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.
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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is http://iron2ironfitness.com.