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Ocean Workout

19 Nov


I live in Maine, where ocean swimming is typically only done in July and August when the ocean may reach 65-68 degrees Farenheit. Since for half of the year Maine can be a pretty cold place, and because I like to be able to enjoy the outdoors year-round without freezing my ass off, I try to embrace the cold as much as possible.

Exposure to cold elements (water, air, etc) helps to alleviate inflammation and support recovery. It can boost your immunity, help fight Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and even help you to burn fat. For more information on cold thermogenesis, see Dr. Jack Kruse.

Exist Anew also posted an article on why you shouldn’t fear the cold. Give it a read, HERE.

A couple of years ago, two friends and I completed a Tough Mudder race in Vermont during the first week of May. There was still snow, ice and frozen mud everywhere; many of the obstacles were based on this. Without hesitation, I made it through each obstacle, and I wasn’t even cold! This workout (video, below) is just one example of the many that I did in preparation for the Tough Mudder’s cold obstacles.

In case you are curious, here is the Maine weather this week:

weather pic

And the ocean temperature on Saturday November 16, 2103:


So, after seeing the temperature of both the air and the water, I put on my spandex pants (appropriate for both working out on the beach and for swimming), packed a 44lb kettle bell in my backpack and headed to the ocean.

The walk into the beach is about a mile through the woods. By the time I reached the water, with the 44lb kettle bell on my back, I was plenty warmed up for the rest of my workout.



Jump Squats and Weighted Carries

16 Mar

Perhaps one of the most underrated, weighted, natural movement patterns is a weighted carry– and it’s simple! You can do this with your groceries, suitcase, kettle bell, sand bag or even your kids! Reusable shopping bags are perfect; you can fill them with whatever you want, and they even have handles. (Just be sure to do some research about how much weight your bag can handle!)

You can do a carry in just one arm and switch, or carry weight on both sides.

In the picture, below, I am using a 20 kg (44 lb) kettle bell on just one arm. In the workout, also below, I use one arm for the first 15 seconds then switch to the other.

Kettle Booty 2
You can also carry the wight close to your body in front of you- think of hugging a sand bag, or carrying a child.

sandbag carry- bear hug

picture courtesy of

Another variation is a farmer’s walk, as pictured, below:

2 arm weighted carry/ farmer's walk

picture courtesy of

Here is a quick workout, mixing in some weighted carries and some more explosive movements- jump squats (pyramid-style.) But first, a few tips for the jump squat:

  • Get into your regular squat position- feet shoulder width apart and butt back to lower yourself
  • Do the squat, keeping your chest up and butt back, as deep as you can go
  • Explode up, fast
  • Land soft- on the balls of your feet, rolling back onto your full foot
  • Get your butt back again, and repeat
  • If your knees start to cave in, or you are bending forward too much- STOP! You are likely too fatigued or need to get your glutes firing in order to do the movement safely.

Give yourself a good 20-30 feet to walk  around with the weighted bags, kettle bells, kids (or whatever you are using!) I like to walk in zig-zag lines, figure 8s and circles, because, let’s face it- how often do we actually walk in a straight line, back and forth?


12 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
10 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
8 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
6 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
4 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry

Rest 30 seconds

4 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
6 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
8 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
10 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
12 jump squats


Russian vs. American

3 Mar



The Russian swing starts with the kettle bell on the floor, between your legs.


Bend over with a neutral back (no back arch, or as I like to call it, “stripper butt”) and grip the kettle bell. Stand with the kettle bell, just like a deadlift. Begin to use your hips to thrust the kettle bell forward in a swinging motion. Once you get a little momentum going and you are ready to do the full swing, the kettle bell should come back between your legs and should be tucked just below the groin, with your legs slightly bent (knees are not locked but your legs are not bent like a squat.) Your head should be looking down toward the kettle bell between your legs.

Think of hiking a football.


The bell is then propelled forward to chest level, perpendicular to the torso. Your head comes up with the swing, and at the height of the swing, you should be looking directly in front of you at the bell. At the height of the swing, the bell should feel a though it is floating; like you can let go and it would stay floating in front of your chest without flying forward or behind your head.

Your hips and glutes should be doing the work, not your arms.

Meg Crossfit Beacon KB Swing

Meg E.
Cross Fit Beacon
Portland, ME

The movement is quick, explosive, short and stays within a relatively short range of motion; it is a hip-hinge movement, with minimal bend in the knee. The power of the swing is generated from the hips and glutes while the spine maintains a neutral position. At the height of the swing, the bell is at chest level (again, perpendicular to the chest) and your glutes are contracted, quads are engaged (pulling the knees up), torso/core is solid, tight and braced for impact. Your lats are engaged, pulling the shoulders back to support your posture and your neutral spine.

The Russian swing should be performed with rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing – filling your diaphragm with a deep breath on the down part of the swing and exhaling while bracing the core at the top of the swing. Oftentimes, you may hear someone performing this swing with a “tssss” sound, as you often exhale through the teeth at the top of the swing.



American Swing has the same basic mechanics as the Russian swing, only the bell is brought overhead on the swing up. You will likely see this lift performed in a Cross fit setting. In theory, the bell is “pushed” overhead; the momentum from the swing (glutes, quads and hamstrings) drives it up. In reality, most people who perform this lift, especially for heavier reps or when form starts to break down due to fatigue, use their chest, traps and deltoids to get the bell directly overhead; they lack the mobility to execute this movement safely, and shouldn’t do it.

One way to determine your mobility with respect to the American swing, is to lay flat on the ground, on your back, with your legs about shoulder width apart.


Note in the picture above that my pelvis is tilted and my lower back is not on the floor. This needs to be fixed in order to maintain a neutral spine. In order to do this,  roll your pelvis forward so your lower back is touching the ground; there should be no space between your lumbar vertebrae and the floor. Tuck your chin close to your chest, in order to minimize the arch in your neck and to straighten your spine- this will help the lumbar curve, too.

km swing 2 ground

Once you have your posture in a neutral position, put your hands together, straight out in front of you, as if you are holding a kettle bell at the height of a Russian swing. This should feel normal, comfortable and your posture should be nice and flat with minimal effort.

Now, raise your hands to overhead while maintaining the neck pack and your lower back to the ground. Can’t do it? You lack the mobility to execute this lift safely. It is quite likely that your lower back is now tilted (anterior tilt) and/or your head is tilted upward and you have dis-aligned your spine.

KM swing ground 4

At this point, it is your deltoids and traps that are bearing the load of this lift. Your shoulder joint is in an unnatural position. Add weight to this, and you will have injuries in your shoulders, chest and lats.

In short, the Russian swing is a safer movement. It is fast, explosive and moves within a relatively limited range of motion. This allows the swing to focus on the glutes with protecting the natural range of motion of the shoulders, neck and back. If you’re training for a Cross fit event and the standard is the American swing, you should practice laying on the ground and completing the exercise, above, in order to improve your mobility. If you’re training to be stronger, to lose fat, to increase overall athletic performance or you just want to look good in yoga pants, stick to the Russian.


Further reading: Check out THIS ARTICLE by Bret Contreras.

The Kettle Bell Swing is Not a Squat

7 Jan

The kettle bell swing is a hip movement. Its general purpose is to work the glutes and hamstrings. IMG_7786It can start a few different ways; I will outline the one I use the most, here, as I find it to be the most comfortable way to get started.

It should start with the kettle bell on the floor between your feet. Your legs should be slightly bent. Bend over, keeping your back straight, and grip the kettle bell.

IMG_7788Keep your eyes focused on the kettle bell.

Contracting your glutes and leaving your arms straight, stand with the kettle bell. This should look like a deadlift.

You should now be standing with the kettle bell between your legs, in front of, but touching your body.

Your shoulders should be rolled back and not slouched forward.

Keep your legs slightly bent, and begin to sit your hips back, just a bit. Thrust your hips forward, pushing the kettle bell into the swing motion. This may take a few swings to get the motion down, and you may find yourself using your pelvis to physically push the kettle bell forward; that is ok.

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