McAfee Secure sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams
Share Print

You have not viewed any products recently.




An Interview with Susan Sloan, RKC Instructor

RKC Instructor Susan Sloan After 100lb weight loss with kettlebells
Dragon Door: You’ve made an incredible lifestyle change, lost 100lbs, and are now celebrating your one year anniversary of being an RKC instructor. How did you get started?

Susan Sloan: The journey started in 2007—I always call it a journey—because I am still on that journey. I weighed over 300lbs and was sitting on the couch watching TV when I saw a 15-minute segment on the local Tallahassee cable channel. The segment featured different fitness facilities in town. I hated going to the gym, I’d tried and hated working on the machines while the trainers ignored me. But when I saw Laurel Blackburn’s boot camp atmosphere on TV, I was interested. It looked more like playing at fitness instead of working out, and seemed like something I could do.

I worked up the courage and emailed her with my story. The first thing she said was that I needed to start moving and start walking. I made sure to check with my doctor, because I was so overweight. My doctor told me to go for it—and I started walking. About a month later, I joined Laurel’s gym. That first day, she and the other trainer, Mike looked at me and said to each other, "one and done". They thought I’d just do one workout and never come back. But, I did come back. I kept setting goals—the first was to go to the gym for one week, then a month, three months, then six months. My goals kept going on like that.

Laurel introduced me to kettlebells, and I fell in love with them from day one. Even though I could barely use them at first because I was so overweight and out of shape, I kept trying. As I progressed, I was able to use them more and more and my love for kettlebell training just kept growing. And this month I’m celebrating my one year anniversary as an RKC instructor!

Dragon Door: How were you using kettlebells at first? I’d assume you did a lot of deadlifts?

Susan Sloan: Laurel had me deadlifting a lot. Because I was so overweight and out of shape, I was also very uncoordinated. At first I always had to use the lightest kettlebell and if the class was doing swings, I was doing deadlifts. I could do presses, but I had to modify other exercises like walking lunges at first. Eventually I started surprising myself. Laurel or Mike would come over and tell me that I could be using a heavier kettlebell, and I could! Then I started to notice when I was ready to move up on my own.

I had to work up to swings, and I still remember the first time Laurel introduced me to snatching. I picked it up right away. I think I surprised Laurel because she came over to check my form and said, "Oh my goodness, you have it!" I was very proud, because I’d learned just by listening, watching, and trying to mimic what she was doing. I started loving kettlebell training even more!

Dragon Door: What nutrition changes did you make?

Susan Sloan: At the time, Laurel had a nutritionist available as part of our gym membership. I always attended the once-a-month lectures and took advantage of whatever she would offer. I even signed up for extra consultations. She helped me stop thinking about the scale, and more about good nutrition. I learned to pay more attention to how my clothes fit, and learned to eat balanced meals so that I wouldn’t crave foods I didn't need. Soon the pounds started to fall away.

Dragon Door: How old were you when you started?

Susan Sloan:
I was 47 and 50 was right around the corner. I didn't want to turn 50 and be overweight, out of shape, and taking lots of medicines—arthritis was starting to be an issue. When I was younger I was very active, but as I got older, I just sat down. I wanted to be that younger, active person again!

Dragon Door: When did you decide to go for RKC Certification?

Susan Sloan: A couple other clients at the gym were talking about it. Even though I had just had major shoulder surgery, my surgeon was very experienced with athletes and swore he could get me ready for the RKC if I signed up—so I signed up. I was helping laurel with her kettlebell classes at that point and she felt that I was ready. I remember you were at that same RKC Workshop down in Orlando too. I didn't pass because I was so worried about my shoulder—my surgery had been in February, and the RKC was in October of 2010. I passed everything but the squat and the swing, because I was too focused on my shoulder.

I was so discouraged. Back at home after the workshop, I broke one of my toes and really felt that I’d never make it. Then, we had the RKC Workshop here in Tallahassee last year with Master RKC, Andrea Du Cane. I never stopped working with kettlebells, still loved kettlebell training, and was still helping with classes at the gym. Laurel said I should try it again, and I passed it this time!

The RKC is such a mental challenge. I was 52 this time, and realized I needed mental toughness as much as physical toughness to get through some of the workouts. I had to find that "sweet spot" in my head and keep going. I remember the grad workout on the last day—some of the gym members had come for the free lesson and stayed to watch. They’d never seen that look on my face before—I was in the zone!
Dragon Door: What do you like most about teaching kettlebells?

Susan Sloan: I’m a mentor by nature—even at my full time job. I love mentoring people and seeing them grow, no matter what they’re doing. I love to acknowledge their progress. Just last night I was working with a young lady who has always needed help with get-ups, but last night she finally got something we’d been working on for a while. It was such an exciting moment for both of us. I’m sure she’ll remember it the next time she does a get-up.

When someone "gets" the swing for the first time and it looks good and solid, I love to really acknowledge that accomplishment—the high fives and smiles come out. I especially like to work with our older clients, they know that I’ve been where they’re at, and they come to me when they’re struggling. They want to know how I got through it. I don't look like the typical fitness trainer, but that also means that I'm not intimidating to them. I'm someone who can help them learn to use kettlebells with good form, so that they don’t get hurt.

Dragon Door: What advice do you have for someone who’s 300lbs, and sitting on the couch watching TV, but who wants to make a change?

Susan Sloan: Almost every day, people ask me how to get started. But I have to tell them the one thing they don't want to hear, "You've GOT to start moving." They usually say that their joints hurt so bad that they can’t run or walk. But, I let them know that kettlebells are a great cardio and strength instrument that I can help them with today. Kettlebells can burn fat, build muscle, and will start saving their joints. Kettlebell training can happen in 30-minute sessions every other day and can help people start a cycle of feeling better about themselves. But, the hardest part of any physical activity out there is getting started moving again. And sometimes people are intimidated by kettlebells.

SusanSloanCoachingDragon Door: How do you explain to people that they shouldn't be intimidated by kettlebells?

Susan Sloan: I tell them that kettlebells can be as light as just 6lbs even though the heaviest ones are 106lbs. Everyone starts with smaller kettlebells, and no one has to use the heavy ones unless they want to. People are also worried that kettlebells will bulk them up, but that’s simply not true. Kettlebells build the kind of muscles that women like, and if men want to bulk up, there are ways to do that too. And if you want the abs, kettlebells can give you the abs! Yes, I have muscles, but even after several years of kettlebell training, I am not bulky. My muscles help me burn fat!

Dragon Door: Laurel said those muscles also helped you run a half marathon!

Susan Sloan: Laurel and I have become runners. Even though I have osteoarthritis from having been so overweight in the past, the doctor told me I need to keep running while I can, because it’s good for me. Last year I completed a half marathon, and we are training to do another one this year. Kettlebell swings are great for runners. After a long run, swings are great for keeping my hamstrings from getting too stiff.

Dragon Door: What’s your favorite kettlebell exercise?

Susan Sloan: I love kettlebell snatches, because they get my heart rate up, and they’re a full body exercise. You have to use your legs, your core, and some upper body too since the kettlebell goes overhead. You have to work up to them, and it’s a challenge to maintain good form for high reps. Right now, my record is 120 snatches in 5 minutes.

Dragon Door: Since you started out significantly overweight, what’s your advice for someone who might need help staying on course in our modern, instant-gratification culture.

Susan Sloan: I stay motivated by looking forward to different things. Every month I might be motivated by something different—whether I want to get down to a certain size for a new dress, find my abs, or learn a new exercise. When I reach a goal, I need to have a new goal ready to keep my motivation going. For someone who’s very overweight, the goal of losing 100lbs is so far away that it isn’t motivating. It’s best to have a monthly goal to keep losing weight. In the beginning, my goal was to go to boot camp for a whole week, then a month, three months, six months. During that same time, I had someone take a picture of me in my sports bra and shorts once each month so I cold see the weight loss. It was motivating to know my picture would be taken!

SusanSloanRKCWhen the pictures lost their motivational power, I moved to clothing sizes. Soon I hit a plateau for about 6 months. Usually, that’s when people give up because they think healthy eating and working out aren’t working for them any more. My nutritionist told me to expect the plateau, because our bodies are stubborn and want to go back to the old ways. So I hung in there and kept going. Around the same time, Laurel had a goal setting event at the gym. We worked on our goal lists and added physical goals like being able to do a certain number of kettlebell swings during a minute and things like that. When I started working towards these new goals, I lost another two clothing sizes in three weeks. My body finally stopped being stubborn.

You can’t make a 100lb weight loss the only goal, you have to focus on smaller goals and make the long range goal a side effect of these little mini goals. That’s how I’ve stayed motivated. I want to just get stronger and healthier, and have made weight loss a side effect of that journey.

But sometimes I can get discouraged, and how we pull ourselves out of it is what matters. For someone like me who wants to overeat through my discouragement, if I lose it, I try to keep it contained as much as possible—a meal, a day, but not beyond that. Then I go get right back on the wagon—I might have had a bad day the day before, but it’s a new day and a new start. It’s important to find something other than overeating to make myself feel better. Right now, running is my comeback, I can go for a run and the endorphins help me feel a lot better. Even though I am older, still have weight to lose, and some of my medications make it more difficult, I’m not going to give up.

Dragon Door: What are your current goals?

Susan Sloan: To complete our next half-marathon, and our trail series is coming up soon. We run a trail race once a month for the next four months. I also want to maintain my kettlebell skills, even though I am working through some major shoulder issues right now. I fell a couple months ago and broke my shoulder blade, so I am rehabbing my left shoulder—but I can already do get-ups again without weight. That’s the point—you have to keep doing what you can and not give up—even if you have to start right back at the beginning. You don't have to give up.

Dragon Door: Do you have a favorite kettlebell workout or combination?

Susan Sloan: I love combining Hardstyle planks and swings, when you’re in the plank, everything’s tight and it’s easier (especially for new folks) to jump up into a swing and know how they should feel at the top of that swing. I also like to add 3-4 presses in the beginning of the get-up, and then a press or two at the top. I love combos and coming up with them.

Dragon Door: Thank you for sharing your experiences, these hearing these stories can be so helpful for people—those making the changes or trainers helping someone with a healthy lifestyle.

Susan Sloan: I don't mind sharing my story because I love to mentor people and preach fitness!

SusanSloanAfterOldJeans thumbnailSusan Sloan teaches kettlebells at and can be contacted at