l am a kickboxer. Since I’ve officially been kickboxing for six months I feel comfortable making that statement. I am a kickboxer. And I love it.
Now, to be fair, I’m kickboxing a heavy bag. I’m not sure if I could actually attempt to kickbox an actual kickboxer and come out of the fight whole. Have you ever watched one of the Charlie’s Angels movies with Drew, Cameron, and Lucy? Yeah, I’m not that kind of kickboxer (although I watch them in awe wondering if I would ever be up to the challenge of learning). But that’s not the reason why I’m kickboxing. I really have no desire to fight another human for sport or for any other reason. I’m kickboxing for my own physical and mental health.
I have been a working mother for almost fifteen years. Over those fifteen years I threw myself into my career and into motherhood. At work I’m now feeling pretty comfortable FINALLY knowing what I’m doing (mostly) and managing any challenges with a bit more grace, a lot less anxiety, and a much better attitude. As a mother I now have two teenagers and my third baby thinks she’s a teenager. They are much more independent and while “big kids, big problems” is absolutely true I’m finding that I have much more time to myself and I’m a lot less physically exhausted by the actual job of motherhood as midnight feedings and wide-eyed toddlers at dawn are no longer part of my life.
The mental load, however? Well, the mental load is back breaking. At forty-something I’m finally feeling as if I am an adult with very adult responsibilities and challenges. Every decision I make is second-guessed since every decision seems to weigh so much heavier these days. I never know if I’m saying the right thing to my teen girls. I want to do more for them, help them experience everything, and I feel as if time is running short. My husband and I talk about money daily. We have an old home, college tuitions looming, and we really need to get serious about our retirement savings. My parents are aging and my father is currently managing a health scare. And then there is the woman I stare at in the mirror every morning. She stresses me out too. Her hair is turning grey quicker than she can get in to get it colored. There are new wrinkles all of the time and her eyes seem less bright. Every carb eaten and every glass of wine consumed seems to land at her waistline. The idea of her own life winding down has begun to percolate.
Despite my attempts to exercise regularly the effort was simply not enough. I was not happy of the body I stared at every day and I was so tired of being mentally wrung out. I needed an outlet and I needed a change. So now, I kickbox. Why?
- A kickboxing class is one of the most intense workouts you can find. Over the course of sixty minutes I condition pretty much every muscle group in my body WHILE keeping my heart rate at a level that equals that of any cardiovascular type of exercise. I am getting stronger and I’m no longer out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs with a load of laundry. They physical benefits of kickboxing are simply amazing.
- I reap the benefits of group exercise while working on individual goals. Group classes are intrinsically motivating. The loud music, enthusiastic instructor, and energy from every person in the room is addicting and invigorating. I could never keep up such a frenetic pace in an individual workout for sixty minutes. Thirty minutes on the treadmill can feel like hours. Sixty minutes of kickboxing is over in a blink. In fact, most days I’m disappointed when the class is over. I’m dripping with sweat and convinced I won’t be able to lift my arms to wash my hair later but I’m still surprised the hour is up. Despite the group activity, however, kickboxing classes allow you to work on your own goals. The instructors help you modify exercises, kicks, and punches so you can gradually increase your skill, strength, and pace as your overall physical fitness increases. The instructor’s mantra is “Just Keep Moving!!”. Do you need to do those push ups on your knees? Fine! Just Keep Moving! Do you need to put your hands on the mat to get those ab crunches done? Fine! Just Keep Moving! Kick or punch that bag as slowly as you need to but use the correct form and Just Keep Moving! I just kept moving and, let me tell you, that first full push up that I did off of my knees? I almost shed a tear it was so beautiful. I also can now execute a decent, powerful, right roundhouse kick without losing my balance. In fact, I can do that nonstop for about 30 seconds and that was a much harder goal to reach than I thought it would be.
- The benefits to your overall mental health are too many to list but I’ll name a few. First, when I look at the woman in the mirror every morning I now focus on the shapely arms and the toned legs. I seriously cannot stop looking at my arms. They look strong and they look beautiful. I’ve yet to step on a scale because the number doesn’t matter. I’m gaining muscle, I’m less bloated overall, and I have more energy than ever and that makes me so happy. Second, no bad day is a match for one hour of kicking and punching something. I start my work day at 7:30 in the morning since I am a high school educator. There are days when I’m annoyed by 7:33. However, knowing that I have arranged my schedule so I can get to that 5:15 kick class that night gets me through. I’ve kicked and punched through anger, sadness, and anxiety and I always, ALWAYS, walk out of class with a smile. Third, I go to class with a bunch of other people who are just like me. No matter who I see at class I always share at least one comment, knowing look, or smile with someone else who is managing the same stress, the same bad day, or the same excitement over FINALLY mastering that personal fitness goal. No one in that class is perfect including the instructors. Everyone in that room is carrying some sort of burden on their shoulders and they are there so they can simply put that burden down for an hour. We all dragged our exhausted selves in there to be greeted with a huge smile by the instructor, to get sweaty, and to kick some ass so we could walk out a little less tired, a little less annoyed, and so much happier. Knowing you are not alone on this difficult journey of life is sometimes all you need to feel just a little bit more at ease.
So, do you kickbox? I do. And I love it. Have any more questions? Want to learn more about it? Comment below or contact the amazing people at I Love Kickboxing! They have many locations throughout Connecticut and their website is www.ilovekickboxing.com.
*The author was not compensated in any way to endorse the services or business mentioned in this post.