The First Minute is a Lie

One of the selling points I use when explaining the benefits of Kettlebell Sport to a newcomer is that it builds tremendous mental tenacity. The strength to endure, to talk down our inner critic, and to push ourselves past our limits – most of which requires us to ignore what the brain is telling us (“This is too hard. Put down the bells!”).

Ignoring mental chatter is especially necessary at the beginning of a kettlebell set. The biggest mistake a lifter can make is to listen to their head during the first minute of a 10-minute set.

The voice inside your head tells you you can do anything that first minute. Your body feels great after a few days of rest. You’re motivated and ready to crush your set. The adrenaline is pumping and you want to sprint right out the gates at a million reps per minute. Your body feels strong and capable of going fast. You paint pictures of grandeur in your head that if you can just sustain this fast pace, you will hit that PR or set a new record.

But it’s all a lie.

DON’T listen to your brain during the first minute of your set.
The first minute is a lie. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that Girevoy Sport is an endurance sport, not a feat of strength. Just like taking off at record speed on the first mile of a marathon is a death sentence, so is going too fast on the first minute of a 10-minute set. The first minute (the first half of the set, actually) is about pushing down the adrenaline and finding relaxation through efficiency of movement. By utilizing rest positions, the muscular system can work at a moderate pace for longer and more often than not, have enough energy left to sprint the last minute or two.

The problem with listening to your head telling you to work hard in the first minute is that you won’t be able to get back to a relaxed phase later on in your set. While you can go from relaxation to working hard when you need to start pushing the pace, there’s really no way to get BACK to relaxation if you have already pushed your muscular and nervous systems to their exhaustion point.

Take a deep breath after you do the first rep of your set, and remind yourself that 10 minutes is a marathon, not a sprint. Try to stay in the moment for each minute of your set without focusing on the outcome or number of repetitions you want to hit. If you stay in tune with how you’re feeling throughout the set, both mentally and physically, you will be able to adjust pace and energy expenditure as needed. The energy you conserve with efficiency and relaxation will be essential at the end of your set  – trust me, you’re going to need it!

Are you guilty of listening to your head during the first minute of a 10-minute set? How do you quiet the mental chatter?


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4 thoughts on “The First Minute is a Lie”

  1. I can relate to this. I have always struggled with nerves and adrenaline. I have worked hard to stop “sprinting out of the gate”. But for me personally, I have had to learn, self awareness of where I was and what I was doing in order to remember my pace goals and be aware of the clock, and remain calm! The first few times I competed, I would be at minute 3 and had no clue of the time or my pace, and I was always going to fast! Thanks for your posts!

    1. I just talked to my students about this today: Being “in the moment” during your set is so crucial. Knowing where you’re at pace wise, where you are at with regards to fatigue and grip failure, etc. so you can adjust as you go along. It’s all too easy to focus only on your end number, but usually this doesn’t work well. As we both know, there is so much that can happen during a 10 minute set!

  2. I like to practice “accelerator” pacing. I start slowly (6RPM) and add 1 RPM each minute until I get to a full sprint.

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