Overcoming the odds to become Strong First

As I eluded to earlier in the week, I am coming off the toughest mental and physical weekend of my life. Hands down, no contest. That includes labor, surgery, awkward family gatherings, you name it. This past weekend tested me in ways that reached far beyond physical strength and stamina. It took me through 5 of the toughest minutes of going through everything except seeing my life flash before my eyes (though at one point, I worried my breakfast would be flashing before my eyes and onto the turf in front of me…)

My cleans were a bit lack luster....unlike the bruises they left behind.
My cleans were a bit lack luster….unlike the bruises they left behind.

Back in October, I signed up for a Kettlebell course in hopes of becoming a certified instructor. As part of the certification weekend, you learn a lot, you practice a lot, you eat a lot and you dream about sleeping…a lot. Two solid days of swings, cleans, presses, squats and snatches. It’s exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. You don’t know what’s going to explode first: your brain from all the information or your body from all the output. It’s crazy level of awesome that deserves it’s own definition in the dictionary.

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Then comes day 3. Test day. The culmination of the weekend. See, the thing that makes this certification the real deal and what sets it apart from many others that require you to read a book and write a multiple choice “exam” is that you have to be able to practice what you preach. And prove that you have what it takes to perform what you want to teach others to do. For me, that meant doing the following:

-5 double kettlebell squats

-20 1-arm swings (10 on each arm)

-5 double kettlebell cleans

-2 turkish get-ups (1 on each side)

-10 presses (5 on each arm)

-10 snatches (5 on each arm)

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You need pristine technique and a good dose of strength. My testing involved using a 16kg (or two for doubles) bell for each element tested. Doing these fresh was a challenge for me, even after months of training. Doing them after 2 solid days of work that literally had me unable to hold a 12kg over my head because I was so exhausted, was a task. I was exhausted and tired beyond words. And the fact that my daughter decided to be up all night the night before, certainly didn’t help. I was close to panic and feeling like I needed to run away so badly. I’ve never felt that kind of push against me before which made me all the more determined to press forward and finish what I started back in October. I had doubts and was mentally preparing myself to redo part of my testing.

And I had to redo one element but thankfully, it was a quick fix and I was able to move on. After you demonstrate your technique, you go for the mother of all challenges: 100 snatches with a test size bell (16kg for me)….to be done in 5 minutes or less.

Gulp.

So much went through my head: strategy, what ifs, what if nots, you name it. Yes, it’s “only” 5 minutes which isn’t a lot of time….but let me tell you, time feels like it’s standing still. I struggled with this. 20 reps in, I felt dead. My arms were heavy and I felt like every hip drive was getting weaker and weaker. At 30 I was already off my original plan of attack for how many reps I was going to do on each arm before switching back and forth. At 50 I was done. Surprisingly, it wasn’t pain in my hands that was slowing me down, it was lack of perceived strength. My reps felt heavy, sloppy and all over the place. At 60 I was ready to quit. Absolutely done. The bell was getting so slippery and I knew I’d had a blister pop. I had to set it down and step away for a few seconds. It took everything in me to grab the handle and keep swinging. I was switching hands every 5 reps, sometimes every 2 or 3 just to see if I could hang onto the bell better with one hand over the other. I set it down again around 80. I had 20 to go and after doing a quick calculation over when the last time marker had been announced, I knew I had over a minute left. This is where I needed to decide if I was going to finish it, or subject myself to having to do it again to finish my certification. I chose the former and though I’m sure my reps looks horrible, those last 20 were easily my strongest. I pounded out those last 20 reps as if my life depended on it. In spite of having to set my bell down for a good 10-15 seconds a couple of times, I finished with 10-15 seconds to spare.

This was after I cleaned my hand up. And before that callus vacated my hand all together. Gag.
This was after I cleaned my hand up. And before that callus vacated my hand all together. Gag.

I won’t even tell you what went through my head when I heard “100” come from my counter. I had nothing left. Absolutely nothing. Relief, shock and fatigue overtook me. I think it took a good 25 minutes for me to wrap my head around what had just happened over that weekend. Never in my life have I pushed that hard. My lungs were a mess, my hand was bleeding (hence the slippery kettlebell…oops) and I was shocked that I finished. My lungs were burning so badly that I was literally tasting blood and coughing up…well…a lung.

I’m not someone who backs away from a challenge easily but I am someone who struggles with self-doubt and embracing what I am capable of or have the potential to achieve. Success frightens me more than failure. Why that is, I couldn’t tell you. I’m sure part of it has to do with confidence and a habit of expecting to fall short and in a strange sense, feeling more at ease when I do. If I ever go to the therapy I likely need, I’m sure I’ll be enlightened as to why I’m so peculiar. But for now, I’m basking in a week of recovery for my peeling hands and over-taxed brain.

And I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that I finished and I finished well.

I’m also looking forward to teaching and upping my own skill set and lifting heavy stuff!

I love free t-shirts...
I love free t-shirts…

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