9Round Kickboxing Fitness
1440 W. Republic Rd. Ste. 128, Springfield, 417-889-9763, 9round.com
Somehow I’ve managed to make it through 25 years of life without trying on boxing gloves. The closest I’ve gotten is Socker Boppers, the big, goofy, blow-up boxing gloves from the ’90s. So, when I was assigned to try out 9Round Kickboxing Fitness, I was excited. I typically rely on high-intensity workouts or yoga to de-stress, so punching a variety of weighted bags sounded like a dream come true. I called Neal Hutsler, the owner of the gym, to set up the session and before we hung up, he said, “Put your big girl pants on.” I grinned and squealed on the inside because Neal clearly thought I was weak sauce. I love a good challenge, so his comment made me excited to show him my grit.
It was a beautiful day for a boxing session, so I floated like a butterfly over to 9Round. The front door of the gym was open to let in fresh air, and as I got closer, I could hear rap music bumping. Working out to rap music is ideal for me, so I was ready to sting like a bee before I even got inside.
The gym is fairly small, so I ran into Hutsler as soon as I walked in. He told me that 9Round has more than 300 franchises in the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, Saudi Arabia and Australia, among others. His journey with the company began after his wife booked a free workout at a 9Round in Kansas City, and then did the same for Hutsler the next day. He gave it a try and he loved it. “Picturing my boss’s face on the boxing bags helped, too,” Hutsler says.
Hutsler loved the workout so much that he opened a franchise in Gladstone, Missouri, in June 2014. After seeing its successes, he followed suit in Springfield and chose a space next to Big Whiskey’s on Republic Road. “I realized I needed them more than they needed me,” he says. “I was in chapter one of my fitness journey and I’m now in chapter four—maybe.”
After chatting for a few minutes, we got down to business. Hutsler walked me around the gym, and grabbed me a pair of pink boxing gloves. He thinks I’m a total girl! He taught me punches first and then kicks. I learned jab crosses, hooks, uppercuts, front kicks, round kicks, side kicks and shin kicks.
Now that I knew the moves, he explained the format of the workout. There are nine stations around the room, and you spend three minutes at each station. A dry erase board at each station lists the moves you’re supposed to do, and you perform those moves over and over again for three minutes. A buzzer sounds when you have 30 seconds left so you can really push yourself. Once the buzzer sounds, it’s time for 30 seconds of an active rest exercise chosen by the trainer. Typically, it consists of plyometrics, core exercises and cardio. The workout is different every day, so it’s hard for members to get bored.
The first round got my heart pumping with 10 plank jacks followed by four squat jumps. I repeated this for three minutes before the bearded trainer instructed me to do 180-degree squat jumps up and down a hopscotch looking ladder. I sweat like a dude, and after three-and-a-half minutes, I was already sweating and my butt was burning, but I liked it.
After a resistance-centric round, the music switched from rap to rock, Hustler shoved on my boxing gloves and I was at the third station. This is where the real fun began with a variety of bags that exercised hand-eye coordination, speed, kicks and punching power. It was here I realized I forgot my headband and strands of hair were sticking to my sweaty face. I tried to wipe the hair out of my way, but the big, fat boxing gloves did not cooperate, so I had hair in my face the remainder of the workout. Bummer.
Mane malfunctions aside, round eight was probably my favorite because I was pretty good at the moves, and the sequence was fast-paced. It consisted of a hook, a side kick, a knee kick and a bear crawl underneath a boxing bag to repeat the drill on the other side. As if I wasn’t tired enough, the trainer chose to have us sprint down the back alley as our active rest exercise. Other active rest exercises included one-handed burpees, hop squats where we started with our knees on the floor and more.
As I got tired, I could tell my form was slipping, so I had to make a conscious effort to maintain my finesse. The trainers helped watch my technique, too, and their encouragement along the way made me want to keep punching and kicking.
Finally, after working my core at the last station, I had reached the end! The 30 minutes had flown by, and I was really tired but not completely dead. “You did great!” Hustler says. “You picked up quick, and not everyone does.” I rang the bell three times, and knew I had killed the workout.
After an extra-tough workout, Duggins gives the bell three celebratory rings.
The next day, my arms were sore from throwing unfamiliar punches. As strange as it may sound, I love being sore because it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.
“If you apply yourself, you can burn 500 calories,” Neal says. “It’s a full-body workout.”
Whether you’re a beginner or a gym rat, the circuit lets you go at your own pace. You can slow down the moves or speed them up to meet your needs, which is nice for all levels of experience.
Without a doubt, 9Round was my favorite “Get Fit” thus far. It’s quick, it’s challenging, it’s convenient, and it’s always different. Now I just need to get inside a real ring!