The real reasons I gained weight and the real solution to it.

The real reason I’ve struggled with weight gain

For the last year since my daughter was born, I’ve watched my weight steadily increase. I’ve been disappointed about this and annoyed, but in the cold light of day I cannot be surprised. People often come up with lots of weird and wonderful reasons why their weight has increased and how puzzling it is to them since they hardly eat anything.

I for one am not that naïve. I know exactly why my weight has been creeping up and up. There are two main reasons.

  1. I used to rely on exercise to help keep my weight down and I don’t have the time to exercise for as long anymore.
  2. My diet has been inconsistent.

It really is as simple as that. I have been blissfully unaware of how poor my eating habits had gotten, thinking to myself in a state of grand delusion, that I could just stop and start dropping weight whenever I wanted.  The only problem with this thinking was that it was not true. I was eating so much that I was craving the feeling of being really full. Every time you go for that you have to eat that little bit more.  A twelve inch pizza becomes a 14 inch next time. A 50 gram bag of crisps becomes 100gr and so on.

I was completely in denial as well. I had deliberately not weighed myself thinking that would make things easier to cope with, but the body never lies. I could feel that I was heavier, and my clothes all of a sudden felt like they had been shrunk.

I could have gone blissfully unaware but eventually, I had to face reality. I braced myself and faced the music. The results were not pretty and I underestimated my weight by a few pounds as well, but it was the reality. I felt better knowing exactly where I stood and what would be needed to make improvements to my weight.

One thing I have learnt to do during this time is accept myself for the person that I am. My thinking has shifted from you will be happier when you are a particular weight to be the best you can be on this day at this size. I’ve realised that I will only get to live this day once, so I want to make the best use of it that I can. Stressing over what has been or what may be is a waste of energy that could be put to better use.

Focussing on being the best I can be for that day makes sticking to healthy habits easier. I have found that setting large goals in the past has been difficult because I get daunted by the journey and worry that I might not be able to make it. Instead of that, focussing on the present moment and the day breaks the goal down into small manageable chunks. Setting the goal and working towards it daily feels like a good approach. You need the long term vision to see the overall direction, but then need to become adept at winning each day as it comes.

So what tactics am I going to use in order to get my health back on track?

  1. Consistent diet.
  2. Regular strength training.
  3. Daily movement and general physical activity.
  4. Lots of water
  5. A good dose of micronutrients daily (vitamins and minerals)
  6. When possible, get earlier nights for better sleep and reduction in stress.

I’m sure it will work if I remember to focus on each day as it comes and win enough little victories to create consistent healthy habits that last years.

I wish you the best.

It’s been a while………………..

It’s been a long time, but I’m back and will hopefully be posting articles at least once a week for the foreseeable future.

I guess I needed some time away from the screen and felt like I wanted to think carefully about what to put out there through my blog. I have been doing a lot of introspective work over the past few months, and in the near future I will probably share some of the things I have been reading and doing, but I  felt mentally drained, and believed I didn’t have the energy to muster up blog posts for  a while. I’m back with the bit between my teeth and hoping to motivate and inspire at least one person to take action and make their lives better.

The subject of energy is a good one to start with as I think it is something that is regularly mis-understood.

People like to think of energy as something that can ebb and flow due to lifestyle factors, and I believe there is a large portion of truth to that. But I have a bit of a paradox from my own experience that does not correlate.

In theory I should have the least amount of energy now than in any other period in my life. I have two children under the age of four, and I work in one of the most stressful environments there is to work in (teaching and education) I should be destroyed every night.

But, it’s not working that way. In fact I would say that the opposite is true. The more I try to fit things in and tend to all my responsibilities, the more energy I have.

How is this possible when I a running on less than optimal sleep and have spent many nights praying to the God of sleep to come and sort it out?

I believe the answer lies in perception.

Do you see completing tasks as draining or empowering? Do you look at your work and feel overwhelmed or do you feel motivated?

One little trick I have learnt that seems to help change my perception of workload and increase my performance is to break down a difficult task into smaller chunks.

Take for example marking a set of books. If I think of the task as marking a whole set of books from start to finish, then I can’t muster up the energy to get going on the task. What I started doing instead was to think of the task of three sets of ten books. This seemed much more do-able. I would just start with ten books and see how I felt after that. Most times, I would then have the motivation and momentum to tackle the other 20 and get all the work done. The task was not any different, but my perception of the work load was greatly influenced by seeing the task in smaller chunks.

I got this idea of chunking from my workout regimen.

I was not having great success with my training programme. I seemed to be moving heaven and earth in my sessions but had nothing to show for it. This was discouraging and was really getting me down. I was close to giving up on my sessions, but I decided to not do that, but change my approach.

Using the format championed by Pavel Tsatsouline, I decided to reduce my workout to the bare essentials and really drill down on only the essential parts. He said something in his book “Simple and Sinister” that really resonated with me. “Training should give back to you and should never be taking away from you” I took that to mean that I should be benefitting from my workouts in my strength levels, fitness and in how I was feeling. I now use that rule of thumb with tasks in my life as well. Is what I am doing going to result in gains in my life, or is the activity literally a waste of energy.

With this approach, I almost treat my energy level like a budget to be spent wisely on activities that are an investment of my time.

Because I view most of the activities I take part in with this perception, I am usually highly motivated to perform tasks and activities to the best level that I can.

Where I can have energy dips is where this budget is not properly balanced. If I hammer one aspect of my life to the detriment of other areas, I then leak energy and feel less effective in my day to day life. Balancing all your responsibilities is difficult and challenging, but the pay-off is better than feeling overwhelmed and stressed because things are not as they should be.

Think carefully about how you are spending your time. It is the one resource you can never get back once you have spent it.

Have you thought carefully about the things you are doing and what impact they have on your energy level, mood and state of mind?

What is one simple change you could make today that could make a huge difference in your life?

Have you ever tried looking at a difficult task in smaller chunks and tackling them one chunk at a time? It could make all the difference when completing that challenging project.

I wish you the best

Shaun

Reflection time 23.11.2014

Gratitude.
I got the chance to spend all Saturday with my two children alone because my wife started her new job. I had so much fun and really enjoyed my time with them. It was tiring physically, but energising spiritually because they made me feel so young. We had fun, watched movies, ate good food together and Ava had a nice nap as well. Great times.
Annemarie and I got the chance to have a second date night of the month. We had a great time and ate a lot of Mexican food that was really tasty. I wanted to show gratitude to Julie A.K.A Iron fist because she is crazy strong. She is Annemarie’s mum and looks after the children when we are out and about or really busy getting something done. She has also given me many lifts to and from work when I need one.
Big up to the following virtual mentors who have contributed to my understanding this week: Robin Sharma, Eric Thomas, Zig Ziglar, The Hodgetwins, Charlotte Ord and Jon Gabriel.
Health.
I’ve been trying to abandon my ideas of being on a diet and have focused on adding in as much healthy nutrition as possible without depriving myself or having thoughts of deprivation. This has been going quite well, but I am only now realising just how broken my signalling to my body was. My eating is starting to slow down, and I hope my intuition will kick in far more with eating and I will be able to get to the point where my eating is effortless and natural rather than forced and mentally draining.
Achievements
Not mine directly, but one of my athletes qualified for the next round of the cross country championships. She performed really well and I was really proud of her and all the runners from my cross country team.
What memorable things have happened in your week?
I wish you the best
Shaun

Why I’m sick to the back teeth of diets!!!

I’ve followed a few eating protocols down the years with a very similar pattern happening each time. Focus hard and lose weight, then somewhere down the road falling into old habits again and being back at square one. This doesn’t make sense. Why is it that people who put in less effort than me sometimes lose weight really easily whereas I’m there struggling for every pound?
I think the problem has been in the struggle. With all the rules, protocols, meal timings, meal plans and the hate campaigns on whole food groups, I became a little lost and confused. One guru would tell you eat only low carb. Someone else would say the exact opposite. Arguments in fitness and nutrition seem to be an annoying constant.
Inspired by the work of weight loss expert Jon Gabriel, I have decided to abandon any ideas of diet, restriction and regimentation from my eating. It sounds counter-intuitive, and that’s why I like the idea. Do I want to track my calories on my fitness pal or something similar? No. Do I want to weigh myself every day because what gets measured gets managed? No. What get’s measured too emotionally leads to negativity that has always surrounded all my weight loss efforts. This time needs to be a very positive experience where I believe that it is possible to get the exact result that I want.
The brain will always lead you towards pleasure, so I’m going to eat the healthiest foods possible that I find a joy to eat. I’m going to workout in ways that fit my lifestyle. I’m going to use extremely quick and effective workouts that make me feel fantastic each day.
I don’t want to be a fitness model, and I’m not particularly bothered about being overly lean and ripped. I want to be healthy, fit and have a decent physique with the least amount of time spent on requiring it. I don’t want to wear my fitness like some badge of honour over others and certainly have no interest in obsessing over training or eating or anything else of that nature. I’ve proven to myself that forcing things in that way doesn’t work in the long term for me.
To be honest, I’m sick of getting so stressed out about how I look. It is still one of my major challenges that started in my younger days when family members would make negative comments about my weight. They didn’t realise the damage they did to me and that I still struggle with it some days. But those days are over and I have moved on. I don’t give a monkeys what anybody thinks about the way I look anymore. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I don’t lose a single pound, but I feel healthy and energetic, then I can accept myself as I am today till the end of my days.
I’m going to eat what I want, when I want and as often as I want. Hopefully, this will then allow my body to realise that food is abundant and there is no shortage. I have always been healthiest when taking this approach and it leads to me making healthier choices most of the time because no food is seen as bad or off limits to me.
Rant over
Be awesome.
Shaun

Love, crazy work and accepting my body. What a week!

Reflection is so important. It allows us to spot patterns, replay important events and take stock on our life. Reflection allows us to also show gratitude for what we have as well as giving us pointers to reach the goals we want in the future. Each week I am going to quickly reflect on my week in different ways. Gratitude, achievements, health, and life.
good-relationships-quote-love-quotes-pictures-pics-sayings
Gratitude.
My wife and I had our date night this Monday. Every month on the 10th, my wife has organised for us to do something together that I have no idea about. This has been to celebrate the 10th year of our relationship. In that time we have more fantastic memories than I can count. So my main area of gratitude this week to reflect on is the incredible journey my wife and I have been on so far and all the ways that she has helped me to become the person I am today. I love you Annemarie.
Achievements.
I managed to keep on top of my workload in a very intense week at school. I had an observation, a load of paperwork to get in, a book scrutiny, and on top of that, I actually had to do some teaching. Despite the work schedule, I managed to keep on top of my stress levels and had a good week. I also really wanted to keep posting on my blog and I have managed to do that as well.
Health
I’ve been trying to work on my perception of what healthy is. I have written about this quite recently.
https://sbrowne83.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/what-is-health/
Due to this, I have started re-reading the Gabriel method. This is a fantastic health book that takes a much more holistic view of being our best physically. The author Jon Gabriel revolutionised his own health and sorted out his psychology as well as his body.
My perception of my own body has always been slightly warped. I have realised that there have been not many moments in my life when I have satisfied and happy with my weight. So at the minute, fat loss is not important to me. I have to work on self acceptance of my own body at any weight. So my health goal is one I can imagine many can relate to. I want to have a healthy image of my self. I’m going to work on becoming happy with my body. This is so important because it will impact not just on me, but on my children too. If they see daddy constantly unhappy with his body and subtly putting himself down, they will think it is normal to do themselves. I want to address this not just for me but for the sake of my children.
What have been your main take home points from this week?
What are you looking forward to next week?
They are the main things floating around in my head as I prepare for another week to begin. I hope you all have an awesome week.
I wish you the best
Shaun

What is health?

So I was watching some you tube videos and reading some fitness articles online looking for some inspiration for my next cycle of training and nutrition. I had it in my head that I wanted to get really lean. I was willing to do whatever it took and sacrifice with my eating and my sanity to a certain extent. After about half an hour, I stopped and realised that this goal of being super lean was not a goal that was inspiring to me. In fact, I found the whole idea quite depressing. This was not a personal goal anymore. It was coming from a place of ego. I wanted to show the world what I could do and have everyone heap praise on my physique Why go through all that just to get praise from others? Would this really mean I was healthy?

This has been a question that I’ve been asking myself recently. I found myself plotting an elaborate fat loss plan in order to try and get myself to cut down and increase my lean muscle. I was planning to really intensify my efforts and reach a low weight and body fat percentage. Somewhere during all this planning, I stopped and scrapped all of it. I found a really simple yet extremely challenging workout routine that I can execute, and with my nutrition I am eating cleaner, but not desperately chasing some fat loss goal anymore. The truth is that at this moment in my life, I don’t want to be completely engrossed in fat loss. I only have a finite amount of energy, and there are other things at the moment that are far more important to me than being ripped to the bone and looking shredded to the max.

I had taken some time to sit back and think about what health means to me. Where had I got my frame of reference about health from?  When I reflected on this and I tried to visualise healthy looking people, I realised that my image of health was not realistic because I did not see many people at all who looked like my images in real life. I had the fitness model, super lean bodybuilder look as my image of health and realised that this is slightly warped. Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to look phenomenal in that way, but I’m not prepared to put all my energy into that one thing at this stage in my life.

Health used to mean a superficial image to me, but now I have had time to reflect, health is far deeper than that. I now see someone healthy as someone who has a vitality and energy about them. Someone who is rarely sick and can handle the stress and challenges of life well is someone who is healthy. People who eat natural whole foods most of the time are healthy. 6 pack abs and rippling muscles are possible indicators of good health, but not necessarily. Being healthy to me is also about the mind and spirit. If someone has the best looking body in the world, but they are depressed, miserable and hate themselves, could you really say that they are a healthy individual?

I wonder how many other people are going through life with a superficial idea of what health means? I feel liberated because I now know that I am already healthy and could easily stay the way I am now and be very happy with it. I have started to appreciate myself for the level of vibrancy and health I already have. I’m not ripped, I don’t have six pack abs, and may never have them and that’s absolutely fine. I am healthy, very healthy and that allows me to live a life I enjoy and appreciate.

These are the rules of health that I committed to and will be following.

* Your food should be natural most of the time.

* Drink lots of water, and the occasional beer.

* Exercise should be challenging, fun and supportive to my life.

* The mind dictates health as much as the body.

* Handling stress is a big component of good health.

What are your health rules? Have you ever sat down and thought about what health means to you? If not I think it is a very valuable exercise.

P.S Here’s the link to the workout I will be doing.

http://www.t-nation.com/workouts/10000-swing-kettlebell-workout

Self-acceptance is more important than self-improvement?

I have always been very passionate about the role of self-improvement in my life. The name of my blog shows that I believe in a holistic way of life. Self- improvement has served me well in that capacity because I believe I am more effective now than I was in the past.
However, there was always an idea that puzzled me. It was a paradox in my thinking.
If I’m always striving towards new goals, when will I get the feeling of being successful? When will I enjoy the fruits of all the work I’ve done on self-improvement?
The missing piece between success and self-improvement is self-acceptance. I now realise that without self-acceptance, there is the danger that you will never be happy with your success. Success isn’t a tangible thing. It’s a feeling, and that feeling is relative. If you took two people with the exact same circumstances in life, one could be the happiest person alive and the other person the most miserable. The way they perceive what they have and their level of identification with those things, will determine whether they feel successful.
When I have felt successful in life has been when I have cultivated that state internally. It is the journey towards the goals as well as the end point that can create a feeling of success.
I am working on self- acceptance because I realised I was playing a dangerous game where I was losing the ability to be happy in the present moment because I was forever chasing goals. The goals were not the problem, it was my identification with the result of attaining them. In short, because I was obsessing over achievement, I would have been dissatisfied with my level of income, health, relationships or career. I was making the false assumption that those things are who I am. I cannot wait for the ideal of everything before I become happy. That is not true living.
Self-acceptance is the subtle art of knowing yourself internally so that you don’t have to rely on the external things around you for identity. I understand why people chase success symbols like cars, huge houses and other similar things. It is almost a way of measuring your level of success in the world. However, this measurement system is fundamentally flawed because it does not go deeply enough. It also cannot measure the intangible elements that really make us who we are. Here are some of them.
Our core values
Our purpose
Being happy
Having the ability to immerse fully in the present moment
Love.
A connection to a force that is greater than our-selves.
These things are the timeless.
Let go of the idea that your external possessions are who you really are. Become in tune with the concept, that everything you need for life you already have inside of you. Look within. Here is a resource to help with this.
http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-Self-Acceptance-Can-Crack-Open-Your-Life This is a ten day programme of activities that are designed to help you start thinking about self acceptance. I have found some of them useful especially day one. It was really challenging to think that deeply about myself and it did give me some perspective on who I really am. I really liked this paragraph to explain what self-acceptance means:
Self-acceptance is the process of befriending the Unconditioned Self—the part of you that is more than just your name, your history, your story, your failures or your successes. You are more than just your experiences or how other people see you or the clothes you wear.
I wish you the best.

Inspire through action.

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I went to the park to complete my workout today. It was an intense session complete with kettlebell snatches, chin ups and dips. I was focused on the session and really enjoying my workout. When the first person of the session said hello to me during my workout. He was an elderly man. i would guess he was into his sixties. “Well done” he said as I struggled and strained through a set of chin ups. 

About five minutes later it happened again. “Keep going” the next observer commented as I completed my set of kettlebell snatches. Later on, a couple of boys were making their way towards me kicking a football between them, as they made their way closer to me, I saw them stop and watch me for a little while. They then waited until I had finished training on the chin up bars and decided to make their way over and have a go themselves.

These little exchanges reminded me that sometimes it’s watching someone take action that inspires us to take some for ourselves. Those boys were intrigued and interested in what I was doing. As a result they wanted to have a go at doing some chin ups for themselves. I wonder how many times they have walked past that bar without stopping to try. I hope that the man who saw me earlier on in my workout decided to do something a little more active that day. It’s not always what we say, but who we are and the actions we choose that can inspire others.

Post 018: Training for a new dad.

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My training has had to change since January since my daughter Ava has been born. Because she is so demanding I messaged my trainer Chris Lopez and asked him how to maintain my training through this busy period of my life.

His reply was to keep sessions short, regular in frequency and focussed on strength. I then decided to split my week into 5 sessions a week that last only 15-20 minutes including warm ups. This has been helpful because it means that I can get the practice I need each day without burning out my central nervous system. Keeping up with my training was important because I want to improve my health and don’t see having children as an excuse to not workout due to lack of time.

I am using kettlebells and practicing my technique in a number of lifts including: the swing, snatch, clean and press and front squat.

For cardio, I am going running once a week and incorporating skipping into my strength sessions. These little tactics are helping me to stay consistent during a time in my life when I cannot guarantee a structured time schedule and regular sleeping pattern.

The main principles for me at this time are:

Try and fit some training in at some point during the day.

Maintain freshness throughout workouts and deliberately leave some energy in reserve to avoid burn-out.

Don’t attempt to break any records or hit personal records in this period. Focus on perfecting technique.

When things do calm down at home, I am going to increase my cardio regime and decrease my number of sessions so that I can push myself harder during those sessions.

Post 009: Why I don’t bother with the gym.

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I Love Kettlebell training!

For years I used to go to the gym on a regular basis. When I lived in Liverpool, I lived near an amazing gym where I used to go and workout using weights, kettlebells and cardio equipment. The experience was always great but there were issues. One of the key issues was the time it took to travel to the gym, get prepared to work out, set up my weights and everything else. It was quite a list. When my son was born, the time pressure increased and so I found myself trying to fit workouts in after work when in reality I wanted to be home spending time with my son. I know that successful people have to sacrifice certain things to get what they want, but missing out on time with my boy in his early months was something I didn’t agree with at all. I had to make adjustments. I wanted to work out and be in good shape, but didn’t want to do it at the gym. This was when I got seriously into Kettlebell training.

For those unfamiliar, Kettlebells have been around for centuries and although the origins are argued over, most people believe they were created in Russia during the 17th Century and were used as a device tio measure goods for ships.

They were later used as a means to develop strength with strong men and circus performers using them on a regular basis. During the early 20th Century well known strongmen like Arthur Saxon, Edgar Mueller and Eugene Sandow used kettlebells in their strongman shows.

Fast forward to today’s time, and kettlebells are popping up every where. I have seen them being used in video footage from commercial gyms, many sports teams and athletes use kettlebells, and they are very popular as a training tool in the world of Mixed martial arts.

There are many reasons why I love kettlebell training and why they may be useful for you to. Let me list some for you here.

1: They are simple to use.

The most useful kettlebell moves have the same starting point and travel through similar ranges of motion. This means that focussing on form reaps huge rewards and benefits.

2: They work the whole body.

Kettlebell work involves the whole body. With moves like the kettlebell swing and snatch, the body’s chain of movement is all engaged simultaneously. Basically speaking, your body works harder than if you were doing isolation moves like bicep curls and leg extensions.

3: Anyone can use them with correct instruction

The range of kettlebell weights is so vast that anyone can be taught how to use one with a weight that is appropriate to them.

4: They can be used anywhere.

This one is so important to me. Kettlebells allowed me to spend time with my family and get in shape at the same time because I could work out at home. I would train in the back yard, sometimes in the cellar. Sometimes I would throw the bells into the car and workout after work in the park before driving home. They are versatile, portable and fit in beautifully with a busy lifestyle allowing you workout exactly when you want.

5: Workouts can be short and effective.

Sometimes less is more. One of the kettlebell coaches who I follow (Geoff Neupert) is a huge fan of 15-20 minute workouts on a more frequent basis as opposed to the marathon workouts that people believe they must do to get results. My workouts are rarely longer than 30 minutes when I factor in warm up and training. This frees up much more of my time to do other things that I enjoy like reading, writing blog posts, teaching children and spending time with my family and friends.

6: You feel bad ass using them. In other words they build your confidence.

There’s something cool about taking a cast iron ball and being able to press it over your head or to be able to swing the kettlebell with one hand and swap the bell in mid air. You start to gain in confidence and belief. Then before you know it, you are ready to work out with heavier weights or double kettlebells.

7: Kettlbells encourage consistency.

Having the kettlebells allowed me to become more consistent. I schedule in when I plan to train and try and stick to that, but when life happens and you need to make adjustments, it’s easier to do that on your own terms rather than being a slave to the opening times of your local gym. Consistency is what I strive for now more than new workout programmes or equipment.

8:They encourage natural whole body movement.

With the Turkish get up for example, most muscles in the body are used.  This is important because it teaches you to move in a more efficient manner.  I found when using kettlebells, it allowed to move much easier and with increased athleticism and agility. I have eliminated my niggling lower back pain, have much stronger legs and my chronically sore shoulder is now much stronger. My cardio ability is also improving from using kettlebells.

9: You can do workouts that improve strength, increase cardio, or target both in one workout.

Kettlebell training has a wide variety of lifts that promote ballistic lifting (Fast explosive movements) and grind patterns (Slower strength based lifts). This allows you to target different energy systems within your body and allows for you to train with higher frequency by alternating between the two.

10: Having kettlebells around at home means my son is already getting interested in exercise.

The other day I caught my boy trying to lift one of my kettlebells as he has seen me lifting them every now and then. Because he is seeing exercise happening in his environment, he will hopefully come to see exercise as part of his day to day life. This influence was not really that present in my early years and I do think it’s important to instil the values of physical exercise early in life. I’m blessed that Nathan loves the outdoors, running throwing balls around and jumping. Maybe because I value it I’m trying to make sure he does to. I digress, but the point remains that Nathan seeing me exercise is inspiring him to be really active.

There are many more benefits that I could list, but ten seems like more than enough to write about.

If you have been looking for a new way to exercise and improve your health and strength, then kettlebells are an excellent option. They are just a tool like any other, but the principle I’m following is that you reap what you sow. Kettlebells allow me to workout out consistently which will allow me to reap the rewards far better than I have found with other forms of exercise. I do supplement my training with early morning walks and jogging as well as being conscious about my diet. These three things for me mean I can improve my health and fitness in a way that’s enjoyable and fun for me.

If you are interested in getting involved with kettlebell training, my advice would be to look for a certified coach who can show you correct technique and execution of the main lifts. If that isn’t possible, there are books and resources online that you can look to that can help you with learning proper form and technique.

Google search these guys for more on kettlebells as I’m no expert. All I can comment on is my experience. These guys are certified kettlebell professionals and will take your understanding forward much better than I can.

Pavel Tsatsouline

Mike Mahler

Chris Lopez

Steve Cotter

Geoff Neupert

Marianne Kane

Girls Gone Strong. G.G.S is a brilliant website that promotes health fitness and well being to women everywhere. They don’t focus specifically on kettlebells, but I’m sure you find some stuff there.

Till next time

Shaun