Kettlebell World Record? 2:16:40 of continuous 16kg swings and, um… why?

A couple weeks ago I set a new personal record with the 16kg kettlebell. 2:16:40 of continuous swings, which equals about 4500 reps for the set. This was just over an hour longer than my last longest set. It didn’t occur to me to think in terms of record but after someone asked about it, I tried looking up the world record for continuous swings, just to see what it would take. All I found was this feat in Dublin of just over 52 minutes of swinging and walking a mile (which was some awesome charity work!):


I’m not here to compete (heck, he had the good spirit to put the effort to good use!), but at least the comparison does confirm a good showing. My last long set was 75 minutes (to no fanfare whatsoever), and my goal was to hit 90. I was grooving at that point, so I kept ¬†going. The odd total time came from deciding to finish when my favorite psych-up song from high school played. I’ll spare my reputation by withholding that tidbit! It seemed like a fitting note to end on.

The most frequent question I get is: why?

The first part of the answer is simple goal setting. 40 years ago, running a marathon was only for freaks. Now, millions of people do it every year. This just happens to be a goal that doesn’t have big charities and PR campaigns associated with it, or a sticker for the back of my car. It was truly a personal goal, in that few would know what to make of it. Simple as this: I’d set a benchmark (by accident the other year), and I wanted to better it. The physical life must have goals and progression and growth, otherwise it quickly devolves into mindlessly spinning some treadmill’s wheels or some other version of that.

The second part of the answer is to change the context. Even before the goal was finished, the effort transported me to that Quiet place. It’s commonplace to put every aspect of movement life into terms of fitness, whatever that means to someone, and these kinds of endeavors don’t compute in that context. Someone said, “Wow, how many calories do you think you burned? I bet if you did that everyday, you’d be super fit.” Well, I don’t know: a lot of calories and probably not. I’d be a freak with my head buried in my own weird rabbit hole. Fitness is just one slice of movement, and not the most important one.

This wasn’t a workout, this was movement meditation. I listened to Bach and Sigur Ros at the beginning to quiet my head and slip into the rhythm of movement and breath. I released myself to the moment. Human cultural and spiritual history is filled with examples of using the physical as a vehicle to transcend. Giving up something for lent, doing the Ironman, climbing a mountain. These are all on the same continuum. When we watch professional athletes go nuts after winning a championship, the look on their faces doesn’t come from celebrating the big bonus or gaudy new ring. ¬†Move (much, much) further along that continuum and you reach people transcending this:

So, my potential, imaginary, self-proclaimed world record set was truly nothing at all.

There is value in setting a goal, and there is value in transcending yourself. You don’t even need people cheering for you or patting you on the back. But it helps: thanks to Anna [victory sandwich!], Ken, Taylor, Keith, Gerardo, Steve and the 9am and 10:15a folks for cheering me on and not thinking I was crazy–or at least having the tact to not tell it to my face!


I’d actually love to know if anyone has done a long swing set before. Maybe I should call the Guinness people after all. I think I have some more hours in me :)