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Why you should try Kettlebell Sport by Maria

Here’s a fantastic post from Maria on what Kettlebell Sport is and why you should give it a go. Read and enjoy, but then drop us a line either by email or facebook if you want to know more. Over to Maria:


“You can do competitions in them cowbells?? Really?”


“How does that work?”

“Pick one of the lifts (Snatch, biathalon, Long cycle), do as many reps as you can in ten minutes, against people in your weight category, and change hands once. Whoever does the most, wins! Unless, of course, you’re doing doubles, then you don’t get to change hands.”

“You cycle with the bells?”

“No. That’s just what it’s called.”

“That sounds hard, why would anyone want to do that?”

Hmmm… why indeed?

That’s the conversation I had most often, after Kazakhstan last year. My mum, super proud of being MOTHER OF THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, had told anyone that would listen about my exploits.

Most people don’t even know what a kettlebell is so I had some explaining to do!

Even for those that train with them, the idea of the kettlebell competitions, or Girevoy Sport, ranges from curious, through ridiculous, to insane. Of course, you have all the usual “choose a challenge, break it down into small steps, keep focused, achieve your goal, feel AMAZINGLY smug. See new places, meet awesome people” stuff that goes with so many things in life, but are there reasons to do GS in particular? (Joanne, don’t worry, I hear you shouting HELL NOOOOOO!)

To be fair – you can train with bells for years, never do GS, and be perfectly happy. Then there are the nuts who only ever train GS, and all the ones in between – like us Wild Geese KettleHeads – who train GS for part of the year, and do tonnes of other fun stuff the rest of the time.

Many ex martial artists and gymnasts end up excelling at GS. I think it appeals because it offers a similar type of training regime. It’s physically and mentally very tough. It requires focus, determination and guts. It is structured and demanding. If you have already competed in those other sports, GS will tick all the same boxes for you, only you won’t have to get broken up. Most likely you will also already have a strong and flexible body, and a steely mindset – perfect for excelling GS.

But is it not tediously boring? The same lift, day after day, week after week – potentially for most of the year? Well, of course, that depends. It can be. If you’ve tried it and that’s how you feel, cool! GS is not for you. In good news, there are about a bazillion other things you can do with your life, so crack on with them! Ya pussy Just kiddin’ (totally not kiddin’).

Obviously, I really enjoy the GS world. I love the structure, the extreme physical demands, the intense mental challenges, seeing progress, and being successful. I love how even at the highest level of competition; it feels like you’re competing against yourself because it’s just you on that platform. I love how all the skills I’ve acquired getting this far in life, help with my lifting. I love most of all how all the new things I’ve had to learn to enable me to lift well, are transforming my day to day life. It’s like the opposite of a vicious circle!

Doing GS gives you the time and space to explore the lifts in more detail. There are a lot of nuances in there that you never discover doing 10-12 reps of snatch in a workout. Of course, there are many days where it feels painful and stupid and you wonder why, but then you have a magic session where something clicks, and you love it all over again.

When something clicks it’s like completing the end of a world in Super Mario. You defeat the big baddie, save the princess and then the door opens, and you toddle into a whole new world that begins where the other one left off, skill wise. It’s up to you to build on that and see what’s next.

Everything has a cost. Specialising in anything comes at a very high cost. Getting really good at THE THING means neglecting a lot of other things because there’s not enough time, energy or they detract from THE THING you are trying to perfect. Working in the same way, for long periods of time, leaves you open to injury and boredom.

It’s important to shake things up as much as you can with other movement patterns. Climb some trees, play a musical instrument, swing Indian clubs, do animal flow, take a dance class, WHATEVER! It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t even have to feed into your GS training in some obvious way. It only has to be something you enjoy and as different as possible from the competition stuff.

Careful now! Be aware of the gaps left by specialising. Know which gaps are ok and which ones are timebombs – ticking away, waiting to sabotage a training session, a competition, or perhaps your entire physical health. There’s enough information out there for you to mind yourself. If you really don’t know – ask Dave, he knows everything about everything. I was injured a lot when I first start GS. My neck used to always pull on the left hand side, and I had tweaky shoulders. You might think this is because I specialised and didn’t plug my gap, like a fool! I think it was because I had dodgy posture before I started. A multitude of minor imbalances, compensations, and gaps in my mobility that most people who have lived 30+ active years will have acquired.

GS requires you to load the body again and again in the same way. It’s mentally intense too. It’s going to highlight all the little problems you work around and hide from. The whole structure needs to be sound to persist through that type of training. Maybe people give up GS for this reason – I get injured all the time, there’s no point! That’s fair enough. Chances are if they do circuit training, they’ll be ok – the variety will be easier on the body and mind.

I chose to see it as a chance to reorganise and rebuild myself. If there are weaknesses, gaps, or sticky bits, then can I address them? If I do, what will I be able for then? Cue working my way through most of the body workers in Dublin: massage therapists, physios, acupuncturists, rolfers, zero balancers, AiMers, and chiropractors. Doing all of that has been expensive, of course, but my body is the most valuable thing I own so it’s worth the investment. Plus, moving is what I love to do, so I sort of see it as research. I dropped out of college, so this is like my degree, Phd and Masters. Topic: me and how my body works. Now that’s useful study material!

Going through all of those experiences has helped bring my body awareness to a high level, and there’s still plenty of room for growth. It’s helped me figure out more of the things I need mentally and emotionally to be happy and motivated. It’s revealed how I process the world and some of the things that make me sad. It forced me to address my nutrition issues. All of this came simply from trying to see how good I could be at lifting a kettlebell. Magic!

It’s all invaluable information that I can now use to train better, mind myself better, and to guide my ‘Keep Maria Together’ team more effectively, and to help anyone else I see having similar problems to what I’ve had. It’s a blog post all on it’s own that!

If you enjoy competition, tackling challenges, self improvement; or if you have a touch of perfectionist or masochist about you, then what are you waiting for? Try a 5minute competition, just once. You never know what you might discover! At worst, you’ll be like Joanne and say NEVER AGAIN. That ain’t so bad!

Maria Moran


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Dave Hedges

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