My friends and I have been practicing for a year to break a Guinness World Record.
On Monday, we did it. According to our unofficial count, our 12-member team lifted 63,365.9 pounds to break the Guinness record for the heaviest weight lifted by a kettlebell team in an hour.
The record we broke was set Sept. 30 by a team in Cheltenham, England. They lifted 43,809.8 pounds in an hour.
Our team was all women, ranging in age from 50 to 76. We are proof that you can never be too old to get very strong.
“We don’t look like a bunch of kick ass athletes. We don’t look all buff and intimidating like people setting out to break a Guinness World Record. But we set our minds to do this and we did it,” says team leader Brenda Wong Yim.
She is a 59-year-old mother of six children, with 30 marathons and two Ironman triathlons to her credit.
The way our challenge worked was we took turns. Only one person at a time was swinging. Each person’s turn was 30 seconds. Then the next person stepped in and the next for what seemed like a very long hour. Each one of us had 10 turns.
Neva Tsukiyama, 50, the youngest team member says when she mentioned on Facebook she was intending to break a Guinness record, her friends laughed.
“They said ‘You will never be able to do that.’ They belittled me for even thinking about it. One person even unfriended me (on Facebook), maybe thinking I was being arrogant. Their derision made me want to do it all the more,” says Tsukiyama.
A kettlebell is a round cannonball-shaped weight made out of cast iron with a metal handle. Swinging and power lifting the round weights promotes a total body workout rather than strengthening only a single set of muscles like dumbbell workouts.
Boxers, kick boxers, mixed martial arts fighters, football players and even infantry soldiers have taken up training with kettlebells as a fast way to build cardio, endurance, balance and all over muscle strength.
Kettlebells originally were used as counterweights to measure grains in 18th century in Russia when farmers started challenging each other to see who could lift the heaviest weights. Then circus strongmen incorporated kettlebells in their acts until gradually the round weights gained popularity as training tools for athletes, and in Russia, the military.
Kettlebells normally range in weight from five to 100 pounds.
In our Guinness challenge, Brenda Wong Yim, Joanne Klinke, Jill MacMillian and Lori McCarney each hoisted a 35-pound kettlebell. Others swung kettlebells weighing from 25 to 15 pounds at the lightest.
“Kettlebell training has made a huge difference in the outcome of my races,” McCarney, a 64-year-old triathlete says. “It has slowed the loss of muscle mass that happens naturally with aging. As long as I can build muscle strength I can continue competing for longer.”
McCarney did her first Ironman at age 55. She has competed in 60 triathlons and 11 Ironmans including the Kona World Championship. She is CEO of Bikeshare Hawaii, the nonprofit that launched Biki.
“The group inspires me. Some of the women are older than me. They show me how I can age and still be very strong and capable,” she says.
Many doing the challenge have gotten skinnier without trying. “My stomach had not been this flat since college,” Leeward Community College lecturer Dottie Sunio, 71, says.
Our coach is 77-year-old John Sarich, with whom we exercise at Ala Moana Beach Park every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 a.m. Our group is called Johnny’s Fitness Ohana.
We meet in the calm of the early morning to do kettlebell training as well as core and cardio exercises in a grove of coconut trees next to the park’s pond. The classes are free.
“I like to help people get stronger,” Sarich says.
He is a retiree from the Ford Motor Co. of Canada. He lives in London, a city in southwestern Ontario, Canada, but he spends six months here each year at a condo he and his wife own in Waikiki.
A former competitive weight lifter and power lifter, he became a Guinness World Record holder himself in 1987 in what’s called “barrow pushing.”
He pushed a special wheelbarrow he had built himself filled with 8,275 pounds of bricks for 243 feet to break the record set by a British factory worker.
In November 2016, Sarich put in a request with Guinness World Records to accept our team as record challengers. He told us that “having a world record will be something to remember for the rest of your lives.”
But then came the difficult part: the wait. Guinness took five months to reply to say it would accept us as potential record breakers.
Team coordinator Lorie Young said after the initial wait there were delays of two and three weeks for Guinness to respond to specific questions she had asked to be sure we were on the right track.
Guinness says it’s slow to respond because it receives 1,000 applications a week.
Sir Hugh Beaver, managing director of Guinness Brewery, started the record-keeping phenomenon in 1954 by creating an annual book of facts to solve arguments in pubs.
Except for the Bible, Guinness World Records contends it is the best selling book in the world.
There are 47,000 current record titles that range from the ridiculous such as the world’s loudest burp or the world’s longest tiramisu to the amazing, such as the Guinness record for fastest aggregate marathon time to finish a marathon on seven different continents, including Antartica, done by British athlete Fiona Oakes.
Guinness’s requirements to set a record are very precise. If they are ignored, Guinness will disqualify an attempt without a right of appeal.
Before we broke our record Monday, we had to meet many protocols and jump through many hoops. For example, before we could start all our kettlebells had to be transported to Young Scale Co. in Kalihi to be weighed on a certified scale and photographed while they were being weighed.
Our team had to have two certified kettlebell judges there to verify and record each swing and note that it was done properly. Their written documentation will be sent to Guinness for review as evidence.
We also had to have two cameras to videotape us from the front and from the side, to record each swing each team member made during the hour. Guinness will scan the tapes to eliminate any weight from the total that was lifted with an improper swing.
When we finished, the kettlebells had to be transported back to the certified scale in Kalihi to be weighed again and photographed on the scale.
Now we must wait up to 15 weeks for Guinness to check our evidence to determine if we were successful.
We are certain we will make it.