For those who like working out under the open sky instead of an indoor gym, fitness trainer Evelina Solio’s classes might be where you need to head to in your sweatshirts and track pants.
On Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 6 p.m., Solio shows up at Queen’s Park, ready to teach people how to tone their hamstrings and quads with just a pair of kettlebells.
There is no one fixed spot at Queen’s Park — “We kind of move the spot every once in a while, depending on the weather or how dark it is,” said Solio, who works at the outdoor equipment company Arc'teryx during the day.
The one-hour sessions see a small group of people — anywhere between two and nine — squeezing their glutes, hinging their hips and launching the kettlebell swing.
“Sometimes, we use a tree trunk to do push-ups, or the picnic tables to do ‘mountain climbers’. We use what’s available in the park for the workouts,”
But what about in the winter?
“You might be a bit cold for like the first few minutes; eventually, after a warm-up, the first layer comes off. And as we go further with the workout, people keep taking their jackets off because they will be hot.”
Inspired by Finnish fitness groups
Solio, who moved from Finland to Canada five years ago, noted: “One big thing in Finland is that we are not scared of the weather at all — whether it’s a rainy or snowy day.”
“We are so used to the winter being so dark and cold. We don’t let the weather stop us from doing what we want to do.”
Which is why outdoor workout groups are “very popular” in Finland, she added.
“It’s such a big difference when you're working out outside getting fresh air — no matter the weather, you always feel much better.”
Solio’s outdoor kettlebell training group is her way to recreate such a fitness group in New West. Though what really pushed her to start one is the COVID pandemic.
Back in Finland, Solio took up kettlebell training at the age of 15. In the following years, she worked at gyms (front desks and sales), and exposed herself to a variety of exercise routines.
Out of all the fitness routines, she found kettlebell exercises the most fun.
“Kettlebell training is very functional, because you do weight training, cardio mobility — all in one. The resistance of the kettlebell forces you to use your body more. So, it’s dynamic.”
From being a kettlebell maker to a kettlebell trainer
After moving to Canada, Solio began a "little project." Along with her boyfriend, she decided to make kettlebells — about 15 of them — in a warehouse in Maple Ridge.
Her boyfriend and his dad cut and welded them, and she did the finishing touches.
The plan was to sell them to local gyms. However, that didn’t pan out well, thanks to COVID. “Everything was in lockdown; all the gyms were closed,” she said.
But out of that challenge sprouted an idea: “What if people want to still work out, but just don't want to pay and buy the kettlebells?”
So in September 2021, she started Perkele Power (Perkele is a Finnish word that can be loosely translated to ‘damn’ or "Shout to the heavens for strength" in English) to offer fitness training using kettlebells that she and her boyfriend made.
This way, she said, the kettlebells were used to “bring the community back together; where people got to not just spend time together, but also be outdoors, working out, and getting healthy.”
‘Listen to your body’
When Solio started her fitness journey, “it was kind of an on-and-off thing, a love-and-hate relationship,” she recalled.
Eventually, she found a fitness routine (a mix of gym, stretching, walking, running, biking, yoga and more) that suited her the best.
“I started doing it more from the view of ‘What makes me feel good and what’s healthy for me?’ instead of, ‘Oh, I have to look a certain way or I have to be a certain weight on the scale’.”
As a certified trainer, she wants her clients to think about fitness from a similar perspective.
“It’s your workout, your experience; you have to listen to your body," she said.
"You can scale it up, or scale it down depending on what you are feeling today.”