Of all the roles that life has carved out for me, this has to be one of the most unexpected.
But sharing my do-it-yourself kettlebell blocking scheme on social media, primarily for self-motivation purposes, has led to an avalanche of requests for help and support for others – mainly women – who want to do the same.
My most recent photo, shared after eight weeks of nearly (er) 20-minute daily workouts, had almost 100,000 views and led to a very funny tone from a fitness company that wanted this BBC technical reporter for 40 years. to become a brand ambassador.
I’m not going to give up on daytime work, but it was a flattering gesture, even if it was undoubtedly misleading.
Kettlebells are rounded weights that look a bit like a cannonball but with a handle. They date back to the 17th century, but you may have found them a little more difficult to find recently due to the increasing demand for blocking.
Online searches for them in the UK have practically doubled from 2.1 million in March to 4.1 million in May, according to Redbrain, an e-commerce platform with access to millions of shopping research data and how translate into sales.
By the beginning of March, I had already had a set for several months – despite my best intentions, I had never come close to using them.
When the lockout came, I realized that suddenly I had three more hours on my work day that were not occupied by commuting – and that I was spending more time than ever sitting too close to the cupboard at home.
However, my dusty kettlebells were also on hand, which had been deployed as doorstops.
I had absolutely no idea what to do with it.
Fortunately, there are many people out there who do it – Google’s “kettlebell workout” and you will get around 34.5 million results.
I started clicking on it. Many of them. Many haven’t attracted my attention for a long time. The workouts were too long, too fast, too painful: my 40-year-old joints wouldn’t make it, why should I keep it there? And so on.
However, I also started to identify the emerging themes in the exercises and I understood which were the best to achieve what I wanted: the fundamental strength.
Slowly, I built a workout based on those elements – adding more along the way when people started contacting me and sharing their favorites (I’m not sure I’m grateful for the recent addition of Russian twists, which are painful as they seem).
While the online fitness industry has skyrocketed during the blockade, for some more traditional companies it has meant a very dramatic change.
Personal trainers Emma McCaffrey, Zoe Baker and Viki Potter found themselves having to rethink the whole business model of outdoor lessons for a basic market of 35-50 year old women practically overnight.
With Emma and Zoe based in Winchester and Viki in Wimbledon, their business, FitState, had been local in those two areas.
Since moving their classes to Zooms by invitation only, women from Wales, Bristol, Newcastle and southern France have joined.
“I don’t think I’ve really heard of Zoom, and suddenly we have 10 lessons scheduled,” Zoe said, recalling the start of the block.
After much trial and error, the trio opted for a format that works. Customers should not use the camera if they prefer not to, and all except the instructor are disabled.
“We don’t have music – it just doesn’t work,” says Emma. “It’s awkward, metallic and people don’t hear you.”
Furthermore, it is not the easiest way to teach and, of course, any feedback on technique or posture is impossible.
“When you teach online there are no jokes, it is directly at work. As a teacher, you are doing every exercise, keeping up, keeping time, talking, breathing and moving technology forward,” says Emma.
However, the format has been so successful that they now plan to continue offering Zoom classes despite the loosening of the blocking rules.
“Zoom isn’t the same face to face but it looks like we’re all together,” says Emma. “It doesn’t necessarily work better, but we are finding that people are more likely to engage in this, and it has allowed people across the country to join us.”
Colin Howells, a martial arts master and advanced kettlebell instructor at Gym01 in Portsmouth, has decided to wait until the gym is able to reopen before resuming face-to-face coaching.
However, he does have some advice for those of us who collect kettlebells for the first time.
According to him, the most common mistake that beginners make is having the wrong posture.
Bending your back during the famous kettlebell swing move – where the bell rings by holding on to the handle with both hands between your knees at shoulder height and your back again – can cause injury.
“You will know if you are doing it badly because one area of your body will feel sore and the rest will not,” he says. “You are using eight muscle groups – there is no intense impact, you are letting gravity do the job. You shouldn’t feel sore afterwards.”
It also says that it is important to choose the right weight and not to start too light.
“On average, women start with a kettlebell that weighs between 10 and 12 kg (22-26 pounds); 16 kg (35 pounds) for men,” he says. “You will never get the right technique if you don’t have the correct weight.
“Make sure to keep your spine straight when you swing the kettlebell. Squat, with your feet shoulder-width apart, put your weight on your heels, your shoulders relaxed and your back.”
Even if you gain a lot of momentum during the swing itself, try not to swing the bell above shoulder height, he adds.
“Always do a little pre-swing – gently, just between your legs, before you start, to minimize the risk of injury,” says Colin.
He also recommends changing the exercises every few weeks.
“It’s a really good exercise and a lot of fun,” he says. “You could start seeing results in a month if you stick.”
When people enter it for the first time, they realize that they can easily shift the weight and sometimes get carried away a bit, “he adds.
“To start, it’s simple.”
As for me, I’m not planning a new career as a fitness guru. In fact, I can’t wait for the day when a professional can really look at me and tell me how I can keep improving.
I think I’m on the right path, however, because this week I managed to do a vertical for the first time in 30 years.
Yes, I used to show off in front of my kids, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it on the days when I was on the first train to work, and those kettlebells opened the living room door.