I’ve tried basically everything and nothing has stuck. Treadmill workouts are boring AF; running makes me flash back to eighth-grade P.E.; reformer Pilates is basically just a fancy version of a medieval torture device (but for fitness!); and spinning is actually a preview of the seventh circle of hell. (Why are my feet locked into the bike? What will I do if there’s a fire? Why is it so dark in here? I digress.)
Working at publications specifically geared towards women’s health and wellness has had little impact on my perspective. Yes, I know for a fact that regular exercise is linked to many amazing health benefits—longevity, improved mood and better mental health, and reduced stress, among others. Knowing the good things exercise can bring does not alter the fact that I hate everything about working out. I hate the sweating. I hate the mind-numbing repetitiveness of a treadmill or an elliptical. I hate the post-exercise rosacea flareups that take hours to calm down. I hate the subsequent full-body soreness that lasts for multiple days. Thank u, next.
I’d held these beliefs about physical activity for a long time. Then, in October, I joined some coworkers for a Muay Thai kickboxing class at HitHouse, a studio in New York’s NoLiTa neighborhood. Though meant as a team bonding experience, I still dreaded the inevitable redness and sweatiness that I’d endure in front of my far more active colleagues.
As it happens, I had nothing to worry about. My coworkers are unsurprisingly supportive and kicking the sh*t out of a massive punching bag is thoroughly exhilarating.
It’s really easy when you’re stressed to feel overwhelmed and powerless. Muay Thai helps me feel powerful.
At the beginning of the class, the instructor led us through some of basic moves—cross-punches, switch kicks—as he circulated among the group to dispense tips on form. (In Muay Thai, unlike traditional boxing, you can use your legs, feet, knees, and elbows to fight—not just your fists.) Hip-hop music blasted through the speakers as the class completed eight rounds of 3-minute combinations (repeating a series of moves with the best possible form, before switching to a new set of kicks and throws). The pace kept me on my toes, switching things up before I got bored (which happens to me a lot with workouts) while allowing for enough time to keep up with the instructor.
I had been having a particularly stressful week the first time I tried Muay Thai—like, grinding-my-teeth-at-my-desk stressed. But the sheer act of channeling my frustration at the world into solid kicks and punches without actually hurting anyone (I’m not a monster!) made me feel like Wonder Woman. The “bishop” I was whamming into wasn’t just a punching bag, it was the physical embodiment of all the stuff in my life that made me angry that day: work stresses that kept me up at night, spam calls blowing up my phone all day, and the Kavanaugh hearings.
For 50 minutes, I wailed on that punching bag (to the tune of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” no less). I left the class sweaty, exhausted, and totally recharged. It’s really easy when you’re stressed to feel overwhelmed and powerless. That Muay Thai class—and every one I’ve taken since—has helped me to feel powerful. I’m hooked.
My goal in 2019 is to keep up my love affair with Muay Thai for the long haul, attending at least one class a week. I’m hoping that it’ll keep me feeling stronger and more powerful on the reg. And if they need extras for the new Wonder Woman movie, I’m throwing my hat in the ring.
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