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How This 60-Year Old Fights Type 2 Diabetes With Kettlebells

Robert Blick, HKC Goblet Squat
Dragon Door: How did you first get involved with kettlebells?

Robert Blick: I saw an ad for Dragon Door kettlebells. I used to lift weights, and even though I had given it up for a while, I thought kettlebells looked interesting—and like something I could do at home. So I ordered a 16kg kettlebell and some of Pavel’s books and DVDs. After reading the books and watching the DVDs, I tried a lot on my own—and I think I did a few things wrong. There were also a lot of exercises like the get-up that I wasn’t comfortable attempting on my own. But, swings, squats, and presses were good enough for me at the time.

I remember reading that it was recommended to train with an RKC instructor, but the only one in town that I could find was a guy who worked for FDLE. My wife and I had been working out at a regular gym for about a year, then after our membership ended, I saw a Groupon Laurel Blackburn was offering at her gym, Tallahassee Kettlebells. We’ve now both been training at Laurel’s gym for a little over two years. How we got started there was kind of a fluke, but I really liked it—especially because we were training with someone who really knew what they were doing. I could tell that training with an instructor was much better than trying to learn it on my own.

Dragon Door: Absolutely. It really helps to have an RKC instructor to teach you complex movements like the get-up—and really all of them!

Robert Blick: I tried to figure out the get-up at home with a tiny kettlebell, but kept having to look back at the book. I used to be afraid that I’d hurt myself doing them, but I can do them now!

Dragon Door: And now, you’ve not only been training with Laurel Blackburn for about two years, but have also earned your HKC?

Robert Blick: That's right, I did the HKC in November up in Cartersville, Georgia with Beth Andrews. My wife and I drove up there as kind of a mini-vacation. I've never been so tired in my life after that day of training, but it felt good to do it. Since I’ve never been really athletic, this was one of my first athletic accomplishments. I was really proud.

Dragon Door: That's very cool. I was going to ask about your athletic background...

Robert Blick: To be honest, I'm kind of an average guy. I'm a state worker, and work in an office. Over time I gained a lot of weight, and developed type-2 diabetes, but I'm fighting it. It's been hard to lose the weight, but kettlebell training has really helped me get in shape. I am still a little bit overweight, but I have a lot more endurance.

The first year I started training with Laurel, she thought I was going to die right there because I would get so out of breath! But, we can laugh about it now because even though I still get tired, I've really come a long way really with endurance and work capacity. I can do a lot more work and get a lot less tired now.

Robert Blick, HKC, Get-Up
Dragon Door: That's great to hear! Laurel mentioned you’re interested in the RKC. What’s inspired you to start training for it?

Robert Blick: After I did the HKC, I started thinking about it and talking to Laurel and others in our gym who have the RKC certification. When I first joined Laurel's gym I heard a lot about the RKC. At the time, it seemed impossible so I didn’t even consider it. I just wanted to learn how to use kettlebells and the basics. Then I learned to do the three movements in the HKC—the swing, goblet squat, and get-up. And Laurel worked with me so I would be ready for the HKC workshop. Since the HKC, I've learned more about the RKC and am starting to believe I can do it—even though it’s still a ways off, and I need to start training a little more diligently for it. One of the ladies who trains with us, Samantha Lobello, is an RKC and a really good trainer. She’s been working with me a little bit too. With good trainers around me who can help, it will happen. I hope to do it within a year!

Dragon Door: What is your favorite kettlebell movement?

Robert Blick: I still think it's the swing. But, I like doing snatches too, they feel good when I do them. Ever since my weightlifting days, I've always been able to do the squats very well, too.

Dragon Door: What was the most difficult challenge you had when you began training with kettlebells at Laurel's gym?

Robert Blick: Just learning to do everything correctly. There are so many details, and she would sometimes need to stop me in the middle of a movement. At first I was thinking about many different things but now I can even pick out when others are swinging incorrectly in some of the exercise videos on YouTube. At first I needed cues to get my back flat, and had to consciously think about what I was doing. But the more I practiced and learned, the easier it became.

I just love it, and this is the first time I've ever stuck with an exercise program. Before, I would go and lift weights for about six months before quitting. Three months later I would go back and repeat the cycle. But kettlebells are fun, and they feel right to me. Laurel didn’t know if I would stay around for very long when I first came to the gym, but I think it’s surprised her that I've stuck it out!

Dragon Door: Was your wife working out with you the whole time, too?

Robert Blick: She came with me to the gym thinking that she'd just stay for the duration of the Groupon then drop out, but I think it got in her blood too. She knows the moves and we go together to class three times a week. We both have our own kettlebells here at the house. I thought it was cool that she wanted one of her own. I think going to the gym together helps. And knowing that a trainer is there waiting for us is helpful too.

Dragon Door: That's great! You briefly mentioned having a job outside the fitness industry, what do you do?

Robert Blick: I'm a government, worker so I mainly work with computers, or I’m answering questions on the phone or email. I've had these types of jobs for my whole working life, so it was really easy to get out of shape—and that's what happened to me over the years. Now I'm 60, but I believe I'm in the best shape of my life! I don’t know what 60 is supposed to feel like, but I don't even think about it—I don't feel "old." I don't know where I'd be with my health if it wasn't for kettlebells.

The other day in my office the back of my chair just snapped off. Suddenly I was headed towards the floor. But then, my core muscles helped me stop myself—it was kind of like I did a sit-up. I went back a little bit, but stopped and didn't fall. When I realized what happened I thought, "How did I do that?" But, I know it was something reactive and instinctive from kettlebell training that helped me. It’s all very practical. Recently, my wife was working in the yard and fell, but she said that when she got back up, she did half a get-up. I know I could have hurt myself pretty badly if I fallen backwards at the office, but I was able to stop and I credit the kettlebells.

Dragon Door: That’s a huge! What other benefits from kettlebell training have you noticed?

Robert Blick: It makes me feel good, and I can get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. There's variety, and you don't have to do the same things over and over in the workouts. I like the synergy of it, you're working your core along with everything—nothing is isolated, and there are a lot of practical exercises like farmers’ walks that I can do daily.

The training helps in everyday life. I had to lift my mother out of a wheel chair and it is now so easy for me to help her up. At first I was worried about lifting her, but then realized I knew how to move from my kettlebell training. Now, I know I have the strength to do things like that. Kettlebell exercises are very practical and a lot of them are useful outside the gym. I used to be out of breath just from taking the garbage to the street, and now it doesn’t bother me anymore.

I believe kettlebell training can help people my age, especially if they have diabetes. Kettlebell training is great if you don’t like to run or jog, and the workouts are a lot faster. You can get a lot more work done in a shorter amount of time. It really helped me. It's good exercise and helps me burn off blood sugar.

Learning from an RKC instructor is worth it. It’s a great community, everybody's so helpful and shares their advice. I hope I can keep training. Normally, we lose muscle mass as we age, but I’ve actually gained some muscle and am happy about that!

Robert Blick, HKC enjoys training at Tallahassee Kettlebells