Kaisa Keranen, founder and trainer of KaisaFit, is a straight-up badass, the definition of #workoutgoals. Any man or woman who can do a full-body plyometric push-up onto four tall stacks of weight plates, and can use her biceps to pop a weighted barbell up over her head deserves serious kudos—and a giant Instagram following. Keranen has earned both.
To date, this smiling bolt of energy has more than 700,000 IG followers, has graced the cover of Oxygen magazine, and received accolades from Fitness, PopSugar, Shape, Harper's Bazaar, Huffington Post, ESPNW—even Michelle Obama.
It doesn't hurt that unlike many social media fitness stars, Keranen actually has the credentials to back up her workouts, boasting a master's degree in sports performance and injury prevention, as well as a performance-enhancement-specialist certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Baby, She Was Born to Run
Keranen played sports in high school and went on to become a member of the University of Washington's track and field team. She never planned on making health and fitness her career. In fact, it wasn't until her senior year at UW that she even considered the possibility.
"I spent my entire college career injured, frustrated, and feeling completely broken," Keranen says. "I knew there had to be a better way to train, and I wanted to spend some time learning about my body so I could heal myself. I decided to get certified, mainly to train myself, but quickly fell in love with fitness training. I knew I wanted to make it my career."
Originally, her plan was to train at the collegiate level, but then came social media. "Social media completely changed my career," she says. "I wanted to share my love and passion with as many people as I possibly could, which I thought would mean coaching large group classes. Social media allowed me the opportunity to share my message with a much larger audience."
Now a bona fide social media star, Keranen doesn't take her followers for granted. She knows only too well that social platforms are saturated with fitness content and no one trainer has a lock on popularity.
"I'm grateful for every single person who decides to follow me," she says. "I take my role as an online coach very seriously and am dedicated to creating new and exciting daily content to keep people motivated to move."
Fitness Is About Movement, As Well As Appearance
Keranen's ultimate goal is to help her clients find the motivation to move—even if they're never able to conquer some of the gravity-defying exercises she showcases on Instagram. Because she grew up an athlete, she's always moved with the intention to improve her performance. So, it was a bit of a shock when she started training clients whose goals were simply to lose weight or build "better" arms and legs.
"I was completely thrown off," Keranen says. "From early on, I made it my mission to show people, through movement, that they're much more than what they look like. I teach people that movement is an exploration of all the incredible things their bodies can do, not a form of punishment for what their bodies do or don't look like."
Keranen practices what she preaches. After wrapping up her athletic career, her personal goal was just to pursue her career in a way that allowed her to have fun and not take things so seriously. It may come as a surprise, but she says she doesn't set specific goals or parameters around movement, and she rarely follows an exact program.
"It's incredibly freeing to just let go—to show up to your daily workout so pumped to see what your body will do and how it will amaze you," she says. "I just enjoy challenging myself to find new and creative ways to move and have fun."
Don't Box Yourself in With Expectations
Part of Keranen's life perspective is to embrace flexibility in her working life and her workouts. "I've learned never to assume you know exactly what's going to happen in your life, so you can be flexible and willing to roll with the punches," she says. "If I hadn't been so open to new possibilities, my career wouldn't be what it is today."
She approaches her current workout in the same spirit. "Who knows?" she says. "The next time you chat with me, I may have decided to dedicate the next year to becoming an MMA fighter or a marathon runner. My goal is simply to move every single day, to have fun with it, and to take care of my body. When I'm 80 years old, I want to be able to head to the gym or just dance around my kitchen!"
Entrepreneurship Means Making Your Own Rules
Contrary to the overworked and outdated saying that "the early bird gets the worm," Keranen refreshingly admits she's not a morning person. On a typical day, she wakes up at 6:30 a.m., then gives herself another hour in bed to emerge from her "sleep coma." Even after she rises, she says, she's on autopilot until she finishes her toast with almond butter and a banana.
She avoids early morning meetings and office hours, instead heading to the gym for a 9 a.m. workout, then heading home for lunch. Her official workday typically begins after noon, when she meets with her team to discuss current projects.
"Right now, we're working on several movement programs, we're designing my own apparel line, which has been really fun!" she says.
After team meetings wrap up, she turns off work for a while—not a natural inclination for someone who loves what she does, but a necessity for maintaining a work-life balance. She gets back into her business groove at night, answering emails and wrapping up the day's work. It may not be a "typical" business schedule, but Keranen has learned that there's no such thing as typical when you're blazing new trails as an entrepreneur.
Dressing the Part
If you're going to be a trailblazer, you had better dress the part. For Keranen, that means wearing clothes that allow her to move freely from the gym to meetings in comfort and style.
"I'm pretty sure I've tried every fitness apparel brand out there, and I've concluded there are two basic styles on the market right now," she says. "First, there's the gear you can actually work out in. Then, there's gear that looks good, but is completely nonfunctional. There aren't a ton of brands that both look good and give you the freedom to move, which is why I'm developing my own line of gear."
In the meantime, she says, she's a big fan of Lululemon for her leggings. For her tops, she takes a decidedly DIY approach, regularly wielding a pair of scissors to turn normal cotton tanks into crop tops. She caps off her wardrobe with NOBULL shoes. "I rock their high tops and am in love," she says.
Kaisa Keranen's High-Voltage Workout
If you think you can hang with Keranen's hard-hitting power moves, give the following workout a try. Be forewarned: This is a crazy, kick-ass set of exercises.
High Plyometric Box Jump from Seated Start
Set up a high plyometric box a few feet away from a bench. Set a slightly lower plyo box to the side to help with dismounting. Sit on the bench, then swing your arms up and lift your feet from the ground before strongly swinging your arms behind you as you plant your feet and explode upward, landing on top of the plyo box. Come to a full stand before stepping down from the box and returning to the bench.
Plyometric Power Clean
Stand just behind a low platform with a loaded barbell at your feet. Perform a power clean with perfect form, but as you perform the powerful clean, jump up and forward to land with your feet on the platform just as the bar is "racked" at your chest. From there, squat. As you stand up with the bar, step back off the platform and return the barbell to the floor.
Banded Split Jerk
Use heavy dumbbells to secure two heavy resistance bands to the ground. Loop the opposite ends of each resistance band around the ends of a loaded barbell, so both resistance bands are secure. Stand between the dumbbells with the barbell "racked" at your chest, your feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent, and the resistance bands taut.
Perform a jerk. As you thrust the barbell powerfully over your head, jump into the air, stretching against the bands' resistance and landing with your feet in a split position, right leg forward, left leg back. Step back to center as you lower the barbell. Perform all the splits with your right leg in front. On the next set, lead with your left leg.
Kipping Clapping Pull-up
Perform a kipping pull-up, using a powerful leg swing to help with momentum to push you up over the bar. As your shoulders approach bar-height and you're still moving upward, release your hands from the bar, quickly clap them, then grab the bar as you begin your downward action. Continue in this fashion.
Band-Resisted Plyometric Box Squat
Set up in front of a bench or box that's roughly knee height. Load up a barbell and use two heavy dumbbells to secure large, looped resistance bands between the dumbbells and the barbell (like you did with the banded split squat). Stand between the dumbbells and in front of the bench, the barbell loaded across your shoulders. Squat, sitting on the bench. Lift your feet from the ground, then forcefully plant them, using their momentum to rise from the bench, fully extending your knees and hips as you jump into the air, causing the resistance bands to stretch. Land softly, knees and hips slightly bent, then squat back down to sit on the bench. Continue in this fashion.