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Improve yourself so that you can help those around you

The guys over at Rehab just sent me a draft of a piece they’re writing on last week’s kettlebell walking swing fundraiser. Naturally they talk a lot about the mental aspect of the challenge.

And it got me thinking. Actually no, the entire event got me thinking.

This all started last year when I got a call from Nessa who runs the Rehab HOPS centre asking if I’d run self defence training for them. I agreed, we met face to face, talked (well, she did most of the talking, if you met her, you’d understand…) and the we ran the course.

At some point I mentioned that I’d be happy to assist in their fundraising effort in any way I could, which is how, several months later we found ourselves on Sandymount strand performing a mile of kettlebell swings.

The whole process got me thinking about why we train, or more specifically, why I train. And let’s face it, I started training in martial arts 22 years ago and hit the weight room for the first time 17 years ago. I’ve competed locally, nationally and internationally in karate and Filipino martial arts tournaments, I’ve ran half marathons, full marathons, collected a few black belts and avoided a few more. I’ve busted up my back bodybuilding, and recuperated it kettlebell lifting. Several times per week I join in with my guys as we tear up the Wild Geese gym with bodyweight drills, kettlebell lifts, sledgehammers and barbells.

But why do I do it?

Zach Evan-Esh summed it up a while ago on his Underground Strength Coach website when he described himself as a soul lifter.

A soul lifter. Someone who lifts because they are born to do so. A person who has iron in their blood. This is as good a description as I’ve seen. I too am a soul lifter. I lift, not according to any one method, style, system or protocol, I lift because I want to.

In a couple of weeks I am taking part in the EGSA kettlebell lifting tournament, competing in my favourite lift, the long cycle. And I’m not excited. Last year I competed in the first ever Irish kettlebell sports competition and that was exciting. Exciting because it was new, it was the first time it was run on these shores and the first time I was to compete. It also made me work on the Jerk, which was a weak lift for me. This time it’s not new. I love the long cycle lift, the clean and jerk is possibly one of the all time greatest lifts a trainee can perform. But I can’t get a head of steam for the event, there are too many things I want to do to be restricted by a single lift, a single style a single competition.

For me training is about the challenge, it is also about expressing oneself. It is a form of freedom. This is something I’d almost forgotten until last week’s challenge.

A mile of walking swings requires you to dig deep into the darkest recesses of the mind. It is more than physical. It has nothing to do with a set of rules or standards written by some other bloke. It’s about finding out what really drives you on.

The best part about the challenge was that I didn’t spend weeks and months training, I just turned up and gave it my all.

Even better was, that in doing so my guys and I helped raise close to €3000 for rehab, with more money coming in each day, we may yet meet our €4k goal. Please click this link to help hit the goal

Wild Geese with some of the Rehab Crew, can you spot which ones suffer mental illness?

This realisation has reignited a passion for training. The harder I train, the more I do what I love doing, the more of these challenges I can do. Forget organised competition and their rules, I want to go back to free styling it. Back to how it felt in 2003 when I jacked in a job, ditched the car at a train station and loaded my mountain bike with panniers onto a plane on route to Spain. I spent the next ten day cycling solo from Madrid to Malaga, with nothing but a tiny pocket atlas of Europe, a compass and a Spanish phrase book. It was awesome. it also lead to about two years travelling, largely solo, around the world eventually settling here in Dublin. Every country I passed through offered up coaches willing to train me and pass on knowledge, or partners willing to test themselves against me (I had the best craic racing a Nepali Sherpa up Poon Hill to watch the sun rise over Annapurna.)

The travelling days may be over, I’ve a family now, but I can still express my enthusiasm for physical culture in weird and wonderful ways, I can take on personal challenges, I can still lead from the front. Raising money and awareness for certain illnesses comes as a bonus. It brings to mind a Taoist philosophy, one that should be taught to every child on their first day of school: “Seek to improve oneself so that you become better able to help those around you”

So in March I’ll be giving the long Cycle tournament my best shot, but after that who knows. All I do know is that I’ll be working hard to inspire those around me, that means my regular guys at Wild Geese as well as the people who really need it, such as the guys at Rehab. Watch this space.

This boy is back!


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