When Gineen Finch had her son, Bodhin, in April 2012, she planned to take a brief maternity leave from her job as Digital Director for BBC America. She loved her career and was sure she would go back to work full-time. She told her boss she’d be checking work e-mails while she was breastfeeding.
“I always thought I’d be a working mom,” Finch says. “There was no question in my mind that I would go back to work. But then when [my son] was born it was a total game changer.”
Finch realized she didn’t want to go back to working a 9-to-5-plus job. It was time for something new.
Planting the Fitness Seed
Finch was living in Hoboken, NJ when she discovered — and fell in love with — the original CKO Kickboxing location eight years ago. “I got in really great shape right away,” she says.
When she moved to Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood six years ago, she and her partner, Vlad Acevedo, joined the CKO franchise that had opened in Carroll Gardens. They became friends with the owners, and Finch fantasized about someday having her own franchise.
Then Bodhin was born.
Finch and Acevedo saw a need in their own neighborhood and decided to go for it. They opened Clinton Hill CKO Kickboxing on Waverly between Park Avenue and Flushing Avenue this past Thanksgiving and haven’t looked back.
The gym business was all new to her, but Finch was determined to make it work. She spent two weeks in franchise and instructor training in Hoboken when Bodhin was just three months old. “I would go into the janitors’ closet and pump [milk] four times a day,” she laughs.
CKO’s Philosophy: Anyone Can Do It
CKO Kickboxing is a fitness class; there is no sparring or technical martial arts. It is a tough but fun one-hour workout.
Finch says participants consistently burn 800-1,200 calories per class. The trick is that it combines cardiovascular fitness — you keep your heart rate up with cross-training exercises like jumping rope and squats — resistance training — hitting the bag has the same muscle-toning effect as lifting weights — and stress relief. I speak from experience when I say that hitting the bag hard can be the perfect antidote to a long week.
Because each person has his or her own punching bag, the workout is accessible to everyone. “Yes, it’s a class, but you go at your own pace,” Finch explains. The certified trainers teach some simple moves before class if you are new, and during class, they demonstrate the short routines as many times as it takes.
Then, if you want, you can “go crazy on the bag.” But you can also take it easy and work slowly to a higher fitness level, especially if you are coming back from — ahem — having a baby.
“You’re going to see results really quickly, so it keeps people motivated,” Finch says. “There’s always a way to challenge yourself.”
It’s a Community, Not Just a Gym
Finch works hard to create an environment that is supportive and encouraging. “It’s a community; it’s not just a gym,” she says. The same people come to class and motivate one another. Finch knows everyone’s name and enjoys seeing members’ progression.
“It’s incredible to watch confidence levels go up across the board,” for both men and women.
She knows how difficult it can be for parents of young children to carve out an hour in the day to work out. That’s why in April, she will trial a drop-in childcare option for select classes. Parents can sign up the day before and pay a small fee to a provider who will watch the children in a blocked-off area of the space.
“For children to see their parents being active and taking care of themselves from an early age is important,” Finch says.
Hit the Bag!
There are seven CKO locations in New York City: four in Brooklyn, three in Staten Island plus one more on the way in Queens. There are also several locations in New Jersey and Long Island. (Find your nearest location here.)
Each location is priced differently, but all feature a monthly fee with unlimited classes and a free trial class — all you have to do is bring gloves, or you can buy them at the location for $20-25 and put the cost toward your membership if you sign up. At the Clinton Hill location, the membership fee also includes a pair of boxing gloves, a cute t-shirt, a gym bag and a water bottle.
The best thing about CKO is that it’s fun. You’ll never get the same class twice.
“I’ve never gotten bored with this workout in ten years,” Finch says.
I can’t say that for the gym, and I bet you can’t, either. Instead of hitting the treadmill this week, try hitting the bag, instead.