Want a body like THIS? We chat with kickboxing instructor and fitness model Nichelle Laus.

What possessed you to take up kickboxing?

I came from a broken, very dysfunctional and abusive childhood. My self-esteem and confidence had taken a beating as a result, which in turn filtered to school. It made me a prime victim, a target for the ‘mean girls’. I was always very physically active and one of those ‘natural’ athletes. I excelled at every sport I tried, but I was always bullied because the ‘mean girls’ thought I was showing off. I decided not to partake in any more school sports because I didn’t want to be bullied.

As a result, I had a lot of internal stress and anger that needed some releasing. My self-esteem needed a boost, and I needed to gain more confidence.

Kickboxing was the first sport outside of the school walls where noone could judge or make me feel bad. Being naturally athletic and competitive, I excelled at it. It became my passion. I was able to channel my anger and stress in a positive way. No other sport made me feel this strong, and free. Twenty years later, I am still paying forward.

How did you get your start? (Are there kickboxing classes?)

I joined Tristar Gym, a mixed martial arts training centre. At most training facilities like this, martial arts classes are offered at different times and open to all levels of experience and ages. Martial art training facilities and mainstream gyms offer a variety of training options such as group classes, one-on-one personal training with a qualified instructor, and some facilities even offer an area where you can practise on your own to improve your skills.

Can anyone do it?

Any woman who is willing to learn and ready to partake in a high-energy workout challenge can try kickboxing. I do recommend learning from an experienced and reputable instructor, and starting at a beginner level. As always, protect yourself from injury by equipping yourself with the proper gear. Everyone’s fitness level is different so make sure you go at a pace that is comfortable to you and work your way up.

What types of fitness are critical for good performance?

Kickboxing is a high-energy full body workout that teaches you self-defence. It also helps improve balance, coordination, speed, agility and flexibility. Good performance in kickboxing requires being able to execute a punch or a kick with proper form. Nutrition, cardio conditioning, muscular endurance, strength training, flexibility, core stability and proper mental and physical rest are also critical. If you are looking for an alternative, try other marital arts such as Muay Thai, mixed martial arts, jujitsu, and even krav maga.

What training do you do to develop and maintain your grunt?

I focus on one or two aspects separately such as strength training and cardio on one day, flexibility on another, etc. I always maintain a well-balanced nutrition plan, and get plenty of rest. If there is one thing someone should work on prior to trying a kickboxing class, it would be cardio endurance.

How did kickboxing change your body?

Because kickboxing is such an intense and full body workout (you can burn approximately 800 calories in just an hour!), I noticed a change in overall strength and endurance. My core became stronger and I gained lean muscle mass as a result of the continuous conditioning.

Are we talking amateur or pro (hobby or career change?)

Kickboxing has always been a leisure pursuit for me. Even though I fought at an amateur level for several years, the challenge, hard work, dedication and intensity of the workouts have kept my passion alive. I continue to instruct kickboxing as a way to encourage, motivate, instruct, guide and mentor other women to be the best they can be. If someone wants to take kickboxing to another level, it’s essential to choose a reputable training facility and an experienced coach who focuses on every aspect of the sport.

NEXT: 6 workouts with SERIOUS kick-ass cred>>

Photo credit: Dave Laus