Exercise has never been an important part of my life. Although I did some sports as a kid and have a lot of love for swimming, I’ve just never wanted to exercise. While some of it stems from pure laziness, it was also a lack of energy, a lack of interest, past experiences and injuries, and simply not living in an environment conducive to physical activity. In short, I never did anything beyond housework for pretty much my whole life. Not only did I not exercise, but I also knew very little about exercise.
Despite all that, a few months ago I reached a critical point in my health transformation where I found myself wanting to exercise. Everything came to a head when I found this blog by Sarah Fragoso of Everday Paleo discussing why she lifts weights. It’s almost shocking when you have this thin, petite, beautiful blonde woman talking about exercise like it’s an important life skill and not about how smoking hot it makes her look.
She also talks about how it affects her kids, her daily life, and her outlook. You know, things that more people can relate to than having tight buns. It is physically impossible for me to be thin or shapely so looking sexy has never been a good motivational tool, but I can achieve strength, stamina and an improved quality of life with exercise. Those things are so much more important than how I look naked.
Once I found my motivation, I had to find an exercise that I would actually stick with. I needed something I could do at home with little to no equipment, would be easy on my joints, simple to understand, fun, and effective in a short amount of time. Yoga, swimming, pilates, zumba, hooping, and even just walking around the neighborhood could not fulfill any of that. And while Crossfit is the hot new thing that looks really fun, just the beginning intensity is way out of my league.
In all my searching, I repeatedly came across all kinds of blogs and websites talking about kettlebells. My skepticism was kept alive by the fact that everyone who raved about them was a perky skinny person with a built in enjoyment for exercise, i.e. not like me at all. Being a good sport about it, I didn’t let that stop me from looking into kettlebell exercises further.
Since I’m the frugal sort, I did not want to invest in a kettlebell before trying the exercises out. We already had a set of 5lb dumbbells, so that’s what I started with. The exercises were indeed enjoyable at first, but the skepticism came back when there ceased to be any challenge after about 2 weeks. Since I’m a sucker for health sciences of any sort, even exercise, I read up on the science behind the weight and found the weight itself is doing the bulk of the work, not the exercises.
Originating from Russia, Kettlebells are an off balance weight that enables the user to do ballistic exercises, engaging muscles throughout the body in a variety of motions. With so many muscles being worked at once, the use of kettlebells is on par with high intensity interval training, which has proven to be far more beneficial than marathon exercises, like running or cycling. In fact, Wikipedia cites, ‘In one study, kettlebell enthusiasts performing a 20 minute snatch workout were measured to burn, on average, 13.6 calories/minute aerobically and 6.6 calories/minute anaerobically during the entire workout – “equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace”.’
With that, I decided to buy a 10lb kettlebell and was immediately blown away by the difference. Everything I had read about them was true. Indeed, not only were the exercises just what I needed, but this special little weight was also perfect for me.
My favorite part about kettlebells is that many of the exercises are made to mimic normal physical activites that humans would encounter in life, such as farming or construction. That means that the exercises involve natural movements for activities we would normally do and benefit our daily lives. Let’s face it, I don’t think there is any situation where I would need to do a burpee or double diamond for survival.
Most important, these exercises are fun. Coming from Queen Lazy McLardButt over here, you know I’m not lying about that either. Each exercise requires concentration to focus on pushing, pulling, or swinging the bell at the correct intensity and form. Your mind and body are set to work to complete each set of reps, making the kettlebell an extreme multitasking tool, which if you recall I really love that sort of thing. While the ketllebell gives my muscles an intense workout, my joints are not only perfectly fine, but they’re actually getting a lot of help from all that muscle toning as muscles are what help stabilize joints.
So if you’re truly a for real super beginner like I was, give kettlebells a shot. Or if you’re bored with your current workout or looking for something more challenging, kettlebells will also work for you. I recommend you follow this guide in figuring out which weight to start with, trying out different ones in a store, but buy a decent quality one off of Amazon or eBay, where even with shipping, it will be cheaper. I got my 10lb for $18 total off eBay and a similar one was $40 at Dick’s. Try to get a real cast iron one as well, none of this plastic or steel stuff, they are just not the same.
Once you have that figured out, this is a good basic workout plan to start with. Start with the minimum reps and focus on your form. If your stamina is really low, like mine was, only do one circuit and skip any of the exercises that you feel shakey on. The point is to stick with it long term so going overboard, even if you’re enthusiastic, is going to set you up for failure. You can increase the reps, circuits and weight as you feel comfortable. Take rest days as you need them as well and if the muscle soreness is a little unbearable, like mine was, stay tuned next week for my tried and true muscle soreness remedies!