I’ve just been looking at a team mate’s blog and decided to write a post. However, when I looked at this site I realised that I haven’t blogged for over a year, ouch! I guess this is because I’ve been so busy just doing stuff rather than writing about it.
I’m now treasurer of the English Kettlebell Sport Team and I run the website (WordPress of course). I’ve come a long way from the little woman in the corner of the gym who inspired the name of this blog. It’s good to contribute something more than competing and training. Watching the sport grow from tiny roots and being part of the process has been a real privilege. It’s easy to stay within the boundaries of the big sports with their enormous funding and publicity machines, finding something new and working on growing it is challenging, but ultimately very rewarding.
My training has gone from strength to strength – literally. In February a small group from Team England made a flying visit to Ireland to compete in one of their competitions. I was on good form and hit 115 reps with 16kg, allowing me to qualify for the 2015 English team very early in the year. The Irish were lovely, showering us with warmth and presents – I must go back.
Then I went through quite a low period when I struggled to make the reps and got very tense about it. That early triumph put pressure on me and I didn’t cope well. I had a training session with Ivan Densiov a few years ago and he told me to take control of my own technique development and think through what I needed to do so I understood why I was using a technique or approach to training rather than doing something because my coach told me to. So I started to look for my own solutions. I approached both a sports psychologist and a fellow Team England athlete who offered diet coaching. Within weeks, my poor, long suffering, partner had his diet totally overhauled as I exchanged unhealthy food for healthier alternatives and he witnessed me walking round the house muttering “I’m proud of myself” to myself for the next month. The effect was dramatic, initially, I started to snatch 20kg, work with double kettlebells in jerk and I hit 4 minutes with 16kg. But competition was still an issue – I got so nervous.
In August and September my coach changed his approach to my programming. At the IUKL World Championships this year I had decided to enter both the 16kg amateur 58kg snatch and the veteran 50-55yrs, under 68kg, snatch (12kg). I suspect that this was a challenge for my coach but he rose to that challenge admirably. I suddenly found myself with one ten minute set after another, sometimes with gloves on, and my running became more challenging with longer runs and intervals. The combination of this change in training and the change in diet led to a change in body shape and my level of fitness increased dramatically.
The time I had spent with the sports psychologist also began to embed and pay off. She taught me to celebrate the small gains and victories rather than worry about what I couldn’t do and, more importantly, she encouraged me to think logically. I know from the past that clock watching during a set made me tense. So I carefully chose a number of reps, based on how my training felt, and turned round the clock. Almost 10 minutes later with 120 reps under my belt, I’d beaten the mental block and had a plan for the World Championships.
November came round very quickly. The World Championships were in Dublin this year, much easier to organise and I didn’t have to deal with the press as we were last year’s novelty story! Weigh in was just as chaotic, this year we only had one old Russian gentleman as the Irish had insisted on a woman’s presence. However I was greeted by the sight of a naked American woman, trying to make weight for the 4th time, Valerie, the woman who beat me last year. That woman is competitive.
Once again the atmosphere was fantastic, the event had grown again, nearly 600 athletes from all over the World, all ages, shapes and sizes. Many familiar faces were there, greeted with huge smiles and hugs. I was particularly pleased to see old friends from Kilkenny, who have joined the IUKL. Team England had grown to 20, a mixture of old faces from last year and new athletes competing internationally for the first time.
Amateur snatch was timetabled early on the first day. This gave me no time to get very nervous and having a plan in my head really, really helped – 60 each side was the goal and I knew I could do it. This time when I stood on the platform my fight or flight response was under control, enough adrenaline to compete but not so much that it was overwhelming. Sixty reps down on my dodgy side, I was flying! And then, it happened – I changed hands too vigorously and dropped the kettlebebell. I was so upset I walked off, the judge pointed at the bell, so I went back and stood it up. My coach came over but I was so angry with myself I couldn’t speak so I went off and stamped my foot a little. When I got back, he made me finish my set. I felt foolish on the mats but it was worthwhile and I felt better afterwards.
The rest of my team were fantastic, putting in some amazing and inspiring performances. I was so proud to be part of such an amazing group of people. My coach made me particularly proud, his first international set with 32kgs and he made the whole ten minutes. We even got our first gold medal, Dell Wilson and came 7th overall, one place higher than last year. I also made new friends, particularly with the Korean team. I persuaded one of them to give me an excellent shoulder massage, causing my coach to laugh out loud. In return, I joined his team mate in shouting encouragement from the barriers, he was brilliant, winning two bronze medals.
Once again the 50-55yrs snatch was one of the last flights, I wasn’t looking forward to this, I had a silver medal to defend but the competition had more than doubled and everyone was heavier than me. I was also competing against two excellent English women who would normally be in the next weight class up. Just before our flight the counters and timers broke down and everything became a little chaotic. My friend Maxine put in a fantastic set without any means of pacing herself, winning silver, but I missed it because we were trying to keep warmed up.
The moment arrived when I was stood on the platform again. In training I had glove snatched 12kg for ten minutes, doing the time wasn’t a problem, so decided to go for it, whatever the judge was indicating, this time he wasn’t going to slow me down. We were counted in, I picked up the bell, made eye contact with the judge and then gave the snatch set of my life. He did gesticulate at me a few times but I just kept going. I think they gave us some leeway due to the timer issue, but I had also worked on my lockout so he rarely indicated lock out. I changed hands carefully this time (apparently my coach couldn’t look and my partner was pacing the room at home) and continued going as fast as I could until I could hold the kettlebell no more, fortunately 10 seconds from the end.
We couldn’t see our scores so I went over to the judge, he had to show me mine twice, a PB by forty reps! 226 snatches, I walked off in shock but smiling. I hadn’t beaten Valerie (again), but I had beaten the rest of the field and came in second. This time the medal felt well earned, even Anton came up and gave me a hug (a moment to treasure, I felt like a school girl meeting her pop idol!).
I learned some important lessons this year about taking charge of my approach to training and improving how I regarded competition. I have a very good coach, who has programmed me brilliantly this year, we have worked together for sometime now and trust each other. He knows I’ll put in the work, I know he does not ask me to do anything I can’t do, important when you are pushing forward all the time. But changing how I regarded myself as an athlete and dealing with nerves is as much my responsibility as his. I have finally begun to understand myself and how to help myself when I get a little stuck.
In fact I feel that I’ve grown up as an athlete this year and that I’ve earned my place on the platform.