Hot Workout Trend: Box Your Way to Fitness

Hot Workout Trend: Box Your Way to Fitness(Source: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images North America, Courtesy Joshua Scott, Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Europe)

Judging from the A-list celebs who have transformed their bodies (and minds) through boxing, the sport is hot. It's also completely different from the admittedly "girly" fitness pursuits with which I'm comfortable (yoga, dance, jogging—all pretty non-aggressive, and less about striving or dominating than about surrender and peace). As important as these easy-breezy pursuits may be, it's all about balance, right? So, connecting to that tough, dominating, aggressive, fearless energy is just as important as the more socially-acceptable softer side. Plus, all that jazz aside, boxing is an incredible workout. Sold.

And so it came to pass that I found myself assuming the position––the boxing position––in a New York gym one cold winter night. Fists encased in boxing gloves, dukes up, feet angled just so, I faced my very large (and luckily, also, very smiley and charming) trainer, Reggie Chambers, who has trained celebs such as Christina Ricci and Allison Williams of Girls fame. "Left-right, one-two, one-two," he barked in encouragement, as I started to get the very, very basic hang of it, halfway through my second session. "Come on!"

"Boxing is popular because it's very intense," explains Reggie, who not only works with stars and pro athletes, but also regular folks who want personal training in boxing, kickboxing, strength-training, and even pre- and post-natal fitness. "There's a lot going on; it's basically working the entire body and core. Boxing challenges you beyond the regular cardio workouts. You gain eye-to hand-coordination; the feet as well. Stamina is also a major gain." And best of all, "Boxing is an awesome stress reliever—you get to punch things!"

Hot Workout Trend: Box Your Way to Fitness(Courtesy Joshua Scott for Reggie Chambers Fitness)

He's right. Reggie's one-on-one sessions usually start with a 20-minute cardio warm-up of jumping rope, which, he points out, equals an hour of jogging. (Don't be fooled by those nine-year-old girls in pigtails, jumping rope is hard––I kept tripping over my feet.) Then, he wraps up your hands (or you can do it yourself ), puts the gloves on, and teaches you some basic punches: cross, jab, hook, combinations, as well as some ducks and slips. (Reggie doubles as both punching bag and coach.) Then, you start to move this whole operation around in a circle (sort of like dancing the box-step, no pun intended) while delivering combinations of punches––full force and in proper form. All this, while maintaining your stance, protecting your face and torso, and keeping eye contact with your opponent (i.e. a decidedly non-threatening Reggie.)

It all happens super fast. You sweat, and get tired quickly, too. Yup, "intense" is definitely the right word. Even at the very beginner level, boxing is one of those workouts that makes you realize you're not in as good shape as you thought (hoped?). And it only gets tougher as your skill level increases. "I have a lot of respect for professional boxers," he says. No doubt. While Reggie is quick to point out that these particular boxing workout sessions don't teach self-defense or get-in-the ring combat, it's still one hell of a workout. You're moving, so it's cardio. Plus, it's resistance and strength training (specifically, your shoulders, arms, core, obliques, hips––but the whole body is involved). Reggie usually winds things down with a killer ab series.

Plus, your mind is in on the fun. You need to focus. While I felt kind of awkward for the whole first session, about halfway through my second, I started to relax and stop thinking. (Truth be told, a great Rihanna song was playing and I started singing along, which vanquished my mental neuroses and relaxed me. "Keep singing," Reggie laughed, as I started punching like a champ––for a few minutes, anyway!)  Point is, even at this preliminary level, when focus takes over, you can connect to your body and instinct with one, purely visceral intention: the urge to kick butt. And I loved it. Punching was the best part.

Yes, I pretended I was punching my ex. Bam! Amazing. You should try it.

Hot Workout Trend: Box Your Way to Fitness
(Source: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images North America)