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Swinging into shape

February 4, 2012
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

If you're interested in fitness and have an exercise routine, the problem is that exercise does become routine, which is another word for boring.

The Marshall Area YMCA is constantly looking for new ways to get people interested and persist in exercise programs.

"The philosophy is to be cutting-edge and grab hold of different things to bring to the community," said LaVae Anderson, YMCA health and wellness director.

Article Photos

Photo by Steve Browne

Kristin McNeil, foreground, and Shannon Helmke do the bent-over kettlebell lifts at a recent YMCA kettlebell boot camp class.

Recently, the staff brought to Marshall a highly effective exercise program that is old in other parts of the world but new to America: Russian kettlebells.

A kettlebell, called a "girya" in Russian, looks like a cannon ball with a handle, or a tea kettle without a spout. Kettlebell swinging is a traditional exercise going back to Czarist times and is used today by Russian athletes and soldiers. Lately it has become popular in America as coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts have discovered the benefits of swinging the bells.

Kettlebells range from 5 pounds to 80 pounds or more. That doesn't sound like much compared to dumbbells or barbells, until you consider that the kettlebell is swung rapidly through a much wider range of motion than free weights, accelerating and decelerating at the beginning and end of each swing.

"I struggle with my weight and I'm always looking for new things," said YMCA aerobics instructor Rebekah Reynolds. "Kettlebells combine cardio, endurance, flexibility, joint health, and strength into one workout. In the short time I've done it I've dropped 10 pounds and gotten a lot of definition."

Reynolds and Sami Strohn are the two of the three certified kettlebell instructors out of the YMCA's 32 fitness instructors. Reynolds has a background in rehabilitation exercise, Strohn is a student of exercise science at Southwest Minnesota State University who teaches aerobics and fitness at the YMCA.

"Another instructor here got me started on it," Strohn said. "I took off with it and really enjoy it."

Reynolds said at present their classes use relatively light kettlebells, from 5 to 35 pounds, which are popular with women in fitness classes.

"It's great to have these women lifting 25 pounds they didn't think they could," Reynolds said.

All the YMCA's kettlebell trainers are certified through the National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA).

"Our instructors have to have a lot of background in musculo-skeletal issues and injuries," Reynolds said. "You can't just have somebody come in and say 'giddyup.'"

The YMCA offers an introductory class and an advanced "boot camp" that consists of a half-hour of intensive exercise with the kettlebells.

"We have people who work out for an hour every day here," Strohn said. "Then they come in and try the kettlebells and say, 'Wow, I can really feel this.'"



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