The perk to having a gym membership is the flexibility to show up when it suits your schedule. The downside: It’s oh so easy to do the same 30 minutes on the treadmill followed by the same weight machines day after day – or better still, to get halfway through that treadmill run and decide “Eh, I think I’d rather go shopping for pants” and just leave altogether.

Some of us (ahem, guilty) aren’t so great when left to our own devices. A little more structure goes a long way.

9Round in Gorham, which opened on Elm Street in March, offers a fine blend of “we’ll tell you what to do” with a super-flexible “come when it fits your schedule” format. Win win.

9 Round Gorham Maine
The newly opened 9 Round on Elm Street in Gorham. Shannon Bryan photo

The workout is a 30-minute kickboxing-based circuit made up of, you guess it, 9 rounds. Each round is 3 minutes, with a 30-second transition in between, where you do body weight exercises like running men or push-ups or squat jumps. (You can also use this transition as a chance to catch your breath. This workout is serious cardio.)

And for those who like the idea of punching and kicking things in a socially appropriate environment, 9Round is your place. The circuit is heavy on the punching bags (heavy bag, uppercut bag, speed bag, and a wrecking ball heavy bag, among others).

9Round Gorham Maine
Round 1. It all begins here. Shannon Bryan photo
A Thursday morning at 9Round in Gorham.Shannon Bryan photo
Making the speed bag look easy. It takes a while to get the hang of, though. Shannon Bryan photo

9Round was founded in 2008 in South Carolina by Shannon and Heather Hudson. Shannon is a former IKF light middleweight kickboxing world champion and 5th degree Black Belt in Japanese Shotokan karate and Heather is also a Black Belt in Shotokan karate. There are now more than 600 locations in the U.S. and around the world.

But don’t let those credentials freak you out. 9Round is an all-levels kind of place. During my visit, I saw men and women ranging in age from 20-something to 60-something, some who’d been working out for years, some who were just getting started. And you don’t need any experience with kickboxing. The trainers are there to teach you and offer modifications where needed. Ted and Melissa Rioux, owners of the Gorham 9Round, are super welcoming. And while the 30-minute workout allows members to get in and out pretty quickly, people still know each other’s names.

9Round isn’t a big gym, but it’s room enough to work out even when every station is full. Shannon Bryan photo
Members generally buy their own wraps and gloves, but if you’re new, you can borrow gloves (hand wraps aren’t necessary when you’re getting started). Shannon Bryan photo

Currently, the 9Round in Gorham is the only location in Maine (although Ted and Melissa have plans for two more 9Round locations – one in Scarborough and one in Westbrook – which should open in 2019).

The specific workout changes daily, but it’ll always work your whole bod, you’ll get to punch and kick things, and your heart will be pumping something serious.

There’s a trainer there, too, who can demonstrate all the movements, give you pointers on form, and encourage you to push yourself and keep that heart rate up. I had no problem keeping my heart rate up – this was a sweat-inducing half-hour for me. (First-time visitors go through a beginner workout and can ramp up from there.)

A swift kick to the bag. Shannon Bryan photo

Picture a jump rope warm up followed by lateral plank walks, then some kicking, jabs, and uppercuts. Or three minutes with a speed bag (speed bags are no joke. It looks so easy and rhythmic when you’re watching someone else do it, but it takes practice)! In between each round are 30-second exercises, which the trainer calls out. “Push-ups!” “Mountain climbers!” The final round might be core work – sit-ups with a medicine ball, for example. And then you’re done. 30 minutes in and out.

The jump rope warm up. If it’s been awhile since you’ve jumped rope, not to worry, there are alternative options. (Not that we don’t all love whipping our shins with a jump rope as we get the hang of it again). Shannon Bryan photo

Members use heart rate monitors and their hear rates are displayed on two TVs, along with corresponding colors that indicate how hard their hearts are pumping – and let members know when to step it up, take it down, or keep doing what they’re doing. (Also fun, you’re encouraged to pick a cool name for the display. During my visit, I chose CHATTERBOXER, a name I’ve been wanting an excuse to use for ages.)

One of the wall-mounted TVs showing the each member and his/her heart rate. Being in the yellow zone is ideal. Shannon Bryan photo

But the most unique aspect of 9Round: you can show up whenever you’d like. (Okay, not whenever whenever – they have open hours Monday through Friday, half-day Saturdays, and are closed on Sundays.) There are no class times here. Instead, you arrive when it works for you and jump into the circuit, starting at round 1.

So no rushing to make it to a class on time or trying to find a class that fits your schedule.

A pretty full house during a recent Thursday morning. Shannon Bryan photo
High knees into the bag. Shannon Bryan photo

9Round has enough structure to keep you focused and your workout varied, but enough flexibility to accommodate your schedule.

While it only opened up in March, I met a few members (including my friend Kristen, who started going the very first day it opened) who love it.

If you’re curious about 9Round, check it out. Your first visit is FREE and you’ll get a nice introduction to the place. (Also, they have boxing gloves you can borrow on your first visit.)

And even if you don’t quite get the speed bag or you’re learning to kick for the first time, it’s still incredibly cathartic to sweat and punch.

If you like the workout, ring the bell. Shannon Bryan photo

9 Round Gorham

18 Elm St., Gorham
5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday
5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday
7 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday
Closed Sunday
First visit free
FMI: and

9Round Gorham Maine
9Round on Elm Street in Gorham. Shannon Bryan photo