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"It's Got to Be the Kettlebells!"

November 12, 2008 11:03 AM

That's the phrase I have been using a lot these last couple of years. Let me explain how and why I became acquainted with Kettlebells.

In 2003 my doctors told me that they could get me a medical retirement (disability) from the Phoenix Fire Department because my back was in such bad shape. This was after a 2001 back surgery.

I had been on the Phoenix Fire Department for 18 years at that time. In 1997 I retired from USAF after 21 years of service (6 years active + 15 years reserves) as a Pararescueman. With the two careers I have the bumps and bruises to go with the job, but to be an active guy and to hear the words "medical disability" did not set well with me.

I thought I would just have to live the rest of my life in pain but wanted to get back to an active life. I had tried everything from A-Z. I spent a lot of time and money to get my back healed. And still, I was in pain 24/7.

A friend of mine called and told me about an article written by a fellow USAF Pararescueman, Nate Morrison on how to combine strength and endurance with something called a kettlebell. This was something that I thought I could use. I ordered the book and a kettlebell. After reading the book and practicing for a week, I still remember my first full workout. In 45 minutes I was drenched in sweat looking at this cannonball with a handle thinking 'that was an odd way to workout, but man what a workout!'. In the next couple of weeks my back was in a lot less pain. I felt I was much more flexible, getting stronger and my cardio was being challenged. In the morning I did not feel like the tin man. All of this made me think —"it's got to be the kettlebells".

On our annual Fire Department physical I did better on the treadmill just using kettlebells as my cardio workout than I had in previous years when I actually trained on the treadmill. That year I also was able to dead lift 452 lbs (I weigh 210 lbs). The previous year I was not even able to perform the dead lift due to back pain. "It's got to be the kettlebells".

For the last 5 years I have competed in the local sprint triathlon. I have better times using the kettlebells as my primary workout tool than I did when I trained in all three events.

In 2003 I left the Power to the People! book lying around with Pavel and his bear chest on the cover. My wife of 20 years looked at it and said, "that's the kind of body that I like". (Thanks, Pavel). Recently in 2007, she told me that I have a better body now then when we got married. "It's got to be the kettlebells"

In 2006, after being retired from Pararescue for 10 years, I decided to rejoin (at 48 years old). The physical test was held at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson AZ. The temperature that day reached 102. Ten guys tried out - most in their 20's, ex-military and in good shape. We ran 3 miles, did calisthenics, and swam 1500 meters. I was amazed that I was the first out of the pool by one full lap and quickly recovered. There was no doubt that the kettlebells prepared me for that and the extra special 4 hours of hell that came next. "It's got to be the kettlebells." I passed and was offered a position but a sinus condition (previous sinus surgery due to a tumor) prevented me from accepting. Bummer.

My wife and 4 children all use kettlebells and are active in sports. They realize that this truly is a total gym in one hand and it prepares you for any sport. They have been told several times that they are some of the strongest and well conditioned kids that the coaches have ever coached. My 18 year old son just requested kettlebells to be sent to him at the Air Force Academy because he missed using them. They will have their success stories too.

By September 2006 I became a RKC Instructor, had a great time, met Pavel and other great people. I have spent hundreds of hours training mostly firefighters with great success. They have realized the many benefits of kettlebell training. The Phoenix Fire Department has ordered over 100 kettlebells plan on ordering more due to increased demand. Other Arizona Fire Departments are requesting my assistance with kettlebell training.

In June 2007 I faced one of my greatest fears: public speaking. I was asked to speak at a general session at the Phoenix Fire Department's Health, Fitness and Safety Symposium. There were about 500 people with 1000 eyes staring at me holding my cannon ball with a handle. The firefighters present were from all over the United States and other countries. What a great feeling to conquer that fear. We received great remarks and generated a lot of interest with the kettlebell session.

I have gotten my active life back and am pain free, because as you know.....
"it's got to be the kettlebells!"

Thanks, Pavel,

Bob Ross, RKC