Local trainer teaches sweet science to boost confidence, overall fitness

By Elizabeth Niendorf

Boxing gloves tattoo a punching bag with 1–2–3 thuds. Rock music blares from speakers overhead, and Frank Wood, personal trainer and amateur heavyweight fighter, shares a boxer's (and kickboxer's) secrets to Knockout Fitness.

"I do the same workout with my clients as I would to go fight," says Wood, owner of Knockout Fitness, which opened in April.

Kickboxing, a long fitness fad found in cities from New York to Los Angeles, is catching on in Nashville, and it's catching on especially fast with women, they make up two thirds of Wood's clients.

Regina Huggins has been kickboxing for more than a year. The small business owner says she has lost 70 pounds since she started. Her husband, Jimmy Huggins, has lost 30 pounds kickboxing. "Because it's a sport and a skill, hopefully I'll continue to get better at it," says Huggins.

Huggins, like most clients at Knockout Fitness, usually trains for an hour 3 times a week. She says kickboxing is away for her to relieve stress by taking it out on the punching bag. "I think we all got to tap into the fighter inside," she says.

Wood started training to fight when he was 19. A football and baseball player for Clarksville High School, he took up fighting because "there was a void in his life" after his playing days were over. He didn't realize at first just how hard the training would be. "I was a fairly good high school athlete," says Wood. "But I learned what hard work was. In baseball, you can be born with a strong arm. In football, you can be born with good foot speed. In boxing you've got to work to obtain at all."

Wood has been fighting since 1989. For the last 2 years, he worked as a personal trainer at his father's kickboxing studio. It wasn't until this spring that he decided to go out on his own. With help from friends, Wood drew up a business plan, got a bank loan and leased a house on Kenilwood Drive that he converted into a boxing studio. In a matter of weeks, Wood padded and carpeted the basement floor to simulate the spongy surface of a boxing ring, added a restroom and dressing room, and installed an array of boxing equipment.

At Knockout Fitness, workouts begin with a warmup and stretching, and progress to the heavy bags. Clients glove up and practice punches and kicks on a 125 pound bag, working the back, arms, legs and hips and punch upward on the undercut bag, working biceps, forearms and legs, and they practice some more punches on the water bag. The double-ended bag teaches them to hit a moving target, and working the speed bag improves hand speed and eye-hand coordination.

Wood's own boxing style is toe-to-toe, he says. He likes to fight close and inside, but he teaches clients moves from all styles to keep things interesting. That variety is one reason kickboxing has gained in popularity. "You don't do the same thing in a routine," says Wood." There are so many ways to work out each part of the body."

Wood works one-on-one with clients, but is planning to put together some groups of 3. As a personal trainer, he gets to know his clients and sometimes he sees a change in their behavior. "Most people aren't affected either way, but some are," says Wood. "I have seen women who are real shy and quiet, and after a few workouts they become a little more outgoing, a little more aggressive."

That's been the case for Huggins, who says she feels empowered since she learned to kick box. "It's been kind of funny," says Huggins. "My friends tease me and say, "you better watch out–-she can throw a punch! "