It's Saturday, August 1st and I am committing to my first 100 day challenge: 100 Days of Simple - an experiment in simple exercise and simple eating.

The Intention

100 Days of Simple is an experiment in simple exercise and simple eating so to gain strength, reduce decision fatigue and establish habits that serve my health and purpose.

Kettlebell Swings and Turkish Getups will be the foundational practice through the challenge, based on Pavel Tsatouline’s Simple and Sinister program and supervised by a personal trainer, Coach Deb Biggs.

A nutritionally dense clean ketogenic framework will inform simple eating, the idea being, as beautifully articulated by Michael Pollan: ‘eat food, not too much, mostly plants’.

2020: year of the unexpected

2020 has not been the year any of us expected, the goals and intentions set in January giving way to uncertainty and isolation in March. As a goal-oriented person, the uncertainty of not knowing what comes next has been overwhelming.

While I typically have a roadmap only a few months ahead, it has been difficult to plan for weeks let alone months ahead when we don't know what tomorrow might bring.

The little things were getting to me: being stuck in the new normal of longer peak-hour traffic, making me late for the gym, too tired to cook dinner or hold a conversation. Wake, commute, work, commute, sleep, repeat.

As an anecdote to overwhelm, I realised I needed to dig into something within the remit of my control, that is sustainable through uncertainty, and fosters healthy habits for my body and mind.

I needed an absolute no-brainer way to practice every day, where work, traffic, stress, sleepiness and deadlines would have minimal impact. There had to be no excuse, and I spotted the perfect opportunity using tools I already have: Kettlebells and Keto.

100 Days of Simple was born.

Simple Exercise

Like a cannonball with a handle, the Kettlebell is swung with hard power, engaging your core in a full body workout.

Introduced to Pavel Tsatsouline's Simple & Sinister by way of Tim Ferriss, the exercise is straightforward and does not require specialised equipment or much space, so it is perfect for training at home. Watch Tim's Kettlebell Swings to see what I mean:

Tim Ferriss does 52 Kettlebell Swings. Learn more in The Four Hour Body.

While Simple & Sinister can be followed based on the book and the many videos demonstrating form, I chose to engage a coach to ensure good form, technical precision, guidance and accountability.

As my coach, Deb Biggs - The PT Practitioner says,

Simple is simple but not easy and therefore you need good technique, strength and endurance

The Goal

For the next 100 days, I will practice Russian Kettlebell Swings and Turkish Get Ups every evening after work, with variation and supporting movements programmed by Coach Deb, progressing me towards achieving the Simple standard.

Clare Thompson practices Simple & Sinister Swings and Turkish Get Ups

My baseline is two-handed swings (2HS) with 20kgs, one-handed swings (1HS) with 16kgs and the Turkish Get Up (TGU) with 8kgs, achieving approximately 5 sets of 5-7 swings alternating with 1 TGU on each arm.

The standard to achieve Simple is 10 sets of 10 reps, recovering between each rep and progressing only when you ‘own the bell’ until you achieve the weight standard (24kg and 16kg) and untimed. I'm interested to find out how far I progress towards this with 100 days of consistent practice.

The desired outcome

"Strength has a greater purpose" - Pavel Tsatsouline

People in the StrongFirst community suggest Kettlebell training has a 'what the hell' effect, that is the greater purpose of this training begins to shine through in other areas of your life. While gaining strength, losing weight and feeling well is part of the outcome of this challenge, they are not the core reason for this challenge.

I'm a broad-brushstroke person - I get the gist and run with things quite competently, then develop expertise iteratively through trial and error. Kettlebell practice is a systematic, purposeful activity requiring consistency, concentration and continuous improvement - deliberate practice. Being deliberate in my practice is a concept that will come up time and again here at Smart Strong Stylish, as it is core to my personal development.

As such, the desired outcome is much greater than strength. Through this commitment, I will be performing deliberate practice and learning its application across other areas of my life.

Simple Eating

Who hasn’t baked during quarantine? Really, it’s a thing.

I discovered Macro Mike’s delicious Macro Friendly Double Choc Protein Brownies and baked up half a batch every morning for the two months I worked remote, happy that it was, at least, the healthier option. But, frankly its impossible to stop at one - or stop at just one of the flavours, with blondies, and donuts, and easter-egg flavoured donuts, and and and gimmeallthethingsalready (like seriously, I want to try all the things please, but in a hundred days…).

Like simple exercise, the simple eating side of my challenge is not about dieting or weight loss. It's about regaining control and relearning moderation. While the pandemic is overwhelming and uncertainty stalling, we do still have control of our reactions - and emotional eating does not need to be one of them.

Evaluating other challenges, I came across the Whole30 and its ketogenic variation the Squeaky Clean Keto Challenge. Both are thirty day challenges where inflammatory and packaged foods are eliminated then slowly reintroduced so that the participant can identify if certain foods are triggers for discomfort or illness. I was already a fan of SCKC author, Melissa Sevigny of the highly successful food blog, I Breathe, I'm Hungry.

The Goal

For the next 100 days, I will follow a nutrient dense clean keto plan commencing with the SCKC for the first 30 days and then slowly introducing other foods while maintaining ketosis.

As a baseline, keto is the only plan where I have achieved consistent results and have been able to maintain them even when consuming increased carbohydrates. I'm not against any particular food group, but have observed increase sensitivity to dairy, highly refined carbs (bread) and nuts, causing bloating, stomach cramps and vomiting. Aside from some butter, I have been dairy free and lower-carb for six weeks, and already feel greater mental clarity and less intestinal discomfort.

Aside from the inclusion of the keto but not squeaky clean PranaOn Phyto Fire Protein, I'll be following the SCKC by the book keeping my net carb intake below 20g and consuming a wide range of leafy green vegetables, lower-carb root vegetables, grass-fed meats and free range eggs. And coffee, lots of coffee.

I have calculated appropriate macros for my lifestyle and goals using the calculator at Ketogains, and are tracking these in MyFitnessPal.

An insightful interview with Luis Villasenor of Ketogains on Strength Training on Keto

The Desired Outcome

Inspired by Natalie at Tastes Lovely, who has found the right balance of Clean Keto that works for her, over the 100 days I will gain insight into foods and consumption habits that feel right for me and will contribute information towards future food planning.

The higher purpose, as Michael Pollan put so simply, is to

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants

Ultimately, discovering what works for me, in both keeping my body feeling well, appropriately fuelled, losing fat and retaining muscle, while reinvigorating my love for cooking clean, nutrient-dense and healthy foods.

Let's get it started!

The 100 Days of Simple challenge starts now, August 1.

I'll be sharing my progress here with regular posts that document my practice and progress, and daily on Instagram. By undertaking this discovering process out loud, I'm held to account for myself and for you too, and maybe you'll also be inspired to challenge yourself to do something great for you, especially given the constraints of this strange year!


Photos by S'well and Alora Griffiths on Unsplash