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 endurance 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 endurance set was 75 minutes (to no fanfare whatsoever), and my goal for this one 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  high school psych-up song played. It seemed like a fitting note to end on.

Afterward, the most frequent question I got: 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. Swinging a KB just happens to be a goal that doesn’t have a recognizable car sticker. It’s a goal that few would know what to make of. But quite simply, I’d set a benchmark (by accident the other year), and I wanted to better it. The physical life must be anchored by progression, otherwise it quickly devolves into regression.

The second part of the answer is to change the context. Even before the set, 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?” Well, I don’t know. A lot? We are so programmed to value fitness solely in terms of what is lost– like calories and weight vs what is gained. No one asked, “what did you learn from doing that?”

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, I’d wager.  Move (much, much) further along that continuum and you reach people transcending this:

So, my potential, imaginary, self-proclaimed world record set was pretty low end on the transcend scale :)

–Josh

I’d actually love to know if anyone has done a long swing set before. If you know, let me know!