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RKC: Elegant, Technical, Graceful, Interview with Mackenzie Phillips, Lawyer, RKC

Mackenzie Phillips Overhead Kettlebell Press Kettlebell Snatch

Dragon Door: How did you first find out about kettlebells?

Mackenzie Phillips: I first tried swinging kettlebells in CrossFit about eight years ago when I was also a very dedicated Ashtanga yogi. However, I injured my lower back in CrossFit and then started a long road to recovery which ended in three epidural injections. Around that time, I was also taking care of my father who ultimately passed away from small cell lung cancer. With all of this trauma—both physical and emotional—it took me a while to get back to staying physically active, but I finally did. I knew I had to get back to movement and started training again in the fall of 2013.

Mackenzie Phillips, RKC ModelingAt the end of 2013, I started training for my first shows in the NPC Bikini Division. Kettlebells were not really part of the bodybuilding regimen then, and they weren’t really part of my routine. But, mastering the prep for bikini shows inspired me to want to earn a personal trainer certification. Mediocrity was not an option and I wanted to better understand how lifestyle changes were able to dramatically change my body composition. Initially, I didn’t have that much interest in starting my own business but I was really inspired by the beauty and power in sharing the gift of health, wellness, and fitness with other people, especially women.

In training for my first obstacle course race, I started taking Spartan SGX classes and then ultimately became one of the instructors at OTG Bootcamp. They originally started as a kettlebell gym, but when I started teaching they had added other modalities. I incorporated a variety of modalities including kettlebells into my classes. I also taught their Spartan SGX classes. Because one of the gym’s owners is an RKC and wanted to some high quality kettlebell instruction, they wanted more instructors who were actually certified to teach kettlebells.

Even though the gym planned to host an HKC, I wanted to go ahead and go for the RKC. I found one in New York since I love to travel! I booked it and started training for it in another gym where I lead small group training and personal training. I hired one of my colleagues to help me train and prepare—and that was huge! It’s been an interesting journey, but I found kettlebells through all of these pivots, transformations, and essentially listening to what I thought my body needed. Kettlebells released what would become my next steps in the health and wellness space.

Dragon Door: Before this, did you have an athletic background?

Mackenzie Phillips: Yes, I trained classical ballet for a time, and I danced through college. I also played tennis, and ran track and field. So, I've always been athletically inclined. Generally speaking, I come from a very active family—my mother has run twelve marathons!

It’s a little crazy, but I'm a lawyer most of the time. I’ve learned in the truest sense that life doesn't have to be "either-or", it can be both. It’s really rewarding to use my mind and body, and have an impact—it’s been a good mix.

Dragon Door: What’s your secret to doing it all? Along with practicing law, it sounds like you have a serious training schedule…

Mackenzie Phillips: It works pretty well most of the time. As far as my legal job is concerned, I work around the clock, but I’m able to work remotely for a couple days each week. I’m also very judicious with my time. I block off specific times for myself and my clients. But it’s tough, I’m not going to lie! I don’t really take off for traditional holidays; I haven't been on a full vacation without working since I was in grade school. I might be a little bit of a workaholic, but it’s ok because I’m doing things I love.
Mackenzie Phillips With Kettlebell
Dragon Door: What were some of the biggest things you like about what you learned at the RKC?

Mackenzie Phillips: There’s just such an elegance, technicality and grace in the movements we learned—it’s akin to a martial art. Kettlebell training is a beautiful way to learn how to move, gain strength, and work on cardiovascular endurance. I've been in and out of physical therapy over the years for a variety of injuries, so I think a lot about my training modalities.

Kettlebells can be used for everyday training, for elite athletes, and even competition preparation. In Chicago, we have the Kettle PRT competition, which was in early May. This year, the woman who won the individual prize was a figure competitor. There's so much you can do and leverage with kettlebells, including recovery from injuries, and I think that's the beauty of it.

Dragon Door: What’s your favorite kettlebell exercise?

Mackenzie Phillips: It changes! But today, right now in this second, it’s the get-up. I think it's probably one of the more graceful movements if you do it properly. As a dancer I love that, it reminds me of how dancers move.

Dragon Door: How are you using—or planning to use—what you've learned at the RKC?

Mackenzie Phillips: When I got back, I immediately starting using kettlebells with a lot more vigor with my existing clients. I feel so much more competent to lead my clients through the various progressions of the different movements. I already have clients who say they love kettlebells, and that warms my heart to hear! And for clients who have weight loss goals, kettlebells can incinerate the hell out of some fat! That’s been huge!

Mackenzie Phillips Gym RKC KettlebellI recently saw a set of kettlebells for sale on a very mainstream shopping website. Kettlebell training has now moved into popularity, and is no longer at the back of the gym. I realized that there’s so much power with kettlebells, and I want to bring it to more women. Some women are shy about using weights, and some gyms really feel like they have more of a male focus or setup. So, to see kettlebells in the mainstream helps—and then the movements can be performed with such grace and elegance. There's a technical nature to it, and I think people like that a lot.

I'm also super excited to introduce kettlebells at the Wander Woman Wellness Retreat, a wellness retreat I’m hosting for goal-driven women who need to prioritize their selfcare. It’s happening on June 21st through the 23rd, in Harbor Country. It’s the Martha’s Vineyard of the Midwest and is about 70 miles outside of Chicago. We’re going to have some kettlebell training to help master our inner goddesses. We’re also offering "Get Roped" classes with my colleague, Rachel, who has developed a jump rope method. I’ve taken one of her classes and it was amazing. We’ll also have yoga, meditation, and some retail therapy aboard LuxeWagon, a mobile fashion truck based in Harbor Country. It's going to be A-MAEVE-ING!

Dragon Door: That sounds very exciting! Now that you've earned your RKC, what's your next goal?

Mackenzie Phillips: The RKC Level Two! But, I'll probably wait until next year and see what other workshops will be added—either in the Midwest or in New York. Annie Vo helped me think through how long I should train for the RKC-II after doing the RKC, so I am taking that into consideration. I am currently working on earning my credentials as a Certified Nutrition Coach so once I get that done, I’ll be able to refocus on doing things like hosting an RKC here in Chicago.

Also, to bring more awareness about the beauty of movement, I am working on pitching an event to management at the Soho House in Chicago, of which I am a member. It would be a performance art event combining art and movement. I am partnering with Rhonda K. Brown Fine Art who executes exceptional gesture drawings. She would capture the motion of movements like swings, get-ups and maybe another movement in succession. It would really help to capture the feeling of training with kettlebells. We’re working to bring art and kettlebell movements together.

MackenziePhillipsOverheadKettlebell thumbnailMackenzie K. Phillips, RKC, trains individuals and groups in Chicago, online, on the Spartan field, and around the world at destination fitness retreats. She can be contacted at Follow her on Instagram @maeve40fitness.