Mother/daughter duo Deb and Kelby discuss working together, the local fitness scene, and running the Boston Marathon
“Fitness is my passion; it continuously inspires me to live life with a purpose, on purpose,” said Kelby Kleinendorst, a local personal and group trainer, marathon runner and overall fitness enthusiast. “It is a celebration of what our minds and bodies are capable of.”
Being the daughter of a professional hockey player and fitness instructor, it’s no wonder Kelby decided to pursue a career in the fitness industry.
Scot, Kelby’s father, played hockey at Providence College from 1978-1982 and then went pro in 1981, playing until 1990, just before Kelby and her twin brother, Kyle, were born. He was a defenseman for the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers and finished his career with the Washington Capitals.
“The personal attributes that assisted him in achieving this level of success were the ability to remain calm under pressure, a strong competitive spirit, physical and mental toughness, and strong drive to succeed and excel,” said Deb, Kelby’s mother, who said her daughter takes a lot after her husband when it comes to setting and achieving goals.
“She’s stubborn and persistent [like he is],” Deb laughed.
Although Kelby never got to see her father play professionally, from the time she was a little girl, she watched videos and heard stories of his work ethic, his fearlessness on the ice and his ability to “power through any and all pain.”
“He goes above and beyond everyday and has sacrificed a lot of things for our family over the years. I definitely wouldn’t be be where I am today without the lessons he has taught me, and by continuing to be inspired by the example he sets everyday,” she said of her father. Her mother is another presence who inspired Kelby’s journey into the fitness industry.
As a little girl, Kelby said she often served as her mother’s “trial client” in many of her mother’s fitness classes. Deb has been teaching fitness sporadically for more than 30 years, having begun her career as an instructor at the Itasca County Family YMCA.
“I love the challenge of movement, of learning and teaching, and just being a part of helping others enhance their physical and emotional health and well-being,” explained Deb of her passion for her career.
“I love seeing students push themselves, feel the sense of accomplishment after completing a tough workout, realizing they are stronger than they knew,” she continued. “Exercise is hard and uncomfortable, so I try my best to make it fun at the same time and make sure everyone feels good about their experience, despite their individual fitness level. I love the challenge of putting together all of those elements into a single session of teaching because when it happens, it’s the best feeling ever.”
The last 10 years of her career as a fitness instructor has been spent at CENTER Fitness in Grand Rapids, where Deb teaches a number of popular classes, including barre, spin and pilates among others. CENTER prides itself on not being the “typical gym,” and offers group classes in a number of areas of fitness, personal and group training opportunities, workshops and more. The course offerings of the studio include a number of old favorites such as pilates, barre, yoga and high-intensity interval training classes, as well as a number of interesting mashups, such as Kettlebell Barre, Ride/TRX, and Ride and Roll. (To learn more about the studio, and for a schedule of classes, visit their website, center-mn.com.)
While the studio offers a plethora of fun, challenging and rewarding classes, one of the aspects that really keeps patrons coming back for more is the amazing and talented staff; not to mention the super cute mother/daughter duo of Deb and Kelby. With a love of fitness and competition running in her genes, it’s no surprise that three years ago, Kelby began her career as a fitness instructor and personal trainer at CENTER alongside her mother.
It’s been “a blast” having the opportunity to work alongside her daughter, said Deb.
“There are so many great things about working together, but I’d have to say my favorite is sharing ideas, experiences and insights with each other,” she said. “Fitness is such a dynamic industry, every day there is something new to discuss and explore. Oftentimes, Kelb keeps me fresh and I keep her grounded. It’s a nice balance.”
Their relationship also creates a fun dynamic for the studio and its patrons, Deb continued.
“There’s lots of banter among and with students about what brand of ‘torture’ we delivered in classes that week and usually about who was more evil,” she said.
Although there are many positives to working alongside her daughter, Deb said there are some challenges, especially navigating how to adequately manage the professional relationship with the mother/daughter one.
“Figuring out when to put my mom hat on or my colleague hat on, [that’s the most challenging,]” she explained. “Let’s just say when I goof that up, it’s quite apparent. But she’s guilty of the same misstep, so we always figure it out.”
“Let’s just say it definitely is hard to be anyone other than yourself when your mom is a student in your class,” said Kelby. “You can’t get away with many slip ups! That said, it is always good to be able to laugh at yourself and I think our clients find humor in the dynamics of our relationship.”
When CENTER opened in its new space a few years ago, Kelby was a brand new instructor and had very little experience teaching group fitness.
“It wasn’t always easy taking professional advice from your mom, but at the end of the day, she gives the best advise,” she said. “I was very lucky to have had her guidance over the years and know I am a better fitness instructor because the feedback she has given me. Our relationship is pretty unique and spectacular. I am very lucky to have her as my mom, colleague and best friend.”
Last year, Kelby learned that she had been selected to run in the Boston Marathon, which attracts more than 30,000 runners annually, and is held April 15 this year. Her entrance into the prestigious event resulted from her time from last year’s Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth. It was her second time running in one of Minnesota’s most well-known marathons.
Kelby’s introduction to running has roots to her time in middle school, where she ran track as a student athlete, but she said she never considered herself a “distance runner.”
“I could barely make it through a cross country race,” she explained, adding that, regardless, she always loved running and continued her involvement on the track team throughout high school.
A few years ago, Christina Andersen, the owner of Sukha Spaces (and CENTER), registered Kelby for her first half marathon as a Christmas gift.
“I thought she was insane,” recalled Kelby. “Throughout the training, I would surprise myself that I could go a little further every time.”
After successfully completing a few half marathons, she said she then set her sights on completing a full marathon. The most challenging component of running longer distances, she said, are the mental hurdles.
“They can be a lot harder to overcome than the physical ones,” she continued, adding that, to combat these hurdles, she incorporated a yoga practice into her training. “With yoga, I am able to calm my mind, focus on my breathing, and refocus on the task at hand instead of getting caught up in every gritty sensation that is physically happening, such as blisters forming, chafing, cramping, etc.”
“Kelby has always been one tough chick,” said Deb of her daughter’s perseverance. “I could tell you story after story to support that, from coming back from two ACL injuries by training on one good leg while her other leg healed, to crawling over the finish line at the Griak Race to running the Fargo Half Marathon with a broken foot (and getting a killer time to boot).”
“When Kelby decides to do something, she is fiercely driven to accomplish her goals,” Deb continued. “Her mental toughness is incredible and always has been.”
Deb said she is “so incredibly proud and happy for Kelby” having the opportunity to run in the Boston Marathon not only because she qualified for the race, but also that she committed to the race.
“It is an incredibly grueling race that requires specific and consistent training over a long period of time to be prepared to run,” Deb explained. “There are so many variables that can take your training regimen off course, so I deeply admire her steadfast efforts day in and day out to make this dream come true.”
While training for the marathon is surely challenging, Kelby, who is obviously a talented and experienced athlete, cites a supportive community in Grand Rapids for her success as a runner.
“Christina will often remind me, ‘the people you spend the most time with shape who you are,’ I am just very fortunate to be surrounded by so many talented, kind and hardworking people,” she said. “Whenever I doubted myself, my fiancé, family, co-workers, CENTER community and Crossfit friends were there to provide support and inspiration. Whether it was a high-five or actually showing up at the race, they’re the reason it’s so fun. They make all the hard work worth it.”
Still, Kelby said she is nervous, excited and anxious to participate in the nationally-renowned Boston Marathon on Monday, which will follow her best friend’s wedding taking place just 48-hours prior to the race. It’s sure to be an unforgettable couple of days, she said.
Kelby is running the marathon for the Travis Roy Foundation’s charity team. Travis was paralyzed in the first 11 seconds of his first college hockey game at Boston University. The foundation raises money for those who have suffered from spinal cord injuries and to support research for a cure.
“It makes it much more meaningful (and less stressful) when you are running for something greater than yourself,” she explained, adding that she has a fundraising page at https://www.crowdrise.com/kelbykleinendorst for anyone wanting to donate.
“I feel Kelb knows she’s at her best when she faces big challenges,” said Deb. “She’s always been a strong athlete and has especially enjoyed running competitively and as a pastime. I think running Boston makes perfect sense given her drive, her strong connection to and love of Travis Roy, his cause and his family.”