I'm beginning to think that Groupon may have something to do with the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy. Nothing can take down a civilization like two-for-one, month-long boxing lessons at the mall. In my case, I didn't need the entire month -- I only needed about fifteen minutes.
My oldest daughter will be heading to high school in less less than two weeks. She loves to work out. I'm proud of how she takes care of herself, though I'm not exactly sure where in her DNA that trait came from. Anyway, my wife finds a Groupon deal that would give two people unlimited month-long access to a new place at the mall called The Empowering Punch. It's a place where you can take workout classes, most of which are boxing-related. The crazy part about The Empowering Punch is that it's located inside the mall, between a pet store and the entrance to Dick's Sporting Goods. There's a big window just for shoppers to watch you while they down their Auntie Anne's pretzels and large fresh-squeezed lemonades. It's just what the public has craved for all these years, a place to watch people sweat while taking a break from the exhausting chore of shopping.
My daughter couldn't wait to go. She has like a thousand friends, according to Facebook, though none of them were willing to step up and take a class or two with her. And, she didn't want to do it alone. My wife wouldn't go with her and didn't even offer any sort of legitimate reason as to why. So, my daughter was faced with going alone or...
"Why don't you take her?" My wife every once in a while has a great idea. This was not one of those times.
I needed to come up with something really good, an excuse my wife couldn't deny. But, before I could answer...
"It would be great for you two to do something together. I mentioned it to her and she really wants you to go with her."
There's no way out of this rabbit hole. My wife had played the guilt card and she played it well.
When we arrived at The Empowering Punch, another class was finishing up. The class was led by a man wearing a Garth Brooks-type headset, yelling out commands to people who looked like they just spent the last hour working a dunk tank at the local Home Days festival. The killer part was that almost everyone was in amazing physical shape. I've never seen healthy people sweat that much. God only knows what this class would do to somone like me.
We signed in. I think I signed some sort of waiver, not holding The Empowering Punch accountable for my death. My daughter was excited. Apparantly, the guy running the class was "hot." Really? That's what she's thinking about? I reminded her that she has a boyfriend and to focus on the task at hand -- checking every couple of seconds to make sure my eyes were not rolling into the back of my head during the class.
I sized up the next group, the ones who would be my classmates. There was a guy who seemed less in shape than me, so I started to gain a little confidence. Maybe I could pull off this 55-minute workout afterall. It's just punching, right?
With just five words, the instructor hit me with the biggest dose of reality any fat man could ever hear.
"Get out your jump ropes."
Gravity and excessive weight is not one of your classic combinations, like, say peanut butter and jelly. Gravity and excessive weight go together like, "Holy shit" and "Get me out of here, now!"
But, I couldn't let my daughter see how frightened I was. And, certainly I couldn't show any signs of weakness with the instructor. So, I grabbed a jump rope, pretended to unwind it for a few minutes, then took my place in the only open area left -- the freakin' front row, right in front of Garth. I had planned to be in the back row, so he couldn't see me and I could go unnoticed at my own pace. What happened? Now I'm in the front row? This is not starting well at all.
"Let's go everybody", he yelled into his microphone. I heard him say "everyone", but I know he was talking to me.
Since I haven't jumped rope since my eighth grade physical fitness test, I had no idea if I could even make it over the rope once. Yet, somehow I did it. I was jumping rope -- eight, nine, ten in a row. And I was really getting some elevation when I jumped, maybe a foot or higher with each jump. I was clearing the rope easily. The problem was that I really needed to only be just barely off the floor. Doing a full-out leap into the air every time that rope hit the floor really wasn't helping me conserve my energy.
This went on for ten minutes I think. It felt like an eternity. Good God was I getting tired. And this was the warmup.
I should have conserved what little energy I had. I tried to see what was going on behind me. It seemed that no one was working as hard or jumping as high as I was. Finally, after pushing my body to the limit with a seven-foot length of chord, the instructor commanded us to go get our gloves.
Gloves. Now that's more like it. There is no jumping with gloves.
I found a pair of black ones. I liked them -- they made me look tough. Don't mess with me, I jumped rope for ten minutes and now I'm ready to take your head off with my fists of fury. I'm going to make this class my bitch.
Then the truly hard part began. The instuctor showed us various punches, all of which were numbered. Number one was a left jab. Number two a right cross. Number three a left hook. And so on...
Whatever number Garth Brooks called out, we'd do. "Two." Right cross. "Four." Right hook. "Five." Left uppercut. I got cocky, thinking I could do this all day long.
Then Garth started with the combos. And, he picked up the pace....big time.
"One, one." Jab, jab. "One, three, two." Jab, left hook, right cross." My mind worked slowly, but my body worked even slower. I was still halfway through the last set of instructions when he barked out the next combination.
"Four, six, two, one, one, three." What?
Now I was tired and confused. I started to make up my own combinations thinking that no one else would notice. I thought maybe the instructor would be too busy calling out the orders that he wouldn't be able to tell if I was doing things correctly.
But this guy was some kind of freak. He zeroed in on my cheating ways by standing in front of me holding padded mits. He called out the next round of instructions. I tried, I really did, to make sense of it, then execute. When I failed to translate his orders, he made me try again...and again...and again. Either I did it right on the eighth try or he finally gave up on me, I'm not sure. The good news is he was gone.
But so was my stamina.
I couldn't do this any longer. We were about fifteen minutes into this fifty-minute workout. My daughter was doing everything correctly. It looked like she was hardly breathing. I, on the other hand, looked like an escape artist who had been unable to breath after being chained underwater for three minutes. I gasped and wheezed and struggled to do what was being asked.
I had had enough. I slipped into the side room next to the boxing studio. It was quieter in there. Maybe Garth wouldn't notice I was taking a break. The instructor kept going as if nothing had happened. Cool. I bent over, exhausted. Then, one of Garth's helpers appeared out of nowhere asking if I was alright.
"Oh yeah, I'm fine." I lied.
"What did you have to eat tonight?" he asked.
"Umm, uhh...that's a good question." You know, I couldn't remember. Wierd. I thought maybe I was punch drunk. But no one hit me, so that ruled that out. He waited until I finally just randomly called out whatever food I could think of... "a sandwich, I had a sandwich."
"Did you have any fruit?"
"Uh, no." Didn't I just say I had a sandwich?
"Well, you should really have fruit before coming to one of these classes. Next time make sure you have a piece or two."
Oh, I'm sure that piece of fruit would have given me the stamina to fire through this class like Sylvester Stallone on Red Bull.
"Next time?" Did he just say next time?
I started to laugh. And, I couldn't stop. He walked away after about six minutes and I never saw him again.
Going back into the class would not have been the right thing to do. I was embarrassed and I didn't want to embarrass my daughter more than she probably already was. So, I watched her and she did great. I was really proud. They took her up into what looked like a small version of a boxing ring and Garth worked one-on-one with her, calling out combinations. She stuck with it.
Good for her.
After it was over, she asked me what happened.
"Are you okay Dad."
"Oh, sure." I lied again. "Apparantly, I should have had a banana before I came here tonight."
"Well, maybe next time." She was encouraging at least.
Then I started to laugh. And I didn't stop until we got home.