Debbie Kulmer is well known in our local fitness community, having been part of the team of trainers that opened up the Athens Limestone Hospital Wellness Center where she taught spinning and group fitness. Prior to opening up the Wellness Center, she worked at the Athens Athletics Club as their Aerobics Director as well as Manager, and as an Instructor at Moran’s Sports and Fitness. She also rented space and taught classes as a contractor at Steve McGlockin’s Lions’ Den, teaching, (among other things,) the use of kettlebells, which I’ll talk about in a bit.
Debbie will be the first to tell you that she got into the personal training and fitness profession “for all the wrong reasons.” She had worked out off and on after her first pregnancy, but by her own admission had been more of a couch potato. By the time her second child was born, she says she couldn’t afford a gym membership. “Becoming a group fitness instructor made it so I could get paid as well as have free day care while I worked out,” she said. It was in 1991 that she received her first of many group fitness instructor certifications, and while getting a good workout and free day care may have been her motivation back then, it is easy to see now that her true passion is giving the kind of personalized training that can help someone handily achieve their fitness goals. “I do not work out with my clients,” she said. “That session is not for my personal workout, it is for focusing on them,” she said emphatically.
She has clients as varied as former Athens City Councilwoman Dr. Millie Caudle, who is in her 80s, to a young woman who is a helicopter mechanic in Afghanistan, home on leave. She is equally adept at challenging clients of both genders at any level of fitness to becoming their personal best.
So, what is a “boutique gym?” Just like a boutique retail clothing outlet, a boutique gym is small, not at all designed to cater to the masses, and offers a much higher level of personal care, training and attention. Balance Personal Training’s Fit Lab, located in Athens at 800 US Hwy 72 W., Suite L does not have the kind of equipment often seen at other facilities, such as treadmills, elliptical machines, or weight lifting benches and spotters. Rather, it operates out of a “functional fitness” approach, with your own body weight serving as the lion’s share of the “equipment,” enhanced by a few specially selected pieces that give maximum results in less time. At the Fit Lab there are spinning bikes, Russian kettlebells, smash balls, sand bags, and the TRX body weight suspension system.
I attended a Mega Blast beginning at 6:30 am on Saturday, Aug 9th in order to experience firsthand what Fit Lab had to offer, and I was impressed. I was most interested in learning how to use kettlebells, a set of weights developed by the Russians and used extensively for decades throughout the former Soviet bloc. At the Mega Blast, there were people of all sizes, shapes and skill levels, and everyone went at their own pace. “Miss-3-Percent-Body-Fat-With-A-Six-Pack” was right next to several who could not make that claim, and the encouraging, cooperative energy in the room was palpable. Everyone was helping each other, and no one made you feel like a piece of meat.
I had first become aware of kettlebells while I was in Iraq, but had no experience with them, and wanted to learn more. The history of kettlebells is as enigmatic as it is interesting. Kettlebells are thought to have originated in Greece, and then migrated to Russia in the early 1700s. The weights were initially designed to be the counterbalance that would determine how much a load of grain weighed, and during slow times the workers would use the weights to increase their strength by swinging them. Eventually competitions arose and the rules were codified. In 1948, it was hailed as the official “folk sport” of the Soviet Union, but women were not allowed to compete in “kettlebell sport” until the 21st Century.
Debbie would like to specifically thank Steve McGlockin of the Lions’ Den for taking a chance with her when she introduced kettlebells to North Alabama. “I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today if he hadn’t taken a chance with me when no one else would,” she said. Debbie travelled to Michigan to get her training, and while some certifications can be achieved in a day, the training she took lasted for a week. “It was brutal, and worth it,” she said. Learning how to use them at first is not easy, but totally enjoyable. Debbie requires that someone come in for a separate training session on the kettlebells before they join a Boot Camp class, Mega Blast, or any other group activity. “Safety is always going to be our greatest concern, and people are going to be safer and get better results if they are trained properly.” I couldn’t agree more.
In addition to the Mega Blast that I attended, Balance Personal Training LLC’s Fit Lab also offers the following specialty classes: Urban Boot Camp, SPINNING 8 Week Weight Loss Program, Train2Run, and X-TREME Fitness Makeover.
If you are looking for a “boutique gym,” Balance Personal Training’s Fit Lab is it. If you are looking for a highly trained and experienced trainer who can strike the balance between “drop and give me 20,” and cheering you on as though you were running the 4 minute mile for the first time, Debbie Kulmer is your gal. For more information, please give her a call at 256-777-2519, or email her at balancept@gmail. She is also on Facebook at Balance Personal Training’s Fit Lab.
Balance Personal Training’s Fit Lab
800 US Hwy 72 W, Athens, AL 35611
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner