During my five years of kickboxing training at a now-defunct martial-arts-Crossfit-type gym in East Austin, Texas, I developed an unusual pre-workout ritual. As I commuted the 50 minutes through ever-thickening traffic from my office to the gym, I'd painstakingly apply a full face of makeup, taking every red light as an opportunity for another stroke of my mascara wand or dab of cheek paint.

The reason I was hastening to get dolled up only to sweat it off in a kickboxing gym? His name was Toby, and he was my kickboxing coach. A former professional MMA fighter of Japanese-Mexican descent, Toby was arrestingly gorgeous: rippling muscles, sleeves of tribal tattoos and a bad-boy sneer. He reminded me of the sexy commanding officer in Disney's 1998 animated version of "Mulan": just as hot, just as good at martial arts and just as intimidating.

I was as enchanted as I was terrified by him. Kickboxing training was tough enough, but having my hunky coach there, threatening constantly to pop out of the shadows to critique my form or tell