Strong First 2014

StrongFirst Instructor From April 25-27th of 2014, I joined 200 family members in Chicago to renew my StrongFirst Girya (SFG) certification. It was an reminder of the power of less, of my strength and its potential to effect those around me, and the intensity of a group of people united by their belief in something universal.

In 2012, I completed my first RKC in a very acute state of fear and sleep deprivation. Training for that cert had consisted of 60-90 min of swinging, up to 45 min of snatching, PLUS  the Rite Of Passage press program when I could squeeze a few ladders in on my "rest" days. I was exhausted, terrified of failure and unaware of my own physical strength or mental toughness. Thanks to my team leader and assistants, I walked out of the Grad Workout feeling more proud of myself than I think I ever had. Not only had I survived -- but I had passed my snatch test in 4:30, nailed all my technique tests without a hitch and been recommended as an assistant.

This time around?  I passed with flying colors and was barely winded as I completed my snatch test.  I got nearly 8 hours of sleep every night.  I spent my "off" time reading and taking power naps.  I felt grounded and empowered every step of the way and I learned even more about myself, how to train myself and how to lead my clients.  So what was different?

I learned to Slow Down.  I trained hard for this round ... for about a month.  For about 5 weeks, I followed Brett Jones' Level 1 certification training program 5 days/week at double 16 kg after the 1st week. By week 6 I was burned out, cranky, and ready to quit.

For the next 6 weeks, after a coaching session with this AMAZING dude, I trained focused and strong...but NOT so hard.  I lifted 4 days/week and only 2 days heavy. I took almost a week off to focus on stability when an unrelated back spasm sidelined me. I skipped the snatch workouts (which give me migraines) in favor of swinging a 24 kg with one hand. I trained solid and slow, and there was always something left in the tank at the end of a set or a workout.  Hey.  You know that "less = more" thing?  It's true.

  • Mon: Double Clean and Press / Clean and Squat Ladders (3)
  • Tue: TGU + Snatch Prep -- Heavy Swings
  • Thu: Double Clean and Press / Clean and Squat Ladders (5)
  • Fri or Sat: TGU + Snatch Prep -- REALLY Heavy Swings

In addition to being MORE than ready for the cert -- I fell in love all over again with the StrongFirst system. The simple beauty of picking up something heavy.  Putting it down. Doing it again.

I re-discovered a commitment to Excellence. Early on, I caught myself with a pissy attitude because I was being asked to perform lifts to certain specifications with no adaptations or adjustments for my body.  I'm used to a style of yoga where everything is a yoga pose and "correct" depends on you. It's demanding, but it's fluid. Gimme my options or gimme child's pose!

Alternatively: Hardstyle is Hardstyle is Hardstyle and there is an iron-clad (pun intended) protocol for each lift.  My first response to this was anger.  I was frustrated that someone was not making accommodations for me, and that I was being held to a firm line.  Then it dawned on me: "Oh yeah. That's life. $&%!"  A standard of excellence exists.  And I want to meet that standard.

I've spent the past 3 years or so attempting to balance my Type A driven personality, slowly drifting into a mindset of "all is now.  all is good. world peace." which is valuable.  But the weekend at the SFG helped me notice that the pendulum had swung a bit too far in that direction, and that a sense of yes. no. black. white. correct. incorrect. is also a very valuable thing.

I re-learned Strength.

l don't believe that strength = brute force.  In my experience, strength is CHECKING IN, addressing what arises AND MOVING FORWARD intelligently.

  • Meeting the thought "I can't" with curiosity
  • Noticing without attachment the thought "this shouldn't be so hard"
  • Addressing resistance as it comes and STILL COMPLETING THE LIFT with integrity

When I approached strength with the willingness to look inward and STILL MOVE FORWARD, my body surprised me.  "Holy DAMN. Did I really just do that?" was a regularly occurring thought over the long days.

I found an untapped well of strength in quiet confidence in my ability to walk the line between "ignore the thoughts" and "give in to the doubt." I KNEW I could finish this weekend with grace and integrity.  I KNEW that I could own the snatch test.  And because I had that tucked away -- I found all kinds of space for compassion and energy for those around me.  Even the people I never spoke to, I had a connection with that wasn't possible when I was wrapped up in "I'm afraid I'll fail."

I remembered the power of FAMILY.  The first day I ran into several men that were at my first RKC in San Jose.  We had no other connection but there was a bond: "We've been through this together."  I got to eat lunch with Sergio, a kettlebell brother and the man who adopted many of my San Jose clients when I moved.  I got to cheer on women who were shaking the first day (that first arm hang is *intimidating*!) ...and cheer them on again when they nailed their snatch tests. My training partner for the weekend was a ROCK and my roommate is a sister.  All because we believe in the same value: Strength First. All else will follow.

There is nothing like the power of 200 voices in unison stating with complete certainty that they are "SFG" or the energy of 200 bodies generating the power of the Hardstyle Swing.

I decided to re-certify at Level 1 in Chicago instead of continuing on to Level 2 because the move and several family emergencies this year kept me from training the way I wanted to. I thought "No worries.  It'll be there in 2 years."

But I cannot stop here.  Not knowing the raw power of my strength coupled with a call to excellence...especially when its wrapped in grace and compassion.  See you all at SFG II... I'm coming for you, Philly.