Alive and kicking

  • Kuleana Wellness Club member Cindy Ruddle boxes one-on-one with Owner Brian Jai during the combo kick and boxing class on Tuesday. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
    Kuleana Wellness Club member Cindy Ruddle boxes one-on-one with Owner Brian Jai during the combo kick and boxing class on Tuesday. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
  • The expansive Waimea gym boasts 125 pieces of equipment, locker rooms with showers and a juice bar. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
    The expansive Waimea gym boasts 125 pieces of equipment, locker rooms with showers and a juice bar. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
  • Shawnee Marsh and Cindy Ruddie do a high knees exercise during one of the Club’s fitness classes. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
    Shawnee Marsh and Cindy Ruddie do a high knees exercise during one of the Club’s fitness classes. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

WAIMEA — Bronson Bruno has a busy schedule.

As a flight attendant for ‘Ohana by Hawaiian Airlines, trying to juggle trips and stay in shape could be challenging. But the gym he belongs to opens at 4 a.m. and stays open until 9:30 p.m. at night.

“I love the fact that I can work out at my own leisure,” he said. “Kuleana Wellness Club has the right equipment and I’ve made new friends there. We push and motivate each other.”

The gym is one of the best kept secrets in Waimea.

Since opening last December, members have found out about it mostly through word of mouth. Located on the second floor of Uilani Plaza, the expansive fitness center is filled with 125 pieces of quality equipment. In a separate studio, 35 classes are offered weekly, many of which are taught by the gym’s owner, Brian Jai.

No matter how packed or loud classes become, he can always be heard from his wireless headset mic that is magnified on a 7-speaker stereo system throughout the room.

At one time a Zumba instructor, Susan Griley has found a new passion in the Club’s combo kick and boxing class.

“I love boxing, and all these years I was looking for a boxing class that would make me feel strong and sexy at the same time,” she said. “Brian is patient with new students, and for those of us that have it down he pushes to our limit. I always thank him for opening his gym because I see people from different ages working out and feeling comfortable in their surroundings.”

Other classes include spinning, power yoga, circuit body weight training and several others that incorporate dance moves into exercise. The Insanity workout — intense high interval cardio-based training often seen on TV — is another popular class.

Cindy Ruddle, a Waimea resident, says she joined the Club even before it even opened.

“My husband and I pre-enrolled, so we’ve been members since the first day they opened,” she said. “I like its central location, the extensive class schedule and equipment. It has a welcoming and supportive atmosphere. My favorite class is the kickboxing/boxing combo class. It’s a great stress release, very empowering and you burn about 400 calories per class.”

Another advantage is the Club’s lockers rooms — complete with showers — that allow members to go straight to work.

Providing heart rate monitors to members is also important to Jai.

“We use Polar heart rate monitors in our classes that allow me to monitor each individual person’s heart rate while they’re working out,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re at a safe zone for them. People sometimes want to overexert or try to do too much when they first start working out, which causes them to actually have more injury.”

The Club also includes its own juice and smoothie bar.

“Every gym you go to the mainland has some type of refreshment so it wasn’t unusual to do this here,” Jai said.

The fitness center was originally named Kuleana Fitness Club but more recently he changed it to Kuleana Wellness Club.

“We’re a friendly place. You don’t have to be fit to come to the club; you come here to get healthier,” Jai said.

He got the inspiration to open his own Club from personal experience five years ago.

“When you turn 40 years old and get prescribed heart medication, cholesterol medication and baby aspirin, you’re overweight, have to have foot surgery, knee surgery or shoulder surgery, you’re drinking five energy drinks and are in pain all the time, there comes a time where you just need to make a change,” Jai said. “I was on my way to be just like my father, who had a quadruple bypass. I have two kids and I wanted to make a change.”

He also started learning how to eat clean and get nutrients from quality, organic foods.

“I used to get my energy from caffeine or from sugars, but when I was able to get it from quality foods it changed my life,” Jai said. “I went from eating horribly to eating better in about four years. Then I went to eating organic and clean foods in about four months.

He lost 45 pounds when he started doing the Insanity workout, and continued to lose weight and get healthier just by eating better.

“I didn’t understand before that when you eat clean, organically and nutritiously, you can have much more energy,” he said. “That’s how I teach 120 hours a week of classes — because I eat well.”

Jai doesn’t push his life lessons on members though.

“It’s really up to them,” he said. “They have to have that lightbulb go off and it has to hit their inner core that says it’s time for change. I have dedicated my time and effort in my life at this point to help people understand there is a way to get healthier. When the time is right, we have the ability, tools and support they need.”

Jai built the gym with many different work out options in mind.

“I just want to make it friendly and fun to exercise,” he said. “We want to appeal to the 80 percent of residents who don’t work out. The changes I’ve seen in members since they started coming here is really amazing. I can see that they’re determined and aren’t trying to get it all done in the first month or the second month.”

From what he has learned, eating cleaner and changing his lifestyle, the Club will soon offer what he calls “a long-term changing program,” with personal assistance on how to work out and habit coaching for those who need it.

To some members, Kuleana Wellness Club now seems like a second home.

“It’s become a social place as well,” Jai said. “People who come to the gym see the same people all the time. Everybody seems to look out for each other.”

Info: www.kuleanafitnessclub.com or www.facebook.com/kuleanafitnessclub

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