NICHOLASVILLE — You don't need a fancy gym to get in shape. Or expensive equipment. Or a lot of time. You don't need to be young, either.
Just ask Dyer Rodes, 81, who works out three times a week with Eric Karls at 6ft Fitness, a homemade gym at a warehouse in a Jessamine County industrial park.
"I've always tried to do something to exercise," Rodes, a longtime runner, said after one of his intense, hourlong workouts. "I think everybody ought to be doing some exercise — whatever your body allows you to do. I can't do everything I used to could do."
But Rodes can do a lot. And so can the other regulars at 6ft Fitness, who over the past year have steadily increased their strength and aerobic capacity.
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"There are no magic moves here," Karls said. "It's just a lot of hard work."
After stretching, Karls gives the class a different routine each session. They do push-ups and pull-ups. They lift and swing kettlebell weights. And they lift, carry and toss other weights made of everything from used truck tires to Army duffel bags filled with sand, and old beer kegs filled with water.
"It's nothing fancy; almost everything here is used," Karls said. "Anything odd and unusual that you can carry or pull or drag."
Karls, 33, a construction manager, said he was a high school football and strength coach in Chicago before moving to Central Kentucky to be near the family of his wife, Kelly. After he discovered kettlebells and took a rigorous certification class to learn how to exercise with them, he started doing workouts in his garage instead of in a gym.
He set up a side business in his employer's warehouse to teach people his exercise techniques. Many involve kettlebells — heavy balls with handles that look something like tea kettles. Karls' kettlebells weigh between five and 35 pounds.
Karls chose the name 6ft Fitness from what he said is many people's mistaken notion that they are fit enough to climb over a six-foot fence if they wanted to. The class meets Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings all year long. He charges $150 for any 12 sessions that participants want to attend. (More information: (859) 494-9119, 6ftfitness.com)
For the past year, the core class of about six people has ranged in age from a 20-year-old college student to Rodes. "He's not your average 81-year-old," Karls said with admiration. "The problem with Dyer is getting him to reel himself in."
In addition to Karls and his wife, class members include Jason Miller, 37, of Versailles, who works for an insurance company; Robbie Lyons, 57, a Jessamine County farmer; and Karen Holder, who owns the Merle Norman Cosmetics stores in Lexington. Holder didn't want to divulge her age. "I could draw Social Security," she said with a smile. "I don't, but I could."
When the workouts begin, age seems irrelevant. Each class member is working flat-out against the limitations of his or her own strength and stamina.
"We all like to talk about how hard it is," Holder said. "It's more challenging than anything I've ever done. But you feel so good after a workout."
Lyons, who grew up in Ireland playing soccer and in more recent years played rugby with a Lexington club team, is mainly interested in getting aerobic exercise after two heart surgeries. "It's been great," he said.
The workouts are tough, physically and mentally. "But you build up to it," Holder said. "We didn't start out like this."
What keeps everyone going, class after class, is the encouragement they get from one another and from Karls, who goes around the class each week giving pointers and answering questions. And, of course, a little subtle competition is involved.
"You have to have a certain personality to like this; you have to enjoy a little pain," Miller said. "This pushes you further than you ever think you can go. But after a workout, you have no problem sleeping. I can tell you that."