From the outside, it looks normal. On a quiet, dead-end road sits a plain building, similar to a warehouse, with no visible signs indicating what’s inside.
Upon opening the door, bass-heavy electronic dance music spills outside and disrupts the calm. A shrill bell rings every 15 seconds, indicating it’s time to punch harder and faster.
30 Minute Hit is a women-only gym focusing on a core circuit training workout. It incorporates techniques from kickboxing, boxing and self-defense into 13 distinct stations.
“It kills you, but I promise it slowly gets better until you feel like a little ninja and you’re totally rocking it on the circuit,” co-owner Veronica Tanner said.
Tanner and her fiancé, DeWayne Lyman, have been running 30 Minute Hit for the last year and a half. The Bellingham location of the gym franchise has been in town for four years.
“It’s got a very unique sense of community,” Tanner said. “Besides being a fantastic workout, I think it’s a great place to meet other women and have that sense of community and belonging.”
Before operating the gym, Tanner was a regular member. During a rough time in her life, which included going through a divorce, Tanner said the workout gave her confidence to get through it. With her position as owner and trainer, she hopes to pay that back to the other women in similar situations.
“A lot of the time, there’s that sense of intimidation. Having a place where they can push themselves and not feel like they’re going to be judged is great.”
The workout intertwines different self-defense tactics applicable in real-world scenarios. Having the confidence to know you can defend yourself is what most women take from participating in the workout, Tanner said.
“Even if you can’t do all the moves perfectly, just thinking you can makes a big difference,” Tanner said.
Creating a safe space for women, in a typically daunting environment, is something that’s important to both Tanner and Lyman.
“A lot of the fitness culture is based on body building and very male dominated sports,” Lyman said. “A lot of the time, there’s that sense of intimidation. Having a place where they can push themselves and not feel like they’re going to be judged is great.”
Bellingham resident Anita Cash became a member three years ago as she neared her 50s and didn’t want to remain the same fitness level she had been stuck at. With little gym experience, let alone kickboxing, Cash decided to try her hand at 30 Minute Hit.
“I thought I was going to die,” Cash laughed while remembering her first session.
Tanner said there are a variety of members ranging in fitness level and age, with the youngest member being 14-years old.
“It’s suitable for anyone. If you’re willing to learn, we’re happy to teach you,” Tanner said. “It doesn’t take that long to get the hang of it.”
Tanner and Lyman are both certified instructors for the techniques used through the circuit, something they think sets them apart from other gyms.
“You get the best of both worlds,” Lyman said. “You get the instruction from a class as well as the efficiency of having a varied, fast-paced workout.”
Bellingham resident and member Rachel Thompson started with no previous gym experience. She was intimidated by the pressure that comes along with typical coed gym atmospheres and specifically sought out a women-only gym.
Going from a low activity level to an intense circuit workout didn’t end ideally for Thompson.
“The first few times, I can’t lie, I did throw up,” Thompson reminisced. “But I still felt so good afterword that I was like, ‘I have to go back.’”
Thompson noted how she could have benefited from a gym like 30 Minute Hit when she was in college. Hitting the punching bags would be a good stress relief during finals week, she said.
“I did a lot of stress eating in college, which I know is pretty common,” she said. “It would’ve been nice to have an outlet that wasn’t quite so self-destructive.”
She said she saw the workout as a challenge she could get better at and master. Tanner noticed a similar mentality among other members, causing them to want to come back after an intense workout, even if it kills them.
“We all end up the same way at the end,” Tanner said. “No matter if it’s your first time, second time, month-in, five years, [you’re] dead. The good kind of dead. The kind that’s addicting.”