A friend of mine from work started taking kickboxing classes at 9Round Fitness a few months ago and convinced me to join her.
My kickboxing experience is limited to say the least, and practically nonexistent if you want to get technical about it.
I jumped on the P90x bandwagon a when that was a thing and huffed and puffed my way through the cardio kickboxing DVD a handful of times to the tune of Tony Horton telling me I was inches away from my ideal bod. Inches was accurate.
But Tony and I have lost touch. And nary a jab, cross, nor uppercut punch has entered my life since he and I parted ways. Suffice it to say I was entering the studio a total novice.
I left work a little earlier than my friend, who we’ll call Veronica. I tried to time it so that I’d wrap up initial paperwork before we, in theory, did the workout together.
But the paperwork part passed quickly, and the way 9Round is set up, you don’t really do it with anyone. Which is actually part of its appeal, though I didn’t know that at the time.
All I knew is I was on my own in this intimidating place talking to a the very efficient trainer/owner named John who wasn’t having any of my stalling.
John’s an Asian man with a slight accent. He eagerly introduced himself to me when I walked in, immediately recognizing that I was an outsider — fresh blood. I told him I was a friend of Veronica’s and he knew exactly who she was even though, as I mentioned, she’d only just started workout out there a couple of weeks before.
That’s the kind of place 9Round is. A little family, or a Cheers-type locale, take your pick. Everybody knows your name. And John wanted to know mine, so I told him, “Leigh.”
And he cocked his head, unsure he’d heard right. “Lee?”
This is the inevitable exchange that occurs every time I introduce myself to people of Asian descent. “Lee” is a Chinese boy’s name. “Leigh” is also a British girl’s name. I often have to explain this fact to people who bluntly question why my parents might choose to give me a name that’s not only for the wrong sex, but also the wrong nationality.
I’ve had men at bars flat out say, “No! That isn’t your name! That’s a Chinese name — for a boy!” And all I can do is laugh and then blow their minds with the reality that, in fact, I am a white girl named Leigh. Not Leah. Not Leigh-Ann. Not Lisa. Leigh. How-do-ya-do?
But John was way too polite (and eager to gain a new club member) to question me on my given name. The confusion flickered across his face for an instant before he moved past it and onto what brought me into the club that day.
“What are your fitness goals?”
It was a simple enough question, but I was caught off guard. What were my fitness goals? I hadn’t really come to the kickboxing club with fitness in mind. I’d come because it’d been a hell of a week, and Veronica had assured me the first class was free, and that I would get to hit things.
She’d also told me the workout was really intense. The way the workout’s setup, there are 9 stations, each with a different boxing-style workout. They vary daily. You spend 3 minutes in each round and 30 seconds doing some sort of “active rest” in between rounds. Buzzers sound off when you have 30 seconds left in the round, when the round ends, and when a new one begins.
I was more than a little worried I wouldn’t be able to finish all 9 rounds. So, put on the spot, I answered honestly, “My fitness goal is to finish this workout.”
I’m not sure John had ever gotten that response before. He tried a different approach.
“What do you do for exercise now?”
“I walk, and I think about getting back into yoga.”
Instead of laughing, John looked a strange combination of puzzled and concerned. Which was kind of a let down because, well, I’m funny dammit! And that was funny — at least to the extent that it warranted a wry grin or even a half-smile.
He didn’t seem to know what to make of it, though. So we moved on. The buzzer rang, and it was my turn to jump in on the first round. Quite literally. That day the first round was jumprope.
Three minutes of jump roping should be simple enough, I thought. After all, I’d gone through grade school in the days of Miss Mary Mack dressing in black and Cinderella dressed in yellow making out with her man upstairs. I’d been a jump-roping queen. And it had to be a bit like riding a bike, no?
Jump-roping at 28-years-old is quite a different thing than jump-roping as a pre-teen.
I was astounded at how very badly my body was failing me. Rhythm, coordination, buoyancy — unbeknownst to me until this very moment, all of these things had fled my arsenal of abilities. It was a complete shock that something I used to be able to do with no problem was now virtually impossible.
I could make two jumps in a row on a good try. And there were only a handful of those.
Thankfully, John saw my plight and handed me two handles with swinging weights on the end. He said, “it’s better to jump with the rope, but if that isn’t working, you can use this, and it will get easier.”
I liked how he said that: if it isn’t working. It made it sound like there was a flaw in the rope and not in its user.
I took the rope training wheels and jumped with all the dignity as I could muster. (Which wasn’t much.) Luckily, though, the round was over soon, and I got to move onto something else.
That’s something I’ve grown to love about 9Round boxing. If you hate one particular round, you know you have a finite amount of time to endure it: three minutes. And you can do anything for three minutes. At least, you can with the help of fabulous trainers like John, who can modify the things you really can’t do for three minutes so that it becomes something you can.
I don’t remember the specifics of the rest of the rounds they had set up that day — only that I did eventually get to hit a lot of things!
There was a big body bag with a person’s face on it, a rubber ball looking thing suspended between what were basically long rubber bands so that I kept thinking it would come back and hit me in the face if I wasn’t quick enough (great motivation), a horizontal padded thing on chains that made a very satisfying clanging sound with every shin-kick, and what they call a “speed bag” which is that small one you always see the boxers train on in movies where they just hit and hit and hit and the bag bounces back in a blur.
I couldn’t quite get to blur speeds on my own, but John spotted me and we had that thing flying! It was awesome.
So awesome, that now I’m completely hooked. I’m talkin’ jab, cross, uppercut, hooked!
(That’s a boxing joke, cause a “hook” is a boxing term. Just in case that wasn’t obvious. That’s what made that funny. And now it’s not anymore, if it ever was, because if you have to explain a joke it’s basically dead.)
And that’s what I tried new recently. By recently I mean in January, because that’s when I started at 9Round. But it takes a hot minute to write a blog post and this one has been sitting in my drafts pile for awhile. I’ll be back with something super new next time!
And what have y’all been up to? Tell me stories in the comments. I want to hear ‘em.