A new women-only gym is up and running in Kaikohe, aimed at boosting the wellbeing of women who are too self-conscious to use a regular gym.

Rhonda Zielinski, a nurse and former New Zealand rep polocrosse player, opened Influence Kaikohe in July, above what used to be a health food shop on the town's main street.

She had been going to a gym for some years, but realised that many Kaikohe women were too shy to join her, despite wanting to improve their health.

"There are women out there who struggle with their weight and are very whakamā (shy)," she said, adding that the women-only gym had been her daughter's idea.


"She says I'm a good role model because I'm not a lean, mean, running machine," she said.

"Other women see me and say, 'Far out, if she can do it, so can I'."

Ms Zielinski said she would have been pleased to get 50 members in the first year, but 120 had already signed up.

The emphasis was on cardio and fat-burning rather than strength, with machines such as climbing mills, treadmills, cross-trainers and bikes, and classes from 5am daily.

A 9.30am class for non-members, with entry by gold coin donation, was aimed at women recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.

With minimal lighting and no mirrors, women didn't have to worry about body image, and would hopefully realise that fitness and body size weren't the same thing, she said.

The gym also encouraged participation in marathons, around New Zealand and overseas, as a way of motivating women who wanted to get fit.

"What I find is that women start but putter out.


"If they have a goal they have something to aim and strive for," she said.

She was being helped by Auckland man Doug Healey, who not only regained use of his legs after being paralysed in a workplace accident but also began long-distance running.

He now organises trips for unlikely runners to marathons around the world.

So far 10 Influence Kaikohe members had signed up for the upcoming Okaihau Traverse, 11 for next year's Rotorua marathon, and three for China's 2020 Great Wall marathon.

Ms Zielinski had signed up for a half-marathon in Myanmar in November, and next year's full marathon in China.

Gym member Jane Beamsley said the fitness classes and 24/7 gym access were helping her recovery from addiction.

"Just being around a group of strong, inspiring women really uplifts you," she said.

Ms Zielinski hoped her venture would help Kaikohe women build physical activity into their daily routines, and encourage them to care for themselves.

"Women are normally looking after everyone else first.

"They forget about themselves," she said.