Friday, January 31, 2014

Pumpkin Chili; My recipe, Your recipe

Since I use a pressure cooker I will write this recipe as such.  If you want to cook it on the stovetop in a dutch oven or soup pot simply increase the cooking time.  Everything else stays the same. Same ingredients, same prep, same method.  At the end of this blog post I will include links to the many other chili recipes I've posted over the years.

Pumpkin Lentil Chili w/beef or lamb sausage (meat optional)

1tbl oil (always heat the oil before adding meat or veg)
1 med onion
1-2 stalks celery
1/2-1 red bell (optional)
1-2 jalapenos (optional)

all vegetables cut into a small dice. The idea is for them to be about the same size as the lentils. (or if you are not using lentils you want them to be small enough to disappear in the background as part of the sauce)

If you are choosing to use meat the first thing you do is brown the meat in it's own 1 tbl of oil.  You can use any kind of meat, and any amount, but remember, the larger the pieces of meat, the longer the cooking time.  Also if you choose to use 2lbs of stew meat it should be browned in two separate batches (with an addition of 1 tbl of oil) and removed from the pan to move onto the next step of cooking the veggies.

beef stew meat cut into 1 inch dice (I use chuck roast or pot roast)
ground beef, turkey, chicken, pork
sausage of any kind, removed from casings
whole chicken thighs (I prefer bone in)
pork stew meat cut into 1 inch dice
lamb stew meat cut into 1 inch dice

If I'm using a small amount of meat, say 2 sausage links I'll brown it in my pan, then simply move it to the side.....(second picture down on left)

sautee veggies until soft 

This is my basic spice blend;

1-2 tbl ground cumn
1 tbl chipotle chili powder
1-2 tbl smoked paprika
1 tbl ground oregano
1-2 bay leaves

Add to sauteed veggies and toast in hot pan for about 2 minutes.  Add;

4-6 c. water or stock
1-2 c. tomato (sauce, soup, diced, canned, fresh, all are optional)
1 c brown lentils
1/2 c red lentils
Pumpkin, or winter squash such as Butternut (peeled if needed)

"Loaded and lock"!  Once you have all ingredients in pressure cooker, cover with lid and lock in place.  Make sure pressure is on "high" (usually #2), and bring up to pressure. Depending on what size cooker you are using and how full it is this could take 10-15 minutes.

Once pressure reaches high, turn heat down to maintain even pressure for another 8-10-15 minutes.  8-10 minutes if you do not include any meat, or if you have used ground meats/sausage, 15 minutes if you have used larger stew meat pieces or bone in chicken thighs.

Turn Pressure cooker off and remove from hot burner.  Let pressure come down naturally for as long as you want to, OR if pressure does not come down within 10-15 minutes, manually release pressure.  Unlock lid, remove bay leaf, taste for seasonings (salt!), and enjoy.

If you want to cook this in a pot simply bring all ingredients to a boil (with the lid on), lower heat to med/low with the cover slightly open and cook until lentils and meat, and pumpkin are tender, about 35-50 minutes.  Again, cooking time varies with the kind of meat you add, or don't add!  Ground meats and sausages are basically cooked already so it's just the lentils and squash you are wanting to become soft.

Some of the things I learned from making at least a dozen batches of Pumpkin Chili!

Red Bell Pepper.  I use red bell because I like the small red flakes it adds to the look of the finished meal.  Red bell peppers are known to be sweet, so if you want to skip this addition because you either don't want your chili sweeter (slightly), you don't want the extra work of dicing more veggies, OR you don't have one in the fridge!  I list it as optional for these reasons.  I'm convinced you will not miss it!  Oh, and I do a quick peel of my red bells. It's a pain in the ass if you are not in the habit and certainly not required.

Jalapenos.  The bottom line is that the spice/heat of chili comes from the dry spice blend you use.  It has little to do with the addition of fresh peppers at all.  I use jalapenos, or any other fresh green chilis IF I have them.  Again, which is why I list them as optional.

The only veggies that I think are critical is really the onion!  The more veggies I add is really dependent on what I have on hand because I like the nutrition vegetable add to my meals.  I like cutting, dicing, slicing and prep work so if I have onion, celery, carrot, fresh peppers, scallions, cabbage, whatever I'll include them all!  But at the end of the day you can make an amazing pot of chili with just one large onion!

Chili Spice Blend.  This is really what makes a pot of stew into chili!  Over the years I've cut back on the chili powders, completely cut out the cayenne, and red pepper flakes because Mark sweats when he eats foods too spicy.  I've replaced smoked paprika for the previous two spices and only use chipotle powder (chipotle is smoked jalapeno), so I have two "smoky" additions.  I also use ground cumin and ground or leaf oregano.  Funny fact....I'll slice and dice for days, but I rarely take the time to toast and grind my own cumin seeds!  Oh I used to do that all the time, but personally I can live with pre ground cumin!  I use a lot of spices so I know it's always as fresh as it could be, and I don't lose sleep over it!

Water, stock, tomato. Obviously if you use water the finished chili will probably lack what meat or veg stock brings in terms of added flavor (and nutrition), but don't let not having any on hand stop you from making chili!  I make my own stocks and started out using a smokey ham stock I made from my Xmas dinner (again, wanting to add more smoky depth).  Purchased chicken or veg stock is perfectly fine....but if you own a pressure cooker, making your own stocks is a breeze!  Also, one of my main motivations for making so much chili, besides the fact that I love Kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) is that I had a freezer full of tomato soup/sauce from last summer (and maybe the summer before!)  Using a box of Pomi is fine, using 2 tbl tomato paste is fine, using a can of diced tomatoes (with juice) is fine if you like the tomato addition to your chili.  Just make sure that, if you use lentils or beans, your liquids add up to 4-6 cups.

Lentils.  You do not have to add any legumes (lentils OR beans) at all!  In fact the first two or three batches I made in the pressure cooker I used pot roast, NO lentils, but everything else, and in the same order (picture at right is only meat and pumpkin!).  It was fabulous!  Seriously!  I only became interested in adding legumes because I wanted to cut back on the amount of meat I was consuming in general (another blog post).  I chose lentils because, unlike beans, red lentils will break down into a smooth consistency.  Typically chili made with beans will need to have a portion of the cooked and finished product pureed (either in a blender or using an immersion blender) to give that smooth/chunky texture.  That's not an option at all if you are cooking the chili with meat, especially ground meat!  There is no way to remove the meat to puree or blend any portion of the beans.  Which is another reason why, if I use beans (which I love) I also use a grated Garnet sweet potato!  The small size of grated sweet potato breaks down much like the red lentils do. (picture above on left)

And lastly.....

I progressed into the last couple of batches going completely vegetarian/vegan.  This mornings version I tested out butternut, Garnet yam, purple Japanese yam, and Delicata squash (picture below).  I used my own vegetable stock and my own tomato sauce.  The only tricky bit is that these vegetables easily overcook and get mushy by the time it takes the lentils to get soft!  Kabocha is the only pumpkin I've found to be able to stand up to the cooking time and stay relatively firm.  I also have to say that with the vegetarian/vegan version it definitely lacked the extra flavor and depth of animal protein based stock.  Even if you don't use homemade stock, but use stew meat, chicken thighs, etc., and water, the meat itself will produce it's own stock during the cooking process.  Just my opinion.

So there you have it!  Will you please make a batch of chili?  Will you trust yourself to make a recipe of your own?  Please share it with me if you do!

Here is a link to this blog's search for "chili";

And here is my former blog's  "Rainbow Chili" post;

One Last Batch....

Good-ness!  I just had to make one last batch of chili this morning
since I overcooked my best batch the other day, obliterating my pumpkin into mush.  Tasty mush, but mush none the less!  And if I wanted a smooth and creamy chili (not to mention really sweet!) it would have been perfect.  But I wanted chunky pumpkin chili!  Anyway, I knew I had done it before I opened up the pressure cooker because I've been using Kabocha so much, and I should have known better than to cook it and then leave it in the PC (unopened) for hours...dumb.

What I like about the Kabocha is that it will stay very firm unlike Butternut squash, sweet potato, purple yam, or most any other kind of squash.  Carrot and certain waxy potatoes will stay firm also, but I will save the carrots and potatoes for another kind of stew, not chili.  This morning I had to confirm it though!  So with the last of my lentils I made one last small (yeah right) batch.  I used what I had in my kitchen to experiment, which was Butternut, sweet potato, purple yam, and Delicata.  I had peeled them all the other day so the prep didn't take long at all.  As I suspected they all are too delicate, when cooked, to maintain their chunky form, but I gingerly lifted them out of the chili for the picture.  I'm going to let the chili cool down with the vegetables as they are and maybe they will retain some of their size.  I know, without a doubt, if I had stirred this pot of chili while hot all of them would have turned into a smooth chili....which again is fine if that's what you want.

Personally, and I'll write more about this when I finally post the recipe (s), I wanted to keep the vegetables chunky instead of using meat to make this meal vegetarian/vegan (more about that too!).

Just a couple more things....

I used a smokey salt to see if that gave it more depth.  Not sure if it did because I didn't make a batch without!  This smokey salt is typically used as a "finishing" salt.  In other words it's meant to sprinkle a pinch on top of maybe a deviled egg, or a piece of chocolate, etc.  Not to season a pot of chili!  But I had it, and since I wanted to make this a vegetarian meal using smoked ham stock was not an option.

I also wanted to explain real quick why I chose lentils over beans, and why I used red and brown.  Red lentils break down, never keeping their shape, while brown lentils will always keep their shape, and it's the red lentils that I knew wold give the chili the smooth consistency I wanted....unless I overcooked the veg!  So, the goal was to have the red lentils create smoothness, the brown lentils to keep their shape and the chunky pumpkin (squash or potato) to replace the meat.  Make sense?

Okay, more pictures and chili experiment finding in the next post!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My 18kg snatch progressions

For now I'm keeping my jerk sets under wraps from public view.
 I've posted publicly how this particular movement's technique, when done with a 16kg, has eluded me, making my progress with it less than satisfying, so I would prefer to practice in private for now.  My snatch sets however, even though my technique is more of a hybrid of sorts, at least keeps me feeling as if I'm worthy in some way of participating in this world of Kettelbell Sport.

The last few weeks I've had some 18kg and 20kg snatch sets in my weekly program preparing me for my next upcoming competition in Costa Mesa February 22 ( where I'll be testing my 16kg jerk and 16kg snatch in what's known as the Biathlon Event.  It is my goal to snatch 200+ reps in 10 minutes with one hand switch; that is the number I'll be hunting......or should I say, I want 200+ to hunt me!  My jerk, again, is another story, but one I've been gaining confidence with and, fingers crossed, I expect, and I will, produce a respectable result.  

This mornings 18kg snatch set was challenging.  Funny how the feelings you bring into a set will manifest into reality!  I was a bit fearful of the numbers, and the bell did not feel "floaty" at all.  Somehow the number "65" messed with my head.  60 would have been okay, 70 would have been okay, but 65 was a bit freaky.  Long story short; I gutted out the first 65 reps starting at about rep 50!  Good Lord 50 is a long way away from 65!  At least that's what started playing with my head.  Had I looked at my previous set, last week, when I did 79 I probably would have calmed my ass down!  Anyway, I thought it would be fun to post the last few video progressions. Somehow my 6 minute set never made it to Youtube and was deleted on my Ipad, but I have the numbers.  Here are my sets over the last few weeks, posted backwards, starting with this morning.

Today (Jan 30)
65 R/60 L (7.5 min approx)

There is no way I would have made it to 65 R without Deepika!  When I heard her say "Just 10 more reps" all I thought about was 5 reps at a time.  5 reps twice is all I had to do!  Unfortunately it took me into oxygen debt and I never really fully recovered.  But it was my mental state that was the biggest challenge from the beginning.  I also want to add in my journal that this set was done at 7:45am, after 5:30-6:10 24kg swing training (400 reps), some decompression with other casual KB movements, and then my 16kg jerk practice.

8 min 18kg snatch 70 nR/ 59 L 129 total (Jan 23)

This set was done last Wednesday.  I started out my GS sets on Tuesday, after my heavy swing practice (as usual) and completely felt like I failed my jerks.  It was not a good day.  So I wrapped it up and decided to train the next morning, before yoga "fresh".  I had some other challenges that morning, but the set was more than decent.  (I had to clean out my youngest son's bedroom, and that took almost three hours...just sayin)

6 min 57 54 total 111 = 18.5 reps per minute.  This is the video I cannot find, so I have to rely on my programming journal.  I must have thought I posted it to Youtube, but apparently I did not.  Oh was the set I did the morning I left for Milwaukee....hmmnn...I'll have to look a bit harder, but I think I deleted it.  These sets (jerks too) were also done after heavy swing practice.

5 min set 49 R/ 48 L 97 total (Dec 31)

This set was done after teaching my 6:00-7:00am kettlebell class.  My Tuesday morning class starts out with 30-40 minutes of swings, and I usually swing a 14kg and keep my sets to "equal work/rest" on these morning that I know I have GS sets to complete.  

All in all, after reviewing these 18kg snatch sets I should have done much better this morning.  Oh well, I'm good, I'm fine, and now I know how I will improve for my next set!  Think "light bell", "fast bell", "you've done this before", "it's not a big deal".  I pushed the boundaries with this morning's set, but I may have set the boundary too close to begin with.

Practicing this sport for the past year has been a very interesting addition to my training life.  I have been humbled....not that I needed to be!  But I am reminded of the many talents that we all have; some undiscovered, and some given opportunity to soar, to fly.  I've been reminded many times that "luck" is opportunity meeting preparation.  Practice is the preparation, competition is the opportunity.  Good thing I'm lucky!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm Not a Food Blogger, or a Cookbook Author...hell, I'm just cooking my own foods and feeding myself!

I love to cook.  I love talking about cooking and food, and I love writing about cooking, food and eating.  This was not always the case.  In fact last night when I was prepping some kale salad for the week I remembered not so long ago that I didn't even know how to make a salad (much less what the hell kale was).  Tearing up a head of iceberg lettuce, cutting a tomato (out of season) and drowning it all with Thousand Island dressing was pretty much what I knew a salad to be. If I wanted it extra fancy I might open a can of garbanzo beans and throw a handful of those in.....seriously, I'm not exaggerating. (ask Mark!)

Over the 7-8 years I've been blogging I've posted many of my own recipes.  How crazy is that?  In fact I post mostly my own recipes because once I learned the methods and techniques of cooking the mystery of how to put foods together was solved.  Sure, I use google to look over recipe "themes" for common flavor combinations, but at the end of the day it comes down to what I already have in my fridge or pantry.

I've practically been living on pumpkin chili!  In fact it was my best friend Fawn Friday that, kind of, introduced me to making my own chili.  It was for sure my BFF Fawn that introduced my to the
pressure cooker but that's another story!  I've been wanting to post the recipe, my recipe, but I keep making it differently each time!  Little changes from using a beef chuck roast cut up into stew size chunks, to using lamb sausage.  My latest, (today!) is completely vegetarian, including the stock! (picture below is the veg stock I made this morning)

I would feel a little guilty posting a recipe that I haven't tried completely, ingredient by ingredient, to make sure it tastes good and turns out right. In fact I'll have you know, every single recipe in The Swing I tested out in my own kitchen numerous times, no lie.  Although I use my pressure cooker to make chili I adapted a no pressure cooker recipe using canned beans for The Swing.  The point is that no matter what kind of pot you use to make your own food, your own homemade, prepared and cooked meals are key to your health (that includes a healthy bodyweight), and I believe your happiness (which also includes a healthy bodyweight!).

Okay, so where's the Pumpkin Chili recipe?  It's coming!  The hold up is that I know Kabocha squash is not available everywhere, and this "Japanese" pumpkin is a key ingredient.  I wanted to "test" the recipe with butternut squash, Garnet yam, and/or sugar pie pumpkin but good Lord that's a lot of work!  Another roadblock is that because I like to cook and I actually like food prep, that means a lot of washing, peeling (I will actually peel that damn Kabocha, butternut, red bell and jalapeno!), dicing, cutting, measuring, etc.) I realize most people don't share the love with me!  And of course I want to motivate and encourage, not suggest so much work that the reward is lost.  Let my just add one prep is not a lot of work for me.  Because I have so much practice it's fast and practically effortless.  I can cut an onion, 2-3 stalks of celery, a couple of carrots, a red bell and jalapeno before the oil in the pan gets hot! Which brings me to the next point....

I am in the habit of doing things most people don't know how to do, don't have the energy to do, or don't want to do!  Making my own stocks and broths for soups and cooking rice, beans, and grains is a big one.  I haven't purchased store bought chicken stock since I was testing out the recipes for The Swing!  (lol)  I also will use ingredients like kale stems because they are perfectly good nutrition, fiber and free!  There is really no other way to use stems of greens other than to add them to soups and stews, and why not?

So, for instance, in today's pumpkin and lentil chili I did in fact use the stems of the kale I used to make salad yesterday.  Will it make your chili taste better?  Probably not, or maybe so!  Who knows?  Personally my taste buds are not that discerning! The main ingredients remain the same.  

red bell
spices (cumin, smoked paprika, chipolte chili powder, oregano, bay leaf)
tomato (again, I use my own stewed tomatoes but you can use canned)
lentils (red and brown...can you use green?  Sure! Or the traditional bean!  Black, white, red, pinto, knock yourself out!)
stock (I use my own homemade)
Kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin)
oh, and any kind of meat protein if you want.  
beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, quail, elk, venison, buffalo, etc. OR no meat protein!
And let's NOT forget salt!  (aka, seasoning)

The measurements are roughly a matter of experience, but I will give suggestions!  Recipes should simply be suggestions!  Trust me, once you make a pot of soup, every pot of soup is basically the same!  There is rarely a pot of soup, or stew, or chili, that doesn't start out with heating some oil in a pot and adding a diced onion and then sautee until translucent!  

You don't have to be a Food Blogger, or a Cookbook Author, you just have to want to learn how to feed yourself and cook your own food!  

(and having a best friend that is a former Chef, doesn't hurt either!)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Just You and the Bell. (Jeff's 10 x 10)

I had an awesome time on my trip last week to Milwaukee WI.  I was born, raised and have lived my whole life here in Northern California (south of SF) and although we have snow just hours away I've never been one to purposely choose to be cold!  More about my snow adventures in a bit....

My main motivation for taking this trip was to re-connect with my friend Diana and experience doing some new things and meeting new people.  This was the first time I met her husband Jeff, and her son Jared.  I also met another internet friend Tracy Mangold.  Both Diana and Tracy have men in their lives that don't share the same enthusiasm for kettlebells as they do!  It's not uncommon many of the people I meet (mostly women) that are attracted to the way I program and design interval kettlebell training may seem a bit nutso to their partners.....that's why we become friends!  And let's not forget, my own husband/partner, Mark, thinks I'm crazy too!  I'm not going to say that it's a man/woman, male/female, husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, "thing", but I will say that it's NOT unusual for men and women to have, or want, different ways of exercising.  Interval and high volume training/sport (like cycling, running, etc.) is equally enjoyed by men and women, but it's not necessary for, and may not motivate, everybody.  I can see how a person could feel slightly intimidated or even left out by an overachieving, enthusiastic partner. Good thing there are other ways of training with kettlebells, and it can be done at any speed, with no one else around, any time of the day, any day of the week!  Don't think you have to "keep up" with anybody else.  Training kettlebells is about your ability, skill, time, needs and desires.  It can be just about you and the bell.

After talking with Diana's husband Jeff about his past experience with trying kettlebell training and being married to a woman driven by high cardio exercise, I was inspired to maybe help him start his own program; something different that what Diana does.  So on my way back home I decided to try designing this next "10 x 10" with another approach with the focus keeping it simple, quick, and hopefully easy.  This 10 x 10 does in fact lead up to 10 swings.  For some who have done very little, to no, exercise in a while, ten kettlebell swings may not feel easy to do!  And when something doesn't feel doable, easy, fun, or in any way satisfying then there is little chance of finding the motivation to continue on to another workout, much less regular consistent workouts.

I confess, I designed this 10 x 10 with the male audience in mind.  In my own experience men like or need a slightly heavier starting size bell.  They generally have more upper body strength and tend to "lift" and "lower" the bell, much like a "front raise" than a swing, this is why this 10 x 10 starts with practicing the hinge/deadlift.  If anybody (man or woman) begins with a 16kg, 20kg, and maybe even a 24kg, starting the kettlebell swing from the deadlift position may be safer (but let's admit, guys like to lift heavy stuff).  Men also tend to want and need less reps, and more rest between sets, which is perfectly fine!  What's not fine is not doing anything to improve health, strength, and fitness.  Do a little, do a lot, JUST DO IT!

In this 10 x 10 I first demonstrate what I want you to do, then I do it with you!  After I demonstrate your set starts at the top of each minute, so that means that your work to rest ratio is about 1 part work, to 3 parts rest. Always, always take the rest you need.  Ten sets of practicing the drills that lead up to 10 solid swing reps, "10 x 10".

Jeff's 10 x 10

1. Hinge/contract quads, glutes, abs
2. Hinge, touch the handle
3. Dead lift
4. Dead lift/touch the ground, with the bell, in between your feet
5. Dead lift / hover / hike pass 3
6. Dead lift / hover / hike pass 3, swing 1 rep
7. Dead lift / hover / hike pass 1, swing 3 reps
8. Dead lift / hover / hike pass 1, swing 5 reps
9. Dead lift / hover / hike pass 1, swing 5 reps
10. Dead lift / hover / hike pass 1, swing 10 reps

This workout my be your point of entry, or for someone in your life that you love!  I can think of at least a half dozen people in my life that I would love to see practice this routine at least 2-3 times a week until they get their confidence, or get their confidence back, to do one of my other 10 x 10's with more swings.

Commit to 10 workouts, consistently over a period of 3-4 weeks, about, or less than, 20-30 minutes a week!  Really?  Can you do it for us?  Can you do it for yourself?  I can guarantee you one thing, and one thing for ain't gonna kill you!  Slip away, all by yourself, in your back bedroom, down in the basement, in your garage, no one has to know, no one has to watch....just you and the bell. (and me :))

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This mornings rush to finish, not so bad...considering AND a new 10 x 10!

Remembering that I will be getting plenty of "exercise" during my trip to Milwaukee, and "new to me" exercise like snowshoeing, which could result in a little soreness (1 hour until touchdown), I took my warm up a bit easy this morning before I left (30 minutes 14kg swings).  I knew I had a couple of GS sets to do because there would be no comp bells where I'll be staying.  I was looking forward to doing them anyway, so....

Even with the best laid plans, when you feel in a rush, the potential for being less than 100% can be at risk.  Maybe this morning was 100%, which is fine, but I do think I could have done better.

First set, 14kg 6 min (3/3) "easy pace".  Rep count was 33/32.  Slower than 12rpm which is pretty "easy"!  Too easy, but I think I was just feeling the pressure of getting the sets done and also I was a bit nervous about the snatch set I knew was coming.

I don't know why, but there seems to be a world of difference between the 14kg and the 16kg.  I'm still playing with some techniques.  Watching the last 3 minutes on my L I remember taking my time on the first dip, making sure I felt all of both feet square before coming up on my toes.  Then I thought, hmnn, I don't think this part of the jerk os supposed to be slow and deliberate, it should be explosive.  So I tried loading and getting up on my toes faster.  Still trying this and that, I guess waiting for that "ah-ha" moment...or should I say another ah-ha moment?  There are plenty of things I've figured out recently and I'm grateful for the small breakthroughs I have had.

Onto the infamous snatch set....ouch, ready?  I wasn't!  8 min 16kg snatch 22rpm.  I knew last weeks 6 min 22 rpm was good and tough, and now looking at this one I probably should have tried a 7 minute set.  Man, what you sacrifice in reps when you speed things up!

Of course I wanted to at least complete 66 reps in each of the first three minutes, but that was not to be!  Close on my L, but boy, did I crash on my R side just before 3 min.  I was desperately wanting to complete the 66 and on rep 63 that bell almost ripped out of my hand.  I had to regrip, but by that time I was done.  I eeked out a few more reps, having to swing it at least one more time, but let me tell you, it was the longest 4th minute in a while!  I thought about abandoning the set, but na!  Just couldn't do it...close though.

I barely made it over to my L, in fact technically I didn't.  I touched the floor during the transfer which pissed me off, but if I didn't quit the minute before I wasn't going to quit now.  L side was better but again, around 3 minutes, whoa!  I was 1 rep short of 22rpm at the 2.5 min mark, but again it slowed way way down.  For an 8 minuet set to NOT get 80/80 was an eye opener.  Gives me some thoughts about a few changes I need to make in my conditioning.

This is the description I wrote on the Youtube video;

75 R/78 L

I almost lost it right before 3 minutes trying to at least repeat last weeks 66 reps in 3 min (rep #57), I had to swing it once before going on. I made 63 reps in 3 minutes. From bad to worse...3 more reps, #65, lost my grip again and had to give it an extra swing. I completed 75 reps total, touching the ground on the transfer from R to L...darn it!

54 @ 2.5 min, 62 @ 3 min, slowed way down, barely being able to do another 16 reps in the last minute. Big rep sacrifice for speed. I can't wait to be ready to give it another go!

I called it a morning, hopped in the shower, threw some clothes in a backpack, some lunch together and the computer in my bag.  right now I'm over Nebraska somewhere and the next post I write will NOT be about kettlebell training....unless it's a 10 x 10! Which I NEED to post fact let me see if I can find one.....hang on!

And here it is!  I hope you have been practicing transferring from a two hand swing to a one hand swing!  Here is an "equal work to equal rest" 5/5 R, 5/5 L 10 x 10've got 5 minutes, don't you?

Friday, January 10, 2014

What a Difference a Day (or two) Makes....short story long

After a full day and a half rest I had some unfinished business to take care of....that 16kg jerk.  I'm going to try and not get into a big story because this blog is partly my own personal training journal so this post will be a simple accounting of my last two workouts.  As much as I would love to lead off this post with my best event, my snatch set, instead I'll just keep things in order....

First....Tuesday's disaster.  I just now looked over the first video, the second isn't even worth remembering much less posting, so let me just recap this one.  I thought I had rested and recovered enough after training and teaching in the morning, by having a nice big lunch (probably too big), and taking a fairly long nap, longer than usual, over an hour.  I got out into the garage gym around 4:15 and took about 15-20 minutes to warm up.  The 12kg felt fine, the 14kg not bad, but the 16kg felt heavy.  I never like to say out loud that the weights feel heavy; it's a superstition of mine.

I always start with my "good" side, my R, and things were going along okay...oh, probably what kind of set me off in the wrong direction is that up until the minutes before my workout I thought my sets were with the 14kg.  I checked my program before I went out to the gym to find out my coach had changed the workout the day before....totally unexpected, and since I hadn't looked at it for days I was kind of blindsided.  I probably should have just stuck with what was in my head, but that's where the mental breakdown started.  Anyway, just reviewing the video minutes ago it all came rushing back to me....I'm so glad it's over now.  It was just a not good day.

The Swing Quest event on Sunday took more out of me than I realized. It wasn't the 2014 swing reps, it was the "event".  The responsibility the adrenaline, etc.   Then without enough recovery Tuesday's teaching and training in the morning, eating too much at lunch, not enough rest, last minute program change = recipe for a challenging workout.  

28 R/ 17 L, with multiple, multiple re-cleans.  This was supposed to be a 5 minute set at 12rpm (30/30).  I was also having some forearm pain from the pressure and the weight of the bell and tried removing my wrist pads because they weren't seeming to help.  Well, removing them didn't help much either.   Man, that was a long story for such a short video! Goodness.

Fast forward to yesterday morning (Thursday).  Much fresher, and my forearms were feeling much better.  First set I got lost in focusing on going the distance and had it in my mind a 3/3 min set, even though I knew it was only a 5 min total set.  I completed 3 minutes R, switched to my L only to realize after about 1 min that I had screwed up.  It was kind of a relief to figure out I only had to finish another minute to technically complete the 5 min set.  So that's what I did.  Yep, I chickened out on my L side.  3 min R/ 2 min L, 34 R/20 L.

This was good and bad, both.  Good because I did indeed finish 5 full minutes without re-cleaning.  Whew, I can in fact complete 5 min w/16kg.  Bad because I probably could have kept going on my L, but I would never know because I quit.

Second set.  Decisions....I know I can do 3 min/2 min, should I just accept the fact I'll probably have to jerk longer on my R and focus on making that better?  Well, I decided to fall back on the theory of progressions and jerk 2.75 min R, compromise between 3 and 2.5, leaving 2.25 min L, again compromising between 2 and 2.5.  Really my motivation was success.  I needed to feel successful.

I switched at 2.75.  I got lost and as I approached the end of my 6 min set....wait a minute (literally), did I say 6 minute set?  This was only a 5 minute set!  So have I been jerking for almost 3.25 min L?  Apparently I had!  Crazy.  6 minute total.  Okay, now I know I can technically jerk for 6 minutes.  29 R/29 L isn't a PR by any means, but I can, in fact, complete 6 minutes.

I left plenty of time to go on to my 6 minute 16kg snatch set (22rpm) but after looking at the clock I thought I might be able to get that done with enough time left over to video tape a 10 x 10 workout before my next appointment.  So with only about 10 minutes rest after that last jerk set I just went for it.  I only briefly warmed up my snatch with the 12kg and 14kg.

132 total reps, right in the money, I think.  66 R/66 L.  Maybe an extra rep, but not one less.  I'm pretty sure I hit 11 reps every 30 sec but to be honest I haven't sat through this entire video to confirm.  I'm not going to day it was an easy set, but I'm not going to say it was hard either, but it was only 6 minutes, not 10. That kind of pace is crazy fast for much longer, in fact I'm sure it would have dropped off substantially if the set was any longer.

I never did get to my 10 x 10 video.

after a quick 12kg, 5 minute 100 swing warm up:

Double and moderately heavy two hand swings
230 dbl 16kg's
100 24kg
250 16kg
30 min, 580 swings

Well I guess not turning this into a big long story didn't quite workout!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Good Thing I Believe in Goodness and Miracles

I was really hoping to post some amazing videos of my Kettlebell Sport practice this afternoon. I mean, my snatch sets are fine, kinda good, but my jerk skill has yet to breakthrough.  Really, I have a positive attitude about it.  I never start my training/practice thinking I can't or won't do it.  I always go into the gym completely ready for goodness, and sometimes miracles, to take place....I believe in goodness and miracles, if you don't know that about me by the way.  I also believe in earning things in life, that nothing you hold of value is given to you by accident, without some kind of previous asking and preparations....not sure if I'm expressing that exactly right....  Sure, maybe we think some people are born not having to "worry" about money, looks, or status, and in some cases strength and athletic skill, but that doesn't mean that those people may not have any worries about other things in their lives!  And more power to them if they don't!  I want to be one of those people and in fact I feel more and more confident I am becoming one! 

I believe that anything is possible because if "one person can do it, then it can be done".  I live with this philosophy.

Long story short.  My 16kg jerk sets were an epic fail.  So much so that after my first set (of two) I actually broke down and sobbed uncontrollably on Marks shoulder.  I sobbed for about 2 minutes.  (aren't I lucky to have his shoulder there for me....geez, I'm so lucky)  I could have just wrapped it up, or tried the next set with a lighter bell, but instead I tried to pick myself up by my bootstraps and attempt a second set.  I started out as fresh as I could shake off what just happened but then as much as I wanted to gut through it, my forearm was bruised, and I just could not take the pressure the weight of the bell was creating....I tried really hard to hang on but combined with everything else it was too 

I just really do not understand how I can be so weak or so stupid when it comes to this skill.  I was feeling at my lowest point ever.

But that was then (a couple of hours ago), and this is now.  I'll get back in the gym tomorrow and try again.  I will get this done.  It's not impossible, in fact it's very possible.  It's not like it's one thousand pounds for God's sake....well, technically it is.  36lbs x 100 reps = 3600 lbs = almost two tons....good thing I believe in miracles!

photo above was a still image I took from the video of my first set, trying to pull my head out of my "&$$", before a major meltdown that included 2 minutes of actual sobbing.  Aren't I 50 years old?  Way too old to be sobbing over a missed set.  Tomorrow I will try again, and regardless of the outcome I will probably post sobbing, promise.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tracyrif's 10 x 10 One Hand Swings! Don't be a Scooper!

I often talk about how the two hand swing is my favorite swing!  I have a few reasons why, but the biggest reason is because it's the swing I feel the most powerful doing (and because I can apply more power I feel as if it's most responsible for changing the shape of my body).  Which is no wonder because the two hand swing allows me to use both R and L together and simultaneously.  One hand swings, either R or L require much more effort and thought to stabilize your midsection (core) and shoulders, which is a good thing.  Neither is better, just different and there are many more advantages to training both.  I'll talk more about all of these bits in my next series of "10 x 10 one hand swing practice" videos post.  10 sets of 10 swing reps takes less than 10 minutes, sometimes as little as five minutes, so understand that if I were working with a new student I would have 45 minutes to teach and practice and that's just in the first lesson.  

I almost always teach a new student to start with two hands, and in the middle of the set to release one of their hands, and simply continue on with only R or L.  The reason for this is that I feel it can be a more comfortable transition by establishing a correct and symmetrical swing groove with the two hand swing, which feels familiar and comfortable.  I do not like to tell anybody what "can go wrong" before it does, crossing fingers nothing does!  I also resist fixing problems that don't exist, which is why in this video I demonstrate and coach it as if you can learn it perfectly before I offer up any corrections.  The same will go for the next 10 x 10's. I will start out assuming all is well, and only talk and demo corrections that I've needed to help people with in the past.

10 2 hd swings x 2 sets

5 two hand swings + 5 one hand swings R (5/ + 5 R)
5 two hand swings + 5 one hand swing L (5/ + 5 L)
5/ + 5 R
5/ + 5 L
x 8 sets total

I've demonstrated how releasing the hips/glutes prematurely can cause the weight of a moving / swinging bell to jerk a person around, and in this video I offer up one more reason.  If the bell is too light (for you) you may be trying to lead and lift with your arm, forgetting that it's your hips that drive the bell, causing what is often referred to as "scooping".  There are many corrections for this, but sometimes knowing the cause will allow a person to make the correction themselves.  There is another reason for scooping and I will have another 5-10 minutes in the next video to share more information.  Enjoy, and don't be a scooper!

Oh, and one more thing...  If you are in No Cal, or would like to
travel here for a SFG Kettelbell Course here is the next event Mark is teaching at (and of course I'll be riding shotgun!)

Be there or be square!

Full Force Pt is happy to have Mark Reifkind instruct Northern California's first SFG kettlebell user course March 29th. If you have ever wanted to learn how to use a kettlebell safely and effectively, or just want to refine the skills you already have, this course is for you.Sign up today!!!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Saturday GS practice

I had two 14kg jerk sets to complete this morning and one 16kg snatch set.  I was supposed to drive to Juno this afternoon and do my practice there, but one of our training partners cancelled last minute and so I decided to train with the other girls first thing (7:00am), then with my Intermediate class so I can rest up for The Swing Quest in the morning (super excited about that one, by the way!)

I know that one day I'm going to walk into the gym and my jerks are going to just fly up!  In fact I really thought today would be the day...but it looks as if I'll have to look forward to my next workout for that to happen!  And it's got to because I'm going to keep showing up, so there!

Two 6 minutes sets with a 3 min rest between at 14 rpm (42/42). The results were 42/33 first set, very disappointing in a lot of ways.  First of all I just could not wrap my head around 14 rpm, wth?  I know I started off fast, but with no one coaching or counting my first goal was to complete the 6 min set.  It was an accident I actually did 42 jerks on my R side.  The L?  Well, history keeps repeating itself.....until it doesn't anymore, but today it did.

Three minutes to "rest", and my strategy for the second set was to not spend so much time overhead in the lockout, especially on my L.  Surprisingly I dropped the bell out of the rack on my R side 2.5 minutes into the set, and I thought about switching, but I just swung it a couple of times, re-cleaned it and went on to finish the 3 minutes before jerking L.  After that little fail on my R I was more motivated to complete the 3 minutes L no matter what the rep count was.  Focus instead on the bits and pieces of the movement. (35 R/ 31 L, with a re-clean on my R)  One more thing...I've been having to handle some outer forearm pain from the bell's resting position, especially on my R side.  Back to the drawing board.

My snatch set was...well I want to say BRILLIANT!  And it was perfectly fine.  6 min, 60/60 (20rpm) was the prescribed pace and I completed it exactly right.  It didn't feel that hard, except for the mucus in my throat that was blocking the air into my lungs!  About 1 minute L I had to make a decision; try and clear my throat so I could breath easier BUT waste energy and oxygen trying, or leave it and suffer in a different way....I decided to try and cough it up!  Yep.   Waste of energy and it didn't make it that much better.

Looking back two weeks ago when I completed a 5 min 16kg snatch set 56/59, five reps short and 1 minute faster just goes to show you how snatching faster sometimes is easier!  Less time in the overhead hold, and I find that my natural pace is probably closer to 21-22 rpm, which means I don't have to spend energy purposely slowing down....oh...but wait.  Yes, that 5 minute set was indeed faster, but there would have been no way to turn that into a 10 minute set, at that pace. Okay, mystery solved.  Todays set was BRILLIANT!

I'm really excited about The Swing Quest in the morning. I've got a couple of special guests AND I hardly did any swings today!  Two thousand, fourteen swing reps in the morning!  Love it!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Finishing and Starting

As many of you know I started posting simple, quick kettlebell swing videos I call 10 x 10's out of the frustration I felt from trying to help a couple of friends I care about just get their asses up, out and swinging.  I'm pretty sure the couple /few people they were aimed at did not follow through, but that's about them, not about me.  Once I realized that it was in fact doing some good from the emails, messages and comments I received I thought I'd keep the momentum going and continue to post new ones focusing mostly on the beginning kettlebeller which is why they are all two hand swing workouts. (which is my favorite swing, by the way!)

Now that some of you have been practicing regularly, or more regularly I'll be adding another series of ten 10 x 10's incorporating one hand swings!  Yay!  But first, here is the last, the 20th, 10 x 10 video demonstrating some of the important bits of the two hand swing for you to remember before you let go of that bell handle with one of your hands!  This workout is 10 minutes long, starting each set "on the minute", but if you know you can do between 10 - 20 swing reps in that time, then by all means do more!

And why should you want to do more?  Well....let's see....there's always....


Sunday January 5th I'll be hosting The Swing Quest 2014, starting at 7:15am.  The Swing Quest is a marathon kettlebell swing event that I have yet to finish designing and promoting.  Last year we did The Swing Quest four times, once every three months, on the first of last year, and last weekend of March, June, Sept (Big Sur).  I will absolutely continue to lead and host The Swing Quest at least 4 times this year, and this Sunday will be the first event.  Here are a couple more details I sent out to my group via email:

The Swing Quest 2014 is scheduled for Sunday.  Over 2000 swing reps will start around 7:15am, and will last for almost 2 hours.  Every 30 minutes or so a new routine of 500 reps will begin so you can come and go as you please depending on your time or desire, and if you feel confident to join in, grabbing a bell and a space without taking away from any established's a long haul and it's best that once we get going we just go!

I will have a photographer/videographer for the first hour only.  I want to tape the first workout, maybe the second one, but not all of them (4).  I'd also like to get a group shot before the event starts so if you would like to be included you must be there before 7:15am.

The location is at the Studio I currently lead my morning and weekend classes at in Palo Alto,  It is an open invitation to experienced kettlebellers only at this point. That means that you are either an Instructor or you have been working with a Certified Instructor and are confident in your swing skill.   The fee for the two hour event is $40 and you must confirm attendance via email,, comment here on my blog, or Face Book message me. Space is limited.

If you want to know more you can do a blog search here for "The Swing Quest", I've written at least four other posts about it, but here is my favorite one:

My own personal 2014 New Years goals are to #1 finish all of the lovely ideas I had last year, and then #2 give myself less choices.  So technically I have no choice but to finish and organize future events for The Swing Quest as top priority this year.  Events that include beginners progressions, classes, workshops as well The Swing Quest's marathons.  Building support, and interest of a community of people that decide that strength is moving more than the weight of a kettlebell. Strength is the commitment we make to ourselves to show up consistently, no matter what we "feel" like on any given day.

Here is to our strongest year ever.  There IS a finish line, but not just one.  Let's cross a few of them together!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

You know what? It's a new year, that's what!

My sister Donna posted something on facebook that made me rethink the "New Year".  I have to confess that until I read her post I didn't really care for this delineation of time, of days/weeks, "year" being so tied into a calendar date of "Jan 1st".  I mean, so what, really? Jan 1st somehow was supposed to be different?  What the hell have you been doing for the last 364 days of last year? I'm just so compassionate, aren't I?

Anyway.  Donna posted that the "New Year" was her favorite time, and for all the reasons why it should be. YES, that particular date does, in fact, in these times, in this culture, have significance, and why not?  Whatever sparks motivation for change, good change, IS a good I've decided to stop being a bitch about it and let it motivate me!  January first, second, third,'s time to shut up, finish up and move on!

My theme for 2014 is "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" and to finish ten things I "started" last year before I move on to "New Year", the "new me" which will help me make this the best year of my life so far!  I'm not sure which "ten" things those are, but I have a handful of last years responsibilities to complete.  Not that I'm waiting to start implementing some new changes, but my first priority is to finish, not to start!

omg...what does this have to do with training?  Yikes.  Well, it has to do with attitude.

Fast forward.  This is actually a post about my training.  A couple of days ago I had a pretty rough day....because of my attitude and because I'm spoiled as shit.  I have too many choices in my life, which is what I would call a "high quality problem", BUT it doesn't change the fact that I've let it become a problem.  "Problems" are things I don't let myself have!  I choose not to ever say that I have a "problem" because owning it makes it so.  Really, I promise I'm getting to the training and I'll write more about this year's "ASLTW" theme another time....I have to!  I have to because this year is about finishing! HA!

Here are my latest GS training videos.  The first two, taken on Tuesday morning, sucked.  I can say that now because it's over and done.  Really it was the jerk set that sucked. The snatch set was, well, it was snatches and I can always gut out snatches.  I didn't have to gut out this set, but what I mean is that I don't feel as if my snatch skill/strength can make up for what I lack in the skill of the GS jerk....but that was really a 2013 attitude!  It's a New Year after all.

Jerks always come first in training so as not to potentially tear up the hands first.  I went into the set kind of confident, but part of last years "high quality problem" was that I did not have a definite time to practice my sport.  I had too many choices.  Morning?  Afternoon?  Tuesday? Wednesday?  Saturday?  Sunday?  On this morning I let a last minute private cancellation dictate when I was going to do my sets.  These first two sets were done after a pretty fun (hard) morning of a New Years Eve 20/14 Hardstyle, high volume swing/snatch workout that included double bell swings and a ton of other high volume practice.  Maybe not the smartest move.

This was supposed to be a 6 minute set.  15rpm w/14kg.  The best part?  I really like my new pink tank top!  lol  43/31 (45/45 was the prescribed pace)

14kg jerk 6 min (supposedly)

Then next comes my 18kg 5 minute snatch.  I didn't think too much about it because I knew I could do it, BUT in the first minute I thought, "Wow, I could, probably complete a 'SFG snatch test' (100 reps in 5 minutes) with this 18kg, AND with only one hand switch!"  Which then made me pace myself a little too fast.  Too fast to focus on insertion and technique.  As I mentioned....I can gut out snatches, which is not the point.  I ended up with 97 reps in 5 minutes.  Good Lord, if I could have switched hands, no doubt I would have easily exceeded 100 reps, and on a "normal" training day.  How many other female SFG's can do that?  One hand switch w/18kg?  

18kg snatch 

Today.  With a new attitude for the New Year AND the decision to take away some of my choices the plan was to NOT over train my heavy swings this morning and wait until the afternoon to do my GS sets.....after plenty of recovery and a nap!  Also, the new plan was to stop being a baby.  Look for what may need improvement and freaking improve it!

Prescribed was 3 jerk sets, 4 minutes each with the 16kg at 12 rpm.  I decided that my first goal was to complete the 3 sets, no particular pace since I haven't really jerked the 16kg for months.  Here are my results. (sorry the videos are posted in opposite order, starting with the 3rd set of 3, but I'm not editing this post all over again!)

The first set was okay.  After only 2 minutes rest between sets I fell into what I already knew was one of my problem areas in the second set.  When I jerk on my "less strong" side, my left, I tend to shift over to my left hip, not utilizing my right hip/leg and it becomes really apparent and the reps get super wonky.  Two legs are better than one!  So on my third and last set you may notice before I jerk I re-shift my weight to both legs before each jerk rep.  I'm super thrilled with my last, 3rd, set, even though I did not complete my prescribed rep count.  Now I may be on to something.

My snatch set.  16kg 8 min (4/4)  Again, no worries.  Relaxed, kind of.  What I mean by that is that I know my "insertion" needs improvement and I'm still playing with technique.  This set was prescribed as "easy pace", so I didn't try and count at all, instead relying on video to review.

I noticed that I prefer my grip to be/stay in the corner of the bell's handle, and how to use more of my entire torso.  Insertion still needs improvement, I know that.  I've got a few things to focus more attention to, and I'll practice that.

All in all I'm so much happier and it's only the 2nd day on my New Year!  Wow.

ps Photo above is my cat Winnie's tail!