BENWOOD - When owner Johnny Haught opened the Bullpen South training facility in Benwood, his goal was to further his own training and continue assisting up-and-coming fighters from the Bullpen Fight Club's stable.
Both a fighter and trainer for the club, Haught has a diverse background in a number of disciplines, including kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muy Thai, mixed-martial arts fighting and boxing.
He also knows the importance of conditioning for fighters involved in these disciplines.
So he admits that his initial foray into cardio-specific classes was more of a motivational tool to make sure the Bullpen's fighters weren't skimping on maintaining their aerobic fitness levels.
''I think a lot of people try to skip the cardio part of whatever sport they are doing, especially with fighting,'' Haught said. ''If they can get out of it, they will.''
So Haught started offering cardio kickboxing classes to remedy that situation.
But fighters weren't the only people taking advantage of his classes, which began at a smaller location in St. Clairsville and are now home at 720 Water Street in Benwood at the TMU Building.
Women were taking his classes too. Lots of them. And he could just as easily motivate the women in his classes to push themselves as he did the boxers, grapplers and MMA guys.
So he decided to broaden his offerings at Bullpen South and officially offer cardio kickboxing four times per week on Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.
''For every 10 people that come through the door, maybe one or two stay,'' Haught said. ''But if they are dedicated and devoted to doing it, they will see the progress.
''If you give me two weeks to work with you, it does pay off. It's a guaranteed pay off.''
Haught's classes are far from easy. That's evident by the heavy breathing and large amounts of sweat gracing the workout mats following an hour session.
He could ease up a bit in the classes intensity and probably keep more of the newcomers, but that's not how he wants to operate. He knows the benefits of a rigorous exercise program and if his students want the results, they are going to have to work for them.
''I only know one way to be,'' Haught said. ''I could make it so 8 out of 10 people stay, but I don't want people who are going to give half the effort. I want people that want to better themselves.
One aspect that helps is Haught's relationship with those who step foot into his gym.
Equal parts taskmaster and comedian, Haught doesn't make suggestions when it comes to the workouts. He gives orders and expects them to be followed. But he does interject enough humor to keep people laughing while their bodies fight through mental and physical exhaustion.
''I try to establish a rapport with them,'' he said. ''We are friends and we have fun, but they know that there are no ifs, ands or butts. When I tell them to do things, I'm not asking.''
Haught says everyone coming in starts at ground zero and is given a few weeks to acclimate themselves to the program. After that, a full 100 percent effort is not just expected, it's demanded. And he receives it from those who are brave enough to continue with the course.
And according to Haught, the benefits are more than noticeable.
With the exception of his fighters who must monitor their weight, Haught hides his in-gym scale from his students. When reshaping your body from the ground up, the change in pounds is seldom as important as the change in image, and confidence.
''I encourage the women not to look at the scales and get fixated on numbers, because sometimes, they don't change,'' Haught said. ''But your body does. You gain muscle, lose fat. But if that number doesn't change, it aggravates them.
''So put away the scale and go by what you look like. If you're happy with what you see in the mirror, that's what is important.
''I have a lot of women who will tell me they haven't lost that much weight, but they are three pants sizes smaller. They go out and buy a bathing suit intentionally too small and in a few months, they are fitting into it.''
The cardio classes run $50 per month or people can pay $10 per class.
Haught also offers individualized personal training for $30 per hour if you go once per week, $25 if you go twice and so on depending on the amount of time spent.
It's a bit pricier, but unlike the structured classes, Haught can help you concentrate on target areas.
''You get a quicker result because we can target areas you want to work on as opposed to the class atmosphere, where we target different areas each day,'' Haught said.
A positive side effect from those who take his class and continue to return is that it's enabled people to quit smoking. It's likely do to the students heavily sucking wind post-workout and not being able to continually damage their lungs and still make it through the hour-long workout.
''It's absolutely impossible. And if it looks like it's not going to be impossible, I'll make it impossible,'' Haught said of the need to quit while taking his class. ''I smoked for 12 years and there comes a time when its simply blocking you from being better, healthier. I want people to be healthy and as in shape as I can possibly get them and that can't happen if they continue to smoke.
''You'll either quit, or I'll make this so had you'll quit the class. I'd prefer you quit cigarettes. But this isn't Curves and it isn't Zumba. This works, for certain, but you have to stick with it or you'll pay for it.''
Haught can be reached at Bullpen South by calling (304) 281-8638. The facility also has a page on Facebook.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org