How do I spell your name correctly?
What do you do for a living?
I’m an actress. I perform at the national theater in Oslo for the time being, and I’m in a Norwegian film that is playing now. I do improv and teach improv as well.
What is your work schedule like?
I rehearse and perform 4-6 times per week, often with two shows on the weekend. I do other work in the daytime, such as recording commercials for the radio or filming for a TV series. Occasionally I work with a touring country and tour Norway. If I do films like I did last year, I travel to Hungary and Germany to shoot. Now I mostly work in Oslo because I have a young daughter.
What is your athletic background?
I’ve never done any sports. I was trained as a dancer at the Norwegian national ballet school, which I did for three years before going to the national theater school. I’ve been dancing since I was 4-5 years old. I started dancing daily starting at 10 years old. I started going to the gym when I was about 30, but I wasn’t very focused on anything.
How did you find Kettlebell Sport?
I had a child when I was 41, and it was hard to lose weight afterwards. I wanted to start training harder and get back in shape, so I started going to the gym more steadily when my daughter was about 6 years old. I started to work with Nils Lundgren three years ago. In the beginning we didn’t do much with the kettlebells, just swings. At one point I asked to do more kettlebells. My friend who worked with kettlebells had really nice arms and I said “I want to have arms like her”. Nils said he could help me with that!
In the beginning, my goal was the aesthetics; to be skinny and look fit. About a year and a half ago that changed. Aesthetics were no longer the main focus once I began Kettlebell Sport training. Now I go to the gym for other reasons – no longer to lose weight, but to get stronger and better at kettlebell technique.
“At a certain point, we switched from soccer mom training to athlete training and she earned the Russian nickname Vikstretchky.” – Coach Nils Lundgren
What do you like about Kettlebell Sport?
I like the beauty of it. I find it aesthetically beautiful, and while at the moment I do not accomplish the beauty of the lifting myself, it’s something I’m reaching for. I like the meditative part of lifting and the small technical adjustments. The movements are “dance-like” in a way; there is a smooth and graceful element to kettlebell lifting.
What is your favorite kettlebell lift?
I like Snatch now that I’m better at it! In the beginning I did only Long Cycle, but in the last 7-8 months I’ve been doing snatch.
What is your best result so far?
Snatch 14kg 181 reps in 10 minutes.
How has Kettlebell Sport helped you physically?
I feel way fitter and stronger. I never used to do anything with my arms; I neglected my arms completely. I like that kettlebell lifting is something I can do anywhere – the kettlebell is easy to transport.
Why is Kettlebell Sport a good training method for you, as an entertainer?
It’s very efficient – even if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands and you want to get a workout in, you can do that in very little time. You can do a lot in a half an hour which is great! You get the cardio as well as the strength.
How does Kettlebell Sport help you in your personal and professional life?
Being an actor, I need to be in shape. I like that I have the strength to do 2 performances where I am onstage singing and dancing for 4 hours without being exhausted. Breathing and concentration around using your body is easy to transfer to my job. The discipline of the lifting transfers as well. The kettlebell can be painful and horrible, and you have to live through that – as an actor, life can be quite hard and painful as well! To be able to stay in pain for a length of time helps in life.
What is the most challenging part about lifting kettlebells? The most rewarding part?
Right now the most challenging part of training is that my hands are hurting! If I didn’t get pain in my hand, I think I could do 10 minutes with 16kg. Also, starting a set can be intimidating because you never know if you will reach your goal. Sometimes I’m ahead of the game and sometimes I’m like shit, what is this?! It keeps me alert. I would like to become strong enough that 10 minutes feels easy – that’s the goal. The most rewarding part of kettlebells is the feeling of accomplishing something that seems impossible.
What are your goals for Kettlebell Sport?
My goal is to lift 16kg 200 reps in 10 minutes in the next 8 months.
What does your family think of you lifting kettlebells?
They think it’s great. “Don’t hurt yourself” says my husband Tony. My daughter has little kettlebells that she lifts.
Do you talk about kettlebell lifting at work?
I like to brag about my kettlebell sets at work, but every time I have to explain what it is because nobody knows. I proudly show a picture of myself lifting 18kg and they don’t understand.
How do you prioritize living a healthy lifestyle as a busy professional?
My job often doesn’t start before 10am so I always have time to work out in the morning. I get up, bring my kid to school, walk my dog, and then work out (4x per week). I live close by and I make working out part of my routine. When I go to bed at night I look forward to going to work out in the morning. I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get to go either.
Any advice for beginner lifters?
To learn Kettlebell Sport, it’s essential to get a coach, which I think applies to all types of working out. If you are looking for something fun and challenging and efficient that you can do at any age, kettlebells are great. You don’t have to lift 20kg, you can lift 8kg!
Helén Vikstvedt is a well-known Norwegian actress, dancer, and comedian. She currently performs at the National Theatre in Oslo.