How this 76-year-old kokum is fighting grief and loss with kettlebell kickboxing | CBC News

How this 76-year-old kokum is fighting grief and loss with kettlebell kickboxing | CBC News

Four years ago, Iva Geddes-McNabb would take walks to pray and cry for those she had lost.

Geddes-McNabb’s son Lionel died from a heart attack in 2013, when he was 39 years old. She lost her husband to cancer a few months later. Then in 2016 she lost Matthew, a grandson she raised who ran marathons, to stomach cancer at the age of 26.

Geddes-McNabb, now 76, said she didn’t know how to grieve so many deaths, but she did know her family wouldn’t want her to be sad. She decided to find something that would help her.

She tried a few workout classes, but felt they weren’t for her. Then one day in 2019 she tried out a kettlebell kickboxing class happening in the next community over, Daystar First Nation.

A Kettlebell Kickboxing Canada studio based in Regina was hosting the class on the First Nation. After one session, Geddes-McNabb knew she needed it in her life.

“I felt balance in my life,” she said. “I didn’t feel lonely. Something came over me and a spark went off.”

Iva Geddes-McNabb is a grandmother and great-grandmother. (Louise BigEagle/CBC)

Despite having had her left hip replaced twice, Geddes-McNabb signed up for classes in Regina.

When she first made the trip from her home in George Gordon First Nation, about 114 kilometres from Regina, she had a hard time keeping up with the others in the class. She couldn’t even do a burpee or a jumping jack at first. She questioned whether she had made the right choice.

“There was doubt in my mind, but I felt I had to prove myself,” said Geddes-McNabb.

With encouragement from her class, she pushed herself and didn’t give up.

WATCH | Kokum fights grief and loss with kettlebell kickboxing:

Kokum fights grief and loss with kettlebell kickboxing

Featured VideoIva Geddes-Mcnabb knows her family wouldn’t want her to be sad, so she decided to find something that would help her.

Geddes-McNabb now commutes three days a week to attend kettlebell kickboxing training.

When she first started she was swinging a five-pound kettlebell. Now she is up to 30 pounds. She said her grandson joins her as well.

person is swearing dark clothing while wearing a headband and glasses, as they hold a weight in the air.
Iva Geddes-McNabb first struggled with weights when she started but now she can lift a 30-pound kettlebell. (Louise BigEagle/CBC)

Geddes-Mcnabb said she started the class to overcome her grief, but now she feels much healthy and physically stronger, something she said her grandchildren and children are proud of.

“When I’m with my grandkids, they see that that kokum is strong and I think they’re very proud of me,” said Geddes-McNabb. “I mean, they were proud of me before, but now more than ever because I’m their protector and I don’t care how old I am.”

Jodi Barrett, CEO of the Regina-based Kettlebell Kickboxing Canada studio, started her business to build a certification program specifically for women, so that they had something outside of the home that let them give back to themselves and the community.

Barrett first met Geddes-McNabb at the course at Daystar First Nation. Barrett said she saw that Geddes-McNabb was a feisty lady.

“She is the oldest person we have had in this class.”

Despite their age difference, Barrett said the two have a special relationship. Barrett didn’t start her business until she was 41, and Geddes-McNabb went back to school in her 40s to study counselling.

“She inspires me because I’ve seen the work she’s had to do, and she’s never once said ‘I can’t do it,'” said Barrett

The trainer and trainee have even traveled to Mexico and Jamaica together for vacations and supported each other on community walks recognizing Orange Shirt Day.

two people close together wearing bright clothing, one is swearing a hooded sweatshirt with glasses and the other is wearing a dark toque.
Iva Geddes McNabb and trainer Jodi Barrett have a unique relationship and bonded over time. (Iva-Geddes-McNabb facebook.)

Geddes-McNabb said the training hasn’t only soothed her grief. It has also helped with her high blood pressure and diabetes.

Now she posts on her Facebook to encourage young ladies and men to find their own similar passion.

“If I can help one person to feel the way that I do … I would be so happy,” said Geddes-McNabb. “I’m living life and I am the strongest I ever was.”

She didn’t even take a break for her 76th birthday. She went to the kettlebell kickboxing class and was celebrated by the group.

“I told them I was still gonna be here when I’m 90. That’s my goal.”

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