Throw some weight aroundKettlebell workouts are a unique, intense challenge.
By: June Kallestad, Living North
Say you need to lift a car off a baby… You’ve got about eight seconds to use your most intense energy to accomplish that, about 90 percent of your
maximum heart rate. But in a short period of time, your body will shut down. It will become acidic and won’t function well.
“That’s the ‘lactate threshold.’ That’s what athletes want to push further and further so their body can withstand more work,” says Chris Fournie.
Fournie is describing the threshold that his kettlebell workouts try to crash through week after week. As owner and trainer at Progressive Martial Arts and Fitness, 4176 Thunderchief Lane in Hermantown, Fournie has spent the past three years introducing Russian Kettlebells to the Duluth community. (Other fitness clubs in the Duluth area, including Anytime Fitness, also have kettlebells.)
Picture an activity that involves swinging, basically, cannonballs with a handle. Many sources claim the sport started in the 1600s in rural Russia. Kettlebells were counter-weights used in Russian markets. The men who operated the scales became adept at throwing the weights around, and became very strong. It didn’t go unnoticed and soon the weights became an athletic training tool. If you were a strong man in Russia, you were a “girevik,” a kettlebell man.
Not surprisingly it’s caught on with serious athletes and for body-sculpting movie stars. But it’s also attracting women like Joy Goutermont, 27, a daycare center teacher from Two Harbors, and Kathy Amborn, 53, who describes her work as “a desk job.”
Goutermont wanted to lose weight and started the Ultimate Body Challenge
workout at Progressive about four years ago. Then she switched to their kickboxing classes and is now doing the kettlebell workouts.
“It really adds the strength training,” she says. “At work I’m more playful and lifting kids is easier. I play hockey once a week, too, and it really helped my endurance.”
Amborn was a regular at the gym, doing the standard workouts, and felt it was time for something different.
Kettlebells are very different. “I enjoy it—the core strength, balance, agility. It moves my muscles in ways I hadn’t before,” says Amborn. “I think it’s good for anybody, but especially for weight-bearing exercise as
you get older.”
It’s the swinging and lifting of the weight that Fournie says builds all-over body strength rather than doing one weightlifting movement to target one muscle group. And that muscle-building is what keeps your body burning calories long after the class is done for the day, he says.
It’s also that swinging and lifting that requires proper technique to do it safely. Fournie teaches class participants a variety of moves with a variety of kettlebell weights—snatches, Russian twist, renegade
rows and floor wipers are a few. Everyone is encouraged to push hard and move through the exercises with as much vigor as they can stand, for as long as they can.
“It’s like running wind sprints. You push as hard as you can, then recover, sprint and recover. It’s that level of intensity,” says Fournie. “You build endurance and you have tremendous cardiovascular benefits from it. It’s unlike any other workout I’ve done.”
Progressive Martial Arts and Fitness offers women-only kettlebell classes on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 a.m. Unisex kettlebell classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. and Saturdays at 8 a.m. Information can be found online at www.pmaduluth.com.