Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Its easy to forget

It's almost easy to forget;especially lately when I've been feeling so good and so strong and increasing my training repertoire almost daily, just how messed up my back was not so very long ago.I had taken my body to the brink with all the heavy weights and powerlifts and it was just saying no. Lots of things started to just shut down, almost similtaneously.When it was easier to squat 400 lbs with my gear on than get out of a chair 'raw'I knew something was very very wrong. Sounds funny now but it's the truth and it weren't pretty.
And how fragile it was;when sitting too long or in the wrong way could send me to the floor, fast.I had to constantly stretch and move and shift my weight or I would lock up hard.
And doing any training too heavy or too hard( or as I was to finally figure out) bilaterally, could put my back in serious spasm for days.And my bad knee was getting badder all the time. I knew a knee replacement was in the works, and probably pretty soon.
So when I met Brett Jones in Dec 2004,and he and Michael Castrogiovanni tried to talk me into going to the RKC and get certified I thought they both were certifiable. I could barely walk, how would I get through the weekend? I had been using the kettlebells along with my powerlifts at that point for a few years and they had rehabbed me enough to let myself get into more trouble with the barbell by prolonging my delusion I could still train heavy and compete again.
Mike trained me for the April cert with sets of 100 reps in the two hand swings with the 16 kg and I thought I was going to die. But that 16 kg soon turned into the 24 kg and by April I had lost 25 pounds and was in the best cardio shape I had been in since the late eighties.
And compared to what I can do now I still was a mess. When I got back from the cert I could only handle two days a week of swings or snatches as more volume would lock me up.I was walking on a razors edge ; to a degree I always will be, but I remember the fear of my back going out again haunting me everyday and in almost every activity.
If you've never herniated a disc or two I would say try not to. I can't really recommend it and sciatica is probably the worst and most annoying pain I've ever had. And that includes three full dislocations.
When your center won't hold, when the core of you is unstable and highly painful nothing works and you really start to see how critical this easy to forget until it hurts area really is.It truly is our center and when it says no you sit down. If you can. You really grok how everything is connected to the middle an when you try to move the extremities it anchors itself to the spine first. And if that hurts to do, you don't have a leg ,or anything else to stand on.
It's just amazing to me now that I can do the things I can do, like that crazy clubbell workout yesterday with all these moves in the frontal and transverse planes which a very short time ago not only could I not do but could put me down for a long time if I wasnt perfect. I have much more margin for error now than in years and I dont want to forget how it was. I really really appreciate being able to train as hard as I can now ;especially knowing I am still going to be able to improve for a long long time and get back more and more ability.
Not too bad for being a half century old with more hard miles than most and a pretty bent and banged up frame.
And it truly is all because of kettlebells and I know that.This is the main reason I believe so much in the RKC system; I have seen and felt very directly what it can actually do for a person.How it can strengthen and heal and literally regenerate one back to strength and health.
If it had not been for finding kettlebells and the RKC when I did I truly don't know where my back and my health and my strength would be now.
Yes I do, in the crapper. I was weak and in pain and getting weaker and hurting more when I got started down this path and there was literally NO other training that I could tolerate.And I know cause I tried.
The fact that I could use just ONE kettlebell and really scale the swing was probably the saving grace, allowing my body to balance itself as I slowly increased the loads it was capable of handling. And the main thing was that it didnt tear me apart in the process. I felt better each day, not worse.
And lets not forget what it's done for my better half.
And yes, I am more than thankful and greatful to Pavel for making this incredible tool and the system behind it available to me and mine. My clients are pretty happy as well.
It's good to remember the old pain you once had and left behind; it makes you appreciate not being in pain at the moment and the beauty and grace of the most simple movements we can do.


Franz Snideman said...

"And it truly is all because of kettlebells and I know that.This is the main reason I believe so much in the RKC system; I have seen and felt very directly what it can actually do for a person.How it can strengthen and heal and literally regenerate one back to strength and health."

When you have those kind of results, the double blind research projects are not needed bro! Evidence in your own body is enough to tell you are headed in the right direction.

And aren't we all glad you feel better because if you didn't, we wouldn't know who you are and how much knowledge you have to teach us!

Thanks master Yoda for taking the RKC!!!

Rock on!

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks franz,

as you well know when your back is messed up your life comes to a screaching halt.That used to happen to me all the time and I was just realizing how much latitude I have now, in training as well as real life.It's a blessing that I try not to forget. and I do know how it came about and just how far I've come.
you gotta blame Brett and Mikey though for convincing me to take the chance on three days of hell,lol.

Edmund Meinhardt said...

Very nice post. I have been training with kettlebells for a few months now and it's all happening, finally, just like Pavel said it would----like it happened for you and for Mrs. Rif. I'm 44, diabetic, and was badly overweight (5'9", 245). My vision was fading rapidly and I was starting to have other complications. In July I started seriously following Enter the Kettlebell as well as scouring the Internet for any tips, hints or success stories I could find, which is what led me to your blog. I just went to the doctor today. My weight is down to 217 and I've added a noticeable amount of muscle to my legs, back and shoulders. My blood sugar readings still fluctuate (proper diet is part of this and I'm working on it) but they are much better and continue to improve. My right shoulder used to be painful and have limited ROM, and it is much improved. I've been fortunate not to have your severe pain, but I can appreciate what you're saying. I'm deeply grateful for having discovered this tool and the body of knowledge you and others are helping to advance. Thanks!

Tim Anderson said...

Rif, awesome testimony. I'm am so grateful I met you and that i'm part of the RKC. It's an honor. You are a great teacher. I am your student.

Mark Reifkind said...


that is so great to read your story and I can really say that I hear this all the time! That in itself is so satisfying to be able to say. There are so many people that have had results like yours, and mine and tracys. It really is a fantastic thing.thanks for the comments and stopping by and continued success!

Mark Reifkind said...


Its an honor for you to call me your teacher. thank you much, you are a great example of what this system is all about and are yourself and excellent teacher.

Wildcard said...

Oh Rif, you're so dreamy!... *twinkle*twinkle*

Seriously man, good on you and all the ground you have made up. What's next??

And Edmund, nice testimonial.

Mark Reifkind said...


the key for me is just to continue adding in more skills and more work capacity as long as possible.The next goal is to continue to get the right shoulder as much overhead ROM as possible- then double overhead bells; push presses and jerks and develop the clubbell basics as well.
I can really see the clubs adding some upper body and arm size as well and that will be cool.

Wildcard said...

Rif, I think you may have a really good program laid out for yourself, obviously your orthopaedic "peculiarities" will dictate what you do, but slowly and methodically opening things up is a pretty good path. And you're right about the work capacity. Mobility and work capacity should be life long goals for anyone and that isn't really a question of style as much as it is longevity and quality of life.
Take it easy dude.

Taikei Matsushita said...

I'm one of those who appreciate kettlebell's for its injury healing benefit. I was a person who had major knee injury which stood for 15 years, and now I can do pistols with the same knee.

Your knowledge based on injuries would benefit alot of people. One reason I thought you were the missing piece at October 2007 RKC.

william said...

Yeah, I remeber you had to cancel going to dinner the first night so you could "fix" yourself for the next day. Good stuff.

Mark Reifkind said...

that's right Bill,

I had forgotten that. I spent as much time stretching and rolling as I did kettlebelling that weekend.Now I can walk and stand on my feet for 14-16 hours/day for the entire 4 days with almost minimal bodywork required.that alone makes me as happy as being able to actually train hard again.
training is great, walking is better.

Mark Reifkind said...

my training and pre/rehab has really been about individualizing my weakpoints and doing my best to eliminate them.
I still have to stay mainly with unilateal movements as bilateral things still tend to overactivate my stronger side and pull me out of balance.
I can do much more bilateral work although I can tell with the clubbells that I will have to do more one arm work with them than I thought.
The z stuff is really a great addition to my program as well as the rifga ,roller and thumper. just another tool in the box.

Geoff Neupert said...

Rif, Good stuff as always.

For me, substitute "Z-Health" for "RKC" and you know why I'm so high on Z. Still when I could do nothing, I could still use KBs. And they kept my sanity. I stood over the hole of depression and between the two, I decided not to let myself fall in.

Royce said...

Very moving post man. A huge heartfelt congratulations!

Sean Schniederjan said...


this is a very moving post.

i've been reading your blog for awhile now and lately i've been noticing that you are doing more volume with heavier bells than when i first started reading your blog a couple of years ago.

i am a younger guy and appreciate getting your experiences and perspectives on this blog because not only have you been there, but you are still making remarkable progress in your training.



Mark Reifkind said...


thanks man and it is quite an amzing difference not only in the amount of volume I can do now, but the range of movements and intensity as well.
I could always do the workouts before but I would suffer greatly for many days after.
Now its almost to the point where I feel I could do another workout of similar intensity a few hours after the first, or the next day.
as a serious training addict this is great stuff for me! lol.but I have to force myself to remember( hence the post) that I am not that far removed from being really immobile and in serious pain.
I have always focused on the long haul even when i was trainng for competition and it is even more important now that I am training for health and long term function.
the wider the base the taller the peak. I am still working ( always) on widening the foundation.
thanks again man.

Mark Reifkind said...


I am starting to feel the same way. I have had client after client rave about the simple moves I have shown them( the fact that they are actually DOING them should say something)and how their pain is going down and their mobility up with these simple circles.
they are still using their rollers but have much less pain to work out now. great stuff.
i am always opento change I just have to be convinced first, thats all.lol

AikiBudo said...

Rif, Congrats on your re-birth as a major fitness guru!

I just posted on the same topic on my blog. I only had one pretty bad disc and one kinda bad one (L5 and L2), but I know all too well what you were dealing with, from a personal standpoint.

The bells have made my back feel better than since pre-injury days (and that was 17 & 19 years old!)

I tell everyone I can about them.

I am so glad for you that you have "regained your center" and can once again inspire and teach so many.

The freedom of Health & Vitality cannot be surpassed!

Mark Reifkind said...


thanks man but no guru here.Just a seeker of knowledge and physical strength.and since the more you give the more you get I like to help out when I can.
I really dont think if you never have had your back go south on you that you can appreciate just how sweet it is to be upright.