3 Important Life Lessons That Would Have Saved Me A Lot of Time and Pain
During recess, there was always that one fat kid, who, when the bell rang and everyone had to get back to class, always ended up last in line, out of breath, sweat pouring down his forehead from the 40 foot sprint from the sandbox to the classroom door.
That was me.
Overweight. Average genetics. Average intelligence. Average athleticism.
The problem was, I loved sports. I loved running around, I loved watching sports on TV, I idolized the great athletes of my time – Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, Bo Jackson & Karch Kiraly (the greatest beach volleyball player of all time)
So when I was in the 9th grade, thanks to my volleyball coach (who is still an influential figure in my life), I started training.
You see, I wanted to be like my coach.
Standing at 5’7″ and boasting a 40-inch vertical leap, my coach John, was the guy that I looked up to.
He wasn’t a big guy, but man was he athletic. And he was STRONG as a horse.
And that’s where my obsession with fitness began… I wanted to jump high and be STRONG and ripped like John.
I trained all through high school and into University (I’m Canadian, so we call it “university”, when we really mean “college”).
And naturally, being obsessed with sport and athletics from a very young age, I made the transition into the fitness industry and became a personal trainer in 2000 leaving a cushy, well paying middle-management corporate job.
And that’s when I was introduced to the kettlebell.
It must have been in an issue of one of those bodybuilding magazines that I started reading about this ancient Russian measuring tool turned all-in-one gym know as a Girya.
I remember reading about a trainer named Pavel who was responsible for training the Russian Special Forces with old-time strongman techniques that I knew nothing about. Pavel wasn’t a big guy – not like all the bodybuilders on the covers of the mainstream fitness magazines.
Instead, he carried his strength humbly looking wiry and athletic. Very unassuming and covert.
He was the kind of guy that you wouldn’t think anything of if you ran into him in the street, but ask him to pop his shirt off and he’s ripped. Try to come at him with your fists flailing and he’d drop you like a cigarette butt.
So with Pavel in mind, I started “playing around” with kettlebells and I was hooked.
In 2010 I attained my RKC Level 1 Certification under the watchful eye of my team leader, Master SFG Brett Jones.
Much like life, the more you experience, the more you learn.
One of my most influential mentors and teachers frequently quotes the famous Buddhist Proverb that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. That has held true for me both in my kettlebell and fitness practice as it has in my business.
In October 2012 – exactly 2 years after attaining my RKC Certification, I travelled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to complete my Level 2 RKC Certification – a rigorous 3-Day Workshop that demands the most from you both mentally and physically.
The original RKC Level 1 tests your conditioning levels and mastery of the 6 basic Hardstyle Skills – the swing, snatch, clean, press, squat & get-up. The RKC Level 1 could have been one of the most physically demanding 3 days that I have ever experience.
Anyone who is familiar with kettlebell training is aware of the RKC Snatch Test. A test where instructor candidates must snatch a 24kg (53lb) kettlebell 100 times in 5 minutes.
The snatch test was the easiest part of the weekend.
Throughout the weekend I had to constantly get my hands taped to cover up the torn callouses.
Every night when I got back to my hotel room I jumped into an ice bath for 20 minutes. It got to the point where I was racing one of my teammates to the ice machine to compete for that last available bucket of ice before we put the machine out of commission.
In the end, after the “Grad Workout”, we all had an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
For the RKCII, it took me 6 months to intentionally prepare for the very strength-focused course and I needed every single hour of preparation to make it through the weekend.
Prep for the Level 1 cert was difficult. Prep for the Level 2 was equally as difficult, but in a completely different capacity.
Where Level 1 is very conditioning focused – you really just have to get yourself in great shape – Level 2 was strength-focused.
A completely different animal.
The main performance test for Level 2 is a 1/2 Bodyweight Strict Overhead Press where the candidate must clean a heavy kettlebell (for me it was 36kg or 80lbs), show a distinct pause, and then – without any hip drive or momentum – strictly press the kettlebell overhead.
I failed the first time I attempted the test.
Having never touched a kettlebell that size before – the most I was pressing was 32kg for reps – the 36kg completely psyched me out.
The RKC requires it’s instructors to be sound both physically – displaying competency in all the required kettlebell exercises – and mentally to be able to teach those in the general population the benefits of kettlebell training.
After much focused practice and strategic training, the 36kg flew up without any issue – 2 weeks after I left Minneapolis empty handed.
Prior to the RKC I thought I knew enough about kettlebell training to get by.
I was quickly humbled by the level of knowledge and physical strength of my fellow instructors-in-training and by my superiors.
It is to them that I owe a sincere sentiment of gratitude.
Much like how my fitness practice has evolved – from bodybuilding to “functional training” to fat loss to strength – The RKC’s Chief Instructor, Pavel Tsatsouline, decided to evolve and take his training philosophies and methodologies and part ways with the RKC and its parent company, Dragon Door Publishing.
Several days after that last RKC 2 weekend, Pavel made his announcement that he would be the Chief Instructor at his new organization StrongFIRST.
And with that, I am now proudly a Level 2 Certified Strong First Girya (SFGII).
Now, fast forward almost 30 years and Chris is one of the most sought after experts in the field of kettlebell fat loss training.
Chris is a 13 year veteran in the fitness and strength & conditioning field getting certified as a personal trainer while completing his Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Guelph back in 2000.
He is now an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, an RKC certified kettlebell instructor and The 1st Certified Turbulence Trainer.
Chris, a former varsity volleyball player, is also an assistant coach with the Canadian National Beach Volleyball Team and a strength & conditioning consultant with Team Ontario Volleyball and proudly coaches his oldest daughter and her club volleyball team.
These days, Chris can be found in various downtown espresso shops, listening to ‘90s hip hop in the park while training with kettlebells or with his wife carting their 5 kids around on his Opafiet (dutch for “Grandpa bike”) through the streets of downtown Toronto.
You can also find Chris on the internet at KettlebellWorkouts.com and writing for his personal blog at FitAndBusyDad.com .
If it wasn’t for the days when his mom would purposely “sauce up” the rice on his dinner plate with bacon fat to make him “healthier”, Chris probably wouldn’t have the drive today to want to get anyone in shape – let alone himself.
Chris Lopez, The 1st Turbulence Trainer (and Former “Fat Kid”)