What images come to mind when you think about boxing? The traditionally masculine, macho sport is in the middle of a pretty cool revolution. Women are challenging those gender stereotypes and proving that boxing “like a girl” is something to celebrate. Local female kickboxers say the sport fosters an empowering environment that encourages them to be proud of their strength, both physical and mental. We spoke with several Woodbury kickboxers who are bringing a new, more gender-balanced dimension to the gym.
Sarah Krotz, a coach at TITLE Boxing Club in Woodbury, spends her time as a trainer encouraging other women to challenge themselves and reach peak performance.
TITLE opened in Woodbury in 2013, and Krotz has been there since the beginning. She currently splits her time between coaching and her role as the sales and marketing manager. One of the many reasons she can’t resist kickboxing is that the exercise was created with a full-body workout in mind.
“Our mission is to not only change your body, but to clear your mind and completely engage your spirit by providing you with the best hour of your day,” Krotz says.
Krotz began kickboxing when she was in high school, using it as a way to cross-train since she was an intense athlete who participated in volleyball, basketball, softball and track. After graduating from college with a minor in coaching, she moved to Woodbury and immediately started taking classes at TITLE. Nearly six years later, she hasn’t stopped kicking and punching.
Kickboxing is a family affair for Krotz, too. Her husband is a lead trainer at TITLE, and they and their kids (toddler Clara and baby Gryffin) spend a substantial amount of time together at the gym. At this rate, she jokes, they’ll be an entire family of boxers.
“[Clara] has been in the club since she was born and runs around like she owns the place. It is one of her favorite places to go and the members love her,” says Krotz. “After her dad’s classes or mine, she will go around to everyone and give them high-fives…which really gives this place a family feel. We also have a heavy bag set up in our home gym, so the kids are exposed to the sport at home as well,” Krotz says.
Even though Krotz is no novice athlete, she finds kickboxing to be the most difficult but also the most rewarding exercise. She describes the experience as requiring lots of willpower and stamina. She says, “I am passionate about coaching for many reasons, but my favorite thing is when everything a member has been taught finally clicks, and they make their first clean power shot on the bag. When this happens, you can see a change in them immediately. They gain confidence and an empowerment that they carry out the door and in to other parts of their lives.”
There are more than 200 female members at TITLE and the numbers keep on growing. Krotz believes women are attracted to this workout because it improves their confidence and allows them to feel physically strong—able to defend themselves and stand up in the face of difficulty. “Even after almost six years, I still get a high from each and every kickboxing or boxing class I take, and leave the club feeling like I can take on the world,” Krotz says.
Another boxing gym in Woodbury with a growing female membership is 9Round, owned by Prab Perera.
“We have a very welcoming and accommodating atmosphere without ‘gym-timidation,’” Perera says. “Since the workout is both for your body and mind …This is therapy while you are getting stronger.”
Emily Gustafson is a trainer at 9Round in Woodbury who is a lifelong athlete. She played three sports in high school and then went on to play college basketball. “I believe kickboxing can empower women in so many different ways. It has brought me confidence,” Gustafson says. “I honestly think it is the best workout around and I love motivating the women at our gym.”
One 9round member, Mikaela Wilson, began working out there after she finished playing college basketball at University of Wisconsin-River Falls. As she was transitioning into a different part of her life, she wanted a way to stay in shape and find the energy renewal that exercise brings. During a typical week, she’s at the gym four or five times. And although she’s a lifelong athlete, she’s relatively new to kickboxing.
“You can make your workout as hard or as light as you want it to be. You can move at your own pace and push yourself,” Wilson says.