Slow…it’s the new Fast

People often ask me what it is that I love about Kettlebell Lifting. There are many things I love about the sport, but in a nutshell there are two things; the simplicity and the importance of slowing down.

Kettlebell (KB) lifting has helped me to realize that I don’t need much to get the workout that I’m looking for. A couple of full body movements like the jerk, swing, snatch and some variations of those movements is all I need. Nothing exotic here, the simple stuff works the complicated stuff sells.

The KB sport forces me to be very present and connected. I love this quote from Catherine Imes, “How do we get to this connected state? In order to be successful, you’ve got to learn the skills and apply those skills for time. Even for the non-competitor, there is a specific-simple way to do this. You focus on making your reps good through slow and deliberate practice. There is no need for complex training routines with this approach. This is simple, but not easy. It is certainly not easy for those who have spent years training tension or training to crank out mindless reps in a particular lift.”

Going slow brings your technique flaws to the surface. If your technique is flawed, you will not last long going slow. Being able to go for a full 10 minute set is about building work capacity. For me, focusing on going 10 min. has been much more beneficial than focusing on the numbers of reps. It was a mental hurdle that I needed to get over before I could start increasing my pace. Students I work with gain an appreciation for the work capacity piece when they do a longer timed set in which they can’t set the KB down and can only switch hands once. This is how it is done in a KB competition.

If you set the KB down at 1-2 min. when things first start to get hard, you have lost the ability to be present and connected. You have let the fight or flight response of your nervous system take over. The fact that in KB lifting you have to learn to get through this point without setting the weight down is the hardest part for folks I teach, and the most valuable to learn. Most of them are used to ripping off reps as fast as they can, then setting the weight down and starting over or tensing their entire body to do a one rep max. Being forced to hold onto the weight connects the mind and body in a very unique way, once you set the weight down, that connection is lost. When I hit that point in a set when I start thinking about wanting to put the KBs down it is so interesting to see what thoughts are going through my head. All sorts of “I” statements and excuses will result in me stopping. Things like; “I can’t do this,” “My hands are too sweaty,” “I need to do this or that more or less.” All these things just increase the panic and tap out my system. Before I know it I have a death grip on the KBs and I’m tense all over. If I can slow down my breathing, bring my energy down out of my head, and just focus on one rep, the next one, I’m good.

Holding the weight means that you must work while you rest. This is uncomfortable. What does your mind do with this kind of safe discomfort? Most folks panic and set the weight down.

Anyone who has watched KB lifting knows that there is plenty of quickness in the sport too. It is not all about slowing down. You just have to know when to be explosive and when to turn that off. You are applying tension to certain areas and then turning that off and conserving energy. All the movements need to be closely coordinated with your breath.

I love how this “going slow thinking” in KB lifting has impacted my life. Most of us have plenty of tension and rushing in our lives. KB lifting has helped me slow down, and function with more ease in my daily activities. I feel less tension in my body and mind. When things do get crazy and uncomfortable it is easier for me to stay present and not panic. It is liberating.

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