SFG II : How pressing 22kg changed my belief systems and my life.

Belief is a powerful thing. Belief propels you forward. Stops you in your tracks. Creates beginnings and endings. And all without you ever having made those conscious decisions.

For years I believed I wasn't capable of running a business. I believed I wasn't capable of ending my cycles of disordered eating. And most recently, I believed that I did not belong in an elite group of athletes and coaches. I went into my SFG II*, an advanced kettlebell training weekend, undertrained due to illness, injury and the crazy of running a business (I knocked that belief into next Tuesday. I think.) But more importantly, I went in carrying a silent belief that I didn't belong there. That I wasn't good enough, strong enough or a good enough coach to stand up with such an elite group of people.

Belief is a powerful thing. Belief propels you forward. Stops you in your tracks. Creates beginnings and endings. And all without you ever having made those conscious decisions.

(If you want to skip the whole story and get to the point, find the **)

I opened the studio space for PULSE Kettlebells and Yoga on September 2nd, after two months of negotiations and just one week to renovate and turn over the previous studio. Something I had never thought possible was suddenly brick-and-mortar!

I promptly got sick (because apparently 14 hour days are a good idea for 2 weeks in a row?) and stayed that way for more than 2 weeks. A little overzealous (who, me?) I injured my shoulder on my first workout after my last cold bug, just one month out from my SFG II. I couldn't move my neck or shoulder, had radiating nerve pain and just f!@$ hurt. Crushed, I called my sister and my trainer sobbing. I had worked so hard up until the studio opening and was fitting in three training sessions/week even with all that was going on... it was a really heartbreaking morning.

Thanks to an amazing (and patient) massage therapist, encouragement from my coach and a little bit of stubborn, I slowly rehabbed my shoulder and was back on track! Until the Monday before my certification...when I got slammed with another cold bug. This time? No messing around. I canceled all my clients. Subbed out most of my classes. And turned Netflix to STUN with Scandal and Blacklist while I chugged a gallon of orange juice and a gallon of homemade miso soup over the course of 48 hours, breaking only for acupuncture and naps. I WAS GOING TO FREAKIN' PHILLY.

(So I showed up at the airport, my troubles behind me! Until they told me the flight was oversold by 30 and I'd be lucky to get a seat. COME ON!!! 30 minutes of agony later, I was lucky. And got the last seat, much to the dismay of the 5 people behind me who got bumped. Thanks, Delta.)

Before I tell any more of this (rather long) story, I really want to take a moment to thank whoever made it possible for me to be on Team Sansalone and to Joe Sansalone. I was lucky enough to work with my trainer's trainer (!!) and one of the most talented coaches I've had the pleasure to work with. 

Back to to SFG II.

Day 1: I passed my flexed arm hang -- piece of cake. I passed my snatch test in 4:20, PR'ing by more than 20 seconds. See also: my sore biceps and lats for the next 72 hours. I failed my 22 kg press test after a really decent grind, which wasn't a surprise given my red shirt status. I also failed to anticipate the volume of level 1 skills we'd be doing. I was TIRED by the end of day 1.

Day 2: Rough. Rough. Rough. Rough. Fatigue/soreness had set in due to my lack of volume the previous month, and my brain went into overload learning the bent press (new fave challenge.)  Then.... the swing workout. 24 kg, double 16 kg, double 12 kg, 32 kg .... go down the line 10 swings each. Keep going. Unfamiliar with the swing or double swing? That's a long walk down a short plank. I choked down a bagel for lunch and spent at least 30 min that afternoon choking back tears (or straight up crying in the bathroom) because my usually VERY compliant body was in full-on rebellion. "Oh. You'd like to jerk those 16 kg bells? That's nice."

OK. SO!! All that aside: I learned SO FREAKIN MUCH. I learned what it was like to feel completely at a loss as a student (I'm pretty sure at one point I heard Joe say "That's a good cue, but her brain's about to short circuit, so we're gonna let her work with this.") I learned quality > volume. I learned that a strong trunk translates into power faster than you can imagine. That a good coach walks the fine line of balancing kindness with a demand for quality.

** Day 3: Failed my 22 kg press test again but it was a LONG GRIND and I felt something shift around the middle of it. Joe coached me a few times on lighter lifts and I did some bottoms up work to keep my lat sealed. Tried the lift again. Clean. Pressed. GRIND GRIND GRIND ..... bell starts to drop ... and something inside me snaps. I let out some kind of ridiculous Amazon anger shriek and completed the press. And failed because the bell can't drop on it's way up. F!@#$ but true.

Went to lunch for a walk and called my mom because something deep had let go in that attempt...something deeper than my lat. And as we talked about it, tears swelled to my eyes as I realized that I was holding onto a belief that I didn't belong there. So that was it. The hitch in my strength and my achilles heel: a deep rooted belief that I didn't belong. A belief I was no longer willing to subscribe to after all I'd been through.

So after the rest of my tests...windmills...jerks...push presses... I sat down and realized that I was sore. and tired. and my shoulder hurt. and -after talking to my coach- that I was going to try one more time, results be damned. I walked up to the 22 kg and said half out loud/half to myself "I belong here. I am strong enough. I am good enough." 

and I really meant it.

I cleaned. Wedged. Grunted. Pressed. and let out another variation of the hilarious warrior yell I'd emitted before. AND IT WENT UP. No questions asked. No pause, hesitation or doubt. It just went up.

It took a moment to realize what had happened as I racked the bell and put it down. Got the nod from my coach. Heard people yelling and shouting in trumph for me. And sort of ignored Team Leader's handshake in favor of a chalk-y bear hug.  I bounced up and down like a two-year old in a candy store and hugged people I'd never met, immediately grabbed my phone and texted 5 people (yeah, yeah...) and I came home the next morning still reeling with the excitement of texting my coach I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT!!!!!

I passed my SFG II against a lot of odds. And - oddly - I am even more proud of that than I am of  successfully running my kettlebell and yoga studio or of anything else I can remember. I MET AND TRANSFORMED MY OWN BELIEFS, the most powerful things I've ever come up against and I am really proud of that (Just writing this, my heart gets all swell-y again.)

So here's the moral of the story - for those of you who have tirelessly read through this absurdly long post: changing your beliefs will change the course of your life. By all intents and purposes, the 4th attempt at a lift after 3 days of physical testing should have failed. But a simple shift in *belief* is what shifted my ability to move weight that should have been immovable.

The trick is to dig below conditioning, thought and understanding, and look at what it is you truly believe about yourself. It's not always (or often) pretty. It can be undesirable or confusing. But if you're willing to meet the parts of yourself that you've covered over with productivity or inactivity or whatever it is you're using to hide from yourself? S!@$. WILL. CHANGE. If you're willing to let it.


* Strong First Girya Level 1 requires stamina. You must understand and execute 6 Hardstyle Kettlebell lifts with 2 test-sized kettlebells (24 kg for men, 16 kg for women > 124.5# = me.) It's a grueling weekend that builds mental fortitude and toughness.

Strong First Girya Level 2 requires finesse. In addition - of course - to stamina, mental toughness and a "survive at all costs" attitude. On day one, you must pass your snatch test (100 in 5 min) and strength test (5 pull ups + 1/2 bodyweight military press for men, 15 sec flexed arm hang + 1/3 bodyweight military press for women) and go on to review the six SFG I skills. Day 2 is review and practice of Level 1, followed by a headfirst leap in the bent press, push press and jerk. Day 3 is review and practice of those lifts...and skills testing.