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Dragon Door Interviews Valerie Hedlund, RKC II, and Iron Maiden

August 7, 2012 05:00 PM

Dragon Door:   How did Iron Maiden,Valerie Hedlund start training with kettlebells?
Valerie Hedlund:   I originally found them in 2008 at a two day NSCA conference I was attending for continuing education. Well, I guess I first found them through Anthony Deluglio. After seeing him present at the NSCA, I bought my first bright green kettlebell right then and there. I went to many more presentations at the conference, then saw that the NSCA was offering a one day workshop with Pavel. I remember thinking, "This is the original kettlebell guy!" The workshop was reasonably priced so I signed up, ended up getting extra CEUs, and really fell in love with kettlebells. In 2009, I attended the RKC Workshop.
Dragon Door:   How long had you been a fitness instructor or personal trainer before finding kettlebells?
Valerie Hedlund:   I have been a trainer since 2002—I started personal training right after college.
Dragon Door:   What were some of the biggest changes you saw with kettlebells right away?
Valerie Hedlund:   Before kettlebell training, I had never totally straightened out my legs—or fully extended my hips. When I used to perform squats, I would go all the way down, but never really completed the movement with straight legs. After the NSCA conference workshop with Pavel, my hip flexors were like rocks! I didn't do everything completely correct at first, but I soon started to fully extend my hips, and that was a huge change. The abdominal engagement, tightening and bracing made all my movements so much stronger. My clients loved and hated it, which was great!
Dragon Door:   Do you feel that your specialization with kettlebells has helped to build your business?
Valerie Hedlund:   Yes, I think so—I was a trainer for eight years before finding kettlebells and I really appreciate the base knowledge I had before learning from the great minds of the RKC. I was never a "class" person before and had focused more on personal training. Kettlebell training has allowed me to teach classes and reach more people at once.
Dragon Door:   That’s interesting, but it makes a lot of sense because there's such an important teaching component at the RKC workshop. What has been the biggest challenge for you with kettlebells?
Valerie Hedlund:   For me the most difficult thing was learning how to lead classes. Because I came from the personal training world, I was used to one on one training. I think that kettlebell training is best in a class setting, but transitioning to a class format was very challenging for me.
Dragon Door:   Typically, how large are your classes?
Valerie Hedlund:   Just eight to ten people, I don't want the classes to get too large, keeping the classes small helps me be sure that everyone gets a really good workout.
Dragon Door:   Do you have any particular programming tips for classes of this size? Are your classes separate for beginners, advanced, or intermediate participants?
Valerie Hedlund:   They aren’t in separate classes right now, because I am starting from scratch in Denver. All of my classes are mixed levels at the moment, so a new person might be doing deadlifts next to somebody at a more advanced level who's snatching. Both people will be working on the same timed intervals, so they're technically doing the same workout but at a different level. I can lead a class of only eight to ten pretty easily this way.
Dragon Door:   Do you prefer to use timed sets in your classes rather than counting reps?
Valerie Hedlund:   In my classes I usually use timed sets simply because it’s easier. Some people go way too fast and some take forever, with timed sets I can work with them individually without anyone having to wait around. Timed sets allow everyone to finish the workout at the same time.
Dragon Door:   Since you've recently experienced starting from scratch in Colorado, what advice would you have for an RKC or HKC starting their first classes or opening their first facility?
Valerie Hedlund:   I would give them the same advice Senior RKC, Franz Snideman gave to me, "Start small and let the business grow itself." We all have a passion for what we do, and it's easy to get excited about the possibilities. For instance, I would have loved to open a huge space when I moved, but financially it wouldn't have been the best decision. Fitness facilities fail about as often as restaurants and presumably for very similar reasons. When someone opens a fitness facility, they often have a lot of passion and believe, "If I build it, they will come". The facility will quickly go under without a real strategy to get people through the doors, or enough reserve to help the business float until enough people are through the door to pay the bills. My advice is to start small and work outside—from your own home or at other people's homes. Start teaching classes at a gym, or rent space from another facility. When the classes are bursting at the seams, then take the next step and open your own space. Make sure to attend the Marketing Mastermind Intensive. The information at that workshop is worth the cost any day.
Dragon Door: How did you start your fitness and personal training career?
Valerie Hedlund:   I’ve always been active, and went to college for a health and exercise science degree. Originally, I wanted to go back to grad school for Physical Therapy, but after many internships in physical therapy, I was bored out of my skull. It wasn't the best fit for me because the specific protocols used in physical therapy seemed to just take people from not being totally injured and in pain to being better, but not completely healed after all their appointments. However, I really enjoyed training clients after their physical therapy, so I could help them through that middle stage. Many people knew that while they weren't in pain, they still needed something more, but didn't know what to do next. It was more fun for me to train them from that point to whatever goals or activities they wanted to do again.
Dragon Door:   This type of training is also super important to prevent additional injuries.
Valerie Hedlund:   Right—otherwise they’ll go back to their old movement patterns after physical therapy. Many times, because of health insurance issues, physically therapy they can’t really treat what’s wrong unless the program is especially progressive.
Dragon Door:   What originally inspired you to attempt the Iron Maiden challenge?
Valerie Hedlund:   When I went through my first RKC workshop in 2009, I pressed a 24kg kettlebell during the military press section of the lecture. I didn't know it was a "thing" until word got around that I pressed it. Pavel suggested I attempt the Beast Challenge for women—it didn't have the cool "Iron Maiden" name yet. When I asked him about the challenge, he replied, "Read your manual, Comrade, it's in there." At that point, I hadn't even tried weighted pull ups, and had to hold my extended foot to do a pistol. But, I decided to put that challenge in the back of my mind. Over time, I worked on increasing my overall strength and technique in the press, pistol, and pull up.
Dragon Door:   Besides completing the Iron Maiden Challenge, what else makes you unique in the fitness or RKC world? What else can you tell us about your personal fitness or business journey?
Valerie Hedlund:   Well, I just really like to move well and feel good. For a very long time, I think—I know—I trained for basic overall body strength and mobility. I think that base really helped me build strength after I actually decided I wanted to get stronger. Many times, I think a lot of people try to build their strength too soon just because they want to lift heavy things. I went from running track in high school and being really, really competitive to running track in college—it was my life. After that experience, I vowed to never compete again. But, I still liked being fit and exercising, so I continued to train in order to move better and feel good.
Dragon Door:   That's a perfectly good reason to continue training.
Valerie Hedlund:   Yes, and I think building up a base of strength and mobility helped lay the groundwork for when I decided I wanted to train for strength.
Dragon Door:   Makes sense to me, thanks so much for sharing this today.