Health in Action: Andrea U-Shi Chang’s Fresh Start With Kettlebells

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Our Health in Action series profiles people in the community who are living Actively Northwest. Follow along as we profile new people who are committed to living active, healthy lives through fitness and food.

Sometimes, shaking up your health routine involves a leap of faith. For Andrea U-Shi Chang, it took some serious self-reflection — and an introduction to kettlebells.

After her son was born, U-Shi Chang weighed 195 pounds and had 34% body fat. Something, she realized, had to give. So she took a friend’s advice and turned to a little-known exercise tool called a kettlebell: a heavy spherical weight with a large handle. Little did she know that these strange-looking weights would soon transform her life.

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Today, U-Shi Chang owns Kettlebility, the very first kettlebell gym in the Pacific Northwest (located in Green Lake, Seattle). We chatted with the kettlebell superstar about her health journey — and we dare you not to be inspired by her story.

ANW: Tell us a little more about your health journey. How did you end up opening Kettlebility?

kettlebellsAndrea: After being a college athlete and then getting quite heavy for many, many years, I realized that I just didn’t feel good anymore. I decided that I needed to change my life. I started training with kettlebells — and it was amazing! In five months, I dropped 45 pounds, got strong and never looked back. I had found my true passion.

Shortly after my transformation, I became a certified kettlebell instructor — I wanted to share what I’d learned. After a few years teaching group classes outside in the rain and renting spaces in other gyms, I decided to open Kettlebility. To be able to share the gift of fitness has been a fantastic and very rewarding journey so far, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here!

ANW: So why kettlebells? How are they different than using free weights, and what are the fitness benefits?

kettlebellsAndrea: Kettlebells are great because you can use them for repetitive movements like swings, but also because they’re weighted unevenly. For example, if you’re pressing them overhead, then you have to stabilize them with your whole body — which recruits more of your core in an integrated manner. As a result, less is more! Three 15-minute kettlebell training sessions can get more done than three 60-minute sessions at a regular gym.

ANW: How do you stay motivated to keep active?

Andrea: For me, it’s knowing three things: that moving better now will help me move better when I’m 80; that being strong makes everything I do easier; and lastly, that if I do the first two things, I’ll feel great about myself and look as good as I can look for me. Ultimately, it’s self-perpetuating motivation — because it’s so much fun!

ANW: What advice do you have for someone new to kettlebells?

Andrea: Find a local certified StrongFirst Kettlebell instructor (SFG) and get competent instruction. It’s kind of like learning how to ski (or learning any skilled sport, for that matter): Get a good instructor, and you’ll get started on the right foot right away.

ANW: Any final tips for readers hoping to adopt a healthier lifestyle?

Andrea: Don’t wait! Take a walk, play with your kids, find a group class you’ve always been interested in, hire a coach … Even if you think you’re not ready, just jump in. Because what you’ll find is that you can rise to the occasion.

Studio photographs courtesy of Andrea U-Shi Chang.