By Cool J in Minneapolis
I have been taking a kettlebells class about once a week for a few months now. Actually, I think I’ve been attending pretty consistently since October (right after the Steamtown marathon). Yet even though I’m a regular, I realized that I have only posted about kettlebells once, which was after the first time I did it. (You can read that post HERE). But now that I am a regular, I would like to dedicate a new post to this class, and share all the reasons why I would recommend it.
A few of my marathon friends actually swear by this class; they say that taking this class consistently was a huge factor in their recent marathon PR’s.
And after Steamtown, I was eager for advice on how to get faster. I sought advice from all my speedy friends as to what exactly they did to get faster. I value my friend’s testimonies, so if they say “do kettlebells”, well, I will do kettlebells!
My consistency is also reinforced by the fact that the D-man also enjoys this class, so it has become a bit of a “fitness date night” for us. Remember our 4 year wedding anniversary (here)? Our celebration started with kettlebells!
Kettlebell swings (or snatches- i.e. one handed swings) are always a big part of the workout, but every week it’s a new and different workout. Sometimes the workouts involve more cardio (jumping rope, burpees) and other times the workouts are more strength based with less cardio.
The fun part is that you never know what to expect, but the workout is always a butt-kicker. Some weeks are definitely harder than others, but the instructor switches things up enough that you never get bored. The hour usually flies right by.
The class is held at Balance Fitness, which is a non-descript warehouse located by Fujiya in uptown. (2902 Garfield Avenue South Minneapolis) There’s usually free parking behind the building, but if not, you can always find street parking.
The class is run by Sarah of “Real Fitness Solutions.“
You can like her page on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/RealFitnessSolutions?fref=ts
Sarah, like most of the instructors at Balance, rents the space there. She also does personal training and offers other types of classes as well.
The kettlebells class is currently offered Wednesday and Thursday nights at 6 pm. It’s an hour long. You can try it out for free the first time. (In fact, let me know if you’re interested- if I bring a newbie, it’s free for both of us- what a deal!)
After your first class, you can be added to an email distribution in which Sarah sends a reminder each week, with a link to sign up online. I usually buy a package of 6 class which I think is about $20/class. The D-man and I share a package and “take turns” buying the classes.
So what is a typical workout like?
Well, I’ll use last week as an example. We did a circuit that included pushups, kettlebell swings, lateral pulldowns, double snatches, and goblet squats. We started with 20 of each, then 18, then 16, and worked our way down to just 2 (with the kettlebells swings doubled- i.e. 40, 36, 32, etc).
The kettlebell swings and snatches are actually a cardio workout. During those sets, my heart rate was elevated pretty high. The pushups, lat pulldowns, and goblet squats are more strength exercises.
The workout may not sound too complicated, but it was tough and it took the whole hour to complete.
I haven’t noticed a difference in my running so far; hopefully I will see a difference on June 1 in Newport, Oregon! Either way, I think this is an intense strength training class that can be an effective way to lose weight and gain muscle strength. When beginners try out the class, Sarah takes the time to show them the correct form for swings, and she helps them determine what weight to use. She will push you though; she doesn’t let us slack, and the workouts seem to be getting harder. I would never lift weights and do this type of strength training on my own.
I definitely recommend giving this class a try!
From Sarah’s website, here are 5 good reasons to try kettlebells:
- A kettlebell workout is an efficient workout and a calorie incinerator. Pavel Tsatsouline, the man who introduced kettlebells to America, has been known to say that “kettlebells melt fat without the dishonor of dieting or aerobics.” Different studies will tell you different numbers, but what it comes down to is roughly equivalent to running a 6-minute mile, or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace. That’s about 20 calories per minute. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m doing a 20 minute run, I can’t keep up a 6-minute-mile pace the whole time; and I’m not a skiier, but I bet I wouldn’t enjoy climbing a hill for 20 minutes at the fastest pace I can handle. So you can stick with your regular strength training or low-intensity cardio if you want, but it’ll take you an hour to burn the same 400 calories I’ll burn in 20 minutes with kettlebells. How’s that for a time-saver?
- Kettlebells are the closest thing I’ve found to a “silver bullet” in fitness. Everyone wants to know: “What’s the one thing I need to do to get the body I want?” I hate this question, because there is no such thing as a silver bullet. There is no single move, or single muscle group, or single type of exercise that will do everything. But kettlebells come awfully close. They are aerobic (cardio/calorie burning), high intensity/power training, endurance training, core training, strength training, and flexibility all in one. If I could only pick one exercise to do for the rest of my life, kettlebells would be it. It’s the only type of exercise I’ve found that delivers the body shape, the strength, and the endurance I want. Kettlebells do it all, and they do it fast.
- Kettlebells work for different fitness goals. Because of the flexible nature of kettlebell workouts (see #2), you can use kettlebells whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle mass, or just tone up. They simply “fix” your body composition, whichever way it needs fixing.
- Kettlebells will give you the strongest core you’ve ever had. I’m a huge advocate of making sure your core muscles (abs, upper and lower back, glutes, shoulders) are involved in almost every movement. In the past I’ve used Pilates techniques and exercises to teach my clients how to engage their core muscles, but I’ve always found Pilates, well…boring. Why lay on a mat and barely move when I could be throwing heavy things around, getting my heart rate up, and using my core muscles? Pilates is incredibly useful, but kettlebells are just more fun.
- Kettlebells require the use of your entire body. While free weights are great (I have no disrespect for dumbbells), most free weight exercises don’t require the use of more than a few muscle groups. Even Olympic lifts like the clean-and-jerk are more challenging with kettlebells than free weights. Kettlebells are also much more functional; the movements are great practice for real-world activities, like shoveling snow or moving your air conditioner from the basement for the summer. You can make huge gains in strength and coordination, without having to practice specific drills.
Interested yet? Check out her class schedule. If you’re interested in trying out a class, simply sign up to receive a weekly email invite. Due to limitations on class size, she runs classes on an RSVP basis–so if you want to be invited to the class, you have to get on the mailing list.