These star trainers used to be all about throwing jabs in the ring. Now, they’re fighting to get you fit.
And the career transition makes a lot of sense. Fighting styles like boxing, MMA, and Muay Thai require an insane level of athleticism, so these champs know a little something about getting in shape. (We’re talking Golden Gloves winners, here, not trainers who toyed with boxing in high school.)
“The lifestyle of a boxer revolves around fitness,” explains Jennifer Lopez, a boxer and trainer at Willspace in New York City. “As a fighter and a coach, I understand the focus and the commitment necessary to achieve fitness goals.”
Because that’s true of all of the trainers we’ve rounded up here, your chance at a fitness TKO (that’s “technical knock out”) with them will be sky high. Meet five bad-ass fighters turned fitness trainers… —Lisa Elaine Held
Pictured: Laurel Holloway
Holloway discovered Muay Thai five years ago and after getting hooked, rose to champ level quickly. “Getting in the ring was a rush like no other, and with each fight, I realized that the challenge and thrill was less about beating another girl and more about improving myself and becoming a better version of myself in the ring each time,” she says.
In addition to other major wins, just a few weeks ago she brought home the belt in the Muay Thai Women’s Full Rules Title Fight in the Tri-State Area.
To share the physical and mental strength training she was gaining, Holloway founded Fitness Fight Camp, a Central Park-based boot camp based on Muay Thai techniques.
“We saw a lot of women who clearly wanted the same type of great workout that got me hooked, but who were turned off by the testosterone-fueled atmosphere that predominated most gyms,” she explains. “So we created our own classes with drills, calisthenics, and partner exercises for a great, challenging workout, but in a supportive, fun environment.”
New Jersey-native Jennifer Lopez started boxing in high school at 16, and got into MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) after college. As a fierce competitor with a 4-1 record and lots of medals on her mantel, Lopez immediately recognized the high level of physical fitness needed to win.
“I believe you can be the most skilled person in the world, but if you’re not in shape, you can lose to someone who’s in shape but possesses no skill,” she says.
She brings the intensity and dedication she put into her own workouts into sessions with clients as a trainer at Will Torres’ studio, Willspace, in the West Village. “I want clients to experience the energy, the strength, and the mental toughness that boxing has given me,” Lopez says.
Nigerian-born Okafor got into boxing at 31, an age that’s often closer to retirement for others used to the ring. But within three years, he became a two-time heavyweight champion, winning back-to-back Golden Gloves in 2008 and 2009.
His chiseled physique also led him to a career in modeling, and you’ve probably seen his muscled body in Men’s Health or V Magazine.
Now, Okafor uses his knowledge of fitness and boxing with celebrity (and regular) clients at Peak Performance personal-training studio in the Flatiron, where he may have you switch from squats and lunges to jab and upper-cut combos.
Olajide is the most famous boxer-turned-trainer, because of an incredibly lustrous career both in the ring and at his fitness studio, Aerospace.
As a boxer, he won four championship titles and became the number one ranked middleweight contender in the world. “My father taught me how important conditioning is to being a true champion,” Olajide says.
He took that advice and opened Aerospace in the Meatpacking District, where his signature workouts, like Aerobox and Aerojump, draw from boxing techniques and conditioning drills and soak every tank top in the place. He’s a master of the jump rope, for instance, and the space is filled with punching bags.
Olajide’s studio and methods have become renowned—he trains a slew of supermodels and choreographs fight scenes for major Hollywood films.
Walsh was a trainer before she started boxing, but fighting took her fitness resume to the next level. “After trying an array of fitness methods such as power lifting, functional training, and running, I became bored with the gym environment and my own workouts and searched for something more challenging,” she says.
She got hooked on boxing and was soon fighting in amateur bouts. An in 2008, she was the New York Golden Gloves champion. Now—in private sessions throughout the city and at Uplift Studios—she leads her clients through boxing-based sessions full of muscle burning and emotional release.
She’s also a certified yoga teacher and uses the two polar opposite physical disciplines to amazing effect. Just like yoga, boxing comes with mental and spiritual benefits, she says. “Boxing has given me this sense of confidence and power that I now apply to all areas of my life. It makes me fearless.”