Internal Dialogue of a Female Kettlebell Lifter: Part 1


Kettlebell Sport is an endurance sport more than anything else - not just of the body, but of the mind. Lifters push through an immense amount of discomfort to get through the mental and physical battle of a 10 minute set."What were you thinking while you were lifting?" is a common question from spectators, and as an athlete you often wonder whether everyone else on the platform next to you is struggling as much as you are. This series of posts is a chance to get a glimpse into the mind of a wide variety of lifters of all nationalities while completing a 10 minute set - male, female, beginner, elite, Bolt style, Girevoy Sport style, etc.  - KB Fit Britt

"When I step on the platform and the clock is counting down, I feel the adrenaline pumping. Minutes 1-2 I usually do 2 or 3 extra rpm than planned. Minute 3 I steady my pace, minute 4 I'm close to the switch, minute 5 dry mouth sets in ugh! Minute 6 Ok have to make it, minute 7 I got this, minute 8 almost there slow my pace to the plan and minute 9 sprint!!"

Emily Climer, Las Vegas Instagram @emilyclimer @healthypairlifestyle (Thanks Emily for suggesting this article topic!)

"For me, [a 10 minute set] is mainly a meditation. I'm not aware of thoughts, it's more of automatic pilot."

Lorna Kleidman, New York National Record Holder in 24kg Snatch

"The first minute or so, I'm hyper-focused on technique. I'm thinking about each rep, my breathing, and finding my groove. Then, to be honest, I kind of check out once I feel that auto-pilot sensation. When fatigue starts to set in, I think about technique again, specifically how I'm using my legs. It takes my mind off of my grip issues, and usually results in more reps! Every once in a while, I'll notice the music or something happening on the platform next to me, but like clouds, those thoughts breeze in and out. I have absolutely no recollection of my best sets, other than the first minute. I love it when that happens!"

Sara Moore, Washington D.C.

"What do I think about during a 10 minute set? Before I start, I’m always wondering if the music will suit me because I think that’s so important. The funny thing is that when the set is over and you ask what music was playing, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t hear anything during my set. My initial thought going into the set is always don’t go too fast out the gate. Set the pace you trained for and don’t panic. 30 secs in… ok you’re good. 1 min in… ok settle in now. I find a spot in front me to focus on and then bounce back and forth between it and the counter/timer. As the set continues and I get tired, I think crap how am I going to finish this and what would coach be saying now (he’s actually yelling it to me, but I don’t hear him; I don’t hear anything or anyone during my sets): “legs Teri” “breath Teri” “keep going Teri” “use your legs Teri”. And when minute 9 finally rolls around, I tell myself “GO, you’ve made it, now finish”. And when I am finished, I often ask myself "did I give it my all?" And then? Then I can't wait to do it again."

Teri Stabler, Florida Team USA member

"The early stages of a set for me are about settling into a rhythm. I focus on relaxing and checking my breathing and mentally checking other aspects of the lift - the back swing - the lock out etc. Minute 2 -3 I start counting reps in my head and do periodic check ins with the counter to make sure I`m not getting no counts and I’m not pacing too fast. Minute 4 I try and zone out, if I can get into minute 5 before I start getting grip fatigue I am happy. Once the grip starts to fail, I start mental challenges - get to a certain over rep count or just do 10 more reps. There is always a moment of nerves when you switch - no one wants to fluff that and I’m always much happier when that is over. I try to zone out on the right within the first 30 sec of switching - and if all is going to plan I can just listen for my coaches cues and make small adjustments. The last minute is always crazy - both mentally and physically - you can see a goal in sight, you just have to hold it together a little longer. For me, this is when I am most tuned into my coach - I don`t check the clock or counter so the verbal cues are key. The second the bell is down, my first thought is to catch the eye of my coach and then my team mates. No matter how the set went my team is always there and that support is important to me."

Claire Davies, New York Orion Strength Guild lifter / Kettlebell Wales team member

"In the first minute of competition, I warm myself up, relax, get rid of the stage fright, feel the platform under my feet and pick the training pace (count seconds, control breathing). I continue like this in the second minute. In the third minute I know there are only two minutes left before the hand switch. In the fourth minute I lower the pace in order to perform sprint in the last minute. Then I switch hands and repeat the whole story with the other hand. The worst comes in the seventh minute, when the body becomes exhausted and there are still three minutes to go. At this time, I concentrate on my fans and audience, listen to the voice of my coach, and think of all the efforts I put into training. It is worth staying on the platform until the last second of the tenth minute for the joy and satisfaction that come along with a good result. And afterwards I know it was not my last 10 minute set!"

Tajda Sobocan, Slovenia

"When the call came to LIFT!, I was focused entirely on the handle of my bell – as it swooped upward, I chant key phases to myself (Up! Lockout! Turn!  Waterfall!) while Michele gave verbal encouragement when needed.  It helps to have a coach very focused on you so when you get into the hypnotic portion of the first four minutes in, the coach can gently correct if she sees you’re not locking out, your swing is sloppy, tighten up the snatch, etc.

The next four minutes: switching arms at a rate of 4 reps per side. I focused on a spot on the building across the street, eyes switching to the clock and back to the building, and keeping up the chants (Up!  Lockout! Turn!  Waterfall!). At this second part of the flight, it’s hard not to watch the clock obsessively and think “Oh GOD why is it counting so slowly?!” This second portion, I allowed set downs and made sure I didn't exceed 30 seconds.

When the last minute came, I had a new surge of energy and I knew now was the time to give it my all. I chose my right hand, and just repped as many times as I possibly could, actually getting in one last lockout while watching the numbers tick down to “00:01” – that felt AMAZING."

Tracy Miller, California

"0:00-1:00: Hey! This isn’t so bad. I feel strong – I can do this. 
1:00-2:00: Wooooaw! 12 RPM!? Better slow down. Find your pace. 
2:00-3:00: Alright - I’ve got my pace. How much time do I have left?... Three minutes?! Just breathe Sarah. Hold rack as long as you need to. It’s just the two minute hump – once you’re at three minutes it’s all downhill. 
3:00-4:00: I’m tired. Maybe I should switch hands. Wait – don’t do that – you’ll have to go longer on your right arm. Take it 30 seconds at a time. 
4:00-5:00: Just 30 more seconds. Keep breathing. Everyone’s cheering! One more rep. You can switch anytime now – just try to get a few more on your left arm. Ok… that was ugly… you can switch now. 
5:00-6:00: Hey!! When did this bell get so light?! 
6:00-7:00: Just kidding… I wonder how much time I have left? Four minutes?! F*** - just take it one rep at a time. Hold the rack. Keep breathing. 
7:00-8:00: Three minutes to go. Can I do this? Maybe I should set the bell down. Nobody would care right? But my clients and friends are watching, and they’re cheering for me. Just 30 more seconds Sarah. That’s all you have to do is 30 more seconds. 
8:00-9:00: Two minutes left. Do not put the bell down. Just take it 30 seconds at a time. Throw the bell before you put the bell down. They’re cheering your name – do not stop!
9:00-10:00: Last minute! I think I can move a little faster. It’s only a minute. Don’t rest – just keep moving. The cheering is getting louder – keep moving Sarah. One more rep. Do not drop the bell. Just one more. One more. One more. Done!! I’m so happy I didn’t give up!!"

Sarah Jolliffe, Victoria, B.C.

"Wow, I'm finally here... I'm so excited. I'm just going to relax, do my best, be in the moment and enjoy all that I've trained for. So far, so good... should I speed up? Should I switch hands yet? No... keep going, just breathe and rack and close your eyes for a few seconds... wow... I feel so comfortable in rack I could probably fall asleep. Ok... ready to go again... change hands. Crap, this is getting hard... you had a baby with no anesthetic, this 10 minute set is a piece a cake compared to that... keep going... change hands again, no I want to tough it out, I'm training for Girevoy. This is BOLT dork, no one cares. Crap, I ripped my hand. Look at Josh (my coach), see if he sees any adjustments I need to make... oh yea... I forgot to breathe... thanks Josh.... I did it! I'm done... first comp is in the books."

Pamela Singer, California

"Standing on the mat waiting to start = “ok you can do this…let's get going”

Minute 1 = “you need to beat 155…keep your pacing” (watching the counter)

Minute 2 = “Relax and breathe…good pace”

Minute 3 = “Keep going….keep pace with Jessica (teammate on the platform beside me)

Minute 4 = “1 more minute- just last 1 more minute ….don’t lose your grip…bell up…..quick- lock- hold- breathe”

Minute 5 = “Beat 155! You are on pace…..make it to 5 minutes then you can switch…keep going”

Minute 6 = checking the clock and the rep counter

Minute 7 = “keep breathing almost done…good pace.. you are doing it”

Minute 8 = “Push through the pain…you are almost done”

Minute 9 = “Yes you are going to beat 155….now keep going”

Last minute = “Push it with all you have left….YES I DID IT – 159!"

Kasha Ross, 14 years old, Victoria, B.C. 16kg Snatch National Champion (68kg) Canadian Junior Record Holder

"Minute 1: always terrified. Worried about my form my pace and if I'll give up before 10 min.

Minute 2-3: I settle down and start focusing on my breathing. I count my reps on each side 8-10 at this point. Usually this is where I think "reallllyyyy why did I pick this lift?!"

Minute 4 and 5 : these are my hardest minutes. I have a goal always in Bolt to not set down until 5 min in so my minds playing games at this point. I try to speed up a bit here because I know I have a break coming up. But this is where my shoulders start to tighten as we.

Minutes 6-8: These are my favorite minutes. I don't know why. Maybe I found my groove. But I'm always happiest and most confident here. I'm usually smiling and singing along to whatever song is on.

Minutes 9 and 10: Hearing "2 minutes left!" Is the best! Everyone starts cheering so loud and a giant burst of energy just happens. No matter how tired I am I'm ready to just give everything I've got for those 2 minutes.  I'm usually exhausted. But determined. Once that las second happens.... I'm just proud because I did it!!!!"

Laura Prescott, California

See the rest of the series herehere, and here.

If you didn't get a chance to contribute to the article, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!