Pain is in the brain or the butt

My kettlebell instructor says that walking is over rated. He is actually referring to Rule # 7 on the wall of our gym which says that “Thou shalt not make thine problems mine”

He has 11 rules altogether which start with “Thou shalt not...”

Kettlebells is a relatively unknown sport in Africa and when I started training with Trent three years ago, it was to strengthen my core for mountain bike riding and to improve my endurance for stage races.

Three years along and I have learnt a lot more about pain than I anticipated. Believe me, I am no stranger to pain. I have made several trips to the local ER for stitches after coming off my bicycle.

But the Russians are a different breed and when they started using kettlebells over 300 years ago, they weren’t catering for adrenalin junkies like me; they were recycling old cannon balls and using them to weigh crops.

The first thing you notice about professional kettlebell lifters is that they are not large and bulky like other lifting sports; in fact they are lean and some are even skinny. Kettlebells combines cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training and therefore burns up an enormous amount of calories depending on how heavy the weight and number of repetitions in a cycle.

Kettlebell sport is also not just about swing, clean, jerk and snatch either. Trent guarantees that you will never do the same class sequence twice. For a degree’d engineer who is focused on detail, he also has a very fertile imagination and we all believe that he reads minds too. So if you come to a class hoping that you aren’t going to do weighted, pulsed squats today, they will probably be on the menu.

So why do we keep coming back for more?

When you first start doing kettlebell classes you can’t imagine that walking normally again will ever be possible. Every muscle in your body feels like it is gripped in a powerful vice and stairs are avoided at least for the first week.

Once you get used to this feeling (it never completely goes away, just gets less intense), you fear missing a class in case you regress back to your rookie fitness at the beginning.

One week off and you are still fine; two weeks off and you start to get anxious but if you take a month off, you start to get flashbacks.

However, the benefits are extremely gratifying and the pain is another lesson all together.

Without pain we do not know our boundaries. In kettlebells “pain is just a physical emotion” says Steve Cotter renowned director and founder of the International Kettlebell & Fitness Federation.

Many of us know that the brain processes pain not the body.  We fear pain which is why we avoid it. And fear is good, it prevents us from getting hurt.

This year Trent started to move African kettlebells into another league. He believes that we have as much talent for pain as the Russians do and has initiated a ranking process towards qualifying Africa for the World Kettlebell Championships 2014 in Germany. Trent has recently been to Ghana and Mauritius to promote the sport and to encourage more lifters to certify as instructors with the African Union of Kettlebell Lifters (AKUF ).

Many who attend Trent’s classes are active in other sports and like me, have seen the benefits of a leaner and more powerful muscle structure through improved performance. The benefits of a stronger core are evident especially in sports like cycling, long distance running and golf just to name a few. But there are also brave individuals who come purely to challenge their bodies and their minds in order to reap the benefits of this highly intense sport.

I will go on record as saying that weighted scissor jumps are the most evil invention known to man and redefine the meaning of “pain in the butt” for many days after doing them. Coming in second but by no means any less evil, are inverted jerks and Trent has promised to outlaw them but I doubt this will ever happen.

I can guarantee that they will both be on the menu next week.