Never Quit

I am a SFG Level I candidate scheduled to attend the certification in Las Vegas in February 2021. In truth, my goal is to reach the StrongFirst Elite status which means instructor status in all three modalities that StrongFirst teaches: kettlebell, barbell, and body weight. The SFG Level I is the important first step in reaching my goal of becoming StrongFirst Elite.

In September 2011, I walked into FireBellz in Albuquerque, NM for my first personal training session with StrongFirst Certified Master Instructor, Zar Horton and fell in love with kettlebells right then and there. I left feeling taller, stronger, and confident. I knew that I had found something that would become a lifelong passion. In fact, you could say after my first kettlebell session I became a lurker of all things kettlebell on social media. I started friending and following all leadership and watching videos. I couldn’t get enough education or practice. I read everything I could get my hands on by Pavel and created a goal of meeting him one day.

My fixation on the kettlebell begs the question why it has taken me eight and a half years to show up for SFG Level I Certification?

Since my early twenties I had battled weight loss. I would fluctuate a lot. I would under eat and overeat. In March 2016, I hit the heaviest I would ever be at 304 pounds. Now, I am right around 170 pounds and my goal is to get to 18% body fat. At heart I am an over achiever with a growth mindset. I wanted to show up at my first certification looking a certain way and with beautiful technique and strength. I wanted to join the StrongFirst family as the “best version of myself.”

Those who know me recognize that StrongFirst and kettlebells are part of my identity. When you go to the StrongFirst website and read about the organization it says: “Have pride and become a lean and muscular version of yourself. We are brought together by the conviction that strength has a greater purpose…To reach high levels of power, endurance, sport skill, and fat loss you must become strong first. Period.”

I am living proof of becoming a lean and muscular version of myself and I know from experience that you must become strong first to obtain fat loss. Especially fat loss for an individual that is morbidly obese. Strength truly has a greater purpose and it is a lifelong journey.

Strength also comes in many forms. You can be physically strong and move a ton of weight and you can be mentally and emotionally strong by adhering to your diet. Anyone who has struggled with weight loss knows changing who you are and your habits can be a daunting task at which most people fail. Strength is mastering the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of life. For anyone who has tried to coach and help someone lose weight, most of you know the easy part is showing up to train three to five times per week. The hard part is when your student is not with you the other 162 hours per week.

So how did I conquer the odds of weight loss and maintain my weight loss of 135 pounds for over one year? How did the motto “strength has a greater purpose” and kettlebells help me transform my body, life, and identity?

I don’t ever quit. I was a youth athlete in ballet, swimming, tennis, and martial arts. I attended and won two bronze medals at the AAU Junior Olympics for kata and weapons. I decided ten years ago that I was going to conquer this health thing once and for all. Little did I know that the path I chose wouldn’t be easy because let’s face it, if it was easy then everyone would do it. Every attempt and setback taught me something new. I had admiration for those individuals who were part of the StrongFirst Community and had lost weight before me such as Tracy Reifkind and Andrea U-Shi Chang. They gave me motivation and I knew if they could do it so could I. 

After one and a half years of struggling, “enter the kettlebell.” That beautiful cannon ball with a handle. The simplest, most effective tool for building strength and burning fat. There is nothing else like it on the planet. With the right programming it can humble you and empower you at the same time.

The kettlebell gives immediate feedback so every practice session you learn something new about yourself. This tool is not for those with a weak mindset or those who give up easily. It requires practice and patience to master. I find the kettlebell to be much like martial arts. It requires strength not only physical, but mental and emotional too. Hence, my love for it. I am always up for a challenge especially when it provides me an opportunity for growth.

I decided in September 2011, which reinforced my goal from a year and a half ago, I was going to master the kettlebell and become strong no matter what. Was it okay to show up at a certification and be fat and strong? Could I even perform a get-up weighing 240 pounds? For me the answer was a resounding NO WAY. I started building habits in my training sessions and in my day to day life that would help me reach my goals of fat loss and strength. I firmly believe the kettlebell efficiency at burning fat and increasing strength helped me reach my goals as quickly as possible. 

If you find my story inspiring you probably have some questions. How did I tackle these goals? Who determines what you define as strong? Can you set the standards yourself? Where do you even begin? If your mindset is in the right place the answers are quite easy.

  • Step 1: Follow and learn from Pavel, and his affiliated partners.
  • Step 2: Hire a StrongFirst coach that has the skills necessary to instruct you in the safe and proper use of the kettlebell. Then humble yourself and just listen and observe. The StrongFirst community is welcoming and helpful. Each coaching session I learned something new and an area of improvement that helps me grow. I search for this feedback from every instructor.
  • Step 3: Implement and work towards the strength parameters set out by StrongFirst.
  • Step 4: Attend every StrongFirst course, certification, and special event. Implement the learning and help your students become strong.

I worked with a nutritionist to ensure that my body could meet the performance demands of my kettlebell training while losing weight safely. After seeking instruction and receiving kettlebell programs from a variety of StrongFirst instructors, I found that the program below seemed to work best for fat loss. I worked two days on and took one day off, which is a 3-day cycle that you can do twice. The volume is high, especially if you choose a challenging weight so I would recommend only doing the program for a maximum of six weeks and make sure that you pay attention to your body during this time.

In each week there was no more than one light day (less rounds) and no more than one heavy day (more rounds). The weight you choose should stay consistent until it feels light on the heavy day. At which point you will move up in weight. The goal of this program is fat loss, however, you may find simultaneous strength gains. You may notice parts of Strong Endurance™ 044 protocol from Pavel’s The Quick and the Dead

The Program

In the pursuit of becoming a lean and muscular version of myself and to reach higher levels of power, endurance, and increased fat loss I decided to take the leap and register for the SFG Level I Certification. I still have some work to do on my strength for pressing and squatting. But regardless, in February I will go to Las Vegas as prepared as I can be. I will meet all the people who I have followed on social media and reach one of my long-time goals of becoming a StrongFirst Level I Instructor as my first step on the way to StrongFirst Elite.

Stay tuned for my experience early next year!

Sara Brownstein
Sara Brownstein is the Administrative Services Division Director and Chief Financial Officer for the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions and has a diverse financial background. She is a certified public accountant, a certified fraud examiner and hopes to add SFG Level I to her resume very soon.

10 thoughts on “Never Quit

  • Great article Sara!! Very inspiring. I started my kettlebell journey in April weighing in at 355 lbs. I’m currently down to 310 and still want to lose 100 lbs. I someday aspire to be get my SFG1. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Sara,
    Thank you for the article; I really enjoyed reading your story and experience with StrongFirst and the amazing kettlebell! Being strong is for anyone, and is transformational.

  • Sara,

    What a beautiful article! Amazing and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing and I hope you smash each one of your goals as you have been already!

  • Sara!
    Fellow FIREBELLZ member here!
    I remember you and am so happy for your progress!
    You got this girl!
    Get it!

  • Hi Sara
    A truly inspiring article!

    Thank you for sharing your journey and a second thanks for the training template. The training regimen looks perfect for a next challenge. I’m lucky enough to be a father of two girls. I train with my daughters (my brutally effective PTs!) and I think this routine will be a lot of fun for us .

    Very best wishes from the UK … 🙂

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