  It's just not fancy enough anymore!  Try Delicata!  OR, do you have a favorite squash for soup?

Enough about soup!  What about salad?  This recipe and story deserves an entire post itself, but I've got to get to bed some time tonight!  My trip to Big Sur was the most fabulous!  New friends, new experiences, new foods!  Well, new to me!  Where the heck have I been?

One of my hostesses, Meredith Gafill, made me the pretty well known Esalen Kale Salad!  How did I NOT know about this salad?  Here is the link to an interpretation of the original, if you know of a better one please share!

If you make it once or twice you will find yourself making adjustments to suite your tastes anyway!  Personally I'm heavy on the seeds and avocado! 

And for instance, Meredith uses pea shoots instead of alfalfa sprouts, and adds currants for a bit of sweet.  I like both of those additions, but I was perfectly happy with today's salad with alfalfa because my market didn't have pea shoots!  I've also heard of people adding sliced mushrooms, red bell, etc.  The key, the secret, is to "massage" the sliced kale with either Bragg's amino acids, soy sauce, lemon, OR a combination of all three.  I personally used lemon and Bragg's.  Using a salty acid is really the only way to soften the kale and season it (with salt) at the same time.  For some reason using salt and lemon for instance never gets into the kale leaves, and unseasoned kale is just not nice!

Will you try it?  Have you tried it?  What changes or additions have you made?  I can see tons of possibilities and I've only just begun!