A few years ago, popular strength and conditioning coach and author Dan John wrote an article outlining how he and some of the folks that he trains with performed a program that, when all the chalk dust had settled, had you perform 10,000 kettlebell swings. You can find the original article here. Over the years, I have engaged in this program a couple of times. We used it once a few years ago in December to prepare for our 2015 New Years Eve Challenge, in which we did, yup you guessed it, 2,015 kettlebell swings in one workout. I did that with a 100lb bell and it took me about 3 hours. I’m still recovering from that one.
But that was a while ago. This past February, I felt the call to do something challenging. I needed something to stretch me a little bit. Something that would pull me out of my comfort zone. You see, in recent years, I felt like I might be getting a little soft. As a gym and business owner, there were times when I was literally just checking off a box when it came to my own training. We have recently made some significant changes to our business and I felt a little as though I was experiencing a rebirth of sorts. I spent January working on discipline and ritual. February needed to be something to shock the system. Ten thousand swings sounded like it would do the trick.
As I pondered this, I brought it to my online/gym community. I let them know what I was doing and asked if anyone wanted to join me on this little journey. To my surprise, I had about 20 people volunteer to step out with me. So, as a group we undertook this monster of a program. I kind of knew what we were getting into, as I said, it wasn’t my first rodeo here. At least I thought I knew what we were getting into. We started out doing very much what is outlined in the article that I linked to above. We did a total of 500 swings per workout for 5 workouts per week for four weeks. We trained an additional exercise in between sets of swings as a way to maintain strength with other patterns. To be honest it was also kind of a mental break from the swings. As time went on, the group kind of evolved into it’s own rhythm and method with the workouts. Some folks did all 500 swings first and then finished up with the additional exercise. Some played with different rep ranges in order to get all 500 swings in. I fell into that group. I made it about half way through the program before I started playing with the sequences.
The first day, I’ll be honest, I started with a 70lb bell and TGU’s (Turkish Get-Ups). I did all 500 swings and 30 Get-Ups per side. I felt immediately like I had made a mistake. It was at that moment that I knew that having the community with me was going to be my saving grace. I had led all of these good folks into this. I was not going to back out. They became my strength.
Here are some of the “revelations”, or in reality, reminders that I experienced during this four week odyssey.
- There are times in your life when it’s not going to be about what you want to do. It has to be about getting the job done. Many times during this four weeks, I thought to myself “I don’t want to do this.” But each and every time, I sucked it up and did it anyway.
- There is value in being uncomfortable, in being pulled outside of your comfort zone. You grow there.
- Community is important. Having a group that you can commiserate with has incredible value. There were days when if I didn’t have people coming in to the gym to hit their swings with me, I would have found a reason to put it off. Putting it off never, let me repeat, NEVER ends up being the benefit you want it to be. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Those people that stepped up and joined me, made me stronger.
- I wasn’t the only one that gained strength from the community. Our little online community, while it had it’s own little purpose before, gained a life all it’s own. There was so much buzz among the members of the community that I had to change some aspects of my business to accommodate it. One of our programs existed entirely in that space before this challenge. Now that program is an email based program with the online space acting as a place to go for accountability.
- I had the privilege of watching friendships and relationships form. Relationships that now exist not only in-person but for people that live in separate states happened because of us sweating and straining together towards that magic number of 10,000 swings.
- Oh yeah, and then there was the physical stuff. Just to be transparent here, by the second day, my appetite was on full blast. And I pretty much stayed hungry for the rest of that four-week period. Now I only lost a pound or two but I lost a hole in my belt around my waist. To me, that says fat lost, muscle gained. I went from swinging that 70lb for a struggling set of 15-20 on the first day, to finishing with a program best 25 swings with the big 100lb bell. So I’d say there was some endurance and maybe a little strength built.
I am so glad to have taken on the challenge of 10,000 swings. I reminded myself a little of what I’m made of at a time when I needed to be reminded. I leveled up my own fitness a bit. And the best thing about all of this was getting a front row seat to watch the Holy Spirit use fitness to bring people together. If you made it all the way through reading this, thank you for the time. Grace and peace to you.