After months of feeling slothlike my fitn membership is renewed by my mom, who knows how to give me a birthday present I need. Immediately I open the app and scroll through the classes. There's no yoga tonight that doesn't require me to get on the freeway and I like to walk everywhere unless it's absolutely necessary for me to get in the car, so I start to look at other options. Maybe a dance class? I see boxing for the first time on the app; it must be new. A fearful scenario plays immediately in the front of my brain, like it was all cued up waiting for just this moment. Everyone wondering what I was doing there and looking at me like a girly loser. I shake it off like T Swift and hit the button to reserve the class. Immediately I got up and took Derby out, what I do before I go do anything else. I knew I had to go now and force myself not to think of the millions of possible scenarios otherwise I wouldn't make it.
I walked the 1.2 miles to City Boxing. I started to freak out a little when I got closer. I don't like violence or fighting of any kind. I've seen most of the men in my family either wield knives or clean their guns and it makes me want to reach for the xanax just to be around them. Once I saw it I walked swiftly towards the building and sort of pushed myself in. I knew if I stood outside for even a minute to think about it I wouldn't make it. It smelled like a sweaty locker room and big dudes were hitting each other in the ring in the middle of the room. The guy behind the desk pulled out a release form for me before I was even through the door.
"Your first time?" he said.
"Yeah", I smiled sweetly then regretted it. Dammit, I should have acted more tough.
I signed away and he asked me, maybe just to be polite, if I had gloves. Where I would have been keeping them I don't know, but as if it wasn't obvious, I didn't. He lent me a giant pair and walked me over to a big black guy. Loud rap music boomed and bounced off the walls and there was a buzzer that went off every time I forgot about it.
"This is bjdhfb" the guy told me.
"Hi. Brian?" I asked.
"No, bvdsakjfhew" he said slower. I still had no idea.
"Vernon" Vernon boomed, and grabbed my hand and shook it.
"Oh. Nice to meet you." I said.
"Go grab a jump rope" he said to me. I could feel him watching me walk away like a terrified doe in the middle of a dark road.
I grabbed one off a hook and realized I hadn't jumped rope since I was a kid.
"No, not like that" some buff blonde dude barked at me after about a half of a jump.
"It's way too long for you. Tie it in knots until it's shorter."
So I did. Then I jumped.
"No. You're moving your arms way too big, little tiny movements from your wrist" he commanded.
I adjusted everything I knew about moving my arms. "Like this?" I asked.
"No. Still way too big. Small little wrist movements."
I must have gotten it right or annoyed him to the point of moving on because as soon as I thought, for a second, I was doing something right...
"No. Way faster than that. Way faster."
God dammit, I thought. I am terrible at this! I tried to jump faster. I was getting sweaty already after 5 minutes of jumping. I barely ever sweat in yoga. I looked in the mirror and realized I was the only one not wearing a City Boxing shirt, first of all, and second of all my flowy tank had a feather on it. Shit. My boobs started hurting immediately and I wished I was wearing 2 sports bras.
As soon as the jump roping stopped the jumping jacks began. A normal human pace was way too slow so I sped up to keep up with the rest of the class, a bunch of dudes with ripped bods and the same high and tight hair cut I was so sick of seeing everywhere and 2 girls, also ripped, with arms I wanted but wasn't quite willing to work for. Next was sit ups, all things I knew how to do but didn't by any means want anyone to see me doing, including myself in the mirror. Push ups. Jumping jacks. More crunches.
Then came the boxing moves. We were to practice in the mirror. I thought I was bad at jumping rope. This was actually the first time I had even attempted to make these moves in my life and I had to do it watching myself in my shirt with a feather on it in the mirror. I watched others and faked it. It had been about 20 minutes now since non stop moving and I wanted to collapse on the padded floor.
"Ok, circle up!" Vernon boomed. I was so relieved I was going to able to stand still for a sec and catch my breath until I realized that circle up meant run laps, in a circle, around the ring. I was hoping we were going to stand in a circle and introduce ourselves so I could shyly tell everyone it was my first time. Nope. I started to run. A hot dark haired guy in grey looked at me at just the moment of realization and smiled. He ran right behind me the whole way and I could feel his eyes on my back, my sweaty pony tale and yoga capris. Every time I felt him gaining on me I ran a little faster, until a kid who had joined class late fell down in front of me and I got distracted. Then he lapped me. "You're hot", I told him with my eyes, "but this is not the time. I am focused."
After running we paired up to start jabbing each other and I was left alone like the fat kid no one wanted on their kickball team. Looking irritated Vernon came over and told me what to do. Everything I did was wrong but I listened hard when he told me the right way to do it. The buzzer went off and we switched partners. The kid came over to me, reluctantly. He was so adorable but I kept my sweet smile to myself because I knew he probably hated women telling him he was cute and wanted to be seen as tough. I learned his name was Adrian, and at 8 years old he'd been fighting for 3 years. He had a match tomorrow so I gave him my all so he could get some good practice in. He was a kid and I was new but I wanted him to be prepared for his fight so I hit him hard and blocked him good. I was getting the hang of this. I could maybe defend myself out in the world against an 8 year old. Maybe.
The whole thing went on for ages. I was so incredibly tired. I looked at the clock and it was almost 6. I was a little ashamed at how joyful I was that I hadn't passed out even though I had gone almost 60 whole minutes without standing still for even a second. If ever I even thought about standing still Vernon was there yelling "Circle! Circle! Do not stop moving." My fitbit buzzed that I hit 10,000 steps.
I looked back at the clock at 6:05 and realized I had grossly underestimated the length of class. Next we went to the bags. This was my chance to really hit the shit out of something. I'm not angry or violent, but it did feel good. Until Vernon came over and laughed at me and said that every single thing I was doing was wrong.
"Ok," I said "can you tell me what to do? This is my first time."
And he did. He said "No" until I finally got the stance right and then moved on to how I was moving incorrectly. I never felt so uncoordinated. It was an "I carried a watermelon" moment from Dirty Dancing. Finally, I got the moves and then it was time to throw the punching in there. His method of teaching, yelling "No!" until I got it right, was somehow working. When I finally sunk into the correct stance, bouncing and arm movements something clicked.
"YES!" Vernon shouted and a huge smile took over his face.
"Yes!" so I kept hitting. He was laughing with pleasure now and I wasn't stopping. I felt my knuckles swell under the gloves and hoped they weren't bleeding on these borrowed gloves. I hit through the pain and didn't stop, even though both straps of my feather tank top fell off my shoulders, until the buzzer went off.
I was ready to go home after that, but the longest hour and a half of my life was far from over. I hit more stuff and blocked more hits and forced my arms to keep going even though they wanted to stop until a long buzzer finally went off. I used the comically large glove in an attempt to wipe the sweat off my brow but it just squeaked awkwardly across my forehead.
Vernon came over to me as everyone was catching their breath and told me to get in the ring. When I got up there he placed me on the edge and told me to do crunches hanging off the ring. I laughed, looked at his serious face, and then did them. More push ups, sit ups, sideways off the edge while uppercutting crunches. More. 30 more push ups. I didn't do girl ones because I can do real ones.
I was done. It was over. In 1.5 hours I had built a huge respect for Vernon and was maybe a little more happy than appropriate when he was laughing with pleasure when I finally got it right and was repeatedly hitting the bag though I was pretty sure I was damaging my hands. I told him thanks. I wished Adrain luck in his fight the next day. And I walked 1.2 miles home, sweaty, feeling good but knowing I would be in pain for the next few days.
As soon as my knuckles heal I'm going back.