Hi everyone! I’m so excited that Athena asked me to write a guest post, especially since Fitness and Feta was the first healthy living blog I ever read! My name is Lindsey, and I am an IT analyst, personal trainer, and strength coach in Boston. I met Athena at work, and we instantly bonded over blogs and fitness! 🙂

I am here today to talk to you about one of my very favorite things: the kettlebell! I started using kettlebells after running long distance for years but not seeing any real changes in my strength and endurance. I knew I had to make a change! In 2010, I picked up a kettlebell, and with the help of some amazing coaches, I never looked back. The kettlebell is absolutely my favorite training tool. They are functional and get you STRONG, they allow you to burn fat while building muscle (an amazing combination), and they are pretty space-friendly – I always have one or two in my car. I have done kettlebell workouts on the beach, while home for holidays, and all over Boston during the warmer months. You can truly bring them anywhere, and it only takes one kettlebell to give you a full body workout.

Kettlebells Under Zakim

After a few years of training with primarily kettlebells and barbells, I knew I wanted to get kettlebell certified. Enter: StrongFirst. StrongFirst was developed by Pavel Tsatsouline, who originally brought kettlebell training to the United States. StrongFirst is first and foremost a school of strength and prides itself on teaching “an integrated approach to overall strength and fitness.” Its original course, the StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Certification, is a three-day course that teaches students the principles of strength relating to kettlebell training. While you must be extremely physically and mentally prepared to attend the certification (a 30% failure rate is typical), it is also very much a teaching certification. That is what attracted me to the three day cert – I wanted to leave the course feeling like I was fully prepared to teach a brand new student how to work with a kettlebell.

StrongFirst Logo

Around this time last year, I finally made the big decision to sign up for the Kettlebell Instructor Certification course. It was to be held in Philadelphia, PA in September 2014. This gave me approximately six months to prepare. Believe me, I needed all the time I could get! Ready to kick butt at this certification, I knew step one was to find a trainer that would prepare me for the three day physical challenge. After much research, I joined Achieve Fitness in Somerville, MA. They had amazing Yelp reviews, and the owners, Jason and Lauren, both are StrongFirst certified! I knew I could count on them to get me prepared. This was the best decision I could have made – Lauren and Jason are the real deal!

StrongFirst Certification: With Lauren and Jason

And so my training began. I prepared with the StrongFirst weight class standards in mind. If a woman weighs under 123.5 lbs, they are to use double 12kg kettlebells for the weekend. If you weigh in over 123.5 lbs, you use the 16kg bells. Similarily, men under 132 lbs. use two 20kg bells, while men over that weight use double 24kg. Regardless of your weight, those are HEAVY kettlebells! I decided to not worry about my weight and train with the 16kg kettlebells. I wanted to arrive in Philly prepared and not worried about “making weight.” Lauren and Jason gave me the confidence and training I needed to meet that goal.

My six months of training focused on the following areas:

1. Surviving Three Days of Intense Work in Philly
Though the cert included written and physical tests, I was most concerned about being prepared to spend three days swinging, snatching, and pressing kettlebells! I trained with heavier kettlebells than I would have to use at the cert, I did lots of farmer’s carries and racked kettlebell holds to make sure my grip was strong, and I was obsessive about my callus maintenance! One of the biggest problems people at the cert had were their calluses ripping. By the end of the three days, my hands HURT, but never ripped! I was very thankful that I was so diligent about caring for my hands during training.

StrongFirst Certification

2. The Skills Test
In front of your team lead and four assistants, I had to perform 5 reps of the following lifts:

  • Double swing
  • Double clean
  • Double press (this was the toughest for me!)
  • Double squat
  • Single arm snatch
  • Turkish get up (1 rep each side)

This part of the certification was daunting because all eyes were on you! I was expected to have perfect form for all lifts. Since this happened on day three, everyone was already very sore!

StrongFirst Certification

3. The Written Test
This portion required the student to answer 50 multiple choice questions about kettlebell training, strength, and StrongFirst principles. After living and breathing StrongFirst for six months, this was a breeze!

4. The Snatch Test

Ohhhhh, the snatch test! This was the final test of the weekend, on day three, when your hands and body were pretty much completely worn out. Students were required to snatch the kettlebell 100 times in 5 minutes. I practiced weekly for this test, using a variety of formats. The format I liked best was 10 snatches on the right and 10 on the left each minute. If I did it properly, this took me about 40 seconds. I then rested 20 seconds to the top of the next minute. If I did this on certification day, I would have finished in 4:40.

I was told by many coaches to trust my training and do what I had practiced. However, when it was time for me to test, I had so much adrenaline that I went nuts! I snatched the bell 50 times on my right side before switching arms, and only placed it down once. It was seriously such a blur – I can barely remember finishing! I ended up finishing in less than 3:30 – HOW did that happen!?! When it was over, I was so relieved!

At the end of the three days, I learned that I passed my StrongFirst Certification and was officially a StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Instructor. This was a crazy feeling! This had been my goal for so long, and I officially crushed it. Here I am crossing it off from the “goal board” at my gym – what a fun moment! It was icing on the cake that weeks after this picture was taken, I was asked to coach at Achieve. This NEVER feels like work!

StrongFirst Certification: passing

The certification was extremely demanding and required SO much preparation, but it was 100% worth it. The amount I learned was invaluable. I met fitness professionals from all over the country and took so much information home with me. I will never forget my SFG weekend!

StrongFirst Certification

Thank you so much to Athena for allowing me to share my love for StrongFirst with the blog world! If anyone is interested in learning more about the kettlebell or StrongFirst, please reach out to me! I teach kettlebell classes all over the city and am always happy to chat. And finally, some exciting news: my gym, Achieve Fitness Boston, is holding the Boston StrongFirst Level I Certification this August! The certification is August 14-16 and is a wonderful chance for any Boston area fitness professionals to get SFG certified. Six of us at Achieve are SFGs and we have nothing but amazing things to say about the certification and education that comes with it!

StrongFirst Achieve Fitness

For more info about SFGI, head to http://www.strongfirst.com/kettlebell-instructor-certification-sfgi.

Readers, leave Lindsey some love. Have you heard of StrongFirst before? Are any of you kettlebell certified? What is a goal that you’ve had for a while that you recently accomplished? 

Thank you, Lindsey, for sharing your story on F&F!