The past few months have been rough on my workout routine. Between my work schedule, the end-of-year holidays, and the brand-new puppy I welcomed into my one-bedroom apartment, my time for fitness has gone from sporadic to none-existent. And while a few workout apps and some outdoor running have helped a bit in getting me moving, it was the discovery of boxing workouts and their plethora of benefits that truly lit a fitness fire in me.
Now, to be clear, boxing is not exactly a new fitness trend. It's been a booming method for a while thanks to its avid celebrity following that includes Gigi Hadid, Taylor Hill, and Olivia Culpo. However, I never really gave the workout a second thought. I assumed it was designated for the super-fit and super-strong. My workout history generally consisted of freestyle cardio in the form of outdoor jogging and centering, calming workouts like hot yoga. Boxing had always been filed away into the "too intense" box and wasn't something I ever thought would interest me — until it did.
A friend of mine invited me to test out a class at BoxUnion, a boxing workout studio chain in Los Angeles. Although reluctant, I agreed for two reasons: The classes are only 45 minutes in entirety and it would be something I could say I tried (and never do again). I also made sure to express my desire to be positioned toward the back of the class as I assumed I would look like a lost puppy with boxing gloves for the entire session.
In a nutshell, my above apprehensions and preconceived notions were not only wrong, but left me pleasantly surprised to say the very least. What proceeded was one of the most enjoyable workouts I'd experienced in a while — here's why.
It's Not For "Boxers"
As soon as I entered the studio, I was welcomed warmly and provided gloves and hand wraps. I also noticed that my fellow attendees didn't all look like Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. No, everyone came in all shapes and sizes, which I was naively surprised by. I truly envisioned a studio filled with bulked-up, super-athletic-looking boxers, which I was relieved to see wasn't the case at all. I instantly felt more at ease to see that everyone attending the class was just like me.
My fears were settled even more once I stepped into the studio itself, a dimly lit room filled with individual hanging boxing bags and booming music. I literally felt like I walked into a mid-day dance party, and my dance partner was a punching bag.
It's Doable — Really
Now, to be clear, "doable" doesn't equate to "easy." Upon arrival (and in the first few minutes of class, the staff and instructor walk you through six basic movements that you'll be utilizing throughout the 45-minute class. Essentially, they are right- and left-arm variations of jab, hook, and uppercut punches. Although kick movements are not included (kickboxing is not involved in the technique), proper leg stances are demonstrated to ensure each punch is executed correctly (and to avoid injury).
As basic as a jab, hook, and uppercut may sound, actually doing them in a rapidly moving and changing sequence is where the workout comes in. You're essentially taught to use your entire body (as opposed to just your arms) to deliver a punch, which can make your heart rate pick up quite quickly.
"If you are boxing correctly, every punch starts with your leg and works through your body so you're getting a leg workout, ab workout, and an arm workout with every punch you throw," says Alexander, co-founder and co-owner of BoxUnion. "It's honestly the best ab workout I've ever gotten, because all of the power comes from the rotation of your hips."
The cardio aspect is no joke, either. With an upbeat playlist of current tunes blasting to keep you in a rhythm, this workout keeps you moving. The punching sequences speed up, slow down, and switch up throughout the entire class — so you're never standing completely still.
As a runner of some 15 years, I thought I had some endurance in me, but the boxing combinations and workout in general took more out of me than even the longest run. There were definitely times when I needed to slow down or skip a sequence or two to catch a breath. However, in these instances, I made sure to keep my body moving in via little hops or running in place to keep my heart rate and momentum up.
It's The Best Stress-Reliever, Ever
Just like any intense cardio session, boxing comes with some serious stress-relieving benefits. However, the ante is definitely upped when there's a punching bag involved, right? This workout allows you to bring your anxiety, anger, and frustrations into the room, and unleash them on a sack of water. But, its not just about letting out some aggression. According to Alexander, the benefits of boxing are a bit more scientific than you'd think.
"It's not just about the body," says Alexander. "It's about the mind. I have a hard time turning off and even if I do, my mind continues to race, thinking about the things I have going on in my life. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we build a new six- to 10-punch combination in every class. The way we layer the punches on, it becomes like muscle memory that engages your brain with both short- and long-term memory recall."
I've always fancied myself a lover not a fighter — but I must admit there was an exhilaration I felt in each punch during this boxing class. This wasn't because I needed to hit something, but because it made me realize my own strength. I've always seen myself as a more gentle person, but something was unleashed in me that day I walked into the BoxUnion class — and I never saw it coming.
Each jab and uppercut blow made me feel like I was a force to be reckoned with — all five-foot-three of me. Also, I wasn't focused on how I measured up to everyone else's movements or form. My focus was almost completely on my own performance and serving that punching bag all the stress and anxiety I had pent up inside me. I had no idea how I looked — and I just didn't care.
It Plays Well With Others
Suffice to say my love affair with boxing was fairly instant. Of course, my immediate thought was I'm going to do this every day. However, with my every-changing work schedule, demanding new puppy at home, and general busyness, this just isn't the most practical move for me (nor is it the most economical, as boutique workout studios are not cheap). In fact, when adopting a new workout routine, it's often recommended to ease in anyway, as doing the opposite can lead to quick burnout.
Luckily, boxing is something that works as a great supplement. Because I still enjoy my prior go-to workouts — running and hot yoga — I was pleased to learn, that supplementing boxing into my regular routine is not only possible, but actually a smart move. "I have members who tell me that running is their primary workout and that boxing has made them stronger runners," says Alexander.
Because it's a more intense, cardio-heavy routine, it's smart to work it in twice a week or so and try less intense workouts like walking, running, yoga, and pilates on other days. BoxUnion offers various class packages that aim to be a bit easier on your wallet. For me, the eight-class-a-month program seemed the most practical as it allows me two classes a week.
Some Closing Statements
Here's the thing: My experience with boxing is just that. Mine. I recognize that there might be aspects or qualities of this technique that aren't for everybody. And I'm not alone. "People who take themselves too seriously and who have a hard time letting go would not be the right people to come into this type of class," Alexander. "You need to have some sort of humility when trying it for the first time, because boxing is a skill."
Also, those with any type of physical limitations or prior injuries should proceed with caution. "Boxing involves a lot of rotations that include your torso and back so people who have back and neck issues might want to consult with a doctor before taking on this type of workout," says Alexander. "But I fundamentally believe we offer something that is accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels."