Students put the kettle to the metal to get fit

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Ann Donohue of Point Breeze has back and knee problems. But this grandmother of 29 still wanted to be able to golf, play tennis and pick up her grandchildren.

Tammy Mayle of Robinson does much of her work at a desk and said it resulted in shoulder tension.

And Matt Burk of Marshall retired as sergeant with the Northern Regional Police Department but wanted to stay in shape.

“I refuse to let myself go downhill physically,” said Burk, 60.

All three decided to train using kettlebell weights at Pittsburgh Kettlebells in Ohio Township. Donohue and Burk have individual training sessions with studio owner Kerry Swick; Mayle takes kettlebell classes. All three have noticed a difference.

“I feel physically better after I take the classes,” said Mayle, 42. “I think I'm stronger. I'm lifting 45 or 55 pounds. I never thought I could lift something that heavy.”

Burk said his flexibility and core strength have increased. He said he is “trim, strong, solid and very quick in my movements.”

And Donohue can pick up her toddler grandchildren without any back pain.

Swick, 45, of Ohio Township, said the kettlebell classes and personal sessions are holistic, which means they work several muscles simultaneously, are accessible to anyone and “can be grueling.”

Because of the unusual shape of the kettlebell, students can lift, accelerate and then release the weight, which helps them become more explosive.

But Swick said she is “a fanatic about safety” and works carefully with students to make sure they are moving properly so they don't injure themselves. Classes are limited to 10. Kettlebells resemble a kettle without a spout or “a cannonball with a handle.” They come in various weights ranging from 10 pounds to more than 100.

Lifting and swinging the kettlebells provide cardiovascular and strength training, said Swick, who like the other instructors at her studio is certified by Dragon Door Russian Kettlebells, the original kettlebells certifying body in the United States. The Dragon Door organization was established by native Russian Pavel Tsatsouline, who trained Russian special forces.

“You really can get everything done — all in one workout,” Swick said. “We train movement in the whole body.”

Russell Demczak, 34, of Elliott, a Pittsburgh Kettlebells trainer, said although professional athletes train with the weights to enhance performance there are “people with back problems and knee replacements who use them to improve mobility to have a high quality of life.”

Jason Swanson, 32, of Bloomfield, who is a martial arts instructor in Russian at Pittsburgh Kettlebells and a member of Swick's kettlebell classes, said using the weights builds strength and health, “two pillars that can last forever.”

Mayle, Burk and Donohue gave high points to Swick for making sure her trainees perform lifting and other movements correctly. Burk said he lifts six or eight grocery bags at a time from his basement garage up to the kitchen. Mayle recently picked up a wheelbarrow full of gravel, remembering the proper lifting movements.

“It helps you in your everyday life,” Mayle said.

“My mind-set has been reformed on how to pick up a child or pick up a package,” Donohue said. “If I didn't do this, I wouldn't be able to keep up with my grandchildren. If we're going to live longer, we might as well take good care of what we have.”

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