Want the workout of your life? Then take kickboxing classes. No, I don't mean cardio kickboxing classes at your local YMCA or Equinox. They're alright, but not hardcore. I'm talking about taking them at your local boxing gym, where you'll burn 800-1000 calories per class -- provided you can keep up.

When I first joined the local chapter of a boxing gym chain, I was completely out of shape and totally unable to keep up. I also wanted to lose a few pounds. Well, OK, a lot of pounds. At 5'7", 150 lbs, I wasn't exactly at my ideal weight. I talked to the guys at the gym, and when they told me how many calories each class burned, I couldn't wait to sign up. So I took a trial class. I had no idea what to expect.

Well, to be honest, I never expected what happened on that first class. First, we had to jump rope. Now, I used to do this as a kid, but now -- ha! I hadn't been on one for maybe 20 years. I kept trying to do it, tripping up about every 5th turn of the rope. But that wasn't so bad... I couldn't keep up anyway. And as I looked around me, I saw that a lot of people were having trouble, too. So I didn't feel alone.

After the first round of jump roping was done, we moved onto more torture: burpees. No, not the seed company. The hard exercise. If you don't know what one is, I'll tell you: first you hop down on all fours. Then you push out your legs backwards, then spring them back in again. You next jump up and I mean JUMP up. Then you do it all again. Sometimes you have to add a push-up into the mix. Other times you have to jump high and make a star. Well, let me tell you, even regular burpees are hard. They make you sweat like mad too. But I survived that. Then it was back to jump roping. Then burpees... Three sets total. I was already exhausted -- and only 12 minutes into the 1 hour class.

Next, we broke up into three groups, and each one took a station. One group did this wacky exercise with a medicine ball I cannot even describe, but it was well nigh impossible. The other group had to run around the heavy bags repeatedly, jogging on the smaller sides. The last group had to treadmill their hearts out. I started off in the treadmill group. Ugh. I'd never used one before. So while everyone else was running, I walked. Very slowly. I was already dying, I thought. Might as well take it easy. Turned out, we all had to do each station. Ugh again!

Then we finally got to the fun part -- the actual kickboxing. Here, you hit heavy bags, not the air as you do in cardio kickboxing. The moves are the same, but you really have to watch your form and take your time getting used to the bag and to the boxing gloves you have to wear (the second one is hard to put on!). We punched and kicked for 20 minutes, doing different drills and combinations. Like a jab/right hook/roundhouse kick combo. Or a left jab/right straight punch/push kick. With each kick, my shin got sorer and sorer, but I wax finally enjoying myself. Really getting my frustrations out. Kick, kick, punch, punch, the sweat dripped but I felt empowered. Suddenly, I knew I was going to join.

We finished the class with some very difficult ab work, which of course I couldn't keep up with either. But as my instructor, Mike, said, "Just do your best."

When I was finished the class, I couldn't wait to get home and jump into my swim spa and cool off.

But I have to tell you -- I've been doing these classes 3 times a week for six months and have lost 25 pounds already. And I've gained muscle mass. So exciting. I can now jump rope like a pro, not like a little kid. And my shins no longer hurt. I'm telling you: if you want to get out your frustrations, lose weight and gain muscle, join this kind of gym. Kick that heavy bag. You'll be ever so happy you did.

A Burpee