About MichaelSFG

Co-owner of Sisu Strength SFG kettlebell instructor CK-FMS ISSA-CFT

Crawling is Awesome!

I am currently training for an advanced kettlebell certification and my biannual recertification. My coach has integrated something very simple, yet unusual by current standards, into my training program —crawling.  Yes, crawling.  Something all of us have done, albeit a long time ago, when we were infants and toddlers. Something all of us, no matter our age or current fitness level, should be doing every day.

I have some observations on crawling after doing it as part of a dedicated training regime for the past several weeks. A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany on the awesomeness of crawling.

I have measured out the longest distance in the gym where I train – 15 yards. This is where I crawl. Interestingly, it is right behind the line of treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bicycles. So far, no one has stepped on or collided with me when they get off the machines.

On this particular day – my hard-core crawling day — I leopard crawled (on hands and feet, eyes looking forward, chest up and butt down).  Here’s what I did:

10 sets of 45 yard reps for a total of 450 yards

(1 rep is 15 yards forward + 15 yards backward + 15 yards forward without stopping.  In between reps I rest by walking forward + backward + forward the same distance.)

I did this in 24 minutes, which is equivalent to my current 5K PR (23:56—about 7:30 min/mi pace) set two years ago. So I crawled 450 yards (total)—a quarter mile—in the same amount of time it takes me to run a 5K. I can tell you that comparing the two activities, my body has worked harder (frankly it felt the equivalent of running over 5 miles instead of 3.1 miles). To me, the benefits of crawling far supersede those of running: my entire body is involved; by default I utilize/need more mental focus and it is apparent that my mind and body are working synergistically; my joints are used in a non-threatening, low-impact way; the level of conditioning of my cardiovascular system is at least as intense, but I recover quicker; and the best part, after I’m done when I take off my T-shirt I really look buff (no, I do not do that in the gym in front of everyone; it’s in the locker room before I shower).

Another thing I notice—I feel happy (elated is a bit more accurate) after I crawl like this. It’s different and a better more natural feeling than an “endorphin rush”. It’s a bit hard to describe, but I definitely have more mental and emotional fortitude to deal with the rest of the day at my “day job” in an office. Seriously, it’s a challenge to be sure, but I really enjoy crawling. It’s a classic “love/hate” thing that I really look forward to now.

In fact, I enjoy crawling so much that I have been doing it on my “rest” days. Last week I decided to see how far I could go without stopping. My goal was 150 yards. I was at home and it was an unusually lovely day for Washington, DC in July.

I crawled 160 yards without stopping! It wasn’t easy; in fact I would say that it was an all-out 10 out of 10 effort. After I passed the 100 yard mark my thighs were burning and I was breathing heavy, but thanks to my awesome wife, who gave me encouragement all along the way I pushed (crawled) through the physical and most important for me, mental hump and crawled another 60 yards until I stopped.

Crawling is awesome!


Feeling Great at 54

Today is my 54th birthday, and I want to reflect on how I feel and look compared to a few years ago; specifically before I began the process of undoing some unhealthy habits. So I will give a brief history of that process from roughly the beginning of 2010 until today. I won’t go into excruciating detail, but I will note the highlights, at least from my perspective.

Me with the 32kg

Snapshot of me in January 2010: All my suits were hanging unused in my closet because I couldn’t fit in the trousers; I wasn’t wearing the custom vests my wife made because I was too big in the waist; over the past couple of years I bought several pairs of dress slacks with expandable waist bands to wear to my day job in an office. Oh, and a couple of larger belts, too.

Me before

I was essentially sedentary, weighing in at 200+ pounds and about 30% body fat. These numbers are guesstimates, as I stopped weighing myself when I saw 199 on the scale for the first time in my life. To be completely honest, being sedentary wasn’t the only reason I was where I was physically; let me just say that 1) alcohol does contain a lot of empty calories and 2) you cannot exercise off or wish away a drink or two.

Snapshot of me in December, 2010: I’m skipping over how I finally felt enough shame and humiliation over how I allowed myself to get into the sad state I was in. I will say that a great part of it was realizing (thanks to my patient and understanding wife) that I was dealing with some serious family-related emotional issues (milestone one). Once I came to terms with that, I fixed myself emotionally and I was ready to fix myself physically.

I started eating better in May. I first picked up a kettlebell on June 21, 2010—an 18 kg (milestone two).

I ran a 5K in September, October, and November and a 10K in December. My times improved such that I ran the 10K with a 7:40 mile pace. An aside—when I first started to run regularly again (in August) my knees and shins hurt. I assumed it was because I hadn’t run regularly for several years. I was informed of barefoot/minimalist shoe running (by my wife) and lo and behold, no more knee or shin pain (milestone three).

By December I was feeling pretty good about myself. I shed a couple inches off my waist, about 40 pounds and was at roughly 20% body fat. My self esteem was higher than it had been in a while and my outlook on many things was much more positive (correlated to my self esteem?). Since I enjoyed training with kettlebells so much, I decided to become certified as an RKC kettlebell Instructor. (My wife and I decided to do this together; however, I’m relating this from my personal perspective.)

Snapshot of me in June, 2012: I certified as an HKC kettlebell Instructor in January, 2011. I certified as an RKC kettlebell Instructor in May, 2011 (milestone four).

Snapshot of me today, a personal revelation and summary: I have made eating well and staying fit a lifestyle and a habit. To prove my point, I want to relate this story. On June 12 of this year I had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia (men have a 1 in 4 chance of getting one, that’s just how it is). I was told not to lift anything over 10 pounds for four weeks as my recovery (that actually included our two middle-aged portly cats). I was a good boy and did what the doctor ordered.

Of course, I was back in the gym the day after my four weeks were up. I recorded my stats prior to and after the four-week period:

Before: 165.2 lbs, 10.3% body fat, 140.8 lbs muscle mass

After:     163 lbs, 7.5% body fat, 143.4 lbs muscle mass

I know this isn’t scientific, but since I had the ‘before’ data I frankly was curious to see how much my body fat and possibly weight increased. I assumed it would since I was essentially sedentary for four full weeks. I was surprised, but apparently I am doing something right as to nutrition and diet. Basically, I eat a “paleo” diet and practice intermittent fasting. Although I knew this, I have proved (to me, at least) that nutrition clearly is the most important factor in body composition.

Speaking of body composition, you can see the difference in my before (September, 2008; 200+ lbs, 30% body fat) and now (164 lbs, 8% body fat; that is a 32 kg (71 lb) kettlebell that just last week I was able to press overhead) pictures. It’s the kilt that makes me look thinner, I think.

From then until now, I have been constantly challenging myself physically and mentally and have experienced continual improvement. To all of you that have graciously taken the time to read this, I would like to say this, based on my experience:

You can get healthy and fit no matter where you are now and no matter hold old you are, and

Getting fit and healthy is a choice; staying fit and healthy is a mindset and a habit.

How Far I’ve Come

Last weekend I picked up some heavier kettlebells to train with.  I remember at last year’s Summit of Strength, Jeff O’Connor, Master RKC, telling the men to use some “manly” kettlebells, not the sissy light ones.  He meant kettlebells over 24 kg (53 lbs).  So, taking his advice, albeit almost a year later, I got a pair of 24 kg, a pair of 28 kg (62 lbs), and a 32 kg (72 lbs).  I remember when I got my first 24 kg how small the 16 kg and even 20 kg kettlebells looked next to it.  Now my 24 kg kettlebells look pretty small next to the 32 kg.

Yesterday I picked up and pressed the 28 kg on each side.  It felt good and surprisingly didn’t require a lot of effort.  This is significant, because I proved to myself how far I’ve come since I first picked up a kettlebell (an 8 kg on June 21, 2010—interesting that in retrospect I consider that date as a milestone) and even since I certified RKC on May 1, 2011.  During the cert I set a PR by pressing the 28 kg with my right arm (my “stronger” side); I couldn’t do it with my left arm.

Yesterday I also picked up the 32 kg and cleaned it with each arm.  I tried to press double 32 kg kettlebells at a workshop on March 24 but I wasn’t able to.  I will press the 32 kg with each arm and eventually press double 32’s.  I know I will because I will continue to improve in my training, but most important, I will do it because I want to.  I want to continue to show myself how far I’ve come.



Michael owning the bottoms up

Growing up, I wasn’t very athletic, at least in the traditional sense. In grammar school I was usually the last to be picked for a team. In high school, I was the kid who always raised his hand first, sat in the front, and walked around with an armload of books (I guess I was weight training and didn’t realize it). I got on the cross-country team because there weren’t any tryouts, and I figured I knew how to run—little did I know that running over three miles at a time was not quite the same as running away to hide playing a game of kick the can.

As an adult, I considered myself one of those people with a “fast metabolism” that could eat anything he wanted and not gain any weight. So I really didn’t exercise much, other than roller skating at the local roller rink once a week depending on where I lived. About 10 years ago I began to realize that I didn’t have the “fast metabolism” like I used to. It probably had nothing to do with an essentially sedentary lifestyle, a desk job and stress with the desk job… Then about five years ago, I had gained about 40 pounds—my trousers didn’t fit, my belts were too small, my shirts were a bit tight around my stomach.

I had “exercised” off and on; I had some dumbbells and a barbell that I used every now and then, I bought a push-up gizmo and a pull-up gizmo and an “extreme” program, but I never stuck with anything. I always had an excuse to put it off—too tired, too late after work, got something else to do, it’s boring, it’s too much work to work out, I really don’t look that bad anyway.

In April 2010, Karen started an online kettlebell and nutrition program. At the time I thought kettlebells were “for women” so I paid no attention. I figured it couldn’t hurt to change the way I ate so I started the nutrition program in May. I lost about 10 pounds in a month, just eating better. What a concept. Gradually, Karen convinced me to give a kettlebell workout a try (in the way that a loving wife convinces her husband to do what’s really good for him when he thinks he knows it all and resists her in every way). On June 21, 2010 I picked up my first kettlebell and I haven’t stopped training with them since. I am stronger, leaner and have more endurance. I truly feel good about how I look and feel—not only on the outside, but more important, on the inside as well.

I enjoyed training with kettlebells so much that I decided to certify as a Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) instructor. I made the decision with trepidation, as the certification is three days of physical and mental endurance and strength. I wanted to prove to myself that I could finally do something athletic, something physically demanding that was well above average. I passed the certification in May 2011, about a year after I decided to get myself fit and healthy and about ten months after I first picked up a kettlebell. For me personally, it is an understatement to say that was a life changing experience. Indeed, it was a life defining experience. Being healthy and fit is a lifestyle for me.

Better yet, Karen and I are doing this together. We certified together, we train together, and we train others together.