Kettlebell Champion Trains at Zionsville Gym
Writer / Rebecca Wood
Photographer / JJ Kaplan
Tasha Nichols did not participate in sports as an adolescent. This self-proclaimed former “band nerd” says her mother didn’t want Nichols to live in a gym. Nichols laughs at the irony.
“Today, I really do live in the gym,” Nichols chuckles.
Nichols, 28, spends most of her waking hours in a gym for both work and recreation. She works as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at National Institute of Fitness and Sports (NIFS) and Orange Theory. When she’s not coaching others, she’s engaged in her own training. Nichols is an amateur member of the U.S. Kettlebell Team with aspirations to earn professional status. (Kettlebell is a cast-iron or cast steel weight that resembles a cannonball with a handle.) Most of her training is conducted at Hecker’s Fitness in Zionsville.
Rick Huse, a certified kettlebell master trainer and fitness consultant, discovered Nichols at his fitness class. He calls Nichols’s story “inspiring” by noting that she catapulted from beginner to world class competitor in about a year’s time.
Nichols competes in a snatch set in which a competitor uses one arm to swing the kettlebell between the legs and then into an overhead locked position. The winner completes the most rotations within the period of time (10 minutes for Nichols) while maintaining proper form.
“It is difficult for those who have not lifted kettlebells in this style to understand just how hard this lifting is and what it takes to compete,” Huse asserts. “Those who do know understand clearly how amazing Tasha’s story truly is.”
A little over a year ago, Nichols was participating in Huse’s kettlebell class at NIFS. She liked the training, and Huse nudged her to explore the sport. After some reflection and research, Nichols thought, “I can do this.”
Nichols’s physique, fitness level and mental strength led to her rapid growth in the sport. Kettlebell competitors tend to be good endurance athletes with long, lean body types. Nichols checked all those boxes.
Huse said Nichol’s mental strength and attitude have also helped her progress rapidly as a kettlebell athlete.
“Tasha has great conditioning from all of the classes she has taught,” says Huse. “She is very aware of her body position, so coaching technique is very easy. She also has qualities that every great athlete has: she is coachable, willing to work hard and has the desire to win.”
Huse began training Nichols four days a week at Hecker’s Fitness to compete in kettlebell competitions. In total, Nichols trains 12-14 hours a week with the addition of Brazilian jiu jitsu classes and her class instruction time.
At first, Nichols trained with lighter 12 kg. kettlebells. Today, she competes with 16 kg. kettlebells. Nichols works on mobility practice but admits grip strength is the most challenging aspect of the sport.
Last February, Nichols participated in her first International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF) competition in Kentucky. She achieved rank one with the 12 kg. kettlebell.
Then in June, Nichols competed with the 16 kg. kettlebell in an IKFF competition in Chicago. She achieved her Candidate Master of Sport ranking, earning her a Super Performance rating.
In August, she set a national record for the biathlon and earned a spot in the World Kettlebell Championships in Dublin, Ireland, on November 26. Nichols hopes to complete over 200 “snatches” in this competition. (Please note: When this magazine went to print, we were unable to publish how she performed in the competition, but we hope to include that information in a future publication.)
Nichols calls the sport “addictive.” As for the future, she hopes to compete in heavier kettlebell competitions and earn professional status.
“There’s a feeling of success when you add a new weight,” Nichols asserts. “You think there is no way I can do this, but you can see progression quickly.”