I’ve reached a time in my life where I’ve raised my children and climbed the career ladder, with all that entails, and now have some resources and a little freedom. Time has taught me to take advantage of opportunities when you see them because they may not come again. So when I saw that Anton and Alexander were running a seminar in Kilkenny during my school break I decided to go for it (school holidays are generous but do restrict when I can travel), I like a little adventure!
The taxi came at 3:00am Monday morning and whisked me over to our local airport in plenty of time for my flight to Dublin. The journey was long but largely uneventful and I was able to check into my hotel early afternoon, catching up with some sleep and then going for a stroll in Kilkenny. As this is half term I treated myself to a nice hotel with a swimming pool, great breakfast buffet (not slimy scrambled eggs) and no squabbling prostitutes in the middle of the night. The only downside was the 20 minute walk, not a problem when the sun was shining, but I did get a little wet when the heavens opened.
9:00am Monday was a little different to my usual Monday morning, sat outside The training rooms waiting for everyone to arrive. Anton, Alexander and Mark pulled up, piling out of the car full of smiles and hearty handshakes. I was really surprised to note that we were a very small group.
Lessons started at 9:30 ish with lectures about history (complete with test!) and training regimes. Anton and Alexander’s English was much better than my non-existent Russian, they explained some really complex ideas very well.
This was followed by warm up, a quick run round the yard outside, some active stretches and a few swings.(I’m learning quickly that lunch does not happen during training days or competition, hence the good breakfast) Anton and Alexander took turns to demonstrate both jerk and snatch, breaking down into small steps, allowing us time to practice and then do short workouts. I played safe at first, keeping my weight low. Then I took on more challenge as I grew more confident. We were also treated to some great demonstration sessions by both athletes. The small group meant we got plenty of help and advice. Then we were treated to a little GPP ( general strength and conditioning) Russian style, the infamous pancake work out. A circuit I have not shared with my trainer! Although I will say that the circuit classes at my club offer a similar level of challenge.
The session finished around 4:00pm with an invitation to come back in the evening and join with the group session. Mark kindly gave me a lift back to my hotel, I had a quick bath, something to eat and then made my way back to the Training rooms, hoping my energy would hold. The evening session was great, covering jerk and snatch again. Both Russians seemed to relax more with this larger group and we had some fun. The Kilkenny women were lovely, welcoming me with smiles and hugs. On and off the platform, kettlebell sport is very friendly.
Tuesday morning began with more theory; diet, rest and how to stage a competition. Judging Anton and Alexander was a little unnerving but also very entertaining, we all laughed a lot. Anton also shared how he ensured that he fell just at the top of his weight class. I have been mulling this over for a while, because I usually compete a good 5 kilos below the top of my weight class. In terms of coefficient this works well, however most competitions are judged on absolute numbers which may mean I’m operating at a slight disadvantage. After this we warmed up and spent some time on clean and jerk form. I received an appreciative nod from Alexander for my clean, phew, I’ve only been working on it for 6 years! The day followed a similar pattern, opportunities for observation and a final workout which looked much easier than it really was.
My favourite moment came at the end of Tuesday afternoon when Anton started to talk about tension and relaxation. He prodded us all in the back and commented about the amount of tension we were all carrying. Inevitably I was the worst (my job is known for it’s stress levels). Then he singled one of the men out for a back massage. As, at this point, I was the only woman (again) I thought I might miss out. But no, much to my amusement I found myself face down underneath a burly Russian receiving a great back massage. I know lots of middle aged women who would pay a great deal of money for that!
At the end of the session we all received certificates and posed for photos. Once again we were invited back for an evening session. I went back to the hotel for something to eat and a shower. I must have looked fatigued because I got a sympathetic smile and efficient service from a waitress who had not been particularly approachable the day before.
Again the evening session was relaxed and friendly, this was a new group so we sped through jerk, snatch and clean. I think Anton would have continued until midnight had Mark not stopped him. As Mark had mentioned going for a drink afterwards, I hung around with the other person who travelled some distance. We were both laughing at Anton who was messing around lifting weights and kissing biceps. He is quite a character. I was gifted some yoghurt and a banana at the end – perhaps I looked like I needed it.
Drinking in Kilkenny on Tuesday is, I sense, not usually very lively so we did bring some life to the bar. As I’d not eaten much I was quite measured and steady for me. Anton and Alexander were on the whisky and under other circumstances I would have joined them, but not that evening. Talking to Mark and Eddy about future plans was very interesting – I was a little disappointed that there was not more time for this. I’ve been watching the use of kettlebells grow in Britain for many years and am really interested in what happens next. I am also disappointed I won’t make St Petersburg in the summer, maybe next year. I decided to go at the point we all went into the small night club next door, leaving quietly so that no one made a fuss about walking me back – I’ve survived many years of walking around Nottingham.
Leaving Kilkenny last year was easy as I was frustrated with myself for not performing as well as I knew I could. This time I left with a sense of regret. Partly because I’d had a great few days and partly because I wasn’t able to come back and compete this year. Lots of food for thought about my form, particularly in the jerk, where I have the most issues and some deeper knowledge about how to approach training. If you get the opportunity to train with either Anton and Alexander or Mark and Eddie, take it – you won’t regret it.