Stress at work takes a toll on your productivity and health. Believe me, I'm living proof. Last year was possibly one of the most stressful years in my career: long hours, demanding workloads, and not to mention, taking on the role of a new father. All of this combined caused quite a shakeup in my diet, my sleep, and unfortunately, my waistline. I swore to myself that I'd bring myself out of this mess just as soon as I found the outlet I needed to eliminate the stress.

Did that scenario sound familiar? I know I'm not alone. This story is repeated quite often in most young men's lives, yet few do very little to turn the corner and make the change. Some choose to stay on the couch, admitting defeat, some start walking to work or pumping iron, which is a great start. But to completely alleviate stress, you've..got..to..hit..something.

That's right, just hit something! Lashing out on an inanimate object is easily the best thing for your stress (note that I said inanimate, not someone's face). That's where Box Fit comes in..

However, Box Fit, Missoula's newest cardio training craze is more than just punching bags. It's a monster calorie burner. In fact, one 50 minute class can burn up to 700-1000 calories! Access Fitness on Brooks street had invited me to test their newest class over the recent weeks, and I won't lie, at first I was seriously intimidated. Visions of meat heads trying to outdo one another, all the while flexing their muscles without shirts on was what had originally been prancing through my mind when I was first introduced to the concept. I could not have been any further from the truth.

When I entered the newly expanded Access Fitness and the new Box Fit arena, equipped with 36 boxing bags, soft, grippy floors, and a state of the art sound system, I immediately was welcomed by many familiar faces, mostly women (!!), who each came with a different agenda. Some came to learn technique, some to break a sweat, others to learn ways to defend themselves, many to burn off the tension following a stressful work day. Once the class began, it was clear: everyone was going to benefit from all of the above.

Instructor Matt Powers begins the class with some intermediate warm-ups, jogging, high knees, and side to sides. Then, after 5 minutes of getting the heart rate up, he moves straight into form and technique tips on how to handle the individual boxing bags. Straight punches, hooks, Thai kicks (my personal favorite), and knee kicks each require a certain level of knowledge before executing, one slight wrong move and you could twist or hyper-extend a leg or arm. That's why Powers recruits local MMA fighters to roam the class and guide you through the process. Each volunteer trainer is friendly and extremely patient.

Following the warm-up, it's ON!  Box Fit instructs both rookies and pro fighters in ways to develop superior punching power, along with providing one of the most extreme cardiovascular workouts available. Hitting a heavy bag that's hanging from the Access Fitness platform provides a maximum cardiovascular workout. The act of throwing punches while you move constantly for three-minute rounds helps you get in top shape. Classmates hit the heavy bag for three minutes--the same length as a professional round--and then drops to the floor for a one-minute calisthenics. Sorry, no breathers. That is, unless you need it. Then we go back at it until we've have done at least five sessions. This builds stamina, strength and power, and frankly, leaves me in a pool of sweat halfway through the workout.

It sounds intense, because it IS intense. But like Powers says, "many people won't take this class because it's too hard. But guess what? That makes you better than them!" Powers motivational instructions keep you going the entire way, and by the time you are finished you feel like you've actually accomplished something most could not. Plus, the benefit of feeling serene and calm overtakes you minutes after the class and lasts all throughout the day.

I have found my outlet. My stress is gone and I'm feeling like a million bucks. Box Fit is a class that will take you to that next level, and is recommended for anyone who simply needs that release after a hard days work. It's not for everyone, but for those that need to increase their endurance and ward off the 9-5 grind, this is the one true cardio craze that will keep you coming back.

Learn more about Box Fit at the newly expanded Access Fitness by visiting them in person at 1906 Brooks Street, by phone at 406-728-5515, or online at www.accessfitnessclub.com