July 22, 2010

Kettlebellery

Kettlebells

Fitness is infectious because being in decent shape feels good. Maggie has recently cautioned me against going crazy with my exercise, probably because she knows I can go overboard sometimes. "Extremism in good health is no vice" -- didn't someone once say that? I guess not.

Maggie's right; it's not smart to go overboard. But part of my plan for the summer is to get an exercise routine in place and habitual enough that when the semester starts again, I won't have to think about it.

Running is great because, if you can do it, you don't have to put much thought in it. You just run. Unfortunately, for me, almost any other exercise carries with it a learning curve because I am really unfamiliar with strength exercises. So, I'm starting from scratch, no matter what I try.

Are you starting out there, too? Then you might be interested in kettlebells. After some initial interest in kettlebells after reading about them on a Twitter-friend's website a while back, I recently got re-interested when friends told me their trainers had them try out kettlebells (for fitness and for rehab purposes). It just so happens that I would like some exercises for my off-running days. Usually I just do shorter runs, but I would like to both give my feet and lower legs a rest and get some core and upper body fitness. I like the idea of kettlebells because people tell me:

  1. They help you burn fat and tone your core instead of bulking you up (which is why they also have a large female following).
  2. They combine strength training with cardiovascular so that you get multiple benefits at once.
  3. They don't concentrate on one muscle group, but spread the benefit out over many muscle groups, which is both a time savings an advantage for general fitness.
  4. The equipment is relatively cheap, compared to home gyms.
  5. The equipment is small and portable.

Still, there's a learning curve because you have to understand how to do the basic exercises without hurting yourself. The most basic exercise stems from the "box squat" which teaches you how to bend over and pick up something heavy without hurting your back. Essentially, you plant your feet and bend down by creasing at the waist and throwing your behind back while keeping your knees above your feet. You can practice that with your arms straight out horizontal in front of you without a weight until you get it. Then you can try it by standing about 8 inches from a wall, facing the wall with your arms out from your sides. This will tell you if you're doing it correctly without leaning forward.

Once you've got that form, you can do swings and cleans and other fancy moves that are quite challenging.

I can tell this is going to challenge my weak upper body (I have problems doing even one pull-up) and help tone my relatively strong lower body. But, we'll see. I will post my progress (my learning curve progress) here; I'll let you know in the future if I am able to continue with this, or whether I have wasted my time.

(P.S. Here's a gal demonstrating what a kettlebell routine might look like.)

Posted by James at July 22, 2010 3:52 PM
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