Fitness fan Heather Duncan finds a workout that Wonder Woman would be proud of.
It’s not for the faint of heart. But girls, if you want to bring out your tough side while whipping yourself into shape, then there’s a sport that will tick all the boxes – kickboxing.
Whenever I hear of a new fitness class or activity, I’m there. So I made a beeline for the Oman Kickboxing Club (OKC) in Al Khuwair to check this one out.
Kickboxing is a sport you may associate with men, but this is an all-female class for women to be strong, skilled and confident. This class has being running for just three weeks now but it has already drawn a following of females wanting to shape up.
Held at the Oman Kickboxing Club (OKC) at The Champ gym in Al Khuwair, I enter the room to a cheery welcome from the two female coaches, Jess Hern and Hayley Loomes. Jess, 30, explains that the class is 90 minutes long and would be split into two parts. The first 45 minutes is to warm up and stretch, and the second consists of technique and pad work.
It sounded easy enough and once we had been introduced to one another, it was time to get down to business.
Now, you might think that a “warm up” would involve some light jogging to get the heart pumping a little faster. Not with Hayley leading the pack. She was ready to push us as much as possible in those gruelling 45 minutes to test our ability. In the middle of what felt like the 100th abdominal crunch (realistically, it was only about 12), she says the reason for pushing us is that we would never make it to fight condition without having a strong core and the ability to maintain a high cardio workout.
Personally, I lead an active life and work out several times a week but even with this warm-up section, I was drawing on my reserves to get me through; in a good way, of course. It’s always good for the body to be pushed in different ways to shake up your old routine. Running sprints, squats, star jumps and climbing mountains are all high-intensity ways to get the blood pumping, warm the muscles and, of course, to get the calories burning.
Hayley, 27, certainly works us hard but it’s clear that she has a real passion for the sport and wants to pass it on. She first started kickboxing in the UK in 2009.
“I started taking a few classes here and there for fitness purposes but it wasn’t until I arrived in Muscat two years ago that I really caught the passion for it. I began to train two to three times per week at the OKC, made some changes to my diet and soon noticed big changes in my body. I lost 9kg of fat.”
As an art teacher by day, she spends her evenings doing various other sports such as pole fitness, TRX and Crossfit.
“There is always more to learn and I love the buzz that a good workout gives me,” she says.
After the 45-minute “warm up”, my body is definitely warm. The perspiration is literally dripping from my head and onto the mat below.
As beginners, we watch as Jess and Hayley demonstrate how they would usually spar against each other. Their moves are strong and coordinated and I was in awe of their skill, speed and strength. These are the kind of girls I want to make friends with!
I’m in Jess’s beginner group, where she teaches us the basic techniques of how to position our bodies, then begins with different kinds of punches called jab, cut, upper cut and hook. We double up into pairs, with one partner practising the punching; the other holding the pads.
After five minutes, we change places. Using your body to punch is energy sapping, so after five minutes I’m happy to swap and hold the pads as my partner deals the blows. Even holding the pads is still a great workout as you are maintaining the tension in your body to absorb the blows. I can see why the girls get in shape so quickly. Jess, also from the UK, enthuses about the sport.
“When I arrived in Muscat, I put on a lot of weight, like a lot of us do, and started to feel down about it,” she says.
“I saw the poster for the club in the local supermarket and decided to give it a try. I loved the class from the very start for both the intense workout and the social side. I have met some of my closest friends there.
“Within three months of training and eating right I also saw huge changes in my body by losing 10kg. I gained so much strength it spurred me on. Now kickboxing is part of my life. It keeps me fit and healthy; it makes me feel stronger and more confident and I find it’s a great way to de-stress.”
Although kickboxing is traditionally a full-contact sport, this women’s class is more about enhancing endurance, fighting techniques, improving your confidence and having a good time. It is unlikely that you will ever come to blows. It’s suitable for all women from age 16 onwards and open to all nationalities, including Omani women who have embraced it enthusiastically.
By the end of the 90 minutes, I’m knackered and glowing profusely but so happy. It feels as if I’ve found a secret gang of strong girls to be a part of. You can have a good time, get fit and learn some new skills in a safe environment. This is a great class for female newcomers to the sport who are also looking for an all-round strength and cardio workout. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and the positive energy given off from both the trainers. I can’t wait to go back next week for another session.
Held at The Champ gym in Al Khuwair with Oman Kickboxing Club.
Classes Sunday and Tuesday, 5.30pm-7pm. First beginner class free and then RO3