Workout Wednesday reared its ugly head again one cold mid January afternoon. I reluctantly laced up my brand new red and white Adidas running shoes and slipped on my winter coat. Through the solid glass design on my front door, I could see my best friend Cynthia Bermudez’s headlights in my driveway, waiting for me. I heaved a heavy sigh, grateful for her determination. I wouldn’t be able to get back into shape without her.
First, I must explain; I am a champion sitter. Always have been, always will be. If sitting were an Olympic sport, I would win gold every time. There is nothing I like or am more capable of than a nice long sit. I’m crafty about sitting too. I know how to recruit unsuspecting helpers to bring me things in order to prolong my sitting. In the event that I’m alone, I’m able to live without things for unbelievable amounts of time. The frequent tingling in my legs proves just how achieved a sitter I am.
But I’m also an all or nothing kind of girl. When I commit to losing weight, I commit. Well, I did it once, at least. It had been the previous year, with Cynthia by my side, of course. It had started with us taking belly dancing classes, which led us to a private gym and eventually to swimming at least twice a week. I coupled those activities with intense calorie counting and before I knew it, I’d lost 40 pounds in 4 months. My confidence skyrocketed. I had a great summer, with minimal sitting.
I exited my house slowly and entered Cynthia’s car, trying my best to be cheerful. The truth was, I wasn’t looking forward to getting back into working out at all. Workout Wednesday had turned into Wine and Gilmore Girls Wednesday so gracefully, I’d barely even noticed the shift. Sure, we’d taken the occasional walk and bike ride in the summer and fall, but those had always inevitably ended with ice cream. And I loved it. But that had caught up to me and my tummy, so after much deliberation, we’d decided today would be the first day on our journey back to being skinny. New year, new us, so to speak.
We pulled into a small parking lot, tucked away in industrial Bridgewood, looking for a Muay Thai gym. By now, after years of pursuing get-skinny-quick techniques, we’d exhausted most types of fitness endeavours. Martial arts was new and unique to us, and it wouldn’t hurt to learn some transferable defence skills while getting in shape. Plus, Cynthia and I already had experience in combat. Just three years before, we had donned ridiculous outfits in Cuba and attacked each other with foam maces by the pool. We were naturals. Not to mention that it sounded pretty badass to be taking Muay Thai classes.
We spotted the tiny gym and frowned. It was really minuscule and the mats in the back had children practicing their moves. They didn’t look very badass. The front entrance of the gym was overflowing with parents waiting for their mini warriors. The ones who’d arrived late were forced to wait outside in the cold. From where we were seated, we could see their breath. We could also see that there was no one behind the reception desk to help us, even if we dared to go in. We decided not to. It just wasn’t the place for us. It didn’t feel right. I breathed a secret sigh of relief. Me? Fighting? What was I thinking?
Cynthia proceeded to drive us aimlessly around Bridgewood looking for a new venture. Luckily, the streets had been littered with all sorts of concept gyms that had appeared seemingly overnight. New year, new everyone, I guess. I stared out the window waiting for something to catch my eye. Fit Launch? Too fast paced. Yoga Light? Too boring. Sizzling Yoga? Too hot. Power BoxKick? What was that?
“Hey, how about that place?” I asked, my attention piqued by a lit up corner unit of an otherwise dark plaza. I’d always been interested in kick boxing.
Cynthia circled around the lot and pulled up so we could watch the class that was in session through the window. There were dozens of stocky beige rubber mannequins all around the room, wearing bright yellow t-shirts. They were all being rhythmically attacked by spandex wearing people in unison. It was bizarre to see. They all knew what to do, and while they were doing the same moves, at the same time, they all had their own unique approaches to beating up their mannequins.
The two dummies closest to the window were being attacked by middle aged people working out back to back. On the left was a tall and slim woman wearing a powder blue sports bra and navy blue leggings. She punched her dummy determinedly with pink boxing gloves and white socks. Her face was serious and focused, and the only piece of her that wiggled was her thin blonde ponytail. Directly behind her was a barrel-chested bald man wearing a red muscle shirt and black nylon shorts. He angrily struck his dummy with black gloves and black runners. He was heated and aggressive, sending his poor victim flying in every direction.
“I don’t know if I can do this…” I hesitated. Each of those people obviously had a purpose. I didn’t. I wasn’t determined or aggressive enough for this kind of class. I would look and feel ridiculous.
Beside me, Cynthia had already found a Groupon and was signing us up online. We headed inside and enrolled with the receptionist right away. Luckily for us, the class we’d been watching was now stretching it out, and the next class was starting in just ten minutes. We grabbed some black boxing gloves and giggled excitedly. What an experience this would be.
Our instructor looked like she was in her late 40s, with frizzy blond curly hair and a thin physique. She gave us a quick run through of all the moves we would need for the class, and we practised on the air. She explained that the class was pretty fast paced, so if we fell behind or got confused, we could just hit him however we wanted. When in doubt, attack. Yeah, right. There was no way I’d be able to do that.
Not surprisingly, I was winded after our cardio warm up. Burpies and jumping jacks are the devil’s dance. So when it came time to finally hit our dummies, I was almost certain I wouldn’t be able to do it. I just didn’t have it in me. I wasn’t angry enough. I wasn’t an aggressive person, and I had no real reason to be, so I couldn’t just fake it. The whole thing seemed silly.
“We’ll begin with a soft jab to the belly..” Our teacher instructed over the soft intro to the next song. I recognized it instantly. It was Florence and the Machine’s What Kind of Man, which happened to be an ode to my life in the past year.
I whispered a quick apology to my dummy as I turned to my side and began to lightly tap his stomach with the side of my fist. Florence began telling my story. The dummy stared back at me stone cold, unflinchingly. That annoyed me. I was trying to be nice!
“Other arm! Flip around!” The instructor called out. People jumped to face the other direction and I followed suit. I hit him rapidly, but he barely even shook. He stood there, daring me to hit him harder.
“Sometimes you’re half in, and then you’re half out…” sang Florence, as the music picked up, and the instructor called out, “pick up the pace! Bounce and punch!”
And I did, hitting harder as the music blared through the speakers. My dummy was tilting back on impact now, before popping back up, asking for more.
As the tempo got even faster, the teacher yelled, “HOOK THE FACE!”
I swung my arm back and around annoyed and whacked him right in the jaw. As soon as my glove struck that dummy’s face, something inside of me was ignited. It felt good to hit him hard, my glove sinking deeper into his cheek with each blow. I didn’t bother thinking about the move itself, I was just swinging. I wasn’t faking at all. Each swing was flowing out of me effortlessly. It satisfied some underlying carnal instinct within me. There was just enough resistance on his end to motivate me to hit him more. Harder. Faster. Stronger!
Florence faded out and a dance remake of Sia’s Titanium took over the speakers.
The music instructed, “fire away, fire away..” and I did. In that moment, I was titanium. I let my fists ram upwards into the dummy’s stomach as if trying to lift him off his firm base with just my gloves. I didn’t bother to worry about how I looked, or my form, or if I was even following pace with the class. All that mattered was me and my dummy. I had one goal. To beat him up. I unleashed.
Whack! Lying. Thump! Failure. Crack! Heartbreak. Smack! Low self esteem. Thud! Anger. Thump! Redemption.
I hit him with a strength I didn’t know I had, and a fire I didn’t know I had to let out.