The first time I tried a kickboxing class, I figured we would do a little cardio with some punching and kicking sequences, work up a little sweat, and be done. After all… I had just tried a cardio kickboxing DVD, and figured I knew what I was doing.
Wrong. Very wrong.
It was about a year ago when I first tried this Fusion Kickboxing class at Fusion MMA and Kickboxing of Port Jefferson here on Long Island. While I enjoyed my little cardio kickboxing DVD, I didn’t realize that this Fusion class would be nothing like that— because it was the real deal. In fact, this is an actual MMA school that also has Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai kickboxing. Fusion Kickboxing, the class I was trying, is actually designed for people who don’t want to be an MMA fighter, but instead want to train like one.
The coach Joe Funaro, an MMA fighter himself, loaned my friend Daniella and I some gloves, and went through some of the basic boxing drills we would need to know during the class. Right away, Joe made us feel comfortable and it didn’t matter that we didn’t know a thing about kickboxing; he was there to help, even throughout the class.
As the class began, I knew it would be challenging. Daniella and I both exercised and were in fairly good shape… but our workouts were nothing like this. I cannot do this, I thought, as we warmed up on a stationary bike. If the warm-up is this hard for me, how am I going to make it through this entire class? For the next hour, we were subjected to not only boxing drills and kicks on the punching bag, but also squats, kettlebell swings, burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, running drills in the parking lot and more.
I was sore for a full solid week and didn’t go back for two weeks. But I knew that this class would get me in serious shape. So I started going every two weeks, bought my own gloves, then started going once a week. Now I’m a member of the gym and go three to four times a week. When I think back to how difficult that first class was, I’m proud that I am now able to do this class multiple times a week.
I have lost weight and become physically stronger since I started working out there, but kickboxing is about more than just fitness to me. This gym has positively impacted my life in so many ways. Kickboxing allows me to relieve pent-up stress and anxiety, which have both been problems for me throughout my life. I’m calmer, happier, less stressed, less anxious, and I’m able to handle stressful situations better. At work, I am now more focused and do not get that run-down, fatigued feeling at 3:00 in the afternoon.
In addition, Fusion Kickboxing has taught me about the power of trying new things and pushing through tough obstacles that seem impossible at the time. You never know what you are capable of until you actually try it and then stick with it.
What’s great about Fusion MMA and Kickboxing is that in addition to the MMA training and fitness classes they have— which includes yoga and cross training— they also offer personal training and nutritional guidance to their clients, and will even give them workouts to do at home. So I recently asked Joe for some advice regarding training and healthy eating. Here’s what he had to say:
What sets your Fusion Kickboxing class apart from other kickboxing classes?
“At a lot of places, if you want to get fit just like a fighter, you have to go to the fighting classes. But when you come here, it’s a separate class. The coach goes around to make sure that you’re all doing a different type of workout to fit your fitness needs. So it’s a lot less intimidating for someone who doesn’t want to fight.”
Should beginners jump into a program like Fusion Kickboxing?
“Yeah. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced athlete, it doesn’t really matter, you should still be doing the same type of workout. All athletes should be working out the same, and that’s the way that they have to think about themselves, not as like a person working out, but as an athlete. It’s a sport, it’s an athletic event. You still need the same type of training that an advanced person would need, the only difference is that you’re going to scale it to fit your needs.”
What kind of diet do you follow?
“I mostly eat fruits and vegetables, I try to eat them all the time if I can. Like today for lunch I had a banana, an orange, a kiwi and a whole lime that I squeezed into a bottle of water. I try to eat a lot of meat, a lot of fatty meat actually too, and I stay away from wheat and grains, but I do eat them from time to time.”
If clients ask you about diet advice, what do you tell them?
“We’ll work in stages— I first try to get them to stop drinking anything but water. No milk, no liquid calories. The second thing we try to do is cut out sweets or candies or anything like that or even half of it. So it’s all in steps. Then we try to cut out wheat, and the last one we cut out is dairy.”
What should people eat before working out?
Joe recommends eating about an hour and a half before working out. “Something simple, you never want anything heavy. A small amount of protein, like a small piece of chicken, steak, a small piece of fruit, even small pieces of proteins like nuts, anything like that.”
Forty-five minutes to a half hour before working out, Joe recommends having a cup of black coffee. “Don’t drink it throughout the day, drink it when you need that extra kick… don’t drink coffee that much, I stay away from it, but three days a week before a workout have a cup of black coffee.”
And what about after a workout?
“Protein, simple sugars and vegetables.”
How do you motivate people who have reached a plateau?
“It’s kind of a good thing because you have to work out hard in order to hit a plateau. And then I tell them take three days off, don’t do anything. A big thing is changing their diet up and changing up the way they work out. So if they’re working out three days a week or four days a week and they’re doing the same exact kickboxing workout with us, we’ll tell them maybe take a week where you just work out two days a week and rest, because a lot of time people overtrain themselves, and when they overtrain themselves they can’t work out that hard… Also we’ll try to change up the times they work out, just to make it different, and we’ll say if you’re used to working out at night, work up in the morning… And then we’ll look at their diet and see how we can change up their diet, how we can change the times that they’re eating.”
What would you tell someone who is thinking of trying kickboxing or MMA but is hesitant to try it?
“The best thing you can do is come into a kickboxing program where the instructor is going to take the time and teach you and show you how to hit the bags and how to work out. People don’t come to our program just to work out, we always say people come here to get trained because you’ll never see myself or Andre just doing the class with you. Even if we’re just in the corner watching everybody … we’re looking at people’s feet, looking at their hips, making sure their shoulders are in the right position, and we’re just constantly walking around the room, stopping and watching. If you’re really hesitant, it’s usually because you’re afraid to work out because you don’t know what to do. So you come here, and we’ll tell you what to do.”
Try it out
If you are serious about getting in shape, I highly recommend kickboxing. If you live on Long Island, definitely try Fusion MMA and Kickboxing— they also have a location in Sayville in addition to Port Jefferson. For more information visit www.fusionkickboxing.com or call 631-219-8965.