“What keeps me going is my love for this sport – it has been the best investment in my health I have ever made. My coach, and the community of lifters she has introduced me to, as well as my kettle friends new and old keep me going.”
Elementary School Teacher, TDSB
BSc, BEd, MSc
Event/s: biathlon and long cycle
Coach: Abigail Johnston
1. How did you find out about GS/kettlebell sport?
In 2011 I was working as movement coach/personal trainer at a gym in Toronto called StrengthBox. Boris Terzic was also a trainer at that gym and occasionally I would see him doing his kettebell sport workouts in a corner of the gym when he wasn’t teaching. I was curious as I had dabbled in kettlebell movements from Crossfit but didn’t know much about them. Eventually Boris ran a beginners workshop series that I participated in. Initially I did not enjoy the movements and found it difficult and physically uncomfortable. Several months after that workshop Boris brought the OKC to Toronto for a weekend of kettlebell sport and indian clubs. Here was my first real education on technique, and training for the sport. By the end of the weekend after so much practice I was interested in preparing for my first competition. It took a year from that point to get my on the platform.
2. Describe what it was like to step on the platform for the first time.
It was not a very memorable experience. I was excited, but it was new. I had no expectations, I didn’t even know what the ranking tables were. I was too naive to be nervous. I was excited to lift in front of others, and to be judged because my first indication if what I was practicing would actually count in competition.
3. When did you start lifting kettlebells?
I was first introduced to kettlebells through Crossfit. They were just one of many tools so I didn’t know much except swings, crude snatching and Turkish get-up (TGU). I did think they were fun and such a great portable strength and conditioning tool. My friend Boris trained me in the beginning for my first competition in April 2012.
4. What motivated you to become a girevik? Why do you lift?
I have been an athlete my entire life. About every 7 years or so I would transition to different sports. When I was young it was mostly due to boredom and I wanted to learn to move in different ways. As I became older those transitions were usually due to feeling too broken down and needing to give my body a change. Kettlebell sport is the first physical activity I have taken part in where I really feel as though it healed my body. I am better conditioned and stronger now than I was back in what I would consider to be my early 20’s when I was training the most I have ever changed. I now even train way less than I did back then and feel like a much better athlete. I’m sure if I did the testing I would fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, and have always enjoyed activities that reward repetition and routine. I grew up with sports and music (piano, singing) which involved those same characteristics.
The more you lift, the more you refine and grow into your technique. This makes you more efficient, and with that consistency allows you to increase your numbers over time – a very simplified way of looking at it, but really the more reps you invest in the bank, and the longer you invest, the better your return. I find this way of investing my time soothes my mental health as much as the physical. It’s addictive and I am really enjoying working on the mastery of the movements and trying to see what the best numbers I am capable of achieving are. All of that probably could have been summed up with – I just really love it.
5. What is your athletic background?
In my youth I played a lot of soccer, track and field and basketball. In university I ran on both the Track and Cross Country running teams. In my 30’s I played competitive (national and world club level) Ultimate frisbee. In between I have done stints of distance running and trained for marathons and half marathons. This brings us to today and my obsession with kettlebell sport and I also take adult gymnastics classes.
6. What is your nutrition like?
I’ve spent the last few years being very mindful of what I eat and taking the time to stay away from foods known to give inflammatory responses within the body. We get enough of that from training so I try to eat in a way that will help me recover and reduce inflammation. I pretty much try to subsist on a variety of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, good fats, and the best protein sources I can afford. In the last month I have been experimenting with cutting back on the amount of meat I eat and increasing my vegetable intake.
7. Can you share your favorite healthy recipe?
I’m currently doing Jennifer Hintenberger’s 28 day Challenge and because she is a kettlebell sport lifter who is also a vegan she has been extremely resourceful in helping me cut back on my meat intake without hurting my strength goals and performance. She is the one who introduced me to this recipe and it has become a staple in my meal rotation lately. Simple and yummy. http://www.glutenfreeveganpantry.com/avocado-chickpea- lettuce-wraps/
8. Who is your GS hero or heroine?
There are many!!!! I would have to say my coach Abigail Johnston, and Avery Wittkamp. Both are such well rounded and incredibly talented lifters in all lifts. I really love their technique and their dedication to the sport. On the platform they appear fearless but in real life they are the kindest most humble people, very down-to-earth. True champions and role models.
9. What is life like outside of kettlebell sport? What are your hobbies? How do you balance these with training for the sport?
Kettlebell sport is my hobby. It’s really more than that, but I have a full time career as an elementary school teacher. Anyone who considers themselves an effective educator knows that job does not just occur within the school day. I spend hours planning, preparing and reporting on my students during my personal time in addition to coaching extra-curricular activities. I am always thinking about my students. I make time for my training because that is my mental and physical health time. I train 3 days a week at my sport lifts and during that time it’s like meditation. Leave me alone. I’m focused on my routine and my goals for that session. One day a week I train gymnastics. It’s great GPP but I also just love having fun with movement. In between those days I have an insane work schedule and try to be the best wife and dog owner I can be. I also try to recover as hard as I can in between lifting days and like to try to squeeze in my GMB flexibility routine or go to hot yoga.
10. What is the most challenging aspect of being a lifter?
The sport is pretty unique for each individual. For me I think it is taking enough time to recovery properly. It is challenging fitting in training time and putting the amount of time I would like to my pre and post lift routines. For the amount of tension we create we should be making the effort to spend as much time recovering from and relieving that tension. It’s a constant battle to find balance.
11. What is the most rewarding aspect of being a lifter?
There are many. To me mastering technique is like a movement puzzle waiting to be solved. The more patience and time you put in the greater your rewards. I love the feeling of improving my rpms within a 10min set, or lasting longer periods of time when trying to build to 10min with a new weight. The whole process is rewarding – setting goals, working towards meeting them, coming across challenges, trouble-shooting, trying again and again and again and again, and eventually – SUCCESS.
12. What is one of your greatest accomplishments in the sport? In life?
I’m proud of all of my accomplishments in the sport so far in my very short career. I’ve been very fortunate to have been exposed to some excellent teaching and education in the sport and my learning curve continues to grow at a steady pace. I’m very proud of my 20kg MS jerk only set, and most recently I pr’d in 16kg biathlon. Usually my greatest accomplishment is the most recent time I competed and I hope the trend continues. In life I am very proud of the work I do as an elementary school teacher. Only parents or other educators can truly understand the energy and commitment involved in caring for youth. It is physically and mentally exhausting but also the most rewarding career that I love.
13. Can you share your favorite quote/motivational thought?
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” By Karim Seddiki I love this quote because the more experience I acquire, the more expectations I place on myself. They are always reasonable expectations based on my training and in consultation with my coach….but still expectation. My biggest fear is always letting myself and the people I care about down.
Completely irrational but when you invest so much of your heart, time and money into something it’s a very intense relationship. I’ve been very proud that as I get older, and I feel facing my nerves can be a bit more challenging, but I have never let my doubts prevent me from stepping on that platform. I will always be brave and try because that is how I will grow and improve. Failures will get me closer to accomplishing my goals than paralysis from doubt.
14. What is one thing about you that most people would be surprised to know?
I love bird watching. I have a bird book that was given to me by a teaching mentor 15 years ago and I usually have it and a pair of binoculars in my car. When I spot particularly unique or rare birds I will record the location and date of where I saw. I love spending time in nature – birding, hiking, climbing, swimming, camping…. I love it all.
15. Quick – if there is one person you would like to interview, who would it be? What question would you ask them?
Another impossible question!!! There are too many to narrow down to one. In no particular order, I am very fascinated by and would love to spend some time with Melissa Swanson, Misty Shearer, and Henry Virgilio Marshall. There is nothing in particular I would like to ask them, but rather I would want to just spend a training day with them to hang out and discuss kettle and non-kettle stuff.
They are positively incredible athletes but also incredibly intelligent about the sport. I know there is much I would learn from them.
16. Do you have a next goal? What keeps you going?
I have a goal to lift professional level weights at 24kg (and above) but that is in the future. For now I continue to lay down quality reps at lighter weights and build experience. This year I am working on biathlon and dabbling with two arm events which has me primarily using no more than 16kg. Towards the end of 2016 I would like to complete a 10min snatch set with 20kg, and continue to work on both one and two arm lifts. What keeps me going is my love for this sport – it has been the best investment in my health I have ever made. My coach, and the community of lifters she has introduced me to, as well as my kettle friends new and old keep me going. I am very fortunate to know some amazing people who are so positive, kind and caring it really is an extended family. They inspire and motivate me everyday. I also have travel goals. In 2017-2018 I am taking a year off work so that I can train full time and travel and meet many lifters I have only read about or seen on-line. I am SUPER excited for the Women’s International Kettlebell Sport Summit this summer because I will get to meet my coach face to face for the first time!
17. Any advice or message for the community of kettlebell sport lifters and coaches?
My advice would be to always keep lifting! Be open to learning no matter what level you are at and seek out opportunities to learn from people who are better than you. Find a community of lifters who motivate and support you and connect with them often.
Meet and learn from Cynthia Roulston on August 8-9 at the Women’s International Kettlebell Sport Summit 2016! Cynthia will be co-presenting on Nutrition for Kettlebell Sport, Kettlebell Equipment & Gear, and the Jerk Technique portions of the 2-day educational and networking event.