Earlier this year, I challenged myself to try one new workout a month. I’ve successfully done this once so far—as in, one month this year. One early January night, with the twinkle of 2018 ambition in my eyes and a hint of champagne still afloat in my bloodstream, I boldly purchased a class pass for five cardio kickboxing sessions. Current me is still laughing at past me but anyway! As far as New Year’s resolutions go, I still think this meager accomplishment is worthy of honorable mention.
Several weeks and one very convincing pair of pink gloves after my spontaneous purchase, I found myself stretching before the class warm-up. The trainers—one of whom spoke of his professional jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts experience—explained that each class begins with a two-minute run followed by a series of core-building exercises. Sure. That makes sense. They neglected to mention that these included burpees, minute-long planks, and push-ups (not the cute kind). Honestly, there was so much more to it than that, but I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a few minutes so, you know, forgive my omissions.
Let me just say that I never thought I would be writing this article because I was fully prepared to pronounce myself dead on the spot long before the warm-up was even over. Other than my inevitable death though, here’s what else crossed my mind as my life flashed before my eyes.
Is everyone else here in better shape than I am?
Admittedly, I arrived first to class—a requirement for all beginners—so I had more time than I would have liked to think about this. I also had that awkward bit of time before class begins when I’m fairly certain you’re supposed to stretch but I didn’t know any cool stretches other than the few I’ve picked up at my once-quarterly yoga class.
How hard can it really be?
LOL. A foolish attempt at self-consolation. A meaningless bet I was making with myself to stick it out despite my first-time jitters. I mean, it’s not like I was there to train for fight night or anything. I just wanted to get my heart rate up and sweat a little. If I could accomplish either of these goals, I’d be satisfied with myself.
Wow, OK, here we go.
After the two-minute run, I was feeling good. No, great. I love doing cardio (I think this has a lot to do with my Catholic upbringing and its emphasis on self-punishment) so this wasn’t as surprising to me as what happened next.
OMG, how is this still the warm-up?
I believe my exact words to one of the trainers when he promised me before class that this would be fun (!) and easy were, “Ha, I’m wildly uncoordinated so we’ll see.” And that we did. The warm-up was quick and spotty in that the trainers and less inexperienced students than myself jumped from one exercise to the next with sharp, thoughtless movements I hadn’t yet mastered. I felt like a newborn puppy trying to walk across freshly polished marble tile—just as delightfully clumsy and plump but probably not as cute.
All right, now it’s time to kick some butt.
I was ready to throw punches, as soon as I learned them anyway. At the time, I was navigating the most complicated move of my life (from one country to another) and I had deliberately carved out an hour of my day to blow off some steam. I was pleased to learn that the kicks and punches weren’t nearly as complicated as the class warm-up and that it wasn’t about aggression at all. It was about control, which is exactly what I needed to feel while the rest of my life outside of this class spiralled.
This doesn’t even feel like work.
Working out is supposed to feel like working out, right? No doubt about it, I was sweating profusely but I was enjoying every minute of it. It felt amazing to get my form just right and land powerful kicks and punches right on the bag (and no, it didn’t hurt at all). The trainers were right. The warm-up was the hardest part; the rest was pure, exhilarating fun.
Wait, is it over already?
After forty-five minutes of intense individual and partnered rounds, the trainers wrapped the class with a few minutes of yoga poses so I got the chance to show those off after all.
Later in the locker room, I spoke excitedly with the other women in the class (there were only women in the class!) who, it turns out, weren’t all that more experienced than I was. One woman said she just wanted to add something new to her workout routine, which typically consists of a few yoga classes a month. “Um, weird, mine too,” I thought. And all of them confessed that they came to class not so much for the technical kickboxing lessons but because of how the class made them feel. It was an alternative lunch break from work for the admin professional, an opportunity to get off the couch for the freelancer, and an excuse to try something new for us all. For me, it was all of that and the chance to work out with a group of strong, like-minded women ready and willing to step out of our comfort zones and onto the mat.