Exactly a year ago today, I was preparing to attend my RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) Level I Certification training. Now, exactly a year later, I am preparing to attend my RKC Level II Certification training.

If you had asked me before I boarded that plane a year ago how obtaining my RKC Certification was going to change my life and change how I train myself and my clients, I could not have provided you with an answer that would give its impact justice, because I had NO IDEA until I went through the training.  My decision to obtain my RKC Certification was one of the best life decisions that I have made thus far and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to test for my RKC Level II Certification.  The principles that are taught by the RKC have made me a better, smarter fitness professional, and subsequently, a better, smarter trainer and I cannot wait to experience the wealth of information and knowledge that will be presented to me this weekend at the RKC Level II.

Last year on the plane ride home, I started to write a post about my RKC Training and Certification experience, but it was thwarted by severe motion sickness.  Unfortunately I never revisited the post that I started, but I do remember that it was a weekend full of excitement, anxiety, fear, confusion, swings, tummy-time and waking up every morning feeling like I had been run over by 3 MACK trucks as a result of the hours of training from the previous day.  Not to mention it was truly a bonding experience for my partner in crime and boyfriend, Eric Gahan, and I.  Nothing says “I love you” like going to sleep next to your loved one when both of you have doused your hands in lotion and put socks on them so that they can heal overnight from all the swing work from the day; or when your loved one asks you to put your vibrams in a plastic bag so that they don’t stink up the hotel room.  Yes, my vibrams were smelly, his smelled like clean cotton, for real.  But I digress…

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the training and the requirements for the RKC Certification, it is a 3-day, 23-hour intensive course which includes a strength test, 5 pull ups for men and a 15 second flexed arm hang for women, a skills test, the participant is tested rigorously on 8 different kettle bell exercises and must perform them perfectly according to the standard in order to pass, and an endurance test which requires the participant to perform 100 kettlebell snatches within 5 minutes with a bell size relative to his or her body weight.  Most men use a 24kg bell ~52lbs and most women use a 16kg bell ~35lbs.  Beyond the physical requirements and training intensity, the course is packed with wealth of information compiled by some of the most revered fitness professionals in the industry.  The knowledge alone that you learn within those 3-days makes the course worth attending even if you don’t walk away with an RKC Instructor Certification.

This weekend I will attend my RKC Level II Certification in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The same place that I attended my Level I Certification.  My main goal over the past 4 months of Level II focused training has been to maintain my Level I skills to standard, improve strength and endurance, and most of all, to stay healthy and injury free and generally to not do anything stupid inside or outside of the gym (as if you think about it, most injuries happen OUTSIDE of the gym). I structured my training sessions so that the first half focused on strength and skills, e.g. Turkish Get Ups, weighted pull ups, heavy presses, pistol squat practice, etc. and the second half focused on endurance such as complexes.  If I had any time at the end of my training session I would spend about 5-7 minutes doing swing or snatch intervals and sometimes I would work in either racked or overhead carries if I was doing swing intervals.

I always started out my training sessions with a proper mobility warm up as well as corrective exercises to help my glutes fire properly.  I have very tight hip flexors and glutes which can cause my low-back muscles to power my movements which can cause all sorts of problems if I do not incorporate proper mobility and flexibility training. Therefore, I kept a once weekly appointment for soft tissue work with a massage therapist who is actually a fellow RKC (Chris Larson at Joint Ventures for any of you who live in the Boston, MA area and are looking for a fantastic massage therapist) and made sure to foam roll multiple times a day. Also, as I mentioned, I always started my training sessions with foam rolling and a sufficient mobility warm up and finished my training sessions with a cool down, stretch and more foam rolling.

I also met with a Level II instructor, Mike Perry of Skills of Strength (S.O.S.) in Chelmsford, MA, so that he could review my basics and go over the new movements that I would learn at Level II.  He sent me off with a few corrections to my swing and get up and some new material to practice on my own so that the learning at Level II will hopefully go more quickly. Meeting with Mike was extremely helpful and my only regret is that I did not make more time to meet with him more regularly to train. However, there are only so many hours in the day and I suppose you do what you can.

At this point, although I am strong for my size, I am not as strong as would like to be, but I know that I am strong enough to perform the skills necessary at Level II, so it will have to do. I feel confident about my endurance and Level I skills, so the big test will be learning and performing the Level II skills to standard within the short weekend time allotted. Given all of the aforementioned, I believe that I am ready to attend my RKC Level II Certification.

I am excited and nervous and I look forward to another weekend that I will walk away from with an experience and knowledge that I am positive will change my life, once again.

With that, I leave you all with my skills and snatch test anthem, Castaway by Benny Benassi. For all of you RKC’s attending RKC Level II this weekend, even though we are all there cheering each other on as we go through our skills and snatch tests, we are still castaway on an island in the middle of the ocean by ourselves as we perform these tests while the cheering comes from the beach shore 😉 … Enjoy!