If you are a female Kettlebell Sport lifter, you should know the name Kim Fox.
Kim is blasting through the “glass ceiling” in Kettlebell Sport, so to speak. Historically, women have only been allowed to compete in Snatch. Kim and Chelsey Marr took a big step for female athletes a few short weeks ago by showing the world there is no reason women should not compete with two kettlebells – and heavy ones, at that.
To my knowledge, Chelsey and Kim are the first and only two women to complete a 2x24kg Long Cycle set in competition. Kim set a World Record by completing 38 repetitions of Long Cycle with 2x24kg in 10 minutes at the Texas Open Kettlebell Sport Championships on May 23.
If you’re like me, you are wondering what motivated Kim to lift two green kettlebells, and what was going on in her head during that historic 10 minute set. Kim graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions – so read on!
What is your athletic background?
I grew up in a sports oriented household and was involved in softball, basketball, track, and soccer. I played competitive softball from 11-18 years old. I planned on playing in college but I got some crazy idea to join the Army instead. Once I got older and busier, I got into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai.
How long have you been lifting Kettlebells?
I started training about three years ago. My husband introduced me to kettlebells while he was going through his Exercise Phys. Grad program. We started with hard style swinging – man, that seems so long ago! My husband’s buddy Matt Sanders was doing the competitive thing and offered to teach me. Matt trained under Ken Blackburn (IKFF). After my first session with Matt, I was hooked. I loved the idea of getting back into a competitive sport. “If you’re not first your last, Ricky Bobbie”
Being a busy parent who also runs a business is something many readers/fellow lifters can relate to. How do you manage your time to make sure you get your training in?
This is a real struggle for me. I am a full time soldier and live an hour from where I am stationed, and we also own a gym. I work 70-80 hours a week. My day normally starts at 4:30am and doesn’t end until about 9pm. Most people, including my clients, assume that because I own a gym it’s easy to get a workout in – but it’s the total opposite. Making sure I get my sets in can be tricky, between answering questions, taking payments, running social media pages/websites, teaching classes, and my regular Army work.
There are days when other things have eaten up my workout time so I only have 30-45 minutes and I want to skip it. I get irritated when things don’t go according to schedule, but my husband pushes me to do the workout anyway (even if I bite his head off). He does a lot to ensure I get time to train, including forfeiting his own training time. I have established times during the day both super early in the morning and in the evening when I train, but life happens and sometimes my workout gets kicked to the curb. I just adjust and hack out a rest day. I have taken bells to work to complete my sets over my lunch hour. It’s comical: me in combat boots with my lifting belt on standing out by my car with two green kettlebells. I normally hear someone saying, “Oh hey, you doing one of those kettleball workouts or do you do Crossfit?” It’s not necessarily the best training environment but I get it done.
Having a baby has made things the hardest. When my son is hugging my leg needing attention, it’s difficult to keep training. I try to remember that my son won’t be living with me forever so I need to make sure I don’t lose these moments with him. However, I do need my own aspirations that have nothing to do with him. Staying an independent person is important to me for emotional and mental growth. I think in the end it’s healthier for him too.
Did you start with the traditional one-arm lifts or jump right into doubles?
Initially, I trained Snatch. Right before I learned I was pregnant in July 2013, I had started training to compete in Long Cycle. Halfway through my pregnancy I had to switch back to Snatch. Yes, I swung all the way up until I delivered! I started back up with kettlebell about two weeks later. I had played with double bells a couple of times but I hadn’t TRAINED with them. My official leap into the double bell world was when I approached Arseny Zhernakov in October 2014 about coaching me. He suggested training for double bell 24kg – I was psyched. Pushing new boundaries seemed right up my alley.
Did you set out with a goal to long cycle double 24’s? When did you decide to do it?
When Arseny picked me up as a student in October 2014, he talked with me extensively about my goals. Initially, I wanted to reach CMS with the 24 (OALC). I had been training kettlebell for a long time but had never gotten invested long before life would get in the way. Arseny is the one that really believed that I could do 24kg TALC. So I said, “What the hell? Go big or go home.” I remember the first set he gave me to test out were I was in my current training. It was a 4 minute set with the 16kg bells. I made it like 38 reps and almost died. It was a little disheartening knowing my final goal would be 24’s for 10 minutes!
What were your thoughts the minutes before your set, as you were about to take the platform?
Well, as crass as it sounds, my first worry was I hope I don’t poop myself. If you have ever had nerves before competition, you know what I’m talking about. The increased heart rate and adrenaline magically (physiologically) loosens the bowels and fills the bladder. Nobody wants to be remembered as the girl who pooped her pants. Other than that, I was worried that I was going to hit the platform and not even get close to my goal. Or worse, that I would not last 10 minutes and the bell would slip from my grip. Months of hard work down the drain. Mostly, I was worried about pooping myself – it is kind of hard to move past that fear.
As all Kettlebell Sport athletes know, making it to that 10-minute mark is all about mental toughness. Can you walk us through what you were thinking and feeling during your set, and how you were able to push all the way to the 10-minute mark?
I zoned out during my set as soon as I picked up the bells. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t on pace the first two minutes. My goal was to stay at four reps per minute the entire way through, but minute one I only did two reps. My husband thought I was trying to settle in and relax my heart. I just focused on relaxed breathing. I think of the breath being pulled in and pushed out of my lungs almost as if I can see the air movement inside of me. Then I try and wake up from my mental stupor in time to hit the next rep. On the platform, I let my vision go blurry – never looking at any one person or thing. I couldn’t tell you who was standing in front of me, nor did I remember what my judge looked like until I watched the video. The 10 minutes on the platform was easier than doing it in my gym, where I’m not able to zone out like I do in competition. The last 10-minute set I did was at a 2 reps per minute pace. Technically this was only my second 10-minute LC set with the 24’s.
How did you feel right after your set, knowing that you just set a world record and made history?
Tired; I was trying not to throw up. The gravity of the situation didn’t sink in until I left the competition and was driving back to the hotel. I honestly didn’t think I had done anything spectacular right after. Don’t get me wrong, I was completely happy with my set. I got really close to my goal number and did 11 more reps than my other 10-minute set. My disbelief was mostly because I have nothing to compare my set to. Was it amazing or was I just the first? But with everyone’s genuine excitement, happiness, and disbelief of the numbers we hit, I finally came around. Then I was really on cloud nine for two days after the competition. It didn’t feel real. I feel like setting the world record was the easy part because I didn’t have a required number to set it. I just needed more reps than Ms. Chelsey. I was more excited on Tuesday, when Aaron Vyvial and Sergei Rachinski awarded me with a men’s ranking. That blew my mind. I am more proud of that than if I had received CMS in OALC.
What is your next training goal?
50 repetitions of 24kg TALC, which is men’s rank 1 according to the American Kettlebell Alliance (AKA) raking table. This would also give me a men’s rank 1 from Ketacademy.
What is the most challenging part of lifting Kettlebells?
Counting. This may seem like a non-issue but I hate counting my reps and watching the time. I’m screwed when I have to watch my heart rate too. I love the hard physical stuff, the way I feel after a set, feeling like my lungs are going to give out. All I can think is, I survived. As far as the motor patterns for kettlebell, cleans come easy to me but the jerk was more challenging. When I was first learning the jerk, Ken Blackburn made me wait forever before he would certify me. He wanted my under squat to be legit. Controlling my arm path is the hardest part; it’s something I have to continually pay attention to.
What are your aspirations with regards to Kettlebell Sport?
Right now my goal is to hit 70 reps with the 24’s. But I hope to be able to help other women push forward in the sport.
What do you see for the future of Kettlebell Sport for the ladies?
I think the Texas Open Kettlebell Sport Championship competition was a big step in the right direction. The women’s double kettlebell sets were just as exciting as the men’s. I feel like single bell events should or will become a thing of the past.
What do you think we can do to promote the growth of Kettlebell Sport?
Really the community promotes its self. Generally it only takes someone to get to know the community to be hooked. The Kettlebell Sport community is unlike any other sport community I have been involved with. People are genuinely supportive of each other. I have yet to go to a competition where I didn’t feel wanted.
Any words of wisdom for ladies looking to start lifting doubles?
Lift! I don’t just mean kettlebells. Something that has helped me is that I have really focused on developing my strength. My husband programmed me to do multi-joint lifts on a bodybuilding split program. Our concern was improving strength without impairing LC training, and minimizing overtraining. I lift 3x/week and train long cycle 3x/week. High volume and heart rate training has helped me progress more quickly. Most of my kettlebell sessions are at least an hour long. My best piece of advice is don’t forget not every set has to be a new PR to produce results. Love the process!
Kim Fox lives in Wichita, Kansas and owns Fox Fitness with her husband, Jake.