"All right, ladies, keep it up!" said Kathy Henkel, owner and fitness instructor of Kathy Henkel Fitness, shouting over the music to the 20 female students in her energy sculpt class. "Just eight more, count 'em off."
Moving hand weights in time to the rhythm, the women followed Henkel's lead.
The fitness center, which opened in June at 143 West St., in New Milford, is designed specifically for women, with class offerings such as belly dancing and a boot camp fitness class.
"I wanted to have a place where women could take classes with other women," said Henkel, who has been a fitness instructor in other local gyms for 21 years. "When I was teaching at the other gyms, I really listened to the women and what they wanted."
Henkel said many women feel uncomfortable simply walking into conventional gyms. She said some women have expressed uneasiness at working out with men and "buff" women.
Perhaps because of her understanding of this need in the market, the 52-year-old mother has created a following of students ranging in ages and body types.
"I love my job and the women who come in," she said in between goodbyes to her students. "My favorite thing is to see them happy and reaching their goals."
Meagan Longinotti, 31, of New Milford has taken Henkel's classes for more than a year.
"She's so positive and really cares about everyone," Longinotti said. "There's a certain closeness here that you don't find at conventional gyms. She really helps you embrace your femininity."
Deviating from the typical gym, Henkel offers commitment-free passes to attend a variety of her classes. The passes can be bought in groups of five, 10 or 20.
"The first class is free," she said. "But the women always come back."
Her favorite class "is a tie between belly dance fit and kickboxing," she said.
Kickboxing is the only class where men are allowed to participate.
"Right now I only have one guy in there," Henkel said.
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