Why I Choose Strength – Updated with Program Design Guidance

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Introduction

I recently posted a blog about Why I Choose Strength.  After that post, I received some questions as to how did I get from where I started using 10lb kettlebells to where I am at now using 20kg kettlebells and beyond?  To answer these questions I updated that post to include detailed program design about how I got there including some specific examples of where I was strength-wise when I started.  In addition, since the original post on March 28, 2013 I have had two more personal records: 1) On May 4, 2013 I completed a 22kg (48.4lbs) weighted pull-up while I was attending the CK-FMS training certification in St. Paul, Minnesota. I do not have video right now, but I had many witnesses to this strength feat to attest to my PR; and 2) On May 12, 2013 I pressed the 20kg (44lbs) for multiple sets of 4 repetitions, up from my previous max rep with the 20kg (44lbs) of multiple sets of 2 reps.  Below is the original post, with updated program design…

Why I Choose Strength – Updated with  Program Design Guidance

As a dancer from the age of 3 ½ turned martial artist at age 27, I have always been athletic, physically strong, strong willed, and a master of my bodyweight.  Not until I changed careers from IT consulting to work full-time as a personal trainer and obtained my Russian hardstyle kettlebell certification did I truly begin to thirst and have the desire to be strong and skilled with iron.

I started my real journey with iron in 2008 by falling in love with the kettlebell as a strength tool and with the skill of kettlebell training.  I had lifted weights prior to learning about the kettlebell but I had never discovered a tool and skill so magical and miraculous (in my eyes) as the oddly shaped ball of iron called the kettlebell.  When I first embarked upon this journey I started training with a mere 10lb kettlebell and now, my preferred kettlebell size of choice is four times that size at anywhere between 40lbs (18kg) to 44lbs (20kg).

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Recently I’ve been training for the Iron Maiden Challenge, which is a strength challenge of a pull-up, an overhead press and a pistol squat with a 24kg (~53lbs) kettlebell.  To put this challenge in perspective, I am 5 feet 1 inch tall and on average I weigh about 115lbs.  Right now I can pistol squat the 24kg, complete a weighted pull-up with 20kg (44lbs) and get my chin to the pull-up bar with the 24kg around my waist and the press appears to be my nemesis.  I have not budged beyond pressing the 20kg for reps. Solution: keep training.

24kg (~53lbs) Pistol Squat

20kg (44lbs) Pull-up

20kg (44lbs) Press – My Nemesis!

I started training for this challenge about two years ago, which compared to the four years that I trained to obtain my black belt in kung fu, is a very short period of time.  As Mike Boyle writes, “Training is like farming… The key is not to quit.  Have faith in the process.”  Training takes patience.  Not only does building strength take time but also it takes skill and practice to perfect that skill.  In the end it is well worth the wait to see progress; however as Master SFG Mark Reifkind writes, “Getting strong is not for everyone… That is not to say that everyone can’t be stronger, couldn’t get stronger.  They can, and they could.  But the truth is, they won’t.”  This is because it takes time, patience, skill, the desire to improve the skill and most of all strong will.  Not everyone is built with strong will.

All along the way through my journey to the Iron Maiden I have seen gradual, yet significant strength gains but recently I have truly been amazed at my newfound strength.  The 20kg (44lbs) kettlebell used to be a bell size that I only considered a two-handed swing or goblet squat kettlebell size.  I remember around the time that I was training for the first level of my Russian hardstyle kettlebell certification that I used to watch this woman at the gym that I trained at (this was before I founded my current business, Iron Body Studios, with my Co-Owner Eric Gahan) WARM UP with Turkish Get Ups (TGU) with a 20kg (44lbs) kettlebell.  Granted she had about six or seven inches of height on me and probably weighed 20+lbs more than me but it still amazed me.  Now?  NOW I can complete two to three consecutive repetitions of a Turkish Get Up with the 20kg kettlebell, in addition to one-arm swings, presses for repetitions, clean and jerks, etc.  It is my new best friend.  When I watched that woman warm up with 20kg TGUs, I never thought that two years later I would be strong and skilled enough with my strength to use that same bell weight for every single movement that I train.  It’s not that I assumed that it would never be possible, but rather that I couldn’t fathom it at the time as I was still trying to master 12kg (26.2lbs).

24kg (~53lbs) Turkish Get Up

How did I get from first starting to train with a 10lb kettlebell in 2008 to my present preferred weights of 18kg (~40lbs) and 20kg (44lbs)?  There were three stages in my journey:

I.  Pre-Hardstyle Level I Certification

II.  Post-Hardstyle Level I Certification/Pre-Hardstyle Level II Certification; and

III.  Now, Post-Hardstyle Level II Certification/Presently training for the Iron Maiden Challenge

Within the evolution of my training as listed above, the program design I developed, Post-Hardstyle Level I Certification/Pre-Hardstyle Level II Certification, is what really propelled me to the next level of strength.  In addition, my preferred strength tool is the kettlebell, your preference may differ; for example, perhaps you prefer barbell training or a combination of barbell and kettlebell training.  It’s all iron.

Before I received my Level I Hardstyle Certification I was certified in a non-Russian Hardstyle and very different style of kettlebell training.  My training was more focused on using lighter weights, much higher repetitions of movements and some double bell work.  So it was definitely more conditioning focused and some strength gains were made but none as monumental as those that I achieved Post-Hardstyle Level I Certification.

After I received my Level I Hardstyle Certification in April 2011 I completely re-vamped all of my program design for my own personal training and for all of my clients to incorporate the principles of the Russian Hardstyle technique (such as power breathing and the balance of tension and relaxation) and specific program design which focused on quality of movement rather than quantity and an appropriate balance of ballistics and grinds.  In addition, I was inspired to train for the Iron Maiden Challenge.  Could I really achieve this sort of strength?  Well, there was only one way to find out.  Train for it.

As I prepared to train for my Level II Hardstyle Certification I tailored a program for my own personal training that helped me to work towards practicing all the basic skills necessary for this certification and continued to help me to gain strength and skill for all three of the lifts required for the Iron Maiden Challenge.  This is now my preferred program design because I know it works and, aside from the pistol squat, the pull-up and press are both movements that should be practiced regularly as they are integral for a well-rounded strength program.  I exclude the pistol squat because in my opinion it is a specialized movement and may not be the best choice for people who have low-back dysfunction or injuries.

Below is a description of this program…

Warm up

Foam roll, rib rolls, bretzel, rolling patterns – both upper and lower body, hard and soft rolls, crawling, cossack stretch, handstands, bat wings, and bottoms up press variations.

I always start with foam rolling, mobility, rolling and crawling and on certain days I will also prep with handstands and batwings; the other days I will prep with bottoms up press variations (e.g. half kneel or standing).

For example:

Sunday, Thursday: 1/2 kneel bottoms up press

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Handstands and batwings

The Program

 Part I

  • Turkish Get-up
  • Upper Body Pull: Pull-up
  • Lower Body Movement: Pistol Squat, Dead-Lift or Single Leg Dead-Lift
  • Upper Body Push: Overhead Press or Push-up
  • Core Training: Hanging Leg Raises, Ab Rollout, V-Ups, Plank or TRX Body Saw
  • Kettlebell Swings (light to moderate weight for warm up)

Part II

  • Conditioning or Skills Practice: Kettlebell Complexes, Kettlebell Chains, Kettlebell Swing or Snatch Intervals, Clean and Jerk, Bent Press, Windmills, Sprints or a combination of Swings and Sprints.

Part III

  • Loaded Carries: Suitcase, Double Suitcase, Racked, Double Racked, Overhead, Bottoms up.

I train Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Tuesdays are typically a bodyweight/active recovery day for me therefore I will go to hot yoga or kung fu.  Saturdays are typically a rest day.

A typical training week for me looks like this:

Sunday

Part I

Part II

Part III

 

  • TGU
  • Bodyweight Pull-ups
  • Dead-lift or Single Leg Deadlift
  • Heavy Presses
  • Planks
  • Warm up swings

 

Conditioning in the form of a Kettlebell Complex and/or Light snatches for time.*

Overhead Carries

Monday

Part I

Part II

Part III

 

  • TGU
  • Weighted Pull-ups
  • Pistols or Goblet Squats
  • One Arm Push up progressions
  • Hanging Leg Raises
  • Warm up swings

 

Heavy One Arm Swings

Racked Carries

Tuesday

Active Recovery/

Bodyweight Training Day

 

Yoga or Kung Fu

Wednesday

Part I

Part II

Part III

 

  • TGU
  • Weighted Pull-ups
  • Dead-lift or Single Leg Deadlift
  • One Arm Push up progressions
  • Standing Ab Wheel Rollouts
  • Warm up swings

 

Bent press and Windmill Practice or Heavy TGUs

Single Bell Suitcase Carries and Heavy Swings

Thursday

Part I

Part II

Part III

 

  • TGU
  • Bodyweight Pull-ups
  • Pistol Squats
  • Moderate Presses
  • TRX Body Saw or V-Ups
  • Warm up swings

 

Moderate to Heavy Snatch Intervals*

Overhead carries

Friday

Part I

Part II

Part III

 

  • TGU
  • Weighted Pull-ups
  • Dead-lift or Single Leg Deadlift
  • One Arm Push up progressions
  • Standing Ab Wheel Rollouts
  • Warm up swings

 

Push press and/or clean and jerk practice;

Double Bell Suitcase Carries and Heavy Swings

Saturday

OFF DAY

*Sometimes I combine or substitute my Sunday and Thursday swing and snatch conditioning days with sprints.

One of the key formats that has helped me to get better and to become stronger, is that I am consistent with what I train and practice on specific days, e.g. Wednesdays I always practice windmill and bent press or heavy get ups and Fridays I always practice clean and jerk. In addition, I repeat “workouts”.  Some of the variables that I change to add variety are weight, repetition scheme, and double bell vs. single bell work.  You want your training sessions to be repeatable.

Program Explanation and Options:

Turkish Get-up

I always start all of my own personal training sessions, my clients’ personal training sessions and classes with Turkish Get-up practice.  As Dan John, Master SFG confirms in his book Intervention, the Get-up is a great “reset” exercise in that it brings us back to how we used to go from lying to standing as children.  As adults it gets us back to the ground and allows us to move through fundamental child-like movement patterns.  Through this practice, one is able to start regaining mobility, stability and strength that as adults we may have lost by not practicing these movements regularly.

“The getup begins on the floor, often loaded with a kettlebell, and through it we roll, hinge, kneel, lunge, stand and then come back down under control.” ~Dan John, Master SFG, Intervention

By beginning all of my training sessions with the TGU, I know how my training session will go based upon how my get-up feels.  If my get-up feels strong, then I will have a strong training day.  If my get-up feels awkward, weak and unstable, then I know that it is best to go light and easy with my training that day.

My warm-up bell size for a TGU is 18kg (~40lbs).  If I am having a strong training day then I will warm up with the 18kg for the first set of TGUs and then raise the weight up to 20kg (44lbs) to 24kg (~53lbs) for subsequent sets.

Upper Body Pull: Pull-up

As a strength training rule, I always train pull-ups as part of my own personal strength training program.  I train both bodyweight and weighted pull-ups.  No matter what one’s specific goal may be, pull-ups are part of a well rounded strength training program, for anyone, desk jockey, athlete, man or woman.

Pull-ups have always come easily for me; however I know that is not the case for everyone.  If you have not yet achieved your first pull-up of any grip, (underhand, neutral, or prone), then I recommend practicing hollows, bat wings, flexed-arm hangs and either band and/or partner assisted pull-ups.  When practicing flexed arm-hangs and assisted pull-ups, practice all three grips.  Most people will be able to achieve a chin-up (underhand grip) or a neutral grip pull-up before they are able to achieve a prone grip pull-up.  You can read more about my tips for how to achieve your first pull-up in my blog post “Pull-Up Tips For Women” .

When I started to train pull-ups regularly, one day I would train neutral grip body-weight pull-ups and another day I would train prone grip body-weight pull-ups.  Each training session I focused on a set rep count of 20 bodyweight repetitions per training session, no matter how many sets it took me to achieve the total of 20 repetitions.  For example, on a day that I would train neutral grip pull-ups I would train 4 sets of 5 repetitions. On a day that I would train prone grip pull-ups, I would train 5 sets of 4 repetitions.  Your sets may be 5, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, and maybe you use a variation of grips to achieve your 20 pull-ups.

Now when I train bodyweight pull-ups, I aim for a total of 40+ repetitions per training session.  I will usually train 5 sets of 8 repetitions or 5 sets of 10, 9, 8, 8, 8.

Once I could achieve 3 sets of 5 repetitions of prone grip pull-ups I began to train weighted pull-ups.  I started by loading my pull-ups with 5lbs.  I aimed for the same goal of 20 total repetitions per training session, no matter how many sets it took me to achieve the total of 20 repetitions and even if I had to finish with a set of bodyweight pull-ups so that I could complete 20 total repetitions.  For example, looking back in my training log, one of my training days on September 12, 2011 was 5 repetitions with 5lbs, 4, 3, 2, 2 repetitions with 10lbs, and then I finished with 4 bodyweight repetitions for a total of 20 pull-ups, 16 loaded.

Once I was able to complete 3 sets of 3 repetitions of loaded pull-ups with 8kg (~18lbs), I trained this load and repetition count for 5 months from July 2012 until November 2012 when I was able to achieve an easy single repetition pull-up loaded with 16kg (35.2lbs) in November 2012.  After that, I raised the weight of my 3 sets of 3 repetitions loaded pull-ups to 20lbs.

Now I train 3 sets of 3 repetitions with 12kg (26.2lbs) and when I train 4, 3, 2, 1 repetitions I train 10kg (22lbs) for 4 repetitions, 12kg (26.2lbs) for 3 repetitions, 16kg (35.2lbs) for 2 repetitions, and 20kg (44lbs) for 1 repetition. You can read more about my pull-up training journey in my blog post “How Women Can Train To Do Pull-ups WELL.”

Lower Body Movement: Pistol Squat, Dead-Lift or Single Leg Dead-Lift

I started to train the pistol squat regularly when I decided that I wanted to train for the Iron Maiden Challenge and test for my Hardstyle Level II Certification; this was before StrongFirst was established and at the time the pistol squat was a requirement for the RKC II Level Certification.  Based upon my ballet and martial arts background I was already able to complete a pistol squat after many years of training similar single leg stances.  Therefore, I only had to train to load the pistol squat.  When I train pistol squats I do not train for high volume, I train to practice this movement with load, one to two times per week.  When I first started to train the pistol squat, I started with 8kg (~18lbs) and slowly built up to 12kg (26.2lbs).  I would train 1 to 3 repetitions for 3 sets.  Again, I was training this movement to practice it because my ultimate goal was to complete a single repletion with 24kg (~53lbs).  Once the weight that I was using became easy I would progress to the next weight, e.g. 16kg (35.2lbs) and maintain the same repetition and set scheme.  Thursdays are my designated day to practice loaded pistol squats and occasionally I will practice loaded pistol squats on a second day per week, usually Mondays, if I am having a strong training day; otherwise, I will practice goblet squats.  An example training day for pistols for me is 18kg (~40lbs) 3 repetitions R/L, 20kg (44lbs) 2 repetitions R/L, 24kg (~53lbs) 1 repetitions R/L.

In my opinion, the pistol squat is not for everyone and I only recommend training it if it is a movement for which you have a specific goal, like the Iron Maiden or Beast Challenge.  Otherwise per Gray Cook, I recommend to train the dead-lift and maintain the squat.  To this point, if you are training dead-lifts and single leg dead-lifts regularly, this will give you the strength to increase weight with your pistol squat as long as you are incorporating loaded pistol squat practice into your training program at least once per week.

Subsequently, I train either dead-lifts or single leg dead-lifts three times per week.  I will train a cycle of dead-lifts for two weeks and then switch that cycle of dead-lifts to single leg dead-lifts for the next two weeks.  For example, I just finished a two-week cycle of single leg dead-lifts as follows:

Week One: Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, single leg dead-lifts 88lbs, 3R/L, 3 sets

Week Two: Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, single leg dead-lifts 88lbs, 5R/L, 3 sets

Now I am training a cycle of dead-lifts with 76kg (~170lbs) and for the full two weeks I will train 4 repetitions, 3 sets, of this weight three times per week.  After I am done with this two-week cycle, I will go back to single leg deadlifts for my dead-lift training days, for another two-week cycle.

If you have not yet achieved a pistol squat and are interested in working towards this movement, I recommend practicing single leg squats with a TRX and reading the pistol squat progressions in The Naked Warrior, by Pavel.

Upper Body Push: Press or Push-up

As I mentioned earlier in this post, like the pull-up, the press is a movement that should be practiced regularly as it is integral for a well-rounded strength program.  However, unlike the pull-up, the press does not come as easily for me; at least heavy pressing with anything beyond 1/3 of my bodyweight.  The press slowly became my nemesis as I started to train for the Iron Maiden Challenge.  I can press 18kg (~40lbs) and even double 18kgs (~80lbs) easily, and now 20kg (44lbs) for repetitions, but it was a challenge to get there.

Along my journey of training for the Iron Maiden Challenge I have gone through two renditions of Pavel’s Right of Passage Press Ladder from Enter the Kettlebell, the first with 16kg (35.2lbs) and the second with 18kg (~40lbs).  Subsequently I can press both of those weights until the cows come home, but the 20kg (44lbs) is still challenging for me and I have yet to press 24kg (~53lbs).

As Pavel says, “To press a lot, you must press a lot.”  Therefore normally I would I practice pressing four times per week, however, recently I have been working towards my one-arm push up and only pressing one to two times per week.  Normally I would have one heavy press day using 20kg (44lbs) for 5 sets of 2 reps and three moderate (e.g. a weight that you can press for 3 to 5 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets) press days with pressing variations using 18kg (~40lbs).  I recommend to train pressing at least three times per week and if you are new to pressing, to follow the guidance Pavel sets forth about pressing in Enter the Kettlebell.

When I was pressing four times per week I would also  train push-ups once per week.  Based upon my martial arts training, the push-up is a movement that comes easily to me and I am able to train high volume push-ups.  As I mentioned, my current goal is to train one arm push-up progressions three times per week, per The Naked Warrior instead of pressing four times per week and training high volume push ups once per week.  I expect training towards a solid one-arm push up from the floor will help to increase my press strength.

In general, over the course of one’s weekly training, in addition to pressing, I recommend training some form of a bodyweight push. Depending on your skill level, this could be a push-up plank, walkouts, eccentric push-ups, push-ups, handstands, or one-arm push-ups.  Per the example program I provided I am presently training the upper body push according to the following structure:

Sunday: Press

Monday: Bodyweight Push

Wednesday: Bodyweight Push

Thursday: Press

Friday: Bodyweight Push

In general, I would recommend to train the press according to the following structure:

Sunday: Bodyweight Push

Monday: Press

Wednesday: Press

Thursday: Bodyweight Push

Friday: Press

Core Training: Hanging Leg Raises, Ab Rollout, V-Ups, Plank or TRX Body Saw

Core training movements such as hanging leg raises, v-ups and ab rollouts directly correlate to success with pull-ups and core training movements such as the front plank directly correlate to increased skill with the clean and subsequently one’s press.  Per Pavel on the Ab Wheel as written in Intervention by Dan John, Master SFG:

“I was recently reminded by Pavel of the great value of the ab wheel, but you might miss the point: The ab wheel is the right way to do a pull-up.  The tension on the whole anterior chain should be so locked down that the whole body becomes part of the movement.”

Therefore, pursuant to the example program I provided, I practice all of these movements over the course of my weekly training program. I detail different progressions and variations of hanging leg raises and ab rollouts in my  blog posts “Pull-Up Tips For Women”  and “The Ab Rollout” .

Kettlebell Swings (light to moderate weight for warm up):

I always finish the first part of my training session with warm up kettlebell swings with a weight that I can complete 20 or more repetitions with. This total body dynamic movement helps to prepare the body for more intense conditioning to come during the second part of my training session.

Conditioning or Skills Practice:

The second part of my training session is always 10 to 20, maybe 25 minutes maximum, of conditioning or skills practice. This conditioning is comprised of one or two of Kettlebell Complexes, Kettlebell Chains, Kettlebell Swing or Snatch Intervals, Sprints or a combination of Swings and Sprints.  Conditioning is one of my favorite training areas, so I usually come up with a format on my own. However, some great resources that I go to often are Tracy Reifkind, SFG, and her blog “Training Food and Thought” .

Some of my favorites from her blog are:

It is necessary to always train conditioning in general, but it helps to have a specific goal to work towards, so that like strength, you can see specific progress in your conditioning.

For example, recently one of my conditioning goals was to complete a snatch test with a 16kg (35.2lbs) bell.  I weigh around 115lbs so I normally complete my snatch test with a 12kg (26.2lbs) bell.  In order to achieve this goal, I followed Brett Jones, Master SFG, program .

While following this program, I used the 20kg (44lbs) for my heavy one-arm swing day, the 16kg (35.2lbs) for my density training day and the 14kg (~30lbs) for my high volume, light-weight snatch training day.  I started snatching the 16kg (35.2lbs) regularly once per week for repetitions of anywhere from 72 snatches to 120 snatches in January 2013 and I started to follow Brett Jones’ program on March 14, 2013.  By following this program I completed the snatch test with the 16kg (35.2lbs) on April 7, 2013 in 4 minutes 35 seconds. I lost 15 seconds when I put the bell down after repetition number 60 because my hands were getting slippery.  My current conditioning goal is to build strength so that my left arm does not fatigue before my right arm using 16kg for a snatch test and to find a repetition scheme that allows me to complete the snatch test with the 16kg (35.2lbs) without putting the bell down.

As I outlined earlier in this post, Sunday, Monday and Thursdays are generally my days for conditioning and Wednesdays and Fridays are generally my days to practice skills.  For example, often on Wednesdays I will practice Bent Press and Windmills and on Fridays I will practice Push Press and Clean and Jerk.  Since I have been training for the Iron Maiden Challenge, I have also cycled in training heavy get-ups on Wednesdays.  For example, I will cycle it in for two-weeks and then cycle skills practice in for two weeks to give my body a break from the heavy training before I go back to it for another two weeks.

Loaded Carries:

I started to incorporate loaded carries regularly into my training program after reading Intervention by Dan John, Master SFG at the end of last year 2012.  Dan John reminds us that loaded carries are a simple, but not easy and extremely effective way of increasing strength in a short period of time.

“Do some kind of loaded carry three times a week, but only one of the days should be ‘everything.’  You want to be aggressive and intense when you attack these movements.  The farmer walk and bear-hug carries are my personal favorite moves and for most people tend to be some of the best bang for their bucks.

Get back to me after doing these for three weeks.  Obviously, your grip is better.  Your legs are stronger.  You discover the weightroom isn’t that tough any more.  You look leaner but bigger.

Oh, and you’re welcome. “ ~ Dan John, Master SFG, Intervention

I practice loaded carries at least three times per week, if not every time that I train.  I vary the load and the type of carry.  Loaded carries directly correlate to our day-to-day activities from carrying groceries, children, lifting boxes, 44lb Poland Spring water bottles, moving furniture, etc.  Practicing these movements in the training room helps to prevent injury in real life.

These are the elements that I incorporated and the training program that I followed to become strong.  I choose strength because not only does having the patience to train your body to be strong and skilled with iron build character, but also, strength builds confidence and independence.  There is something incredibly empowering about being strong and it helps you to realize that anything is possible. In addition, there are the pleasant benefits or rather I like to call them “side effects” of looking 27 years old when I am in fact 37 years old, having the ability to carry my own groceries, having the strength to replace the 44lb Poland Spring water bottle on my own on our cooler at home, shovel snow during the harsh Boston, Massachusetts winters without getting winded, fatigued or sore, and generally continuing to move well as the years pass.  Strong is sexy in every aspect.  Period.

Here are some real life examples, both entertaining and earnest, as to how my choice for strength and being strong impacted real life situations:

My 15-Year High School Reunion

I choose strength because… At my 15-year high school reunion in November 2008 I was discussing with a few fellow alumni that I was training for my black belt in kung fu.  At the time I was a second-degree brown belt.  I explained to them that as part of the black belt test one of the passing requirements was to complete 100 consecutive military style, chest to the ground push ups within two minutes.  I had just recently had a progress check for my black belt and was tested on how many push ups I could complete in one minute.  If I recall correctly I think the number that I achieved at that time was 64 push-ups within a minute and yes, they were particular about form.  As a result of this discussion, one of my fellow alum, who is a man and he served in the Marines, challenged me to a push up contest. Without hesitation I graciously accepted.  After the re-union was over, three of us left Big City Brewery in Allston, MA, it was myself, my challenger (let’s refer to him by his initials JM) and one other alum, also a man (let’s refer to him by his initials MC) and walked to where our cars were parked in the Blanchard’s liquor store parking lot.  JM and I got ready to put our hands down on the cold November parking lot pavement, (please also keep in mind that I had consumed a few beers and I was wearing a dress, knee length boots with 4-inch heels, jewelry and had my hair and make up done), while MC got ready to time how many push ups we each could do in a minute. “On your mark, get set, GO!”  While I was doing push ups I heard MC yell at JM,  “What kind of push ups are those?? You’re not even getting all the way down! Look at Artemis’ push ups!”  and then when the minute was done MC said to me,  “Artemis, you can stop doing push ups now.”  I completed 63 push-ups within the minute and JM completed 55.  After confirming that I won, I brushed the dirt off my hands and said,  “My work is done here. See you guys later.” and walked towards my car.  JM may never live that story down.  True story.

Encounters at the Commercial Gym

I choose strength because… A few years ago, before I established my current business, Iron Body Studios, with my boyfriend and Co-Owner Eric Gahan, SFG, CK-FMS, I was working out at the commercial gym that I worked for at the time.  During my training session I asked a man at the gym if I could work in pull-ups with him at the pull-up bar.  His response to me was: “Yes, but only as long as you don’t do more pull-ups than me…”  I smiled as I replied,  “Well, I can’t promise you that…”

Managing Inventory at Iron Body Studios

I choose strength because… One time we received a shipment of heavy kettlebells for our business.  Eric was recovering from an injury so he was not able to lift the heaviest of kettlebells that we received as there was a limited load that his body could handle.  Therefore I carried the 44kg kettlebell (~97lbs) that we received in the shipment up two flights of stairs to the studio without thinking twice about it. Even if he had been able, I probably still would have carried that kind of weight up the stairs without blinking an eye.

IMAG0027

Tasks at Home

I choose strength because… We have Poland Spring Water delivered to our home.  We usually receive a shipment of about eight to ten 44lb water bottles.  The deliveryman leaves them on our front porch but we carry them around to our side porch so that we can store them inside on our back stairs.  I choose strength so that when we receive this delivery, if Eric isn’t home I don’t have to wait for him to get home to help me do four to five rounds of two Poland Spring water jug suitcase carries, weighing in at 88lbs per carry from our front porch to our back porch.  I can do this myself and I am happy to be strong enough to do it.IMAG0083

Grocery Shopping

I choose strength because… One time when I went grocery shopping at Whole Foods, the Whole Foods’ employee who helped me bag my groceries expressed his concern to me about the weight of one of the bags.  I replied, “Don’t worry, I might be little but I’m packed with power.”  He laughed in response.  This scenario happens often, but people have no idea…

Staying healthy and youthful

I choose strength because… Last year I started to attend a new kung fu school, Yang’s Martial Arts Association (YMAA) located in Roslindale, MA.  One day, recently after I had started to attend classes there, I had the following exchange with a senior student:

Student to me: “Artemis, so I see that you have a wushu background, when did you start studying kung fu?”

 Me: “Yes.  I started studying kung fu in New York City in 2003 and then continued on at the Chinese Martial Arts Institute when I moved to Virginia in 2005.  I received my black belt in Virginia in 2009 and then moved home to Massachusetts.”

 Student to me: “I see.  So you started studying kung fu when you were a teenager?”

 Me: “HAHA! I’m 36 so NO, I was 27 when I started but I will take it!  You just made my year!”

  (This was last summer, I am now 37.)

Take care of the one body you have, and someone will think that YOU’RE 10 years younger than your actual age!

I choose strength because strong is strong, strong is healthy, strong is sexy, strong is beautiful.

Why do YOU choose strength?

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