Kettlebells, a Lone Wolf, a Jerk-Berry, and Insane Feats

This month we wanted to try something different and present two great athletes in our monthly Caveman Athlete of the Month nomination. These two guys set amazing numbers, they lift incredible weights and have a mental toughness that’s out of this world. Without further ado, I present to you:

A lone wolf born in the Loire Valley region in France where he lived until his early adulthood and moved to Sweden. Interested in very different things such as science, motorcycles, music, sports, video games, technology, and riddles. An athlete born and raised in New York City known as Jerk-Berry, adopted a healthy lifestyle at the age of 20 and began training for Girevoy Sport in 2014. Currently the North American record holder in 32+32kg biathlon and works as an English teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“My training room is my sanctuary. Stress and worries stay outside. When in a training session, I normally try to empty my mind and focus on what needs to be done. But in the hardest sets I’ve done in training, I let some emotions come in, love of my family helped me reach some epic results on that lonely space.”

 

“If you don’t subject wheat to the grinding millstone, how will bread ever come to decorate your table?”

This is a quote from my favorite parable by Jelalludin Rumi called “Destruction Precedes Renewal”, where he describes the process of destruction leading to renewal in nature and in human society. I choose this quote to kind of mean “no pain, no gain”. In Kettlebell Sport we often have times where it’s mentally difficult to continue and things feel too hard during training. In these times we can remind ourselves that we cannot hit our target numbers, win trophies, titles, and the like, without subjecting ourselves to painful, high-intensity training. Then, we can reap the rewards.

Name: Carter Berry
Age: 27
AKA: Jerk-Berry
Specialty: Kettlebell Biathlon
Nationality: USA
Weight: 87kg/191lbs
Height: 5’10”
Personal best: 134 Jerk / 142 Snatch / 205 Total 32+32kg Biathlon

Name: Olivier Vaudour
Age: 39
Nickname: Lone Wolf
Specialty: Kettlebell Sport, classic and marathon.
Nationality: French and Swedish
Weight: 75 kg
Height: 180 cm

 

Carter Berry

I was born and raised in New York City. My family moved to Jersey City when I was 13, and I continued to go to school and spend most of my time in Manhattan and Queens. During high school, I was inactive, smoked cigarettes, and didn’t have the best habits. I dropped out of college when I was 19 and was at a bit of a standstill; this was when a close friend took me with him to try our first Contemporary Jeet Kune Do class with Chris Moran at JKDNYC. My martial arts training took priority, and as an extension of that, I began exercising at the gym and further venturing into the world of health and fitness. I took a vocational personal training course at Focus Personal Training Institute, got certified as a PT, and began working as a trainer at Equinox 19th Street (now known as Equinox Flatiron) in lower Manhattan.

Carter Berry and Ivan Denisov

Equinox is a competitive fast-paced working environment. There were about 50 trainers on the team that I joined in 2012, and in this high-end commercial gym I at first felt a bit out of place. I was less experienced than most of the team; I wasn’t one of the “big” guys, I couldn’t do any cool calisthenic tricks, and I barely knew how to properly squat or deadlift. However, I was very studious, and dove deep into my anatomy and kinesiology books, memorizing every function of each muscle and bone. This earned me the nickname “textbook berry” by a few of the more experienced, beefier, high-influence trainers in the club. This group included Juan Pellot, who would teach me how to use kettlebells for Hardstyle training as popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline, the RKC, and later Strongfirst.

When I first started using kettlebells, I thought it was cool how it demanded a lot of time to practice skills in order to succeed in some of the more impressive feats. I set out to make kettlebells my “thing” in the gym so I wouldn’t look like such a wuss compared to my handsome and athletic co-workers. And make it my thing I did. I read every single book by Pavel I could find, got my Strongfirst certification, and was truly the hardstyle ninja of the gym for a while. I eventually took up training for Girevoy Sport in the summer of 2014, around the same time I was entering leadership and management roles at Equinox. Juan Pellot taught me how to perform Jerk and Snatch, and after eight weeks of training, I competed for the first time at AKA/IUKL USA Nationals 2014 in Manhattan. Using 20kg kettlebells I achieved 152 Jerks and 162 Snatches. The following year at AKA Nationals, I would use 24+24kg and achieve 137 Jerks and 170 Snatches, qualifying for Team USA to compete in Dublin. After that competition, Igor Morozov picked me up as a student, and I would go on to achieve 156 Jerks and 167 Snatches with 24kg bells at 2015 IUKL Worlds in Dublin, earning my first international gold medal.

After this competition, I tried my hand with 32kg bells. My first time competing with 32+32kg in December 2015, I achieved 86 Jerks and 95 snatches. At 2016 AKA Nationals, I set a new North American record in Jerk with 116 reps. My snatch technique still suffered, and I only completed 95 reps. I would compete at 2016 IUKL Worlds in Aktobe, Kazakhstan, and end with a disappointing defeat. This was the first time I had actually lost a competition in GS, and it was a wake-up call to take my training more seriously. However, the trip to Kazakhstan was a life-changing experience, gave me a lot of perspectives, and ultimately drove me to decide to leave the United States. I came home from Kazakhstan in November 2016 to a turbulent political climate due to the presidential election, a toxic and stressful relationship, and a management job that I no longer enjoyed. I broke up with my girlfriend and made a plan to leave the US within 1.5 years. I made good on that promise to myself.

On March 31st 2018, I boarded a one-way flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina and began working as an English teacher. I decided to come to Argentina to begin this career because I can communicate in Spanish effectively, being able to work here without having completed a university degree, and there is a Girevoy Sport presence here that allows me to continue training effectively. I train out of Jeronimo Milo’s dojo, Centro San Ti in the Capital Federal with my training partners Maia Mercuri and Sabrina Aguilera Correia. This city has proved to be a near optimal environment for my mental health, training, and recovery. In June 2018, I competed at WKSF World Championships in Milan, Italy, and achieved my best result ever. 134 Jerks and 142 Snatches with 32kg bells, 205 points total. This shattered my previous North American Biathlon record and earned me the rank of MSEC, being the first male biathlon athlete to earn this rank in North America. Currently, for the remainder of 2018 I’m working on improving my Long Cycle numbers. I have an awesome team of students that I coach, and I love seeing them progress. Through my experiences in training, in competition, and coaching, I’ve learned more about myself and the human nature of overcoming emotional and physical challenges. This sport has changed my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Olivier Vaudour

I grew up in the French countryside of the Loire Valley before moving to Sweden. I had everything to learn when I purchased my first kettlebell. The 2 first years resulted in a 20 kg bodyweight drop.

I’ve learned many things on my own in life and started this way with kettlebell until girevoy sport took a bigger place in my weeks for my first competition in 2010. The year after, I decided to learn from masters like Denis Vasilev, Aleksander Khvostov, and Arseny Zhernakov to go further in the sport.

A few times I’ve been called “lone wolf” because I’m training alone, autodidactism worked for me as I’ve reached decent results in classic girevoy sport and kettlebell marathon with a BW around 75 kg. Some of the results I achieved are:

  • 10′ long cycle 2×24 kg, 93 reps
  • 10′ long cycle 2×32 kg, 52 reps
  • 30′ long cycle 2×20 kg, 252 reps
  • 30′ long cycle 32 kg, 316 reps
  • 30′ jerk 32 kg, 491 reps
  • 60′ long cycle 24 kg, 808 reps
  • 60′ long cycle 24 kg, 1149 reps

Training alone helped me find my own technique and learn a lot about myself physically and mentally as there are ups and downs in life. The sport also induced interest in nutrition and a better food intake. I also practice prolonged fasting a few times per year where I basically have water for 3 days up to a week. Fasting taught me a lot about myself.

Of everything I’ve learned through my years of lifting, there is one part that was extremely hard to get but very rewarding once in place in my head. I knew that to be consistent in my training I had to work out a lot and often. So with discipline, I worked on taking away motivation out of the equation. It means that I do my training sessions regardless of how I feel. Happy or sad, I leave feelings and emotions out of my training. Having the training platform as a sanctuary has been my way of being an athlete. It’s very different for competitions where emotions can be overwhelming.

I enjoyed doing the Unconventional Kettlebell Competitions. Those combos are fun and a good way to bring out and work on weak points. My favorite so far: Spartan Warrior! Some of my off-season workouts can become monster endurance sessions where different lifts are done for a few hours with short breaks, just to see where limits are. Even if kettlebell is what I use the most, I also train with the barbell and other tools for GPP and specific goals

After 10 years of active kettlebell lifting, I have a good picture of what this sport is and I know there is a lot more to learn. Above all, I’m the lucky husband of my best supporter, my wife Piia.

 

How did you get started with kettlebells?

Olivier: After about a year in a gym learning how to lift weights, my curiosity grew towards those “weird” round weights with a handle. As there were no kettlebells in the gym in 2008, I bought a pair of 16 kg and started to learn through what I found on the internet. It quickly became something I used every other day. Two months later, I purchased a pair of 24 kg and felt like it would be enough for a while. The first Swedish championship was organized two years after.

I weighed 100 kg when I started lifting kettlebells. They were challenging in a way that made me consider what I was eating. My food intake changed, I prepared my lunch boxes. The beginning was boring, I couldn’t cook, there was no variation, but I stuck to it and learned this aspect of the sport and life.

Carter: I took an in-house certification course when I first started working at Equinox, where Juan Pellot taught me how to swing. After that, I really went gung-ho with the bells and made it my thing. I was all hardstyle from 2012 until summer 2014 when Juan first taught me how to lift for competition.

You will rediscover the meaning of the term “limitations” and learn so many new things about yourself if you take up this sport.

What are your weaknesses?

Carter: In sport, my weakness is Snatch. In life, my weaknesses are procrastination and overall laziness.

Olivier: Flexibility is one; you would be surprised to see me when I stretch… Relatively weak arm strength is something I try to turn into an advantage by working on technique to compensate. And I like quality beers, if this count as a weakness 🙂

 

What have you learned through KB Lifting?

Carter: You can always push a little bit further than what your mind tells you, and a little patience goes a long way.

Olivier: Nutrition part of the daily life. Biomechanics, anatomy, programming, and mental training followed in the learning process.

 

 

Questions for Olivier Vaudour

As a kid, were you active?
I was a normal kid, sometimes playing different sports with friends, lots of video games, and a rarely matched appetite. Living in a small village, I was cycling often.

What is your favorite lift in kettlebell sport and why?
Long cycle. It has work for most parts, shoulders, lower and upper back, core, arms, and legs. I use this lift to work on strength, cardio, stability, coordination, speed, and mental toughness.

Where do you find motivation? 
I try as much as possible not to be influenced by “being motivated or not”. It’s a bit like going to work whether you feel like it or not. I organize my weeks with the training sessions that are to be done so when it is time to train, it’s in the agenda. There are some things that are mandatory in a family life, and for me training is one of them.

Have you ever competed and emotional?
Since the first competition, and still today, I feel nervous the moments before stepping on the platform. It goes away when I start to lift. In the 10 minutes events, I try not to think too much when lifting as it can have a negative impact. Hell still comes to mind at the 7th minute… For marathon lifts it is different, depending on the situations, it is so long that several feelings can come throughout the set. I remember one marathon set where my thoughts went to my wife and kids in the last minutes, I wanted to make them proud and get rewards for all those hours training alone away from them. This was my 4th and last set at last year’s IKMF Worlds, when closing up to 1000 reps and until the last rep reaching 1149 total. Big emotion there!

How do you stay so “disciplined”?
I don’t know, I always tried to keep discipline in the different things I do, kettlebell sport included.

Are there any special pre-workout foods or drink you use a protocol before you lift?
I rarely eat in the 2 hours before a workout but I sometimes have carbohydrate drinks in the hour before an intense training. I drink beet juice for some of the threshold training and cardio sessions.

Do you have any hidden passions?
Quality beers… OK that one might not be such a hidden one.
The science of the very small to the very large. Cosmology and physics in general.

 

 

Questions for Carter Berry

In high school you didn’t have the best habits?
High school and a couple of years following had a lot of drugs and cigarettes. It was just what my peer group and I were into, and it was a lot of fun at the time. I never really got into too much trouble though, and have only been arrested a few times. I’m glad I made these mistakes and had these experiences at a young age, as they made me wiser and help me make better decisions as an adult.

‘Jeet Kune Do’ what is it and do you still train in it?
Jeet Kune Do means “Way of the Intercepting Fist”. Bruce Lee uses this term to describe his mentality and fighting style. Over the years Bruce’s system has been modified, and the version of Jeet Kune Do that I practice follows the training of Paul Vunak’s Progressive Fighting System. It basically takes the elements of Western Boxing, Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Filipino martial arts including Kali, as well as some grappling. I don’t train very often, but I feel that the philosophy around this art has influenced the way I think and approach training greatly.

How did you get the nickname “Jerk-Berry”?
I’m very good at jerks, and not good enough at snatches, so Claire Davies and Juan Pellot started calling me Jerk-Berry.

Why did you choose Argentina?
I knew I wanted to leave the United States and work abroad after returning from a trip to Kazakhstan in late 2016, right around the time of our most recent election. I knew that teaching English was my ticket out, but without a Bachelor’s degree, I wouldn’t have access to the best jobs out there in Asia or the Middle East.
Since I speak Spanish and was able to acquire employment in Argentina straight away, as well as continue my KB Sport training, I knew this would be my home- and I’m glad I chose to come here!

What motivates you to keep lifting?
Knowing that I finally found something I’m really good at, makes me want to see how far I can push this thing. I’ve never had this kind of motivation in my life before, and I’m really enjoying the ride. I love the opportunities to visit other countries and meet people from all over the world. This sport has already opened so many doors for me, and I’m always pleasantly surprised by what’s around the bend every year.

Are there any hidden secrets you can share that helped you get out of bad habits, that may help someone who’s struggling to quit a bad habit?
Having any sort of goal to hold you accountable, wanting that goal more than anything else, and knowing that your bad habits are holding you back from that goal. To me, that’s the only thing that has worked.

What kinda things goes on in your head on the platform, when lifting those heavy bells?
Positive affirmations and intense focus on technique and breathing. I will have already done a ton of positive visualization in the days and hours leading up to a major competition set, and I plan manageable goals, so I go into it with positive thoughts and know that I will hit my goal. That takes the aspect of worrying what might happen out of the equation, making it easier for me to focus on happy thoughts and nail the technique to achieve the result I want.

Are there any times where you have put the bells down before the finish?
In training, all the time. I mentally fail myself far too frequently, especially if I’m training alone. It’s an obstacle in my development I’m still working on. In competition, it’s happened but only due to technical errors or grip failure. I never wimp out in competition.

Are there any special pre-workout foods or drink you use as a protocol before you lift?
Oatmeal with chia seeds and banana 2 hours before is great. An hour before a major competition set, I’ll have a small protein shake. 30 minutes before the set, I’ll take a pre-workout supplement that has a little caffeine, beta-alanine, and either Betaine or some other nitrous oxide booster. Isagenix makes a good one, I think it’s called Amped Nitro. I’ve used it in competition and gotten solid results.

How can Kettlebell Sport change someone’s life?
You will rediscover the meaning of the term “limitations” and learn so many new things about yourself if you take up this sport.



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