This weekend I set the first Danish record in extreme kettlebell marathon under the International Kettlebell Marathon Federation.
Kettlebell marathons 2-24 hours are classified as “extreme” and are “hors competition” events, seen more as a record attempt or exhibition lift. Only 30 and 60 minutes are competition events, which must be a relief for the judges…
The rules for 2 hour events are roughly the same as for kettlebell marathon competitions events, but free swings between reps and resting the kettlebell on the shoulder or in dead hang is allowed. Placing the kettlebell on the ground still terminates and voids the set.
I have to give special thanks to my friends from Kettlebell Sport Danmark that came to support, judge and help: Kim Henning, Marlene Henning and their sons Simon and Lucas, and to Frans Bach, Bo Hjelm and also Bo Bach Jensen who took the black and white picture for one of the local newspaper “Sønderborg Nyt”.
We stood in the middle of Sonderborg pedestrian street on market day, in front of the local Intersport shop, with lots of curious people stopping by and picking the kettlebells we had for demo.
If you’re looking to promote Kettlebell sport in your area, this is a great way. I involved a couple of local shops with a guessing competition as to how many tons I would lift. Some people stayed to talk and watch longer than I had expected.
The winners are: Michael B. (in Sønderborg) and John H. (online).
I also have to thank my sponsors: KettlebellShop.dk and Skærtoft Mølle.
Anyway, roughly 5 weeks ago, I had no intention of doing such a long event…
I was thinking of doing a 30 min demo with 20kg. But after sharing my idea with IKMF president Stephane Dogman, he convinced me to try 2 hours with a light weight and cruisy tempo.
So with the limited time I had to get ready for this extreme kettlebell marathon, I trained with a big focus on aerobic intervals and repeats, doing a long straight set once a week. I only attempted to do a 60 min set once. After that, I convinced myself that I should be able to just wing it on the day.
I trained 2-3 times a week, lots of rope skipping and stuck to 16-20kg kettlebells, with a training tempo of 12-14rpm.
All assistance and other exercises were cut off to the strict minimum to enhance recovery. I used my Indian clubs and went walking or for a quick ocean dip the other days.
I cleaned and jerked a 16kg kettlebell 1394 times, at body weight 67kg and 44 years old.
I pretty much stuck to 12 reps a minute all the way. About 1h30 into it I started to feel the fatigue and dropped my pace to a very cruisy 10rpm. My arms felt heavy and my legs slow. In retrospect, I think it was mostly mental as I nearly effortlessly picked up the pace again the last 15 minutes.
After the first hour I also made sure to stabilize and engage my mid section in every portion of the lift. Some people call kettlebell sport “soft style” but you definetly do not want to be a ragdoll while swinging and putting a weight overhead. The more tired you become, the more likely you are of cutting corners and lifting with sloppy technique, increasing the chance of an injury.
Some people were wondering what was going on inside my mind.
For the most part, getting a valid rep, one at a time.
I turned my focus on my breathing, heart rate, pacing, optimizing my technique, not using excessive tension, swinging my free arm, achieving an early stable lockout already in the 2nd dip and so on.
I can remember a couple of no counts because my mind was not focused. I bounced out of the clean and even failed a jerk while trying to talk to a passer-by.
After an hour I also had to wiggle my toes every 5 min, while keeping my balance… It’s hard to stay on the same one spot for 2 hours.
I lifted with kettleguards because I had spray painted the kettlebell and was not keen on having direct skin contact with it. I had removed all but 1 plastic insert I forgot on the right side, and it annoyed the hell out of me. That’s something to consider.
It turns out that most people lift mostly “jerk” when it comes to events over 1 hour. One and a half hour into my attempt, I think I found out why. Chaffing… Suddenly the tip of my little fingers started to feel very raw. And then I could feel a bubble in my palms. I did pull on the skin when I was done with the marathon, and it does look worse than it really is. But I can only guess that a heavier weight would inflict some serious damage.
There is no doubt in my mind that lifting for 2 hours and more is an extreme kettlebell marathon, both on the mental and physical level. And at my bodyweight, to stay healthy and injury free, I doubt I would choose to lift over 20kg for such a length of time.
I salute the awesome athletes that have put impressive performances over the years, and those to come.
I was expecting some muscular and joint soreness the day after, but quite amazingly, apart from general fatigue, there is no ache to report. I did consider leaving the kettlebells in the car for a few days, but I eventually walked them to my cellar.
I now plan to take a week off training to let the body recover and adapt. Looking forward to doing some relaxed activities like ChiKung, stretching, walking, rebounding on the trampoline and light Indian club swinging.
If you are considering doing a kettlebell marathon, here is what I ate
8:00 am: barley stir fry with eggs for breakfast (Gladiators ate a high barley diet, so it only could be a good thing!)
9:00 am: 500 ml of beetroot juice (I drank the juice the last 3 days leading to the event. I recommend taking 2 “Beet it” shots instead, you get the same amount of nitrites with just 140ml. Easier on the stomach… According to research, 500 ml is the sweet spot for results).
11:00 am: one apple.
11:15 am: lift!
Under way, I ate 2-3 bananas and drank 1 electrolyte tab in 400ml water. I had to remind myself to take the time to drink and eat.
After checking the IKMF records and other sites with kettlebell records, I could find no mention of anyone listed for 2 hours of kettlebell long cycle, so it could be an official world first, in my age and bodyweight division at the very least!
Let’s see how long it stands…