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How CKO Working Parents Balance It All: Part I

How CKO Working Parents Balance It All: Part I

CKO Kickboxing has a variety of people who attend classes. From college students to retirees and everything in between. Included in that are parents. CKO classes are no stranger to members who are parents that are killing it in the gym, at home, AND at work. It is truly inspiring to see how they manage to balance it all.

We reached out to five working parents who amaze us on the regular. In this three-part blog series, they share their personal experiences and what has been effective for keeping their priorities in check.


How do you balance kids, work, health, relationships without becoming overwhelmed?

Jennifer Thayer: Certain times of year are more difficult than others. School is always a challenge the first few weeks because we are so used to summer and doing activities and things whenever we please. I set a plan and stick to it for the week. We have a three-month calendar on the fridge where I put my activities and obligations, as well as our family stuff. I include my CKO workouts on it so my family can also plan for the week.

Each Sunday I schedule my workouts by booking them on the CKO app. Once they are booked, I am more likely to truly prioritize them. One thing the winter 2018 10-week Transformation Challenge did for me was explain how vital meal prep was in order for me to reach my goals. As a result, I prep my lunches for the week and set up a plan for dinners and prep as much of that on weekend mornings as I can when I have time.

As a teacher, I could work 24/7 and never have enough time to get everything done for my job. This last year I told myself I will give a half hour daily outside of school, and if I can’t fit it in, then it happens the next day. It’s made a huge impact on my time for myself and for my family. It allows me time to fit in workouts.

I made “me” a priority. I schedule at least two to three nights of CKO during the week and one weekend class. My husband works at 5 AM, so I am not able to work out at CKO in the mornings but will sometimes get on my treadmill or exercise bike for about 20-30 minutes before I get my kids up to get ready for school if I know I can’t get to CKO that night. I also make time for my friendships. I try once a week to do something with friends, even if it can only be for an hour or two.

Jenn Herring: Let’s be honest: It isn’t easy! I have a great family with lots of support. I decided long ago that early mornings were the best time for me to squeeze in “me time”, so after work is family time and I don’t feel guilty. Now that I am used to getting up early, I cannot imagine life without my morning sweat sessions. I strongly believe you have to take care of yourself first so you are able to take care of others.

Meal prep is key to eating healthy during the week in a timely manner. I prepare and cook my weekday lunches on Sundays and I make sure I have things (fruit and veggies cut up, or gathered) in order for quick grabs for snacks and preparing dinner so my time isn’t spent during the week in the kitchen. The kids will grab whatever is easiest when they get home, so I try to have healthy, easy options available for them after school.

Michael York: I try to prioritize things into just that order. I’m a single parent with a half time parenting schedule. I tend to increase focus on relationships and trips to the gym on the days that I don’t have my kids, but on days I do, they’ll come with me to the studio. The intensity level can be so varied at CKO that it fits anyone. I’ve brought my girlfriend, my niece, my buddy and they all had fun at the bag next to me.

Bringing someone along never stopped me from training at the level I wanted, either, which is something you can’t get from running or biking together. Someone always gets left behind or if you stick together, you might not get the workout you wanted. Kickboxing is really something I’ve turned to because I’m a little burnt out from my normal go-to workouts. Most adult recreational activities don’t train this energy system. Lifting is focused on power and running on endurance. This is a good mix. It’s the first time that I’ve done any activity since HS wrestling that does that.

Carley Heinz: Planning ahead!! My husband and I both value our gym time, and we make sure we both get the chance to make it three to four times per week. We always look at the week ahead and set the schedule, including who will get the kids from school or daycare and run them to their activities. Once it is decided which classes jive with my schedule, I book those classes in advance which helps with accountability. When my husband works weekends, the kids come to class with me.

Marielle Shuster: I am a planner. I have found that if you do not plan your workouts, meals and even family time, life easily gets away from you. I’ve also learned what fits in my schedule, with my commitments to my salon and family, I know a realistic goal for me is to workout four days a week. I used to feel bad because I felt I could do more but, I had to let that go! You need do what works for you!


What keeps you motivated to regularly attend CKO classes?

Jennifer Thayer: I love my CKO family. I love the workouts. I am the person who can’t sit still. I love workouts that are high energy and found this to be perfect for me. About a zillion years ago I was on the Tae Bo craze and it was my favorite workout to do both in the gym and at home with videos. I stumbled upon the downtown CKO while heading to check out my friend’s new brewery, City Built. I said to the friend I was with, “WE HAVE TO DO THIS!!!!” but was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it work being so far from my house, my family, and work obligations. About a week later I saw the sign for the CKO South location, which is about a mile from my house. The rest is history.

I have gained so many wonderful friends through CKO and it keeps me motivated to go.  It’s time for myself. I enjoy the workouts and the music so much that the hour of class flies by! A couple of us have a group text to check in with each other to see when we are going to class. This holds each other accountable to our workouts. Having friends there makes it so much more fun. Everyone at CKO have been so nice and friendly from the start and that helps because I am typically a pretty shy person with strangers.

I also like that I can go at my own pace during class. I have knee issues and am still able to get a great workout in, even with modifications. There are some days where I am a rockstar and then there are days I struggle. On days I struggle, I think to myself, “I am here, and I am making time for myself.” Even when I am tired or know that I have a million and one things to do, I show up because my health is important to me.

Marielle Shuster: I love the community that CKO has created. I now not only look forward to a killer workout, but I look forward to seeing the friends I have made through CKO. We help keep each other accountable and schedule our workouts together. This way you will be meeting someone there, which makes it much harder to hit snooze or cancel.

Carley Heinz: CKO classes are amazing. They push me the hardest I have ever been pushed during a workout. Fortunately, the trainers are so motivating that they make me want to keep going and get faster and stronger. Through CKO I have seen such amazing results including lower BMI, weight loss, lower cholesterol, muscle definition, increased overall strength (I can do more than 10 push-ups on my toes, I couldn’t do one when I started), and reduction in stress.

Michael York: My weight has fluctuated over the years where I will get into something, then, when work or relationship stress got too much, I’d eat for comfort and discontinue the daily workouts. No other workout, including running, cycling, and weightlifting, has made me feel like I was getting in shape from the inside out like kickboxing. It’s also new enough that it is not the same old. I never was taught how to throw a punch until I was in my 40s. It is a skill set that is always ready for improvement.

Jenn Herring: This workout is like no other! I love the instructors and participants at CKO. There is a real sense of community and camaraderie when I walk into the studio. The classes provide enough variety and intensity to keep me interested and continually challenge me in both mental and physical ways, and let’s not forget about the stress relief of getting it all out and leaving that stress on the bag.


Stay tuned for the next two parts in this three-part blog series. In the meantime, are you interested in attending a CKO class? Click Here to sign up today!

Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast

What to Expect Your First Class!

What to Expect Your First Class!

Are you hesitant to attend a CKO class? Is your hesitation preventing you from trying a class altogether? It can be difficult to step out of our comfort zone and try new things, especially when we are uncertain about an experience.

I am going to lay it all out on the table on what you can expect at your first class at CKO Kickboxing. My hope is to alleviate any fear, uncertainty, or hesitation you may feel about attending a class. Once you go, however, you will be hooked and wonder why you had any fear or hesitation in the first place.

What to Expect


CKO Grand Rapids’ location is very close to the heart of downtown. You might be worried about parking, but thankfully there are plenty of options. If you are lucky (and usually I am), you can park for free right in 820 Monroe’s parking lot. If the lot is filled, there are plenty of meters in the surrounding area. Metered street parking is free after 5pm and on weekends.

CKO’s Studio

The gym is quite easy to find. It is located on the first floor of the building, Suite 150, and has signage on the doors and windows which makes it impossible to miss. If you have trouble finding the location, give the front desk a call at 616-920-0335.


Once you find the suite, walk in and immediately take off your street shoes on the mat to your left, then check in at front desk. You will undoubtedly be met with a friendly, smiling face. The CKO team members are amazing and very welcoming! Let them know your name and that you are there for your free trial day or Triple Play pass. They will help set you up and direct you.


After you are done at the front desk and you’ve stow your belongings in a cubby, you will be met with the CKO trainer. They will bring you to a bag and do a run-through of the punches and kicks, plus some key safety cues and techniques which will enhance the experience. If you forget everything they tell you, just look at the person next to you or get the trainer’s attention for extra instruction during a set.


Every CKO trainer runs their workout a little differently, but there is one thing they do the same. There is always a warm-up, main workout, and cool down. The warm-up is generally about 10 minutes and includes dynamic stretches, the main workout about 40-45 minutes, and cool-down/static stretch about 5-10 minutes.

End of Class

The CKO trainer will end the cool-down and remind you to wipe down your bags. There are two buckets by the main posts filled with wet wipes. You can grab one or two wipes depending on whether you used one or two bags. You’ll wipe down the entire boxing bag and the surrounding mat. After that, grab your belongings, change into your street shoes, and head on home. Don’t forget to have a healthy post-workout meal and drink a lot of water after!

Now that you know what to expect, are you ready to attend a CKO class? Visit one of our two websites to sign up today:



Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast



Sweet, sweet summertime! Who else is enjoying all the fun and the sun? I sure am! I’ve also been crushing some of my fit goals. As I gear up for vacation, I can’t help but fear getting off track from everything I have been working toward. Thankfully, I know some ways I can still work toward my goals on vacay. I am still able to relax and soak up the sun while I am gone but also not have it be so hard when I return and get back into a normal routine. Here are my three tips to stay the course while on vacation:

Tip #1: Plan workouts

If you’re going away on vacation, chances are you will not have access to the same equipment or workout classes you usually do. Before you head out of town, look up body weight or “no equipment” workouts or programs requiring no or limited equipment like a set of dumbbells and jump rope. The key is to know what you are going to do ahead of time and are prepared for it.

Tip #2: Work out in the AM

I am not one to consistently log the pre-sunrise exercise routine, but on vacation I find it so important to make this happen. While everyone is waking up and slowly getting ready for the day ahead, I quick get my workout in. Or, maybe you wake up a little bit earlier than everyone else and get it done. The last thing I want to do after relaxing out in the sun all day is come back and workout. It’s nice to know it’s out of the way, then kick back, have dinner, play games, and sit by the fire.

Tip #3: Choose physical activities

My favorite activity while on vacation is sitting in a beach chair and not moving for hours on end if I can. However, I try to include exciting activities into my day that are truly a workout, but I don’t view them as so. Examples include volleyball on the beach, going for a hike, taking a walk, running along the water’s edge, swimming, kayaking, etc. Grab your family and/or friends and get them involved too!

You don’t have to get off track from your summer fit goals if your plan is to maximize time off to camp, fish, explore the outdoors, or plan a couple roadtrips. If you plan your workouts, get it done in the morning, and/or choose physical activities throughout the day while you’re away, it will be so much easier to return to your normal routine once you return. Enjoy your time off and soak up every minute of our beautiful Michigan summer! And, hopefully we will see you around CKO Kickboxing when you get back.

-Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast



It’s that time of year again! We are SO close to summertime! Our minds are beginning to think about all fun activities we have planned for the warmer months. But, have you thought about your health and fitness routine? Did you know that CKO offers an exclusive summer special? You can sign up for unlimited kickboxing classes between Memorial Day and Labor Day for just $275! I personally signed up for the Sun’s Out Guns Out Summer special two years ago and here’s why YOU should too!

Invest In Your Summer Body

The Sun’s Out Guns Out special helped me stay active all summer long! Even though summertime is filled with a lot more travel and vacation for many, the majority are still around town to work every day Monday through Friday. I easily added these classes into my normal weekly routine.  If you’re worried about losing precious Summer hours after work, you can sign up for the 5:30am or 6am classes to get your class in for the day! Click here for some tips on joining the morning crew!

A Steal!

The price for signing up is $275, plus you score a commemorative t-shirt with this year’s “sanctuary” symbol. Your enrollment fee is rolled into the price at the time of sign up for the summer special, too, if you decide to continue a month-to-month or year-long membership after the special has commenced. This $400+ package is priced at a major discount, making the SOGO special the ideal opportunity to become part of the CKO family for a longer duration of time with a lower financial commitment.

I took advantage of the Sun’s Out Guns Out Summer special and haven’t looked back. This was the perfect opportunity for me to get a feel for CKO and see how it fit into my life. After those three months were finished, I could not imagine not having CKO part of my life and regular health and fitness routine. Now, here I am two years later, still loving the instructors, other CKO members, and the way I feel when I leave class. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the Sun’s Out Guns Out offer! You will not regret it 🙂

To sign up for the Sun’s Out Guns Out Summer special, buy it for a limited time at either website below:




Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast

CKO Member Spotlight: Alex Reister!

CKO Member Spotlight: Alex Reister!

This month we would like to turn the spotlight onto Alex Reister, a new dad and participant in the CKO 10-week Transformation Challenge winter session. Alex crushed his goals during the Challenge, and his determination served as motivation and inspiration for many! Read more about Alex and his health and fitness journey.

How would you describe your lifelong health and fitness journey?

I was always active. I played football and wrestling in high school. Through college and working office jobs, it became harder and harder to stick with a workout routine as life often would take priority. This became harder the older I got.

Two years ago, I hurt my lower back, and then I really ballooned up. My confidence was barely hanging on. If it wasn’t for my wife helping me, I don’t know where I’d be. She is my rock! One day last August when I was dropping off some dry cleaning, and I saw that CKO’s new location just opened. I wasn’t sure at first if I was going to be able to keep up. After my one Triple Play class with Shelby, I knew this was for me and immediately signed up.

What was your CKO 10-week Transformation Challenge journey like?

At this point I had been going to CKO for about six months. I had improved my flexibility and conditioning; however, my diet was not on point. I was not eating a ton of junk food but there were choices I was making which were unknowingly were sabotaging my results. Things like the amount of sugar I was consuming and the total amount of fat that were in my food portions. I learned to balance and right-size my meals while increasing my water intake. Making these adjustments truly helped me begin to safely and effectively shed the weight.

What made you decide to do the 10-week Challenge?

My newborn daughter, Emma, was the impetus to me signing up. The timing was perfect because she was due right at the end of the Challenge. I knew with becoming a dad, I needed to become healthier so that I can live long to see her grow up and have the energy to do things with her. I also knew I needed to set a better example with eating habits. This was a chance for me to re-program myself and have the support of the other Challengers to stick with it and see things through.

What was your favorite part about the Challenge?

My fellow Challengers were my favorite part from the support and ideas we shared to knowing they had their own reasons for doing. If they could tough it out and stick with it, so could I!

What was an obstacle you overcame during the 10 weeks?

I never really had a sweet tooth but the most challenging thing was not having a single cheat meal. I knew if I had just one cheat meal during the Challenge, it would be a domino effect, and I would just trickle back into my old habits and be back at square one. The biggest struggle for me was not to give in once.

What were your take-aways from the Challenge, and how has your life changed?
  1. Plan ahead. The more you have things figured out before your day starts, the less decisions you have to make during the day. Available, prepared snacks and meals became more automated at that point.
  2. Drink lots of water. I remember one point I was like “I have so much energy!” and I felt like a zombie before. Once I learned how to stay hydrated, I was bouncing all over the place with energy.
  3. There is always a healthy alternative to what you want to eat. If you’re looking for a taco fix, make turkey tacos. If you’re wanting pizza, make a cauliflower pizza. It may be harder since you can’t just go to a drive through and pick it up, but this way you know what is going into your foods but not sacrificing those joys in life.
What is your best piece of advice for the Challengers participating in the current spring session?

Losing weight doesn’t make you instantly feel happier about life. Think about what you are looking to accomplish by completing the Challenge. Is it new recipes, making new friends, pushing yourself in the gym, or losing weight? Find what makes you gets you out of bed in the morning and use the Challenge to help you become the best you to go out and achieve your goals.

Also, eventually the hype starts to fade. Find ways to help motivate yourself. To keep myself motived, I decided that every two weeks I was going to reward myself for meeting all my goals. I also started to get others in the Challenge to do something similar in the Facebook Transformation group page. I would post a pic of my reward, show that I made my goals that two weeks, and then use the #TreatYoSelf afterward!


Interested in joining the next Challenge (fall edition beginning mid-September)? Contact to be added to the communication list. Interested in attending a CKO class? Click Here to sign up today!

Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast

Spring into Your Fittest Self

Spring into Your Fittest Self

Spring is in the air and it is time to come out of your winter “hibernation”! This “hibernation” looks a lot like this: Go to work or school, go home right after work or school, stay inside at all costs (preferably under a blanket on the couch), and repeat. If you fell into this routine, now is the time to break it. Spring forward into healthier habits and mindset!

Form Healthy Habits

Between the increased sunshine and warmer weather, Spring ignites motivation. Use this energy to motivate you to form and stay committed to a solid routine. If you begin now, you have several months of established clean and active living practices before next Winter. The hope is that it has become an integral energy-producing part of your life, that it will carry you through the cold, dark winter months.

Build Confidence

Summer is just around the corner and we only have a few more months before we are all hitting the beach in our swimsuits. I am 100% for loving the skin you’re in just as it is. Or, as they say, “every body is a bikini body.” However, when I get into the gym on a regular basis and am nourishing my body with healthy food, my confidence soars. I feel strong and love to see the changes in my body and mind. Your body may not look drastically different after a couple months of healthier habits, but your perspective likely will be. Use this time to build up both your inner assurance and your outer physique if you are feeling dreadful about bathing suit and shorts weather.

One suggestion for the perfect place to implement these long-lasting healthy habits and build your confidence is at CKO Kickboxing. Interested in attending a CKO class? Go to to sign up today!

Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast