A lot has changed in the last month and a half, and International Women’s Day seems like it was a long time ago. Regardless of our circumstances, IWD remains special to me because it’s a day when women and their allies around the world celebrate empowerment and call attention to equality and the gender pay gap. This article is dedicated to and inspired by my tribe of ladies who show up every week to work out, have fun, and push each other to fight harder. That is, we were showing up until the shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders were mandated last month. Times like these not only challenge our own definitions of meaning and purpose but also call on our tribes and communities to support each other.

In another article, I shared my experiences after being downsized late last year. One particular motivation that has kept me going is a kickboxing class, led by coach Tony. In this weekly workout, our group spends an hour letting off steam, pushing themselves to the best of their abilities, and lifting each other up throughout the class. Although, what got me into kickboxing in the first place was not some mighty self-realization reason but a stressful work harassment situation, which I didn’t know how to address at the time. Over time, I have grown to enjoy the symbolic implications that this sport has on me. Every week I simultaneously dread and long for the class because it’s one of the most challenging workouts both physically and mentally. The adrenaline doesn’t always push me towards the end; instead, it’s the mental pep talk (that I can do this and I need this) that carries me to the finish line.

Over time, I have gotten to know a few regulars in the class.

  • Wendy BurgerAs an architect of 20 years, every project I’ve ever created — from embassies to day spas to family homes — creates a unique energy that matches the people who dwell there. Always attracted to the idea that physical material can change the way you feel, I was immediately drawn to boxing for the same reason. It was the same room I’ve taken many classes in before, but the moment it became a boxing class, I could feel the shift in energy. Although I have taken countless workout classes, I was initially intimidated, not by the others around me, but my own lack of confidence in a new way to move my body. But I showed up every day, and the women around me did too. Together we didn’t just hit, kick, and punch our way through calories, we mastered the philosophy and the power within each movement — intention, precision, pacing, and self-discipline. We learned how to dig deep within our tired bodies to find our energy and let it carve a path inside us. We showed up for each other, we challenged each other, and we championed each other, and over time we forged a sisterhood. There is a special dance, fluidity, and beauty to boxing, but there’s a special friendship to it too, and I am eternally grateful to these women who share it with me.
  • Allie Hopkins is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. “I conduct psychoeducational evaluations to determine eligibility for Special Education Services, provide behavior support and counseling to children, and consult with families and staff on best practices for academics, social emotional development, and behavior. My special interests are Applied Behavior Analysis, parent training, and early intervention. My passion is working with children and families with special needs and I have been doing so for over 15 years. Boxing quickly became my favorite class offered at Equinox. Coach Tony is very much my style in his ‘no b.s., show up, and give it your all’ attitude. I love the training mentality and work ethic of this class. Tony once said, ‘There will be no warning when the fight comes.’ That has rung very true in my life. The mind/body connection in this class has prepared and carried me through a variety of life’s hurdles. The energy of ‘the regulars tribe’ is palpable; they take it seriously while making it fun. It makes me feel accountable, and I thrive in the routine and moves of each round. I always leave feeling energized, encouraged, and refreshed. Boxing allows me to show up as a better wife, daughter, sister, friend, counselor, and the many other roles in my life ready to pour into others.
  • Melissa Shepard is an Event Director with Linder Global Events, a global event production company based in Washington, DC. “Working in a fast paced, high-stress job has led me to find outlets that allow me to step away from it all, the gym being among the most important. My drive to get to the gym, and more specifically to class each week, is to give myself a daily mental and physical break. It’s an opportunity to get out of my own head, step away from the grind, and focus my energy into something that I can fully control. It also doesn’t hurt that boxing allows me to truly take out all that pent up energy (and if we’re being honest, frustration) all while challenging myself physically. Over the last few years, the group of individuals that come each week have become my motivation — you can’t be the one to miss class! — and my friends. Having each of them to push me to not just show up, but to give it my all, has been incredible.
  • Ch­­­loe Evans is an owner of a general contracting firm which she runs with her mom. The company specializes in minor construction, electrical, and facility maintenance for local and federal government as well as the private sector. In addition, she is a realtor with Compass. “I come to class to release. My days are filled with meetings, conference calls, site visits, and writing proposals, so a kickboxing class that allows me to punch, kick, and sweat always has a welcome invitation. My motivation for coming back to class every week are my friends. They’ve become indirect accountability partners for me. No one is checking a box every time you do or don’t make it to class, but there is something special about all of us consistently showing up every week to work out, release, and restore…together. :)
  • Trian Johnson is a realtor with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty with 20 years industry experience in the DMV area. Trian is also working on her passion project, a coffee table book. “I started coming to class to relax and release stress from traffic and work. Later I found myself evolving and deeply transformed by the constant physical challenge. Every time I finish Tony’s class I feel and know that everything is possible. Three factors motivating me to keep coming back are: (1) I am free to let go, be myself, and have fun, (2) I am able to curate the best version of myself, and (3) I found people that I truly call friends, and they have become family to me.

During my most challenging times last year, it’s this group of women who cheered for me during class when I thought I was going to give up; they taught me to be resilient no matter how difficult the circumstances are; they extended their kindness and smiles that kept me showing up to class. Oprah Winfrey says “surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher.” I am fortunate and grateful that I have a tribe of fearless and powerful friends at our kickboxing class. I wish by sharing my experience we can all amplify and inspire one another to be better and braver.

Who is in your tribe?

Always pursuing the meaning of life through constant trying, failing, learning, and accepting :)

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