Belly of the Beast – Boxing

Like this, but a little leaner and with less hair.

Like this, but a little leaner and with less hair.

Last night I had a fantastic experience at boxing. To explain it, I’m going to have to give you a little backstory, so bear with me. First, my regular boxing instructor (who I call TI on this blog) is on vacation this week. I’ll call the fill-in instructor “Kurt”, because he reminds me of Kurt Sutter of “Sons of Anarchy,” minus the ponytail. It’s been an interesting change. TI favors rap music for our work-outs, Kurt likes classic heavy rock (Motley Crüe, Guns and Roses), both are tough, and both work us hard. Their work outs are fundamentally the same, but with slight variations – variations which have been leaving me a whole new set of sore muscles the next day.

The class is set up in circuits. You pick a partner and then one person works combinations on the heavy bag and the other does floor work, after a one minute or two minute round, you switch. The heavy bags are set up in an “L” shape around the room. All of the boxing regulars, of which I am proud to be a new member of, have their preferred bags. The bags do have slight variations, but I think it is more about habit. You just get used to working out in a certain area. My spot of choice is along the long side of the L near the corner. Last night I got in as usual, headed for my regular corner, picked a partner and started warming up.

As we moved into the full workout, Kurt asked me if I would be willing to switch. We had a full class that night and he thought the class had split unevenly. He asked me to move me to another bag over on the short side of the L. I, of course, agreed. On that side of the studio, there are three heavy bags close together. I had the center bag. On either side were two gentlemen I’ll call Adam and Jim. I see them both at class a lot. They are both big guys – they tower over me. They are obviously good friends, and for some reason I think they were (or are) roommates. They both work out hard – especially Jim; Adam has a back injury so he is taking it a little slower these day, but both are powerhouses.

The first combination was an easy warm up – Jab, Cross, Uppercut, Uppercut. Jim, Adam and I quickly fell into the same rhythm. They throw harder hits than I normally do, but the sound of us all hitting the bags at the exact same time made me hit harder – and faster. You know how a low bass can make your sternum jump? The sound of us hitting in sync did that to me… but at the same time, I was part of what was making the noise. It was so powerful! I couldn’t stop grinning.

It didn’t happen every round, but a lot of times it did. When we got into the harder combinations, there were times that it sounded like being inside a cannon. The bags are so close together that when we were doing hooks, our gloves would brush one another’s. Jim kept having to step to the right and Adam to the left and I had to keep my shoulders a bit tighter to keep from hitting each other. At one point, Kurt, the instructor, came over behind us and yelled “It sounds like thunder over here!” It did. He was obviously delighted – so was I.

Kurt also likes to jump behind the bag and hold it while giving you tips on form or shouting encouragement. (Think of any coach in any boxing movie… like that.) He came over and said, “I want to get back there and encourage you guys, but I am pretty sure I would get hit!” That was a compliment – and it’s true, he might have. When we were synced up, it was awesome.

I worked so hard last night. For most of the combinations, they were pushing me to hit harder, faster and to keep going, even when I was tired. On the other hand, I am smaller and lighter and I know during some of the speed rounds, I was pushing them. At one point I laughed and said “Shoooooot that is fun!!) (Yes, I actually said, “shoot.” I was being dainty while boxing my guts out. ha!)

The guys laughed at me. They probably didn’t think it was that big of a deal. They work out on those bags all the time, and I have to think that anyone between them would fall into their rhythm, I don’t see how you could avoid it. But I am not used to working out with other people. It was like a team sport – something I have absolutely no experience with. For the first time, I understood the appeal a bit. When everything is flowing right, everyone wins.

After the class, Kurt came up to me and said, “Way to sweat! Good job over there!” I was pleased as punch. As a person who grew up hating sports and not understanding the appeal of a gym, I have to say, I never thought I would view “Way to sweat” as a compliment, but it was and I took it as such!

And I’ll tell you what, if I get the chance to get that bag again, you better believe I will!

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