ELITE Strength & Performance owner Cheri Christie realized after her own experience of injury and recovery that kettlebells can be a great workout option for many types of people, and she has since built a successful business around strength training and physical therapy using these resistance training tools.

“Kettlebells improved my quality of life, and I wanted to share that with other people,” she says. “I’m 53 now and stronger than I was in my 30s.”

Cheri was always athletic and interested in sports and has been a licensed physical therapist for twenty-five years. But in 1993 she hurt her knee badly enough that she needed arthroscopic surgery to reconstruct a ligament. She was injured again in 2010 and underwent surgery in 2011 to replace arthritic parts of her knee.

After her doctor finally told her she was cleared to go back to regular workouts, Cheri knew that it would be difficult as she was in rough shape, in pain and unable to fully bend the injured knee. She’d also gained some weight due to inactivity and wanted to lose it.

“Kettlebells improved my quality of life, and I wanted to share that with other people”

But in 2013 she stumbled across a group called StrongFirst and took a one-day course that introduced her to kettlebells, an exercise tool she describes as being “like a cannonball with a handle.” She was immediately hooked and, in May of 2014, took her certification exam to become an official StrongFirst instructor.

Later that year Cheri opened her own gym, originally called Elite Girya (“girya” is the word for kettlebell in Russian, the birthplace of the kettlebell), and in 2015 she took the exam to become a Level 2 StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor. As few people were familiar with the term “girya” Cheri eventually changed the name of the business to ELITE Strength & Performance to better indicate that it is a gym.

Kettlebell class practices the Turkish Get-up

Cheri says that using kettlebells started a “snowball effect”—she started feeling less pain and dropped 35 pounds. “I still don’t run well, but I walk better, and if I’m feeling tight and achy, I do some mobility work with the kettlebells, and it makes my knee feel better,” she says.

Her journey also sparked the curiosity of her sister, Tracy Lovgren, who wanted a workout to help her maintain her weight after giving up smoking. Now she is also StrongFirst certified and helps teach classes and kettlebell “swing challenges” at the gym.

helping a client with proper kettlebell form

Kettlebell workouts fit right into the physical therapy part of Cheri’s business. “The principles are right in line with what I do as far as PT, and I started integrating kettlebells into physical therapy for my clientele,” she says. The main focus with both kettlebell workouts and physical therapy regimens is getting the form down properly—quality over quantity.

Cheri says it’s important to engage the right muscle and use the load that’s appropriate for each user, and when done correctly, it’s safe for just about anybody interested in getting stronger or losing weight. “I’ve done kettlebell training with young teenagers and with adults in their late sixties,” she says. “Kettlebells are also versatile. An exercise enthusiast can bring one kettlebell on vacation and do swings, squats, presses, get ups, or anything else they want to focus on.”

But you can’t just come into her gym and pick up a kettlebell and start working out. “You get coaching instruction from start to finish,” she says. Being coached with proper technique lessens the chance of fitness injuries, she says. “The idea is that you’ll get good at it, and then you tweak the workout to get better, and then you tweak it again,” she says. “As you refine your technique, it gets you to the next level of strength. If you’re eating right, you should get strong and lean.”

ELITE Strength & Performance is located at 50 N. Industry Court in Deer Park. Clients can sign up by the month, by the year, or get a 10-visit punch card.

For fees, hours of operation and other details, visit https://elitestrengthli.com or call 631-747-8893.

Photos courtesy of ELITE Strength & Performance

Contact freelance writer Sarah Rigg at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

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