b'Kicking Her Way Into The New YearTara Connell, owner of CKO Kickboxing, celebrates a milestoneBY SARA COURTNEYConnell opened her own CKO Kick-boxing franchise on January 12, 2013. She was eight months pregnant at the time, and thrilled to be owning and operating her own gym for the com-munity.I ts been ten years since Tara Connell movedmy whole life. clock. Its a lot of travel. With theherself to running marathons. When a friend of hers to Maplewood and opened CKO Kickbox- Having graduated from college with a marketingasked her to be her gym buddy and accompany her ing. Located on Springfield Avenue, the high- degree, Connell began working by planning corpo- totheCKOKickboxinggyminCarrollGardens, energy gym has been inspiring local residentsrate events. She traveled frequently for her job, andConnell was game. Im all for being a wing girl. So I for years to get off the couch and get moving.the hours were long and often grueling. She had herwent with her and I was immediately hooked. Right Connell, with her cheerfully straightforwardfirst child in 2007 and began to reconsider her fu- away, Connell felt the level of fitness she experienced approach, encourages folks to try this particu- ture. Thats tough work, she recalls. Its really kind lar brand of fitness, with its classes that create a com- of around the munityatmosphere,itsmiked-upteacherstellingfinancial crisis of 2008, and many of the corporate gym goers all the moves, and, of course, its methodevent clients in banking, the work came to a halt. It of relieving stress by punching a heavy gym bag. was good timing for me to sort of slow down, she Connells journey to becoming a gym owner wasadmits. I wound up having two more kids shortly unexpected. Growing up in Florham Park, she wasthereafter. We were living in Brooklyn and I was try-the youngest of six children. It was kind of cha- ing to figure out what my next step was going to be. otic, Connell says. We were all born within a yearI was looking for something more kid-friendly.of each other. All that energy was often channeledThe desire to find work that was more fulfilling into sports. That was our outlet, she remembers.but also more flexible led her to consider an unex-We were very active and played sports every season.pected passion of hers: kickboxing. She had been stay-Going from one game to the next was pretty muching active after the birth of her first child, dedicatingCKO gym goers are clearly enthusiastic about kickboxing.18/ matters magazine / winter 2023'