As many of you know, I love a challenge. I may moan and whine about it on the run up to the challenge, I may scream, rant and rave when in midst of said challenge, but nothing beats the feeling of overcoming the fear and succeeding in the challenge that has been set. This is utterly relevant to taking the StrongFirst SFG1 certification, which I completed earlier this month.
I shan’t bore you with the details of how I found StrongFirst, or how I was inconsistent in my training on the road to SFG1 but I shall say, if you are thinking of doing something like this as a challenge yourself, PUT THE WORK IN. Don’t do as I did and realise 5 weeks out that you really aren’t as ready as you should be. Be sensible, there is a plan already in place for these things, use it. It has been tried and tested and it will help you.
Five weeks prior to the cert, I messaged the organisers, Kettlebell Fever, in a major panic and said I wanted to defer. I was talked into calm, and told that I was going and I’d be fine. It appeared lots of us were having major issues of self doubt, and crises of confidence. So for those five weeks, I went back to the training schedule, and I put the work in. The 16kg double press was still an issue but I had made a peace with myself. I was comfortable in not passing the testing criteria as it would give me a good understanding of where I was, what needed to be done and I would learn a huge amount of information from the best there is in the world of strength. I had never found that peace before, I’m a serious over achiever, but this new mindset felt really good. Who’d a thunk?
Thursday arrived, it was time to head to London. It was good to see some familiar faces at the meet and greet, which aided in calming the nerves a little and we were given our teams (I was very happy to be in Fabio’s team – metal heads unite and all that). But time to get a good night’s sleep. Friday started at 7:30am with the pull up/flexed arm hang test (the only test I was truly ok with as pole dancing makes you fairly strong ). We hit the ground running. The excited buzz in the sports hall was tangible. Everyone was chatting away, talking about how unprepared they felt, but also how cool it was to be spending a weekend with CEO Mark Toomey, Master SFG Fabio Zonin and the strength legend himself, Dan John. We all knew that no matter the outcome, we were going to take away more than we could imagine from this weekend. And I honestly don’t think anything could prepare you for the experience that is the SFG cert weekend, barring the testing itself.
Friday was a day full of learning the bulk of the movements that we would be tested on and the principles of hardstyle. The deadlift, the hard style plank, the swing, the clean, the press, how to breathe and how to really engage every fibre of your being were all broken down. Added to this were drills upon drills, trouble shooting each component, and learning how to instruct each part of these movements. The Beast Tamer/Iron Maiden Challenge was also undertaken with Ollie Quinn taming the Beast (48kg kettlebell) in the strict pull up, single press and pistol squat. He made the weight look minuscule in the press, it was amazing to watch.
At the end of the day, we had a LOT more swing practice and then we all tottered off to our hotels to refuel (Toby Carvery is amazing for these things and cheap too), read our manuals, and to get an early night ready for the 8am start on Saturday.
Saturday rolled around very quickly. More practice, more drilling of the techniques, more trouble shooting and then working on the Turkish Get Up and the Snatch. By this point, people’s hands were getting sore and the RockTape was in high demand. But we pushed on, encouraged not only by our comrades in arms but also by the many assistants that had given up their time to come in and help us get the most out of the weekend. Dan, Fabio and Mark, were, as ever, very charming and very funny, spewing knowledge forth at a rate of knots that it left many of us breathless. The day seemed to fly by, and my training partner, Tuesday and I were in no doubt that Sunday’s testing was going to be tough, not just physically but mentally. With Saturday’s training day over, we all met up at the main hotel where those fine folk from NPE had put on a spread for us, and it was good to mingle with people from the other teams.
Before we knew it, Sunday had arrived. First up the dreaded Snatch test (100 snatches in 5 mins). For Tuesday and I, it was a 16kg bell. Tuesday was in the first set of our team and she made it look like a walk in the park, so controlled, so strong. As each round of people undertook the test, the rest of us cheered encouragement and spurred them on as best we could. Then came my turn. I will again thank Matt Shore for all his encouragement and tips with the Snatch.
For those of you who have read my No More Mrs Fatty McFat blog, you may remember someone called Jon from my Spartan Training Day. Jon is also an SFG1 Instructor and was assisting one of the teams on the day. Jon had helped me on the Spartan Day by taking my 5-6ft log off my shoulders to enable me to complete the last 400ms of the final run uphill after running around a forest with it for 4 hrs. As I approached the last twenty snatches I needed to complete, all I could hear was ‘Go on Krissie, strong, good, again’ – Jon, once more being an absolute legend and getting me through the test in time. Nothing prepares you for the emotion you feel at the end of that test. It’s a mental bitch, as everything in your brain starts to tell you to put the bell down. Your forearms are burning, you shoulders are hurting, you core is on fire from the tension but you must keep going. This is when you have to dig in. To me the Sntach test isn’t just physical strength, but mental strength as well and a few of us were awake at 3am visualising it, as we later discovered in conversation.
Snatch tests over, then it was time for the main testing. Apart from being asked to do a couple of extra double swings, the main portion of the testing appeared to go without a hitch. Then it was the written test over lunch and more troubleshooting/instruction practice while we waited the outcome. Some people didn’t complete parts of their testing; some failed the Snatch test by a fraction, others hadn’t quite hit the mark in other areas but they were still smiling, which was good to see.
I was thrilled to say I passed with only a minor comment about my Turkish Get Up, which I knew was a weak point but which a number of assistants and Fabio all noted had improved dramatically over the three days. Tuesday also passed.
Something you are not prepared for is the sheer emotion of the weekend and the connections you make with people from all over the country/world. The StrongFirst community is simply amazing. It is full of people who are wanting you to succeed, who share a passion for strength and improvement in all areas of life, and who are willing to share their knowledge with you without asking anything in return. There is no judgement from them, they want you to excel and that is such a rare thing in the modern world of cynicism and the Self.
Nothing could have prepared me for the impact finding StrongFirst, Krav Maga and Primal Move this year has had. It’s been an amazing journey, and I look forward to continuing it with these amazing people, as well as helping others who are just starting their journeys in these wonderful communities. I do have the post SFG blues, but I continue to put into practice all I was taught. I still have more to learn (we never truly stop), more to achieve, but what a starting point.
My eternal thanks to James and Mayyah of Kettlebell Fever, StrongFirst CEO Lord Mark Toomey, Lord Dan John and my team leader Lord Fabio Zonin, Team Fabio Assistants, Matt, Angela, Sam, Tony, and Ben. And of course, Jon, Tuesday, my team mates and everyone at SFG1 UK 2014.
I am StrongFirst, and fiercely proud of it.