A child-like approach to fitness, for all

A child-like approach to fitness, for all

When choosing a group workout, there really is something for everyone. They all have a unique angle, whether it’s crawling through mud at 4:30 a.m., shaking your hips, kicking your butt or making pole dancing acceptable for the masses. Few offer a chance to exercise the way we did as children.

Perhaps that’s what makes Punk Rope so much fun.

Instructor Allison Kennie, 33, describes Punk Rope as “gym class, for adults.”

“It’s a serious workout that’s actually fun. I’m not sure people always believe that when you say it, though,” Kennie said.

It’s 60 minutes of interval training, similar to boot camp classes, that includes jumping rope, games (like blob tag and relay races) and working on targeted parts of the body, like upper and lower body and core.

Tim Haft, former USA Track & Field coach and personal trainer, created Punk Rope in 2004 in New York City.

Now that school’s back in session, Kennie hopes to help fulfill one of the missions of Haft, and tackle children’s sedentary lifestyles through Punk Rope. While the audience for her weekly class is adults, she introduced a parent-and-kids class that she hopes to continue. She was also a volunteer at Family Fitness Night at the East End Community School. She taught jump rope at one of fitness stations families could participate together.

A mother herself, she realizes the emotional and physical benefits.

“Having more programs and places that allow parents and guardians to bring their kids along, and then even workout together, would benefit so many families,” Kennie said.

Kennie is also passionate about music – her husband, brother and many friends are musicians – and incorporates that love into Punk Rope. Each interval has a song that Kennie has timed and picked an appropriate beat given the activity. Some classes have an overall music theme, like a playlist that features local musicians, or one filled with Irish artists to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

“The playlist is constantly changing. I know that was a big draw for me in beginning,” said Kennie.

On average, you can burn 500 or so calories a class. Jumping rope can burn 13-14 calories per minute (based on a 150-pound person at a moderate jumping pace.)

Kennie is a graduate of Gorham High School and lives in South Portland with her husband and daughter. Her day job at Ricoh Managed Services keeps her on her toes and on her feet.

She teaches in Portland, and space isn’t always easy to come by. There is more competition for fitness classes in a big city, but she is quick to point out that on the plus side, more people are looking for a variety of classes.

She took her first class in October 2010, around the same time former Maine Roller Derby skaters and trainers Lisa Bassett and Diane Kibbin started teaching Punk Rope in Portland. A friend told Kennie about the class and she was instantly hooked.

She doesn’t have a background in fitness, but does a long history with dance. Like so many others, after school she got a desk job and wasn’t regularly exercising. Following the birth of daughter, Nora, she knew she wanted to get back into a healthier routine.

“Punk Rope was exactly what I was looking for to give me that drive to push my body and get myself somewhere healthier,” Kennie said. “It’s a hobby that’s turned into a program I really believe in and something I enjoy so much.”

Kennie was certified to teach Punk Rope in October 2011, but didn’t launch classes until February of this year.

“I have a 4-year-old, so getting through the holidays and into the new year was necessary before focusing on renting space and getting the word out.”

Facebook has been Kennie’s main source of marketing. She’s guest teaching two classes for PortSports, Maine’s charity-based co-ed social event and sports league.

Kennie said jumping rope can be hard and frustrating, especially for adults remembering how easy it seem to be when they were kids.

“My favorite thing is seeing someone start out marching in place with their rope to their side, then after weeks of working up to it, jumping for an entire endurance jump,” Kennie said. “Getting people through the door is the hardest part, but once someone has tried the class, they love it.”

While started by a man, the class is gender neutral, yet Kennie finds most of her classes are filled with women.

Kennie has no answer to why ladies love Punk Rope. She hypothesizes that perhaps it is because a woman teaches the class, or perhaps that most group fitness classes, like Zumba or aerobics, are targeted and geared for women.

She is sure to note that her class is open to men and women of all fitness abilities, offering modifications so everyone can participate.

“I would love to see more men in the class, but the women who show up week after week to work so hard at improving their fitness levels and health are the reason I keep at it,” Kennie said. “It’s great cross-training. All my regulars are a success story.”

She notes that group fitness can be intimidating, but Punk Rope is supportive, inclusive, silly and constantly changing.

“Each class is different: the music, drills, and games – we don’t want people getting bored,” she said.

While not yet profitable, Kennie thinks there is potential and remains hopeful. She keeps it all in perspective and notes she’s still relatively new to the business.

Kennie’s love of music could translate into live music and local musicians keeping the beat in Punk Rope class soon.

She hopes to continue her work with children too, especially with obesity rates rising and budget cuts affecting physical education and active extracurricular activities.

“Every kid should have the opportunity to be healthy and active and also know that those things can be, and are, fun.”

Allison KennieAllison Kennie, in yellow, taught her Punk Rope class to the PortSports winter gym class this past February at the Riverton Elementary School in Portland.    

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