And We Were Swingin'

Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
[The title of this thread is a phrase from John Anderson's song, "Swingin'". Lyrics here.]

53-year-old male.

I share my life with three terrific ladies: my wife and our two teenage daughters. (Note: I use the word "terrific" in the modern sense of "excellent", not the archaic sense of "terrifying." Really. I promise. :p)

I participated in a few recreational sports (baseball, softball, basketball, and golf) when I was a kid and into my early 40s. I played strictly for fun, never at a competitive level that required cardio or weight training. I tried jogging a few times, and even had a NordicTrack ski machine for a few years, but I always lost interest after a while. The only time I tried weights was once in college when a friend put me through his routine; afterwards, I couldn't fully straighten my arms for three days.

By the fall of 2013, I was almost 50 years old, significantly overweight, and sometimes short of breath. I realized that being old and unfit is no fun. I knew I should do something about my health, but I clung to the excuse that I had no time for fitness. One day, though, while I was sitting and watching my daughters at their karate class, it occurred to me that I actually had plenty of time for exercise: all I had to do was get off my chair and join my daughters in their classes. There went my last excuse.

I soon started taking classes in American karate three days a week. I gradually lost about 20 lbs., increased my flexibility, and grew a little stronger. As I moved up through the ranks, the belt examinations (over two hours of near-constant activity) became more challenging, and I wanted to do more to improve my fitness. Six months ago, I started walking three to five days a week, about 2-6 miles or more each time. My legs grew stronger and my endurance increased a little. Eventually, though, the time required for walking 15 to 20 miles a week became excessive, so I started replacing some of my walks with dumbbell complexes and rope jumping.

I am an avid learner, and I was fascinated by the topics of strength training and nutrition. While educating myself on these subjects, I came across several blogs that discuss kettlebells. Kettlebells seemed like a perfect fit for me: the cost of a couple 'bells was far less than a gym membership, I could exercise at home instead of traveling to a gym, and training with kettlebells would take only a few minutes a day.

For Christmas, my wife gave me a 16-kg kettlebell and a copy of Simple & Sinister. I played around with "shoe" get-ups for a week while I learned the moves. The first few times, I could barely get off the ground while doing the low sweep or standing from the lunge position. Eventually, though, my strength and confidence increased and I was able to do passable get-ups with the 16-kg 'bell. Swings were awkward at first, but once I figured out the technique, I realized that the 16-kg kettlebell was too light, so I bought a 24-kg kettlebell for my birthday. As I continued working on my form, I began to see gradual improvement in both strength and balance, and recently started doing one-handed swings.

Several years ago, I gave up a significant soft drink habit (nearly my entire liquid intake was diet cola). I do not miss the stuff. I made no other changes to my diet until recently, when I started paying much closer attention to what I eat. I now try to eat recognizable plant and animal foods and only a little processed foods (as advocated by many of the primal/paleo/caveman eating plans). For me, this means eating food closer to the way God made it, instead of eating the junk that I had been eating. Combined with exercising, eating healthy helps me to feel better than I have in years.

Currently I follow the Simple & Sinister program 3-5x/week. I am still doing martial arts 3x/week, and hope to reach black belt within a year. I have started running a little: one mile, 2-3x/week, at a very slow pace (I am following the MAF protocol of Dr. Phil Maffetone, which at my age and fitness means my heartbeat rate should not exceed about 130 BPM). I continue to walk at least 1x/week (partly for fitness, partly because I enjoy it), usually 3 to 5 miles. I occasionally run 100-yard sprints, usually a couple slow warmup sprints following by 5 or 6 fast sprints (for me, "fast" is a relative term), with a couple minutes of slow walking to cool down after each sprint. Sometimes I train two or three times throughout the day (e.g., kettlebells in the morning, martial arts and running in the evening), but it does not feel excessive since none of the individual workouts is especially taxing. (Except for that Saturday a few weeks ago when I ran 1 mile, trained with kettlebells in the form of 10x10 swings and 10x1 get-ups, and then went to martial arts class at ten o'clock in the morning--I was exhausted by the time warmups were finished!).

I attended a local kettlebell class recently and was pleased to discover that I could do a few swings with a 40-kg 'bell. I will likely purchase a 32-kg 'bell soon, once I can comfortably do 10x10 24-kg one-hand swings in the 5-minute window described in S&S. I think I will be using the 16-kg 'bell for get-ups for quite a while. My arms and shoulder are comparatively weak, and my big toes are so inflexible that lunges are difficult, so it will take longer for my get-ups to progress.

My weight is down about 5 lbs. since I started trying to improve my fitness six months ago. However, when I look in the mirror, I can see that I have lost more than just 5 lbs. of body fat and have replaced the fat with some muscle. I'm looking forward to seeing increases in my strength as I continue the S&S program and (someday) branch out to incorporate cleans, presses, snatches, etc. into my workouts.

[Update, May 2017] My runs are a bit longer, usually 1.5 miles, occasionally 2 miles. My pace is only about 12 minutes/mile; otherwise my heart rate moves above the aerobic range. I haven't sprinted in over a month, due to a pulled abdominal muscle. I'm still swinging 24-kg, but have started doing a few 24-kg get-ups.

[Update, July 2017] I began experiencing a lot of minor training issues a couple months ago. My left rhomboid was sore from poor get-up technique, I developed tennis elbow in my right arm from practicing cleans with a too-heavy kettlebell, my trapezius muscles felt sore all the time, I felt a sharp pain in my lower abdomen while sprinting, and I was feeling pain in my left hip area during swings (not sure if it's in the bones or connective tissue).

[Update, July 2017, cont'd] So, I modified my training to give myself more time to recover (I am 53 years old, after all). I scaled back my S&S to ever other day, and have been concentrating on mainly two-handed swings to help get over the tennis elbow. I stopped sprinting because of the lower-abdomen pain. I switched my (very limited) running from the evenings to the mornings because of our hot Texas summers (my heartbeat rate gets pretty high). On the plus side, I started doing 24 kg military presses on off days to build my shoulder strength; I've increased their numbers from ladders of 1-3 to ladders of 1-8. I feel my swings are getting stronger and the hip pain is almost gone. I've even started tromping down to the neighborhood pool when it's not too crowded, where I swim a few 25-meter laps and try to relive the glorious swimming career that my eleven-year-old self enjoyed at the local YMCA. My traps and left rhomboid area are also feeling better, largely due to improved technique in the get-ups and swings. I feel like I'm the right track. I'll continue what I'm doing and probably do a little more running when the weather turns cooler.
 
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Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
Friday, February 24, 2017:
4.5-mile hike.
10x10 KB swings, 24 kg
10x1 KB get-ups, 16 kg
 
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Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
Saturday, February 25, 2017:
Kettlebell lessons on swings and get-ups.
8x100-yd sprints.
 
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Smile-n-Nod

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Sunday, February 26 2017:
10x10 KB swings, 24 kg.
10x1 KB get-ups, 16 kg.
1-mile run
 
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Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
Tuesday, February 28, 2017:
10x10 KB swings, 24 kg.
10x1 KB get-ups, 16 kg.
45 minutes, martial arts
1-mile run
 
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Anna C

> 6k Posts
Elite Certified Instructor
Great intro, @Smile-n-Nod. Your story is a great template for someone to get in shape later in life. Smart, steady progression, allowing the process to take the time that it takes, and making the TRUE improvements (aerobic base, movement quality, strength) and not just going for the easy-to-see improvements in conditioning, as with most 90-day TV programs which are also quick to lose and quick to burn out.
 

Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
Wednesday, March 1, 2017:
10x10 KB swings, 24 kg.
10x1 KB get-ups, 16 kg.
 
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Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
10x10 KB swings, 24 kg.
10x1 KB get-ups, 16 kg.
1.5-mile run.

Today's running pace was the same as the pace of a 1-mile run in the middle of January, but today's heartbeat rate was 10 BPM slower than January's run. Whoop!
 
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Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
90-minutes, martial arts.
10x10 KB swings, 24 kg.

All of my swings were one-handed, which left my back sore, so I skipped the get-ups.
 
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Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
1.5-mile run.

The area between my shoulder blades has been sore for a few weeks, so I'm skipping kettlebells for a few days.
 

Smile-n-Nod

More than 500 posts
1.5-mile run.
10x10 KB swings, 16 kg.
10x1 get-ups, 12 kg.

Lighter swings and get-ups, since I had taken a few days off for my back.
 
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