It’s All About the Data

by Laurel Blackburn on April 28, 2015

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Laurel Blackburn Senior RKC

I am a data freak. I love tracking my fitness, my nutrition, my accomplishments and my goals. I do this both for my clients and myself.

Back in the day when I first started bodybuilding, I just used a notebook. I jotted down my workouts and food but not much else. I really did not know if I was making progress in my strength. I did however know exactly what I was eating and how many calories I was consuming everyday. Keeping a food journal was a priority because I had to get as lean as possible for every show.

That was years ago and my goals have changed.

Since then I completed two half marathons. I printed out a running program I found online and stuck to that. I never logged my runs or anything else, I just followed the plan. I had days where my runs were horrible and I would end up walking a lot. I had days in which I felt I could run forever.

Had I kept a log and a food journal, I may have been able to see why; on certain days I felt like I was running through mud and why some days I felt like an Olympian. Maybe my nutrition, hydration and sleep had a big effect on my training. I would never know because I didn’t keep data.

Over the past few years my goals have changed. For several years I didn’t do much but train with kettlebells. I went from program to program and tried and stopped every one of them. I had workout dyslexia. I was always getting distracted by a shiny new program.

My personal training business pretty much followed the same fate. I either did not write down programs or I would throw something together before I headed to the gym to train my clients.

They did see results with weight loss and body composition which was fine because that is pretty much all they cared about. I never kept data on their actual progress in the gym. Many times I would have to ask how much weight we used on our last workout. Had I kept data, I would have been able to show them their progress.

Things changed for me when I began setting goals that had deadlines attached to them. Had I not kept data on my training, I doubt I would have accomplished much.

One of my goals, and still is to be the oldest woman to complete the Iron Maiden challenge. For those who may not know; I would need to do a pull-up, pistol squat and press the 24 kilo (53 pound) kettlebell.

First thing I did was to hire a coach. Second thing I did was to get a good log to journal my workouts and more importantly, my progress.

Over the years I have bought, downloaded and made my own workout logs. None of them had ALL of the features I wanted.

Convict Conditioning Log BookI came across the Convict Conditioning Log Book. Even though it’s focus is on the CC program, I loved the layout and used it for my personal goals. I don’t do the CC program and didn’t pay attention to that part of the log. It didn’t matter because the actual log pages had everything I was looking for.

Once I started keeping data on my workouts, I was able to progress and regress as needed. I also was able to share with workouts with my coach. If he asked me about a past workout or weights used, I could flip to the page and let him know.

Having this data was crucial for reaching my goals. My coach was able to use this info to program my training cycles.

That is not the only data I keep. I still log my food and my running.

I am proud to say that I am one of those obnoxious people who have to take 5 minutes before a run to start my heart rate monitor, my Map My Run app, my music and my interval timer.

Funny thing is, I am not even a serious runner and I’m not very good at it. I do it for fun and to spend time with my friends. Do I really need that much data on my running? No. I just love having the data and more importantly, the gadgets.


Senior RKC, Laurel Blackburn owns Boot Camp Fitness and Training and Tallahassee Kettlebells.  Look for Laurel at or

In her early fifties, she is out to prove that age is just a number. Her goal is to motivate and inspire people everywhere, both young and old that strength, flexibility and mobility can get better with age. Follow her adventures on her blog:


My RKC Experience

by Neal DenHartog on April 22, 2015

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Neal DenHartog Snatch Test

Last weekend I had the opportunity to undertake one of the most rewarding endeavors of my burgeoning fitness career. I attended a three day workshop to become an RKC instructor. I knew going in that it was going to be both physically demanding and extremely educational in terms of refining not only my own technique, but how to teach the skills properly to others. The workshop did not disappoint in either regard and it was easy to see why the RKC is still the Gold Standard when it comes to kettlebell certifications.

I had some reservations going in regarding my readiness. A low back injury in February took away a good chunk of my preparation time. I wasn’t feeling fully recovered until just a week or two out from the weekend. I waited until the last minute to not defer my spot to a later date. If anything, I’m stubborn and when I commit to something I follow through. So, despite my less-than-ideal preparation, I showed up in Ohio ready to learn.

As we met that first day and started introducing ourselves I began to feel even more nervous. Our small class of nine people had pretty diverse backgrounds. Many of them had some coaching experience and most had trained with an experienced RKC instructor. I had done neither and was starting to feel like a bit of an impostor. I was self taught with books, DVDs and good old “YouTube University”, and had been programming my own workouts since January. Was I really ready for this?

My fears were quickly quelled as we started receiving instruction on the basic skills. I have to hand it to the trio of great instructors–they were able to present the various intricacies of each skill in an easy to learn, and easy to assimilate manner. I had to treat myself as a blank slate and erase all of the bad habits I’d formed over the past year and a half, and then build myself back up according to their instruction. We were presented with a plethora of coaching cues and drills that allowed the refinements to slowly integrate into our form.

By the end of the first day I had survived the endless drilling, a couple of workouts, and felt like my skills were improving to the point that I may just pass some of the tests on the final day. The second day was shaping up to be even tougher, with the vaunted snatch test to be thrown into the middle of more drilling, learning, and workouts.

Lori Crock coaching Neal DenHartog

Waking up sore and tired that second day made the idea of surviving a little more far fetched. This is where the magic of the group mission started to take over. We were all in the same boat. We were all sore and tired. At the same time we were all striving toward a common goal of becoming a certified instructor and that common purpose raised the energy of the group. The camaraderie and support was growing and each of us fed off that energy to push past the points of physical and mental fatigue that were threatening to take over.

None of this was more evident that when it came time to execute the snatch test. The snatch test is a simple, but nasty five minutes of work. The goal: complete 100 snatches in less than five minutes. I had done it a few times in training, but it’s not a test that ever gets easy. Add in the additional fatigue from a day and a half of kettlebell training and it’s no wonder many of us were nervous going in.

We had each other’s backs though. There was hooting and hollering, fist bumps, high fives, and boisterous cheers as each and every one of us passed our test. It was a sight to witness and a testament to the character of each participant.

My test was a struggle, as I knew it would be. Much like my endurance racing career, I went out fast and struggled to hold on in the latter stages of the test. I set the bell down late and had to give myself a mental kick the pants to fight through the fatigue and pick it up to finish my last few reps. I’m not sure how, but I knocked out rep 100 a split second before the timer hit five minutes. Success!

As ecstatic as we all were, there was still work to be done further refining our skills for the evaluation the next morning. I woke up even more sore that third day, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel, with the possibility of fulfilling a dream by the end of the day.

The skill evaluation was nerve-wracking, knowing every minute nuance of our technique was being scrutinized by our instructors. With that over, the focus turned to coaching, where we designed and took both a class member and a brave volunteer from the community through a workout. It was our chance to apply what we had been taught to someone else. Every skill, assessment, drill, cue, stretch, correction, progression, and regression we had learned was at our disposal to create a helpful session.

Neal Den Hartog Kettlebell Swing

To top the weekend off, we ended with our graduate workout. It was a brutal session of cleans, presses, swings, and squats. Twenty-five minutes of shear work, where we were only allowed to put the kettlebell down a couple of times. It was the single toughest kettlebell workout I have been through, and the perfect test of physical and mental strength and endurance. Again, the will and determination of the group carried us through the workout and by the time we cranked out our final swing we knew the hard part was over.

After that it was just a matter of awaiting our results from the instructors. There were more tears, smiles, and hugs from the group as we learned our fate. Unfortunately I did not receive passing marks on all of my skills. In the end the get-up got me, but it’s not the end of the road. I will have a chance to retest and ultimately earn my certification.

I won’t lie and say that I’m not a little disappointed, but looking back at where I was at the beginning of the weekend I’m quite proud of what I accomplished. None of it would have been possible if not for the great leadership provided by Master RKC Andrea Du Cane, RKC Team Leader Lori Crock, and RKC Chris Meredith. Their insight, encouragement, and direction over the course of the weekend was invaluable.

My classmates were equally amazing, contributing to the coaching and encouragement as we progressed. Who knew you could have so much fun during such a draining weekend of work?

RKC Group Photo Dublin Ohio

I walked away from the workshop with my confidence at an all time high. Although I still have some work to do on my get-up, I know that I can teach these skills to others, and do a good job of it. I no longer feel like an imposter. It is not a question of “if” I will earn my certification.

It is simply a matter of when.


Neal DenHartog is an RKC candidate from Ames, Iowa who recently attended the RKC event in Dublin, Ohio. He is currently refining his Turkish Getup in hopes of achieving his RKC within the next 90 days. He can be reached at His blog is


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