I’m just an old lady that loves to lift. I also raise rabbits and work full time as an accountant, so I keep pretty busy.
“She was a working overweight mom who wanted to loose weight and get in shape. Liberty has been her mentor while I have been her trainer.” —Jerry Gray
My kettlebell journey started over 10 years ago, in January 2008 a few coworkers and I decided we needed to lose weight as one of our New Year’s Resolutions. Fairly common, and not the first time I had said that. They all started doing a Weight Watchers points plan. I figured I could do it on my own, so didn’t join in what they were doing at first. After listening and watching them for about 2 weeks, I also decided to try the Weight Watcher points plan. I started the year at 192 pounds-probably the heaviest I ever remember being. Starting on the points plan was eye-opening. I never realized how my idea of portion size was SO wrong. The point system was fairly easy for me, as numbers are fun for me to play with (I’m an accountant for a living). Finally, the weight started to come off.
Then in May of 2008 this same group of coworkers decided we all needed to try this workout with kettlebells. Of course, I had never heard of them, and was simply told it was kind of like weight lifting. At first I said “no”. I thought that with my knees, there was no way I would be any good at it. However, for the intro class, they needed one more person to make it a go, and I finally agreed to go. I didn’t die, so thought I would try some more classes. I already did some cardio at home, so this would be a good compliment to that, and hopefully help me lose more weight.
As I participated in more classes, I started making friends with the other participants. Everyone was so supportive and helpful, which made me look forward to the classes. Plus I could tell I was slowly getting stronger, and that motivated me even more. A group from the gym started training to go the Arnold in Columbus March of 2009. I felt that I just wasn’t ready for that, but enjoyed listening to them talk about their training. After they competed and came back with various tales of success, I started getting the bug to compete. My coach, Jerry Gray, started a class specifically for learning more about GS sport, and I was in. Snatch was my favorite lift, as it just seemed to come naturally to me, whereas I struggled with anything that had the jerk involved. To this day, I am still much stronger in the Snatch then the Jerk. My first competition was biathlon at the gym. I don’t even remember what my numbers were, but I was even more hooked on the competitive aspect of it. The first big competition was at the Arnold in 2010. Again, I do not remember my numbers, but I met more people, and really enjoyed how nice and supportive the kettlebell community was. In October of 2010 I had to submit a video to achieve at least a Rank II to compete in Chicago and a WKC meet – I still have the email from them informing me I had achieved that ranking.
And so the competitions continued. I became more and more driven to achieve different rankings which required heavier weights and more repetitions. Partly because the IKFF is located in Michigan and partly because Ken Blackburn is such an awesome person, those competitions became my favorite. I did achieve my CMS in both the WKC and IKFF in the biathlon with the 16 kg bell. So, I decided I was going to try and get my MS with the 20 kg bell. I struggled moving up that weight, so I decided to give Long Cycle a try.
Concentrating on Long Cycle was actually a good move as it forced me to concentrate on the Jerk more. I improved my technique and got close to my goal of MS many times, but just couldn’t seem to get there. As I got closer to 50, I was afraid I would never get there. Then the big 50 came, and I still wasn’t there. So, Jerry and I changed my training focus-instead of going as fast as I could for as long as I could, we started concentrating on a number of reps per minute. That was what did it for me-at the age of 51 I was able to achieve my MS in Long Cycle under the IKFF ranking chart with the 20 kg bell. I was so excited! I had a lot of people congratulating me, and Mike Sherman told me he thought I was the first woman to achieve that ranking over the age of 50! With the different associations having different ranking charts, it’s really hard to say for sure if that was the case, though I suppose it could be said for the IKFF association. There were some people who didn’t agree with his statement, and I heard of a big competition that was going to be in New York a few months after I achieved my ranking. Well, being just a little too sure of myself and feeling like I had to prove something because some of the comments, I decided I would go there and compete with the 24 kg bell. Of course, that big of a jump is not something that should be rushed. I didn’t listen to Jerry and pushed myself too hard and ended up hurting my right shoulder. I didn’t know it at first, and continued to try and work thru it. Finally, I went to the doctor and found out what the problem was. In January of 2015 I had shoulder surgery to repair the hole in my rotator cuff.
Not being able to do much while recovering was tough. When the doctor told me I could start running and doing physical therapy, I felt like a kid in a candy store. That is until I started running—I felt like I was going to die after 5 minutes! I couldn’t believe how quickly I had lost my cardio and strength. I started doing physical therapy, and quickly decided if I could do that, I could go back and start lifting in class, so I did. Since I already had fairly good technique with my lifts, it was more about getting the strength back. By the summer, I felt like I was finally getting back to close to where I wanted to be. Still lifting lighter weights, but the strength was coming. The Worlds for the IUKL was in Ireland that fall, and I so wanted to go and compete. However, the National competition was the same weekend as my son’s wedding, and though I joked about flying to compete and flying back to the wedding, of course I didn’t. However, after it was over, I heard a rumor that if I submitted a video, I might still possibly be able to make the team. So, I did a 10 minute lift all on my left side and submitted it. I made the team! I was so excited even though I had to compete in a heavier than normal weight division, which meant I had to gain almost 10 pounds. I thought it would be an easy thing to do, but it was harder than I realized. Going over and representing USA on the team was a great experience, and I was very happy to finish second to another lady from Team USA. We had no counters or timers during our lift, so it definitely added to the stress. However, the Team USA Veterans crushed it and we ended up in second place for all of the veteran teams!
”The one thing I try and stress to anyone getting into kettlebells is to get a knowledgeable coach/trainer. Technique is so important, especially as you go heavier. Learn correctly and don’t get hurt!” —Sandy
One of the greatest parts of being on that team was meeting people I had only known via Facebook. With Social Media being a way that the team communicated, we were able to stay in touch after we all went home. Chatting with a lady that I had become friends with is how I first heard about Marathon Kettlebell lifting. It only took a few conversations for me to be convinced to go to the IKMF World competition in Denmark in 2016. I only had a few months to train, and went over without ever having doing a half hour lift other than in the gym. Talk about nerves!
The lady I was next to on the platform is an amazing lifter, and after a few minutes I realized there was no way I was going to keep up with her, so I just concentrated on completing the 30 minutes. In Marathon lifting, if you don’t complete the entire lift, none of your reps count. I had chosen to do Long Cycle just for the reason I knew I could rest in the rack position. I was able to achieve a ranking of CMS and was very happy with my first time completing the half marathon, but the fire to do more and achieve a higher ranking was set. So, in 2017 I was determined to do more marathon training and to do two lifts at the World Competition in Italy.
Fast forward to November 25th in a town just west of Milan. I knew the rep count I had to do to get the 450 reps, that was my goal for the half hour of half snatch. Going out just one rep more per minute was the plan as I knew I would slow down as I got tired. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the lady next to me, and quickly realized I was going at a much faster pace than she was, but the 16 kg (35 lb) bell felt good and my pace felt great. As I got to the end of my set, I was switching hands after about every 10 reps-with about 15 seconds left, I almost dropped the bell when switching—talk about a scare! But I caught the bell and was able to finish with 465 reps in the 30 minutes and got 15 more than my goal! I felt great and was very happy. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had gotten the gold! One lift down, and just had the hour long lift the next day. The next day dawned, and I felt horrible. I don’t know if the time shift was catching up to me, or if it was something I ate or drank, but my stomach was in knots. Once I got on the platform, and start doing my lift, I relaxed and was able to just focus on doing my snatch set. The snatch lift is my favorite lift, and after I calmed down and just started going, I felt confident that I could get the 1,000 reps that I wanted. After about 20 minutes, I tore my left hand. This slowed me down as I had to keep chalking my hand so I didn’t drop the bell. I was still able to do 1,075 reps with the 12 kg (26 lb) bell. I knew that I had the gold on this one, but it wasn’t until after we were home and the results were released that I realized I had set 2 World Records in my lifts. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would do that! I know that the sport is still young and I’m sure it will be no time at all before someone is able to break my records, but helping to set the bar for lifters to come is a great feeling!
What does a normal training week look like for you?
I lift kettlebells 3-4 times a week. I do a long cardio workout at least once a week, and I do light cardio 3-4 times as well.
How important do you think it is for parents/schools to educate kids about physical activity?
Very! I wish I would have set a better example for my kids when they were younger, but they watch me now and I think they get inspired.
How important do you think it is for people to remain active and pushing themselves, no matter what age?
I think it is VERY important for people to remain active and push themselves. The more sedentary people get, the more health issues they have.
I have this saying “You don’t get old, you get lazy”, your thoughts?
I believe the majority of people use having more years as an excuse to do less, or nothing. But when you see people like yourself, and people like Jerry, it’s quite clear that if you maintain what you do, and always keep pushing yourself, age is not a barrier.
Jerry Gray said: Sandy and her friends came to Fitness XT for a kettlebell class 9 years ago. Their goal was to get fit and lose some weight. From the very beginning I found Sandy to be very high spirited. She challenged me at every class, mostly about all the things she couldn’t do or she wouldn’t do.
In 2010 we held an in club kettlebell meet that she entered. I could tell she was very determined and competitive. That spring we took a kettlebell team to The Arnold in Columbus OH. I think it was there she got the spark to pursue Kettlebell Sport.
From that point on her training protocol was very consistent, 3-4 days a week, every week, unless there were family vacations.
After a series of kettlebell meets, Sandy set her sights on achieving Master of Sport. The fire inside her was starting to come out, laser focus. She achieved IKFF Master Of Sport in Chicago, 107reps 1ALC 20kg bell. After that she wanted more. She had a bump in the road when she injured her should rotator cuff, and had to have surgery. For most, that would ended their training in kettlebell sport. Not Sandy, she trained so that she could finish a 10min set with one arm.
Sandy has a work ethic that it takes to be exceptional vs ordinary.
She uses each training session as an opportunity to get 1 more rep than yesterday.
Never uses her physical limitations as excuses, but rather as a reason to train smarter.
She is very humble about her accomplishments and understands the need to always work on the basics.
Sandy is passionate and an inspiration to our members, and other competitors.
She doesn’t leave her physical health to chance and coaches others on her Sports Nutrition Program. She enjoys working with GS Sport Athletes as well as training beginners in physical preparation classes.
A leader in every facet.
Check out all nominees
- January 2018: Taco Fleur
- December 2017: Jerry Gray
- November 2017: Jeff Bott
- October 2017: Leo Urquides
- September 2017: Maurizio Tangari
- August 2017: Russel Godwin
- July 2017: Eric Leija
- June 2017: Shawn Powers
- May 2017: Jessica Huttig
- April 2017: Kirsten Tulloch
- March 2017: Henk Bakker
- February 2017: Rik Brown
- January 2017: Kelly Manzone
- View all