Without further ado, allow me to present to you, David Keohan from Ireland.
“I was clinically obese and suffered from high blood pressure, acid reflux, and was diagnosed asthmatic. I was never a sporty person growing up and only got into sport of any kind at 32 years of age when I started running. Oh, and it turned out I wasn’t actually asthmatic I was just REALLY unfit!”
Name: David Keohan
Speciality: Kettlebells and Yoga
Personal Best: World’s first 2-hour long cycle
I was very overweight, all the late nights and partying was really catching up with me. The reflux was a killer too. My diet was poor, and the more junk food I ate, the worse the reflux got. It’s an awful feeling not being comfortable eating, but it was all down to poor diet and oily greasy foods. I had to do something about my lifestyle, I gave up smoking and I started running.
The first day I ran 100 meters and had to turn around and go home. My lungs were BURNING out of my chest. I went to the doctor and told him about this….who diagnosed me with asthma and gave me inhalers. I didn’t really believe this from the beginning and as it turns out, I was just REALLY unfit and had smokers lungs.
I never took my asthmatic medication and just kept running and that 100 meters turned to 1km then 2/5/10…. and I ran my first marathon 6 months later. I injured my knee in the marathon and walked the last 8 Miles to finish. I was worried about putting the weight back on, and I missed training as it was now part of my life.
Anyways. Blood pressure normal. Reflux gone. Fit, healthy, and much happier. I lost 3 stone. Lungs perfect.
Exercise was the cure.
A chance meeting at work led me to a gym, ran by a now great friend Gan Power…… Who just so happened to be on the Irish Kettlebell team. I started doing fitness circuits using bells and eventually tried Kettlebell Sport for the first time through Gans guidance. Done my first local 5-minute comp with 2x16kg in 2012 jerk and long cycle and won my categories, I was immediately hooked. I mean I won a medal for the first time in my life!
I had 2 teammates begin at the same time and we made it our mission to get in the Irish National squad. Lifting 2x24kg for 10 minutes. Which at that time felt like scaling Everest! I heard there were some men worldwide lifting 2x32kg but I thought that was just some urban myth.
Eventually, with lots of training and help from my friends, I got on the Irish team in 2014. -78kg long cycle. Representing my country in St. Petersburg Russia for Europeans and Hamburg Germany for worlds. To my great surprise, I won the Europeans in Russia that year and missed out on a world medal by 1 Rep in Germany coming 4th place. What an amazing experience! My next goal was to win the world amateur division in the long cycle so I trained hard as the worlds would be in Ireland 2015.
There were 8 athletes in my category and I managed to win. An Amazing feeling, on home soil, standing under the flag for my country on that top podium. The transition from obese to world champion was complete! 3 years of blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice. All worth it!
Having then won European and world gold at the amateur level, I decided to go to the professional division for 2016. The jump from 24 to 32 is huge and I’d nearly class it as a different sport. Not only does your technique need to be perfect, but you need fantastic flexibility to relax under that huge weight. I managed to win my nationals in pro 2016 and represented Ireland at pro worlds in Kazakhstan that year. One of the greatest days of my life to represent my country at a pro level in a sport considering 4 short years ago where I was. I came 5th place achieving 45 reps long cycle 2x32kg.
What I really noticed at the pro level was the flexibility of the lifters. In their warm-up and lifting, the benefits of flexibility really stood out for me. Something I vowed to work on as soon as I got home.
I (reluctantly) began my flexibility journey in December 2016 and almost immediately began feeling the benefits, not just in my lifting, but also in my quality of life. I became hooked on yoga. Practicing every morning before work. After a few months of this focused flexibility work I started to be able to relax my legs in both rack and overhead positions, the difference it makes to be able to relax in these positions is amazing. Just think. If you can relax your legs for 2 seconds in the rack and 1 second overhead per lift, over 100 jerks in 10 minutes that’s 5 minutes you’re NOT using your legs in a 10 min set. That’s half your set! This was like a eureka moment for me, why isn’t everyone doing this? So, I wrote my KettleYoga book to try help athletes appreciate the difference that flexibility can make to your lifting. It’s really taken off worldwide and I’m so happy to help people lift better safer and more efficiently.
25 October 2016 · Aktobe, Kazakhstan
“Just had one of the coolest moments ever? I went to the comp venue to get a feel for bells and atmosphere. I warmed up lifting away short sets on 26/28/30. 2 big Russian lads on national team practicing jerk on 32’s. They’re were taking a break so I asked “can I use 32’s?”, “They very big” says one of the lads in thick Russian accent (big guy about 6ft, 95kg).
Picked em up, lashed out about 8 LC in 40secs. Put em down and walked off. Ya coulda picked his jaw up off the floor??? “they’re ok” I said. BOOOOOM??”
At what age did you think about getting fit?
As a young boy in school, I played a bit of squash, hurling (our national GAA sports), and football up to about the age of 15/16. I was never very good to be honest, and my interest was more in music and partying as I got into my later teens. I played in rock music bands all through my teens and twenties and everything that goes with it. Late nights, drinking, smoking, drugs etc.
I piled on the weight and abused my body. At the age of 31, I was pushing 16 stone and very unhealthy. VERY unhealthy. Obese, high blood pressure, diagnosed asthmatic, acid reflux….. to name a few things. I decided I needed to do something or I wouldn’t be around to watch my kids grow up. So, to answer the question, I started running at the end of 2011.
What was the turning point in your life?
1) Having children and realizing it wasn’t just about me anymore. They needed a dad to look up to.
2) walking into that sports store and buying my first pair of trainers ? and running gear. I still remember the look on the guy’s face who served me. That “are you serious?” Kind of look. I suppose I must’ve looked like a bit of a state. Overweight, slightly out of breath and stinking of beer from the night before. But that was the turning point. It’s where my fitness journey began.
What is your favorite kettlebell lift?
Without a doubt, my favorite lift is the long cycle. I love the cardio aspect of it. The subtleties of technique, in such a simple looking lift, when it is performed correctly it is beautiful to watch, effortless-looking. This is what I aspire too. The efficiency of technique and good flexibility is the key.
Where do you find motivation?
I want to be the best version I can be. I feel I’ve gotten a second chance at life, and there is so much our wonderful bodies can do! I want to do great bodyweight work so I work Rings, Paralletes, etc. achieving muscle ups back levers and all kinds of cool stuff already! I want better flexibility, so I practice yoga, swing maces and clubs, making huge strides in flexibility and core strength, writing my own flexibility program for GS athletes in the process. I want better cardio so I run/row long cycle. Including a world first 2hr double Kettlebell (2x16kg) ultramarathon recently. I want to try everything! And I do! , it’s not about finding motivation for me, how would you need motivation?! There is so much to try and so little time!
Your strongest and longest lifts?
Strongest probably 2x32kg long cycle 48 reps and 2x28kg long cycle 60 reps.
Longest lifts 2x22kg 30 mins long cycle 185 reps and 2x16kg 120 mins long cycle 634 reps.
How many days a week do you train?
Everyday yoga in the morning as it’s a beautiful way to begin your day, the body feels loose, limber and alive. Gym 3 days a week. Workout at home with mace/calisthenics every other day. Always training!
Who inspired you and why?
In Kettlebell sport the great Russians. Denisov Anasenko Benidze ….. dedication and technique. Pro athletes like The Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs who espoused the benefits of yoga and flexibility in his longevity in his sport for recovery and injury prevention. Gymnasts with their combo of strength and flexibility. Olympic lifters for the same reason. Indian wrestlers with their amazing mace technique and strength. Zurkaneh and Persian yoga with their mix of strength flexibility religion and spirituality. I’m inspired by so much and so many. worldwide and locally.
What are your hidden passions?
Art. I’ve always painted and went to art college (where I met my wife), I paint landscapes and figures mainly. I’ve exhibited all over Ireland and have paintings all over the world. Which is amazing! Music I’ve played in every type of band you can imagine! Rap-metal, rock, punk, thrash, bluegrass, traditional Irish, blues, funk, acoustic etc etc! I love all music and I play guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, drums and I also sing.
Can you break down the 2-hour marathon you completed?
Mentally it was incredibly tough. As you are standing in one spot and suffering for 2 hrs straight. So I found breaking it down into 10 min chunks really helped me get through it (5 min chunks for the last half hour!).
Physically it was like any endurance long distance event, the pacing is very important. So I was going at roughly 6 RPM. Plenty of time to relax in the rack and overhead positions.
What gave me the most trouble were the extremities, hands and feet.
My hands were tearing up due to the application of chalk and the sweat was making it stick to the palms of my hands. I stopped chalking at 65 mins (roughly) hands were also getting numb due to the amount of time holding the bells too, I know it’s only 2x16kg but 2hrs with just the cleans to release the pressure of holding them took its toll.
Feet. Yes, the feet were sore at the end, last half hour for sure. Due to again not moving except for up onto balls of feet for the jerk and catching from overhead for 634 reps.
The feet nearly walked off by themselves!
But all this being said I done it.
The sense of achievement is wonderful and the mental fortitude you forge in the furnace of self-doubt and physical pain is not to be underestimated either. I’m proud I don’t mind saying and I hope to see someone else beat this record in the near future.
Nothing is impossible it just hasn’t been done yet! Push yourself you can do it.
Please contact me about KettleYoga or any questions you have regarding flexibility and its benefits in our sport.
Make sure to check out previous Caveman Athlete nominations, these are all truly amazing people from which there is something to learn:
- October 2018: Carter Berry and Olivier Vaudour
- September 2018: Per Olhans
- August 2018: Douglas Seamans
- July 2018: Ava Morris
- June 2018: Kimberly Fox
- May 2018: Michèle Wauquier
- April 2018: Kettlebell Kandy
- March 2018: Adam Tonkin
- February 2018: Sandy Doyle
- 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