Kettlebell class thrives even through pandemic

THE WARRIORS KETTLEBELL exercise group includes 17 women. Shown from left at a Vergennes workout last week are, front row, Connie Houston, Cherie Vachon and Carol Spencer; and back row, Mary Gordon, Janet Seaburg, Joanne Ringer, Karen Quigley, Katrina Matthews. Independent photo/Steve James

PANTON — Seventeen faithful attendees of a senior kettlebell workout class at Vintage Fitness Center in Vergennes were much chagrined when center owners Kimberly and Joel Palmer decided it was best to close operations after the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020.

The members of the class, average age in the early 70s with the oldest in the mid-80s, understood the tough choice the Palmers had to make. But still they took the news hard.

“We had a group of us, the lower-impact older group, that were just devastated,” said Panton resident Janet Seaburg, 84. “We need that at our age.”

Vergennes resident Karen Quigley, 67, also remembered when she learned the Palmers shut down Vintage Fitness. Especially during the pandemic’s lockdown phase, she said missing the class was painful.

“I felt incredibly lost. This twice-a-week thing had been a way to get me out of the house, and I think the others felt the same. We were together, and we were exercising,” Quigley said. “When everything came to a screeching halt, we all were lost. We didn’t know what to do.”

MARY GORDON AND her classmates do stretching exercises in between kettlebell lifting. Independent photo/Steve James

Then Seaburg had the brainstorm that first sparked the group into organizing their own self-directed classes: She offered her Panton property on Button Bay as a workout site. It has room for all to observe masking and distancing recommendations.

“I live in this big house on the lake with a nice yard, and I have a three-car garage, and I can clean it and open all the doors,” she said. “So we came here last July 9, and we’ve had 126 classes since then.”

The fact that they have met that often is also thanks to another Seaburg idea. As the weather started to turn cold in the fall of 2020, she thought of the large dog training space at Comfort Hill Kennel in Vergennes, run by Linette Paquette.

“She said she has this huge dog obedience ring,” Seaburg said. “She’s been renting that space to us two days a week for an hour in the winter.”

Since the first workout on Seaburg’s lawn on July 9, between 13 and 17 members of the group have faithfully attended — and taken turns leading — the group workouts.

As well as kettlebells — weighing between 5 and 30 pounds depending on the strength and joint condition of the participants — Quigley said workouts incorporate cardio calisthenics, such as jogging in place and jumping jacks, and core-strengthening exercises using resistance bands and exercise balls.

The variety creates a more complete and interesting workout, she said.

“It encompasses everything, and thanks to Kim and Joel Palmer we have the skills now. We know what we’re doing, and we know how to be safe,” Quigley said. “It just works for all of us.”

Workouts average about 14 people per session. The group has grown close, and members call themselves The Warriors and own matching green T-Shirts.

Independent photo/Steve James


Why do they keep coming back for more? For both healthy exercise and friendship.

“(It’s) the camaraderie and the core training, just the whole overall training, the laughter and the sharing,” Seaburg said. “We just kept up with it. We all support each other. We laugh. We have a good 50-minute exercise.”

Quigley agreed.

“Somehow we have arrived at a very cohesive group. Everybody gets along. Everybody supports each other in the classes and privately, when someone is having a family issue or a health issue or whatever it might be,” Quigley said. “For me it’s an incredible group of people … We have a lot of laughs.”

So, why kettlebells? Certainly it helped that the Palmers offered that alternative, and those who tried it liked it.

“I am an exercise person. I had done Curves, which you can’t even mention to a kettlebell person. But that’s all there was here. But then this came, and I just loved it,” Seaburg said. “Joel still has videos on YouTube. You can watch them and see what an overall program this is.”

Quigley confessed she was an exercise skeptic before starting the Palmers’ classes in December 2016. She said friend and fellow Warrior Denise Kennedy had to twist Quigley’s arm to attend.

“Prior to that I hated exercise, and my neighbor dragged me kicking and screaming to try this,” she said. “And I said I’m not going to like it. I can’t do it. And I loved it.”


“It’s not just 30 minutes on a treadmill where you want to just fall asleep because you’re so bored. It’s constant movement. The little exercise routines last maybe three or four minutes, so it’s always changing, it’s always different,” Quigley said.


Research supports the Warriors’ efforts as a great way to improve physical and mental health.

A article ( describes kettlebells as weights that “have been around since the 1700s” and are “shaped like a cannonball with an iron handle attached.”

According to the article, “Working with weights such as kettlebells can slow down a number of conditions that tend to accompany aging … strength training can decrease pain from arthritis and help you manage diabetes.

“Even if you’re in perfect health, working with weights can improve your mood, help you sleep better and lower your risk of heart disease. Using kettlebells may also improve your bone density, so if you fall, your bones won’t fracture as easily.”

THE WARRIORS’ KETTLEBELL workouts involve more than standing in place and deadlift heavy pieces of iron. Independent photo/Steve James

A paper from a quartet of medical professionals at Tufts University ( states:

“Essential to staying strong and vital during older adulthood is participation in regular strengthening exercises, which help to prevent osteoporosis and frailty by stimulating the growth of muscle and bone. Feeling physically strong also promotes mental and emotional health. Strength training exercises are easy to learn, and have been proven safe and effective through years of thorough research.”

Quigley would agree. After five years of Warrior workouts how does she feel?

“Immensely better, much stronger. Probably stronger than I’ve ever been in my life,” she said. “And it’s a good mental exercise as well. It keeps your brain active.”

CHERIE VACHON, UPPER left, is all smiles as she lifts a kettlebell at the twice-weekly workouts held at the Comfort Hill Kennels in Vergennes. Independent photo/Steve James


The Warrior workouts started with members leading routines written down on index cards, but by now they know they it all by heart.

As Seaburg said, the notes are now longer needed: “Kim and Joel had taught us more than we realized.”

Of course, any workout benefits from music. Seaburg creates playlists of her preferred tunes and sends them to her grandson in Connecticut, and he takes care of the technological end.

“I have five good playlists, and I’m working on a couple more,” Seaburg said, citing as favorites show tunes, the stylings of pop singers Michael Bublé and Roger Whittaker, and, if she wants to pick up the pace, songs by Willie Nelson or Huey Lewis and the News.

Quigley said Seaburg incorporated some of Kim Palmer’s so-called “silver” playlist into her musical selections, including “a couple polka songs” to liven things up.

While they laugh and sweat through their routines, Quigley said the Warriors also motivate one another.

“I watch these 80-somethings in our group who are doing jumping jacks better than I can,” Quigley said. “I’m one of the youngest, and I’m 67. And we go upwards in age to a woman who’s 86. To be with these people, we’re all seniors, but probably half the group is 10 to 15 years older than I am. They’re inspiring. I want to be them when I’m that age.”

What would she say to those who, like she did five years ago, resist the notion of exercising?

“I would say start by watching Joel Palmer’s YouTube videos ( They’re fabulous. He has everything from a beginner’s routine to advanced. He does incredible safety pointers,” Quigley said.

But she admits not all will be fortunate enough to find a group like the Warriors.

“It really was a gift,” Quigley said. “We’re incredibly lucky to have Janet’s beautiful yard in the summer and Comfort Hill in the winter.”

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