Our Jamaican Jerk kettlebell workshop was a real success on September the 25th with Bad B, Cynthia Roulston.
It’s not often I give people the title of Bad B! I even introduce Cynthia as Bad B to new members at the gym – she’s someone who has walked life, has confidence and wisdom, and loves herself: she’s earned the title! Bad B has so many attractive qualities about her that she deserves to be studied.
A great human, thoughtful educator, kettlebell champion, and extremely friendly person are some good ways to start describing our local super-star. If you didn’t already know, over the last ten years, Bad B has achieved three Canadian records and has traveled throughout North America and the UK to compete, train, and present at various international kettlebell sport events.
She’s also “Mayor of Awesometown” a.k.a, a SUPER fun and dedicated middle school teacher. I recall during the month of Ramadan this year, Bad B fasted for the entire month to better understand, relate, and connect to her Muslim students. I thought this was pretty cool. It takes a Bad B to partake in this event and commit to going through the personal experience of Ramadan (which can be super challenging and uncomfortable). She takes her role as an educator very seriously.
I wanted to document and share some wisdom and deep health perspectives I learned from Cynthia during her intimate kettlebell workshop.
We started off with a one-minute breathing exercise done with a partner. One partner focused on deep breathing, while the other observed their breathing habit.
Through this drill, we learn about optimal breathing methods. The best way to breathe is into your lower lung, allowing your stomach to rise. Improper or shallow breathing often looks like the chest is rising. Chest and shallow breathing is the natural impact of anxiety, stress, and a whole list of other things. Better deep breathing allows for relaxation. This is important in kettlebell sport because you’re trying to conserve energy while maintaining a dedicated rhythm under stress. The deep health lesson here is to be aware of one’s breath and to be in-tune and connected to all areas of your life so that you can detect what is impacting your breath work.
Cynthia shared that every morning and sometimes before training sessions, she takes 30 deep breaths to focus herself. This exercise takes five minutes.
HRV (Heart Rate Variability) Measurements
HRV is the fluctuating time between each heart beat. These fluctuations are undetectable without specialized devices. Cynthia uses a device every morning that gives her a colour-coded reading of her HRV measurements. If her HRV measurement reads as highly stressed (red), she will make sure to take a rest day. If her HRV measurement is moderate or low (yellow or green), then she will exert herself in training accordingly. She noted that emotional stress definitely affects her HRV negatively – she can get a red reading on days that she’s emotionally taxed.
Do you know what’s really interesting here? If you are able to train yourself to be physically fit, your HRV measurements improve and you become more resilient to stress in general. You can literally train your heart and it will better condition your nervous system. Highly sensitive people (like myself), can really benefit from this knowledge (if action is taken, of course).
Repetition, Timing, and Rhythm
Imagine doing one type of lift or movement for TEN years. That’s a lot of repetition. I appreciate how Bad B related this repetition to the love and practice of music. Instead of a keyboard or guitar, the kettlebell is the instrument through which we express our abilities. Timing and rhythm are also key elements in kettlebell sport because an athlete has 10 minutes to perform their lift as many times as possible. You have to have a keen sense of body awareness to know exactly how many reps to aim for every minute, and these reps have to be done with strict form or your rep is no good. When you’ve done enough reps with good timing and rhythm, your fitness level and proficiency will certainly show.
Finally, I’d like to touch on the mental and physical resilience that’s required to excel in kettlebells. Even after practicing with great technique, timing, and rhythm in a state where you are feeling great physically and emotionally, you’re going to feel like you’re dying under those bells. Bad B shared her personal mantra of “just one more minute” when under high-stress and focussing on aiming for personal excellence. On days where her mood was low she would tell herself to “just do the warm-up” and from there, momentum would build. Doing hard things = resilience, but the steps towards resilience can be very small.
I believe we could all use a personal mantra or two (and a Bad B motivator) to get ourselves to do the bare minimum of whatever task lies ahead of us – and that little bit of momentum can push us towards greatness.