Within the first five minutes of walking into any fitness arena or gym and chatting with an owner, I know exactly what kind of vibe lives within those walls and what type of workout I’m about to experience. When I entered through the glass doors of the unassuming, streetfront Cronan’s Gym The Fitness Factory in North Providence, looked around at the open minimalist room with dark grey matted floors topped with hung boxing bags and strength-focused gym equipment, and began talking to co-owner Kim Gifford, I knew I was in a hardcore space that was born from a lot of blood, sweat and tears. After our conversation and before I could even place my water bottle down, I could say, without a doubt, that this gym had passion and heart and I couldn’t wait to get working.
Four years ago, when Kim found out that she had a blood clot in her internal jugular vein and was told that she may never be able to work out again, her spirit was crippled. After battling those numbing emotions for too long, along with other disheartening situations going on in her personal life, she decided to fight back. Hesitant to go at it alone, she pleaded for her brother, Shane, to step into a gym with her, and, with his support and encouragement, she hasn’t looked back since.
Shane’s eight-year boxing background was something Kim didn’t quite understand at first – she saw it as dangerous and a way for her younger brother (who also owns a barber shop) to ruin his hands. But, one afternoon, Shane brought some pads and gloves along to their workout and after one session, Kim was hooked. From there, Kim began to immerse herself into the form and technical aspects of boxing. As both Shane and Kim developed their skills, they also began concentrating on unconventional boxing workout styles – which included high intensity strength and conditioning, and circuit training. Anxious with the idea to open their own gym, Kim drove by their current space one day about a year ago, saw it was for rent, recruited their other brother Justin for the joint sibling venture, took a leap of faith and opened the doors.
It was inside those doors that I was about to take a BoxFit circuit class – which was 12 stations of combined bag work, technical boxing form and drills, and high-intensity endurance and strength training. It’s workouts like these that best aide in weight loss with muscle gain and toning. It also instantly makes you a badass.
Kim ran through what we’d be doing at each station as we stretched and warmed up. I glanced around and noticed right away that there were a complete variety of participants – women of varying ages, moms, teens and men. I also noticed Elite Pro Women Boxer Shelly Shelito’s Way Vincent, who is ranked #2 in the country and #10 in the world, and currently strength/condition trains at Fitness Factory. I’ll be honest. I could have sat down for that entire class and just watched Shelly. Her intensity, form and skill were incredibly amazing to watch. There is nothing more inspirational than watching an elite athlete in their element. Shelly was pure motivation for my entire workout. (And, so were the other class members, who pushed to their max with every move.)
Now, let’s be real for a second. I am not a boxer. I’m pretty sure my punches and jabs and every other movement I attempt to make with a glove on looks sort of like a kangaroo on acid. But with Kim’s coaching on form, the bag stations weren’t so scary and the stress release I felt after punching something as hard and fast as I did was reason enough to want to flail like that again. We spent three minutes at each station, and the goal was to perform each one for the entire three minutes. By the end, my shoulders burned (read: almost fell off), I was a sweaty mess and my core was ridiculously tight. Needless to say, it was one hell of an awesome workout.
What I loved most about BoxFit, and Fitness Factory in general, was the team environment and family atmosphere (and the fact that I wouldn’t be able to lift my beer later that night). Classes can hold a Division 1 athlete and a stay-at-home mom in one workout. Families are encouraged to come together, as kids are always welcomed to hang out in the office and draw pictures while their parents bust their butts or to join in on one of their KidFit classes and programs. Aside from BoxFit, they offer straight boxing technique classes, ab classes and core classes as well. Fitness Factory is all about relationships, hard work, goal-setting and building confidence, all to promote a fit lifestyle. And, obviously, becoming a badass.