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Thursday, November 29, 2012

2012 IKFF Championships results... Say what?!?

That was a BIG event in US Girevoy Sport lifting. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 competitors and 35 flights of Biathlon, Long Cycle, Snatch Only, Jerk Only and 5-minute Chair Press took place at the Sheraton Novi Hotel on Saturday, November 17th. It was an incredibly long day for the organizers who, admirably, kept their spirits up even among numerous registration problems.

Ken Blackburn and his team fielded registration and scheduling concerns for people from all over the world. Puerto Rico, Russia, Australia, Norway, Canada, and of course all parts of the US. Slava and I were the contingency from Boulder, representing team IKSFA. Also present was the OKC/Juno Fitness team, and the IKFF team.

Sergey Rudnev's Jerk set. Note the variety of weight loads.
One major feature of this Championship was the mixture of skill levels in each flight. World Class lifters stood between both seasoned and first time competitors alike. The level of difficulty was high in general. In the past two years I haven't seen so many men putting up 32kg sets and women going for 24kg sets.

The rules review was at 9 am, where Ken, always aware of the general mood, announced that "anyone using the term Kettle Ball will be escorted off the premises." Flight 1 started at around 9:15 am. Everyone with two events planned were scheduled with 4 or 5 flights to rest in between, roughly one hour. Slava had two flights early in the day, I was in two afternoon sets, the last 8 lifters finished the day at 5:30 pm. 
To say that the staging arena was tense is an understatement. You could scoop the adrenaline out of the air and serve it in a custard cup. Many first time competitors were not new to the sport but were new to competition jitters, which amps the stress level. Accomplished lifters envisioning Master of Sport or higher ranks could be seen hiding in their headphones, or were completely absent until just before their flights. World-class lifters were in the house demonstrating complete relaxation and total calm, which seemed to make the contrast between them and the unseasoned lifters even more obvious.

Juliet Lederle shows fortitude with a 24kg Jerk set.
I was able to connect with some of my IKSFA team mates and found that everyone had been programmed for tremendous goals, many by Master Coach Sergey Rudnev. A few personal bests were achieved, yet on the whole it seemed that the strain of training for this event caught up with us all. Take a look at the four events Slava and I completed. (The competition results are posted on

Slava preps for Snatch in a flight with 5-minute Chair Press.
Slava's primary event was Men's 20kg (Double) Long Cycle with 49 reps in in 10:00. He was in a class of his own (there was no official 20kg LC in the Men's division at this event), missing his personal best, set at the OKC meet, by more than 10 reps. He went ahead with his second event, Snatch Only with no special preparation, and took third place in his weight class in Men's Professional division 24kg Snatch with 63 reps in 5:06, 7 reps shy of Rank III. He was bested by above mentioned Norwegian, Allan Fallro, who took Rank I with 166 reps at 9:13, 2 reps from his goal of Candidate Master of Sport (CMS), and Sincere Hogan, who hit 116 in 8:32, 4 reps short of Rank I.

I meditated on Yellow Alert until my primary event, Women's Professional division 20kg Long Cycle (flight 19), and took first place with 98 reps in 9:52, and CMS rank for the second year in a row, 2 reps short of MS. This year it was a legitimate win against fitness trainer Terri Parker, who hit 57 reps in 7:50. ("Where did you come from?!?" she asked as we stood in line for our medals.) My second set was Women's Amateur 16kg Snatch, where I completed 150 reps in 10:00, the same result as at NW Comp in Seattle, giving me second place. Looking at the results data to write this blog I do not see anyone else in my weight category. According to international ranking I would have achieved CMS, however it is listed as Rank I on the results page. My nearest competitor is listed as the only 16kg lifter in the next weight class up with 156 reps in 9:53, ranking CMS. I'm thinking this glitch in the results is a casualty of the event and am actually quite proud to have a second place medal!

The big surprise for me was winning the Women's 20kg Co-efficient award, aka, Pound-for-pound ratio. This is calculated by dividing the lifters body weight by the total volume lifted. Co-efficient awards and Absolute lifter (total volume lifted) awards are given for Women's 20kg and 24kg divisions, and Men's 24kg and 32kg divisions.
Best Women's 20kg Absolute lifter was Andrea Borders, with LC, 120 reps in 10:00, MS.
For Women's 24kg division, Donica Storino took both Absolute and Co-efficient lifter with LC, 110 reps in 10:00, achieving Master of Sport International Class (MSIC).
Men's 24kg Absolute and Co-efficient award went to Jeff Martone for his LC set, turning in 100 reps in 8:50, and CMS.
Men's 32kg Absolute lifter went to Bill Esch for his MS Long Cycle, 67 reps in 9:05.
Mitch Blackburn earned Men's 32kg Co-efficient award with LC, 62 reps in 10:00 and MS.

Marty Farrell setting an American record in Biathlon!
So what's the plan for ultimate success in Long Cycle? For me, Stage 5. Rest and allow my frazzled nerves to recover. There is a strong rumor that in the future this competition will be held on two separate days, and will follow more strict international guidelines. One significant change would be to hire judges rather than recruit volunteers to judge. Ken also announced his plan to install air filter "to remove stress."

In all seriousness, more competitions are being announced every week. In fact there is at least one every weekend in February. My plan is to follow my coaches advice, repair my form and only train the Long Cycle for the IKSFA NW Kettlebell Invitational in Sumner, WA, April 27th.

For more information about GS training in Boulder, CO, and the surrounding areas, contact me at
Best wishes for safe lifting!

Friday, November 9, 2012

BOLT KB Comp, Dec. 9, 2012, Denver, CO

Thanks to Nico Rithner and his vision to bring more people into Girevoy Sport, we have one more opportunity this year to challenge our kettlebell fitness!

This is a "nothing to loose, everything to enjoy" experience for strength-endurance athletes. More experienced lifters will challenge themselves with only one hand switch, or to not set the weights down during the set, but BOLT rules make it easy to stay on the platform for 10 minutes:
  • you can do up to four events, double Half Snatch, double Jerk, single Snatch and single Long Cycle
  • you can put the weights down and rest during your set, just don't leave the platform
  • if the event is with one kettlebell you can switch hands as many times as you want
  • scoring is based on volume, compete against men or women in your weight class
  • you may use a different size of kettlebell for each event you participate in
Go to this website to register!

Please note, attempting a 10-minute set of any Kettlebell Sport lift without some preparation is not advised. Scroll down the above webpage for demonstrations of each lift. If you would like to participate, please look into the lifts and practice beforehand.

For those in or near Boulder, contact me if you would like to learn or practice the lifts ahead of time. I offer training sessions at Body Balance Gym, Boulder, CO.

Best wishes to all,

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Value of Stretching

***A note up-front, stretching is not just for athletes. It's for anyone with a body. However, since this is a fitness blog I will focus my comments on sporty-folks.***

An athlete who has gone to a chiropractor or massage therapist as a result of unexpected pain will at some point hear the analysis "your (name of muscle or muscle group) is/are tight." While I am happy to take your money, hammer away at "knots" and then re-schedule 10 more sessions to "get it out," I would rather help people help themselves. Knowledge is power, and my wish is for everyone to have power over their own well-being. Therefore I offer these pearls to you.

Important things to know about muscles: 
  • the action of a muscle is to contract, which causes a joint to move, thus a muscle in perpetual contraction will eventually move a joint out of its normal position = sharp pain
  • blood vessels and nerves pass through muscle bellies, between muscle groups, and between muscles and bones, thus a muscle in perpetual contraction will eventually interfere with blood flow and nerve endings = numbness, lack of strength and pain
  • a muscle will maintain the state of contraction that is the most useful or commonly needed by its owner = gradual development of muscular aches, "knots," lack of flexibility and range of motion
  • a muscle lengthens under two conditions: first, when catalyzed by a different muscle's contraction = "strengthening a weakness"; second, when mechanical elongation is coordinated with sustained, relaxed breathing (ie. a "stretch") = pain-prevention, resilience of joints and self-care
This makes two things important for athletes:
  1. preparation before practice to ensure unrestricted motion during specific skill training
  2. actively and passively releasing muscular contraction during and after a practice session
In my opinion this is the Value of Stretching: Prevention, Self-care, Common Sense.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Like putting on a hat and gloves before going outside in freezing weather, prevention is a small act with small cost that saves us from potentially enormous problems.

In terms of stretching, it is the extra 15 or 20 minutes of sprawling on the mat and breathing after a workout that ensures relaxation later in the day and restful sleep at night. To their credit, most athletes own their self-neglect while paying me big money to help them breathe and stretch for 60 minutes or more. They usually come to me after the second night of no sleep due to muscular tension, or when the pain has kept them from working out at least once. (Note the time:cost investment in both cases)
One thing that is certain for all athletes, not stretching thoroughly has a cumulative effect which eventually impinges normal structural and vascular action, and inhibits every day activities. An athletic career without debilitating injuries is a rare one indeed, but is not impossible.

Self-care = self-empowerment. It requires learning. It requires time. It pays off exponentially.
The link here is almost 17 minutes of video showing Denis Vasiliev doing his post training routine. Notice how many breathing cycles he commits to each position.
video by firefire999
In a recent Girevoy Sport seminar, Denis made special mention of the importance of warming-up sequentially before using the competition weight, and recommended immediate muscular recovery upon setting down the weights. Anything that needs to be released should be done as soon as possible while blood flow is abundant.
(See also my blog of Sunday, February 5th, 2012 "No-Brainer Return-To's")
At the risk of ruffling some feathers, I assert that self-care is not popular because it requires self-responsibility. It is a personal study and is rarely prescribed by specialists. The good news is that resources are abundant. Restorative and Yin-style Yoga classes are excellent avenues for athletes to gain knowledge with guidance. Self-empowerment begins when you practice outside the yoga studio, look deeper into your habits and amass information to meet your personal needs. Public libraries and YouTube are readily available. Also, word-of-mouth recommendations are worth investigating.

Common sense, or, "I knew that."
Once you have a stretching routine, a vital part of self-care is solo-practice. This will help you understand a flow and drop deeper into stretches that are more useful to you. Here are some pointers.

Time and space must be given for stretching, ie. not in a room full of furniture or equipment. The most opportune time to stretch is after exercise.
Another choice moment is before engaging in evening activities such as a meal or watching television.
Be unrestricted in your movement when stretching. Remove jewelry, belts, shoes and anything that will confine you.
Over-training will sabotage an athlete's performance goals. Days off of training can be dedicated to deep stretching, breathing and mobility exercises.
Control the environment as much as possible during a stretching session. Calm music or silence are conducive to relaxation. Set a timer to allow your mind to rest.
Finish stretching with a few minutes of "corpse pose," or being supported by the Earth in unstructured stillness. This is the last thing in Denis' routine, the last thing in a yoga class, and often considered the most important component of a mind-body practice.

Please leave your comments and personal stories here.
Best wishes for your journey into stretching!
Christian Goldberg