Chasing the Iron Maiden

The Iron Maiden Challenge – 3 lifts completed with a 24kg (52.9lbs) Kettlebell: Pistol Squat, Single Arm Strict Press, and a dead hang pull up.


So what’s it like to chase the Iron Maiden title? Well, in short, it’s real fuckin’ hard. A title that only means something to those who live in the land of kettlebell, that most friends and family don’t understand, and that most men laugh at and follow that laughter with a comment like, “that’s it, that’s not hard”. So is it worth it? Abso-fuckin-lutely!

When I first heard about the IM challenge I remember thinking, “WOW”, how amazing would it be to be that strong. At this point I was very green into the whole kettlebell thing and had just started pressing the 16kg bells for multiple reps. Quite honestly, at that time, I wasn’t even of the mindset that I would ever be attempting the challenge. Although I am a competitive person at heart, I had no clue what it would mean to be able to move that kind of weight, specifically for those three moves….I didn’t even know what a pistol squat was. To help with a time frame reference this was probably around February of 2013 and I had only been “belling” since October 2012.


[Me at the beginning of this whole journey around Oct/Nov 2012]

oct 2012Fast forward about 3 months, I am stronger, faster, and full of anticipation for the next feat of strength, and the conversation between myself and my coach went something like this:

Me – “So what’s that Maiden Challenge thing?”

Aaron (coach) – “what??”

Me – “Ya know, that challenge thing with the heavy weight and there is a press and some other things…”

Aaron – “Ohhh, the Iron Maiden Challenge?”

Me – “yeah, what all do you have to do?”

Quickly after our brief conversation I attempted to press the 24kg….yeah, not so much. As soon as I felt the weight of that bell I knew I had a lot of work to do. I started making as many attempts as possible with the 20kg’s whether it was single arm, doubles, or just swings, whatever I could do I was going to do it with the 20kg’s or die trying, ok maybe not die, but you get the idea. There were days when I absolutely wanted to just sit down and cry because I felt like I had hit my limit/ plateau and that was it, that was as strong as I could get. Luckily for me I had a lot of great support and encouragement to keep pushing. It took a combination of my coach, my workout buddy, and my husband to keep me pushing myself. Whoever said all you need is you, or just toughen up, or any of those other lame non-motivating sayings is wrong in my opinion.

A New Lease on Life

I had also discovered throughout this time that my new passion in life was to train other people and give them the strength I found for myself through kettlebell, so I signed myself up for the StrongFirst level 1 instructor certification in San Diego, CA for February 2014. I was an absolute bag of nerves the week before and all I could think about was how I wished I could have prepared more, maybe done a few practice snatch tests, anything to make sure I walked away from the cert not just passing, but kicking ass. Even though Aaron had assured me that everything would be fine and that my skills were on point for the cert I was still nervous – come on though, who wouldn’t be.

[Aaron and I Right before the Strongfirst Cert. Feb 2014 ]    

pre sfg

Well, I went to the cert, worked my ass off, and passed with flying colors. It was no walk in the park though. 8 + hours each day of basically non-stop skills and workouts, as well as programming instruction. I definitely left feeling on top of the world like I had just chased down a goal that felt impossible only a few months before.

[Calloused hands from lots and lots of bell usage & totally charred calves from 3 solid days in the sunlight…did I mention I am naturally pale!?]

hands  20140222_022053900_iOS


Learning The Hard Way

I was so excited to get back and start training again. After an ass-whooping for an entire weekend all I wanted was to get back into my routine and start attempting those elusive 24kg’s again. Some lessons are better learned than taught. I was told by many that I needed a week off and I need to re-set and rest from the weekend, which sounded a little “pansy” to me. Myself and my ego were on top of the world after dominating my cert and nothing and no one was going to slow us down. I had pressed double 24kg just two days before I left for my cert and by god if I wasn’t going to do it again….accept I wasn’t. As it turns out I hit a bit of a plateau after about 8 month of hitting it hard my body was done, at least for a while. I had to dig deep and find my patience and swallow that giant pill of pride. I had to accept that I had to take about 10 steps back if I was going to take another single tip-toe forward.

[Pressing double 24kg right before the StrongFirst Cert.]

dub 24I completely reset with my pressing, squats, pull-ups, swings, and everything. I started at a very low manageable weight using 16kgs and worked my way back up to 20kg. This took a couple of months of recouping my strength and conditioning. Not only was my training life starting a new chapter – the chapter of woa, sometimes my body needs a break, but my life was changing a lot at this time too. In April 2014 I married the love of my life in Moab, UT, where we had a week of amazing kayaking, biking, ATV-ing, and lots of good food, probably too good. I can’t really say that I regret not keeping up on my training during this time because my priorities were temporarily shifted so my husband and I could enjoy our wedding and all of the celebration that goes along with it.

Fast forward to August 2014. I have been training hard and getting back to my heavy pressing. I feel pretty great, but there is a two-week honeymoon to Whistler staring down the barrel at me and my focus is all over the map. At this point I can press and pistol the 24kg like they are nothing, but the pull-up….the fucking pull-up!!

For the finish of my epic journey stay tuned – Part two to follow soon!


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