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Writer Tracy Jones test drives local boxing classes.
I’ve been taking a lot of low-impact exercise classes lately, including rowing and aerial yoga, so I thought it was time to ramp things up a bit. Aside from a few Tae Bo classes 20 years ago, I’m not familiar with boxing. I saw Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby” and once tried a speed bag game after a few beers in a bar, but that’s the extent of my boxing knowledge. Also, I’ve only really punched air, not a giant bag hanging from the ceiling: Time to try something new.
Since not all boxing is created equal, I tried two Raleigh boxing gyms for comparison. While the workouts varied, the gyms were, surprisingly, quite similar and my body felt the pain at each one.
First up was TITLE Boxing Club which has multiple Triangle locations; I went to the gym in Raleigh. The staff was super friendly and took time to make sure I knew the proper boxing moves before class began. I had to buy my own hand wraps (I chose purple), but they let me borrow gloves for my trial class. They also wrapped my hands for me and put the gloves on when it was time to box since that second glove can be tricky.
The class was an hour of nonstop adrenaline. Even the warm-up was intense. I’m talking two sets of burpees, squats, jump squats, lunges, jump lunges, pushups and jumping jacks. I was completely out of breath five minutes in and I’m not going to lie, I was worried. When the boxing started, I made sure to pace myself and focus on punching the bag correctly. Form is important.
After each “round” of boxing, we could break for water but were encouraged to do an in-between-round exercise. The exercise changed between each round, alternating from jumping jacks to squats to various other exercises from warm-ups. So, basically, the goal is to never stop moving and keep that heart rate up.
When all of the rounds were over and I could barely see through the sweat dripping in my eyes, it was time to take off the gloves and relax. Kidding! It was time for 15 minutes of challenging ab work. I felt okay when I left the gym, but I made the mistake of coughing the following morning—I have never felt a burn like that in my stomach muscles. Also, everything else hurt, too.
I waited a full week before daring to try another boxing class. This time, I ventured out to BOX-2B-FITSM and tried their boxing, abs and “boot camp” class. This gym had a completely different feel, less boutique and more intimidating with an actual boxing ring in the center of class, boxers training and all. This was a night class (as opposed to my early afternoon class at TITLE) so there were a lot more people. The staff members were again very friendly and assured me they were there to help if I needed anything. I wrapped my hands, claimed a bag near the instructor and waited for the pain to come.
We started off easy, with five laps around the gym, and then things intensified with bear crawls, jumps and lunges. This was all before the cardio section started. Cardio was no joke with knee lifts, butt kicks, jumping jacks and the gamut of movements that take your breath away. Then we boxed. It was fast-paced and there were several punch combinations, but I managed to keep up. Except for a critique on my hooks (keep the thumbs up) and continual encouragement to punch harder, I was complimented on how well I was doing; that made me proud of myself.
BOX-2B-FITSM’s class also incorporated challenge rounds. For example: Five burpees (my least favorite exercise), punch the bag 100 times, then repeat all in an allotted amount of time. The sweat was flowing in this class, too, and it also ended in ab work. My instructor happened to walk by while I was cheating on flutter kicks so I had to suck it up and do them correctly. The burn!
All in all, I fell in love with cardio boxing classes. My body has never felt stronger and more beat up at the same time. I actually skinned my knuckles. But I loved it so much that I bought my own pair of gloves and plan to continue training either in a boxing gym or on my own. I’m a sucker for “boot camp” workouts and it’s fun to punch things.
If you’re interesting in getting some aggression out or just getting a really good full-body workout, try cardio boxing. Full disclosure—both gyms offer much more that just the classes I took so check out all of their options before you pick one.
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