Swing Low, Sweet Kettlebell

Regular readers will know that just over a year ago I decided to do the 12 week Body For Life challenge. It was a helluva thing and it involved me training at the gym 6 days a week for 12 weeks, but most importantly changing my attitude towards exercise and diet. I managed to drop 15 kilograms of body mass in those 12 weeks and it made a huge difference to me not only physically, but mentally too. I began to feel good about myself in a way that I don’t think I have ever experienced before. I felt more confident, I felt more alive! Things that were previously a schlep to do became a breeze and oddly enough I began looking for work to do all the time, be it physical or simply mundane household tasks like cleaning out cupboards, etc.

After the 12 weeks was up I carried on going to the gym at least 3 times a week and found myself doing less intense versions of the BFL workouts. I concentrated mostly on resistance training, but I never pushed myself very hard. My aim wasn’t to get huge muscles, but just to keep in shape and ensure that my metabolic rate didn’t reverse itself. I kept this up for the rest of 2012 religiously and the only break I took from training was over the week I went away on safari in October. By that time I had dropped my total mass by a further 5kgs.

Coming back from safari I began to lose touch with the desire to go to the gym and repeat the same boring old exercises over and over. Bench press, shoulder press, leg extensions, squats, curls, etc, etc. What made it even less appealing was that I was doing it on my own all the time and never really feeling like I was achieving much more than increasing the weights a bit. I wasn’t growing much and while I was definitely getting stronger I just couldn’t see the point in renewing my gym contract for another year.

Then a friend of mine on Facebook posted a video of this dude doing a kettlebell routine. He looked as ripped as you can possibly be and also seemed to be taking some strain under the routine of that weird looking kettlebell. I’d seen those things at Muscle & Fitness sitting all lonesome like on a shelf in the corner of the gym and I always wondered what they were used for. The video my friend had posted showed the guy doing some basic kettlebell moves and I thought I would give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?

So, the next time I went for my morning workout I grabbed hold of a 16kg bell and began swinging it like I had seen in the video. At first it didn’t seem so difficult, but then after about 45 seconds or so I felt myself beginning to condense on the outside like a cold beer after being opened! This wasn’t as easy as it looked. I think I got up to about a minute of single arm swings and then switched arms. By the end of the second minute I was seriously breathing hard and had to sit down on the nearest bench! And here I had been thinking the whole year that I was now moderately fit. What had happened to me?

I think doing that little routine kind of became a tipping point for me and I began researching this whole kettlebell training thing online. There’s a lot of information about the training out there and fortunately my search led me to a crowd called Flux Fluid Motion who are based in Umhlanga, but who also have satellite classes in other suburbs. The nearest to me is a class run by a guy named Leo Janssen, so I called him up and during December I found myself going to my first proper kettlebell class at the Physical IQ centre inside DHS one fine Tuesday morning.

Not knowing quite what to expect from me fitness wise Leo suggested I start out with an 8 kilo kettlebell. They’re pink. Well, oh my. First dent to my ego. Anyway, the class began with some interesting stretches and then we progressed to what Leo calls a “warm-up”. By the end of the warm-up I was down to the 6kg bell and it looked like somebody had just hit me full on with a hosepipe. Holy crap. I can’t quite remember what we did in that first class, but by the end of it I was in a bit of a state. Staggering down the stairs at the gym after the class was a perilous event! I felt very similar to the way I felt when I first began training at the beginning of the year. Well, ok, not quite so bad, but I was definitely humbled by that little 6kg kettlebell.

I dropped in on weekly classes for the rest of the month and then just before Christmas I made a decision to drop the gym membership in favour of 2 kettlebell classes a week with Leo. Best decision I have made in a long time. I feel great! My fitness has improved ten-fold since I began doing the classes and I am up to training with the 12kg bell. I’m aiming to move up to the 14kg weight by the end of this month, and so we’ll continue to go. I’m starting to notice that I am getting much leaner and am developing the abdominal and shoulder muscular definition that I just couldn’t get at all from my own visits to the gym.

I’m in the third month of training with Leo and I’ve now also added a Saturday morning class that he holds down at Battery Beach. Every class has seen us doing different routines. The variety in exercises is quite incredible and the number of reps you do will make the typical gym outing feel a bit inadequate. We did 400 reps in our 45 minute class on Tuesday!

I think it’s safe to say that I am a confirmed kettlebell enthusiast now and I can highly recommend this form of exercising to anybody who’s looking to boost their fitness levels and shed unwanted fat. I even keep a pair in my bedroom in case I get withdrawals.


About the Author:

Dallas Dahms is an ordinary guy who likes to write about little things that can have a big influence on others. Born in Durban, South Africa in 1968, he still lives there with his wife Nikki. His main interests are in the areas of photography and music.