According to Mike Krivka, you might be one of—if not the oldest actively teaching RKC Instructors
, leading at least 7 classes a week! How did you first get involved with kettlebells?
Through my son, Chris who is 43. He was back at the house for about six months, and was working out at one of the local gyms with someone who now works for Mike. She was training Chris, started showing him how to use kettlebells
, and then suggested that he try one of Mike’s classes. Mike was just getting started with his gym and was renting half a warehouse space—in fact, he had to put chains through the kettlebell handles every night because he couldn't lock up the door! Back then, Mike only had 1 or 2 classes a week.
Chris asked me to try one of Mike’s classes, and after going once, I didn’t go back for two weeks! It was really hard and different. I had been all about deadlifts and benching at the time—but even though I could bench a lot, all the sudden I found out I couldn’t do a pull up! I thought about it and went back. From there I got more involved and kept going.
What's your athletic background?
I've always done something. I actually ran a liquor store for over 47 years—I'm 73, I'm no young guy here—in downtown Washington (DC). But I've always been active. In my twenties I loved to ski, and we'd go traveling a lot to ski. Then I got involved with running for about 10 years. Later I started working with a trainer and did Olympic weightlifting for about 8 years. At that time, I bulked up to about 214lb (I only weigh about 159 now). While I thought it was cool at the time to have big arms, I felt kind of locked in, it was harder to brush my hair or wash my back! Then I started training with Mike.
And Mike isn't just about the kettlebells, he also spends a lot of time teaching mobility and flexibility
in our classes. Now I’d rather do 10 really good burpees right in a row than bench 300lb. I love being mobile and think that I'm especially mobile for my age—that's what its all about and it's what I love—and kettlebells have given me that.
When I first started, I couldn't even do a chin up with my hands reversed! I've come a long way with mobility even at my age. It’s just a matter of taking the time to do the work.
How long have you been working with kettlebells?
Going on about 8 years. At first I got more involved with the gym beyond classes by helping out with small stuff like erasing the boards or putting up the next workout for Mike. Then I completed a CrossFit kettlebell certification that was hosted at the gym. After that, Mike slowly let me start helping teach the classes by occasionally leading the warm up.
At the new gym—with our own lock and key—Mike started to extend classes. Since I’m retired, I started leading the lunchtime classes. Now I’ve been working with him for about 7-8 years and we've since moved to a 2,400 square foot gym where we have about 17-18 classes a week. I lead about 7 of those, and do personal training in the morning.
I was determined to learn about kettlebells, so for the first 2-3 years I probably went to every class Mike had! I soaked up as much info as I could from him. He knows his stuff when it comes to kettlebells and is all about technique. He still corrects me to this day, which is great because I still want to learn!
About two years ago, Mike said that I needed to get an HKC
certification because it would be good for our gym, he thought I could do it and I felt like I could do it. Then, Mike and Phil Ross led an RKC workshop
, so I went and did that too! While our gym is growing, we still focus on hands-on personal teaching, it’s kind of a family thing. We had the Christmas party at my home, and we also have cookouts.
Who do you train at the gym?
Most of our clients are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. I don't think we have more than one student under age 30. We train a lot of women and couples too. Of 70 or so members, at least 60% of them are women in their 45-50s. I'm the oldest person in the gym!
Mike is very good at making the workouts very interesting, and has names for each of them. He's really progressed over the years and now includes a lot more mobility drills like handstands and bear crawls. At my age, I like knowing that I can crawl up and down that gym. These are all great tools and I firmly believe in them.
A lot of older people are not as active and haven't been as active for their whole lives. How would you recommend that they start with a program like yours?
Most of my clients are older people, I think they train with me because they see what I can do. I don’t think it's ever too late to start anything. We have kettlebells from 5lbs all the way up to 108lbs! For example one of my clients is 78 and we work with the lighter bells, a lot of bodyweight
drills, and mobility with drills like hip thrusters and wall squats. I think the main thing for older people is learning
to really sit back while squatting, and to strengthen the glutes. The glutes support it all, so when that butt goes, there goes the hips and everything else.
I guess I'm bragging a little bit, but I feel very mobile for my age. I don't think I could have done that with other type of training or Olympic lifting.
Some of my clients at the gym who work out with kettlebells 4-5 times a week also do barbell deadlifts which is great, but we keep it moderate. There's nothing wrong with barbell training as long as you have the kettlebell to keep you flexible. I am the perfect example, before working with kettlebells and Mike, I couldn’t even do a pull up! Even though I could bench press over 300lb, I didn’t have the mobility to pull my body up! Now, all that stuff makes me feel good, I can even jump up onto a box at my age.
What are some of your favorite moves, kettlebell or otherwise?
I love double kettlebell squats and thrusters—singles or doubles. I don’t mind doing snatches and ballistics sometimes, but I don't go crazy. And you might laugh at this, but I love burpees! I like the movement, they just get me going. Sometimes I work out with my classes but I usually work out on the weekends and get a total of 3 days a week. When teaching the classes and warming up with them, I like to be on the floor and ready to help them.
What's next for you as a coach and a student?
Staying healthy, since I have a few little health issues. But really what I want to do is just whatever Mike wants to teach me. I want to keep working with Mike at the gym and helping it grow as long as he'll let me. And I want to just keep learning. I'd love to keep helping as long as I'm able, because I love working there. I told my wife of 46 years when I retired and left the store—it was tough running a liquor store—that I wanted a job where I would be able to set up appointments instead of having to wait for people to come in. Now I have the classes, personal training
clients, and free time.
I like teaching, and get more joy from helping someone who doesn't even know how to sit back on a ball or do a push up, than leading an experienced class. I love to see the outcomes and how people progress from the very beginning. When someone new joins our gym I'm there during the class to scale it down and help them through the entire session.