An Outlier on the Normal Kettlebell Curve

Unlike many of my predecessors who have written articles about kettlebells, I have no acronyms after my name. I am not a trainer of any sort. I own a kettlebell, but I use it as an art piece. The only time I pick it up is to vacuum underneath it.

I’m not the kind of person you normally expect to write to this kind of website, but it just so happens I am what you call an outlier. Without getting into statistics, an outlier is something that happens a very small percentage of the time. I’m one of those very small percents.

The truth is, although I do not use the kettlebell to train, I train to become the kettlebell.

Kettlebell's greater purpose
The kettlebell is a tool for a greater purpose.

The Kettlebell Is Small and Compact

If you were to look at me, you would think, “My God, maybe you ought to get locked in a room with a couple of kettelbells, a side of beef, some mash potatoes, and don’t forget the gravy.” This would be due to you observing that I’m a fifty-year-old man who stands all of 5’3” and weighs a buck-oh-five.

The reason I keep my bodyweight down is because I was born with a genetic disease called Alport Syndrome. It is causing me to go deaf and blind, and eventually will affect other organs like my kidneys. This will lead to the need for transplantation. At my small size, I will be able to accept organs from a healthy fifth grader. As an added plus, I’m an avid biker, and at a 105lbs I can climb like Lance Armstrong (not so much like when he was on PEDs, but before that).

The Kettlebell Is Simple, Yet Complex

The reason I don’t train with the kettlebell is because I just don’t have a body that allows me to do so. I was born with cerebral palsy that affects my right side, especially my hip and leg. Certain tools don’t work for me, so I rely on bodyweight exercise, which represents the vast majority of my formal training. Bodyweight exercise simply feels better on my joints.

That said, I have done my fair share of heavy lifting, but that came in the form of manual labor such as lumberjacking. Pavel will tell you that manual labor is a poor form of exercise because it tends to be too asymmetrical. He is 100% correct. Matter of fact, I worked on a farm to pay my way through college, and it ended up causing me twenty plus years of chronic pain. But now I’m the outlier, and I know how to handle this dilemma.

Let’s say I’m working on a job and I’m stacking wood. I do it with one hand, then the other. I move one way, then the other. I work both sides equally throughout my day. Not only that, but I don’t just stack the wood. I build something out of it – like barns or walls. This forces me to live consciously. I have to think. The creative aspect of my work forces me to use my whole brain. Bottom line: I’m working my damaged brain and body at the same time, as well as paying for my rent. Simple, yet complex.

StrongFirst kettlebell certification
I train to become the kettlebell.

The Kettlebell Is Strong

I’m strong by any measure you want to measure me by. I pick up 2.5 times my bodyweight all the time. I move things that weigh four to five times my bodyweight all the time. I can generate more absolute strength then the vast majority of 200lb men. Which absolutely disgusts me, by the way. I’m a 105lb cripple for God’s sake! Somebody really should up the standards.

The Kettlebell Is Tough

Try to break the kettlebell. Take your 16kg kettlebell and throw it against the wall. Then take it and drop it on your driveway. Give it any kind of abuse you wish. Afterward, wipe it off and put it away. You didn’t hurt it. Now, go fix your wall and driveway.

The Kettlebell Is Built to Last

This point is probably more important to me than most. As mentioned earlier, I have a genetic disease. More than likely it will be the death of me. It took my brother at the age of 26.

My brother’s disease was “juvenile.” It became full-blown when he was young, and he died young. Mine is “onset,” which means as I get older and my body starts to break down, the disease will become full-blown and overtake me, as well. The key for me is to keep the disease in “onset” mode, and not let it become full-blown. This means I must keep my biological age (the true age of your body) much younger than my chronological age (how many times you’ve gone around the sun).

To this end, I found my “happy place.” I’ve been truly blessed in regards to the fact I was born and raised on the central coast of California. It’s a beautiful piece of the world. I live in the country. It’s a quick bike ride into town or to the beach, but it’s far enough to get away from it all. I work outside. I’ve taken a huge financial hit to create this lifestyle, but in the end I earned financial freedom. I learned I can easily live without. And I can certainly live without the stress.

On top of that, I eat somewhat healthy and I know how to sleep. The result? If you saw me wandering around Pismo Beach, you’d probably think I was your typical thirty-something surfer. I’m built like one, and I move like one. This is not something I tried to achieve. It is what my training program produced. I can think of worse for a fifty-year-old cripple. And if my present state is any indication, then I, like the kettlebell, will be built to last.

Collection of StrongFirst kettlebells
What is your ultimate training goal?

The Kettlebell as Life

So, perhaps what I said in the beginning of this piece has become clearer. I do not train with the kettlebell, but I practice kettlebell training. I train to be the kettlebell.

When it is all said and done, the kettlebell is one of the most beautiful pieces of art that you could ever own. You don’t have to touch it every day, but I recommend you admire it, its qualities, and what it represents every day.

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Michael Graham
Mike became a fighter first thing in life, having been born prematurely at 2lbs 7oz and with cerebral palsy. He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, then worked as a stockbroker and a ran a successful dot-com before being diagnosed with Alport syndrome at the age of 35.

10 thoughts on “An Outlier on the Normal Kettlebell Curve

  • absolute amazing article total eye opener you best believe I will now on meditate “be the kettle bell”

  • Wonderful and unique perspective, thought provoking! The mindfulness of work really is something we can all strive to do!!

  • Thanks people! Alport’s is causing me to go deaf and blind, but Cerebral Palsy (CP) is what kept me from the KB. Basically I have a couple of “full loads” when it comes to my laundry list of things that could go wrong if I treated my DNA BLUEPRINT (BLUEPRINT) to be used as a tool. I choose to use my DNA blueprint for what it is – a blueprint.

    When life puts a spin on you, you spin it right back.

    PS No more MR Graham. I was born a KB just like you.

    Good skill to you

  • Very inspiring article. I have a family member with the same disease. You are doing all the right things! Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Thank you Michael, for writing this piece. Amazing, inspiring and very thought provoking. I wish you all the happiness in the world.

  • Never looked at my kettlebells this way. Great shift in point of view, obviously from a great mind. Thanks a lot for sharing your story and insight, it’s inspiring!

  • Brilliant……….very inspiring. Rock on Michael – you are living 7 times in one lifetime – Salute!!

  • Inspiring, and outlying article indeed. The kettlebell is simple. The kettlebell is a piece of art. The kettlebell is the most versatile (fitness)tool. I believe in the kettlebell to make people healthy and happy. Thanks Mr. Graham, for sharing.

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