The Tae-Bo craze has swept across the country this year, and Lawrence has its share of cardio kickboxing classes.
Jab, jab, jab, kick.
The hall was filled with about 1,000 people, all sweating and trying to move in unison. Amazingly, not too many of them kicked each other.
Tae-Bo has hit Kansas City. The aerobics, boxing and Tae Kwon Do cross is quickly becoming the most popular fitness class in the country. Similar kick boxing, crunch and punch and kick cardio classes are cropping up in health clubs across the country, including those in Lawrence.
The creator of Tae-Bo, Billy Blanks, was in Kansas City last weekend to teach three classes, part work out and part lecture, on his exercise system. A few thousand people, including exercise buffs and fitness instructors from Lawrence, jammed into the hall at Bartle Hall Convention Center.
The room was filled with energy. Blanks, live and on two large television screens, stressed form as he showed the moves from his workout videos to the crowd. He told them to have purpose behind their moves -- to be aware -- even when he had worn them out.
"That's when you're going to get injured, because you're unaware," he said.
Packing a punch
The kick-boxing cardio craze picked up steam this year, shortly after Blanks' ubiquitous infomercials selling his official Tae-Bo tapes came out.
Blanks, a seven-time martial arts champion, has been developing the movements in Tae-Bo since the '70s. He finally introduced his movements to the public in 1990.
Like spinning and stepping before it, exercisers are flocking to the official and the clone classes.
"The last year, it's (become) really, really popular," said Kathy Fode, recreation superintendent with Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department. Among its fitness classes, the city offers Cardio Crunch and Punch. It has been filling up.
Lucinda Bermudez, recreation program clerk, has been taking the classes since winter.
"It's an intense workout; it's definitely not for those who hadn't worked out," she said. "I feel strong when I leave. Once you try it, you'll be hooked."
She likes the classes, but she has Blanks' tapes, too.
"I got his tapes right before the craze hit," she said. "I still can't do it 100 percent."
Jan Sheridan, the aerobics coordinator for Total Fitness Athletic Center, took some of her Car-Bo, cardio boxing, instructors to Kansas City to see Blanks show his stuff.
"It was really worth going for," she said. "We were not disappointed at all. " We came back with a little more precision. TV's one thing, but when you get the music pumping in the room, the energy's flowing."
Total Fitness has offered Car-Bo classes since November 1998. Car-Bo classes only have eight or nine different moves, making it easier to follow than some classes. The punching and kicking involved attracts more men than a step aerobics class, Sheridan said.
"Even though there is a lot of punching and kicking, it's very quick so it can be very intense," she said.
Sheridan said the most important part of the workout is proper positioning during the moves. Throwing punches or kicks improperly can lead to injury -- experts' biggest fear with Tae-Bo.
"It's something I wouldn't encourage someone who was just starting out to do," she said.
Neither would the American Council on Exercise.
The council warns that even the basic classes or videos require above average endurance, flexibility and strength.
Beginners often overextend kicks, lock their joints while throwing punches or kicks, exercise beyond fatigue or wear weights, which can damage joints.
"Folks that are just hoping to hop off the couch into a Tae-Bo workout might be surprised," said Mark Anders, an ACE representative. Anders recommends focusing on "doing it right."
"A lot of people will find they do better with an instructor," he said.
Lorinda Hartzler, owner of Body Boutique, agrees.
"It's just really easy to misalign the body when you don't have an instructor watching you," she said. "" I'm really hesitant to encourage anyone to get a tape and work out at home."
Body Boutique offers Box and Jam, as well as Crunch and Punch classes.
"We added our Saturday class in the last couple of months," she said. "They're all full, so we may be adding more."
She also took some of her instructors to Blanks' session to get a better grasp of Tae-Bo.
"We really enjoyed the workout," she said. "It was intense. It was a challenge."
Hartzler said she thinks Tae-Bo is an excellent way to exercise.
"I encourage people to do a variety of activities," she said. "They stay interested."
Though fitness trends come and fitness trends go, Sheridan said she thought Tae-Bo would stick around.
"It's fun, it's energizing."
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