Are you looking for something to break up the monotony of your workouts? Have you tried several different options to get started with a fitness program and they’re just not ‘doing it’ for you? Are you getting ‘stalled out’ in your current fitness program? Many people become frustrated when they try to begin adding fitness to their lives because they associate it with the standard go-to’s of weight lifting, or running. Both of these are great ways to get yourself in shape, but many people just don’t enjoy either activity. As I’ve said before, finding a fitness methodology that you enjoy is the KEY to getting in shape and transforming fitness from something that you’d like to add to your life, to something that is part of your life. If you’re still on the hunt for your key (or even if you’re not), or looking for something to jump start your results, then I highly suggest trying out a cardio boxing class.
Disclaimer: Boxing has kinda become my “thing”, so I’m pretty biased on this one. However, I’ll try to simply share my experiences over the past three and a half years to give you an idea of what you can expect.
If you’re looking for a fun way to burn calories, get stronger, make friends and get in great shape, this checks all of the boxes, but before I start to sound like a brochure, maybe I should just start with my personal experience.
Hitting It Hard
So around three and a half years ago, my wife got me a Groupon to try out a place called Title Boxing. I’d never had any experience with boxing, but had been interested in the martial arts since I was a kid. I was in a little bit of a fitness rut. At the time I was working out at home with Beachbody videos, but the 3rd time you complete the same program, it starts to get a little monotonous. Nonetheless, I was in pretty decent shape, so I figured this would be a snap – I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was about to learn that being in one kind of shape (boot camp / cardio) doesn’t mean that another type of shape (fighting ready) will be easy! Moreover, I’d never participated in a group fitness class before, so I didn’t know what to expect.
I called the club and spoke with the woman who answered the phone. Nope – no need to set an appointment she told me, just come by the club at the class time dressed in appropriate workout gear, they’d handle the rest.
I showed up for class and went to the front desk clutching my Groupon and it turned out that the woman at the desk was the same one I’d spoken with on the phone. She remembered my name and proceeded to wrap my hands like you’d see on a real boxer. She explained that the wraps would help protect my hands by holding everything in place while I was striking the heavy bag. She then proceeded to teach me the 4 basic punches we’d be using – jab, cross, hook and uppercut. I was already a little familiar with them from some of the MMA workouts in the Beachbody programs, but it was good to learn the proper way that they wanted me to throw the punches. She also covered some defensive movements and the proper way to stand during the workout (boxing stance). From there, she pointed out a wall of boxing gloves and helped me select the proper size. I had to buy the wraps for around $10, but the gloves were free to use.
I later understood why you wanted your own wraps and gloves – you sweat in class. A LOT. I never really knew the backs of my hands could even sweat, incidentally, they can. The wraps are in essence socks for your hands, and the gloves – well, think bowling shoes. OK to use once or twice, but if you’re sticking with it, it’s like wearing someone else’s shoes – kinda gross. If you decide to try cardio boxing out and plan to stick with it, invest in a good pair of gloves for yourself, it’s well worth it!
I digress though. The club experience itself was pretty awesome. Behind the front desk, they had an actual boxing ring – really for looks and personal training sessions. But hanging from an impressive looking steel rack were around 50 heavy bags. They call them heavy bags because they’re HEAVY – around 100 pounds each, and these are the suckers that you’ll be pounding the heck out of during class. There was a video screen in the middle of the room that displayed what round you were on, and how much time was left before a break and an impressive sound system pumped out loud music. There were a few people there already, stretching and warming up, a few were hitting the bags on their own, and one guy was working on his timing on a speedbag in the corner. The energy in the room was pretty amazing already – just waiting for class.
When it was time for class to start, around 20 people had shown up, and the same woman I’d spoken with and who checked me in also turned out to be the trainer leading the class. A woman in her 20’s named Kristin who alternated shouting out the butt kicking instructions we as a class were supposed to follow, along with motivational statements reminding you that it’s “your workout, your way” and pushing you to push yourself. She had an amazing energy that the whole class could feel and it really helped to push you – especially in the 7th and 8th rounds when you’re body was worn out.
The class format was 3 minutes of hitting the bag followed by a 1 minute break between 8 grueling rounds. Oh yeah, and there was a solid 15 minutes of high intensity cardio movements before we ever hit a bag, and 15 minutes of core work at the end of class before a guided stretch for 5 minutes. The pace varied between quick tabata style training, where your goal was to hit the bag as quickly as possible and throwing power punches designed to create resistance by using the weight of the bag against your own strength. The sound of 20 or so people all hitting heavy bags in unison combined with the trainers energy and the loud music made the time FLY BY. Before I knew it, the workout was over, I was covered in sweat, and I’m pretty sure I left enough DNA on the floor that if there’s ever a crime committed there, I’m gonna be a suspect!
What You Need To Know
The workouts in a cardio boxing class are what is called “High Intensity Interval Training” (HIIT). HIIT training means that you give 100% for a set length of time and then receive a short break before going 100% again. The net result is an intense cardio workout that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up, and helps you to burn more fat in less time. The beauty of cardio boxing as a HIIT routine is that other than the 15 minutes of cardio I mentioned and the 15 minutes of core, it really doesn’t “feel” like a traditional workout. Also, because you’re in control of how hard you’re hitting the bag, or what modification you do during the cardio and core portions of the workout, it really is a workout suitable for a wide range of ages. I’ve seen kids as young as 6 or 7 participating in these workouts and people as old as 70+.
If you’re performing your punches properly, then you’re not just working your arms, you’ll be working your legs, core, lats, shoulders, triceps, biceps, back and chest all at the same time. Oh yeah, and your cardiovascular system will be getting worked pretty hard as well. It’s a pretty comprehensive workout that routinely burns up to 1,000+ calories. That’s the claim made by Title Boxing. For me, it was typically more than that – I tracked it with a heart rate monitor (pardon the sweaty wrist!).
Why did I call this workout as a way to increase your fitness results? Because you’re likely not doing anything like it, and there’s a concept in the fitness world called muscle confusion. Muscle confusion is the idea of introducing variety into your workouts to place new demands on your body. Your body will adapt itself to whatever form of training you’re doing, so by introducing new movements and modalities into your workouts, your body will respond more quickly.
A Few Closing Thoughts
If this sounds like something that you may be interested in trying out, I would throw out a few cautionary expectations:
- Watch your power – especially when starting out. Hitting the bag can be exciting, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun to hit the bag as hard as you can. With the protection offered by proper form, handwraps and gloves, you can do this relatively safely. But you can injure your joints with a powerful punch thrown at a 100 lb. piece of leather or canvas. So, as with ANY fitness program, listen to your body. Back off the power shots if you feel any pain.
- You may experience some bruising, or worse, a cut on your knuckles. This can happen if you’re punching the bag especially hard. Let cuts heal before hitting the bag again.
- Hydrate. If you’re really into this workout, you’ll sweat a lot. Make sure you replace that lost hydration with plenty of water between rounds.
- Again I’ll reiterate – watch your power. If you’re new to this, you can eliminate most if not all of the possible injuries you can experience by backing off your power. Wait until you’re sure you are throwing your punches properly and with straight wrists before going all out.
Want To Try This Out?
So if I’ve peaked your interest, great! Welcome to my favorite workout! I’ve made some of my best friends from working out at various boxing gyms, and I’ve found there are a LOT of options out there if you look for them. Many places will offer the first class, or first week for free to try it out, so there’s no real excuses! There are chain clubs like Title Boxing or UFC Gym. Smaller or local gyms like High Octane or IronFit Boxing (if you live in or around Indianapolis), and there are a lot of personal trainers that have a boxing focused workout (like Jose Ray’s Boxfit classes here in northern Indianapolis). The point here isn’t to namedrop as much as it is to point out that there are a LOT of options, you just may have to seek them out to find one that you love.
If you give this a shot, let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear about your experiences!
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I learned a LOT early on from a youtube channel called “Expert Boxing” Below are a few videos to give you some basics before your first class.