Who is Colleen Conlon? She is a New York Post-Guinness World Record Holder and teaches women to overcome limiting beliefs by mastering kettlebells with her Kettlebell Intensive. Embodying her own fierce mindset didn’t happen overnight for Conlon. The ups and downs of her past are part of what propelled her to where she is today. Narrowing down her purpose to help women build strength, confidence all while mastering kettlebells has been more rewarding than she ever thought.
Recess caught up with Colleen to discuss her impressive career and the lessons she has learned along the way. If you are looking to shift your business or even reinvent yourself, then you will find a ton of inspiration from this interview.
Recess: It’s wonderful that you help women overcome limiting beliefs through kettlebell training. Is this a journey you had to travel yourself?
Colleen Conlon (CC): Yes, this is a journey that I had to travel myself. When I was in middle school my best friend took me aside one day and said that the kids would like me better if I was skinny. Then she took me into the bathroom to teach me how to throw up. I struggled with the combination of bulimia, anorexia, and orthorexia for nearly a decade. I remember I would wake up at 4 am before school to get in a workout so that I felt like I could eat something over the course of the day. I would drop down in the middle of class to do a set of crunches before standing up to go to my next class. I was made to feel like unless I was skinny, no one would like me.
Fast forward, I’m 17 years old and I have undergone three abdominal surgeries within a month and a half of each other. It took me about three months before I could stand up or walk on my own again. Once I had clearance to workout, I didn’t feel my abs and I felt like my body had abandoned me. The one thing that I was really good at controlling up to this point was my body and restricting myself. Once again the whole hope was to get people to like me, and I’ll tell you up until I found kettlebells I was such a self-conscious person. If people wanted to be close to me I wouldn’t let them get close to me, I was afraid that if I was in social situations, I wouldn’t be able to control my food. I was really judgemental of what other people were eating or how much somebody else was working out. I kept people away from me.
Finding the kettlebells taught me how to feel proud of myself. My mindset shifted from needing to be skinny to desiring to be strong. And I found that the more that I learned to love myself, the more other people loved me.
Recess: Let’s talk about one of your most recent accomplishments! What led you to set a record for the Heaviest Weight Lifted in 1 hour by Turkish GetUp? Has your passion for strength and endurance challenges always been a part of your journey?
CC: Up until 2020 I was working as a fitness professional between New York and New Jersey for about seven years. I got started with kettlebells about four years ago, and the first two years of actually being able to dabble with kettlebells I spent so much time running around New York City bouncing between 13 different clubs and then going in and out of my client’s apartment gyms and then teaching for a virtual class platform like DailyBurn and EQX+ that I really didn’t have an opportunity to take my training super seriously.
My training predominantly consisted of a couple of 30-minute breaks here and there where I would do 100 swings within 10 minutes. So when the pandemic hit, I realized that I actually have all this time I can train. I wanted to set some goals for myself and I was toying with the idea of doing a world record. I hired a coach and she started piecing together a training plan for me and I ended up setting the world record then in December of 2021, I broke that record and in doing so, I really just wanted to prove to myself and to other people that we can do hard things. I did not grow up as an athlete, I had exercise-induced asthma. I did spend time on pieces of cardio equipment and doing lots of crunches, but I was never picked first in gym class. Over the past two years as I’ve been playing with kettlebells seriously I’ve been feeling really strong and really powerful. I wanted to do something I was passionate about, so I decided to create the opportunity for myself.
I learned that willpower and consistency are going to take you a lot further than how strong you might be in a given moment. There were plenty of sessions where I didn’t feel super strong and there were plenty of sessions where I didn’t want to commit to my training. However, I stayed diligent and because I made it through each of the scheduled workouts I was able to perform at a very high level for myself on the day of the event.
Up until this point. I’ve never had a goal that was this specific where I really had to take a lot of time and train for it. When you choose to push through it’s so powerful to see what you’re actually capable of.
Recess: What did you learn most about yourself preparing for this?
CC: Pivoting my entire business online has been incredible. If COVID didn’t happen, this never would have happened. I didn’t have a single client that wanted to go virtual with me. I ended up hiring a business coach back in the summer of 2020. And I created a six-figure business through Instagram and through the advice of that coach and my life is forever changed. I don’t need to live near a big city in order to work. I can work from anywhere in the world. At this point in time, I live in Phoenix, Arizona. And it’s wonderful because I have total freedom in where I work. All I need is Wi-Fi and I can service all of my clients.
Recess: How has pivoting your entire business online been for you? Have you been able to connect with women in unexpected ways vs in-person training?
CC: I wouldn’t say that the way I’m able to connect with women is necessarily different than how I was connecting with them prior. However, I didn’t have any personal training clients that were women before I went virtual. Before I went virtual, I was primarily training men and I had females in my group fitness classes but none who wanted to train with me privately. And then in all of my marketing, it’s been primarily directed towards women because that’s my ideal client. That’s who I want to help. I’ve had so many struggles on my own and I’m in such a strong place now I want to be able to help guide women to do the exact same thing and feel limitless. Something that has been really cool over the past year is I hosted my first kettlebell competition, a dash retreat in Phoenix, Arizona, eight women from all over the country seven of them who are my personal clients came together and they met for the first time. They’ve done programs together but they’ve never actually met in person and that was just such a beautiful experience getting to know people but not getting to be in person for months, two years before meeting each other, and then when we all actually came together it just felt like this heightened sense of sisterhood was formed.
Recess: What is your number one piece of advice for anyone trying to connect with their fierce mindset?
CC: My number one piece of advice for anyone trying to connect with their fierce mindset is to surround yourself with the people who inspire you. I was really fortunate to find a great business coach. I was really fortunate to find a great kettlebell coach. I was really fortunate to just find a lot of badass women within those two realms. As I was building everything up, I just made sure to share and put myself in situations with other people who believed in me.
My husband is super supportive, which has been wonderful. Anybody who was kind of questioning my decisions, I had to remove myself from them because, you know, you don’t see a whole lot of people creating these virtual kettlebell businesses successfully. I mean there’s more of us out there now but when I was trying to find accounts to inspire me, I didn’t come across a lot. So it required me to look towards the inspiration and other places with different social media presences to dream big and create what I wanted to create. If you go to my page, you’ll notice all of my kettlebells there, they’re painted gold. And I remember seeing some woman talking about how the power of colors can conduct this feeling out of people. I wanted people to feel powerful and regal and that’s one of the reasons why I decided to paint all my kettlebells gold because there’s a feeling that comes with that. There’s a specific person that you’re trying to attract with that. So being open to finding inspiration from other people on social media was a really big help.
This is why it’s important to just surround yourself with inspiration and people who believe in you. When I initially invested in a business coach. I had told my dad and he told me it was a really bad investment idea. And after I finished the course, I launched my 13-week kettlebell intensive for the very first time, and I made $24,000 from a $5,000 investment. And you know, if I had listened to him if I was like, Oh my gosh, you know, he’s probably right, I need my money back then I wouldn’t be in the position I am today.
I remember when I started building out my business, I thought it wouldn’t be possible to create a 6 figure business, but it is! You need to surround yourself with people who have big visions and aren’t stuck in a mindset where things seem impossible. Nothing is impossible. You just need to keep an open mind, take action, and surround yourself with positive energy people! If you can do that you will find a fierce mindset.