Don't mess with Keisha!

Don't mess with Keisha!

Kiesha Jenkins-Duffy, 33

Brooklyn, NY

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"I've always been remarkably bad at physical activities. I used to cry in gym class because I was just so bad at everything. Clumsiness + easily smashable glasses + very low self-esteem = gym class nightmares. So as an adult, I was never particularly keen on physical activities and since no one was forcing me to do them, I didn't."

What inspired you to start working out? "Two friends of mine talked so much about this amazing boxing gym they had been going to that my curiosity finally won and I went to a class."

What was the turning point when you realized you had transformed from an exercise hater to an exercise lover? "The first boxing class I went to started with 15 minutes of jumping rope. I very nearly walked out after about six minutes. I felt like I was dying. But I stuck it out and 20 minutes later, I donned boxing gloves and got to start hitting things and it was so cathartic and satisfying that I was instantly hooked. I was willing to jump rope every time to be able to later hit stuff. And once I got in the ring and was able to practice my punches on a person? Forget about it. I was in love."

What was your family’s relationship with exercise like? "My parents both worked very physical jobs and love doing yard work and gardening, so they were always moving. I was always inside, reading a book."

What are your favorite workouts? "The workout I do at boxing is a great one. Jump rope, speed bag, double end bag, sparring in the ring (the other guy isn't allowed to hit me back yet!), lunges, abs, the elliptical... It varies enough to keep it interesting while still allowing me to do my favorite parts."

The ole one-two punch, Kiesha style.

The ole one-two punch, Kiesha style.

When it comes to exercise, are you a pack trainer or a lone wolf? (Or a bit of both?) "I'm a lone wolf who likes to be given direction. I guess I'm sort of a teenage wolf — I like doing things on my own, but I still need that adult supervision to make sure I don't hurt myself."

What songs are on your go-to workout mix?  "Carlos, the owner of the boxing gym I go to, has the most eclectic playlist that he blasts during class. It's a mix of everything from 80s pop to hardcore gangsta rap. It's high energy and always keeps you guessing."

What’s your biggest workout obstacle, and how do you overcome it? "Just getting out to the gym. Once I'm there, I'm good, but the lure of my couch is so strong sometimes. I've found that if I change into my gym clothes as soon as I get home, it's much easier to say, 'Well, I put a lot of work into getting this sports bra on; I might as well just go.'"

What inspires you to work out? "Honestly, it's the lure of getting out of my own head for 75 minutes. The health aspects are nice, but it's the emotional break I get from myself that's really important. I tried running in the past, but it just gave me way too much time inside my head and I had a lot of really negative thoughts about myself. There's so much focus needed in boxing that I rarely have time to think about myself beyond remembering how to position my hands."

What do you do when you feel as if you’ve hit a plateau or rut? "I haven't really hit one yet because Carlos tailors everyone's workout to make sure they don't plateau. He made me do 50 lunges the other day. It's gonna be a while before I can do that without aching for the next two days!"

What’s been the biggest benefit to becoming an exercise lover? "Just that I actually have some innate talent for a sport! I never thought I'd be good at boxing, but as it turns out, I've got some natural skill!"

What advice would you give to someone who hates exercise? "I feel you. Exercise sucks when you don't feel like you're good at anything, especially if you have perfectionist tendencies like me. But if you have the means, I'd recommend trying every sort of activity you can. There's no shame in trying something out and deciding it's not for you. Hopefully you can find something that you just really enjoy, and that thing might be something you never thought you'd like. I'm a big ol' pacifist who's never hit anyone in my life. I never thought I'd enjoy attempting to punch people, but in the context of sport, I love it so much that I can't believe it. Get out of your comfort zone. You never know what crazy thing may turn out to be a perfect match for you."

Photos courtesy of Kiesha Jenkins-Duffy