Yesterday evening I made the trek out to The Warrior Room in Milwaukie to check out two of the most prevalent workout trends of the times: 1) Kettlebells, those cast-iron handled weights that were introduced in the US from Russia (where they have been common since at least the early 18th century) in the early '00s that have been causing weight loss aficionados' hearts to flutter for their time-efficient, full-body exercise potential:
It's partly due to these circumstances that Jensen's rates are low (eight one-hour sessions: $64, unlimited monthly pass: $96) compared to other workouts with that level of personal attention, though she also feels strongly that people shouldn't neglect their fitness goals out of monetary concern. The class sizes (nine are offered each week, including one class for kids) help foster a tight-knit community. In the yard of the house they've created a community garden, swap healthy recipes, and support each other through monthly challenges and weekly competitions like sticking within daily calorie allotments or completing an additional number of reps of a certain exercise within one week's time.
The one-hour workouts focus on kettlebells, which are used in swinging and lifting motions that engage multiple parts of the body simultaneously, often said to mimick the motions of manual labor such as farm work. One of the reasons it's been so lauded is that it combines cardiovascular with strength building exercise, cutting down the length of time spent working out over all to achieve the same effect. Calorically, studies have shown it to burn at the same rate as running six-minute miles. As the American Council of Exercise (ACE) proclaimed:
Based on comparisons with data from previous research on standard weight training, the HR and VO2 responses during the kettlebell snatch routine suggest it provides a much higher-intensity workout than standard weight-training routines. Furthermore, the kettlebell snatch workout easily meets industry recommendations for improving aerobic capacity. “This is good news for people who are looking for a very good resistance-training workout that will also help them lose weight,” says Schnettler. “For people who might not have a lot of time, and need to get in a good workout as quickly as possible, kettlebells definitely provide that.”
It's not that the exercise offered here is all that unique, but its class size and rather ad-hoc location are, as is the comradery among the (mostly women) who work out here. (One man who comes four or five times a week after not having exercised for 20 years is a favorite among his classmates; he's lost 30 pounds and counting since joining two months ago.) After our workout we went out for a late dinner and drinks. Over and over the phrase "sense of community" kept coming up, and the proof was in the pudding. In no time at all we were cackling and telling stories and dirty jokes like old friends over rounds of beer and wine, something you might not do very often with your trainer under traditional circumstances. But for Jensen, demonstrating that you can find balance in your life—that old saw about work hard, play hard—is part of the ultimate point.
Finding a place like The Warrior may take a little more digging than a Google search—most of its participants seem to have come by word of mouth. But if you're stuck making tough decisions about your finances, and gym memberships and trainers are near the chopping block, it may be worth it to pay a little closer attention to Craigslist, or the flyers on the community board of the grocery store.