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Meet Kristen Karhio of KOR Strength and Conditioning in North Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristen Karhio.

Kristen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Originally I’m from upstate NY. I was recruited as a heptathlete for the San Diego State Track & Field team. I studied Art (with an emphasis in Interior Design), but all I wanted to do was train. I spent a lot of time in the weight room and that is where I was introduced to kettlebells.

While still in school, I started teaching a kettlebell class at a boxing gym. I loved the surge of energy I got from standing in front of a room full of people. It brought me back to high school Performing Arts. As I shared my knowledge of kettlebells, I noticed my clients becoming stronger and over-all better at moving. Seeing them make progress was incredibly rewarding to me. That’s when I realized I wanted to make this my career.

After graduating in 2008, I got a part-time job bartending at a pool on the weekends so that I could build up my clientele at the gym. This is where I met my current business partner, Dan Bettcher. He took my kettlebell classes and we punched and kicked each other in Muay Thai class. [Fun fact: He gave me a black eye once while we were sparring.] I ended up becoming roommates with Dan after going through a tough break up.

Eventually, the gym changed management, and that was the push I needed to take the next step. I always dreamed of having my own gym and Dan had some capital to invest in it. In 2011, we took the plunge and opened our doors as KOR Strength & Conditioning.

Has it been a smooth road?
After 3 years of steadily growing, we had the opportunity to expand next door. We put lots of money, blood, sweat and tears into our new and improved space, only to find out a year later that the HOA voted us out and we would not be allowed to renew our lease. With very short notice, we had to pick up and move.

Finding a space was challenging, so we settled on a smaller, “short-term” space in an alley in North Park. We put a lot of our equipment into storage and down-sized but ended up falling in love with our neighbors and the community here.

Fast-forward 3 years and we’re still here, right behind Belching Beaver Tasting Room. We are now scheduled to expand this September. Here we go again – but under much better circumstances this time.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the KOR Strength and Conditioning story. Tell us more about the business.
KOR is a strength and conditioning studio that is dedicated to teaching people how to achieve their fitness goals. Our experienced coaches provide a customized experience so that people of all ages, fitness levels and backgrounds can explore movement, learn new skills and enjoy the benefits of strength training together.

We blend various methods of training to help our clients achieve their goals, but one of our favorite tools is the kettlebell. Our Kettlebell Camp teaches people how to use kettlebells effectively and safely to meet their specific goals.

Besides that, we host many unique workshops, camps and certification courses with guest instructors. We also have a kettlebell sports team that travels around the country to compete together. For members less interested in serious competition, we have lots of fun social events during the year and friendly in-house challenges, including our twice annual Swingers Club Challenge (named after the kettlebell swing, of course). There’s something for everyone and we like to make it fun.

I’m proud of the community we’ve built. The camaraderie keeps people motivated and accountable. In fitness, consistency is key.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The fitness industry is all over the place. I’m happy to see that more woman are strength training, without the fear of “getting bulky”. I’ve noticed a little less emphasis on what a woman should look like and more on what a woman can do. I think this will continue. Hopefully, the media gets on board.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Alon David

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