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Kettlebell enthusiast opens gym in Easthampton’s Eastworks Building

  • Wayne English poses for a portrait holding a kettlebell weight in his new gym in Eastworks on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Wayne English poses for a portrait holding a kettlebell weight in his new gym in Eastworks on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Wayne English poses for a portrait holding a kettlebell weight in his new gym in Eastworks on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Wayne English poses for a portrait holding a kettlebell weight in his new gym in Eastworks on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Wayne English poses for a portrait holding a kettlebell weight in his new gym in Eastworks on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Wayne English poses for a portrait holding a kettlebell weight in his new gym in Eastworks on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

— The city’s newest gym does not have treadmills, weight machines or the usual rows of dumbbells. Owner Wayne English says the one main piece of equipment at his gym makes the rest of that workout equipment seem like a waste of time.

“It’s one hand-held gym that combines strength and conditioning,” he said, hoisting a kettlebell, which resembles a cast-iron cannonball with a handle, up to his shoulder.

English, 59, of Chesterfield, has worked in the aerospace industry for 30 years. But after using kettlebells in his workouts for eight years and becoming a certified instructor, he realized what he really wanted to do was help other people see how the small weight could transform them.

His new gym on the first floor of the Eastworks Building, called Transformation Fitness Unlimited, focuses almost entirely on kettlebells. The weights were originally used in Russia 300 years ago, English said, and they are still used in the Russian military.

In the late 1990s, Pavel Tsatsouline, a former physical trainer for the Soviet special forces, started spreading the word about kettlebells in the U.S. Since then, kettlebell gyms have popped up around the country, hundreds of fitness trainers have become certified instructors, and thousands have learned the strenuous workout technique.

The trend does have critics who say that swinging heavy weights is a recipe for injury.

“If you do it without the proper instruction you could hurt yourself,” English said, so he focuses on taking the time to get his trainees prepared for each new move.

Transformation Fitness Unlimited is the latest gym to join the apparent growth spurt in Easthampton’s fitness industry. Strength for Life Fitness Center, a gym that focuses on keeping seniors healthy, is just down the hall in the Eastworks Building. Easthampton Crossfit has offered high-intensity fitness classes at 10 O’Neill St. since July 2011, and the 24-hour Snap Fitness opened last summer at 39 Union St.

A new kind of weightlifting

The Pittsfield native said he started lifting weights for fun when he was about 9, and has been interested in fitness ever since. He first tried using kettlebells in 2004 after buying Tsatsouline’s book, but said the workout didn’t really “click” with him until a year later. He eventually dropped his dumbbells and barbells and started using kettlebells exclusively.

He decided to try to get certified as a kettlebell instructor in 2008. “At that point, I was 54, so I thought it would just be cool to get in good enough shape to pass,” he said. “It was the most physically demanding three days of my life.”

The “rigorous” weekend-long test required him to, among other things, lift and swing a 53-pound kettlebell up to his shoulder 52 times without putting it down.

Workouts with kettlebells are similar to Olympic-style weightlifting, in that a move often includes a quick movement. In his 1,200-square foot gym Wednesday, English demonstrated a basic drill. Squatting slightly, he swung a 53-pound kettlebell straight-armed in front of his face and then between his legs before putting it back on the mat. Because swinging the weight requires the body to work hard to resist its momentum, it works all the body’s core muscles as well as the arms and legs, he said.

“My heart is going already,” he said after two swings.

Since becoming certified, English realized that he wanted to teach the technique to others. He said the space in Eastworks Building near the Registry of Motor Vehicles “just felt right.”

Besides the rows of kettlebells that lined the wall Wednesday, there was a large barbell set, as English plans to teach Olympic-style weightlifting, and objects that resembled bowling pins.

They’re Indian clubs and English said they have been used all over the world for hundreds of years. The wooden or plastic clubs, which vary in weight from one to 50 pounds, are swung around the body in patterns to improve strength, coordination and agility, he said.

He said he is still deciding what the programming will look like at his gym, but it will definitely include one-on-one kettlebell training, at about $70 to $80 per hour, as well as kettlebell boot camps. Other fitness classes will probably include Indian clubs, zumba, and either tai chi or qigong, and he hopes to offer his clients access to a nutritionist and life coach, he said.

While he still works at CDI Aerospace in Windsor Locks, Conn., English said he plans to transition into working full-time at his new gym.

“What I want to do here is help people be able to stay active and meet their fitness goals,” he said. “As I approach 60, I feel like I can be an example for people that you can be strong, flexible and move well as you get older.”

For more information, contact English at girevik88@gmail.com or (413) 362-2382.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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