FIRST PUNCH

Kickboxing for the chick soul…

By Danny Solomon

I will be the first to contest that my exercise logic is a bit skewed. I'm not afraid to admit that I'm the kind of girl who thinks that cheese dip is a decent reward for a hard workout. Inevitably, I'm surprised when the weight will not come off. My motivation to exercise is based on a scientific combination of weather, mood, time, and how much guilt I feel over what I eat for lunch on any given day. Consequently, one of the few benefits I found in being an adult is realizing the pattern of my behavior––both good and bad. Healthwise, I'm hot and cold. I workout 3 hours every Monday night through Saturday and order a pizza with extra blue cheese to dip it in on Sunday. I've promised myself change, and I've broken that promise every time. When it comes right down to it, there's no one easier or harder on myself than me.

I'd like to say that I started kickboxing to learn how to defend myself, or to achieve shapelier thighs, or something meaningful like that. Truth is, I was coming out of an 8 year relationship and was so angry I didn't know what to do. I thought hitting something might help, though I had never thrown a punch in my entire life. One day, I found myself at Knockout Fitness talking to Frankie. Frankie looked like he gone a few rounds in his day and knew what he was talking about. I can't remember everything he said––a round bell kept ringing and I was mesmerized by a Muhammad Ali quote hanging over his head. It said "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses. It's won behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road––long before I dance under those lights." A sucker for any sort of inspirational quote, I was hooked.

Kickboxing is a low impact, ultra-intense workout that builds cardiovascular endurance, physical strength, and somewhere along the line, self-confidence. It adds definition to arms, legs, and abs and never before have I derived so much pleasure from something that has caused me so much pain. Just putting those yellow wraps on my hands made me feel like I was doing something powerful. After I mastered throwing a punch, nothing could stop me.

I have seen every face of every person who has ever thought about annoying me on those punching bags. I have jabbed, hooked, and one-twoed until my arm felt detached from my body. And that's just the punches. There is literally nothing that sounds better to me than my foot smacking against Frank's mitt when I hit it with my roundhouse kick. The front lace part of my shoe hits against padding, and it just doesn't get more raw or real than that.

Not sweating yet? It takes only 15 squat thrusts to remind me that I didn't need that extra side of sour cream at lunch. Still standing up? Let's see some crunches, do a few lunges, jump a little rope.

One day I got to class and there was Bob. He was giving me a bit of the eyeball, so I went up and punched him in the face. He didn't even flinch. Bob is an anatomically correct male torso punching bag anchored to the floor by sand in a plastic base. Now, he doesn't have any arms or legs, but he's bald and sporting a nice little 6 pack of the stomach. I beat the living daylights out of Bob on a regular basis, and my only regret is that he can't come home with me so I can beat him up there too. You can't put a price on a stress release like this. Sometimes I even pinch his nose when no one is looking.

In the past, part of the self-inflicted manipulation process that would get me to exercise was based on a shopping reward system. If I'm going to run, I need new shoes. If I'm going to the gym, I need new and fabulous outfits in which to sweat. After my initial learning classes, and recovering from whole days of soreness that a hot bath couldn't cure and Tylenol couldn't touch, I found my body actually craves the workout. Three years later, it still does and true to form, some weeks I make it to 3 out of 3 group classes and some weeks I couldn't fit it into my schedule sideways not even if Bob came to life and asked me himself. But, I keep going back because it feels just as bad as it feels good––and pound for pound it's the most sweat for your money.