what boxing taught me about myself, life, and giving back to the community

It all started with Groupon, of all things. I wanted to stay in shape during winter break in between swim seasons and found an insanely good deal.

I walk into the TITLE Newbury Park class and see rows upon rows of black bags marked the TITLE “T.” I’m greeted with an enthusiastic welcome, a pair of hand wraps, and a friendly instructor who shows me the punches and assures me that it’s easy. “There're only really four of them,” he says with a huge smile.

boxing title

He then walks me over to a younger middle-aged woman with muscles I can only admire. “Watch her,” he says. “Do what she does.”

And then the class begins. It’s 15 minutes of intense cardio; as I work through cross jacks, high knees, and more, I began to realize that although I was in great swimming shape, my out-of-water self was dying a little bit (a lot).

The rounds begin. I watch the lady, her punches fast and hard. I try to emulate them as best as I can, and as I do, I realize that she’s one of the few in the class that never gives up. Never stops punching. Never stops working.

And I,

  1. by default since I’m supposed to be copying her
  2. being the competitive, type A person I am
  3. being the stubborn, determined, never-give-up and always-give-it-your-all person I am,

resolve to work harder than anyone in the class.

15 minutes of core end the class, and let me tell you — if you think planks are hard, try doing them after you’ve been working out at high intensity for 45 minutes straight.

Arms shaking, drenched in sweat, I finish my first ever boxing class and fall in love.

TITLE wraps

I began going three times a week a first; my body was so exhausted every time that it was all I could do to drive home, shower, make myself a smoothie, and fall into bed for an hour-long nap. But by the end of winter break, I was coming every day and had signed up for a membership.

Fast forward a couple of months, and the TITLE in Boston had opened. It was just as exhilarating as boxing back home; I found that the three months away from boxing made me miss it. The instructors never stopped pushing me or challenging me, and I never stopped trying to rise to the challenge.

The thing about being an athlete all your life — it never really gets easier; you just learn to try harder. And by reaching that threshold, that brink where you think you can’t do anymore, and by pushing past it — that’s how you get better. That’s how you make progress.

Through all the ups and downs in my personal life, boxing remained my constant. I could leave for summer break, for vacation, for winter break, but I always knew I had it to come back to.

It was TITLE who challenged me to pick a goal and meet it. And so I ran my first 10K.

10k run

It was TITLE and personal training there that showed me lifting weights wasn’t scary and that girls could do it too. And so I began being able to do my own weights at the gym.

It was TITLE who challenged me to do things I’d never imagined. And so I held a 12-minute plank and an 8-minute squat.

boxing then brunch

It was TITLE that kept me grounded when my world was falling apart as I struggled with an eating disorder. And so I reminded myself that my body was a miracle in itself and I should be grateful for it.

It was TITLE who taught me that girls can be more hardcore than guys, since we’re the ones who keep going when the guys stop and complain (or stare at the bag as if it’s going to punch itself). And so I made sure to always work harder than any guy (or girl) in class.

It was TITLE who was there for me when my boyfriend and I broke up. And so I was coming twice a day because nowhere else felt like home.

It was TITLE who helped me reach my personal goals. And so I trained for a half marathon, a Tough Mudder, a Spartan, and now a marathon.

It was TITLE who reminded me that I was strong, that I was becoming stronger, that I’d always be strong.

And I’ve found a peace in the rounds; my mind clear. There’s nothing but me and the bag. My fists pound out a steady rhythm, and as the instructor yells for me to work harder, I do. There’s always something left in you, even when you think there isn’t.

I end each class with a smile, drenched in sweat, arms shaking, heart full.

boxing on the bags

Almost three years later, I’m bouncing on my toes before class, my hands securely wrapped. “2 minutes!” I yell. “2 minutes; let’s get on those toes! Shake out those arms; shake out those legs; 2 minutes!”

Because what better way to give back than to inspire people and be there for people the way the trainers and staff at TITLE have been there for me? What better way than to show people the calm you can find in the bags, the moment when you realize you’re stronger than you’d ever thought you could be?

“1 minute! 1 minute!” I’m wrapping hands, I’m adjusting the mic, I’m bouncing around the room, high on happiness and adrenaline.

And when the class ends, I’m still smiling, I’m still drenched in sweat; my arms are still shaking, and my heart is still more full than I could ever imagine.

Photo by TITLE Boxing Club Boston

Photo by TITLE Boxing Club Boston

I’d like to give a big thank you to each and every person who’s helped me, trained me, took class with me, or took class from me at TITLE — you’ve all inspired me more than you know.

title boxing club rod

Originally published on Medium.