Christina Rondeau is sort of the godmother of kickboxing in Rhode Island. She’s been involved with martial arts and kickboxing since the ‘90s, turning pro in ‘98 and competing all over the world. She is a former United States Light Weight champion. She’s also a pioneer of fitness kickboxing, has operated a number of gyms over the years and continues to deliver high impact workouts at her current Christina Rondeau Kickboxing locations in Johnston and Woonsocket.
I arrived at the Johnston gym for a Monday evening Fitness Kickboxing class taught by Rondeau herself (she has several other instructors). It’s a mixed gender class, but to my surprise I was the only man in attendance. I was immediately glad that I had brought my girlfriend along as a sparring partner, so as to avoid the unpleasantness of throwing punches and kicks in the general direction of a woman I didn’t know.
There was no time to dwell on any perceived awkwardness, however, as Christina took us right into our workout, warming us up with some jumping jacks, ab crunches and the like. After we got our blood pumping, she led us through some simple routines designed to both teach kickboxing basics and get in a good workout. We partnered up and alternated between slapping on the gloves to throwing a few haymakers, or holding the pads while our partners worked their punches and kicks.
We started with simple jabs, throwing them at the pads in quick succession while our partners rotated around us, keeping us on our toes. It’s easy to forget how much physicality goes into the simple act of throwing a punch because we do it so infrequently (or at least I hope we do). It involves your whole body, and as bad as you might think you are, throwing 100 jabs in row will make you break a sweat.
Christina took us through a progression of punches and kicks, building in complexity from simple jabs to increasingly long combinations of crosses, hooks, front kicks and roundhouses. Each combination was followed by quick footwork as we adjusted to our partner’s new position and again delivered the sequence of blows. This would always culminate with a flurry of some sort – say delivering 100 punches or repeating the combination for a minute straight. In between each workout, we would hit the floor again for ab crunches or push-ups.
Though I generally consider myself in decent enough shape for most any activity, a workout at Christina’s studio quickly revealed the deficiencies in my balance and flexibility. Ab crunches and flurries of jabs I could handle – delivering a roundhouse kick with decent form? Not so much. With stiff, tight legs from running too much and not stretching enough, I could barely get my leg above my hip while rotating quickly on one foot. I always appreciate a workout that forces me to challenge myself in new ways while keeping me busy enough not to notice.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find that being on the receiving end of the punching and kicking had its own benefits. (How often can you say that?) I mistakenly thought that holding the pads while my partner went through her combinations would be a passive activity, but when done right it provides as much of a workout as being on the other side. Constantly changing position on our partner kept our footwork going, and the different punches and kicks required repositioning the pads throughout the combination. Holding fast as fists and feet rained in my direction was an unexpected opportunity to work on my strength and stamina.
Fitness kickboxing is a great way to blast through an hour of exercise without really being aware of it. If, like me, you get bored easily while working out, it’s a fun and fast-paced way to sweat it out without watching the clock.