Cardio Kickboxing

IMAGE I've spent the past hour weaving, jabbing, punching, and kicking. I'm drenched in sweat, my hair is plastered to my forehead, and my cheeks are flushed. No, I haven't just wrestled the remote from my boyfriend, I've just finished a cardio kickboxing class. If you're like me, active but a little less than coordinated, you may have avoided these classes at your gym and opted instead, for the all too familiar classes (read: step, step, and more step). But as I discovered, not only is cardio kickboxing a whole lot more fun than endless sequences of U-turns and basic steps, it's a full-body, highly aerobic workout that gets you in great shape, faster than you can say grapevine.

What's It All About?

Cardio kickboxing classes vary from gym to gym but the basic format is generally the same: a series of drills set to music including shadow boxing, various types of kicks, push-ups, jump rope, jumping jacks, shuffling, and punching/kicking combinations. In some classes, instructors use props such as jump ropes, gloves, and speed bags; and in others everything is simulated. Unlike typical aerobics classes, there is no complicated choreography to grasp or intricate routines to commit to memory. What's more, most classes change from week to week, so you're always challenged and never bored.Kickboxing has slowly evolved into the increasingly popular gym workout it is today. According to Dave Fox, founding director of Gorilla Sports, a gym in San Francisco, boxing was first introduced into aerobics classes. Then, kicking moves borrowed from martial arts were added to work the lower body as well. The result: cardio kickboxing classes as we know them.

Becoming a Kickboxer

Since my regular five-day-a-week routine of walking, weights, and yoga could stand a little mixing up, I decided to try kickboxing for six weeks to see what the hype was all about. Fox told me that if I added one kickboxing class a week to my regular program, in about a month, I would see results such as greater strength and endurance, and better yet, improved muscle tone all over.And that's why kickboxing has such a growing legion of fans: it's a full-body workout that delivers. During a typical class, you work your calves, thighs, glutes, torso, abs, shoulders, biceps, triceps, deltoids, trapezoids, and back, says Sabrina Bichao, CPT, an aerobics instructor who teaches at several Boston-area gyms. Virtually no body part is left unworked.I can attest to that fact personally. The day after I was introduced to kickboxing, my whole body, calves to shoulders, ached; it even hurt to laugh. Kickboxing also improves strength, coordination, endurance, and balance. On top of that, it offers a continually changing workout—the key to a better body."If you're always doing the same routine, your body will plateau. You need something to challenge it, because your body gets conditioned to the activity," says Bichao.Results are not reserved for workout novices. In fact, even dedicated gym-goers can expect to see results from kickboxing. That was the case with Margarita Barrios, 24, a graphic designer living in Allston, Massachusetts. Even though she worked out for almost two hours, five days a week, doing everything from group cycling to weights, she couldn't get the definition she wanted in her chest, shoulders, and obliques until she tried her club's version of kickboxing. After just four classes, she's already seen vast improvement.

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