Kicking Your Way to Fitness.
Cardio-kickboxing can shape you up -- if you do it right.
Don't Let an Injury Put You on the Ropes continued...
So how can you protect yourself? Three words: Ease into it, says Hamner. In
fact, before you even throw a punch, take a moment to introduce yourself to the
instructor, so that he or she knows you're new. Many gyms don't offer beginner
classes, and some instructors teach to the most advanced student in the studio.
Ask the instructor to show different levels of various moves. (To ensure that
you're learning from someone who's qualified to guide you, ask your instructor
about his training and certification. Fitness organizations such as the
American Council on Exercise (ACE), and the American College of Sports Medicine
(ACSM) offer certification courses.)
Once the music kicks in, you shouldn't immediately start kicking too. Every
cardio-kickboxing class should begin with a light cardiovascular warm-up and
stretches that focus on the shoulders, back, legs, and groin before moving into
punches, hand-strikes, and kicks. After the warm-up, you should focus on
repetitions of simple moves so that you can refine your form and technique
before moving into combinations that require you to use several muscle groups
at once. Every workout should end with a cool-down that lasts at least five
During your first few sessions, don't go overboard. Ignore other people who
seem to be killing themselves. You should work at a moderate pace, say, 65% of
your maximum heart rate. Even if you're in decent aerobic condition and
strength-train consistently, start slowly. The various moves in a
cardio-kickboxing class are still unfamiliar to your body. Needless to say,
don't hold dumbbells, wear ankle or wrist weights, or punch or kick bags until
you're confident that you've learned proper form. These kinds of weights and
bags, combined with incorrect form, can increase your risk of joint injury.
Finally, think like a dancer or gymnast; that is, keep a watchful,
perfectionist eye on your form. Don't lock or over-extend your knees or elbows
when throwing punches or kicks. In fact, beginners should do half-kicks until
they know the routine and are confident that they're flexible enough to do the
moves to full extension. When your form gets sloppy, the risk of injury
increases, so stop when you feel tired.
Dana Sullivan is a freelance writer in Reno, Nev.