“In Russia “practice” means REPS…”

I have arrived back in the states from my trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. I flew over 5,000 miles in a cattle holding pen to train kettlebell sport with world class coaches and champions Sergey Rudnev, Sergey Rachinskiy, Sergey Merkulin, and Sergey Mishin.

Yes, Sergey is a very popular name in Russia.

Today I’m going to enlighten you with some things I didn’t know before my trip to St. Petersburg. If you’re really interested in the meat and potatoes of Kettlebell Sport (which would be served with a side of dry white bread) or Girevoy Sport as its commonly known, you can see it reflected in coming program updates.

As for now, Here’s Things I Learned In Russia That Don’t Have Anything to Do with Kettlebells…

1. Traffic laws do not exist on Russian highways.
A ride from the airport to your hotel is like a scene out of Black Hawk Down and may include passing people at high speeds on the shoulder of the on-ramp.

2. St. Petersburg was built on a swamp.
Which means it is infested with mosquitoes. If you leave your window open at night, you will wake up covered in swollen red bites that will make people think you have some kind of total body case of the herp/scabies/the pestilence.

3. In Russia, “practice” means reps.

4. Mayonnaise and mustard do not exsist in Russia.
Which is interesting when breakfast every morning consists of one ham sandwich and one cheese sandwich. That’s right. One slice of ham flopped between two pieces of white bread only to be followed up with one slice of cheese nestled between another two slices of white bread, served dry with all it’s cottonmouth goodness. Now that’s clean living. Speaking of clean living…

5. Ice also does not exist in Russia.
Water and Coke are served a la cart, which is fine with me because it just gave me an excuse to have beer with all my meals. “It’s colder guys.” There are 9 versions of Baltika Beer which tastes somewhere between Hams and malt liquor depending on what version you drink. Versions 3, 6, and 8 produce WICKED hangovers. Version 7 does not. No I did not start with 7, I just kept going back for more punishment until I found the one that didn’t give me a headache.

6. Taking the subway is like descending into the Mines of Moria.
The whole system was constructed DEEP underground to stay active if someone carpet bombed the city. I was told this by my Coach, Jeff Martone, who was in town for a few day of the certification. I was also told that the subway is packed with pick pockets (a friend of ours got his wallet snagged the second day he was there), so Coach also instructed me that if anyone bumped into me, just start swinging. “Hey Zach? You ok with headbutting?”

7. In Russia, “practice” means reps.

8. If Denny’s was in Russia it would be a tourist hot spot.
Anywhere with a picture menu is your friend. In Russia, cheeseburger does not mean cheeseburger. It means cold ham and cheese on white bread, maybe with cabbage. No mayo, No mustard, No ketchup.

9. Green vegetables do not exist in Russia.
But you can buy at least 10 different kinds of salt fish at any corner store.

10. People only say “Dasvidania” (goodbye) if they don’t like you very much.
If you try to communicate at the corner store with sign language, you will be told to go Dasvidania yourself.

11. The mechanics of your Russian water heater.
Your water heater in Russia is run by a rat that stokes a fire under a water tank by running in a wheel. In the morning the rat is tired, so he takes 15-45 minutes to get your water temperature above freezing.

12. In Russia, “practice” means reps.

13. Coffee is an oddity in Russia… What the Fuck

14. Street vendors in Russia sell 2 things: Booze and Ice Cream
Needless to say I drank a lot of beer and ate a decent amount of ice cream on a stick.

15. Snake Skin Cowboy boots are apparently “Vedy Amurican” in Russia, score one for the Club.

16. When you have a room full of Coaches that are multiple time world champions in Russia you just throw a “D” word in front of their title.
I heard to name a few “Distinguished World Champion”, “Decorated World Champion”, and “Demonstrated World Champion”. I’m sure there were a number that were lost in translation.

17. Being lost in translation is a very regular occurrence in Russia.
And it usually ends with someone telling you Dasvidania.

All joking aside the trip was totally worth it. The culture was so different there that sometimes I didn’t know what to do. “Now Try” or “Practice,” means one thing in Russia: REPS. Lots of them. No one tells you how many they just sit back and watch (and sweat your ASS off in my case ’cause my viking skin can’t handle humidity). Then you and a Coach that doesn’t speak English fix what’s wrong by playing charades and being touchy-feely. It was the most basic training of some advanced stuff I’ve ever had. There wasn’t anyone giving you fancy terms or cues on how to fix your technique. You did it over and over again until you did it right… at least until they nodded their head at you. With the time change and lack of coffee, it took me a day to adjust to it.

In the end I learned kettlebelling at it’s most pure form in the motherland of the sport. After we received our certificates and coaching medals (from the head of the St. Petersburg Olympic Commitee no less) we learned that there is only one way to christan them:

In Russia you take your medal and drop it in a shot of vodka, slam the shot, then pin badge. I did that with the multiple time “Diabolical” World Champion Sergey Merkulin, who loved to walk by our table on graduation night and say the only semi-English thing I heard from him the whole time, “Vodka.” He did this more than my memories allow me to recall.

In Russia “Practice” means REPS, and “VODKA” means SHOTS. And when Sergey Merkulin tells you “Vodka,” you listen.

Posted By: Z

10 Responses to ““In Russia “practice” means REPS…””

  1. Ah the old country.

  2. Thecooler206 Says:

    This has made my day reading this. Thank you for your tired rambling about drinking and reps.

  3. St. Petersburg sounds like the world’s least comfortable place- where else could something like kettlebell sport come from? You looked fine in the gym straight off the plane though. That is unless you always look like you’re coming off an international cheese sandwich bender.

  4. Congrats Z. Great write up! I’m jealous.

  5. Awesome write up, Z !

    Thank you for spending your time, energy & resources on a ‘work vacation’ that invests in yourself, but ultimately results in YOU re-investing more of yourself in US.
    We all know how fortunate we are to have your passion & expertise available to us and we won’t let you down.

  6. so funny.

  7. Vodka the new drink of choice for OCBC?

  8. Did you accept your medal ask for a mic and say
    If I can change
    And yous can change
    Everybody can change

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