Alternative fitness gyms and studios are all the rage. Gone are the days of gyms being only made up of bulky men lifting weights and trying to pass that off as the apex of fitness. Today, being a well rounded weekend warrior takes more than bodybuilding or running a few miles.
Jackson is home to several traditional gyms but also a few places that may not be on your radar. Lucky for you, I tried out three of these establishments and did my best to survive them. As a thirty-seven-year-old man who is firmly straddling the line between being in decent shape and having it all fall apart, I feel like I was a good test subject for the workouts in these locally owned fitness establishments. I visited and participated in workouts at The Fight Shop, CrossFit, and Pure Barre for a look at what they offer a first time participant.
The first rule of Fightshop is: you don’t talk about Fightshop. Wait. That’s not it. That’s Fight Club, the Brad Pitt and Edward Norton film where dudes just generally beat the snot out of each other. The Fightshop is sort of like that, except you’re beating on bags, not people. And we can definitely talk about the Fightshop because it’s tough to find a better workout around town.
The first thing I noticed during my first visit was the plethora of heavy punching bags hanging from a black, metal contraption. (“Plethora” may be an exaggeration, but there were definitely more than ten.) They just hung there waiting to take their daily beating. The more I thought about wailing on these bags, the more excited I got. Of course, that was before I knew there were certain combinations I had to learn and that I had to memorize those combinations and be ready to execute them on command. Luckily, the class instructor was very patient and extremely helpful. Honestly, I think she felt a little sorry for me.
Before I was able to attack the bags, though, I had to go through a “warm-up.” Now, in my experience, a warm-up consisted of a light jog or some jumping jacks or a little bit of stretching. That’s not the case here. The warm-up this day consisted of: 250 jumps with the jump rope, fifty burpees, fifty sprawls, 100 squats, and 100 pushups. We had about thirty minutes to make all of this happen. Also, let me pause here and make sure we all know what these exercises are because I didn’t:
- Jump rope: I knew what a jump rope was. The only problem was that I hadn’t jumped rope since, like, the fifth grade for Jump Rope for Heart in the gym at Lincoln Elementary School. Even then, I’m not sure I would call it “jumping.” It was more of a skip/jog/loopy run than the athletic, boxing-style jump rope. I was a little nervous about this.
- Burpees: This is sort of like a pushup, except instead of going up and down by using your arms, you use your whole body to spring off the floor and into a vertical jump and then get back down again as fast as you can to repeat the process. They really suck.
- Sprawls: A sprawl is sort of like a burpee, but instead of going all the way down in the pushup, you drop down and keep your arms extended and kick your legs in the opposite direction of one another and then you spring back up again. They’re not as bad as burpees—they just suck to a lesser degree.
- Squats: You squat up and down . . . 100 times.
- Pushups: You do a pushup . . . 100 times.
Needless to say, I barely finished the warm-up. My chest was already tight, and my legs were feeling a little wobbly. The instructor told us to go ahead and get our wraps on and find a pair of gloves that fit. I probably could’ve gone home at that point and felt more than satisfied with the workout, but there was still thirty minutes to go, and the whole reason I had gone was punch and kick some bags.
In between rapid breaths, I tried to pay attention to the instructor as she explained the punch combinations we would be using during the class. Here’s how they break down:
- 1: a jab with my left hand
- 2: a cross with my right hand
- 3: a hook with my left hand
- 4: an uppercut with my right hand
Those sounded easy enough. We started with a simple “1-2”combination while an Eminem song blared from a the speakers. I started my combination at a steady pace, and then my adrenaline took over. I began punching that bag with a “1-2” ferocity that would’ve made Mike Tyson shudder. That lasted for about fifteen seconds, and then my shoulders started to feel like they were on fire. About that time, the instructor screamed “1-2-3-1.” And, just like that, I had forgotten my combinations. Sweat was pouring into my eyes, and my breathing was heavier. I put up a quick jab, then a half-hearted right cross. My hook was more like someone swinging a corpse’s arm toward a target. By the time I was ready to throw my uppercut, the rest of the class was on to the next combo. This was going to take some practice.
I made it through the thirty-minute bag session of the class and I felt tired, but I felt I had accomplished something. Well, maybe not “accomplished.” I felt like I had survived something . . . and that made me feel good. The endorphin rush at the end of an intense workout is hard to explain, but it’s what keeps people wanting to participate in intense exercise.
I’ve continued to go to the Fightshop in the six months since my first visit. I’ve lost weight because of the classes and have learned my combinations (for the most part.). The Fightshop is probably the best workout I’ve had since I played basketball on a regular basis.
Gabe Hart is an English and Language Arts teacher at Northeast Middle School. He was born and raised in Jackson, graduating from Jackson Central-Merry in 1997 and Union University in 2001. Gabe enjoys spending time and traveling with his daughter, Jordan, who is eight years old. His hobbies include reading, writing, and playing sports . . . even though he’s getting too old for the last one. Gabe lives in Midtown Jackson and has a desire to see all of Jackson grow together.
Kristi Woody is a photographer and storyteller for our Hello Jackson features about locally owned retail stores and restaurants. She also works as the university photographer for Union University and owns her own wedding photography business, Woody & Pearl Photography. In her free time, Kristi enjoys spending time with her husband and rambunctious beagle, Rhett and Chipper respectively. If you can't find Kristi in Jackson, you'll find her in her second favorite place: Disney World!