When Jordan Tyjeski first picked up a kettlebell, she couldn’t have imagined where it would take her.
Certainly not to Latvia, where the 21-year-old Beaver Dam woman will travel next week to participating in World Kettlebell Sport Competition.
Her father Jerome and her mother Joanne will be there to cheer her on at the event, slated to run from Oct. 10-14.
Tyjeski’s kettlebell odyssey began when she was about 10 and Jerome, who operates Tyjeski Family Chiropractic in Beaver Dam, urged her try some work with the weights.
“He had an area with a little sand that he had dragged out of the sandbox and a cheap clock and we’d do 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off,” Tyjeski said. “After 20 seconds, I was exhausted. Dad said that if I kept it up, I’d be able to do 10 minutes, no breaks, without a problem. Now my goal is 230 reps in that time, which is a rep every three seconds. So I’ve made some progress.”
There are several fields of competition within the sport category, including snatches, which involves swinging the bell or bells from just below waist height to a brief hold above the head. If one bell is being used, the lifter can switch arms as needed. The process is repeated and competition is based on the number of repetitions and how cleanly each rep is executed.
Long cycle (or clean and jerk) is lifting the weights to shoulder height and then again above the head, fully extending the arms. Both can be done with either one hand or two and repetitions involve keeping the bell aloft in all but the first and last rep, when they touch the floor. If they touch the floor, the round is finished.
Participants can complete reps in either a 5-minute or a 10-minute cycle, although world competition is only in 10-minute segments.
“Each rep is judged for the whole 10 minutes,” Jerome Tyjeski said. “If a lift is not done cleanly, it doesn’t count. If the form is bad, it doesn’t count.”
The people with the highest total of perfect reps are the winners. For a time, Jordan Tyjeski held the United States record in her class with 107 reps.
“I do double hand long cycles and snatches,” said Tyjeski, who joined the Beaver Dam girls track and field team as a junior and qualified for the WIAA state meet in the shot put a year later. “There are other categories, such as jerks and biathlons, but I only compete in two of them.”
Although she has long been lifting weights and kettlebells for general fitness, Tyjeski only began serious training in the sport category a year ago. She competes in the American Kettlebell Alliance, training with a coach in Chicago. She recently completed her degree in mortuary science and will soon start a career with Cress Funeral Homes in Madison.
Kettlebells come in different sizes and weights, with competitors using standard sizes and weights. Amateur women (Tyjeski’s category) use 16-kilogram weights (approximately 35 pounds). Professional women use 24-kilogram weights (53 pounds). Men’s weights are 24 kilograms for amateurs and 32 kilograms (70.5 pounds) for professionals. Although Tyjeski often uses the 24-kilo weights in her workouts, as an amateur she must use the lighter weights in her division of competition. There are other sizes and weights for other uses.
The world of kettlebells is largely centered in Russia. Most world champions hail from that part of the world, and her Chicago-based coach is from Poland. This year, he is competing for Poland (he has dual citizenship).
The United States is still catching up to Europe as far as kettlebell sport is concerned, and has only joined world competition for the past four or five years.
“We’ve been training with kettlebells in my office for the past 15 years or so,” Jerome Tyjeski said.
Jordan credits her parents with instilling the drive that has brought this competitiveness into focus.
“Dad always made me go and do a little bit more than the rest of the team,” she said. “He wasn’t an official coach, but he was my coach. The bare minimum is never enough. We always had to do extra. That’s a given. Now I’m competing in the kettlebell world championship, and it’s all due to him.”
“We’re very happy that she loves doing it,” her father said.