How to Blend Yoga, Kettlebells & Calisthenics, Blair Rockoff Interview
By Adrienne Harvey, SrPCC, RKC-II, CK-FMS
How did you first get interested in fitness?
I had always been active growing up—I did gymnastics as a kid, and some sports in high school. But after I graduated from college, I wanted to get back in shape and lose some weight. At the same time, I didn't know what kind of job I wanted. Just down the street, there was a six month personal training
school (NPTI) at my mom's gym. I signed up for it, and that was the beginning of my journey.
What was your degree?
I have a Bachelor's in sociology, and also studied psychology. It definitely aligns with what I do now! I own a small gym in Chicago and teach the majority of the classes. I stay busy doing the new client consultations along with teaching the kettlebell, conditioning and yoga classes. I also help people with nutrition and health
The gym is about 2,800sqft, and I focus on small group training so the class sizes usually range from two people up to conditioning classes with twenty people. The average class size is about eight.
How did you first find out about the PCC?
One of my friends who is part of the community, Rob Miller, posted something on Facebook about it. Since I started with yoga, I love bodyweight training
. That's also how I first got started before someone told me that I needed to use weights to get results, which I did for a while. But now, when I teach my classes, I like to have some heavier strength days mixed with lighter conditioning days.
So, when I saw Rob’s post about the PCC, I looked it up because I am always looking to progress and get stronger—especially with upper body movements. Some of the PCC
moves looked really cool and different, so I thought it would be really valuable both personally and professionally. I could learn a new modality and how to integrate it into my clients’ training.
What's your favorite move from the PCC?
My favorites were most of what I was capable of doing—the back bends, arm balances, and the handstands. I was also able to get a pistol squat, and that was fun. Then there's the whole group of moves that I am still working towards—all the pull-ups
and levers. It was fun to see how strong people are and what they are capable of—and what I’ll be able to do one day! I saw how the yoga postures and calisthenics are very much alike.
Were there any particular cues from the PCC that you felt were especially helpful?
When we were working on the archer push ups, Katie Petersen had us look over one shoulder to help us change the angle of our bodies—that made it much easier than when we were looking straight ahead and couldn't shift.
I feel like the pull-up is the first step to a lot of the upper body movements because so many moves add on to it. Of course it has to happen before the muscle-up and that’s really hard! We do some muscle-up variations at the CrossFit gym and even those variations were super hard. The pull-up is at the forefront of my mind along with the different levers and other moves that I feel like will come after. The PCC was also the first time I’d tried skin-the-cat without jumping on a low bar. At the PCC I was as able to do it on a high bar, and while it was really difficult, and I needed to wiggle my feet, I am really looking forward to making that transition smoothly one day.
What are you working towards at your gym?
I am working on implementing the different bodyweight movements along with kettlebells
. One week we will work on bodyweight pressing exercises, then the next week will add in kettlebell presses. This will show how one modality can affect the other. We will also be doing a lot of mobility to improve range of motion for bodyweight training. I found that I need to help my clients gain better body awareness. This helps them perform the exercises correctly and have the right arm positions for example. We are also alternating their training with things like handstand variations which get most people outside their comfort zone.
At first, most people are kind of scared, so I just slowly trickle new things into their training—for example, I added the bridge to every cool down. When I started to show people the different variations of what's possible, they started to see that it’s never ending. Once you start to master one thing, there's always something else to add in. The variety keeps it fun. That's really the focus of what I try to do—we focus on form, but I also just want people to continue to move. I want them to have fun, so that coming to my gym is not just one more thing they have to do.
Who do you usually train? Is there a specific demographic that shows up?
My clientele is mainly female, and they range in age. I just started training my youngest client—she’s only twelve, but she's awesome and loves the training. Yesterday she said, "We're almost done already? How does this go by so fast?" My typical client is usually in their 30s or 40s. They are usually training for weight loss or general fitness. It's really awesome to see the community build here because they're all really supportive and they encourage each other. That’s really important to me.
It’s so powerful when your clients can become a team! I saw that you recently earned your RKC certification. How did you decide to attend?
I did a lot this year and was even certified for kettlebells from a system other than the RKC. But when I met John Du Cane, he mentioned the November Chicago RKC, so I decided to do it! It was really cool to meet John, he definitely had a positive impact on the experience at the PCC. So it’s kind of funny that I did the RKC
in November since I just did that other kettlebell certification this past June! Now I will be taking everything I've learned, and will be implementing it, practicing it and connecting with more people!
What was your biggest takeaway from the RKC?
Blair Rockoff: Proper technique
, breathing, and training for different body types. It was really cool to go in with a base knowledge of the movements but this time around, I was able to grasp everything even more. I think every time I do a training I am able to expand upon what I already know and understand things at a deeper level. Another huge takeaway was learning how kettlebells can be used to train all ages
. There are so many ways to regress and progress every exercise—with range of motion or weight. It is also important to have mentors who have been training others longer than I have, and who can teach me what I don’t know.
In the fitness world it’s easy to get separated from other instructors and coaches
due to the nature of the job, but it’s so important to come together as a community and learn from one another.
What is your favorite kettlebell exercise to do or teach?
I love the Turkish get-up. I love the complexity of multiple steps within one movement. There is a huge need for internal focus, body awareness, coordination, and grace, when performing the get-up. It reminds me of a yoga flow, and requires being creative with your body. And of course, there’s the challenge of having a kettlebell overhead and the accomplishment of working with heavier weights while maintaining composure.
I like to teach the swing. There is an "a-ha" moment that happens when people get it—and that is so awesome to see. They suddenly understand how powerful you want them to be, how to time the float, and how to use their bodies in a way that they probably had never imagined until that moment.
What are your classes like? Do you mix the modalities within each class or are they separated into different parts of the schedule?
It's about 50/50 so I do kettlebells with the group on Mondays and Wednesdays. I lead core and conditioning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Friday, we do core-focused training, then Saturday is a mix up.
Do you have any special strategies or approaches for keeping your clients motivated?
Yes! One example is the Rock Solid 12-Week Challenge we just started. Basically it’s a free challenge that my clients can do. The rules are that they come at least three times a week, and figure out 1-3 goals—physical goals, strength
, nutrition, anything they want to focus on—and then they work on that goal for the next 12 weeks. The challenge is not so much about achieving the specific goal, but that that they’ve constantly worked on it for 12 weeks. We also use social media to post and inspire each other to stay on their journeys.
It started out as an idea I had after hearing people use the weather, darkness, and other things as excuses and distractions. This was what I came up with to help them stay motivated—and it’s working very well. I like to get my clients involved with these kinds of things as much as possible so that they stay excited about training and healthy living.