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What to Bring Your First Time at CKO!

What to Bring Your First Time at CKO!

You’ve signed up for your first class at CKO and are getting excited to hit the heavy bags. Then, uncertainty hits you. “What do I even pack for a kickboxing class? What do people wear? Am I really prepared to attend this class?” To put your mind at ease, I’ve listed out everything you should bring to your first class, and really every class from there on out, at CKO Kickboxing.

Workout Threads

Bring comfortable clothes to sweat in. Believe me, you WILL break a sweat. This can be anything from Lululemon leggings and a matching top to a basic pair of shorts and t-shirt you’ve had in a drawer for years. No one cares what you look like in class, so wear an outfit in which you will be most comfortable. On the other hand, don’t wear tops which are super-fitted because with gloves on your hands, it’s a challenge to pull it back into place. Conversely with pants, if the waistband is too loose, gravity will take over and they’ll sag as you’re moving and bouncing. There are bathrooms and a changing room but it is easier if you change prior to arriving at class.

Clean Gym Shoes

Leave your outdoor shoes at the front door and then change into your clean gym shoes. Let me say it again, CLEAN gym shoes. Our hands and feet share the mat. No one wants an accidental and unknown step in dog poop or sharp pebble to meet their hands during class. Am I right?

Water Bottle

As mentioned above, you will be breaking a sweat during class. Bring a water bottle to help replenish the water that your body is losing. Stay hydrated, friends! No need to worry if you forgot your water bottle. There is a drinking fountain conveniently located inside the suite.

Gloves & Hand Wraps

We are hitting heavy bags during class and gloves are REQUIRED to keep your hands protected. A glove allows for strike force to be distributed across the fist, which allows you to punch a thousand times in class. The hand wraps you wear under your gloves help protect your hands in a few ways. Wraps offer wrist support, palm compression, prevents knuckle chafing, and sops up sweat in your gloves, making them last longer. Many people start only with the gloves and eventually purchase hand wraps. If you have your own, feel free to bring them. If not, there are gloves available for purchase on-site for only $20 plus tax and hand wraps for $9 plus tax.

Now that you know what to bring, you are ready to attend your first class! If you haven’t already, go to to sign up today.

Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast

CKO Kickboxing “Swolemates”: Couples Who Sweat Together, Stay Together!

CKO Kickboxing “Swolemates”: Couples Who Sweat Together, Stay Together!

CKO Kickboxing “Swolemates”

What is a swolemate you may ask? Although there are a couple ways to define this term, overall Swolemates are just partners (soul mates) who are on a lifelong health and fitness journey with one another. They workout together and are each other’s motivation to live a healthy lifestyle.

At CKO Kickboxing, there are several couples who come and sweat it out on the bags together on a regular basis. They keep each other accountable, push the other to do their absolute best, and ultimately have a lot of fun! We asked three of our regular CKO swolemates to share about their health and fitness journey as a couple and about working out at CKO together. Here is what they had to say!

Couple #1: Emily and Doug

Exercising / working out has always been a hobby for us. Prior to CKO we found ourselves doing our own routines separately and occasionally together, but never really shared in those experiences. Joining CKO has changed that entirely – we’ve found that going to classes together has become a hobby that we can both thoroughly enjoy, most importantly, together. While we use each other as motivation and tend to push each other to go harder, we also find that we are very light-hearted and laugh with one another before, during, and after classes – we feel that it is important to have a good balance in this aspect. There are no other workout buddies that either of us could ever ask for – even if Doug does drip sweat in my face during partner work. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time at CKO and feel as though it has impacted our lives, our bodies, and our relationship for the better. Having a hobby in common is important in any relationship as it provides something that you both find enjoyable to do together, something to talk about and share together, and we are very happy that we’ve found this with CKO.

Couple #2: Tina and Bobbie

A CKO kickboxing triple play package was given to my wife, Tina, just over a year ago. She encouraged me to join her, but I was hesitant due to my total hip replacement.  Shelby Reno, the owner, assured me I could move at my own pace, adjust the moves, and still reap the benefits of kickboxing.

Finding the motivation to exercise can be challenging especially after working a long, full day.  It’s helpful to have someone you can rely on that knows all your excuses and will convince you to push forward even if it takes tough love. Working out together transcends into other aspects of our lives; our energy levels have increased tremendously while our stress levels have reduced significantly. We enjoy the positive energy of the instructors and getting to know other members. Our transformations over the past year have been immeasurable as we have grown stronger both in health and happiness and having someone to share this amazing experience with makes all the difference.

Couple #3: Tina and John

Big year for John and I – we will be married 30 years July 9 and we will both be 50 this year.  Two girls Ashley is 26 and Niki is 24.  Physical fitness has always been a part of our schedules. Ashley is a GVSU grad in physical education and Niki is a CMU grad in early childhood development and learning. Ashley is the assistant girls varsity basketball coach at Rockford and Niki played college volleyball – starting at GRCC and walked on to CMU team with a full ride.  Growing up the girls we encouraged the girls to participate in sports and they were always busy with one sport or another.  John coached them in t-ball and basketball in the elementary years.  John is all his girls inspiration – he has always worked out from the day I met him he has always belonged to a gym.  After our girls were old enough to drive is when I started getting serious with my fitness as the girls did not need me as much.  We encourage a healthy lifestyle with Whole Foods and exercise. I am a Young Living Essential Oil Distributor and we use oils everyday in our home. From diffusing to topical – it is a lifestyle 😊

These couples and swolemates have found an incredible benefits to sweating it out at the gym together. These testimonials serve as an inspiration to grab your significant other and head to CKO, your home gym, or hit the pavement for a run. Whatever it is, it will be even better with your loved one by your side.

Interested in attending a CKO class? Go to to sign up today!

Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast

How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this Winter

How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this Winter

How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this Winter

Here we are, amidst winter, with no end in sight. Anyone else already over having temps in the negatives and the sky be consistently gloomy? I know I sure am.


One thing about winter I find particularly challenging, in addition to driving on slick and icy roads, is dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is “a type of depression related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer,” (Mayo Clinic, 2017). According to Mayo Clinic, this is caused by a change in your biological clock and/or a decrease in serotonin and melatonin levels primarily due to the lack of sunlight. Some of the symptoms include (Mayo Clinic, 2017):

  • Feeling depressed most of the day and nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Experiencing problems with sleeping
  • Noting changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Dealing with difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide



There are many ways to combat SAD. You do not have to suffer through the rest of the season! Experts suggest light therapy (I personally love and use “happy light”), therapy, medication, and exercise. Research shows many people suffering from SAD are able to avoid their symptoms by incorporating 30 to 60 minutes of exercise and 20 minutes of sunlight each day (Summit Medical Group, 2016).

Exercise increases the production and release of serotonin in your brain, which many SAD sufferers are lacking (Ullrich, 2011). You can start to incorporate exercise by walking, running, weight lifting, or taking group classes, just to name a few. In addition to this, don’t forget to take some of your activities outdoors. Bundle up and get outside to sled, ski, snowboard, or just take the dog for a walk.

One suggestion I have for exercise would be kickboxing. CKO Kickboxing classes could be just the solution you need to add to your routine to help combat your SAD. The classes are 45 minutes to an hour of high intensity interval training and you’ll also be surrounded by motivating individuals who will help encourage you to keep coming back.


Let’s power through this Michigan winter and SAD!

Health and Fitness Enthusiast,



DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to raise awareness on Seasonal Affective Disorder and provides simple suggestions on how to combat it. This post should not be relied on for personal medical advice. Please be sure to consult with your doctor on any concerns to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.



Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Oct. 2017,

“Summit Medical Group Web Site.” Regular Exercise Protects Against Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) | Summit Medical Group,

Ullrich, James. “Defeating Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 6 Nov. 2016,

CKO Member Spotlight: Maureen McCormick!

CKO Member Spotlight: Maureen McCormick!

This month’s member spotlight is Maureen McCormick! Maureen has been a CKO member since August and in that time has lost 35 pounds! Pretty amazing, right? I wish we could all give her a round of applause for taking charge of her health. This did not involve any weird pills or quick fix, crash and burn diets. Maureen is putting in the work and she’s reaping the benefits! How is she doing it? She has cut out fast food entirely and attends kickboxing classes at the new CKO South location.

Maureen shared that in the past she has tried everything from beach body’s 21 day fix program, t-25, buying TRX bands, working out at planet fitness, and also bought an elliptical for her home. This seems to be a familiar situation for a lot of people! She was looking for a magical pill to help her lose weight and she found that in CKO. Maureen says of the CKO classes, “the classes go so fast. You are drenched in sweat and held accountable. It is something I didn’t have before.” Before she would be doing a workout and give up because no one was there to push her to do her best.

Cutting out fast food from her diet has also made a huge difference for her over the last few months. Maureen admitted that she ate a lot of fast food and it quite frankly had become an addiction for her. Now, she has not had any fast food since August and does not plan to ever again! CKO is her new addiction (a much healthier addiction!). Let’s all give it up for Maureen as she continues on her health and fitness journey and continually improves her life!

I asked Maureen for any advice she may have for someone who is in a similar position as her before she started at CKO. She shared before she came to CKO she felt afraid and too overweight to make it through a class. After a lot of encouragement that it was just her and the bag and that no one else was judging, she finally went and fell in love with it. You are never too out of shape or overweight to take steps to make a change and achieve a healthier life.

If you are interested in making a change, just like Maureen has, sign up for a class and discover the amazing effects it can have in your own life! Click here for the GR location and click here for the South location.

Trainer Tony’s 8 Tips on Joining the Morning Crew!

Trainer Tony’s 8 Tips on Joining the Morning Crew!

It can seem impossible to get up early in the morning to workout before the rest of the day begins. However, when you do it is unbelievable rewarding. Not only are you starting your day off with a load of endorphins, you are saving time during the afternoon or evening that can be spent with family or friends, driving your kids from one place to another, or simply guilt-free time on the couch binge watching your favorite show.

Joining the early morning workout crew at CKO Kickboxing GR is a personal goal of mine. Completing my workout early in the morning allows for  more time in the evening to clean around the house, make a nice dinner, or take our dog to the park. This is especially nice for my husband and I as we adjust to life as a newly married couple. Also and admittedly, I love telling people when I attend a boxing class at 5:30am or 6am in the morning. People are instantly impressed (#braggingrights).

I sought out CKO trainer, Tony Deakin, to see how he gets up early in the morning and kills his workouts. He offers us 8 tips on how we can join the morning crew with him:

Tip #1 Set an Alarm
Tip #2 Prepare the Night Before
Tip #3 Do NOT Hit Snooze
Tip #4 Eat Breakfast
Tip #5 Give it your all!
Tip #6 Wake up with a Shower
Tip #7 Stick with it!
Tip #8 Arrive to Class Early

Early morning workouts can be difficult to wake up for, but with the help of Tony’s 8 tips on joining the morning crew, we hopefully all will be attending an early morning class soon! Make sure you are prepared the night before, wake up with a shower and light breakfast, arrive early to class, give it everything you have on the heavy bag, and most importantly, stick with it!

Be Your Own Accountability Buddy!

Be Your Own Accountability Buddy!

Having an accountability buddy is an amazing way to get and keep motivated when pursuing your health and fitness goals. It is truly great to have someone who pushes you to keep going even when you feel like giving up! Bravo to those partnerships that have stood the test of time and keep proving out.

Accountability partners, however, are primarily about motivation, and they help you to establish a habit. The habit itself, partner or not, is what keeps you going. We may go through periods of time where our schedules are crazy, days and times we work out are inconsistent, and we just do not have time to keep in touch with another busy bee consistently. Or, maybe your accountability partner is unable to uphold their end of the encouragement and accountability.

Both scenarios have happened to me multiple times. I have reached the decision point where I need to be my own accountability buddy. I love surrounding myself with people who motivate me, but I know that people’s lives are busy and are constantly changing. The one constant you have in the situation is yourself. Here are tips on how you can be your own accountability partner:

Have a strong “why

Why are you doing this? What are you trying to achieve? What will get you up every single day and say I need to do this? If you don’t have a strong “why”, you won’t have a fervent desire to maintain a fired-up focus or the push to make you someone else’s or your own accountability partner. Find your “why” and write it down. Display it somewhere in your bedroom. Program it in your alarm description.

Create a Fitness Account

Create a fitness account on Instagram and/or Facebook to document your health and fitness journey. Use this as a source of “checking in” on a regular basis. Snap a picture of your meals, take a shameless gym selfie, or share an inspiring quote. I have an Instagram account (@stephleigh_fitness) where I share my health and fitness progress and, of course, human struggles encountered along the way. I’m also able to find encouragement from the numerous health and fitness accounts I follow; we’ll call them silent accountability partners!


For some people, it helps to keep track of their exercise expedition by journaling about it. There are several ways you can effectively do this. One way is to simply log what you did for your workout and what you ate that day. Another way would be to share snippets about your day and use it in a similar way that you would use a diary. These are just two suggestions of how to use a journal to help keep you accountable, but the beauty of journaling is that you can use it however you want-make it your own!

Get Involved in a Community

This one is important to me. I have found that while I do not currently have an accountability buddy, being involved in a community focused on believing, achieving, and conquering fitness goals has pushed me further than I would ever do alone! CKO Kickboxing Grand Rapids is more than a place I go to exercise on a regular basis; It is a gym filled with encouraging trainers and inspiring fellow kickboxers. Their energy and consistency continually motivate me to attend classes and work even harder to reach my goals.

Having a pal on the heavy bag next to mine can be incredibly motivating and a lot of fun too; However, it doesn’t always work for everyone or all the time—especially when you need an extra push to hustle for that muscle. When you don’t have a pal to keep you accountable, remember: You have yourself and there are things you can do to be your own accountability partner because the way you train should ultimately be the way you live

Stephanie, Health & Fitness Enthusiast