After nearly two years of training with kettlebells, I knew that I wanted to test my skills by attending a StrongFirst Level I Certification this year. Looking through the schedule, I decided to attend the Chicago certification at the "Dome of Strength" in April for a couple of reasons. Not only is Chicago my hometown, but it is also where Matt earned his Level I. After hearing his stories, I was keen to follow in his footsteps.
Our weekend began Friday morning with registration and team assignments, where I was excited to learn my team leader was North Texas's own Karen Smith. An Iron Maiden, she is someone I follow and respect, so I was excited for the opportunity to train under and learn from her. Once we met our teammates, we were assigned our training partner for the weekend. I was paired with Julia, who I now refer to as my battle buddy. We did everything together: practiced, studied, ate lunch, and supported + encouraged one another.
Friday and Saturday were largely dedicated to learning the six main movements: swing, clean, squat, snatch, press, and TGU. As this is an instructor certification, we spent a lot of time learning each movement's progression, as if we were teaching someone who had never worked with kettlebells before. With our partners, we took turns both patterning the movements and coaching the movements. Throughout each day was also 2-3 workouts, where we would sweat (and bond) as a team, along with troubleshooting sessions where we would get to coach our fellow attendees through small issues, in order to make help them be as technically proficient for day three's testing.
On Sunday, we spent the first part of the morning in small groups with our team leaders, going through each movement to fine-tune our technique before heading into testing. Once testing began, we were divided into even smaller groups and assigned to one of our team's assistants. We performed each movement (5-10 reps) one at a time, with our technique being held to a strict checklist of qualifications. Is our shoulder packed? Did our breath match our movement? Did our heel stay planted during our TGU transitions? No indication was given whether or not we had passed each movement.
The final step came right after: the 5-minute snatch test, and as luck had it, I was the in the first group. I made a last minute decision to follow a plan introduced by one of the StrongFirst Master Instructors during the weekend. 11/11 snatches every minute for 4 minutes, then 6/6 in the last. Easy, right? Well, much to my surprise, it was. Though it was what I was most worried about, I had one of the strongest, calmest, and smoothest snatch tests ever. I laughed through the last 10 snatches, elated that I had made it.
However, that wasn't really the end. It was now time for the waiting game. Our team leaders and assistants stepped away from the group to discuss each individual's skills and decide whether they were to be awarded their Instructor Certification that day. Once I sat down with Karen, she broke the news quickly. I had passed. I was a StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor. All of the weekend's stress immediately melted away, and I realized what I had truly done: I had found a community of strong and like-minded people. I immediately put on my new instructor's shirt, and I haven't take it off since.