Students get kicks at new gym

Michael Krieger

Flushed, winded and covered in sweat, Nikki Dettman sat slightly dazed after her first kickboxing session.

“I have that after-workout buzz going,” she said between mouthsful of bottled water. “It was so intense.”

Donning gloves and casting off fear, Dettman, a former University student, was among the first to exercise at a new kickboxing gym in the Como neighborhood.

“It’s so hard. A good hard, though,” she said after the hour-long workout.

The Cellar Kickboxing opened Saturday underneath Joe’s Market on Como Avenue. The gym offers two kickboxing rooms complete with sauna, steamroom, spa and massage table.

Simona Simon, owner of the gym, said her kickboxing classes push students to continuously improve their fitness and form.

“It’s about focus, balance, power and flexibility,” she said. “You can always get a better jab, cross, front kick and back kick.”

The kickboxing participants work out in pairs at the behest of a personal martial arts trainer. While one student is kicking and punching, the other fields the blows with protective pads.

“You’re actually sparring,” Dettman said. “If you drop the pads, you’re going to get kicked.”

Simona opened the kickboxing gym with her boyfriend, second-degree black belt Justin Whilley.

Whilley, the lead kickboxing instructor, has practiced karate for 16 years and said he uses that experience to motivate his students.

“People respond differently when pushed physically,” Whilley said, so he needs to identify what motivates them on an individual basis.

More aerobic styles of kickboxing, such as cardiokick and Tae-Bo, Simon said, cannot offer the same level of focus or intensity.

Although aerobic exercises have merit, Simon said, “Tae-Bo isn’t kickboxing.

“I really, truly wanted to create a place I couldn’t find anywhere else,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about this since I went to my first gym.”

As Dettman finished her workout, a second group of students began warming up for their session.

“I’m excited but nervous at the same time,” said first-time kickboxer Tara Schaust.

Simon currently offers University students a 20 percent discount on kickboxing classes, and said she eventually would like to offer other exercise-related activities such as yoga and ballet.

“It’s so important to me to get Americans healthy again,” she said. “You don’t have to give up anything. It’s about balance and moderation.

“Everybody needs a passion,” Simon said. “I don’t want to fight, but I want to kick harder, higher and stronger.”

Michael Krieger covers University neighborhoods and welcomes comments at [email protected]