I finished. I set a goal in December 2018, started my personal challenge in January 2019 and completed it in mid December. Did it achieve what I thought it would? No. Was it worth it? Totally.
So what happened, Christmas and New Year is a great time to reflect after all. Originally I was inspired by Ross Edgley after he finished his swim around Britain. I was seeking something that would stretch me but that I could fit around a full time job. No round-the-world adventures for me, maybe I’ll save that until I retire. I had a couple of kettlebells in the apartment so I wondered how long it would take to do a million swings. Sounds like a great number. I ran the maths and I would need to do just under 2,750 swings a day. At my initial rate of swinging that would have taken me around 5 hours a day so that was out. I settled on 100,000. I had read, multiple times, that kettlebell swings were a great full body exercise. One of those – if you only do one exercise do this – type of things. It seemed like a great idea. Following Ross’ example I was naive enough to start and stubborn enough to finish.
The challenge was simple but not easy. I developed repetitive strain in my shoulders and wrists plus many many blisters on my hands. On the flip side I did build shoulder strength and definition but lost it elsewhere particularly legs, chest and upper arms. My forearms look like steel cable however! The swings make you sweat and get you out of breath but didn’t seem to help cardiovascular fitness in any way. I was running and playing rugby during the year, inconsistently, and subject to injury (achilles issues) and they had a greater, and more noticeable effect on the cardio fitness.
Economically it was a dream. I already owned a 12 and 16kg kettlebell and the only financial outlay was $100 for a 20kg kettlebell at the end of the challenge. I didn’t need a gym membership or any PT sessions. I had one lesson with a local gym for free through the power of social networks and people being nice.
If I didn’t achieve the body I was looking for what did I get out of the challenge? What I really found was a new stronger part of my mind. I’ve been pretty flakey in the past skipping from one challenge to another, short term goal to short term goal, sport to sport. This task was always going to take a year. I thought about ditching the challenge many times but I had anticipated that and by creating this blog, a separate instagram and facebook page just for the challenge, by doing that I made the prospect of backing out too shameful and embarrassing. I made a big enough fuss of it that dropping out would have been more painful than staying in. I created public accountability. It worked!
Habits are difficult to start and harder to break so by the power of habit I got my brain in the right frame and direction. Daily discipline was the key to the success and the biggest benefit of the challenge. Due to personal circumstances I suffered from some mental health issues during the year. The habit and routine were anchors I could latch on to when I thought everything else was out of my control. Daily practice, like meditation, got me through that.
Planning and organising, flexibility and adaptability, these were the other gifts I received from the swings. I travel for my job. You can’t take a 16kg kettlebell on a plane. I had to plan ahead, doing swings on scheduled rest days, playing catch up, finding local gyms with kettlebells. I signed up to more than one free gym trial while interstate. One time I had to do my swings with a dumbell, gripping one end with my fingers and praying that I didn’t launch it across the hotel and through a window, I don’t recommend it, the arc isn’t smooth and it put some strain on my back.
I had the injuries to contend with. Shoulder strains and pulls mostly. And through that I learned patience. I had always considered myself a patient person but as it turns out I’m not. What I thought was patience was really a very narrow band of things I “have” to have or “have” to win. It wasn’t patience I had, I just didn’t really care that much. Getting injured revealed that when I wanted something badly enough I tended to push things too hard and make poor decisions. Poor decisions like ignoring pain. Which made things worth. Obviously. I had to develop patience or I would have completely failed the challenge. I learned to slow down and occasionally take a step backwards but ultimately keep going.
My faith in the kindness of strangers was reinforced. I had the support of friends and family, people who had always tolerated my self indulgence with a smile. However I also attracted support from all over the world. It was humbling and energising at the same time. I regularly received encouragement, advice and reassurance from people I have never and probably will never meet. It always made me smile.
And that’s it. I started, I finished, I learned things about myself and others. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did and If I inspired just one person to push themselves and step outside their comfort zone then I couldn’t be happier. Thanks for being there.