So if you are like the rest of us, your summer fitness plans have probably gone the way most resolutions do: a determined start, a flagging middle, into a full-fledged loss of commitment.
Well I’m here to tell you it’s not too late. Luckily for all of us living in the Mile Square, there are plenty of fitness options out there. There is everything from specialty gyms, to dance studios, to kick boxing that can help even the most unmotivated person get in shape fast! Because isn’t that the real goal with summer BBQ’s and beach days on the horizon?
The concept of Koko FitCLub is a simple one – let the computer take charge of keeping track of your fitness gains. And who doesn’t want to walk into a gym that remembers not only your last visit, but also your overall progress?
Michael Ander, owner of the uptown Koko FitClub in Hoboken, while not a professional athlete wanted to find the perfect balance of health and fitness. In college, Michael participated in many sports – swimming, track and even pole vaulting.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “Then you get a little older and get more risk adverse.”
Yet while he no longer vaults himself great distances in the air, he still maintains that fitness is part of a healthy lifestyle. To him, muscle building and strength training is the foundation for lifelong good health.
Enter the Smartraining fitness plan.
“It really spoke to me. It hasn’t been done before. I think it really is taking fitness to new levels,” he said.
The sleek uptown gym looks perhaps more like a health spa. Gone is the reek of sweaty towels and beat up weights littering the floor. This gym looks modern with its high ceilings, muted colors, and streamlined machines. And the décor matches the plan. Everything is taken to a new level, perfectly blending science and technology.
“If you had a personal training team measuring every movement you make on the machines it still wouldn’t be as precise as this. I think it is really useful,” he said. “Most people really hate writing stuff down. The computer does it for you. It keeps track for you without having to keep track.”
The Smartraining program is also designed for people who lead busy lives. It promises optimal results with a minimum amount of time.
Michael says that many of his members are typically a little older than the 20-something crowd. His members know they want training guidance, but can’t afford a personal trainer.
New members are given a strength test, based on their age and weight. And from there the SmartTrainer does its magic. As you work through the weight lifting routines you have to keep pace with the computer – lifting them not too fast or too slow.
“It should be a controlled movement,” Michael explains. “It’s kind of like a video game in that you have to keep pace with the machine.”
I even got an introduction to the Smart Trainer, which began to take me through the paces. Yes, I’m sure we’ve all heard that you need to control the pace when you are lifting the weights. It’s not really good to lift a heavy load and then let the weights crash. It’s at first harder than it seems keeping pace with the machine, but once you get the hang of it, it all comes together. As for the burn that followed- well, clearly I need some strength training of my own!
No, it doesn’t talk to you like Siri, but working with the machine is like having a conversation he says.
Someone who has a weight lose goal might have to rethink their assumptions. Their plan of 30 minute strength training, supplemented with 15 minutes of cardio three times a week will help you drop some weight- but really the focus is on building muscle mass and losing fat:
He adds, “Our primary focus is strength training. Building and maintaining muscle mass is how you lose fat.”
One of Koko Fit Club’s programs is a three month shapeup package that includes Koko Smartraining paired with nutritional guidance as well. Through the plan, members can hit all the major markers of fitness: muscle building, reducing body fat, gaining flexibility, increasing performance, and creating better health.
They also have programs that are suited for people who are recovering from an injury or illness.
“People don’t get better results if they come here more than three times a week. I think one of the things that is great about Koko is that it fits into your lifestyle. I understand that people are going to want to live their lives,” he said.
SWEAT IT OUT
But perhaps you want to feel a part of something or you are a fan of “Fight Club.” Then LA Boxing might just be for you. Located on the waterfront in downtown Hoboken, this gym looks like a training facility – and it is. Most hours of the day or night, members come in and out to take any one of the numerous classes.
Classes you say? Oh yes, they have classes. Their training will work you into a sweat with Boxing, Kickboxing, and Muay Thai instruction, to name a few.
Walking in, one can’t help but notice the large boxing ring in the center of the room. Further back lining the middle are heavy bags suspended from the ceiling. Chances are no matter what time of day it is, there is a class going on. No, not everyone here dreams of fighting competitively, but the look on members’ faces is one of determination.
Whatever you might want to work out- a breakup, a hangover, a bad day, you’ll find relief in making contact with the bag.
The owners of the club, Marco Oliveira and Rich Van Houten, have a love for the sport. The training, the competitive fighting and the camaraderie. You might not think of boxing as a sport that fosters a love of your brother, but there is a real affinity between members sweating it out between the punches.
On any given day, there are about 30 people in a class, sparring going on in the ring, and about 70 people training at once.
The pair each work different aspects of the club. Rich, who wrestled throughout his life, is one of the club’s trainers. Marco, a former hockey player, works primarily as a coordinator and day to day manager. Together they work to make the club the kind of place people want to come to.
For anyone who hasn’t tried boxing or kickboxing, one might feel a little out of their element.
“The women especially might feel a little intimidated walking in,” explains Marco. “It is a big hump they have to get over. We try to keep everyone together. Rich will say in class, ‘Introduce yourself to someone new.’ We try to make everyone feel comfortable.”
And that method seems to be working, even for women who might initially be intimidated. According to Marco, their membership base is 55 percent women.
Each hour class burns approximately 1000 calories an hour, and Marco says members will see weight loss results very quickly.
Every new member is given a fit test, gloves and wraps, and an hour one-on-one training session to go through the basics of form.
“If we see them making mistakes, like bad form or bad habits, we will correct it right away,” said Marco. “We see it all the time when someone isn’t punching correctly. We try to prevent injuries, and correct their form.”
Another thing they ask members are questions about their diet and lifestyle:
“Diet is one of the first things we will ask them. Most people come here who want to lose weight. When we ask about their diet they try to lie – but we always catch them!” he said.
And while the Mile Square might have plenty of options when it comes to going out, drinking is actually horrible for you, says Marco.
He adds, “We will ask them, ‘How many drinks are you really planning on having this weekend?’ We really try to get to the core of what members want. We will call and text people to remind them of a personal training session.”
And on the day I was there, I witnessed a little of their approach to fitness. As members punched away on the bags, trainers circulated the room shouting encouragement to the class. But it doesn’t stop there. If a member comes in to work out on their own, trainers will get involved personally.
“If I see someone on the treadmill going slow, I’ll ask them, ‘Why are you going so slow today?’ – I try to get their story,” he said. “We like to get to know our members.”
A BARRE ABOVE
For the dancer in you, Local Barre, at 1180 Maxwell Lane in Hoboken, might provide the tonic you need. Perhaps you took ballet as a child and want to feel connected to your body again. But make no mistake, the classes at Local Barre might seem like a chance for fond recollections of childhood, but they really will very likely kick your butt.
The program is called “core fitness” for a reason. After one session, it is likely your abs will hurt, not to mention other muscles you didn’t even know you had. The classes will get you stronger, build leaner muscle mass, and improve your flexibility.
I took an “Open Barre,” which is a blend of ballet fundamentals, core conditioning and yoga. And I admit, I foolishly thought, “How hard can it be?” I am an avid cyclist and I balance that with yoga classes. I figured an hour would be easy for me.
When I entered the class, I was surrounded by women, many who had dancer’s bodies – the thin, muscular form, the pulled back hair, the serene demeanor. On the day I was there, the class was put through the paces by Amber, one of the studio’s longtime head instructors. At the start of class, she reminded everyone to get weighted balls and straps. Fortunately, I had the sense to pick low weights and not go for some of the heavier ones that many of the students chose.
Five minutes into the class, I was still okay. I told myself that I just needed to warm up. Ten minutes later, I got to feel what this class is really about. Pain for the uninitiated. The muscle burn. Kicks and lifts might not seem like a tough workout at first, but trust me it is. And did I mention, most of the barre work is done on your toes?!
“We get a lot of people who it appeals to because maybe they danced as a kid,” said Amber. “The class is pretty fair regardless of your fitness level. You are going to get a good workout.”
Amber was great. She calmly gave instruction and encouragement to the class as we went through the routine. I couldn’t help but notice that many of the women seemed fine on their toes. There was only one woman next to me who looked like she might also need a break.
According to Amber, most of their clients are women, but she says there are some men who have dared to take a class or two.
“It is a humbling experience for men. They are probably the first ones whose legs start to shake in class,” she said.
The staff is comprised of professional dancers, but that doesn’t mean you have to have dance training to take a class, says the manager Dana. There are a variety of options available, including new client specials, class packages, specials for brides and mothers to be, among others. In addition, they will always work to accommodate drop ins if you’d like to try a class.
For someone looking to get in shape, they recommend taking classes two to three times a week.
“We tell people, in 10 classes, you will feel the difference and in 20, you will see it,” said Dana.
Hopefully, this story has already inspired you to get out there! Perhaps you are ready to take that next step and get back in shape. Here at hMAG we know taking a class or committing to losing weight is only one part of the journey. We invite you to follow along online as we follow readers this summer on their journey to get in shape. Read more about it online in our hFIT section.