I’m in a bit of a dilemma at the moment. Should I move up a weight? I’ve been using a 16kg kettlebell since day 1 of the challenge. Back when I was taking nearly an hour to do 400 swings over the course of nearly an hour. Now I’m smashing out 10 sets of 50 in less than 25 minutes. Some days the challenge isn’t challenging as I’ve mentioned before. Other days it is a grind, my shoulders crunch, my fingers ache, my forearms burn.
Is now the right time to add weight? There is barely 9 weeks left before I hit 100,000 swings. I would like to finish with power but also I don’t want to tip my shoulder over the edge. Will I use a 20kg kettlebell after the challenge? What will my next challenge be? Will I just join a gym and do some classes? Can I spend my money better elsewhere?
Deep down I think I will. But I’m not convinced I should. Watch this space!
Another week living out of a suitcase and another week without access to the equipment and space that I’m used to. This week however, following on from my new mindst last week, I put a different spin on the experience. I have been guilty of deliberately trying to make life harder for myself with the smaller kettlebell in the hotel gym. I swapped double-handed swings for single arm swings. I tried to speed up the pace of the swings. The effect wasn’t what was intended. I felt like I wasn’t taking myself seriously enough. I felt like I was cheapening the challenge.
Last week I realised that, like life, the 100k swings has its ups and downs and that I need to ride the downs like a roller coaster. The metaphor of the roller coaster is one that I have misunderstood for a long time. A roller coaster has ups and downs, mountain ranges have ups and downs. Ups and downs, peaks and troughs. The up isn’t the fun bit. The ups is the hard work that brings you to the peak, the slow chug of the coaster car as it reaches the crest. The down is the fun bit where we fly fast free of restriction and enjoy the view.
Swinging in the hotel gym this week came with a big smile every day. I could look around and see how far I’d come. I could look back as I hit 75,000 swings. I can reflect on the hard work and what I’ve learned. I can see the injury that I’ve been carrying. So with a fresh and clear perspective I didn’t “battle” through the light equipment, I embraced the opportunity to focus on form and technique. Going back to basics. Checking my feet, my arc, my hinge. Fortifying the foundations that will see me across the finish line. It’s not what happens, it’s how you react to it.
This week I feel like I’m operating at peak mojo. After feeling sorry for myself and feeling that the challenge was no longer stretching me I have turned over a new mental and emotional leaf. It’s easy to get into the habit of looking on the downside of everything. Habits can stick with me, especially bad ones. I made the conscious decision to just have a little fun and enjoy the ride. What’s the point of working hard at something only to get down when it no longer feels like work.
It is a subtle mental switch. That moment when effort becomes fluid. It is easy to start doubting your work ethic. Curse yourself and force yourself to work harder. Looking back on my life I can see those moments and the times when I reacted in that way. Mentally beating myself up. Calling myself lazy. Trying to make life harder because effortless seems wrong.
Somewhere in the last seven days I realised that the smooth running of my swings, the sensation of zen like peace as I gaze into the horizon is not something to be ashamed of. The fitness gods aren’t staring down on me with fury. The serenity of the swings is the reward for the consistent effort over the last 35 weeks, the 175 days of pushing myself. With around 12 weeks left I can allow myself to revel in the fruits of my labour, to enjoy the final lap. I feels good.
Control is a funny thing. Control over a person, an animal or an object can be absolute but can self control be the same. Self control and control of my feelings seems to be significantly harder than controlling the kettlebell. The simple mechanical action, combining hips, arms and shoulders to move a lump of metal through a smooth arc just highlights the lack of control I feel over other parts of my health.
When I started this challenge it was a real effort. Physically and mentally. I had to dig deep and drag myself out of bed, put my kit on, pick up the bell and swing. Small sets, long rest periods. Boredom. Frustration. Even a little bit of embarrassment as I wonder what people thought of me. It was an effort but I gritted my teeth and did it. The willpower, the determination and the discipline I had to muster to keep going showed through in other areas too. I was more disciplined with my food. Had more willpower with alcohol. As the challenge has become, frankly, less of a challenge those spin offs have diluted and my body is going back to the dad bod shape again.
The challenge is now a habit. A good habit. One with positive benefits, like brushing my teeth and washing my hands. Just like those I’m not doing it mindfully anymore and as a result I’m not linking it to other parts of my life. How do I reconnect the pieces? How do I bring the whole package back together? Any suggestions would be welcome.
The end of month 8 was a little disappointing on the tubby front, literally my front is looking tubby again. The last 6 or 7 weeks has been pretty poor from a diet and discipline perspective. I spent that fortnight back in the UK with family and friends, returned to a new job plus a rekindled relationship. All of this has seen my alcohol intake and dietary choices spike and plummet in equal measure. At the tender age of almost 50 my body seems to gain/regain weight at five times the speed that I lose it.
On a positive note, I’ve increased the swings by 20% daily, rising from 400 to 500 per day. To start with I just planned for this to be a short term fix to recover the 4,000 swings I missed while in the UK (an extra 500 swings a week for 8 weeks) but now that my body is used to the 500 I might as well keep it that way. The spin off benefit is that the scheduled completion of the challenge will now be the end of November rather than the middle of December which also accounts for the week in Japan that I’ll be enjoying later this year. It also means that if, or more likely when, my shoulder gets sore again I can take a day or two extra to recover without the sense of a deadline looming.
I tried to be careful when I planned the challenge to allow contingency but I didn’t account for the increased strength that I would have developed and the added flexibility that this would give me. Looking back on the journey so far the biggest takeaway is the importance of being adapt and adjust along the way while still keeping the goal in mind. Just like life, change is inevitable, it’s how we deal with it that determines the outcome. Jack Canfield, author of the massively best selling Chicken Soup for the Soul books, wrote the formula E+R=O. Event + Reaction = Outcome. I feel like I’m living that right now in the best possible way.