shape magazine shoot 1

Chicagoan shares her transformation in Shape magazine

Behind the scenes at Susanna Kalnes’ photo shoot with Shape magazine.  |  Chantelle Abbott Rateliff

Make sure you check out the December issue of Shape magazine, which is hitting newsstands right now.

Chicagoan Susanna Kalnes shares her fitness story with Shape readers. It’s an inspirational tale that begins with a health scare.

At age 23, Kalnes was commuting to work when she suffered chest pains strong enough to leave her hunched over her steering wheel. A trip to the ER and follow-up tests determined she had a thicker than average mitral valve.

The doctor encouraged her to improve her heart health, recommending less caffeine, more exercise. Someone else might have been grateful it wasn’t a heart attack and just gone on her way. Not Kalnes.

“I took that as a prescription,” Kalnes said during a telephone interview Wednesday.

She joined a gym and headed to Walgreens where she purchased a flip calendar. The La Grange native decided she needed to work out four days a week. The calendar went into her bag and every time she went to the gym, a Y (for yes) went on that date, according to Kalnes. Before she knew it, she had a lot of Ys in that calendar.

Though she wasn’t especially trying to lose weight, she dropped 40 pounds, “an added bonus” she said.

And the working out? She really liked it, especially Turbo Kick. She became so good, an instructor suggested she get certified. She started teaching one class, then another, including Turbo Kick,  PiYo and soon, Insanity.

She became so skilled, Kalnes eventually was asked to become a master instructor (the instructor for instructors), first for Turbo Kick, then Insanity. Know what that entails? Doing both for the creators, Chalene Johnson and Shaun T respectively, to see if she was good enough! How scary (and cool) is that?

Eventually she left the corporate job behind and started her own public relations firm, Take Shape Communications. She continues to teach instructors and also has created her own workout, Chisel fo’ Shizzel, which she teaches at a number of gyms across the city. (“When most people are having lunch, I’m teaching [Chisel].”) Check out Chisel, a strength training class for all levels, below.  You can find times and locations for it here and here.

All this from chest pains!

Kalnes, who turns 31 on Friday, Nov. 14, shares her story with other young people, especially college-age students. She tells her audiences that when she got her wake-up call at 23, she wasn’t really “prioritizing heart health, I wasn’t really prioritizing fitness.” Sure they could postpone improved well-being until they are in their 30s, 40s or 50s, when their might face their own health challenge. But then the West Loop resident asks them: “You could wait, but why?”

There’s going to be a Magazine Release Party, to celebrate the Shape feature on Kalnes. It will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 23 at ENRGI Fitness (215 W. Ohio), one of the places where she teaches Chisel. There will be Champagne and healthy appetizers.

Oh, and as for those chest pains? They lessened in frequency and intensity, although every now and again she might have one. But every year since then, Kalnes has felt healthier.

“I hope to continue down that path.”