Hands Up!

Soft and Smooth

I used to have nice hands. Soft and smooth, free from nicks and rough spots and callouses. Except for summers playing baseball, I didn’t do much physical activity with them unless my dad asked me to help work on a car or build a garage or shed.

I eventually worked as a dishwasher for a year in my first two jobs at 16. Dish soap was not their friend. Neither was chopping onions. The stench from that lingered for days.

I was also into bicycling but always wore gloves to keep my hands from going numb, and padded the crap out of the handlebars.

I didn’t start lifting weights until I was 25 and even then I just did machine work. Most people at the health club (not gym) I went to wore gloves so I repurposed my cycling gloves until I wore them out. Then I bought a few other pairs and wore them to death as well.

Enter the Barbell

I ditched the gloves when I picked up barbells in 2007 and ever since then my hands haven’t been the same. Callouses, cuts and scratches, all did numbers on my once delicate hands. They were getting stronger and no longer felt as soft and smooth. I guess that was a trade off for getting stronger. Plus, it was a sign that I actually worked out even though I never did get big enough to look like a lifter in my clothes. Maybe if I had done steroids but that wasn’t my scene.

Since then, they’ve been battered and bruised along the way, though nothing that some Curel and a few bandaids couldn’t heal.

Adding kettlebells to the mix in the last year made them stronger yet but also added to the roughness of callouses. I guess I could have used chalk but never really bothered as they didn’t hurt that bad.

40 Days + 10,000 Swings

Since taking up the daily challenge of 250 swings back in February 2015, not only has my body fat declined but so has the condition of my hands. Still more callouses, still more scrapes, still more bruises. It got so bad within the last few weeks that my ring finger on my left hand, the one where I actually wear my wedding band, has swollen up and stayed that way.

Jamming my big mitts into the space of a single kettlebell put so much force on that digit that it was bound to give way. Maybe if I’d stayed with a 32kg bell it might not have happened. But with moving up to 36kg and then eventually a few days with 40kg, it was too much.

A week ago yesterday, the pressure from relentless swings pushed it over the edge. A bout of 250 swings after work on Thursday night with the 40kg bell caused enough pain that I finally paid attention. During my weight sets last Friday, it got worse but I forced my way through the pain. By the time Saturday afternoon rolled around for that day’s workout, I knew things were bad when I could barely close my hand into a fist. My quest for two months of continuous swings was at an end. I was five weeks in.

Sure I could have “manned” up and kept going and disregarded the pain and swelling. But for what purpose? I’m not getting paid to do it. I’m not an athlete with the season on the line. I’m a weekend warrior and fitness enthusiast with a life and a blog and a day job outside of the gym.

I gave it one more try on a set of chin-ups followed by swings. I called “uncle” on the chins and fought my way through the day’s 250 swings. i thought maybe doing double swings with a lighter bell might work. No go. My finger was too weak to grip. At that point I calculated just what it might take to finish my 40 day program after day 28, without killing myself.

I decided to take a few days off and look into alternate ways to do swings. They were the key part of my workout. I needed to do them two-handed but my two hands were too big to fit inside one kettlebell.

With that, enter the T-Handle. More on that coming soon.