Many credit Mike Nicholson for bringing hip hop to Columbus.
The man from Brooklyn, New York, is also credited with changing many central Ohioans’ lives.
Mother Jennifer Ryan says she gets some strange looks when people see her driving around in her minivan blasting hip hop.
She picked up the music while in class with Nicholson at Phlex Fitness on Johnstown Road.
“There are people who follow him from all sides of town to all sides of town,” said student Comfort Witcher.
They say it’s his cool moves, fast feet and pure energy that keep them coming. He has become a Pied Piper of exercise in central Ohio.
“We come from Dublin, all the way from Dublin, to dance with Michael,” student T.J. Ellis said.
10TV’s Kristyn Hartman had no choice but to work up a sweat on the day she visited the Gahanna studio.
“Get ‘em up … pop like Beyoncé,” Nicholson said to his students.
Nicholson has been hip-hopping since he was a kid in Brooklyn.
“They call it the mecca of hip hop,” he said.
After collage at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, he became a graphic artist, sat at a desk and put on weight.
One day, someone saw a younger version of him on video.
“And was like, ‘Who is that?’ And I was like, ‘That’s me.’ They looked at me, and they looked at the video and they’re like, ‘What happened?’” Nicholson said. “The very next day, I was at the gym.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but for Nicholson, going back to the gym ended up being one of those life-changing decisions.
He enrolled in a dance fitness class, where he threw in his own flavor. It came naturally.
“I could be sitting still and I hear music, and it’s like, ‘Ok, let’s go,’” he said.
Just doing something he really loved got the attention of his higher ups, who asked him to teach.
He was getting to walk people down the same fitness path he took. And he understood their battle. He knew making the workout fun was the key to commitment.
His passion eventually became his business.
And there’s big community buy-in. Some of his classes draw hundreds at a time.
Student Leslie Polk said, “I do feel better. I feel great.”
You see all races, all ages and both genders of people sweating to Nicholson’s hip-hop classes.
“I love that you can get an intense workout and burn a lot of calories and have fun at the same time,” Witcher said.
Nicholson said he keeps doing what he is doing because he loves helping people.
Nicholson said that participants can burn hundreds of calories in one of his workouts.
Have an idea for a Side Roads of Central Ohio story? Send Kristyn an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.