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Joseph Jennings demonstrates exercises with the kettlebell.

New Strength And Conditioning Gym Opens on Elm Street

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The gym opened earlier this year and now Jennings is looking to expand its reach and add more training options.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Joseph Jennings used to push himself in the weight room and with his fitness training. And he kept getting injured.
"I was training so much that I found myself getting injured, getting sick, I was unable to recover. A few years ago, I dislocated my shoulder and broke my leg in the same year. A big part of my rehab was training with the kettlebells to regain my strength," Jennings said. 
Kettlebells became a new obsession for him. He realized that building dense strength and strong muscle movement was the base for any type of exercise someone participates in. It reduces injury risk and improves upon whatever athletic venture that person is doing. 
"Most of the gyms I've been in, it gets competitive. If you aren't trying to compete with someone else, you are trying to compete with yourself. But the gym is a place you are only here for an hour, maybe three or four times a week. It should make your outside life more enjoyable. It shouldn't wreck you," Jennings said. 
"This is a builder. This should be something that is a supplement to make you move better and be stronger so that things outside of here are easier and more enjoyable."
He went on to become certified to become a kettlebell trainer, giving others the knowledge he gained through the rehab stint. Jennings became just another trainer in a line of a fitness-focused family with both his parents being physical trainers and boxing instructors. All three of them were running small classes out of basements or other spaces. 
Earlier this year, he spotted an opening at the corner of Elm Street and Holmes Road. He leased out the storefront, transformed it into a gym, and now all three run their training classes out of it.
Southeast Kettlebell held a soft opening earlier this year.
"We are a full, comprehensive strength and conditioning gym. I specialize in kettlebells. I am RKC2 certified, one of the top kettlebell certifications. What we do with the kettlebell is focus primarily on building mobility and strength through tension training. We are not always chasing PRs, people aren't throwing a lot of heavy weights around so there is a lower risk, high reward for strength gains," Jennings said.
His father, Sean Jennings, is a gold-glove boxer who has been training others for some 30 years. He brings his lessons there. Kristie DiNicola teaches a women's boxing course. All three work together to provide an array of strength and conditioning programs for people of all skill levels.
"We try to make it as close to personal training at a cost that is closer to group training," Jennings said.
For athletes, they see the program as a supplement. The added strength, balance, and muscle movement enhance their performance in that sport. And there are runners, endurance athletes, and high school athletes all taking advantage. For others, the strength gains enhance their day to day lives. The kettlebell exercises provide those gains without putting additional weight on the knees and back.
"We are more interested in safety and building a strong base for people to move well and feel comfortable in the class," Jennings said. "I want people to be good at moving."
The family has found a receptive audience in their training programs and have been growing participation. They kept an eye out for a common place to run the sessions when the space at 222 Elm Street became available for lease. 
"The opportunity kind of presented itself. It was always the goal, for a while, training people. I saw this place. We had been close to figuring out what we wanted to do. I grew up fairly close to here, I know a lot of people in the area. Most of the people we train with live within two miles of the place. It just ended up being the right spot at the right time," Jennings said.
Now they are all moved in with 2,000 square feet worth of gym space. It is a start for what Jennings hopes will continue to grow.
"We're growing at a pretty rapid rate so it may not be the place for us in a couple years but right now it is perfect," Jennings said.
The group has laid out a schedule of private classes, offers free classes for beginners to help them get into it, and are looking to bring in additional trainers to use the space and diversify the offerings out of the location. 
"We're always open to having other people here. I won't teach something I am not an expert in. I'm not going to be teaching someone how to do an Olympic lift. I'm not an expert in that. So if there are people who specialize things beyond what I know, I'd love to have them here," Jennings said.

Tags: new business,   fitness center,   

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Berkshire Immigrant Center Celebrates National Immigrant Heritage Month

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Beginning June 1, the Berkshire Immigrant Center invites the community to honor the more than 10,000 immigrants in the Berkshires and by joining the annual observance of national Immigrant Heritage Month and helping to launch a $10,000 fundraising campaign for the center.

"During Immigrant Heritage Month, we proudly honor the many ways immigrants make the Berkshires a better place," said BIC Executive Director Michelle Lopez. "This year we are especially grateful for the hundreds of foreign-born doctors, medical technicians, nurses and staff who are caring for people at Berkshire Medical Center, Fairview Hospital, and nursing homes, and for local immigrants who are essential workers at our grocery stores, restaurants and farms."

Since March 20, BIC has raised more than $70,000 for a COVID-19 Relief Fund. Through this fund, BIC has helped more than 140 clients and their families pay for basic needs like rent and utilities.

"We know that so many local people are hurting, both our clients and our supporters, yet even during this crisis people are asking us how they can help," Lopez said.

While 100 percent of emergency relief has been passed through to clients, donations to the Immigrant Heritage Month Campaign help ensure that BIC can serve the local immigrant community in crisis and beyond, including helping immigrants become US citizens. In this year of the U.S. Census count, BIC has also worked diligently to make sure that immigrants are counted and that Berkshire communities thus receive every dollar of federal aid that they should get.

Tax-deductible donations of any amount are welcome online. Contributions can also be made by check made out to Berkshire Immigrant Center and mailed to BIC, 67 East Street, Pittsfield MA 01201.

The center remains the only program in Berkshire County that focuses exclusively on meeting the unique challenges of a continuously growing immigrant and refugee population. In 2018 BIC was named "Best Small Nonprofit" in the state by Massachusetts Nonprofit Network.

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