In the swing of things

Posted on: 6th February, 2017

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: West Cork People

Danish freelance journalist and fitness professional Tania Presutti, who now resides in Clonakilty, delivers a series of efficient DIY fitness exercises you can do at home.

So, how are you? How is your New Year resolution doing 31-plus days after?  If you are amongst those who hold the course steady towards your goal, I commend and applaud you.

Tania headshotChanges are not easy, so if you made it work: Good job.

And now, if you are amongst the majority of people, you are probably struggling to keep the ‘New Year – New Me’ spirit high. Every day life sneaks in, making it hard to stick with the meal plan, coping with the stress without the cigarette, getting to the gym three days a week or sticking with only a couple of drinks at the weekends. I’ll tell you straight up: I feel your pain! I’ve been there; I’ve struggled too, but don’t forget, there’s always a new day. A fresh start.

Are you contemplating giving up on your resolution on a healthier life, due to – yes, your everyday life? Don’t. Make it work, and if you fall in, get back up. Don’t wait till next Monday, next full moon, next year. Start fresh now!

Are you amongst the many who paid many euros for a gym membership you now realise that you can’t/ won’t/ don’t use? Classes are at times your schedule doesn’t accommodate, the instructor is not what you expected or there are too many people using the machines? Reasons are many to quit, but before you do, consider if you could make it to the gym two times a week, instead of three. Try out a different class with a different instructor. Even if you don’t care much for the class, the instructor might just be the right person to inspire you.

What I am trying to say is, keep at your goal. You might have to modify the road to get there, but stick with it. Don’t give up ‘cause there’s a few bumps on the road. It’s easier said than done I know, but it is the truth. Life happens all the time and we create our own little bubble of family, work, home, friends, going-out, habits (good and bad). So create something good for yourself. You will be rewarded in time.

Now one of the questions I’d received went straight to the heart of this column. It read in all shortness: ‘I don’t have time to go to the gym, as there is none near me, but how do I motivate myself to train at home?’ Before my mom-life, I too was a gym-person and even if I did train at home from time to time, I much preferred the gym. The classes are full of other people to train with, there’s loads of equipment and there might be an instructor who can help with certain exercises. But now, my home is my gym and I’ve come to appreciate clearing the floor, putting out my mat, changing clothes, finding my few pieces of equipment and then go the moving, lifting, sweating part. The feeling is the same, whether training is done in the comfort of your house or the gym. After about seven to eight minutes, endorphins start spreading that ’happy mood’ feeling, your heart is pounding faster, breathing is deeper and you’re focused on the task.

So my answer is this. Yes, it is an odd feeling the first time you clear the floor for training, but do it still. You will feel good afterwards. Also don’t think you need tons of equipment to start training at home. A (yoga) mat and a kettlebell or dumbbell is enough. Swiss ball, pull-up bar or elastic bands can also be useful for home training, but the bare necessities are: Space on the floor for the mat and a weight. Put on a good mix from your ipod or laptop, set a timer and get to it. Don’t worry about looking odd there in your living or sitting room. No one is there to see you anyway. Enjoy that your shower is only through the door and fresh clothes are on the rack.

If you are out of ideas for home training and haven’t been following my column, get in touch on the mail, and I will be happy to provide you with excellent home-training exercises. One of my favourite ones is the Kettlebell Swing (and you can also use a dumbbell, though this won’t ’swing’ at the top of the exercise.

This is a fantastic exercise because it trains your whole body: Legs, glutes, back, abs, shoulders and even your grip.

The Kettlebell Swing

First and very IMPORTANT if you haven’t tried the exercise before, don’t start off with a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell. Either practice the movement without a weight, or get a light version to practice with, as weighted exercises needs proper technique: Injuries are more likely to occur with weights. Besides using the instructions here, you can also benefit from getting a friend (who knows how to) to show you, or find a good instruction video on YouTube. (Steve Maxwell is one of the guys who create great videos f.ex).

Warm up your body before starting.

Stand shoulder width (or slightly wider) on one end of your mat, with your toes pointing towards the other end. Make sure the room is empty in front of you in case you drop the weight. (Don’t swing towards your big screen TV or glass table).

Place the Kettlebell slightly in front of you, in the middle between your legs. You should be able to lift the Kettlebell without leaning forward. Simply squat down and keep your back upright. Let your arms hang from this position and lift the Kettlebell up with both hands (remember to lift with your legs, not your back). Start the swing by bending your knees to a 30 – 45 degree angle and hinge your hip. Keep your back and core straight, stick your bum out like you are preparing to sit down, and lean slightly forward with your upper body (to balance the position out). Keep your weight on your feet, not your bum. The Kettlebell is held with both hands in almost straight arms, hands pointing down towards the floor.

To get to the end position, start to straighten your body up, from the knees to your hips, your spine, shoulders and head. Squeeze your glutes, quads and core as you ‘go up’ and let your arms follow your body going up, by lifting them in the same ‘straighten up’ movement. Some people suggest pushing outwards with your hips, to get a better swing. I find this is optional.

Let the kettlebell move out and up from your body, still holding it tight with both hands. This movement by the kettlebell is rather explosive to get the weight up to a horizontal line. At the end or top position your kettlebell should be around shoulder height if your swing is explosive, if not don’t worry, with practice this might change.

At the top your glutes, hamstrings, quads and core are all tight. Your arms are straight (out from your body), but don’t lock out the elbow joints. Let the kettlebell drop down to the start position between your legs, follow it back by bending your knees slightly and hinge your hip.

My recommendation for the Swing (with a light weight) for beginners is three sets of eight to 10 repetitions with a good two-minute break between each set. Perform this two to three days a week, with a day of rest in between. If you are experienced with Kettlebells or training in general, you can adjust your reps and sets as you see fit, but as always, for weighted exercises have your technique correct and take small steps.

I hope you enjoy the February drill. If you have any questions for the Swing, home-training or other fitness- related questions, you’re welcome to write me at:

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