It’s been over three years since I started going to boxing classes, but I don’t think I’ve ever written extensively about it. I’m not sure how this escaped my attention, but it’s probably because I don’t actually go very often (this year I’ve only gone once every one to two months).
But I went to a boxing class on Friday, and afterwards I was thinking about how the instructor ran the class, and thinking about my other experiences with boxing, and I talked to friends about the exercises they do… and then I felt a need to write about it all, so here we are.
These aren’t normal boxing classes, though. They call these training sessions “Cardiobox” because there’s a mix of punching drills and other exercise (burpees, lunges, squats, etc). Before I started these Cardiobox sessions, I went to one of their technique classes to learn the basics because I figured that good technique is important for getting the most out of a regular session.
I quickly learnt that boxing isn’t all about brute force and trying to pummel your opponent (or the punching bag — all of the punching drills are done on bags, and we don’t actually have boxing matches). There’s actually a lot of coordination required, and I’ve often felt like I’m trying to learn steps to a dance instead of just punch and movement combinations. As it turns out, the placement and movement of your feet are just as important as that of your hands.
Combine this with various body weight exercises, kettlebells, medicine balls, and runs around the block, and you’ve got yourself an intense full-body workout. I always finish Cardiobox classes feeling completely exhausted and spent, yet so exhilarated. And I’m always sore for at least a day afterwards (sometimes two days).
The interesting thing for me is that boxing is the only form of exercise I actually pay for. I’ve never joined a gym, never paid to join a sports club or take up lessons, never did group fitness or other similar classes. My logic was always that I know enough about exercise to be able to do a decent circuit training session on my own, so there’s no need to pay someone to tell me what to do. Plus, I’ve never needed someone else to motivate me, and I certainly don’t need the thought of my money going into the sinkhole that is gym membership to motivate me either.
But I’ll pay for boxing because I have found value in it.
It’s a pretty good system where you can pay for ten sessions at once (at a lower price than paying for one at a time), and then redeem the sessions whenever you like (it never expires). There have been times when I get to the end of my ten sessions, and I think maybe I’ll stop going, do something else instead, but I always come back.
I recently met someone who does martial arts. She used to do boxing, but didn’t feel like it was right for her, so she tried martial arts instead. One and half years later, she’s still doing martial arts, still enjoying it, and on her way to becoming an instructor too. She once told me something about the supportive environment being a reason why she stayed with martial arts.
So then I’ve been thinking about boxing, and what keeps me going back. And a lot of it is that it’s a super intense workout, and punching things is actually good for stress relief, but I keep going back to this specific boxing gym because the staff and trainers are good at their jobs, and they’re also pretty supportive. (And it’s a reasonably convenient location for me too.)
The last few times I’ve been (over the course of the last several months), I’ve noticed that the trainers don’t so much take on the role of “drill sergeant” as they do “mentor”. Particularly towards the end of the class, as energy levels are waning and everything hurts, the trainers offer words of encouragement and motivation to keep us going. I leave the class feeling good, and not just because of the adrenalin and endorphin rush.
The other interesting thing I’ve noticed throughout all these boxing classes is that there’s always a decent ratio of female to male participants. Often there are more females than males in a session. Stereotypically, boxing (and almost any combat-type sport, for that matter) is seen as a male-dominated sport. But not so here. It makes me wonder what draws the female crowd to these classes. Is it a sense of empowerment? A feeling of strength and self-efficacy?
I think these kinds of sports — whether it’s boxing or martial arts or what have you — also promote a certain self-discipline. For example, in Cardiobox, the trainers encourage you to push past what you think is your limit. Although I’m pretty good at making myself keep going a bit further and then a bit further than that when I go running, I’ll admit it can be easy to draw the line too soon when exercising at home. No such luxury at Cardiobox though.
Half the battle is in the mind — I think one trainer has said this at some point (or something similar). It’s not the sort of thing I didn’t know or never thought about, but I suppose it’s different when it’s applied in this kind of setting.