UW News

January 24, 2014

News writer survives kettlebell workout – with photos from The Whole U’s kickoff event

News and Information

“Sure, I’d like a free kettlebell,” went my reasoning as I signed up for The Whole U’s kettlebell workout. I didn’t know what a kettlebell looked like, or anything about how to use it. I can still barely spell the word (so many “e’s” and “l’s”).

And I’m not a gym person. I like to believe that my hobbies – gardening, yoga, walking the dog, hiking – keep me from slumping into the couch potato category.

A woman lifts a kettlebell.

Here I am practicing my swing.UW, Mary Levin

But I like free stuff (doesn’t everybody?) and my body could use some toning after I had a baby last summer. So I signed up for the Jan. 24 workout.

It was the kickoff event for The Whole U, which is a larger campus initiative to make it easier for UW faculty and staff to access the university’s health, arts, culture, science, athletics and other resources and to connect with people with similar interests.

Ahead of time, I read Marti Young’s tips on how to dress and watched the videos demonstrating some of the basic exercises.

More or less appropriately dressed and ready to feel the burn, I arrived at Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility and faced a key decision: which kettlebell weight to choose? Five, 10 or 15 pounds? I know 18 pounds, my son’s weight, gets heavy very quickly. So the 15-pound option was out for me. Five pounds seemed too light. I snagged a 10-pounder.

I looked around at the crowd spread across the indoor field. The Whole U staff expected 1,000 workout participants, and the count I heard was 1,100 in Dempsey, plus another 100 each at the Tacoma and Bothell campuses, who were tuned in via the Internet.

“Not to brag, but when this is done I’m going to be a world record holder,” tweeted Lee, using the event’s designated hashtag #wholeukettles.

Indeed, we were there to make history. In six to eight weeks we’ll know whether UW set the Guinness World Record for the largest kettlebell workout.

Kettlebells work multiple muscle groups, said Lauren Updyke, assistant director of The Whole U program and a personal trainer. They burn “300 calories in 15 minutes, and we’re going to be doing a 30-minute workout,” she said from the stage.

That’s 600 calories. A couple of ladies near me high-fived.

“Take the time to connect with each other and use the great facilities at UW,” Michael Young, UW president, told the crowd as he gave some remarks about The Whole U. “What you do for this university is what makes it great.”

He introduced his wife, Marti Young, as our volunteer coach. She started with some safety pointers: “Baby-sit your grip” and “watch your neighbor.” We practiced our cheer, she says “BELL” and we say “YEAH.”

The 30-minute clock started ticking down, and we got to it with exercises like the swing, around the world, squats and single-arm presses.

I found the hitchhiker maneuver particularly challenging, especially when using my non-dominant left hand. I noticed a couple of bells take a short tumble when people lost their grip while switching hands during the figure eight move.

With another “Bell, yeah” Marti combined the moves and led us through a brief routine. The 30-minute clock wound down to zero and “Eye of the Tiger” played on the sound system.

“It wasn’t too bad,” said Brianna Blaser, a counselling services coordinator at UW’s DO-IT Center, after the workout ended. Blaser, who is 27 weeks pregnant, had chosen a 10-pound bell.

From her vantage point on a one-foot riser, UW Athletics’ event manager Krista Rammelsberg thought the workout went well, too. “Kettlebells have been around for a while but are gaining popularity now,” she said. The workout is “easy on your own or with a group,” she added.

The big question is: Will I lift my bell again? Definitely! For reasons other than to dust around it? I hope so! It was a fun workout, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t really like to exercise.

And burning 300 calories in 15 minutes? That’s something a new parent like me could work into her schedule. So at least for starters, I’ll commit to doing another kettlebell workout over the weekend, and take it from there.


 See UW Kettlebell event photos below from Mary Levin, UW photographer.