Health and Wellness

Why are professionals in New York City flocking to kickboxing classes all of a sudden?

kickboxing studio in long island cityA growing number of professionals in New York City are finding kickboxing to be an exhilarating way to revitalize their animal instincts and to get into shape, but what is leading the demand?  We set out to interview some young professionals to discover why they are forgoing the gym and jogging track for the dojo.

Wandering somewhere between the tranquil yoga studios on 42nd street and the raw mixed martial arts classes in Queens is a growing demographic of white-collar workers looking for a workout regimen that pays dividends. But as we discovered, professionals aren’t just interested in getting into shape; they also want an exercise class that helps them cope with the stress of office life.

Jules Martin, a resource development professional in Long Island City is one such individual. He is 34 years old, has been in his line of work for the past eight years, and is a native of the city. “I always played sports in high school, but once I started working, I gained about ten pounds in the first couple years…a lot of my friends in the city have the same issue.” he said, “We sit all day, eat bad food in the break room, stare at a computer for hours on end, and compete for new business on a regular basis. We are trying to distinguish ourselves from the competition so there is constant pressure to be better than we were yesterday. It makes for a very tense way to live your life, and it is easy to make bad decisions when it comes to your health because you are so focused on your work.” Like many other New Yorkers, Martin had looked for a way to stay in shape, but whether it was yoga, training at home, or trying something outdoors like running, he never found anything that he could stick with for longer than a few months.

Martin tried kickboxing one day, and swears it changed his life for the better. “Yeah, once I went to the first class it was as if a light bulb went on, like ‘why didn’t I do this five years ago?’” he laughed. According to The American Council on Exercise (ACE), a typical kickboxing session burns between 350-450 calories per hour, compared to only 180 calories burned per hour in weightlifting. Mr. Martin claims it was not just the health benefits of kickboxing, but the sense of belonging he felt when he signed up for his first kickboxing class in Long Island City. He explains how after work he is able to get off the subway two stops before his apartment in Queens and release all the day’s tension and frustration, while also learning self-defense and making new, like-minded friends in the process.

Mr. Martin is not the only one, because the dojo he attends–and others like it around New York City–is full with middle-aged professionals feeling the same pressure to give 110% at work, but who want to spend their time outside the office in ways that are going to make them a better person.

Although the class that Mr. Martin is in appears to be mostly male, a woman by the name of June, a mother of three and a rising executive in Manhattan with a Fortune 500 company, also shared that she had tried other ways of staying in shape, such as yoga, but that they were “just too boring.”

With a number of new permits for kickboxing studios throughout the New York City boroughs, thirty-five of them, to be exact, it appears that this form of exercise is tapping into something within New York’s professional classes.

One kickboxing instructor we spoke with said that he has a number of “Wall Street types” who take private classes with him five days a week. “Their job is tough, and they literally describe their work like a fight…when they come in here they are stressed and burned out, probably worried about money or whether they are going to have a job if something happens to the market, but within a month you can see it on their face, they walk more confidently, and speak in a more controlled way. What I mean is, these guys are used to putting on a show for everybody else, acting like they are tough, and nobody ever tells them what to do. But once they get in here, they learn that I am the boss, that they are the student, and that if they want to survive here they need to be disciplined, humble, and teachable.”

Whether it is the health benefits, the outlet to make new friends or the improvement in their state of mind, it is obvious from the people we spoke with that the reason young professionals are enthralled with kickboxing in Long Island City and throughout New York is because it makes them feel better about themselves.