Boxing Is the Therapy I've Been Waiting For

POPSUGAR Photography | Dominique Astorino
POPSUGAR Photography | Dominique Astorino

As someone who can't stand violent TV shows or movies (no Game of Thrones for me!) and won't even read violent books (sorry, The Hunger Games), my friends and family were pretty surprised at how enthusiastically I pursued boxing.

Said pursuit began at the Hit Fit Boxing Gym in San Francisco. With a free beginner class for first-timers, my barrier to entry was low — but I had a feeling I'd love it (so much so that I bought some pink gloves before I even set foot in the gym . . . excited was an understatement).

We all have stresses in our lives, and we're all looking to take them out in a healthy way. I might be the president of "let's find a healthy stress outlet via exercise" club. Sometimes a heart-pounding run through the park does it for me, and sometimes it doesn't. A great yoga class can calm me down after a rough day, but there are times when — as nonviolent as I am — I just want to hit something.

Have you ever felt that way? Things get so aggravating that you wish a heavy punching bag would appear and descend from the ceiling so you could just let loose on it?

This vision has come up in my mind more than once, hence my draw to the gyms filled with gloves and Everlast bags suspended from the ceiling. I knew so many women were drawing strength and empowerment from boxing classes, and I decided it was my turn.

But here's where I struggled: the actual sport of boxing bothers me. I know, I sound like a hypocrite. It's the violence concept. Beating someone up. Watching boxing and UFC fighting, in my opinion, is just like sitting at the Roman Colosseum. Could I get past the mental block?

So I headed to my first Hit Fit class with my co-worker Nicole, pumped up and a little nervous. Here's what I've learned from my itty-bitty, baby boxing career.

Simple Doesn't Mean Easy

The class started with a jump rope — sounds simple, right? And totally nonviolent. "Great," I thought. "Simple cardio to get the class going. It's so holistic!" WRONG. NOT SIMPLE. I have yet to feel as physically inept as I did in the times I flailed a jump rope around my body and surroundings while tripping multiple times, trying to skip rope in unison with classmates. I'm hoping I get control of my body and rope soon, because it seems like they start all sessions with rope skipping.

Form Is Everything

For the bulk of the class, we learned, focused on, and refined our form. Due to the intense nature of the sport and exercise, learning proper form is so incredibly important for preventing injury. How often have you gone to a new, dynamic class, without knowing proper form, and hurt yourself? And when was the last time a workout required you to take a beginner class and learn the right form before you jumped into group fitness?

This was probably my favorite part of boxing so far, and what I appreciated the most: the attention to form, to ensure that each participant in the class was safe, protected from injury, and getting the best workout possible.

It's Like a Dance

Something I appreciated about boxing was how similar it is to choreography. The coach calls out numbers to indicate which punches you throw, similarly to how a choreographer or dance teacher calls out eight counts to guide you through a dance. There are moves, and there's a right way and a wrong way to do each — as mentioned, form is everything. Posture is important and muscle memory plays a huge roll. Even the footwork felt like a dance, especially with partner-work, stepping and pivoting in sync.

It's a Killer Workout

In addition to being really excellent cardio training, boxing gave me soreness in places I don't usually feel post-workout. Keeping your core firm and your posture centered and squatted works the abs and butt, while quick hops and jumping works the legs, and the punches (naturally) work the arms, core, back — even legs, as you're powering some of these throws through your feet and hips.

It Doesn't Have to Be Violent

In the beginner classes, you're not in the ring (to be honest, I don't know if I want to be in the ring . . . I'll keep you posted). You're working with a partner who is catching your punches, so you're aiming for gloves, not faces (even though they're at face level). Then you do some work with the heavy bags — the moment I had been waiting for — which was my favorite part, punching a bag repeatedly. This ups the heart rate and gives you some seriously sore shoulder, arm, and back muscles.

The thought of punching my partner in the face freaked me out, so I was giving my best effort to the heavy bag, not the partner work. And I know you're supposed to pretend the bag is your opponent, but I felt just fine accepting the reality that it is an inanimate object that can feel neither physical nor emotional pain.

It's Empowering

The bag was my safe space and my place to let out all those emotions I was keeping in — it felt pretty incredible and was wildly empowering. It's one of those classes where I walked out and really felt strong (aaaand maybe like a little bit of a badass). I got so much out of my system and felt a little lighter as I exited the gym and went about the rest of my day. You can bet that my pink Everlast gloves and I will be back for many more rounds. *ding!*