Dragon Door Interviews Andrea Du Cane, Master RKC

May 10, 2013 05:30 AM

AndreaDuCane StPaulRKC2013
Dragon Door:  How did you get involved with training special populations?

Andrea Du Cane:   I had just finished a Pilates training when I got involved with kettlebells early in their introduction to the US.   After I began teaching, a couple of chiropractors and osteopaths took a class from me.  One of them had been working with another instructor who didn’t focus on form or technique.  So when he came to me he liked my coaching style and how he felt.  We developed a relationship and he ended up sending me a lot of his "problem" clients.  Quickly, I started getting a lot of experience working with special populations. 

As a dancer and martial artist, I had developed a good eye for movement, that’s probably where it started.  Being able to quickly assess and see movement, shapes, to perform them yourself and communicate that to others was invaluable.  Developing cues that people understand, having patience and intuition are also essential.  I love how we all share information, cueing, and brainstorming in the RKC.  

Later, the kettlebell world began to delve into corrective exercises, by that time I’d already made my Working with Special Populations DVD with tools from other modalities, research, and backgrounds.  Of course it’s cool working with an athletic person, making them a little bit faster or stronger, but the satisfaction of changing someone’s life is something that feeds me.  I really enjoying the feeling I get from helping someone else feel better.

Dragon Door:   I had a client that told me it’s easier now for him to get in and out of his car.   That’s a quality of life issue that effects every day, and it's amazing to be able to help.

Andrea Du Cane:   Getting in and out of a car, a bathtub or up and down stairs, carrying groceries— those are absolutely quality of life issues, and to me that’s really powerful.  When I’m teaching people it feeds me, I gain as much from them as I’m giving them, and I feel like I’m getting back that much more. Making someone else feel better is really satisfying, I feel very lucky that this is my work.  I love sharing my passion and watching that passion light up in someone else’s eyes when they realize they can change their movement patterns and change their life.

Dragon Door:   Tell me about your martial arts background and how it has helped you as an instructor.

Andrea Du Cane:   I studied at a school based out of Chicago and Minneapolis, where we practiced many different styles of martial arts.  I liked the deflecting and circular techniques, rather than just a hard punch and block.  As a small woman, if I tried to block a 250-pound guy’s strike with my wrist it would probably break my arm.  Also, women don’t get punched, we get grabbed, so we need to know how to get out of those holds.

The first time it occurred to me that good technique leads to success was in a college foil fencing class.  Foil fencing is all about strategy, techniques and very small movements.  Of course, the class was full of guys two to three times my size.  When we started sparring near the end of the course, I remember going up against a big 210-pound football player.  He jabbed at me so hard that I was bruised through the pad, but he didn’t get any points.  I just kept to my technique, got the points and beat him.  He was so mad, but the coach just smiled and said, "She beat you because you didn’t have any technique."  It’s about smarts, thinking, strategy, focus, and technique.  I couldn’t focus on the fact that he was hitting me and it hurt.  I just focused on the technique, kept my cool, and won.  In martial arts it was the same, I was able to beat a lot of these bigger, stronger guys with hand techniques because I focused on the form. 

Martial arts and ballet both encourage hard work and mental toughness.  I’ve always had a mindset of striving for perfection, while realizing I probably will never attain it.  What matters is the journey, constantly trying to get better.  I’m constantly trying to learn more, work harder, be better and have better form. Every time I look at a kettlebell I think, "Okay.  I’m going to try to do this really well.  I’m going to try to do it with perfect form."  This is how to stay safe and healthy.  Focusing on technique, being patient and persevering through the tough times.  That's how to continue to progress as an instructor and as a participant.  Keep the training fresh, interesting, but focused.

Dragon Door: You've been instrumental in introducing women to kettlebells, how did that begin?

Andrea Du Cane:   Years ago, when we started with Pavel, the first kettlebell group was mostly made up of some really intense guys: firefighters, law enforcement, or people really thinking outside of the box.  We didn’t have weights that were appropriate for women yet.  I definitely didn’t have as much muscle then, but thought kettlebells were really cool and wanted to try them.  I could deadlift and swing, but that was all.  Pavel had only seen men use them and thought, "Women aren’t going to like these old rusty kettlebells."   Pavel wasn’t sure that From Russia With Tough Love would be successful.  It was a slow start, but now 30-40% of all RKCs are women.  I knew women would love kettlebells because they are efficient, quick, and effective.  Women like things that work and typically do very well with kettlebells.  They enjoy learning the techniques, and usually have the required patience.  Working with kettlebells is also incredibly empowering.  Introducing women to kettlebells was a big goal of mine.  Then as I started working with de-conditioned populations I realized how much kettlebell training could change people’s lives. 

I can get just about anybody to squat or use kettlebells safely if they understand how to do it.  Some people may take longer because neurologically something is shut down, or really poor movement patterns have been grooved in for a long time.  If someone has spent 20 years doing something one way, they’re going to be really good at it, even if it’s a bad movement.  It may take a lot of practice and time performing the movement correctly to overcome those patterns.   Older people can benefit greatly from kettlebell training, but because of old patterns, they have to be approached in a completely different way.  I think kettlebells really are a useful tool for all populations. 

Again, keeping the focus on technique, being careful, and being smart will allow people to train into their 70s, and maybe older.  It’s never too late to begin, and that’s what people have to remember.  It's frustrating to hear, "I’ve got to get in shape to start my kettlebell workout."  Or the women who say, "I’ve got to lose weight before I go to the gym."

Dragon Door:   I’ve never understood that idea.

Andrea Du Cane:   I don’t get that either, because isn’t that why someone goes to a gym?  Start the kettlebell practice now, there’s no reason not to start, the sooner the better.

Dragon Door:  Besides, most people are a special population in some regard, we all have different challenges.  Everyone struggles against something.  I certainly do.

Andrea Du Cane:   Most people don’t want to admit it.  When John and I came up with Kettlebell Boomer, it sounded great, but no one wants to be called a boomer.  The fact is, the boomer age group is just a sliver, many people older or younger are working around injuries, or moving poorly.  Since they don't want to admit it, the problem is how to attract them to the information they need when they'd rather buy a DVD of advanced lifts.

Dragon Door:  And they’re not ready for it.

Andrea Du Cane:   They’re jumping the gun, because if they can’t move well, or don’t have the basics down, then there is no point in moving forward.  Start where you can start, wherever that is, and that will change when you work consistently.  The truth is it's not glamorous.  It’s much more flashy and cool-sounding to say you’re going to do an advanced exercise, but it's better to master the basics and avoid injury.  There 's no dishonor in starting at the beginning and really working at it for real progress.

Dragon Door:    Definitely.  Your programs really help people to know where to start, which is so important.  I have client who is a post-bariatric patient, and she’s had to start over and relearn her body.

Andrea Du Cane:   Women who have had babies will also need to work around a changed core and possibly damage or stress to the pelvic floor. Things will have changed.   Or they end up getting a hernia, which happened to me.  Life’s full of surprises and challenges.  No one knows what will happen, and inevitably we all get little injuries and tweaks over time.  The healthier, stronger, more mobile and fit we are, the faster we’ll recover.  We might not prevent an accident, but we want to become as injury-proof and resilient as possible.  When I had my abdominal surgery, less than three months later I shot the Kettlebell Goddess DVD.

Dragon Door:  The Kettlebell Goddess is one of my favorites, I never would have guessed!

Andrea Du Cane:   I probably should have given myself a little more time, but I recovered and healed really fast.  As an athlete, I have nothing to prove.  My goal is to feel good, mobile, fit, healthy, to have good energy, be resilient, and enjoy many activities.  I think that’s a goal for a lot of people, to simply be able to go for a bike ride or play catch with their kids without pain.  Or to have the lung power and strength for a hike up a very steep mountain without injury.  It’s a worthy goal to become healthy, fit and resilient enough for an active lifestyle.

Dragon Door:   No one should have to miss out on life because of inadequate fitness!

Andrea Du Cane:  People should be able to take up a new sport or activity at any age and enjoy it.  Kettlebells are the ultimate cross-training tool for golf, tennis, running, swimming, lacrosse, everything.  Improvements in strength, conditioning, strong power through the hips – strong, resilient shoulders.  They also help develop the right kind of mobility and flexibility along the way, too.  So really, our RKC School of Strength incorporates more than just strength, it has all the tools you need to be a resilient athlete, at any age.

aducane Contributors

Andrea Du Cane is a Master Kettlebell Instructor, CK-FMS certified, CICS certified, Primal Move National Instructor and RIST, ZHealth certified, and has a BA in Psychology from the University of Minnesota.  She is featured on Breaking Muscle website as the February 2012 coach of the month. She is also a Pilates instructor. She has over twenty years of aerobics, weight training and fitness experience.  She currently teaches classes in Minneapolis, Minnesota and offers a variety of workshops around the world.

Andrea can be reached directly by email at andrea@kettlebellfitness.com or through her website at: http://kettlebellfitness.com