Kathy Henkel Fitness closing in downtown New Milford

Kathy Henkel is taking a step back, but not away, from the world of fitness.

Henkel has owned and operated Kathy Henkel Fitness in downtown New Milford for the last eight years. On Wednesday, Henkel will be open for the last time and hold a “walk down memory lane” fitness walk at 8 a.m. to commemorate her years in business.

“I’ve been in fitness for 32 years and this will be a new phase for me,” Henkel said Monday from her nearly empty fitness studio. “I’ve done my time here and helped a lot of women conquer their fears and get over the stigma of weight lifting. They’ve left here with confidence. It was very fulfilling. I want to go out on top.

“When looking back upon all the incredible people who have crossed my path, stood by me, trusted in me, and supported me on this journey, I feel so lucky and so blessed,” she added. “An amazing array of women has inspired me each and every day of this journey.”

Henkel led the majority of the classes herself at her studio, as many as 16 a week. She offered a variety of fitness classes and specialized in a boxing workout and weights.

“It’s time to pull the reigns back a little,” she said. “I’ll always have a foot in fitness. That’s just who I am.”

Henkel will continue to teach boxing and weight classes at Phys-Ed Health and Performance on Still River Drive in New Milford, reuniting her with Eric Corson, with whom she worked at a fitness studio more than 20 years ago. She said a lot of her clients will continue to work with her at Phys-Ed.

“I can never give up the boxing program. It’s a really good workout,” she said. “I’ll miss the family we have here, but a lot are following me to Phys-Ed, so I’ll still see them. I’ll stay in fitness so I don’t miss it too much. It will definitely be a change, but it will be better.”

Classes were women-only at Kathy Henkel Fitness, but are open to all at Phys-Ed. Henkel will also continue to offer private training courses.

She said the closure of her studio will allow her more time to spend with her family’s business, Wilhendorf Kennel. She also has a daughter getting married soon and another daughter in college.

“After 32 years, I can say it’s going to be good to cut back and have little more freedom,” she said. “

Henkel opened her fitness studio on West Street and moved to her current location on Main Street three years ago. She gave back to the community by holding fund-raising events to support cancer research. She hopes to continue to hold similar events.

“I’ve had a couple members die of breast cancer, so I’ll always to events in their memory,” she said.

Henkel said aerobics was the trend in women’s fitness when she started teaching classes in the 1980s. The focus has shifted to building strength and endurance, she said, as evidenced through the popularity of events such as Spartan and Tough Mudder races.

“You see a lot of women doing those types of races these days,” she said.

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338