How do I know this? Well, after a string of escalating frustrations in November led to me smashing my vacuum cleaner into a thousand pieces with my bare hands, dude calmly arranged for the UPS delivery of my Christmas present: a great big "heavy bag." (That's what they call the eerily person-sized bags you see boxers hitting in the movies, not the tiny speed bags that hang from the ceiling.)
I had no idea how badly I needed that caliber of stress release till I saw the giant, clearly labeled package sitting by my mailbox, at which point I began to salivate. I called him up and said: "Yeah, you got me." This gift didn't come totally out of the blue; aside from the death of the vacuum cleaner, he knows I've been taking kickboxing classes for years... cardio kickboxing classes.
Which made me feel so lame. Punching the AIR? Come on. But I got a lot of brain therapy out of it as well as physical exercise, and I'm kind of an exercise addict, I even got me a fitness blog, so anything aerobic and fun will distract me from trying to actually accomplish stuff. I thought from time to time about taking actual boxing classes, but I was in a holding pattern, totally intimidated by the idea of actually hitting something with my delicate paws. I use them to write and all kinds of things, right? And every time some nerd like me in a movie hits something, he or she winds up screaming with a bloody hand; forget that.
But now I had this thing sitting in my house. Once he came over and hauled the seventy-pound monster up three flights of stairs for me (I suspect that either I became a better judge of character somehow, or he's a space alien who is trying to soften me up for the upcoming invasion), he went to hang it on my pull-up bar and I stupidly tried to make an excuse: "Uh, you sure that thing can hold it?" Then he gently reminded me that entire people hang from that thing. In fact, it's built for muscle dudes. I can hang there next to the bag if I like. And he had also gotten me boxing gloves, the bastard. No more excuses. I had a boxing gym in my living room and no idea what to do with it.
"Hit it!" he said excitedly. I took a few lame swings with the boxing gloves, and then my measly wrists began to hurt. However, that was the same point at which some atavistic killing instinct kicked in, and suddenly I was going at that thing like a wild animal. It was everyone who ever pissed me off. Another couple of minutes later I was standing there grinning at him and panting and thinking: "Marry me!"
By this point my wrists were hurting like hell though, and as much as I had enjoyed the session (all 90 seconds that my noodle wrists could take), the rush was undercut by disappointment: My physique just wasn't going to hold up to any kind of serious workout with this thing. My suspicions grew the next day when I woke up and couldn't even do upward dog. You have to be born Rocky, I thought.
But the thing was still hanging there. A couple of days later, when I could operate silverware again, I watched a few videos and wised up: You can't dive into this kind of thing. It's the sort of situation where getting in shape takes as long as any new activity, especially when you're starting from scratch. (You've been walking all your life, so getting in shape for racewalking isn't the same as getting in shape for punching people. Unless you have even more anger issues than I do...)
They also say you should tape your wrists, but as it turns out, my shoulders and upper arms aren't strong enough to really get my wrists injured. Which is a good thing, cause I'm too busy to take time taping up my wrists in the middle of a workout. (Maybe someday I'll be stronger and a lady of leisure.) The soreness I was feeling was merely muscle damage, and after I gave it a couple of days to heal, I could start working out with the bag again, this time adding thirty seconds onto each bout.
With every workout, the dozens of tiny muscles in my forearms got stronger, and pretty soon I was jumping my time up by the minute. Right after five, I was able to jump up to ten, and by now I can easily replace half of a 30-minute cardio workout with boxing. I actually get tired in my shoulders now before my wrists get too sore most of the time—or I'll even run out of cardio capacity.
But that cardio capacity is going through the roof—running for the bus makes me feel like superman—and the twisting motions have increased my core strength so fast that the other day I unexpectedly pulled off a yoga side crow for the first time in my life.
And no, I'm not getting hugely muscular; actually all the muscles seem to be sleekly pulling into themselves as I think about killing people. My body seems to have turned into some magical toy. Whenever I need to think, I get up and start hitting that thing. You know how they show characters in movies getting in shape by working with a bag? They're not just getting in physical shape, they're working on their brainham. I'm so addicted that I watch boxing instructional videos for fun and choose my workout music based on what makes me feel most like Rocky. (Current pick: Muse.) I walk around feeling like a badass.
Please be careful, though, if you try to follow me into boxing nerd-dom. I've been practicing punching the air for years, and I tried to pay attention to form in my kickboxing classes. Make sure your form is OK before you start punching something solid; I guarantee once you do start punching something, your form will get even better. Have well-padded boxing gloves, and start slow and gentle. You'll be amazed by how fast you get better if you just have the patience to start slow. First and foremost, though, have somebody show you how to punch if you don't already know, or you'll hurt your hand or even break your thumb. (TL;DR = Do NOT tuck your thumb under your fingers.) If you have the money and a facility nearby, treat yourself to a couple of actual lessons.
It's pretty simple, once you cut through the mystique. But don't come yelling at me if you wind up with an intractable new addiction. This is the most fun a grown-up can have. Best gift I ever got. And I was given it because I terrify people. I'm not sure if that's a productive takeaway message for you, but I am certain of this advice: No matter how noodly your arms feel now, if you enjoy kickboxing classes, don't be intimidated by the greater glee of actually getting in there and hitting things. The human body has an exhilarating flair for adapting to violence.