Anyone who knows me (or reads my blog posts) knows that winter is not my favorite time of year. I miss the sun and the warmth and the beach. As I’ve gotten older my winter blues have definitely started to look a bit more like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and I do my best to keep myself from that edge. Symptoms of SAD include depression, loss of energy and motivation, loss of interest in favored activities, changes in weight and appetite, feeling agitated, feeling hopeless…the list goes on and with every winter I was able to check off more and more of these symptoms.
I used to spend some time in a tanning bed and the light and the warmth worked wonders for my mood. Unfortunately, it wreaked havoc on my skin (and the cancer threat was beginning to feel real) so that was no longer an option. A few winters ago I whipped out the credit card and bought a gym membership so I could exercise more often. I found that exercising a few times a week was now essential to keeping me off of that ledge of seasonal depression and I would be sure to go if I had a particularly moody day.
Winter is still my kryptonite, however, and in my last post (you can read it here) I talked about needing to find a way to really kick this winter misery once and for all. Life is too short and I can’t waste three months of my life every year being moody, sluggish, and irritated. Well, I think I found my savior.
My lovely friend Alicia started kickboxing last summer. She told me about her new obsession excitedly but I never entertained a serious thought about joining her. I am a runner and I run a lot in the summer. I love the time alone in my head and I wasn’t really interested in working out with others and at a scheduled time. As the seasons began to change, however, the thought of trying something new started to wiggle around in my brain. Despite the running, I’m gaining a bit of weight (I’m blaming my slowly deteriorating metabolism) and I’m beginning to notice that my arms (and other body parts) are a bit jiggly. I tried committing to some work with weights at the gym but I really had no interest in it (translation: It is so boring). I tried to lengthen and speed up my runs but running on the treadmill is just so incredibly tedious and I was pooping out after three miles each time so while my heart was in great shape I saw no change in my body overall. I asked Alicia some more questions about kickboxing and I could see for myself that my friend is in awesome shape, her arms look amazing, and she seems happier overall.
Right before Christmas I saw a web special so I impulsively purchased ten classes and a set of gloves to use at her club, I Love Kickboxing, still really unsure if I was going to like this. Twenty minutes into the first class I was hooked. Twenty-four hours later I had committed to a year long membership. I would have committed sooner but I made myself sleep on it, even though there was no doubt in my mind that THIS was what I was looking for all of this time. Why?
- Kickboxing is an incredibly intense workout. It is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It is also one of the most fun. I have NEVER worked out so hard in my entire life. I walk out of every class soaked in sweat. I also walk out of every class with a smile on my face and more energy than I had before walking in. The class is not just punching and kicking. It also includes a 15 minute high intensity interval workout consisting of running, push ups, sit ups, lunges, squats, and various other exercises aimed at strengthening your core, arms and legs. It is intense and amazing and the kickboxing part of the class is SO. MUCH. FUN. I’m already seeing positive changes in my body, energy, and mood.
- Kickboxing is empowering. Because of these classes I’m getting stronger, learning how to fight (a stationary object but still), and pushing myself to do things I never thought I could do. I leave class feeling strong and mighty.
- Group classes are intrinsically motivating. I will admit that I’m missing the solitary time in my head a little bit. However, I would NEVER exercise for an hour on my own. I would get distracted by my emails, or I’d get a phone call that I’d take, or I’d answer some text messages, or scroll through Facebook. Then I’d realize, with a guilty conscience, that I had been sitting still on an ab machine at the gym for at least 5 minutes without doing one rep. During the hour long kickboxing class I’m essentially off of the grid. I check my phone every now and then to be sure there is no emergency somewhere but that’s it. I’m too busy trying to keep up with the instructor and the other members of my class. Every time I get a little tired I’ll notice that no one else around me seems to be tired so I’d better keep moving. Every time I slow down a bit or think that I can’t possibly do one more pushup or one more situp, an instructor comes around and reminds me that I actually CAN do it and I CAN keep moving and so I do.
- I’m learning more about nutrition, my body, and I’m getting a boost to my overall mental health. This kickboxing club is committed to the overall physical and mental wellness of it’s members. Each class includes some “fit tips” and they use our private members-only Facebook group to distribute information about vitamins, natural dietary supplements, exercises, healthy recipes, dietary changes, as well as motivational quotes, mental health tips, and other forms of inspiration and encouragement. You are made to feel like family almost instantly and I have a new group of friends encouraging me and challenging me to be happy and healthy.
- I get to see my friends more often! This one is an added bonus but worth noting for those busy working moms out there. Sometimes I’ll go weeks only seeing friends at kids’ events or briefly at drop offs and pick ups. I have several friends who have been recruited by Alicia and we try to coordinate our schedules so we hit some of the same classes in a week. Not only do I get to have some added fun with friends but they are there to motivate me to get my butt there in the first place. A quick “are you going to the 5:15?” text is often just the motivation I need to push through after a long day and GET THERE.
The other day I caught myself singing in the car. Every muscle in my body was sore and I had trudged through a frustrating day at work. But I had the energy to start my second shift as a taxi driver for my kids AND I knew I’d be able to get to kickboxing that evening. I didn’t want a cup of coffee. I didn’t want to curl up on my couch in my pajamas. I wasn’t complaining about the cold. I was singing. And I was happy.
Want to see if kickboxing might be what you need to kick those winter blues too? Check out their website at www.ilovekickboxing.com. I’m a member in Shelton, CT and those instructors are simply incredible!
And if my cure isn’t the cure for you, I’m sure there is something out there that can help. Try something new. Challenge yourself to be stronger, healthier, and happier. I promise you’ll love it and you’ll love yourself for making a change.
*The author was not compensated in any way to promote the products or services mentioned in this post.