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How To Be More Sexy With Kettlebells, Interview with Colleen Conlon, RKC

Colleen Conlon kettlebell Get-Up

Dragon Door: How did you first become interested in fitness and exercise as a profession?

Colleen Conlon: Initially I went to college for musical theater. After my sophomore year, I realized it wasn't a lifestyle that I wanted to continue. The only other thing I was super passionate about was exercise—but it wasn’t a healthy approach to exercise. I grew up with eating disorders, and working out used to mean getting on a treadmill and burning 1,000 calories. I only used cardio equipment and didn’t think that strength training would help my body.

At the time I was studying at a college in New York and saw Soul Cycle. After trying a class, I thought it was really cool and was inspired to be a Soul Cycle instructor. I auditioned, but was not chosen. I still wanted to teach indoor cycling, so I aspired to be even better than Soul Cycle—and that’s how I first became interested in the fitness industry.

My husband is a trainer and he was always trying to teach me about kettlebells, ViPR, Animal Flow, clubbells, and all the cool stuff. But at the time, I had absolutely no interest, I just wanted to be on a bike. My first year and a half in the fitness industry, I was teaching indoor cycling and group fitness. After getting really burnt out, I realized I wanted to focus more on personal training.

I started to work with my husband, and started to learn how to use kettlebells and other cool modalities. That’s when I started seeing changes in my body that I actually really liked—for the first time! That's what got me off of all the cardio, and it also helped me overcome my eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

I learned that it's not so much about how I look, but it’s more about how I feel. After I started training in a way that made me feel strong, I’m so much more confident in my body. It's really interesting how this realization played out. I used to think that strength training would make me bulky and manly—but I experienced the exact opposite! I think I'm really sexy now! I wouldn’t have said that seven years ago.
Colleen Conlon Double Kettlebell Swings

Dragon Door: When did you decide to start learning about kettlebells and RKC?

Colleen Conlon: About two years ago I was in management role in NYC at The Sweat Shed. It's basically a high intensity interval training (HIIT) boutique studio owned by Crunch. It was my baby, they brought me on and I created the program for them. When they brought me on initially, they only had competition bells, and I didn’t know much about kettlebells other than how to do a swing.

So, I started working with one of the trainers there who ended up becoming one of my instructors. We trained together about twice a week—I helped him learn to teach in a group setting, and he helped me learn kettlebell technique. After training together for about three to four months, I was hooked on learning more and wanted to get certified. I was originally going to get certified with StrongFirst but kept chickening out at the last minute.

I ended up working on all of my skills very seriously for a year and a half before going to the RKC in New York two weeks ago. That ended up being the best choice because even though I wanted to be certified sooner, I went to the workshop feeling very confident about my skills. I was able to really focus on learning the coaching side and what to look for when helping my clients. It wasn’t just about me and perfecting my form. I learned so much from the people teaching at the RKC, and felt like I was really able to learn how to coach my clients even better.
Colleen Conlon with kettlebell

Dragon Door: I think that’s a great way to approach a workshop—being solid on the basics can allow you to really focus on learning as much as possible that weekend. It's ok to take a long time to prepare and we're all still working on our kettlebell swings.

What is your favorite kettlebell move?

Colleen Conlon: I love doing snatches. I feel like such a badass doing them. They’re my favorite!

Dragon Door: What were some of the biggest ideas you brought back from your RKC experience?

Colleen Conlon: I think our group at this RKC was really out of about 25 people, there were 15 women! I didn’t expect that there would be any other women there other than myself. It was so cool to see all of these women swinging kettlebells, because before this certification, I only knew two other female instructors who are certified kettlebell instructors. It was really special, especially watching Annie Vo demonstrate all these skills with weights so much heavier than I could imagine possible! I was very inspired and motivated.

Learning with all of these like-minded people, and approaching being strong in a very progressive way, was also very empowering. Even though it’s great to see other people train in different parts of the world on social media, it was much more power to see all in one space. Instead of doing meathead workouts or being stuck on a piece of cardio equipment we were doing something really powerful and skill-based. It was awesome to experience.
Colleen Conlon RKC And Friend kettlebell press

And the instructors helped me PR on my press, too! They got me to PR on my press too, I was able to get the 18kg up for one rep. It took three attempts, but it happened! I just needed to do two things and it went up. It was crazy! Coach Fury said I needed to get my fist a little more under the kettlebell so that my shoulder could protract a little more, and Annie coached me to squeeze the handle of the kettlebell and my other fist at the same time. It was insane to see how much more powerful we became when we all squeezed both hands at the same time. I’d never heard that tip before, and it helped me press the 16kg which I had been struggling with for months. And then I was able to press the 18kg!

Dragon Door: How are you using—or plan to use—what you learned at the RKC with your clients?

Colleen Conlon: Now that I have the RKC certification, I’m working on ways to add them to more of my group classes. I teach group fitness for Equinox and really lucked out because I was given a class with a lot of very athletic people in it. We’ve been breaking down the kettlebell swing for the past 6 months, and now they look really good doing their swings. Now, we’re starting to work on get-ups. But after more of my clients and students see the videos on my Instagram stories, they have wanted to learn more kettlebell moves in class. I’d like to develop special group classes at the different Equinox locations to teach kettlebell skills. While a lot of our trainers are certified kettlebell instructors, most of them do not teach classes. I'm one of the only group fitness instructors at Equinox who has experienced a kettlebell certification like the RKC. So, I am really hoping to find a way to successfully teach these skills to a group of people to learn these skills. That’s something I'm definitely hoping to build up over the next year.

Also, are you familiar with the Gray Institute? It's all about three dimensional training and designing workouts so that clients are set up for success. I’ve been focusing on it a lot and have two of their certifications. I have been training one of my clients with that material for about three years now. He’s 57, and has had a lot of issues with his low back. For the first two years, all we did was bodyweight mobility work. But this past year we’ve been adding in kettlebells little by little.

The weekend before the RKC, I taught him to do his first kettlebell swing. At the RKC certification, I learned all of the different ways they taught us to break down the swing—including a drill I had never seen (the deadlift drag). And after the workshop I tried the deadlift drag with him and he seemed to have a much better understanding of the swing, and was able to using his lats. We have trained twice since the workshop and the new drills seem to have helped him. I feel really confident about teaching him new skills pain free, especially because he used to feel like he was broken. I am really excited about all the cueing and coaching that they led us through at the RKC.
Colleen Conlon RKC Elbow Lever

Dragon Door: Now that you’ve earned your RKC, what are some of your next goals?

Colleen Conlon: I am definitely working on getting ready for the RKC-II, and Annie Vo has me inspired to go for the Iron Maiden one day. She's such a badass! I am so inspired! I don't know when I’ll be able to do all three lifts, but I want it!

Dragon Door: It sounds like you are well on your way!

Colleen Conlon: Also, I really like kettlebell flows. While they’re different than the strict skills we learn at the RKC, they’re very interesting to me because I grew up as a dancer. I haven’t been dancing, so I’m learning how to keep improving my kettlebells skills while developing flows with kettlebells and dance movements together. It's been a really interesting way for me to kind of mesh the two worlds together. I want to figure out how to do more with flows while not losing the strict movements and strength of the essential skills.

ColleenConlonGetUpWarehouse thumbnailColleen Conlon, RKC trains individuals and groups in New York and New Jersey. She can be contacted at Follow her on Instagram: @colleenconlonfit.