This is Travis Wiuff’s fifth year leading the Iron KoMet, a summer workout program for Kasson-Mantorville athletes.

This version, which started June 1, has been the most unique one yet for the 42-year-old Wiuff, K-M’s seventh-year strength-and-conditioning coach, who’s also a paraprofessional at the school and is likely best known as one of the region’s top Mixed Martial Arts fighters.

Truth be told, it’s been a unique stretch of months for everybody on the planet, not just Wiuff. The COVID-19 pandemic gets the blame for that, with all of the social distancing, disinfecting and fear that’s come with it.

But there have been silver linings along the way, including some for Wiuff.

The 1997 Owatonna High School graduate began doubting late in the spring he’d be able to offer his Iron KoMet at all this summer. Those workouts had always been indoors in years past and leaned heavily on weight lifting. That wasn’t going to fly this summer, though, with heavy concern over indoor gatherings during the pandemic.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

But with some imagination, including Wiuff reconsidering what really makes a good workout, the Iron KoMet has gone unimpeded for the fifth straight year.

Wiuff and the 100-or-so athletes he’s guiding five days per week have said hello to the great outdoors in this latest Iron KoMet rendition. En route, they’ve said hello to runs around the K-M outdoor track, up-downs, burpees, lunges, pushups, kettle-bell exercises and plenty of jumps.

“We can do a lot of great things outside,” said Wiuff, who’s closely adhering to all of the stay-safe Center for Disease Control guidelines during this pandemic. That includes screening kids prior to every workout by taking temperatures, social distancing, and hand and equipment sanitizing.

“All of our workouts are on the turf (or track at K-M’s Telecom Stadium),” Wiuff said. “We’re doing a lot of things that I may have ignored in the past because maybe I fell too much in love with lifting heavy weights.”

Will Marti, 14, exercises with the group in Travis Wiuff’s Iron Komet workout on the high school athletic field in Kasson Monday morning, June 22, 2020. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)
Will Marti, 14, exercises with the group in Travis Wiuff’s Iron Komet workout on the high school athletic field in Kasson Monday morning, June 22, 2020. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

Prior to COVID-19, Wiuff’s answer to pretty much everything workout-wise leaned on weight lifting. But not anymore.

Credit the pandemic and Wiuff’s willingness to adjust for that. Now, it’s all about movement and taking advantage of the space allowed as workouts have shifted outdoors.

“In the past, I thought if you can’t throw a ball very well, go lift weights,” Wiuff said. “But I’m learning that that’s not the answer for everything. Just doing athletic movements is what I’m concentrating on now, with running and jumping, being athletic and having mobility. I’m learning that in some ways, that is more important than lifting heavy weights.”

Wiuff offers eight separate workout sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, each lasting an hour. Tuesdays and Thursdays there are four more sessions, again an hour each. All of it is run through K-M’s community education.

The sessions don’t always end well. Or do they?

There was some vomiting that went on for a few athletes last week, after workouts closed with them running 400 meters as hard as they could.

But Wiuff insists the occasional “puker” isn’t the worst thing in the world.

“These workouts can be more mental than they are physical,” Wiuff said. “The mental aspect is that when your mind is telling you that you want to quit, that you go at it even harder. It teaches you to work through those tough patches. And that can help you across the board in life, being mentally tough. That’s especially true now, with everything going on (in the world).”

Wiuff’s athletes seem to be buying into that.

Mollie Koch, right, and Mckenzie Holz lift kettlebells during the Iron Komet workout on the high school athletic field in Kasson Monday morning, June 22, 2020. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)
Mollie Koch, right, and Mckenzie Holz lift kettlebells during the Iron Komet workout on the high school athletic field in Kasson Monday morning, June 22, 2020. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

“This teaches us to stay strong and stay positive, and it really helps with mental health,” said incoming Mollie Koch, a hockey player and figure skater who'll be in eighth grade in the fall. “I like that. And I like how it’s getting me into shape.”

Fellow Iron KoMet participant Mckenzie Holz also appreciates Wiuff’s approach. The incoming freshman says that Wiuff pushes his athletes, but not so much that he doesn’t allow them to take a break if needed.

But few ask for one. That includes Holz, who specializes in track and field. She intends to stay at this all summer and then take Wiuff’s workouts with her into the fall and winter.

“He pushes you, and that’s good,” Holz said. “I wanted to stay healthy this summer. Plus, it’s just something to do.”