Saturday, June 16, 2012

Swing choreography with Tracy Reifkind

I tend to say ''yes'' to training seminars, workshops, talks and meetings, often underestimating how much physical work we will end up doing when we get there. Last Saturday, Roland and I participated in a workshop, that reignited the fire for swinging beyond what I had expected. It also kicked my butt. No, really.

Tracy is an inspiring speaker, and a role model that is rarely seen in the fitness world. Energized, vivid, exciting, and very down to earth.

He brought Tracy Reifkind's book a few weeks ago, and I flipped through it, thinking, oh how cool, and then put it aside, intending to read it after I was done with my exams. Then I kept going back to it, curious how she teaches the swing, a movement that has so much ''dance and power'' built into it, that it can barely stick on a page. My impression was that the book was extremely well written, had a story that moved, would be a great inspiration for someone who needs to lose weight and believe that it's possible,and in my mind it got shelved under:'' great books I would recommend to clients''.
Click to get it on Amazon
The book didn't make me swing though, after all, I swing a couple of times a week, for a warmup, or for a finisher. The swing is the seasoning of my workouts, not the meat of them. Why would it be any other way?...I have vague memories of the sheer boredom of swinging for 20, 30 or 40 minutes. Boredom that makes me subconsciously want to avoid it and just use it for seasoning ;)

Want to snap out of boredom? Jump in a time machine, and come to last week's workshop, kindly hosted by Northbeach Kettlebell in San Clemente, CA. Our hosts allowed us to use their roof, which added a touch of vacation to our rest intervals, as short as they were. Tracy Reifkind took us through a workout, that she warned: '' we would dread the last 15 minutes of''. It took between 45 and 50 minutes for us to start and stop swinging, with tens of versions of combinations of two arm and one arm swings and power swings. It was practically impossible to remember all the combinations of numbers, ladders, rest intervals, and breaths, all I know is that those 50 minutes flew by and breathing hard, sweaty and happy, we realized we were done.

That afternoon we got home and slept for about 2 hours, recovering. The next couple of days were hard to move, but going from 100 to over 1200 swings in a day was anything but a smooth progression.

Tracy was very kind to sign our book, talk to us about her story, listen to our story and become a friend on Facebook.....and I....I spent the first part of my week sharing her story with my clients and friends, showing them her before and after pictures, and saying: "you can do it, too!'' a hundred times. I loved that she was a living success story, but also a tangible, real, and very very normal person, who also happened to kick our butt.
told you, amazing view!
As soon as I was able to move well again, and as soon as my hands felt like they were healing, I opened the book and was eager to find a workout that was at my supposed level, so that I could start swinging again. Unlike other times when I had been swinging to do the movement, to burn calories, to get more conditioned, this time I was excited about the choreography of swing. Something about the way Tracy taught that workshop woke up the ballerina in me, the one who appreciates combinations, rest, flow, push, pull, effort and the wholeness of it all when you are done.

Those of you who know me personally, know I don't get excited about winning or competing, but I get excited about the process, the creation, the beauty and the growth that are all in the training process. I feel like the swing choreographer inside of me is burning bright after this meeting and she will keep burning bright!

I have completed two workouts from ''The Swing!'' this week, both workout #3, once with 16kg/12kg and once with just 16 kg. It's an ''on the minute'' workout, where you swing as fast as you can at the beginning of a minute, and then rest until the minute ends.

Wanna try? It goes like this:

5 x 10
1x each of 11, 12, 13, 14,15,16, 17, 18 and 19
5 x 20

total time: 20 min
total result: pleasant tiredness and an overall good feeling of energy system training

This week I will be working my way up to 20 kg and then probably try a 1 arm workout.

Like I said before, a time machine is the preferable way of igniting your own swinging fire, but here are some more realistic ways to swing more:

1. Swing with someone else. Play some music in the background. Use Workout Muse of the Gymboss to time yourself.

2. Buy Tracy's book.

3. Go to one of her workshops. You can find her here and here!

Now go swing ;)


  1. Galya,

    Meeting the two of you was one of the highlights of the weekend! It pleases me greatly that you found lasting value from training with me, because I'm not sure training the swing gets the respect I know it deserves.

    It took me until maybe just 1 1/2 years ago to recognize what I do with the swing is indeed "choreograph" it, and since that time I use that description too. It is like a dance, a powerful dance, that combines "training", using skill, progressions, and intervals. Good stuff!

  2. Have taken it up after purchasing "The Swing" in May. This is a great review, I find it all to be true. "I can do it too." By the way, I am 58 and overweight and I find it is perfect for me. Easy on my knees but making me hella strong and combined with good nutrition it is killer.

  3. Tracy, you know the things that really change us are not pieces of knowledge, but ''paradigm shifts''. That workshop was a shift for me, thinking of how can I make this a piece of choreography, instead of a piece of ''workout''. I love it! I also love how I can just point to you and my clients are instantly ignited and on fire! It's great :)Thanks for taking the time to drop in here and comment!

  4. Beverly, thanks for your comment. I am curious what workouts you are doing right now? Are you following the order in the book?

  5. What a great review of a great book! I've been swinging "Tracy style" for at least 3 years now, it could easily be 4 now-it's goes to fast. I was lucky to be trained via Tracy for the RKC and I've never gotten away from the same style of training. To swing for thousands of reps for a session is normal to me. I'm one of those who loves the so called "boring" type of swing, after swing, after swing.
    I can't wait for her next book.........hopefully it will be all about snatches, she's got the best sessions for us "snatch-aholics!"

  6. Gayla, I have been circuitous about this. The first thing I did was follow the books instructions for form w/out a kettle bell. It was crazy but doing that made me incredibly sore - once I recovered from that first initial soreness it has not been a problem again but when Tracy says you can get a workout w/out even using bells she means it! While I read the entire book, for some reason "equal work to equal rest" confused me. Not because of the explanation in the book so much but because of my impatience and just needing to "see" rather than "read" so I started following the workouts on her blog and youtube. This was the first routine I did and I would go through it twice.
    I tried a couple others from the blog and last week this is the one I did I love it and it has really challenged me, it's much longer than what I was previously doing and I introduced a heavier bell for part of it.
    Tomorrow I plan to follow the one you recommend. I am blown away by how generous Tracy is with her youtube workouts and I like it when someone else does the counting and timing. I think I am ready for my own gym boss now that it is all becoming more clear to me.

  7. Beverly, thank you for sharing :) I am off to check the videos out. Tracy is really generous with the workouts on youtube, but it can't be any other way with a passion like hers :) Hats off! As far as the gymboss goes, I have the app on my phone and like it SO MUCH BETTER than the actual gymboss - we have broken a couple and I was getting tired of it. I can see huge clear numbers, it's programmable and I love it. It's a free app so you can check it out :)

  8. Hey Diane :) Wow well done for 3+ years of swinging! How often do you swing? Do you have swing only workouts or do you practice more KB movements every time you train?

    1. Gayla,
      I do KB's 3/week. One day of swings, one day of snatches and the other is the grunt stuff-squats, presses, cleans, etc.
      The rest of the time I'm biking, running and swimming!


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