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.”

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The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Communication.

Confessionals of a kettlebell instructor: The Olympics, you and setting your bar a rung higher

higher bar-1
Love or hate the Games, the same phrase still remains the same when I’m watching athletes achieve greatness and world applause. “Damn. They must have worked hard for that.”

We need to remind ourselves – These athletes have chosen this path as their career. They spend their every breathing moment dedicated to the potential success of a gold medal let alone just being able to compete in the Olympics. They are masters of what they do regardless of their final placement in the ranks. On a Friday night when you and I are enjoying a cider at the pub after a week of 9-11 hour days sitting at a desk, these savants are not sitting in the booth next to us. They are at home, sleeping or preparing for tomorrow’s practice. Again.

I’m not discounting your hard work at the office. Goodness knows you have to work hard and smart to move forward in your life & career goals. The question is “Where is your bar? Not the drinking one silly. How high is your bar of standards for yourself these days?’’

What got us to our current success be it in career, family or fitness goals, we need to change our methods, habits, mindset & madness to enable us to achieve new success.

I have a couple of clients who are happy at their new found strength. After 6 months, twice a week practicing kettlebell their weights have become heavier, flexibility is increased, movement is much more fluid and a new confidence is shining through when they smile at me from the door when they leave…. Or maybe that’s them just happy to be running out the door…

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard “Nope. This is it. I just want to stay here. I never want a heavier bell.”

Eh? I says pardon?

I’ve learned from personal experience that the word NEVER, will eventually make a liar out of us somewhere down the line.

Time to check in with ourselves.

We all originally walked into Vancouver Mind-Body Centre because we weren’t happy with something or we had goals in mind to achieve. We sought out help from professionals because believe it or not – We had a standard that we were trying to realize and the avenues currently being taken were either not working or something needed to supplement the game plan. We didn’t lower our bar to make it easier on ourselves and accept that ridiculous phrase ”It is what it is”. We all made a huge first step of acknowledging something needed to change. So we did just that, stuck to our guns when it got tough and worked hard towards that gold medal.

Well congratulations buddy, you got this gold medal. We reached to top of THAT bar.

Now we need to maintain it and set the rung higher again. Maybe not heavier weight right away, maybe something different. Let’s try hold a hanging L-Sit from the bar with straight, locked knees or deadlifts with a 32kg. I know it sucks, we finally got to a place that is comfortable with less sweat than usual. You’ve been quiet since you turned that 8kg bell into a 12kg last month. Sounds like we need to work at your hamstring flexibility, work on your grip strength and cuss at the instructor all over again, because you and I are setting your bar higher. A new gold medal to produce for yourself with your classmates & I as your world audience cheering you on.

Sounds like it is time to start yelling and giving me dirty looks again.

Confessionals of a kettlebell instructor: The Olympics, you and setting your bar a rung higher

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Challenge – The Beach.

confessionals_03(Or: Summer is coming.  It is okay to love yourself.)

Summer is coming.  If you are like me, you likely have some painfully honest swimsuits in your bottom drawer ready and waiting to pounce on you like a spooked cat.  

Before you run off in panic to Whole Foods to purchase a 30-day raw diet cleanse, why not take a step back to breathe and assess the person looking back at you in the mirror.  You can do this fully clothed or in your swim suit.

We’ll start with the basics:

Are you standing up straight?

  • Check your hip placement – Hips over knees, knees over heels.
  • Roll your shoulders back to help work out the kinks from a long day at a desk.
  • Pull your belly button in and up to the back of your spine.
  • Breathe. (You have permission to briefly release your belly button while this happens)
  • Smile.

Who’s looking back at you?

If it’s a rockin’, can’t stop me now hottie: Fantastic! You keep doing what you’re doing.

If it’s someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, someone with flaws you dislike, or someone that doesn’t look the way you feel inside, please take a couple of minutes to think about what you’ve accomplished lately.

Are you able to hold a solid plank that you couldn’t do 6 months ago?  Have you recently increased your kettlebell size from 6kg to 8kg?  Did you realize last week you can keep your heels on the ground while in a squat?  What’s going on at work? Are you grinding hard to earn a promotion? Did you parallel park the car in front of your boss in one shot?  

It’s easy to dismiss both big and small accomplishments: when the hard work is over, it can be difficult to remember how much effort you had to put in. You may even have moved on to your next goal without even taking a minute to appreciate what you have just achieved!

We all have big goals, but each one of them must be broken down into many small, short term accomplishments to get there. It’s trite but true: a journey of a million miles must begin with a single step. And often step #1 feels a lot harder than step # 3, or #15, or #12,569. Think back to those moments  when you successfully jumped to the chin-up bar unassisted.  I remember a client’s face brightening up with surprise like a kid at Christmas.  That was a big deal for both of us; a moment to be savoured and remembered. It’s a memory to keep, even when it’s outshone by a new accomplishment.  Remembering your success might help you look at the person you are and the bikini or board shorts in a different way.

So, back to the mirror. You’ve taken a minute or two to savour your achievements; to appreciate the work that you’ve put into both your physical and mental self. Do you see someone physically different looking back at you?

Are you still looking in the mirror?  Standing straight? How about that smile — does it look a little more natural now?

Written with love by Marcia Lucas
Edited with vigor by Megan Chalmers

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Challenge – The Beach.

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.

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Part 1 – Food.

 

confessionals_01Challenge: Willpower vs Food

(Or: That certain food vice that always beats your brain)

Everyone has a food vice.  For example – If I were to shout “ICE CREAM!”,  some of you would immediately start walking to the freezer.  But that’s okay.  Instead of feeling guilt, let’s deal with this head on.  When it comes to food, we just need a few rules to help our willpower control our food cravings.

When I decided to become a kettlebell instructor, I knew there were (and still l are) some tough habits/challenges I had to face.  One of them is my love for chips. I can smell those salty, crispy morsels from a room away when a bag has been opened.  If I could, I’d duct tape that beautiful foil bag of fried potato salt to my face like a horse’s feed bag.

Marcia ! What the heck?  Aren’t you an adult with responsibilities and a mortgage?  Where is your willpower?  

When it comes to salty, crunchy savoury food, my willpower has as much effect on me as a red light does on a late 99 B-Line Bus: as in, none at all.

Depending on willpower alone is like tackling Mount Everest without a sherpa.  It might happen, but it takes a heck of a lot more effort.  When it comes to our vices, be it ice cream, chips, cigarettes, liquor or cotton candy, we need a plan and perhaps some sherpas to help us along.

Here are some rules that I try to stick to.

Rule 1 – Groceries:
No chip buying.  Chip bags aren’t allowed into my house.  EVER.

Rule 2 – Parties:
No unnecessary grazing (and really, is grazing ever necessary?) I make sure to stay out of the kitchen area and other food stations to avoid eating for sport.  It helps to make sure I have a glass of water (or wine depending on the occasion) in my hands. Occupied hands can’t get into chip bowls.

Rule 3 – Mindset:
I struggle every day to get more vegetables in my meals. Yet, I have zero struggle with chips.  But what if I tried switching my mentality?  Veggies = good and yummy.  Chip = overcooked potatoes that fell into the salt jar on the counter…

This one is still underway, so I’ll have to get back to you!

Bonus Rule: Tell your people (or, get help climbing your mountain)

There are many reasons people communicate their dietary limitations; they may be celiac or diabetic, vegan by choice, have food allergies, or just struggle like me.  Your friends and family can be a huge support system when you’re out at restaurants and parties, if they know about your goals, maybe they can help you too.  

You may find implementing one of the above steps into your day may be a huge help in the small steps leading to great rewards.  

I’ll check in a couple of weeks to tell you how it is going. In the meantime, how do you handle willpower and a chip bowl?

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Part 1 – Food.