Fad Fitness: Cookies vs. Kettlebells

Week 6: Foiled by the holidays and a monotone

Last week, I boldly declared my intent to fit in all of my kettlebell workouts, no matter how hectic the holiday week got. While I earned high marks for expectation-setting, I more or less flunked at following through. Though I aimed for four sessions, I was only able to jam in two sweat-soaked workouts. (But I did run during an icy rain storm, which ought to be good for some extra credit, right?)

With all of the family celebrations, travel and seemingly impromptu parties, this was probably the hardest week of this experiment (if not the year) to squeeze in a few workouts. I stuck to the bare bones of my routine, though. Because the kettlebell is just one tool, I brought one with me when I hopped on a plane for the holidays (lugging it in my suitcase should count as half a workout, if you aske me). I was getting terribly bored of my DVD, so I decided to switch it up a bit and search for workouts online. To my surprise, there were quite a few helpful videos, including the one that I used from Fitness Blender, which walked me through an entire 39-minute routine. Some of the moves were too complex for me to do without injuring myself, so I did those exercises without the weight. That’s a lesson I learned from Branden Bonk over at Punch Gym: Perfect your form first, and add weight later.

While it was refreshing to follow along to another video, this one was lacking in the energy department. Word to the wise: If you're going to work out at home, find a routine that motivates you, and be sure to add a variety of workouts to keep it feeling fresh and exciting. With the Fitness Blender vid, they did a great job of explaining each move, but I go so bored by the monotonous voiceover that I just wanted to stop before it was over.

What's this tell me? That I'm the type who needs to pony up the cash for kettlebell classes. When I worked out at the gym, I felt totally different—curious, motivated, willing to give it my all and, above all, sore. With DVDs, I can (and probably will) cut corners, and if my technique gets sloppy, no one is there to tell me to clean it up. You definitely get what you pay for.

After six weeks of working on kettlebells, I can’t wait to get back to the gym and continue swinging them around. Am I the best at them? No way. Do I feel that I can benefit from more work with them? You betcha. Better yet, I feel like I’ve gotten into great shape. I now have some muscles in my quads and biceps that I never saw before (albeit, they're still nothing to write home about) and I feel better all around.

Plus, I realized that neglecting weight training was taking a toll on my body. While running will always be my first love, this is a great complement to my routine. It may be my imagination, but I even feel better on my runs. Best of all, it was pretty easy to incorporate kettlebells with my endurance training. To join one of these gyms is not the cheapest venture in the world (monthly packages start at around $90 a month), but I'm confident now that every penny is well spent.

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.