The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Communication.

communication

This week, I’ve been thinking about communication challenges.

My friend Brandon is a successful concept artist for the video gaming industry. In his off hours he works to create art that is detailed and technically innovative. He recently repositioned his career to  instructing, educating and motivating art students to improve their drawing skills & techniques.  Although the content that he teaches is very different from my work as a kettlebell instructor, a recent discussion revealed we share the same challenge as teachers & leaders: how to communicate with an individual to help them understand and achieve their goals.

I can snatch a 16kg kettlebell with excellent form, and Brandon can draw the human body beautifully in motion with correct proportions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily make us great teachers. Teaching is about identifying the correct style of communication each student or client needs.

When I teach a class, I’m managing a team of (let’s say) 10 people. I need to communicate with 10 people who have 10 different world-views and 10 different learning styles.

Some of them thrive when I give clear & precise directions. With them, I work hard to use technical language without jargon. Each muscle group is referenced by name, and each movement is quantified. Other folks need praise and attention to feel motivated, to reach them I need to watch carefully to see where they are working hardest and encourage those efforts.

In my class, a lot of students learn by watching the demonstration first, then physically mimicking my movements. To reach them, I demonstrate each move multiple times while speaking the directions through the motions. We may put our weights aside for more complex sequence to learn the safest way to lift, bend and stretch. My friend Megan (editor of this article) learns by asking endless questions, which is often disruptive to the class but has been proven useful for shyer students. Some people are hesitant to speaking up; for those folks I engage in one-on-one conversations after or before class. They can also benefit from private classes, where we can take the time to focus directly on their limitations, strengths and understanding of new movements.

Every now and then I run into a student who is motivated by what I can only call parental disapproval. Somehow the only thing that reaches them seems to be looks of disappointment and my mom voice…

Hey.  Just about whatever works right?  If you’re a manager anywhere you know you must approach communication in this manner.  Or maybe that’s why 90% of your staff look at you like you have a fish bowl over your head.

Some folks need precise and clear direction for holding a proper plank:

  • Wrists, under elbows, under shoulders.
  • Pull your lats down.
  • Send your belly button to your spine and up.
  • Keep your glutes tight, tight, TIGHT!
  • Hips remain parallel to the floor.
  • Pull your knee caps to the ceiling to engage your quads.
  • Pull your calfs tight.
  • Flex your toes.
  • Stay there.

Others need a different approach.

“Have you seen the movie Full Metal Jacket?” I asked.

“Yes…..” Was the response followed with a nervous sideways glance.

“Today I’m Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and I just called you to attention for an inspection. How much tension do you need to keep your entire body under to keep from peeing out of fear?”

“ All of it.”

“ Perfect.”

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Communication.

Exercise — Better Than Medicine

better-than-medicineWe have all heard it too many times: exercise is good for you, get out and move, etc. We often get tired just from hearing all this. However, please, don’t ignore this advice. Several recent medical papers have shown a significant, provable link between exercise and longevity.

The April 2016 journal of the BC Medical Association describes research conducted at the University of British Columbia showing that increased fitness lowers the incidence of cardiovascular mortality (heart-attacks), reduces high-blood pressure, incidence of diabetes, stroke and even cancer.

Coincidentally, the March 2016 CMAJ and April 2016 CMAJ (journal of the Canadian Medical Association) published an article stating that prescribing exercise results in similar outcomes in the treatment of many chronic conditions as does prescribing medication. The article states that prescribing exercise for the treatment of non-life threatening conditions such as back pain, type-2 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome and other conditions is often even better than prescribing pharmaceuticals.

The American Cancer Society states in their guidelines that second only to avoiding tobacco, the most important factors for reducing cancer risk are weight control, dietary choices and level of physical activity.

If you exercise regularly, you KNOW the value of exercise. But know this, the biggest health benefit from exercise is gained by adding some exercise to people who do not exercise. The biggest gift you can give your sedentary friend is help them find a fun exercise that they may enjoy doing. You will literally will be adding years to their life!

Exercise — Better Than Medicine

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. PART 2 – FOOD.


Challenge – Eating Vegetables vs Me….
(Or: It is time to come to terms with my grudge against vegetables.)

confessionals_02I loathe vegetables.

I have been at war with them for as long as I can remember.  My mother can tell you about nights where I sat alone at a dark dinner table for hours, stubbornly staring down at cold cauliflower and broccoli on my plate.  When it comes to vegetables, I modelled myself after Jane Austen’s character, Elizabeth Bennet “An obstinate, headstrong girl.”

As an adult I’ve decided it’s time to change my mindset and approach to help me actually grow a desire & love for veggies. A victory would be avoiding a frown while chewing on broccoli and sucking back water to wash it all down… you know… the look a 5 year old makes while eating brussels sprouts.

So I call to arms beginner veggie eaters like me to unite & take this one step at a time.

Step 1 – Groceries

Pick a veggie.  Only one. Carrots. Red peppers. Broccoli… Educate yourself about it, learn the nutritional values and Google search recipes. Start to understand how your veggie can be prepared with foods you enjoy.  If we don’t understand something, we (humans) have a tendency to avoid it. Food for thought — Have you eaten vegetables at a restaurant and enjoyed it? Probably. How was it prepared?

Step 2 – Recruit your foodie friend.

Grab a friend who loves to cook and enjoys vegetables (Vegans and Vegetarians are great resources for this).  Let them know about your one veggie challenge and quiz them about how they prepare it.  What are quick ways to prepare this item?  Is it better raw or baked?  What should you avoid?  Over boiled broccoli is terrible.  Let’s win at just cooking it properly first.

Step 3 –  “Experience: That most brutal of teachers.  But you learn.” – C.S. Lewis

When you are working with food, the only way to learn is trial by fire (or marinating, or steaming). Once you’re set with recipes, it is time to do some cooking. Set aside an evening, purchase multiples of your choice veggie and get cooking. Focus on using your vegetable in a few different ways. Can it be prepared as a pickle? Is it best roasted? How does it taste from the BBQ?  Made into a soup?  

Cooking can be creative, so try to keep your testing low-risk and fun while you experiment.  If your recipe is terrible then try another… but make sure you re-read the old one to make sure you correctly followed the instructions.

Bonus Step – Purchase in season produce.

In season and local produce can taste a lot better than out-of-season and tends to be less expensive. This can help keep costs down as you experiment.

A fellow kettlebell-ist, Ayden and I were chatting about food preparation where he drove a concept home for me.  “Making time to prepare food at home is much more satisfying.  When you put the work in you can make a healthier, more colourful and tasty meal on your plate. It is just so satisfying.”

Well Team.  I’ve picked red pepper for this first round, I’ll report and show you how it goes in about a week.

What’s your veggie of choice?  How do you prepare it?  Hit me with your pictures and ideas!

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. PART 2 – FOOD.

Use it or lose it — science confirms what we already know

Most people are familiar with the adage: “Use it or lose it”. A recent article in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (June 2015) showed that even a very short period of no exercise will lead to dramatic loss of muscle mass.

If you experienced having a cast for several weeks or needing to recover after surgery, you know of the severity of atrophy (muscles getting smaller) you get. Most people don’t realize though, that even a 2 week vacation, where you do not exercise or continue your strength-training, will result in substantial loss. This phenomenon is not limited to muscle mass only. The research showed that there is loss of strength and endurance from even a few days of no exercise.

This article just reinforces a body of research showing that one should not stop exercising and in particular stop strength training, for more than a couple days.

Another very interesting fact born from the research is that cardio exercises are not a sufficient substitute for the strength training. This means that jumping on a bike or treadmill for a leisurely session will not prevent muscle loss. You need resistance/weight training to maintain your muscle mass.

So, what are the conclusions?
First, come to class at least 2 or 3 times a week. Second, if you are away from us for whatever reason, and you do not have room in your carry-on for a 15 kg kettlebell, substitute the exercises we do with body-weight exercises. Increase the weight not by eating more cake but rather by reducing the support you provide your body when exercising. This means do one leg squats instead of two-leg squats. Do planks and push-ups with elevated legs rather than feet on the ground… and of course, find a bar somewhere and do your leg-raises and chin-ups!!

Use it or lose it — science confirms what we already know