When 9Round founder and IKF Light Middleweight Kickboxing Champion Shannon "The Cannon" Hudson isn't dominating combat rings across North American and Europe, he is taking care of his two children. It was with his kids in mind that the seasoned black belt crafted his signature workout¬—a challenging professional fighter's training regime compacted into a hectic, schedule-friendly 30 minutes. Today, trainers in 9Round gyms across the nation lead members in Shannon's workout, guiding classes through its nine rounds of aerobic, anaerobic, and resistance-training exercises. Instructors vary the rounds each day, supplementing body-weight exercises with jump ropes, punching bags, and free-weights. Coaches also encourage diets of fruits and lean meats and counsel members against common dieting pitfalls, such as skipping breakfast or storing smoothie surplus in unmarked laundry-detergent bottles.
As they enter the training circuit at Curves, female guests come face-to-face with the smiles of other women. And just as points on a circle share a common distance from the circle's center, workout participants share the experiences of those nearby by trading stations throughout the 30-minute training session. One minute is spent on a piece of strength-training equipment built for feminine frames and designed to work two opposing muscle groups with a single movement. Exercisers then move on to a recovery station, where they run, jog, or dance to maintain heart rates and keep platforms in place during momentary losses of gravity.
Brimming with Matrix fitness equipment, free weights, and muscle-toning cable machines, Nova Gyms inspires guests to build well-rounded workouts that incorporate strength training and cardiovascular conditioning. Friendly staffers welcome exercisers of all levels with gratis equipment orientations, teaching them how to board stair-steppers safely and reason with surly dumbbells. Fitness seekers customize presses and lifts at the functional trainer, which lets them add or subtract weights at their convenience. A half-dozen elliptical machines help members trace low-impact circles with their feet, and three recumbent bikes simulate rickshaw-based limbo contests. Guests can also gallop on treadmills equipped with 15-inch personal TVs to keep their minds occupied while their bodies get sweaty.
Fueled by the belief that fitness and nutrition go hand in hand, WCA-lauded chiropractor Dr. Ken Krimpelbein puts his knowledge of the human body and skills in diet management to use helping people transform their lifestyles. In addition to offering exercise classes, such as Zumba and yoga, Dr. Krimpelbein and his team stock their naturally lit, TV-lined workout area with free weights, plate-loaded equipment, and cardio machines, including Woodway treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bicycles. On the nutrition side of the spectrum, they offer weight-loss and detoxification guidance via their FirstLine Therapy program. They also run an onsite juice bar, where members can rev up with a healthful snack and a smoothie.
The perception of pole dancing is changing. When Maureen Metzger and her business partner DJ Hamilton started Blush Pole Fitness & Dance six years ago, Maureen says, "people thought [the instructors] were strippers." Since then, she's seen attitudes adjust as pole dancing went from taboo to a possible Olympic sport. Maureen equates pole dancing with aerial arts, on par with performances seen in shows such as Cirque du Soleil. She leads a series of classes and workshops that focus on upper-body and core strength or hone in sensual spins and dances. "You can be sexy and sensual," Maureen says, "and it doesn’t have to be tasteless . . . I watch Dancing with the Stars, and I think that is way more sexual than anything we do."
Occasionally, she still has to spend some time fighting inaccurate stereotypes, including an episode in early 2012 that involved inviting Jim Stingl of the Journal Sentinel to studio for a fact-finding mission. But mostly, Maureen and DJ concern themselves with empowering women to be "strong physically and emotionally." There comes a time, she says, when "you stop feeling sexy, you age, you gain weight, you get so busy with other parts of your life. . . I think we lose [that] and [pole dancing] reminds us to be women." She credits pole dancing as a vital ally in boosting her self-esteem during a double mastectomy in her battle against breast cancer.
And though Maureen is the first to tout the power of pole dancing, she is also one of the first to undercut some of its weightier connotations, much like a doctor who uses a stethoscope that squeaks. "[We're] totally willing to laugh at ourselves," she says. "Nobody is taking this too seriously." The lighter mood, in particular, helps welcome shy students, who Maureen and DJ witness transform into "strong, confident, sexy, and feminine [women]."