One writer punches her way through a boxing class that leaves her feeling confident and stress-free.
About a year ago, I was going through a hectic time and my friend Erika suggested I punch the stress away at a boxing class. She was training for a charity boxing match and told me all about the benefits that boxing had given her (she is super fit!). I hadn't worked out in a while so I was nervous. The sport didn't seem very inviting to a shapely woman who had never thrown a punch in her life, but with her encouragement, I decided to give it a try.
The participants welcomed me, the newb, immediately. The class was filled with people of all ages, shapes and sizes. The boxing coach, Yvette Raposo, brought me aside and gave me a mini-lesson on stance and essential punches—jab, cross, hook, uppercut. She wrapped my hands and we began with a warm-up that included skipping. My body had erased the years of schoolyard skipping I had done, and I panted my way through two minutes. Rocky, I was not.
I put on bright yellow gloves and we partnered up. One person steadied the heavy bag while the other threw punches, ducked and twisted around in 30-second intervals and then vice versa. The class was given punching combos to throw at the heavy bag, but as a beginner, I completed simpler ones to get used to the movements.
After a few rounds, I was spent. It was the toughest workout I had ever done, but despite the pain and fatigue, it felt amazing to punch something. My focus was on surviving the class and all the stress had completely melted away. I left feeling very sore, but strong and empowered. Now when I drool over Michael B. Jordan's body in Creed II, I'll know exactly how hard he worked to get it.
Here, five myths and facts about boxing.
1. MYTH: It's a "man's sport," as it can give you a "masculine" physique.
Boxing has a reputation for being a sport for men, but perceptions are slowly changing. Supermodels Adriana Lima and Gigi Hadid are avid boxers (check out Adriana's Instagram below and Gigi's boxing video here) and are helping to bring more women into the boxing ring, whether for fitness or competition. Jennifer Huggins, international boxing referee and owner of Kingsway Boxing Club suggests that women get out of their comfort zones and box. "Whether you're doing it in a competitive way or recreational way, you learn so much on your first visit. You learn so much about yourself and how incredible you are and how incredible you have to be to get through each round," says Huggins.
2. MYTH: It's only a workout for your arms.
Boxing is tough, which is why boxers are decked out with six-packs and lean muscle. Boxing doesn't just target arms; it's a full body workout. According to Kristina Ejem, founding partner and coach of Girls Just Wanna Box, "boxing is a workout that strengthens and sculpts your core (constant twisting), calves (always on your toes), back (punching motion) and shoulders (keeping your hands up)." It can also improve bone density (the impact from hitting the bag), which is super important for women. Plus, it's great for losing weight—you will torch calories and notice results after a few classes. The average person can lose between 300-600 calories in a one-hour session.
3. FACT: It can help improve your strength and endurance.
Boxing training and the conditioning that goes along with it require a lot of effort and skill, but you will feel stronger almost immediately after a class. Muscle strength increases when it meets resistance like punching a heavy bag. "You will improve your cardiovascular output and overall endurance and increase lean muscle tissue," says boxing coach and personal trainer Yvette Raposo. While your first boxing session won't have you doing 12, three-minute rounds like the pros, it is something that your body can work up to as your endurance grows.
4. FACT: It can help boost your confidence.
As a woman learning the techniques of a combative sport, there certainly is a sense of empowerment and confidence that comes with it. "From a mental standpoint, and I believe this is where the benefits of boxing lay, you get a new sense of confidence," says Jamie Ward, boxing coach at Eastside Boxing Club. "My confidence grew exponentially—it gave me self-esteem and a sense of belonging." Ward has seen victims of abuse come out of their shells and gain self-esteem through boxing. It can also offer women a great support system when they train as a team. "It's really cool when a group of women get together to box," says Ward. "The work ethic I see from women is amazing."
5. FACT: It can be an excellent way to relieve stress.
For me personally, I was looking for an outlet to release stress and boxing was the perfect means. Boxing provided me with the catharsis I was looking for. All the experts note stress release as an equal benefit to getting in shape, including Huggins who says, "when you hit something, it just feels so good." It's a way to channel negative emotions in a safe and constructive way. I guarantee you will leave the boxing gym happier and calmer than when you arrived.