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Mikki Reily of Fitness Transform utilizes kettle bells, foam rollers, and stability balls as part of her workout program

Paul Wellman

Mikki Reily of Fitness Transform utilizes kettle bells, foam rollers, and stability balls as part of her workout program


Tools of the Exercise Trade

Fitness Transform’s Mikki Reilly Breaks Down the Fixtures of Fitness


The fitness world takes many forms, especially here in Santa Barbara, where the weather beckons year-round cycling, hiking, marathoning, and long swims in the ocean. A whole different realm exists indoors, however, where finely tuned exercise techniques and thoughtful meal planning can improve your quality of life without consuming several waking hours on a daily basis.

Take Fitness Transform, for example, a downtown fitness studio that, through private and small-group exercise schedules and nutritional feedback, focuses on helping women and men of all ages and athletic ability become leanly fit and pain-free. To get there, owner/operator Mikki Reilly commands a small arsenal of exercise equipment and a weighty knowledge of a proper plants-and-animals diet.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

What’re the benefits of using kettlebells over traditional dumbbells?

Reilly: The kettlebell differs from the dumbbell in that its design, which resembles a cannonball with a handle, causes the weight of the bell to hang off of your body, creating an offset center of gravity. As a result, your body must use stabilizing core muscles to counteract this imbalance and bring your body back to equilibrium. Kettlebells teach you to engage your core, which translates into more power when lifting.

Also, unlike dumbbells, kettlebells swing, which creates momentum. The everyday actions of picking up grocery bags, picking up your kids, and moving things around all involve momentum. So training with kettlebells prepares you for the activities of daily life while restoring primitive movement patterns lost to modern living.

When did foam rollers show up in the fitness world?

Foam rollers were first used in the 1980s in the Feldenkrais Method for body support and balance work. Starting around 1987, physical therapist and Feldenkrais-fan Sean Gallagher spread the word about foam rollers as self-massage tools and to loosen up connective muscle tissue.

I’ve found that the benefits include release of chronic muscular tension and adhesions and the increase of blood flow and improvement of tissue quality. They can correct the adverse effects of sedentary living and help realign the skeletal system so that it moves more efficiently, which makes it easier to build muscle and burn fat. Plus, they’re more convenient and less expensive than deep-tissue massage.

And what’s the deal with those so-called stability balls?

The stability ball is one of my favorite training tools because it’s so versatile. It can be used to develop body awareness and rehab injuries, and more recently, top level athletes are using them to improve strength and balance. The stability ball develops the deep segmental muscles that stabilize the spine, helping to prevent injury and improve posture and movement efficiency.

Because the stability ball rolls in all directions, it’s great stimulus for working in all three planes of motion — front-to-back, side-to-side, and rotational. The instability of the ball helps develop your neutralizers (the muscles that counteract the actions of other muscles) and stabilizers (the muscles that surround the joint and hold it relatively still). As a result, you become stronger all around, improving performance in traditional exercises that don’t require a stability ball.

How does your background in bodybuilding translate into your Fitness Transform training programs?

As a bodybuilder, I did a lot of compound, full-body exercises with barbells, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench press. I still incorporate these exercises in my training programs because they are the best way to increase strength and build lean body mass.

Combining those exercises with Paleo/Primal nutrition, what happens?

The Paleo/Primal diet and exercise combination make it easy to decrease body fat and increase lean body mass, which translates into better body composition. But ultimately this approach is very effective for maintaining a lean, fit, and pain-free body throughout your life. Since the Paleo diet is anti-inflammatory, I experience very little pain and joint stiffness, with great mobility and range of motion.

On a personal level, my emphasis has changed from bodybuilding (building muscle to look strong) to moving well, feeling strong, and increasing longevity. It’s about quality of life now.

Fitness Transform is located at 1213 State Street, Ste. K. Call 805-680-9506.

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