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Rene Grobecker: 35% increase in bone density with kettlebells and much more

Rene Grobecker Kettlebell Pistol Squat
Dragon Door: How did you first get into fitness?

Rene Grobecker: I was active when I was young, but had many long breaks. I started running again at 34, when I started to train for my first marathon. It was difficult with family, work, and obligations, but I did the best I could. After my first marathon, I decided to do one a year. After my fifth marathon, I started to run 4-6 a year and just got better and better. I still wasn't at an elite level, but was doing my best as circumstances allowed me—a mom and wife with four kids. Eventually I started cross training at a kickboxing gym, which was very hard to fit into my schedule, but I really enjoyed it and led to learning grappling on the side.

At first, I was uncomfortable just watching the jujitsu classes, but one day I just decided to try it. When the instructor asked me why I wanted to learn, I said I was too old to be afraid of this class. I didn’t like the way this fear made me feel, and sometimes when we're that afraid of something, it makes us vulnerable. The class was very empowering, and from there I was introduced to kettlebells. Unfortunately, we were not taught the best technique. But, as an occupational therapist, I saw how the kettlebell could be a beneficial tool for people of all fitness levels. My goal as an occupational therapist is to inspire people, get them moving in whatever way they can, and to help them feel viable again.

I had eight surgeries during my childhood beginning at age six when my appendix ruptured, then I had a surgery every year from ages fourteen to twenty one. I have also had epilepsy my whole life, which is now under control. For my whole life, people have always told me what I can’t do. But, I didn't want to be the sick person—I am one of five girls and the rest of them were healthy. I didn't like being told that my health could limit me. So, it is important for me to be strong even when my health, and circumstances bring additional challenges.

When I was 29, I was told that I had osteopenia, which downgraded about three years later to osteoporosis. At 29, my spine had the bone density of a 130-year-old, and my hips had the bone density of a 115-year-old. I thought running would be helpful as weight-bearing exercise, but three years later found out that it had made my bone density even worse. I had developed osteoporosis because of the hysterectomy I had at 21 which affected my hormones. Because of the epilepsy, I also need to take anti-convulsants which deplete vitamin D—I couldn’t absorb calcium which made for the perfect storm. But I kept trying new things. Since I started training with kettlebells, I have had a 35% increase in my bone density without changing anything else in my training. 
Rene Grobecker BJJ Winning
I am still running and doing jujitsu—in fact I recently competed in the world championships. It's crazy because I started jujitsu in August of 2014, and in seven months got my blue belt. It comes pretty naturally to me. My coaches and trainers didn’t push me to compete, but because I showed an interest, they wanted me to go to World Masters. At my last tournament before the world championship, I won first place for gi and no gi.

Dragon Door: How was your experience at your first RKC certification?

Rene Grobecker: After the first day of the Salinas, California RKC-I, went back to my hotel room and started to look at flights for coming back home. I texted my husband because I felt like I didn’t fit in—other than my muscles! I was an occupational therapist in a room full of trainers, and I felt very out of my element. But, I don't like to quit, so just like when I’m running, I kept thinking, "I can do anything for 10 minutes." So I went every day and by the time we finished, I wanted to be the first one to test—and I was the first one to pass!

The assistant who scored my test said that I couldn't have done it better! I look at the training from the eyes of an occupational therapist—biomechanics and safety—so the troubleshooting and teaching portion came naturally for me. When I came back, I taught class the very next day. I invited everyone I knew to learn. Even if they are very overweight, not athletic or coordinated, I like to create a safe environment for them to learn. Now I get to teach them about all the crazy PCC stuff!
Rene Grobecker Double Kettlebell Press Back

It’s been a journey, but I refused to accept not being able to be active or independent. And even though I didn’t have adequate instruction and support when training for my first RKC, I trained myself and was successful. When I started to work towards the RKC-II, I knew what I needed to do and met with Keira Newton a few times to clean up my technique. So for me that was a proud part of this whole process—no matter what, I found a away to do it. I want to be a good example for my family, friends, clients, and the people around me.

Dragon Door: What has been the most useful kettlebell move for you?

Rene Grobecker: I see benefits with all of them, but think the Get Up really helps me with jujitsu because of the different body positions, angles, rotations, and the technical standup from the ground. It has a nice carryover. I also like the benefits from the arm bar stretch. Now, I teach kettlebell classes at my occupational therapy office. We have a little studio in the back and I have led small groups ever since I first earned my RKC certification.

Dragon Door: What demographic are you mostly working with in occupational therapy and your exercise classes?

Rene Grobecker: Usually people between the ages of 23-40 with no prior exercise experience. The majority are women, but we do have some men train with us consistently and more who plan to attend.

Dragon Door: How long had you been training with kettlebells when your doctors noticed your increase in bone density?

Rene Grobecker: My RKC level 1 was in March of 2014 (I did the Level 2 the following October). Before March, I had a little bit of exposure to kettlebells at the kickboxing gym, but didn’t do much of it because I felt like I was not getting good directions. Instead I took a few personal training sessions. So, I’ve really only been training with kettlebells since January of 2014, and along with starting a new bio-identical hormone replacement I think they have definitely helped. My doctors were shocked by the 35% increase in bone density. At first it didn’t make sense to them, and they wanted to know what else I had been doing. I think it’s absolutely been the kettlebells, because the increase happened in the same time frame.

Dragon Door: It’s inspiring to hear how you’ve been able to positively effect your health so much. How did you hear about the PCC?

Rene Grobecker: At my RKC-II in Rockwell Texas, Paul Britt mentioned that he would be hosting a PCC workshop. One of my RKC-II classmates and I wanted to do it, so we signed up together. I was an amazing experience, and Danny and Al made us all feel very comfortable. I still go into these workshops feeling a little bit like I don’t belong, but I need understand that I do fit in. The feedback I'm getting from the people in my classes is that they enjoy my style of instruction. They appreciate that my instruction is mindful of their bodies, joints, and longevity—and that I also break it down.

Rene Grobecker PCC Dragon Flag

It’s just like everything else I do! My specialty as an OT is more about bodywork, cranio-sacral manual techniques, myofascial release. I see many people with sports injuries and chronic pain. I like being a little off the mainstream and love what I do. I am always looking for ways to bring it to more people. I started a youth boot camp over the summer for my therapy clients, and their families/friends. One of my male kettlebell students is with the army and has asked me to lead a kettlebell group on their base, so I am excited about that. And another gentleman at the jujitsu school I attend wants me to work with the high school groups he teaches in the community.

At first I just thought people were coming to my classes to support me as their friend, but they keep coming back because they’re feeling the benefits and are getting inspired. If I can motivate just one person—and there have been far more than that—then everything has been worth it. I just want people to feel better about themselves, and to want more for themselves.

Dragon Door: I saw that you recently assisted at an RKC Workshop, how was the experience?

Rene Grobecker: At first I was just as nervous as when I’d attended an RKC or PCC for the first time! I wasn’t so concerned about recertifying or my technical ability, but I just really wanted to make sure I gave the right answers and the most appropriate feedback to the participants. Nervousness aside, I think I did really well for my first time and noticed what I needed to notice. I felt really at home helping Keira and would absolutely do it again—so I can get better and better at it. It was a great opportunity to refresh and hone my skills as an instructor. It was great to guide and encourage people, and hold them back when necessary, too. Keira liked what I had to offer and I feel like the experience took my skills as an instructor to a new level.

Rene Grobecker and Keira Newton

Dragon Door: What else do you want to add to your instructor toolkit?

Rene Grobecker: I attended the Dragon Door Health and Strength Conference in August and got interested in the Ultimate Sandbag/DVRT training. I even tried the sandbags while I was there. I really like the support that Dragon Door provides both at the workshops, and whenever I have questions, there's a network of instructors I can react out to. I want to add more PCC concepts to my classes and go to the DVRT. Even if no one came to my classes, I love having all of these new techniques I can take with me wherever I go—it’s so much better than a gym.

I'll probably go through every Dragon Door workshop eventually, and then just repeat them. I was disappointed when the PCC Workshop was over because I wanted to do even more and maybe become more involved. I would like to have more active role—especially as I begin to embrace the role of trainer and athlete. I represent Dragon Door everyday, if someone learns something from me, they know who I learned it from—and why I teach the way I do!

Dragon Door: what was your biggest takeaway from the PCC?

Rene Grobecker: That I can do it—and that it never hurts to try. At first, there were times at the workshop when I wouldn’t think that I’d be able to do something, but just like before, I remembered that I can do almost anything for 10 minutes a day and that I just need to try it and believe in myself. I smiled so much during the whole workshop, and was shocked by what I could accomplish with good, articulate instruction. Al and Danny know what they're doing and how to the ideas to make it happen. By day two, I was much more confident and tried new moves knowing that they would happen at some level, somehow. I had the best time.

Dragon Door: What was your favorite move you learned at the PCC?

Rene Grobecker: I really enjoyed the clutch flag. I also liked skin the cat because I was surprised to see I could get up there even after all the surgeries and getting the abs to fire, since the leg raises were difficult for me. I really enjoyed the handstands because of the micro-adjustments the body makes, and the patience they require. It's hard to pick just one favorite, because I also liked the levers. It’s fascinating when you can get yourself to do the things that you didn’t expect that you could.

Rene Grobecker PCC Skin The Cat

Dragon Door: What is your advice for someone who may need confidence to try kettlebells or calisthenics?

Rene Grobecker: I would recommend that they take it slow and work with me for modifications based on their fitness level. We will start from where they are, and that they just need to be brave enough to try. Once we can establish a baseline of fitness, we’ll progress as they become confident in their strength and conditioning. So, just get moving, even if that means beginning a walk to jog program to start.

I am happier right now at age 46 than I have ever been my entire life. These past 2 years have been amazing. It’s all been about taking control of fear and my health. This is a journey of self reflection, empowerment, and healing of a different kind. Now it is more about more active getting up and making myself go learn more. The series of health and other issues I still had at age 21 made me not even want to be here anymore. I was tired, and with surgery every year, infertility and everything that meant left me very unhappy. But I decided one day that if I could have happiness, then I would need to create it and making it happen. Finding that silver lining is part of what still drives me now. Kettlebells and all this other knowledge has created profound changes in my life in every way, mind body and spirit.

Dragon Door: If your 21-year-old self could see you now, would she be able to comprehend what you are now able to do?

Rene Grobecker: No, she wouldn't! That 21-year-old was harming herself on a regular basis and just wanted to be done. But, I decided to make better things happen for me. Sometimes during my mindfulness meditations, I look back at my various stages, and think about what I would say to myself at age 6, 15, and 21. What came to my mind was that I wanted to warn myself that life will be hard, but turns out better than imaginable. I now have four beautiful adopted children, a beautiful life, and a beautiful family. I couldn't have dreamed for anything better. But I had to be a part of making it happen, you can just wait for good things. You have to take pride in yourself and do the work to get it. What I have now is proof that life does not just give it to you.

Rene Pistol thumbnailRene Grobecker is an Albuquerque, NM based occupational therapist, RKC-II, and PCC instructor. She can be contacted through the Grobecker Therapy Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter: @lotustherapynm and Instagram: @rgrobecker