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hardstyle kettlebell swing

hardstyle kettlebell swing

as it goes with any aspect of the fitness industry — personal trainers, group fitness instructors, older adult specialists, pilates instructors, and the like — there are plenty of fit folks in prince edward island who love to exercise and who quickly figure out that offering classes, leading facebook challenge groups, or instructing others is an easy way for them to get their own workout and make some money.

qualifications, other than their own personal journey to better health, seem not so important.

when they have no specific hands-on education, what they pick up from a youtube video or a dvd release can be detrimental to your health.

this post is, as the title indicates, about kettlebell training. i have heard quite a number of stories — more than the fingers on both hands — about unqualified instructors providing poor instruction. i have been asked to take over a kettlebell class from an unqualified (and therefore uninsured) personal trainer and i have had at least a half dozen studio participants tell me about correcting the technique of other ‘instructors’ in other fitness businesses.

i am sure other kettlebell coaches have heard similar stories.

and, just recently, i was told by someone who has a connection to fitness/recreational education on the island that some people don’t think anyone on the island is duly certified (and i hope this is not based on the perception that our certifying bodies are questionable, as they most certainly are not).

these two sides of the same coin disturb me. to that end, i am compiling a list of who, in our island kettlebell world, has what certification and where you can contact them if you are interested in solid, safe, knowledgeable instruction.

  1. Kelly Arsenault. certified as a Kettlebell Trainer 1 through KBell Training Academy. subs as an occasional instructor at the whole way health & fitness studio in Charlottetown.
  2. J-Mac Beauchesne. certified as a Kettlebell Trainer 1 through KBell Training Academy. competes in GS (kettlebell sport). instructs at The Fit Stop in The Credit Union Place in Summerside and subs at Isand Impact Mixed Martial Arts.
  3. Zelda Bernard. certified as a Kettlebell Trainer 1 through KBell Training Academy. not currently teaching/coaching. lives in Eastern PEI.
  4. wendy chappell. a Certified Personal Trainer, originally kettlebell certified through Agatsu as a Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 in 2007 and more recently with KBell Training Academy as a Kettlebell Trainer 1 and a KBell Jam Instructor and as an Instructor of Kettlebell Sport through Orange Kettlebell Club. a Master Trainer Candidate for KBell Training Academy; has attended Agatsu Kettlebell Instructor Level 2 (received a day of instruction from Steve Cotter) and StrongFirst Girya 1 courses. participated in in-person professional development with KBell Training Academy at the national CanFitPro conference and on-line in High Intensity Kettlebell Fitness with KBNY and Kettlebell Rehab: Hardstyle Methods in Corrective Exercise with IDEA Health & Fitness Association. to date, has instructed more than 3000 kettlebell classes, workshops and courses. coaches classes and works with personal training clients at the whole way health & fitness studio in Charlottetown.
  5. April Gregory. a Certified Personal Trainer certified as a Kettlebell Trainer 1 through KBell Training Academy and working toward a cert as a KBell Jam Instructor with same; Instructor of Kettlebell Sport with Orange Kettlebell Club. find current offerings at April Gregory: Kettlebell Training mainly in Souris and Up East areas of the island.
  6. Alan Howatt. certified as a Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 with Agatsu and an Instructor of Kettlebell Sport with Orange Kettlebell Club. teaches at Abegweit Kettlebells Sport Club in Mount Stewart.
  7. Lola MacLeod. certified as a Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 with Agatsu. teaches at Atlantic Fitness East in Montague.
  8. Stefanie MacQuarrie. a Certified Group Fitness Instructor, certified originally as a Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 with Agatsu and more recently as a Kettlebell Trainer 1 with KBell Training Academy and working toward a cert as a KBell Jam Instructor with same. classes are offered through “Alota Tabatas” Kettlebell Class in Crapaud and  subs at the whole way health & fitness studio in Charlottetown.
  9. Lindsay Moore. certified as a Kettlebell Trainer 1 with KBell Training Academy. subs at “Alota Tabatas” Kettlebell Class in Crapaud.
  10. Courtney Steele. a Certified Personal Trainer, certified as a Kettlebell Trainer 1 with KBell Training Academy. teaches and trains at Full Throttle Fitness in Morell.
  11. Danny Walker. certified as a Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 with Agatsu. teaches at Atlantic Fitness East in Montague.
  12. Susan Walsh. an Instructor of Kettlebell Sport with Orange Kettlebell Club since Sept. 2014. currently training under John Wild Buckly, owner of OKC. certified Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 through Agatsu and re-certified in Feb. 2014. teaching classes in kettlebell fitness since 2009 and practicing with kettlebells since 2008. owner of Studio K in Georgetown, PE.

kettlebell training is a very effective way of achieving goals. it is, however, very technique specific and as such requires specialized education of the provider.

let’s stay safe as we toss around the iron!


* to certified instructors: i compiled this list after alerting all on the list to my intention of writing this post. if i have made a mistake or omission, if you would like to be removed from the list, or if you would like to be added to the list, please get in touch.

*to training clients and class participants: this may or may not be an exhaustive list of certified kettlebell instructors on prince edward island. you can always ask your instructor about her/his qualifications and, if they are certified, send them along to be edited into this post.


wsu0u1TDtmXqpEuzt2Hroo8kLs6PGX3S8lSWyLz-acEit is just short of 9 years — May 2006 — since i purchased my first set of kettlebells: three fat-handled glossy-painted cold cannon balls with handles. an 8kg, a 12kg, and a 16kg.

and so it began.

from books put out by Dragon Door, i began teaching myself kettlebell movements and began incorporating a bit of kettlebell training with personal training clients.

AKC training clean&snatch circuit 2

Agatsu Certification 2007

in late 2007 i attended my first certification course and learned so much! it was a heady weekend full of sweat, bruises, and total mind engagement. with this, my initial fascination converted into a passion, both to use and to share this unique and effective way of training.

after that first cert, i continued using the kettlebell as part of my personal training repertoire, but i also developed a group fx format with kettlebells which i eventually had opportunity to roll out.

today, january 28th 2015, is the 7th anniversary of the first group kettlebell class i offered.

since then, i have taught kettlebell skills in a group format and led group classes 2975 times.

and because kettlebell training has so many nuances and iterations, i have also since completed 6 additional kettlebell certification programs and attended/audited quite a few other kettlebell trainings, such as workshops and certifications courses.

kettlebell-pics-034the opportunities for learning are endless. there are at least 4 or 5 additional kettlebell certs i’d love to take. if the time is right, some of them will happen. i am happy to leave that to the future.

the kettlebell universe is an interesting and quickly expanding place, filled with all manner of passion, talent, commitment, skillful execution, amazing coaching, and creativity. it engages and pushes limits and evolves. this is what i most love about kettlebell training.

little did i imagine what would come of my fascination with kettlebells when i came upon them in a 2005 magazine spread. (you can read more on that here)

daily i am grateful for how kettlebell training has contributed to my life and that of my family and communities.

thank you to those from whom i have directly learned: Shawn Mozen of Agatsu, Ajamu Bernard and Drew Miller and Stephanie Yankovich of KBell Training Academy, Steve Cotter of Full KOntact Kettlebells, Sharon Shiner SFGII, Jason Dolby and John Buckley of Orange Kettlebell Club. and to the many, many who share top notch on-line resources which have contributed to my knowledge.

and so it continues.

swing a kettlebell

this painting of me is the amazing work of Renee Laprise of

this painting of me is the amazing work of Renee Laprise of

i have, of late, been giving quite some thought to the variety and breadth of kettlebell training that is around these days and what it is i offer to my clients and class participants.

i have taken a number of kettlebell certficiations, workshops, and courses and follow the work of a number of folks forging creative and awesome ways to train with kettlebells.  from the straight up hardstyle brought to north america by Pavel Tsatsouline to the girya sport style of Valery Fedorenko, from the mma blend of Joey Alvarado, to the group kettlebell programming of Ajamu Bernard, a myriad fitness kettlebell variations are available.

there are strong differences in training philosophies which give rise to all manner of stylistic variations and nuances across this kettlebell universe.

in my classes, i offer a variety of styles and sometimes a meshing of styles, in order to achieve certain class outcomes.  in my personal training, i coach hard style, or close to, or sport style depending on the goals of the client.

earlier this week in a class i taught, there was an interchange about the ‘proper’ performance of a movement.  it was a great example of stylistic differences and it related to the execution of the kettlebell windmill.

here, Shawn Mozen of Agatsu, coaches straight legs (his students coach locked out knees)


and here, Pavel Tsatsouline of StrongFirst, coaches a soft forward knee

the training philosophies of these two men are quite different (check out their websites to learn more). and, in the world of strength, conditioning and fitness, the same movement may be executed differently to address different goals.

a part of my job as a fitness service provider is to work fast and furious to stay at the edge of industry knowledge and practice;  to wisely and judiciously distill, synthesize and package that information; and, to deliver safe and effective services.

this week has been an awesome learning week!

i am indebted to the many brilliant minds with whom i have had the honour and privilege to study and work in the last dozen years. i am excited about the many courses and workshops i will be attending in the upcoming months. i am grateful for the challenges to my skills and knowledge offered by colleagues and the questions posed by clients and class participants.

move and be still, wendy


Two years ago today I led my first kettlebell training group at AFE in Montague.  Wow! I am amazed! Kettlebells can be insidious characters, insinuating their way into your life.  Soon you can’t remember life before them.  I think this is how kettlebells have survived so long – since their humble beginnings back in the 1700’s until their current bid to take over world fitness.  Devious even.

I can clearly recall how excited I was to finally start kettlebell training, to share it in a small group. When I look back over my dayplanners for that time, as I prepared for those first sessions the exclamation marks attest to my enthusiasm.  Two years later my enthusiasm is even more expansive and assured.  Kettlebells are indeed brilliant pieces of cranky metal.

In 2005 I came across a magazine reference to kettlebells and therein began my persistent fascination.  The thought of what could be achieved with kettlebell training kept beckoning me, taunting me.  But kettlebells and information about kettlebell training were not easy to come by at that time.  North America was in the early stages of the kettlebell invasion and kettlebell intelligence was fairly hush hush.

If you googled ‘kettlebell’ in 2005 the only reference that came up was Pavel Tsatsouline’s RKC certification in Minneapolis.  Too far away and expensive for an underemployed personal trainer in rural PE, I sulked and cussed and connived, but I could not see my way clear to the time and expense.  Time and again I visited the internet posting, hoping for what?  That something more realistic would magically be there.

I couldn’t get information on Youtube either. Youtube was a burgeoning new internet phenomenon in 2005 and there was not a single thing kettlebell to be found there.  Imagine! That seems so strange now, when the ‘net is filled with experts, some self-appointed and frightening, in all things kettlebell.  Youtube offers a plethora of best practice and worst practice videos.  But when I was first interested, my searches for knowledge and information were stymied.

I purchased Pavel‘s books and poured over them.  Andrea duKane, in From Russia With Tough Love,  became my bed time reading.  I kept googling ‘kettlebell’.  I still wanted to travel to Minneapolis, and wished hard for a training program closer to home.  I wanted to find some place I could purchase a kettlebell at a reasonable cost and I ran into stonewalls for months.

Then, one day early in 2006, the name Shawn Mozen came up in my search.  He was in Montreal and selling kettlebells.  He had a dvd too!  I called Shawn right away and arranged to purchase the dvd and my first three kettlebells.  Shawn, now a larger-than-life kettlebell guru in Canada, was struggling to bring this amazing workout tool to the masses in early 2006.  He literally hoofed it around the McGill campus carrying my three kettlebells (one each of 8kg, 12kg and 16kg) in search of my partner who was there on a conference.  That service epitomizes Shawn’s passion for kettlebells and for sharing them with the world and earned him the loyalty of this customer.

With kettlebells at hand, some pictures in some books, and a dvd,  I began moving kettlebells. Not always sure what I was doing, I knew this was one great tool.  There was no way this tried and true tool, coming out of a sport history in Russia, was a ‘fitness craze’.  The continuing boom in kettlebell training around the world has not yet peaked.  Good things persevere.

Shawn at the 2007 certification

Mozen, still plugging away on the kettlebell road to fame, finally put together an instructor certification course.  I’m not sure when he started these, but when I trained with him in Toronto in the early fall of 2007 he was tweaking us as one of his early groups and still feeling his way through certification standards.  That much was apparent.  His benchmark workout, the Chrissy, was not yet in place, as Pavel’s snatch test was not yet in place when Shawn trained with him in 2003.  Shawn’s passion, dedication and crazy-assed training style was infectious.  He didn’t take our hundreds of dollars and call us certified.  No.  He took our hundreds of dollars, put us through grueling hours of drills and workouts, and if we survived, then he called us certified.

When I touched down on the Charlottetown runway after that certification training, I loudly bemoaned the stairs from the plane and I resented the clutch and shift on my car.   Every fibre of my being ached, my forearms were swollen and massively bruised, I was mentally and physically exhausted – and I was ecstatic! Pumped! Hopping crazy!  I hadn’t passed out or tossed my cookies (like the young woman next to me in training), and I completed my first tabata stronger, with more repetitions, than when I started it.

I was confident in my ability to execute movements with the kettlebell.  This, combined with my other certifications and training experiences, meant I was uniquely qualified in the fitness profession in eastern Canada.   I was the only certified Kettlebell Instructor east of Montreal. 

Finally, I was bringing kettlebell training to Prince Edward Island, more than two years after contracting this virulent bug.

It took a number of months to convince the owner of the gym where I worked that kettlebells needed to be purchased and a training group put in to place.  This was not an easy sell, though today she is offering 10 kettlebell classes weekly! In the meantime I was happy to use the kettlebells myself and to train private clients with them.  These clients were able to extol the wonders of kettlebell training to others…sort of got the kettlebell rolling, so to speak.  Training myself and private clients was a lot of fun and was the beginning of my learning curve as a Kettlebell Instructor.

So, with much persistence and persuasion, the first Island Kettlebell Training group started on January 28, 2008.  A small group of people who placed their trust in me, who believed me when I told them they would get a great workout with this crazy tool signed up for an 8 week 2x/week session.  They were eager to take on this ball with a handle that you moved in various ways, combine it with body weight exercises and jumping rope and be the leaders in kettlebell training.

It was a closed group — there were only 6 kettlebells (plus my own).  We were relegated to the archipelago of the gym – a very cold racquetball court where frost literally lined the walls, lights were harsh, our voices and heartbeats echoed and doing floor work required being prone on permafrost.

We loved it.  We worked so hard we were unaware of our surroundings.

We grew stronger, more able to endure.  We could focus and hold that focus through tremendous challenge.  We walked taller, straighter and were more self-possesed.  We were kettlebell warriors; we were a very special breed.  We were a bit smug about it all but we wanted to share our training discoveries and results with others.

Eventually more kettlebells were purchased, ongoing classes were offered and I began training groups in other locations, lugging a trunk full of kettlebells around on a regular basis, spreading the good and killing my rear springs – um, in my tired old car.  CBC radio and television caught wind of this kettlebell hotness and did features on my classes – the reporters, in both cases, began kettlebell training with me as a result.

I traveled to Toronto a second time on account of kettlebells.  In May 2009 I attended the first Canadian Kettlebell Convention and audited  Shawn’s first Level II certification course (shoulder injuries prevented me from participating in this cert but I think I worked up a sweat just watching) and to benefit with a day of training with Steve Cotter.

Steve Cotter and I, May 2009

I could hardly believe my good fortune in the Universe of Girya!  Steve Cotter is a wonder! Despite my shoulders I was able to complete most of his ‘zoo’ warm up and joint mobility exercises (I think some of this ‘animal’ stuff has leaked into agatsu training programs as a result).  This ‘warm up ‘went on for about an hour!  Steve’s sport work is pretty cool too.  If you are interested in kettlebell competition or long endurance work with the kettlebell there is a specific style to handling the kettlebells and Steve is the person with whom to train.

One of the women who participated in the daytime inaugural group two years ago, Susan Walsh, completed her kettlebell certification last year and continues to spread the kettlebell goodness.  She was able to pick up the classes I left behind at AFE when I opened my own studio in Charlottetown and she has amassed an enthused kettlebell rabble of her own.

Time, as anyone in the middle of a tabata can tell you, is a strange, watery concept.  That first class feels like it was just yesterday and at the same time it feels like years ago.  That class was not my beginning with kettlebells, but it was the birth of Island Kettlebell Training (join the facebook group of that name if you like!).

Since that day I have instructed well more than 300 groups in addition to presentations on kettlebell training, charity events, media interviews, personal kettlebell training sessions, and dozens of skills clinics.

Kettlebells create kinship.  The people who train with them have created a strong, supportive and collegial community.  A kettlebell coterie might best describe this cleaving . . . or maybe it’s just that if someone isn’t next to you sweating, grunting and muttering at least as much as you are, you just might take that annoying piece of cast iron, heap it with the most colourful adjectives you know, drop it down a deep hole and cut your losses.

Kettlebells are like that.  They attract and repel at the same time.  It is truly a love-hate relationship of immense proportions, and you can’t help but return time and time again because you know, in your heart, your bones and sinews, at the most molecular level of your being, that kettlebells can make you a better person.

Whatever your reason for kettlebell training, I am immeasurably grateful for all the richness kettlebells have brought into my life.  When my class programs are stolen and hidden, when I am barricaded out of the room, when I am blessed with names crude and creative, when folks come late to avoid jumping rope, when my instructions are questioned and my corrections/exhortations are met with belligerence – I know it is good.   And, even better, so do you.  The indescribable feeling of accomplishment and triumph which comes with relief at the end of every session…that’s why we keep doing it.

Two years strong, bring it on!

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”   So spoke Mahatma Gandhi.


Earlier this month I attended the first Agatsu Kettlebell Convention and Level II Certification Course held in Toronto. Shawn Mozen, the man who is Agatsu and undoubtedly the face of kettlebell in Canada, put together an incredible event. It was held at a great new Crossfit facility in Toronto West owned by Dhani Oks. What a great honour to be amongst the 24 who showed up that Friday morning.

Though my shoulder injuries prevented me from fully participating, I was able return home with new knowledge, advanced skills ideas and most valuably, big inspiration.

kettlebell-giantsDay One was the Level II Certification Training. Shawn packed an incredible amount of information and activity into this 10 hour day. Demonstration and practice of advanced mobility/range of motion and body weight exercises were interspersed with standards testing. Shawn’s programs are run with integrity and he has some exacting standards for participants. Pistol squats, pull ups, hanging knee to elbows and pushups on gymnastics rings were just some of the skills which had to be performed to standard.

Though Toronto started out rainy on this particular day, the sun broke through in the afternoon and Shawn was oh-so-pleased to take us to Earl Bales Ski Hill for a grueling circuit. It included 10 laps up a ski hill and 5 tabatas. Most of the folks finished the job, though a few of us did not. It was a measure in will, and conditioned, healthy bodies.  For Shawn, it was a practical demonstration of the meaning of his company name.  Agatsu translates loosely into “victory over self”.  It is what separates the adequate from outstanding.  It is very similar to the power of intention I talk about.  That’s pretty cool.

Day Two was spent with Steve Cotter. Another superman equally as astounding as Shawn. Highly personable, incredibly fit and a great teacher, Steve engages in Girevoy Sport,  throwing around large kettlebells for unimaginable lengths of time.  Steve took us through a thorough warm-up of dynamic mobility exercise, footwork drills and plyometrics.  He then taught the group sport handling of kettlebells.  The 7 hours passed quickly.

If you are unfamiliar with kettlebell training, it is time you gave it a go.  Kettlebell Group Training will help kick all your fitness goals into high gear!  Functional, compound exercises work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, developing strength and muscular endurance and efficient caloric expenditure.  The workouts provide integration of breathing, movement and alignment with your ability to control balance and weight.  Cussing is optional.

You’ll be able to participate in the island’s best kettlebell training at the whole way fitness studio.  The studio schedule will be posted later this week, so check back.  Or send me an email and I’ll be happy to give you additional information.

class schedule