Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

IKFF Kettlebell Seminar Review

Posted: February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized
By Keith JenningsThis past January, I participated in a Kettlebell instructor certification seminar with the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF).  This was the third kettlebell certification course I’ve attended, and it was both the most comprehensive in terms of technique, and yet also the most sparse in terms of catalog of techniques.  Since my reason for taking this course was to focus on the primary kettlebell lifts used in sport competition, this suited me just fine.  The IKFF website describes their approach as such:

The IKFF is an organization whose goals are two-fold: to promote Kettlebell training and complete mind/body fitness on a global scale, and to support our members in developing the all-encompassing skills needed to accelerate their own fitness and fitness-oriented businesses.  The vision in creating this is to offer passionate fitness enthusiasts a no-nonsense, ever-evolving resource they can trust is on the cutting edge of athletic training and conditioning!
Most Kettlebell courses are either run like a diabolical bootcamp, where learning technique often come second to getting your ass kicked during two days of relentless training.  The reasoning behind this is, if you want to consider yourself a kettlebells instructor, you better be just as bad ass as the piece of iron that you working to master.  I’m ok with this approach, and found these courses to be a lot of fun.  Other courses almost try to do too much, mixing in Hard-Style with Sport training, all the while trying to find time to work on supplemental training such as joint mobility or gymnastics.  With the IKFF certification course, the emphasis was completely technique based.  In fact, much of the seminar was spent without a kettlebell in hand, making sure we had the correct body mechanics down before even picking up a bell.  The only kettlebell lifts taught were the single hand swing, the clean, the press (and its many variations), and the snatch.  Many of the standard kettlebell exercises, such as the Turkish Get-Up and the Windmill, were barely mentioned.  Instead, the IKFF is singularly focused and dedicated to kettlebell Sport lifting, known as  Girevoy Sport.  Taught by IKFF Head Master Trainer Ken Blackburn, he emphasized that with sport lifting, the devil is in the details.  Even the smallest detail will make a huge impact on your performance.  I have had kettlebell sport technique explained to me in the past, and have seen elite athletes perform both in person and in video.  However, it wasn’t until training under Ken that I have come to truly appreciate the intricacies of such technique, why this is the preferred method for lifts such as Long Cycle and snatching, and I have become a true believer.

So, what does this mean for kettlebell training at Forteza?   Like most things in life, there are positives to both sides, and we will be incorporating sport style into our already established kettlebell regimen.  In the next blog, I will go over what the differences are between Hard-Style and Girevoy Sport, and the roll of both in you future training.  In the mean time, I will be teaching a special kettlebell class on Sunday, February 23rd at noon.  This will be about four hours of learning, where the focus will be more on proper technique and body mechanics, and low on sweat (until the very end of the class, of course….).  I will be posting details soon, but this will be a very inexpensive class, and recommended to anyone who trains at Forteza and wants to take their kettlebell training to the next level!

While at a martial arts retreat in Colorado, Keith was invited to participate in a Crossfit workout.  No big deal, until you realize that you are over 9,000 feet above sea level!  Doing burpees without the benefit of oxygen was such a fun experience, Keith wanted to share it with everyone at Forteza!

Low Alititude workout

While it isn’t possible to replicate low oxygen here in Illinois, feel free to do some sprints, pull-ups, or Kettlebell complexes to pre-fatigue yourself before attempting this workout:

Five rounds of: 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 of two handed kettlebell swings, burbees, and sit-ups

Set the clock at thirty minutes.  If you can’t complete it in the allotted time, then try again next week.  Good luck!

Spartan Fit Challenge Workout

Posted: August 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Midwest Super Spartan is over, but there is still one more Spartan Race to be run this year!

To keep you on track, Forteza Fitness is offering a FREE work out challenge to kick off the training cycle for the November Miller Park Spartan Sprint. We’ll be taking you through a work out that will help you conquer each obstacle that you face. 

Whether this is you first time or you are a veteran racer, this workout will be sure to challenge you. To keep things interesting, we will be giving away one free admission to the Miller Park Spartan Sprint to the toughest Spartan! There will also be a raffel to win training sessions with Coach Jesse Kulla and Trainer Keith Jennings. 

So, no excuses, we expect to see you on August 18th, at noon sharp, and be ready to give it everything that you’ve got. Location will be at Forteza Fitness, or weather permitting, Montrose Beach. More details to come. 

To RSVP, contact Keith at

Training for a Spartan Race Tshirt

On Saturday, July 13th, the members of Team Forteza attended a group workout with Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena. With just one week before the Illinois Super Spartan Race, we were in the final preparations for the race. For the past two months, the team had been training hard, eating clean (supposedly…), and felt ready and confident. The Spartan group workout promised to be a great measuring stick for how well prepared we truly were. As Joe himself said, if you can get through his workout, the actual race will be a walk in the park.

Bravado aside, we were all thinking the same thing: how much harder can this be compared our weekly group training? What followed was 2 1/2 hours of brutality in the sweltering Summer heat. After a brisk warm-up, the workout started off with a quarter mile of walking lunges. Everyone’s quads were on fire before we reached our destination: an outdoor park that didn’t offer a single bit of shade to protect us from the midday sun. After a bit of bear crawling, we lined up in rows of 22, with each row being about ten people deep. Right away, it was obvious who was actually training for the upcoming Spartan Race, and those who were less prepared. Next came 100 jumping jacks, animal crawls up and down the field, and fireman carries. Not even half way through the workout, and people started to drop out. Then came the 300 burpees.

Getting through an obstacle race takes a team effort, even if that means helping or requesting aid from strangers. Cooperation in the midst of competition, as the saying goes. In ancient Sparta, the mighty phalanx was so effective because the Spartans wouldn’t fight as individuals. Instead, they fought as one, impenetrable unit. Every Spartan protects the the Spartan to his side, Joe emphasized. To hammer in this point, the group had to do all 300 burpees together. If even a single person was out of sync, that burpee didn’t count. So, what was 300 buprees turned out to be a hell of a lot more!

By the time we finished the burpees, and then started the sprints, squats, and planks, the army of would be Spartans had thinned drastically. What were rows of ten, were now rows of two or three. The most any line had left was four Spartans standing strong. And among these elite stood Team Forteza, who stuck it out until the bitter end.

By Jesse Kulla, Forteza Personal Trainer and Martial Arts Instructor

Obstacle or “Adventure” racing has become one of the most popular ways to test your mettle and inspire yourself to a new level of training. At the top of the obstacle race food chain is the Spartan Race – a race of pure craziness. When you are going to call yourselves “Spartans” and label your skill levels as “Beast”, “Ultrabeast” and “Death Race”, you pretty much have to be ready to throw down and throw the kitchen sink at competitors. And oh how they do, as you can see at the Spartan Race:

Spartan Group X

As an athlete, I’ve taken part in the Spartan Race for several years now, as a personal trainer, I’ve respected the Spartan’s goals of seeking excellence, and then pushing one level further. Of course, that means that once there was an opportunity to become an actual certified Spartan trainer – the first in Chicago – I wasn’t inspired to go, I had to do it! So, what do the founders of the Ultra Beast put would-be trainers through?

Wow, Where to start? I carried myself to Atlanta, in hopes that the weather would be nice, and so it was. We call that a small mercy, because it would be the only gentle thing that weekend. Got some sleep. Woke up, and got to the venue. It was a fancy gym, with everything you could want in a health club and spa. Not what I expected – I was thinking more like a sand-pit with ropes and stones. Nor did I expect that the first thing I would become acquainted with wouldn’t be the gym, but the first rate conference room. (More on that in a minute.)

Introductions were made, and stories from races that we have all run were shared. I did not win the farthest traveled award, there was a gentleman there form San Francisco. I also met the winner of the 2012 Spartan Death race. It was inspiring and humbling to learn that he had absorbed over 60 hours of punishment to claim that title. Yeah, 60 hours. I have some new standards of “toughness”.

Before we got started, we took a 5 minute burpee test. Yes, that means we got up, paired up, and did “hands off the floor” burpees for 5 minutes, to see who was could hack it. I was not at the bottom of the heap, but 63 was nothing to brag over either, I think 84 was the winning number. Now, I expected something like “drop and give me 5 minutes of burpees” – these are the Spartans, right? But see, like the Spartans of old, who were both warriors of supreme physical skill and tactical warcraft, we were here to hone our minds alongside our bodies.

And that was why we went from burpees to that conference room, where my brain was filled with science data, recovery charts, and the importance of Mental Grit. Vital to all racers, and more so to those who profess to learn the arts of defense, Mental Grit is the power to preserve despite terrible odds, nasty surprises, and truly “long haul” exercises. We then did a little work out before breaking for lunch: about 300 meters of bear crawls, just to whet our appetites. Lunch was all business, talking with other trainers, sharing success stories and work out tips.

Of course, having just filled our bellies, it was time to dive into nutrition as soon as we got back. That was extremely in depth, and changed how I viewed athletic nutrition. After a few hours of that, we broke, and did an hour long “level one” work out, which is just the Spartan way of saying “Good job in the class room, see you tomorrow”. I went back to my hotel and soaked for an hour, rehydrated, and got ready for day two.

Day two was all talk of program design and goal-setting. This was partly a refresher course, but had a lot of insight into helping clients set goals, as well as getting to the root of clients’ health issues. The program design was intensive. We talked for hours about how to “Spartan folks up”. Far and away, this was my favorite portion of the weekend. Skipping lunch, we broke into groups and went running, with one group running their work out, start to finish, and the other two groups sweating through them. Three hours of pure brutality. It was hard, but I got through all of it. Not everyone did. Survival is the first step on the road to excellence!

I now know why the Spartan gym has a full spa – you need it just to go home. After some time in their hot tub, I felt better, I limped to the hotel, packed, returned my car, and spent 18 hours In the airport getting back to good old Chi-town. This was a mind-blowing weekend, and my ideas about training for peak performance will be broken into before SGX and after. My clients are already profiting from the new ideas and strategies, be they there to cut weight, increase functionality or race train, and I can’t wait to share more of the techniques for honing Mental Grit.

Later this summer, I’ll begin my preparation to run the Beast. I’ve beaten the Sprint, and I’ve beaten the Super. Time to go for the gold, and come home with my running shoes or on them. I hope to see you there, because I’ll need a team. Spartans, are you ready? Aroo!

Spartan Coach badge

January is over, which means New Year’s resolutions are in full force!

Every January, you’ll find people crammed into gyms across the country, and everyone seems to have the same goal year after year: lose weight, drop a dress size, get a six-pack, or the like.  The problem is that the work is hard, the effort is unfocused and the motivation never seems to last.  Why?

When the goal is purely cosmetic, they ignore the gains that they are already making and lose heart while they are working to hit that goal.

At Forteza Fitness, we propose something a bit different.  Instead of focusing on the superficial, have your goal to be simply getting stronger, increasing your endurance levels, and becoming more agile. The problem with shallow goals is that they produce shallow results.

For your strength goals, try and really challenge yourself.  If you’ve never been able to do a full, head hang pull-up, put in the work under the bar this year and make it happen!  If you can do a pull-up, then make it your goal to do five in a row, or ten.  Or, work up to deadlifting twice your body weight, which is a great marker to be considered truly strong.  Whatever your goal, aim high, and every week work your way up that fitness mountain.

For your endurance goals, sign up for an obstacle race this summer.  Many people hate running – it is exhausting and seems to have no focus. Obstacle races solve that by giving you a set of challenges that keep you focused, give you more to do than just fun, while giving you a cardio butt-kicking. And they are great fun! Forteza will be running a number of obstacle races in 2013:

Warrior Dash.  June 16th.  This is a great introduction to mud runs.  This course is doable for a variety of fitness levels.  If you’ve just begun your fitness journey, or want a warm up before challenging yourself with the Spartan Race, this is a great place to start.

Run for Your Life.  June 22nd.  What better motivation to run than being chased by zombies?  Run For Your Life is a 5K obstacle run where the course is infested with zombie hoards.  The better shape you’re in, the more obstacles you can climb, and the faster you can run, which Just might allow you to get to the finish line.  In order to enjoy the full zombie apocalyptic feel for this event, we are planning to camp out the night before, and then enjoy being chased by zombies the following morning.

Spartan Race.  July 21st.  This is the highlight of the race season for us.  With only a 70% finish rate, the Spartan Race is a 9+ mile course that is considered by many to be the most challenging obstacle race out there.  The Spartan Race demands a lot of dedication, so if you join the team, prepare for some hard training.

If you have any interest in joining Team Forteza for any of the above races, please contact Keith or Jesse.  Training begins in April!

The Year in Review

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

Forteza’s first year has come and gone, and what a year it has been!

buff-santa1Here’s a fun holiday themed workout to help burn off those cookies and the eggnog.  Perform the workout just like the song “Twelve Days of Christmas”; so do one, then one and two, then one, two, and three, etc.  Each exercise is to be done at the value listed.  Have fun, and remember, modify the weight as needed.

1. Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up 16kg

2. V Sit-Ups

3. Tire Flips 500lbs

4. Pull-Ups

5. Kettlebell Snatches 24kg (five each side for this one!)

6. Heavy Kettlebell Swings (aim for the 105 pound Beast!)

7. Mountain Climbers

8. Kettlebell Power Cleans 35kd

9. Stability Push-Ups

10. Battle Rope Slams

11. Jump Squats

12. Front Squats (you’ll be tired, so just go as heavy as you can while maintaining good form)

10 Tips for Staying On Track This Holiday Season

  1. Workout in the morning before your holiday meal!  Planning to go up for seconds and thirds on Thanksgiving?  You might as well have all of that protein and those calories be put to good work!
  2. Speaking of going up for seconds….just don’t!  After you’ve gotten your plate, enjoy the meal, but fight the urge to go back up for more.  This will be easier done if you set your limits beforehand. 
  3. Drink lots of water.  Water will keep you hydrated, help flush your system, and keep you from calorie dense drinks such at soda and alcohol.
  4. Plan some fun activities.  This could be anything from grabbing a few family members to go out for a run/walk/bike ride, or playing with the kids.  Stay active, keep moving, and help to burn off some of those calories you just consumed!
  5. Maintain, not gain.  Be realistic; the holidays are not a great time for losing weight.  However, with a properly laid out plan, and some self control, you can at least avoid adding any weight during the holidays.
  6. Plan time during the week for exercise.  If you are traveling, and might not have access to your usual gym or your trainer, write down your top five favorite exercises to do with the time and equipment you have available.  Then, make time to do them!
  7. Don’t skip meals before holiday dinners.  If you show up to Thanksgiving dinner starving, of course you’re going to over eat!
  8. IF you happen to overeat during one meal, balance it out by eating a bit lighter during the next one.  Don’t worry about the actual holiday meal; it’s what you do between the holidays that count.
  9. Bring your own healthy dish.  A few healthy food options can help to balance out the rest of the meal.
  10. Forewarned is forearmed.  Remember, holidays come at the same time every year!  Plus, if you’ve been working hard all year, giving yourself some time away from the gym isn’t such a bad thing.  Sometimes to avoid burnout, we all need a break every once in a while.

Enjoy the holidays!

The Road To Sparta Part 2

Posted: November 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Road to Sparta, Part 2

By the time we had only two weeks to go before the race, the number of would be Spartans began to drop.  Between the intensity of the training, and the commitment required each week, only twelve brave Spartans were left to carry on.

The weekend before, the team revisited the Spartan 1500 workout.  Everyone stepped up, and destroyed their previous attempt.  Huge props to Spartan Sarah Heeter who was the only one to complete the entire workout in less than 60 minutes!  Before she started training for the Spartan, Sarah wasn’t able to run a mile without having to rest, and body weight pull-ups seemed impossible.  Through lots of sweat, maybe even a few tears, and definitely a few cuss words, Sarah worked herself up to three solid body weight pull-ups, and she was running several miles with no rest.  Go, Sarah!

The Forteza Spartan Race team preparing for glory!

Right before the race, things got even more challenging.  Weather in Chicago can be fickle, and as it would happen, the temps dropped significantly the week leading up to the race.  The Spartan Race is challenging as is; doing it in 30 degree weather with high winds makes it down right brutal!  As if that wasn’t enough, team co-captain Keith, and the lively Mike Mauch, both had unplanned oral surgeries just days prior to the race.  The pain, plus dehydration from the pain medication, added to the already considerable challenge.  It was too late to back out, so the only thing left for Keith and Mike to do was Spartan up!

They say the Spartan Race is the most challenging of all the mud runs, and the Midwest Spartan did its part to help make that case!  The race started out to nearly two miles of hard running up and down rugged hills before the first significant obstacle.  Once the obstacles appeared, they came with a vengeance.  The obstacles were designed to punish the racers for the entire nine miles, with everything from army crawling under barbed wire, climbing various walls and obstructions, monkey bars that spin, dragging heavy sand bags and giant concrete slabs up and down hills, and of course, leaping over fire.

The double dragons, Mike and Jessica, leap over a wall of fire.

The most challenging of all was the swim through ice cold mud water out to a climbing rope, and then climb up to ring the bell.  This one destroyed everyone, except for Spartans Joe and Vader who dug deep and powered their way to the top!

In the end, everyone made it to the finish line.  As the Spartan Race slogan goes, you really can’t know what an accomplishment finishing a Spartan Race is until the cross the finish line.  Congrats to all of the Forteza Spartans!  You are all truly warriors.

The first three to make it across the finish line: Vader, Jordan, and Patrick.