With strong being the new sexy, Laura Cartledge heads to a class which claims it can make you both.
If you think exercise classes are just about getting sweaty and then going home again you might want to reconsider.
“The goal of many instructors is to make people sweaty and tired,” agrees Chichester-based personal trainer Olly Hermon-Taylor, “but it should be like a prescription – it should make you better at something.”
This is where Kettlebell Babes comes in, with its focus on conditioning and not just keeping fit.
“Everyone knows about kettlebells but I don’t think everyone knows the benefits,” Olly explains. “People might be put off thinking it will bulk them out but it is actually all about toning. The idea is that lean and strong is the new thin.”
Making the classes women-only reflects the ‘fit but feminine’ approach and certainly helps to banish the circus strongman vision the activity might normally bring to mind.
While kettlebells have long been used for centuries – records even show evidence of their use in Ancient Greece and
the Archaeological Museum of Olympia boasts one weighing a staggering 143kg – the trend has gained momentum recently.
“I’ve been using them for the last four years,” says Olly. “The more I have worked with them the more I have found they can do.
“I have one client who had an emergency appointment for a disc problem and now she is happily lifting.
“It can help with pre-habilitation – to prevent injuries – and post-habilitation,” he adds. “I could have a top class athlete and someone who is a beginner in here and I know I could help them both.”
Not wanting to disprove this ‘suitable for all’ image I agree to give it a go.
But I should say now I have no upper body strength – at all – or rather I thought I didn’t.
Olly plans to run the classes in three, six, or 12 month courses where individuals can opt for two, three or four workouts a week.
However, he gamely agrees to give me a compressed taster, which begins with a warm up unlike any other I have experienced.
It involves a blue log of hard foam which you place directly under the area you want to torture.
Placing your body weight on the roller you then use your upper body to go back and forth.
The idea is it helps to break up any tight areas and increase blood flow.
The reality is it scared me knowing this was just the warm up – fears which are confirmed when I am passed a bright orange ball which is as big as my head and as heavy as the weekly shop which Olly called ‘a nice small one’.
“For, what is essentially a cannon ball with a handle on top, kettlebells are very versatile,” he says as he talks me through some of the moves.
My favourite, based on its name alone, is the goblet squat.
Holding the kettlebell ‘by its horns’ you keep a straight back and move as if you are going to take a seat – only to change your mind when your derriere and knees are almost horizontal to each other and come back to standing.
Now I have always been of the opinion that personal trainers can’t count, as ‘four more’ is never just four more.
But managing to do it, when I really didn’t think I would be able to, meant I didn’t mind too much.
In fact I might have got a bit over ambitious as a result.
Ignoring Olly’s warnings of ‘we wouldn’t do this until about three months in’ as I copied his dead lift however I did draw the line at the one armed swing out of concern I could hurt others never mind myself.
Olly has that dangerous, but nice, trait of making you believe you can do it, whether it is planks, press ups, lifts or squats.
And the aches I had for the next few days were certainly testament to the kettlebell claim that it is a full body workout.
Each one hour class combines strength, endurance and metabolic conditioning, helping to build your all important core, increase flexibility and toning.
“With just exercise the impact to weight loss is minimal,” says Olly, “So everything is underpinned with nutrition – and not a crash diet but something you can do for ten years and more.
“The plan is to make dvds and manuals so people can try it at home,” he smiles. “It is a lifestyle.”
To find out more about the Kettlebell Babe classes, or to sign up for your free week’s trial, visit kettlebell-babes.com or call Olly on 01243 591658.