My Kettlebell Story (and some other $h!t like heart attacks, knee ops, herniated disc etc.)

A 57-year old wrinkly guy with a slightly messy past private wise. But in the past few years finally coming to terms with life and is now living more in harmony with no stress and more love. Both for life itself and kettlebell sport.

“I have met so many great people and gained so many friends around the world and it has lifted me up when life had its downs. Feels like a family.”

 

Name: Per Olhans
Age: 57
Nickname: Mr. Cool
Specialty: Kettlebells
Nationality: Swedish
Weight: 82-83 kg. Under 80 at Worlds and Europeans.
Height: 180 cm

Hi, folks! I’m Per Olhans from Sweden. I feel very honored to have been nominated as Caveman Athlete of the Month and asked to tell you my kettlebell story.

I was born on July 8th, 1961, in Leksand, Sweden. The little village (about 15.000 inhabitants) is most famous for having produced many good hockey players, of which many ended up playing in the NHL The people there talk, eat, drink and shit ice hockey. Myself, I had a talent for running and jumping. So when I started with track and field instead of hockey, I felt a bit odd, and I think some of them also thought I was. But since I was pretty successful in that area I got respected. My school record on 100 meters from 1976 still stands at 11,5 seconds.

In 1979 I moved out of the community and via the two “bigger” cities Borlänge (50.000) and Falun (55.000) I came down to Stockholm in 1984. After a few years of military duty and high school studies, I wanted to make a full commitment for my running to see how good I could get. It was mainly 400 meters, but also some 200 and 800. I nearly made it to the national team. A bit disappointed I returned to Falun in 1990, renovating a house, working a lot, and no training until 1996 when I started with some gym training again.

I did almost only that kind of training until 2011. During that time I quit my old job and started as a massage therapist at a gym in 2003. I’m still in the same place but I also do laser treatments, personal training, food advice, sports injuries, instructions and some janitor work. After 15 years with practically no cardio training, I went from 78 to 95 kg, I decided I had to do something about it. I wanted to go back to running but I had been working too hard at the gym so my knees were broken down. After three knee operations, running was not an alternative. What could I do instead? Cycling? No, not my thing. Swimming? No way! …boring. So when we had a kettlebell instructor coming to our gym in 2011, I thought, yeah, maybe this could be something.

Since I felt rather strong I thought this would be a piece of cake, but no, after about 15 minutes I was sitting against the wall, totally exhausted and angry at the bells. That damn bell wouldn’t do as I wanted at all, it seemed like it had its own mind. After that day, I didn’t touch a bell for three months. I thought it was a real shit sport. But I had to get started with cardio so I decided to give the bells another chance. I watched Youtube videos, went on a kettlebell course for beginners and got going, I felt pretty ok, I thought. But just before the second course I got a heart attack in October 2012. That was the third time I got hospitalized due to stress. I realized this was the final warning so I started to change my life. I got out of the crazy relationship I had (jealousy deluxe, also got beaten several times), I learned to say “no” to things I didn’t feel like, got rid of people that only took energy, etc, etc. Took a while but at the beginning of 2015 I was finally “free”.

Anyway, I was back on track with them bells in 2013, and since then I have taken courses with Igor Morozov, Oleh Ilika, and Denis Vasilev. The club, Fysiocenter kettlebell Club, I started in the cellar of our gym five years ago. It’s only 44 m2 but it’s enough for us. We have four workouts a week and about six comps a year in it. We call it “the Bunker” and maybe it’s the world’s smallest kettlebell club.

“You will never know your limits unless you push yourself to them.”

 

With inspiration from, among others, the great lifters named above, I have always planned the training myself, and in time also all other club members workouts. Now I also have a few other lifters around Sweden that I make the programming for.

Last year I started the Swedish Kettlebell Association, in which I’m the chairman and have responsibility for the statistics. I also do the statistics for the IKMF and the WKSF. In the last one, I’m also a member of the deciding committee.

Competition wise, I did my first nationals in 2013 and won my class (-85 kg) in LC 2×24 kg. What a feeling! I had reached the goal I did not reach in track and field. The year after I arranged and also won my first nationals in biathlon in my hometown, Falun. Some weeks later I went, as the only Swedish lifter to the IUKL Europeans in St. Petersburg. It was an exciting experience and I met many new lifters that I became friends with and that I still have contact with to this day. Oh, and I got three golds and one silver. Amateurs and veterans, LC and biathlon.
The arrangement was not so impressive though. In many ways. For example, I found out only 10 minutes before that I was on the first flight. They changed the time schedule five times in three days…. among other things.

From there I kept rolling on and done about 90-95 comps since I started. From small local comps to Worlds, from 10 to 60 minutes sets. From 2x 16 2012 to 2×32 kg in 2015. Then my knees told me that I was too old for that kind of weights so now I stick to 24’s. (sometimes 28’s in training).

In the beginning, it was important to be as good as possible and to win. Maybe some kind of compensation for my “failed”400-meter career. But the last two years it has more and more been about learning to live a more happy and loveful life. Both for myself and for those around me that I care about, and most importantly to have fun, both in training and at comps.

 

Try to follow your heart, your dreams. Say no to people who only want energy from you and don’t give anything back. Focus on loving yourself for what you are. Surround yourself with people who have the same values and will love you unconditionally. Be openminded. Develop yourself. Have discussions with people and friends about life. The so-called “a good talk about life” is very valuable. Be honest, to yourself and to others. Be true in your talk. Don’t take anything for given. Try not to take anything personal. Love is the answer to everything.

 

I have made so many bad decisions during my first 55 years, stressed too much, chasing unimportant things, and been injured so many times (except for the heart attack; Achilles operation, 3 knee ops, herniated disc, 3 lumbagos, tennis- and golf elbows in both arms, bronchitis, cortisone in sternoclavicular joint and both shoulders…and more things I don’t remember), so it was time to make some real changes.

Now it’s more important to help my students to become better lifters, and also as people. To arrange more and good comps. To develop the sport via WKSF in a democratic, transparent and loveful way. The Worlds in Milan 1 June proves that we are on our way in the right direction. With Oleh Ilika in the lead, it was the best arrangement ever, and the atmosphere was totally amazing.

The kettlebell lifting has also made some big changes with my body, apart from the enormous rise of my cardio capacity my body fat is now between 6-7 % all year round. I am now 57 years old but have a stronger back and shoulders than ever.

I plan and train as much as I used to but I have stopped having goals for reps. I just go by the feeling from comp to comp and see what happens “How’s the feeling today?”. With that more relaxing attitude, my results have gone up. I perform better when I don’t put pressure or stress on myself. I try to instill that feeling in my students also, and it seems to work because they perform better and better.

This kettlebell community has made my life much better in many ways, physically and mentally. I have met so many people and gained so many friends around the world, and it has lifted me up when life had its downs. Feels like a family. Thank you all for the contribution you all do and have done for the sport, and to all of you who not have discovered this excellent sport and the great people that are in it; Come on and get going! You won’t regret it.

Accomplishments:

Worlds (WKSF, IKMF, IGSF, IUKL)
Gold: 16. Silver: 5. Bronze: –

Europeans: (IKMF, IUKL)
Gold: 13. Silver: 7. Bronze: 1.

Nationals: Men elite/adults
Gold: 7. Silver: -. Bronze: -.

Personal best’s:

Longcycle 10: 2×16/132 (-13), 2×20/116 (-18), 2×24/91 (-18), 2×28/64 (-14), 2×32/48 (-15)
Jerk 10: 2×16/163 (13), 2×20/132 (-13), 2×24/123 (-18) 2×28/92 (-16), 2×32/64 (-16)
Snatch 10: 16/264 (-17), 20/225 (-13), 24/214 (-15), 28/173 (-16), 32/120 (-18)

Halfmaraton 30: LC 24/440 (-18), LC 28/333 (-15).
Snatch 20/650 (-16)
Halfsnatch 24/589 (-18), 28/454 (-17)

Maraton 60: LC 20/933 (-18), LC 24/636 (-13), LC 28/553 (-14).
Halfsnatch 20/1219 (-17)

How do you look so cool during competition?
Maybe you refer to my relaxed face. In the beginning, when I started with KB sport I found it very hard with learning technique. Much because I have bad mobility due to 15 years in the gym and not stretching enough–it was not the hit of the week if I can put it that way. With that came many tense muscles and irregular heavy breathing. The last 2-3 years I have focused on my mobility issues and try to relax muscles with calm breathing. The key for me is to, first of all, relax my chin, and then also the rest of my face. With that, the rest of the body will also be relaxed. That’s why my face come to look rather grotesque (or cool, depending on how you look at it) sometimes during my sets.

Another thing is that I am no longer nervous before sets. I have done about a hundred comps now and reached most of my goals, so now I lift without pressure and more to have fun. It’s more important now to meet and encourage other lifters. Both new beginners and old friends. If the comp goes well? Fine. If it doesn’t? Also fine.

 

Why did you decide to become a massage therapist?
After 17 years in the office supplies business, I wanted to do something else. So I educated myself in 2002 and took a job in a gym together with some physiotherapists. After that, I also completed studies to be a personal trainer, gym instructor, food advisor and laser therapist. So now I work with my hobby; training, injuries and massage treatments.

 

What is your favorite lift in KB sport and why?
I have no favorite lift. It varies. LC or snatch. 10´ sets or marathon. I like the variation. Do all lifts during the year. Both short and long sets. It’s not only good for my body but also for my brain doing different things. Never get bored. But what I do know, is that I don’t like the jerk, it’s a good exercise for sure, but it does not suit me well due to my shoulder immobility. Takes a lot of energy and I call it “the exercise from hell”.

Tell us more about some of your bad decisions?
When I was doing track and field in the mid 80’s I wanted to be the best 400-meter runner I could be. I moved from my hometown, Falun, to Stockholm, only for that purpose. During that time I met a woman from Falun who moved down to me, promising I could do whatever I wanted with my sport. I had warned her about how much time I spent on training. A couple of years later I had to choose her or my sport. I was not finished with running but bad self-confidence made me give it up and I moved back to Falun. Of course, I felt bad about this for a long time and then the marriage broke down. So, bad choice. I did not follow my dream. I am recovered from that now, but for a long time, I felt very bad about it.

Later I started with strength training at a gym. Went from 78 kg to 86 the first two years and the up to 95 kg at most. I was close to 50 yo by then. But unfortunately, my brain was still about 25. So too much weight made my knees brake down. After 3 knee operations I could not run when I wanted to take up my cardio training again. That’s how I came in contact kettlebells. So some good came out of it anyway. But it was a very bad decision not to listen to my body when it said the weights are too heavy.

In my last (2nd) marriage that I came out of 3-4 years ago, there were many conflicts, caused by totally unmotivated jealousy. I was even abused and beaten several times. Besides that, there was much stress with taking care of the house, her children, my old parents, my summer house, helping her parents, working full time, training, lack of sleep… It all ended up in having a heart attack in October 2012. It was the 3rd time I was in the hospital due to stress.

This was my last warning so I had to make a decision to get out, to a life without those ingredients. Now I feel pretty well, more in harmony with myself and life. It took a while to come here but it was worth the job. But, bad decision not to leave “the bad life” earlier when I saw the warning signals come.

Life goes up and down. It’s important to try not to be bitter and instead learn from mistakes and go on. Never give up. Trouble will come. But they will also pass. Mostly depending on how you deal with it.

How did you get so many injuries?
Most of my injuries are self-inflicted. Not listening to warning signals. Wanting more than my body is ready for. Don’t underestimate rest! It may be hard to learn but is definitely worth it.

 

Do you find that alcohol affects your performance in training?
I do like a beer. Nowadays I drink almost exclusively non-alcoholic beer. But sometimes a really good ipa, stout or Guinness goes down well. I have not been drunk for over 10 years and I don’t miss it at all. I was not a sudden decision I made, alcohol just faded out of my life during a period of time and I almost did not notice it. Yes, I do think it would affect my performance in a negative way, so that’s also a good reason not to take the habit up again.

 

What are some of the re-occurring issues you still encounter?
There are less and fewer issues coming up. My motivation for training has gone down a bit lately. I think it’s because I have not taken the rest periods that both my body and brain needs to recover. At my age, I think that this is more important. Maybe I have to be more careful with my competition plan.

 

Do you have any hidden passions?
Music has followed me since my early teens. Mostly rock and hard rock. I’m a real nerd. The 70’s is my favorite decade, AC/DC and Black Sabbath are my favorites. But also Pink Floyd, Status Quo, Motörhead, Eagles and a couple of hundred more… Music is a big part of my life. As long I don’t get in contact with rap, hip-hop, techno, and house (have to take nerve medicine for that) I can listen to most genres.

 

What is your protocol for recovery?
Plan not only your training but also your food intake and sleep. If one of those fails, it’s hard to get the results you want. Take a week or two totally off from training now and then to load your batteries (I find this hard to do, but I’m working on it). Less, or no, processed food. No snacks and sodas. And try to get as much love and harmony as possible in your life.

FINAL WORD

It’s never too late to get up and try something. I started my kettlebell journey when I was about 51. My teammate Bengt Andersson when he was 60. He’s now 65 and gets great results, competes with double 16 and 20’s and sometimes even trains with 24’s. It has shown that kettlebell training gets fast results for cardio and strength, and also great for losing weight and to get body and blood fats down. It has happened to everyone in our group at the club. For example, Kristina came down to 65 kg from 94 in a year. Sacke came down 17 kg the first year and is now 25 kg lighter. Both came straight “from the sofa”. Many also throw away their medicines after a few months. Another really good thing is the community, how people are with each other. Sooo friendly and much love. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new beginner or the best in the world. We’re all on the same level. No divas here.

No one does it for you. No one comes knocking at your door and offers you a nice solution without having to put in the work. Take inspiration from others. There are so many people that have been in your situation and succeeded to make their life change. Probably several in your own town or village. Be consistent for the first three months in training and you will see the great change in your mind and body. Then you will find it harder not to train. If needed, change your surroundings and friends for the better.

Email: per@fysiocenter.se
Facebook: Per Olhans



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