Maplewood’s CKO Kickboxing Offers Results-Oriented Full-Body Workout

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When Maplewood resident Tara Connell accompanied a friend to a kickboxing class eight years ago she never expected to get hooked.

“I was an athlete my whole life,” she explains. “I ran marathons before having my first baby and I was living in Brooklyn when my friend who was getting ready for her wedding wanted someone to go to kickboxing classes with her. At the time, I didn’t liken it to a full-body workout. I sort of went as a buddy and almost immediately I was addicted.”

A new mom at the time, Connell says she had been trying to lose “the baby weight” and found herself surprised by how quickly she began to see results.

“I had never done a full-body workout like this,” explains Connell, who says she instantly came to view the one-hour classes as an ideal alternative to traditional gym-style conditioning.

Seeing an opportunity to share her passion for the workout, the fitness devotee and her husband, JJ, moved to Maplewood to open the CKO Kickboxing franchise located at 1933 Springfield Avenue.

A Workout for Every Body

The business owner and trainer says there’s a common misconception about kickboxing that you need to be fit in order to take a class, but each is customized to the level of the participant, she explains.

“People think they have to get in shape in order to come here in the first place but you can walk in and you’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish. We have people of all shapes, sizes, and ages here. Everyone has a reason why they want to look and feel better. If you put your mind to it, you will see results.”

Often when many newcomers check out CKO, they  feel intimidated by the 50-pound weight bags that each individual uses during a class. Connell suggests taking a look at this video to get a feel for what to expect.

“You go at your own pace,” she says. “There’s no competition here. Everyone is doing what they can. Some people burn upwards of 1,200 calories in an hour, some burn less. It’s about working as hard as you can. People walk out feeling great. We try to make it fun yet challenging at the same time.”

Participants see results quickly, which is energizing and motivating, adds Connell, who continued to practice kickboxing throughout two pregnancies by having the workouts tailored to her abiliities.

“My deliveries were quick and easy and I got back into shape almost immediately after,” she notes.

In addition to her own positive experience, Connell says it’s rewarding to watch participants succeed in reaching their goals over the course of time.

“It’s amazing seeing how people change. They came in meek, needing to lose a number of extra pounds, not feeling good in their clothes, not smiling. Then they get addicted and only good things happen,” she says.

Those interested in sampling the workout are welcome to take a free trial class. Connell recommends checking CKO’s online schedule to book a spot.

While you don’t need to be the next Laila Ali, you do need boxing gloves. Either bring your own or purchase a pair of starter gloves for $20 at CKO. Participants are welcome to pay by the class or commit to longer-term memberships, which prove more economical.

Still, for a minimal time investment of just three to four hours per week, Connell says, the changes you’ll see and feel will inspire you to keep going.

“As far as results, you can really get there,” says Connell. “A lot of people think they have to spend a lot of time and money to get in shape, but you really don’t.”

Connell is also proud of the environment she and JJ have created. “There’s no competition here, just camaraderie. Start with baby steps and you will get there.”

For more information or to view a schedule of classes, visit CKO’s website or call  973-245-9680.

This feature is part of an ongoing wellness series. If you have a health or wellness business you’d like to see covered by The Village Green, contact us at

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