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The benefits of kicking your way to fitness

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Several years ago, my friend Lisa and I made an attempt at using kickboxing activities as a part of our fitness routine. Somehow we got hold of a Billy Blanks Tae Bo workout DVD, which was loaded with high-intensity kicking and punching. I am sad to report my first Tae Bo workout turned out to be my last as I injured my back and limped around for a week.


The workout itself was probably fairly safe, but as I recall the warm-up routine was lacking. Since the Billy Blanks days, there have been many other DVDs incorporating kickboxing activities. The new workouts are geared more for folks who are not interested in training to be a mixed martial arts fighter.


To keep a workout fun and worthwhile, it’s good to mix things up, and one way to do that could be through kickboxing. Doing the same workout week after week can get boring, but if you start throwing in some kicks and punches — while imagining your ex, your boss or someone else who has recently gotten on your nerves — you may begin to see fresh results and feel a new, invigorating energy.


Adding kickboxing to a workout gives it a dynamic twist. Let’s look at the benefits of kicking your way to fitness:


— Get your stretch on: In order to prevent injury, kickboxing routines incorporate more stretching than a typical workout. For example, the warm-up and stretching routines in my preferred kickbox routine, Kenpo X, has at least 15 minutes of yoga-type flexibility exercises. Stretching is very important once you start kicking and punching away.


— Punching: Punching is routinely the first part of a kickboxing workout. Punches start out slow and speed up as the workout progresses. Punching can be done against a heavy bag like in boxing or just in the air. Combinations of punches, including jabs, hooks and crosses, help strengthen the upper body, build coordination and are a great way to get your heart rate up.


— Kicking it: Once you are good and warm from punching, most routines transition into kicking. Kicks incorporate your entire lower body, which will get your heart pumping even faster. As your flexibility increases you can kick higher, harder and faster. It is best to start out kicking in the air and add resistance such as a heavy bag as you get more comfortable.


— Core work: Kickboxing is also a great way to train your core, which includes your back and stomach muscles. Performing kicks off of one leg require these muscles to engage to keep you from falling over. The more comfortable you get with kicking, the stronger your midsection will get.


Most kickboxing routines last anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes, including warm-up and cool-down. There are tons of DVDs and Youtube kickboxing workouts available that don’t take any equipment. If you want to get more advanced, many gyms offer classes.


However you choose to train, kickboxing can be a fun and fast way to get a great workout. As with starting any fitness program, make sure your doctor clears you beforehand and then go get your kickbox on. It won’t take any time at all to notice the change in your fitness level.


Kathy Hansen has over 25 years experience in the health and fitness fields and wants to warn any would-be attackers that she can and will use Kenpo X to defend herself. She can be reached via e-mail at hansen02@srmc.org.

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