When You're In The Ring...

5 years ago

Cardio-kickboxing is the only workout I don't abhor. The classes are grueling, but I don't spend their entirety beseeching the clock to leap ahead, compromising the longevity of the universe. Chuck Norris may never ask for my autograph, but damnit, my roundhouse and upper-cuts aren't half bad. And to prove it, I'll never ask him for his.

One morning I mistakenly went to a boxing class. Walking into the room, I knew that something was awry. The landscape, usually dense with cardio-compatriots sporting trendy sneakers, was populated with hard-muscled bodies pummeling the shit out of punching bags. Animalistic grunts echoed against the walls. The instructor, a dead ringer for Sigourney Weaver, was unfamiliar.

"Hi," she called, looking up from a pile of boxing gloves. "Are you new?"

I nodded.

"Welcome!" she exclaimed. Then, "What's your name?"

I'd been awake no more than half an hour. My hair was matted in some places, boinging out in others. My socks didn't match, and my brain still felt wrapped in swathes of gauze. Identifying myself by name cut sharply across the grain of my wishes.

I looked down at my feet, then back to the instructor. "June," I mumbled.    

Cupping her ear, she asked, "What's that?" 

"June," I repeated, feeling my face bloom into color.

"Okay, June." She tossed me two boxing gloves. "Give the speed bag a go. I'll be over in a few minutes."

Gazing longingly toward the door, I slipped on the gloves and began jabbing at the bag. It swung mockingly, eluding contact. I punched pitifully at the air, as if battling a swarm of raging bees. Before long I was winded; I dropped my arms, glanced around the room, and observed the other students. Advancing on their targets with light-footed stealth, they confirmed a most obvious truth: My maneuvers bore no similarity to boxing.

The instructor made her way over. Taking me by the elbow, she said, "Maybe you should start with a non-moving target." She steered me to the front of the room, grabbed a padded paddle from a box, and held it out before me. "Go on," she said. "Take a shot at this."

I looked at the paddle, then at her. I made a fist and threw a half-hearted punch.

"I know you can do better than that," she chided. "Give it another shot. And this time, put some power behind it."

I asserted my fist again, this time slightly harder.

"That's better, Liz," she said. "But remember, when you're in the ring..."

Two points I must highlight. One, this woman, who'd forced me to identify myself by name was calling me Liz. Two, I had no plans of getting into a ring.


When the instructor held the paddle up again, I began to beat it in earnest.

"Whoa, Liz," she said. "Be careful. You don't want to hit my face." 

The truth was, I did want to hit her face. So hard she'd call herself by the wrong name. I thought of Sigourney in space. She'd be able to take it.

"Listen," I said. "I think I'm going to head down to the treadmills."

"Well, alright, Liz," Sigourney said. "But your jab is pretty good. I hope you come back."

"Okay," I lied, thinking I'd sooner take extreme pole-vaulting. "Maybe I will." 

When I recall an unpleasant experience, I try to look for a lesson, some nugget of wisdom that will help me in the future. In this I can find nothing. Everything I came out with, I knew going in.

My name is June.

I'll never set foot in a ring.

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