Empowerment one kick at a time

Thirty-minute kickboxing circuit offers judgment-free environment to women in Montreal

Gyms like C30M in Varennes offer women comfortable environments to train in. Photo Courtesy Samsara Rainville

After a long day of studying, Samsara Rainville needs to relieve some built up stress. She dons her workout gear, ties her hair in a ponytail, and turns on her laptop to follow a virtual workout prepared by her local kickboxing gym.

“I like to workout at the end of the day because I feel like I can let everything out,” she said. “The stress is gone, you get a boost of energy and you clear your mind to prepare yourself for the next day.”

Rainville is a member at C30M in Varennes, a gym that offers a 30 minute workout circuit inspired by kickboxing, that focuses on cardio and endurance training. Membership at C30M is exclusive to women.

These 30 minute circuit based training sessions are inspired by kickboxing and self-defence techniques, but exclude actual combat. 

“This circuit is a workout alternative for those who maybe don’t enjoy lifting weights and working with machines,” said C30M trainer Pascale Lemelin. “This is a good way to have fun while you’re working out, making it feel less like work.”

The 30 minute kickboxing circuit is popular because of how easy it is to fit in the average day. 

“I was able to go every day, because of how quick and efficient of a workout it is,” said former C30M member Laurence Blais. “Each minute is divided between strength training and endurance training, so you really get a good workout in by the end.”

On top of the convenience and efficiency of the 30 minute kickboxing circuit, members step into a welcoming and nurturing environment.

“The growing community makes it feel like a big family,” said Lemelin. “It’s nice to be amongst other women, working towards the same goals and helping each other out.”

Kristen Payne, a trainer at 30 Minute Hit in Chateauguay, one of 15 locations in Quebec, has been working out this way for three years. What keeps her coming back are the bonds she’s created along the way.

“There’s this general sense of community where you know that you’re being encouraged by the women around you,” she said. “Some of these people have watched me grow over the years, so it builds a deep connection.”

Another attractive aspect about this method of training is the environment. Members feel less intimidated than they would in regular gym atmospheres, and are able to enjoy a more comfortable and productive workout.

“When women go to the gym, most of us feel like we’re being constantly watched or being judged,” Rainville said. “When I go to my kickboxing workouts, I don’t feel like anyone is looking at me the wrong way and I’m able to go about my training without worrying.”

Many admit to feeling more empowered when training and working out in an environment reserved for women.

“Sports in general are more often attributed to men, so being in a sporting environment exclusive to women is a welcome change,” said Blais. “Practicing combat sports amongst women makes you feel empowered and powerful.”

Of course, the feeling of laying punch after punch into a styrofoam figure or punching bag is an efficient stress-reliever as well.

“When you’re hitting this plastic bob figure, you can imagine people you don’t like,” Rainville said. “The adrenaline rush you get from it gives you so much energy to carry on with the workout and generally puts you in a good mood.”

Learning a couple of self-defence moves along the way doesn’t hurt either.

“I feel like I’m able to protect myself now,” Payne said. “It’s very comforting to know that I can take anyone on if ever I am in danger.”

Kickboxing with Covid

With COVID-19 still heavily affecting life in Quebec, gyms like C30M and 30 Minute Hit have had to adjust to the times. As gyms across the province were closed in early October due to a spike in coronavirus cases, sessions were moved to an online setting. 

“We offer a bunch of different workouts online so that our clients can keep training from home,” Lemelin said. “We do private sessions as well, and some days I’ll go live on Facebook and some clients will follow me step-by-step there.”

Trainers and customers are doing what they can to maintain their workout routines, but sharing these experiences might not feel as rewarding from behind a screen.

“Obviously, the vibe and energy is not the same, as well as attendance numbers, as some clients just don’t like following along virtually,” Lemelin said. “It’s impossible to recreate that same atmosphere that we have when we’re together in person.”

While virtual sessions are far from ideal, Rainville still feels happy and privileged that she is able to keep up with the program from home.

“While I might not have as much motivation, I feel just as comfortable,” she said. “There’s still the familiarity of working with the same coaches I’ve gotten used to and going through my favorite workouts.”