-Duke Herrell, MD


To understand how much the Kettlebell , Iron Tamer Dave Whitley, and the “comrades “ (an ode to Pavel) at Nashville Kettlebell (NKB) mean to me, you need to understand a little bit about my life and past. Lets start with some background and a few confessions…this is long so stop now if you don’t give a #%^@. Some men collect cars, guns, cigars, women, etc…… I collect exercise equipment. Stationary bike, universal gym, elliptical, treadmill, dumbells, Olympic weights, smith machines, HR monitors etc. etc. Some I still have, others have been donated or sold. I have always “worked out” intermittently over the years, but had focused at strength and some cardio usually hitting the gym at home a few days a week. I still think of myself in my 20-30’s…focused on lifting weights as the physical counter to intense work as a surgeon and researcher. I am more built for strength at 6 foot and 225lb. Never liked to run much, although I completed the Music City ½ marathon 2 x (although walking or “plodding” mainly … at 230-260 lbs it was more like a rhino than cheetah). I have also belonged to a myriad of gyms.

46 years old….1 year past the “.45 Magnum” year as I liked to call it. Things are good….I have a great job at Vanderbilt University as a Urologic Surgeon and researcher. I have just turned down an offer to help lead surgical innovation development and robotic surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Many people say I am at the top of my game as a surgeon….I get sent complex interesting cases, many that others in my field will not attempt or need help with as they have failed other procedures. In the lab and the University I am helping explore and engineer new devices and approaches to surgery to help patients recover faster and change the way we attack cancer and diseases.

2010…Despite this I have some problems…. My back is killing me after the OR 3 days a week. My weight yo-yos up and down between 230 (post a relentless diet and several mos. of cardio craziness after a trip to Canyon Ranch in 2003 (a present from my wife…I think she had an agenda) and high of 265. Pictures at our Cape Cod summer vacation show a strange obese “globular” human form where the brain says I should be standing in the pictures. I have chronic right hip pain that feels like you are tearing my hip apart after long days in the OR or sitting at my computer. My body is breaking down…. 20 years of hardcore abuse starting with collegiate rugby, every other night call as a resident MD, and topped off by the “physician-surgeon lifestyle” of relentless hours of work and stress. (Note: not looking for pity..I like my job and helping people….but there is a chronic stress level)

Oh yeah, I have 2 other health and fitness issues….they are 8 and 4 years old and are the most important things in my life. I want to be able to run, lift, jump, and play with them…we started late with kids…that is not their problem…it is mine.

Early 2010: I am at the gym at VUMC Orthopedics clinic one Saturday, I see a flyer on “kettlebells”…brain says “strange cannonball with a handle”… “looks wimpy but what the heck it is new to me and we don’t own one….lets check it out.” I schedule a class intro with Mark Snow at the fitness center. First class: brain says: “what is this crap? …hip thrusts in space…start the 70’s porn music..bowwchicccywoowwow …..oh well he looks fit …must be something there….swings….and more swings…..Later I read an article online about Pavel and KB…”wait Russian Special forces and our SEALs etc. like these things? …. might be worth second class”

Round 2: we are laying on the ground trying to stand up without weight with a early TGU and I am floundering as hips, hams and glutes all look for the easy way out…..hmmmmm. I buy a 25 and 35 GoFit KB at Dicks and add to my collection in home gym. I do some swings occasionally and notice some decreased back pain. I read more and decide I need more and some good technical instruction to progress….Mark Snow has left for Midwest and starting own KB gym….”does Nashville have anyone else?”

July 2010…contact with David “The Iron Tamer” Whitley established. Turns out Nashville has one of the top few Master Instructors in the US. I meet Dave for some intro classes and a fitness assessment (functional movement screen FMS). He is a freak of nature…strong and flexible with splits etc. even with knee injured. The classes are serious instruction in combination with Dave’s relentless pushing and infectious humor….oh yeah and some ACDC/metal thrown in. I start going to the 6 AM class with a small group of “crazies” 3 days a week. We stretch, we learn, we swing (it makes the sun rise according to the Tamer, we get our rears kicked in 30 min or less. Dave teaches me that my body has forgotten how to move correctly with upper body and lower body rolls….utilizing cutting edge psychologic motivation techniques… “babies can roll over like this …why can’t you?” We learn the battling ropes, KB snatch, pissing dog leg circles (which sends many strong men to the DNF/DNR = did not return bin at NKB)… etc etc

Quotes and friendships are born:

1. Nashville Kettlebell (NKB) = “a journey of self discovery half way between the strip club and the graveyard” (see 4th Ave South location)

2. ”I don’t recognize soreness..it is strength pending”. I ask my friends

3. “why do you run?…. get strong and you can turn and fight”.

PJ, Melissa and Ryan (green shirts) push me hard…..Katie inspires…PJ earns instructor status…I joke: “the zombie apocalypse is coming…get strong”….we love Walking Dead………

Final vignettes (look it up if you don’t know)…. I earn the Green Shirt of Awesomeness 2011…you have to be relentless to earn… I am as proud of it as many of my career accomplishments. I am in better overall “shape” than in my 30’s or early 40’s. I have no hip pain and only occasional back soreness. Things get sore but I can full squat to the ground with a 36 Kg in my hands…24 Kg I can press it over my head with one arm or snatch it multiple times….my wife says I have “an ab” …the other fitness gear is in storage mostly.

Last one: My son now 9 (75+ lbs) launches himself airborne off the couch at me channeling his best Jedi attack (or Superfly Jimmy Snuka for my generation)….…Standing, I catch him in mid air (everything from feet up fires in unison) and spin him onto my shoulders in a “fireman’s carry”…I grab his sister (40 lbs) in my free arm and trot up the 15 stairs to upstairs….. Thanks Dave and Pavel…