Fad Fitness: Kicking Off with Kettlebells

Week 1: Breaking the ice with Bob Harper DVDs

During the summer, I always get a fitness kick. The weather is gorgeous, the days are long, and you've got short shorts to keep you in check every time you get dressed. But as the weather cools down and when the sun sets well before I head out of the office, my willingness to go on a fresh air run plummets faster than the temperature.

Even worse? If I happen to drag myself to the gym, I do the same darn thing every time. And it's boring. I hop on the treadmill for 30 minutes at a decent pace, and then hit the mat for some stretches and exercises (planks, squats, resistance band moves) that, honestly, I'm not even sure if I’m doing correctly. And then I usually feel so lost that I kind of look around to see what other people are doing, but just decide to hit the showers instead. The weight section of the gym might as well be in Canada, because I never, ever step one foot into it.  My spaghetti arms and wobbly thighs are proof.

There are a few reasons I don't want to venture into the land of free weights and machines. First of all, I have no idea what anything does or what exercises I should do. Secondly, I’m kind of terrified that I’ll hurt myself by using something the wrong way, and thirdly, I'm afraid that the macho guys will laugh at me. A lot.

So, I decided that I needed to do something about that. The Russian-inspired kettlebell craze looks like it’s here to stay, and since swinging a kettlebell seems like a lot more fun than bench-pressing or lifting dumbbells, I think that this might be the perfect introduction to that “other” corner of the gym. Plus it's pretty apparent that I need to do something about my upper body strength. (I can't even hop a fence: It's sad.)

So here's the plan: I'm going to do a 30-45 minute kettlebell routine 3x a week for 6 weeks, plus I'm going to go running 3x a week as well (at least aim for it). Since for the first week of the challenge I was on-the-go, I followed a Bob Harper DVD. Once I head back home, I am planning to hit up the kettlebell classes at my gym and when my schedule doesn’t allow for me to get to the class on time, I’ll throw in the DVD to get my sweat session in.

A 30-minute routine sounds like a piece of pumpkin pie (which I've had too many of lately) but if you've taken a fitness vacation for the past few weeks (like I have) every minute feels like an hour. But the good news: Swinging the 10lb kettlebell around was a lot of fun and the moves, were easy to follow. While I’ve only logged one workout so far, I have high hopes that this will be a challenging, but very doable routine. One of the more difficult moves so far? The one-legged deadlift. Since this one takes a lot of balance, I hope that as the weeks progress, my strength and balance improves overall as well. All in all, I could definitely feel my heart rate ramp up and my arm muscles were definitely feeling a bit tired by the time it was all over.

Hopefully this is the start of a (sustainable) winter fitness kick.

About the Project: The Active Times' Fad Fitness Challenge is a six-week-long project in which five hapless writers will immerse themselves in five popular fitness programs—CrossFit, Insanity, Barre, Flywheel and Kettlebell classes—for the dual purposes of getting in shape and evaluating them for our readers. We guinea pigs will bust our butts, burn calories and discover muscles we'd long since mothballed and, if all goes well, emerge into the New Year with a well-rounded perspective of the top fitness fads. Check back every weekday from now until the New Year to come along for the ride without breaking a sweat. Click here to check out the rest of the programs.