Thursday, January 03, 2008

My next guest is Catherine Imes. You may have seen her on the Crossfit form or maybe at an Event with Steve Cotter.
Over the last year or so I've read her posts and seen some of her videos along with reading her training logs. Anytime I've read her posts or training logs I'm blown away by the information she passes forward. I'm constantly educated by her training knowledge. Thanks for stopping by Jen's Gym!

Jen was kind enough to invite me as a guest blogger to tell my story as to how I started in Kettlebell lifting for fitness and competing.

For a little background, I have a moderate athletic background. In elementary and middle school, I played soccer and basketball. I threw shot and discus in high school until the 11th grade. I played no sports in college and aside from maybe some recreational softball teams did no other sports.

In the summer before my 9th grade year, I participated in a weightlifting camp. What I quickly found is that I loved lifting weights and I was decent at it. So, throughout high school especially when training for Track and Field, I really got into weight training. Most of it was comprised of squats, bench pressing, and some very ugly power cleans.

Throughout my 20s, I was in the gym on and off. Consequently my weight and diet fluctuated. When I moved to St. Louis from Oklahoma for a job, I quit doing any sort of exercise for nearly 2 years. I finally crawled back into the gym in 1998. I met a friend there who introduced me to a Martial Arts school. This is a mixed martial arts school, they do boxing, Kali, BJJ, Sambo, ect. I loved the training, but I quickly realized that brute strength didn't serve me that well and that I really wasn't very mobile or coordinated. Furthermore, I realized that my bouts of cardio on the elliptical or the stationary bike following my strength training didn't really provide me with the conditioning required for that environment. So, I started looking for different training ideas...

Like many, I found out about Kettlebells through Pavel Tsatsouline. Pavel was a contributor to Muscle Media 2000 magazine. I saw the Kettlebells advertised in the magazine, and even though I found Pavels books like Power to the People very useful and saw very good strength gains as a result, I refused to fork out money for a Kettlebell. In one issue, Pavel wrote an article related to doing KB swings, snatches and Clean and Jerks with dumbbells. So, I started working these at the end of my strength practice. I would do very high rep sets usually switching hands. What I liked is that these lifts forced me out of my comfort zone which had consisted of lower rep strength training.

In 2003, I finally forked over the money for a 12kg and 16kg bell. I knew right away that they were definitely more suitable for swings and snatches than the dumbbell versions of the lifts. After getting my bells, I joined the forum at Dragondoor. There were discussions on the forum that pertained to competitions with these things. Long story short, I decided on a whim to drive to Chicago in January 2004 to compete. I was hooked. It was a very fun time, and I met some very cool people in the process.

For a little background. The competition consist of Jerks (One arm for women and two arm for men). These are performed for up to 10 minutes. Once you rack the KB, you cannot drop it out of the rack. After the Jerks, you rest for usually an hour and then you do 10 minutes of KB Snatches with one hand switch. Once again, the bell cannot touch the ground. Women typically use 16kg bells. Men use 24kg and 32kg bells.

In late 2004, I saw my performance with the KB lifts stall, not just in terms of competition, but I found I couldn't snatch very often because my hands would get blistered. I certainly could not make it the full 10 minutes. In early 2005, I met Valery Fedorenko. Valery is World Champion KB Lifter from Eastern Europe. His biathlon total for his weight class (< 80kg) still has not been beaten.

Valery showed me some technique changes. I didn't pick up on these right away. What I did utilize was the information he gave me regarding how I structured my workouts. He introduced me to the concept of "pacing" and working for time. I saw my snatch numbers go from 140 in December of 2004, to 183 in 10 Minutes in May 2005.

After a competition, I would stop the high rep KB training and do something else be it my own workouts like some brutal met-con workout or the Crossfit WOD. Consequently, I didn't improve much between competitions.

This last year, I made up my mind that I was going to get significantly better at these lifts. I realized after a so so performance at the 2006 World Championships in Latvia (partially due to a change in the bell that we used), that I really needed to focus on improving my technique.

In 2007, I committed myself to learning the techniques. I attended the AKC Certification in Jan 2007 and became a AKC Coach under Head Coach Valery Fedorenko. I had the opportunity to work Valery once again. This time I paid attention to the techniques and took his advice to heart.

By May 2007, I hit 208 snatches. The AKC Introduced the one arm Jerk for the WKC Championships. So, I worked all summer at bettering my Jerk Technique. By November, I had improved my snatch numbers to 221 and hit 202 one arm Jerks.

Things I learned through this experience: High rep KB Lifting has taught me body awareness. While not everyone wants to specialize in something, it is important to do it at certain times so that you learn how to move and become aware of movement. That doesn't mean it has to be KB Lifts, it could be Weightlifting or Martial arts as long as you've got access to good capable instruction.

I've still maintained my strength all while lifting primarily a 16kg weight. I can still press, squat and deadlift as much weight as I did when I was doing more pressing, squatting and deadlifting. I've rowed a 1:45 500M. I can run even though I'm still a good 30-35lbs overweight. I have lost 35lbs since 2006 while doing this training and of course making some much needed dietary adjustments.

I've got mental resolve now that I never had with anything else. When you can't set the bell down, you have to get accustomed to discomfort. It's not a dangerous discomfort, but you have to learn how to breath and not panic.

I'm looking forward to starting back to the Martial Arts training. After I attended a few classes this year, I realized that I moved easier and I'm now a bit more athletic.

I've also realized this year how much I enjoy teaching these lifts in workshops and one on one training and how much I have to offer in terms of coaching these lifts.. I worked with Kelly Moore and she became the first American to achieve the Master of Sports World Class ranking in Miami.

I'll wrap this up now. I've got no shortage of things I could say on KB Lifting in terms of health benefits. Thanks Jen for inviting me to Guest Blog!



Gio said...

Jen, this is just awesome of you having some of these inspiring women of sport, posting on your blog.

Great Job. Katherine is just the best, and wishing all of you great success.


Jen said...

Gio, my pleasure! Make sure you check back I'm hoping to have some Long distance runners on soon.

Catherine Imes said...

Thanks Gio!