Kettlebells: First Impressions

I am a self-described late-blooming athlete. When I was 30, I discovered climbing. It felt good to find something that was fun and exercise at the same time. Once I started feeling the benefits of the exercise part of it, I wanted to do more. I began commuting by bike a lot more. I started adding cardio to my gym sessions. And eventually, I decided that I wanted to give kettlebells a try.

My very own bells!

I put it off because I was intimidated. I had this picture in my head of a room full of over-muscled guys throwing bells and testosterone around the gym. Luckily, I was wrong. In January I went to a studio that came highly recommended by a friend. It turned out that the classes were mostly female, the men were regular guys, and everyone was pretty cool.

Before I got started, I was required to take a few “essentials” classes. These classes teach the basics of movement and form, to prevent injury. Once I completed the essentials classes, I could sign up for any class I wanted.

This was the first time I’ve committed to a group exercise format such as this. It turns out that I respond really well to having someone else dictating the workout. I find a lot of motivation from the rest of the group and it pushes me to work my hardest.

Although the classes are kettlebells-based, they also include TRX, ropes, push-ups, lots of planks, and the occasional set of burpees or jumping of some kind. These classes are hard. They kick my butt every single time. Kettlebells is strength-training, but it’s also cardiovascular. Our heart-rates go up and stay up, and it’s a full-body workout. I thought I was strong going in, but I realized very quickly that I had a lot of work to do.

I have been going to kettlebells classes consistently for about four months, anywhere from one to three times a week. When I think back to where I started, I am amazed at how far I’ve come and I’m excited to see where I’m going to be after a few more months. My core is much stronger, my legs have toned up, it’s great for my hamstrings, glutes, arms, shoulders, etc. etc. Even holding onto the bell while it swings is great for my grip strength. I’m kind of shocked at how much easier my bike commute seems this spring, and my climbing benefits too.

Most importantly, kettlebells is FUN. I love swinging big, heavy weights around; it makes me feel like superwoman. I walk out of class feeling like I can conquer the world. It helps to be in a great studio with a great instructor, but the exercise itself is just … fun.

If you’re looking to try kettlebells, be picky about your instructor. Form is really important, so you want to find someone who is certified to teach it correctly. My instructor is moving far away, so I’m on the quest for someone new. As I’m looking for a new place to study, I’ll be looking at only RKC certified instructors to ensure they’ve gotten good training. The fact that I had to take four essentials classes at my current studio to learn the proper form was a really good sign that preventing injury was a top priority.

So there you have it. I love kettlebells. It’s fun, it’s a great workout, and it’s whipping me into shape with remarkable speed. I just bought two bells of my very own to swing at my leisure. Wish me luck finding a new studio!

10 thoughts on “Kettlebells: First Impressions

  1. Katie

    Sounds like you've found a form of exercise that really works for you – awesome! Group classes can be amazing if you're in the right group doing the right kinds of activities. I found the same with Crossfit; I was really intimidated at first, but it was just a matter of finding the right gym and the right people. I love it! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Elizabeth

    Lizzy and Katie – I agree, the group makes a big difference, especially if it's the *right* group. 🙂

    Katie, I hope you'll consider writing a post on Crossfit. I'd be interested in hearing about your experience!

  3. Haley @ Climb Run Lift Mom

    I love Kettlebells! Lauren Brooks has some amazing dvd's for anyone who doesn't have good rkc instructors nearby. I just got her dvd's and it was so much more fun following an actual workout rather than doing my own thing, so I can imagine how great a class must be!

  4. SuzRocks

    I've never even HEARD of Kettle bells- but it seems super fun- I'd be somewhat afraid I'd accidentally let go of said bell and it'd go flying and hit someone in the head. Has that ever happened?

  5. Elizabeth

    Haley: Thanks for the recommendation, I'll have to take a look at those!

    Suzie: 🙂 It's a legitimate fear, but I haven't seen it happen. You don't really need to grip the bell very tightly, it stays put. But, as climbers, I think we have a much better chance of holding onto the bell than most. I find others in the class noting forearm soreness after some exercises when I feel just fine.

    A good instructor and good form do a fun (and challenging) workout make.

  6. SueBear

    I love your blog! I'm a late bloomer athlete as well. I've just started a similar strength training course with a personal trainer. It kicks my butt. I use kettle bells in there and TRX and all that other stuff. (I did not start climbing until age 32.)

  7. Elizabeth

    Thanks, SueBear! Sounds like you're doing some pretty awesome training yourself. 🙂

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