The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


June 25, 2014

Kick start your way to health

BECKLEY — Even though the participants deliver some serious kicks and punches, the YMCA of Southern West Virginia’s kickboxing class is all about having fun.

Fast-paced music fills the group exercise room as instructor Dave Krass shouts, “Punch to the beat of the music!”

After a few punches on each side, Krass quickly changes it up, telling his class to throw some toe-kicks at the bag.

The previous instructor of the class, Krass said, concentrated more on individual moves for a longer period of time — “But I’m a little more ADD.”

In addition to the kicks and punches, Krass mixes in push-ups, crunches, jumping jacks, frog jumps and more.

“We switch a little bit faster and I think it keeps everybody more interested and makes class go by faster.”

After a solid cardio workout, for the last 15 minutes or so of class, Krass walks participants through a workout targeted to a specific muscle group, such as arms, abs or legs.

Krass is definitely full-speed ahead now, but that hasn’t always been the case.

When he retired from the military after 22 years, Krass  was disabled. He suffered from back trouble, but he slowly rehabilitated himself with workouts in the swimming pool at the Y.

Eventually, he became involved with the kickboxing course and when an instructor was needed in 2005, he stepped up to fill those shoes.

“I think we have fun in here. We cut up a lot and there’s a lot of fun going on.”

Even when the class is wiping sweat from their faces, the smiles remain, usually because of a joke Krass has just cracked.

He teaches proper boxing form, such as keeping one arm up in defense when the other arm is punching — he yells, “Cover your faces ... unless you’re ugly!”

All skill levels are encouraged to attend, from beginner to advanced, and everything in between.

The first couple of times someone attends the class, Krass said, “I won’t even pick on you.”

But after a few workouts, “I start teaching you a little more about how to not hurt yourself when you’re throwing a punch, what equipment to buy, what not to buy, etc.”

Krass keeps a bag full of boxing gloves for anyone who needs them, but many people opt to buy a pair of their own (or from Krass) if they decide to attend regularly.

For those with specific needs or body issues, modifications can be made for nearly every exercise.

“There is something for everybody, you’ve just got to tell me if you’ve got an issue that I need to know about.”

Krass even invites kids to come, as long as they’re accompanied by a parent. He said he typically accepts kids 12 and older with a parent, but he has allowed someone as young as 10.

Aside from increased strength and cardio, Krass said the best part about the class is the group.

“Most of us have all become friends. We talk on Facebook, we go to each other’s (bridal, baby) showers. You just become part of this big group.”

Not only does that group entail friendship, but also encouragement.

“They all encourage each other to come and it’s always great to have a workout partner.”

Class capacity is 34, with two people per punching bag, and certain times of the year the class can be crowded.

New Year’s Resolutioners tend to fill up the classes in January, February and March, as well as the people trying to get ready for bikinis and wedding dresses.

If the class gets too big, sign up sheets will be available, and Krass said just be sure to come early.

He hosts classes Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:45 p.m.

“It’s just a good, wholesome environment. It’s easy going, but at a fast pace.”

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