By Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times
The idea came from a problem Hallie Leffingwell was having when she was a competitive kickboxer.
"When I was fighting, I was often told I was robotic in my movements," she said. "So they told me to listen to Latin music when I was working out. I couldn't help but move my hips and it would help me flow a little bit better with my movements.
Leffingwell said listening to the music was a lot of fun.
"I thought, 'If I can enjoy it, everyone else would, too.' I had some people help me choreograph a class and the members of my gym absolutely love it," she told the St. Cloud Times.
Leffingwell was a kickboxer who worked out at the St. Cloud Boxing & Wrestling Club. She has owned the WeThrive Fitness gym in Monticello since December of 2014. The class she helped create with the help of fitness dance and classic dance instructors is called Spicy Boxing.
"It's been going about six months and classes are three days a week and there's two classes each day," Leffingwell said. "We break it up into rounds. For six weeks, we use the same music and the same choreography, so they get to know the songs and get to know the moves, and we up the intensity as they go.
A person can burn about 300 calories in a half-hour, she said.
"You leave just drenched," Leffingwell said. "It's fantastic."
OK, so let's get into some specifics.
There is a room in the gym that has 10 100-pound heavy bags that hang from the ceiling, each about 6 feet apart. The room is typically dark with only dance machine lights on as mostly Latin music is played.
Wearing boxing gloves, the members of the class punch and kick the heavy bag with dance moves thrown in between to, well, spice things up, with a trainer instructing them.
"It's way more high energy than most workouts, and it doesn't feel like you're working out," said Danielle Carlson, who is from Clearwater. "If I could get to the class more, I would. But right now, I have three kids in baseball. ... Otherwise, I'd do it every day."
Danelle Weismann of Becker is a certified personal trainer and recently tried Spicy Boxing for the first time. Since she tried it, she's been trying to convince others to give it a go.
"I like the fact that it's in the dark with the lights down because it makes you more comfortable," Weismann said. "It's geared for all ages and sizes and you get a little dance in there. ... I love kicking and hitting the bag. You can get mean and aggressive and then they calm you down with the dancing."
The other thing Weismann said she likes about the class is the cost. It is $10 for non-gym members per class. It is free for those who own WeThrive Fitness gym memberships.
"It's super cheap," she said. "I looked into other boxing places and the workouts are very expensive. ... The lights are off during the workouts, so for older women or for women just getting into working out, you just want to feel comfortable."
The gym also offers boot camp workouts, strength training, yoga, meditation and wellness training with certified trainers.
Leffingwell, 33, said she is looking to expand where Spicy Boxing is offered.
"Becker Community Center has picked it up and will be using freestanding heavy bags," she said. "We're turning spicy boxing into a licensed class. We're training people to teach it."
Leffingwell said that she has more than 75 clients who have tried the program. She also said people should not be intimidated by the variety of moves involved.
"The kicks are not very hard and the tempo of the class requires a lighter kick," she said. "There's a lot of squats and a lot of cardio exercises and you move with the music.
"I outsourced the instructor because I know what I'm strong at and I'm not strong at dancing. Our dance instructors have that background and if they are trying something too tough, I tell them to simplify it."
Leffingwell is hoping to expand her business to St. Cloud when she gets a chance.
"I think St. Cloud would really receive it well and I really love St. Cloud," she said.