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Published October 18, 2012, 11:34 PM

Holt: Kickboxing helps kick-start routine

FARGO – My experience with women’s kickboxing reminded me of my short-lived ballet career. A poor-quality home video shows a 7-year-old Meredith lagging behind a dozen other pint-sized dancers clad in sequins and tutus.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO – My experience with women’s kickboxing reminded me of my short-lived ballet career.

A poor-quality home video shows a 7-year-old Meredith lagging behind a dozen other pint-sized dancers clad in sequins and tutus.

Instead of looking forward smiling at the audience, I’m looking to my side watching the girl next to me.

I’m a step or two behind throughout the whole number, but I keep spinning and shuffling along with the rest of the group.

With the encouragement of Jess Sell, my September success story, I agreed to a 30-day women’s kickboxing trial at the Academy of Combat Arts, and though I got frustrated at times, I’m glad I did it.

I struggled through the warm-ups because of the extra weight I’m still carrying and the cardiovascular strength I’ve lost since I’ve been (mostly) “off the wagon” the past few months.

I jogged while the other girls sprinted. When they shadow-boxed, I took a water break. It took me longer to finish the same number of push-ups and burpees.

But aside from my (lack of) stamina, balance and coordination, my biggest challenge was the class schedule.

In order to make the 5:30 p.m. start time Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I had to leave work at 5, change, and beat rush-hour traffic heading south on Main Avenue.

Even if I had come in at 8 a.m. those days, it isn’t easy to leave the newsroom at 5 o’clock. Ideally, for me, class would start at 7 or 8.

Regardless, I came when I could, and I went often enough to get a feel for instructor Joe Trottier’s teaching style and to learn a thing or two about punching and kicking.

(By the way, I love Joe’s choice of workout music. He’d play DMX one day and Michael Jackson the next.)

I began to miss the flexibility of my 24-hour gym, but there was much to be gained on the mat that I couldn’t find in a weight room.

Boxing provides an interactive element I crave. Doing rounds with personal trainers is nothing compared to the rigor of a structured kickboxing class.

Once I got the hang of a combination, I was able to pick up speed and increase power, which boosted my confidence and motivated me to keep going.

Kickboxing gave me an outlet for stress-relief. There’s nothing quite like wailing on the focus mitts to rid my mind of the day’s worries.

The class is intense. I was so worn out after my first session that I came home, flopped horizontally across my bed still wearing my gym clothes, and promptly passed out.

Perhaps because of that, I was proud of every minute I put into it.

I showed off my first impact bruise, a purple beauty covering my right knee.

I caught myself practicing combos in the shower. Jab-cross-jab-jab-body-shot-hook. “Hands up!” Jab-cross-jab-jab-body-shot-hook.

My hands were shaking so hard afterward that applying makeup proved near impossible.

Joe and the women who’ve committed themselves to his class at the Academy of Combat Arts deserve all the recognition they might get.

They’re mostly in their 20s or 30s and represent all skill levels, from beginner to advanced – really advanced.

During the last class I attended, on a Tuesday (boxing day! – my favorite), I was surprised when the most experienced girl offered to be my sparring partner.

I don’t know why she decided to help me, but I was thankful for the opportunity to learn from her, and she left quite an impression.

I had a helluva time trying to keep up with her, and I faltered again and again. But she coached me through it, and I tried my damnedest to make it through each round.

Several classmates reassured me that “we all have to start somewhere” and it’d get easier. It did get easier, and I’m sure I would’ve continued to improve if I’d have stuck with it.

For now, I’m done with women’s kickboxing at the ACA (mainly because of cost and scheduling), but I’m open to returning or trying other types of martial arts, particularly those with an emphasis on boxing.

I may have been slower than the others and I may have fumbled along the way, but I still packed a punch and the class gave me the kick-start I needed to recommit to exercise.

Forum reporter Meredith Holt has lost 105 pounds since May 2010. She will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which runs the first and third Friday of each month in SheSays. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5590.