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Kettlebells--healthy or stressful?


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I suppose this is the right place for this--although I am not currently an athlete. 


I had been doing 200 kettle bell swings for about....3 months? I liked the "solid" feeling I was getting in my arms and shoulders. But I was NOT losing weight. I did not feel like I could go higher on the number of swings and keep my sanity (frankly, all that swinging is boring). I also was walking for 45 minutes to an hour 6 days a week (I still do this). 


As a bit of background: I did 7 workouts (in 8 days) of Crossfit abut two years ago. On the day of the seventh workout I woke up with hives that continued to get worse over the course of the next day. I could not see through my swollen eyes for a week. I get hives only when I am super stressed out (surgery for a child, childhood nightmares, etc--its not an allergic reaction). Needless to say, I did not go back to Crossfit. My body was giving me a resounding NO. 


I also did a year of intermittent fasting and lost 43 lbs. Then the weight started coming back on inexplicably (I was doing nothing different at first), even though I would progressively restrict my eating window (I was down to a three hour window when I stopped). I gained 10 lbs of that lost weight back. After that (this summer) is when I started the kettle bell swings and walking. But, try as I might to stop it, I gained another 6 lbs. I also started having problems with my teeth, which is something new for me. That's when I landed back here. Doing a Whole 30 and trying to figure out why ALL my efforts only result in stagnation or gained weight.  


So I'm trying to figure out what's wrong with me that I can't seem to get good results from these exercises? Anyone got any thoughts? 

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Intermittent fasting ruins good hormonal rhythms for many people. The cooperation of your hormones is critical to achieving and maintaining good body composition. During a Whole30, we ask people to eat 3 meals per day spaced 4-6 hours apart with breakfast within one hour of waking in the morning because this practice supports developing good hormonal rhythms. 


CrossFit is designed to be stressful. Completing 7 workouts in 8 days was way too much. No wonder your body rebelled. 


Note: I abandoned CrossFit and made kettlebells my main workout 3 years ago. It is impossible to make a blanket statement that kettlebells are healthful or stressful. It is impossible to say whether your performing 200 swings per day is healthful or stressful. It depends upon your skill and technique, your overall condition, the weight you are using, etc. 


My guess is that you need to establish a more healthful routine that supports your metabolism running faster. 

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How heavy a bell are you swinging, and how long does it take you to do the 200 reps? Are you going eye level or vertical?

When you did the 7-in-8 CF workouts, were they the standard 3:1 ratio? Not knowing all the ins-and-outs of your psychology/physiology makes it hard to say for certain, but my gut tells me it wasn't just CF that caused the hives.

What protocol of IF do you use? I've been 16:8 for several years and am merrily clicking along.

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Thanks for your replies! This issue has been bothering me for two years now. 


Tom, I was "all in" as they say, with Crossfit. Ready to go. No one told me to not show up 6 workouts in a row, and then (because Sunday the box was closed) one more after a day of rest, so I did. lol! (not that I'm blaming anyone but myself--I just didn't know what I was doing). I felt completely knocked out after every workout--so much so that I took naps at 10am, and I am NOT a napper. I was an athlete in my younger days and don't really know any other way other than to jump in. I'm trying to refocus on actually eating. I have grown so used to ignoring hunger that I forget on this program I'm not supposed to. Clearly what I have been doing is not working, and I feel like something is not clicking. It's good to know that kettle bells alone is a great workout. 



I'm only swinging 20 lbs. I had wanted to get a heavier one, but money is an issue. Even at this weight, my elbows would ache at times at night. I figured I would get stronger and that would go away. 


I'm not sure what you mean about 3:1 ratio. The timer was set for.....9 minutes? and we had 3 exercises we did in a round. Is that what you mean? I was overweight when I did Crossfit. Not obese, just chunky. But I've always been strong and athletic physiologically. 


I started with Fast 5 intermittent fasting. Eating window from 5-10 at night. Found I could not go all day without eating so I shifted it to 1-6. Then when I plateaued and starting to gain, I would do like 1-4pm. A longer eating window did nothing for me. 


Thanks again! :)

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Kettlebells are a tool that can be used well or poorly. I would classify 200 swings at 20lbs as cardio, not strength training. 20lbs under momentum is just not heavy enough and there is a real danger that you will end up with chronic use injuries in your elbows or shoulders if you are not doing the swings with absolutely perfect form. A heaver weight would force you to use your core and your legs and the chances of poor form would be much less (not gone, but less).


Intermittent fasting is also a tool, and one that works best among populations of people who are 1) men and 2) already at a healthy weight with good hormonal balance. If that is not you, then I would think very carefully before using this as a regular strategy. It may feel good for a while, but I have heard too many stories of women who end up with serious issues of hormone imbalance, hair loss, adrenal fatigue...it goes on and on and it takes a long time to come back from this once you are there.


Here's my advice: start thinking of movement and food as nourishing your body (not punishment; not calories consumed or burned; not a chore; a gift). Give yourself the gift of as much nourishment/nutrition as you can. That means ALL the vegetables, good fats, high quality grass-fed beef and lamb, wild-caught salmon, whole pastured eggs, and it means ALL the different forms of movement that you want to be able to do in your old age. Take that kettle bell and start doing turkish getups with it. Lunge and crawl and walk. Lift heavier things in a whole bunch of different ways, and find other ways to move that bring you joy (maybe it's swimming or dancing or yoga or tai chi). 


Don't eat the same chicken breast and broccoli every day or do the same 200 kettle bell swings every day, just because those things might be two of a million possible healthy things you could do. Your body craves more than that. be nimble.

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@wildatheart: 20lbs is too light for swings -- if your elbows are hurting it's likely because you're using too much arms and not enough hips (and hyperextending your elbows).

Mainsite CrossFit schedule is 3 days on, 1 day off ... boxes typically have workouts scheduled every day because clients come at different times. Also their custom programming may not cycle systematically through the 3 metabolic pathways, and so depending on the days you went you might have overtrained in an area. Not CF's fault, but a programming miscalculation.

missmary's post is spot-on.

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Thank you both!

Mary-yes, I need yo change my attitudes. I've been sort of having my eyes opened to that reading this forum the last few days. I have been on a "diet" since before I was a teenager almost continuously. And I realize that my average size of 12 is not huge, but it seems to never be enough. I drive my husband nuts with it. I have been of the traditional foods mindset since 2003, so I KNOW what good food is, but my "punish--drive harder!" mentality is what I'm trying to change. Thanks for the info about the kettlebell.


Good to know about Crossfit and kettlebells. If someday I ever try Crossfit again, I will be more aware and careful. I will keep up with my hilly walks for now, but I now know I need a heavier kettlebell.

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