The OTW Anger Series | Drumming It Out with POUND Fit

by | Sep 26, 2016

How many times have you gotten into your car after a frustrating experience, cranked up your “angry” music, and used your steering wheel as a drum set? If this is a part of your decompression, then POUND Fit is definitely for you. If this isn’t, then POUND Fit might also be worthy of your exploration. I am aces on an air drum, but if you put me in front of an actual drum set I have no clue what I’m doing. However, if you put a set of Ripstix®(lightly weighted drumsticks) in my hands, crank up the tunes and the inevitable sweat for 45 minutes, and create an environment where it is not only safe to make loud sounds but encouraged (both with voice and drumsticks), suddenly my anger and frustration melts away and leaves me feeling like a rock star. This is what POUND Fit is all about.

Recently, I ventured to the Valley of Los Angeles to take a POUND Fit class at Bootyworks, a beautiful boutique fitness studio that is home to several different workout programs. At first, the sound from the drumsticks was a bit shocking to my system. Once my ears adjusted to the noise of the sticks hitting each other and the ground, I actually started relishing in the sounds I could get out of them. It was as if, with each pound, I could feel the anxiety and anger breaking up inside of me, quickly replaced with feelings of confidence and strength.  The class felt incredibly safe — full of encouraging philosophy and great tunes — which, according to one of the founders, Kirsten Potenza, is no accident. Below, I got to chat with her about her program before I even tried it out.
***If POUND Fit isn’t available in your area, there are elements of this workout you can adapt to your workouts at home. 


What is it about drumming?
I played the drums when I was younger, in middle school. Later on in life, I was running a music venue, and I was still obsessed with music. My POUND Fit co-founder, Cristina, was also into drumming, and I slowly started to get back into it. I think both of us were really interested in it because it was an escape. We never had our cell phones in the room; it was just us and the drums. It felt good to connect with something in that way. Whether it was building a new scale, or just feeling like we could escape, it always felt meditative when we were practicing.

Cristina and I both came from an athletic background and had always been in a team environment, so working out and being fit always had a purpose. When we each left that realm and were living in LA there was this weird pressure to look and feel and act a certain way. It didn’t feel fun, it didn’t feel natural, not like drumming and listening to music did. I think playing or listening to music is something that most people enjoy. Or at least I hope! It’s an escape. It elicits emotions that I find to be very powerful. I think that working out doesn’t necessarily come as naturally for people because it feels like work. When we realized we could infuse the feeling of listening, playing and becoming a part of music with fitness, implementing all of these modalities that we knew were so effective but not so much fun, that’s sort of when we really knew that we had something special.

Did you and Cristina know each other prior to LA?
We met through a separate project, but I really think we became friends through POUND. We came from opposite ends of the spectrum at that point in our life, and I think our philosophies that live within the brand now were built and forged from that exploratory space that you go through when you become friends. You learn about each other — whether it’s going to work or not — and you meet in the middle. I really feel that that is how POUND was created.

Do you feel like drumming and POUND Fit helps to relieve toxic stress and anger that can build up in our bodies and how so?
Research has shown that drumming in general, and in a group setting, reduces stress, boosts the immune system and releases emotional trauma, along with a million other things. I know that it definitely helps with anger and relieving stress. There’s a few different parts. We as human beings, especially as women, are not given the space to be loud, to be angry. We don’t really have that space in normal day life, whether you’re taking care of your family or sitting at your desk all day. Most people just go home after a rough day and ignore it, or they bury it far down.  POUND literally allows you to release — whether it was just a bad day or a major trauma.

I’ve had women come up to me after we have our instructor training and share beautiful stories. I’ll never forget this day — there was a woman who came up to me and said ‘I had a traumatic event three months ago, and I’ve been so angry. I’ve been mean to my friends, and I couldn’t find a way to come to terms with it or release it. And I did it today, and I didn’t think it would be possible.’  There are stories like this we hear on a daily basis that are so powerful, that are proof. Being able to see this reality face to face is pretty amazing.


How emotional have people gotten IN class? Has there been crying or rage in class?
Absolutely. I tear up almost every time we do a cool down, which is how we close our classes. I taught a class to about 300 young girls a few weeks ago, ages 6-13. They were all dancers and  trying very hard to perfect their pirouettes. They were of course deeply focused on technique and precision, and when the lights went down and the music came on these girls literally rushed the stage. One girl came up and growled at me. I must have given her a face of surprise, and she was like, ‘Oh my gosh, was I not supposed to do this?’ I said ‘You’re fine, you’re fine.’ And she just became an animal. It just came out of these young girls, who ten minutes before were so focused on form and perfection. It was incredible to see.

I somewhat recently read an article in “Psychology Today” that talks about re-writing your story — actually, physically writing it down, whether it’s a traumatic experience or things that have caused you significant pain. It’s to help in the healing process. I think in the POUND class students subconsciously do this. They come to terms with their emotions — be it anger or happiness — and they release something they might not have come to terms with on their own. I think the group environment really elevates that feeling.

Would you say that POUND is an active form of meditation?
Absolutely. The one thing we try to do in POUND is not just listen to music, but get inside of it, become a part of it. Because you become a part of it and you’re moving…we say we become “movement musicians”. There’s a group of strangers moving with each other, in sync with each other, who are making the same syncopated noises. It’s absolutely meditative. Drumming activates both sides of your brain. So you’re getting a work out and a drummer high. It’s a very noisy, meditative experience.

What is the general environment of your classes — are the lights up or down?
We infuse our beliefs and philosophies into our training program, so a lot of what we talk about is creating an environment. The conversation that goes through a person’s head—man or woman—before going to a class, and the energy it takes to actually show up to a class is a lot. We want to make sure that we honor that commitment to the best of our abilities.  It’s why we say ‘Our students are the rock stars and we are the audience’.  I believe that to honor their commitment is to create that environment. I love turning down the lights, I don’t like using a mic, it’s all visual cues….letting the music take control and guide the workout.

How long are the classes?
Most of them are 45 minutes. We also have 15 minute POUND Fit Quick classes and 30 minutes as well.

I was really surprised to see when I was looking up POUND Fitness locations, that you’re hard pressed to find a city that you’re not in. Pound is all over the world now with certified instructors all over the place, plus your whole DVD set?
We have around 8000 instructors teaching all around the world. We expanded in Europe, Mexico, Canada and Australia this year and next year we will continue to expand in the U.S. and probably a bit more internationally as well! People can find their local class schedule through the POUND Fit Website. Then we have the Rock Out Result System, which is a complete system — from nutrition to fitness to support to journaling.
I’m just happy that people are talking about this stuff.  I grew up as a complete tomboy in a tiny town in America, and I think in larger cities, these pressures that are put on women…the expectation of what we should be, how we should speak, how we should look,  it’s a lot. So whether you’re going to a yoga class or on a hike or you’re punching a punching bag or hitting your Ripstix® at a POUND class, you have to allow yourself to feel those feelings and release them. We are dealing with WAY too much on a daily basis as human beings,  and if we don’t release these things, it will turn into disease. So, thank you for making this a part of the conversation.