Last January, I became one of those people — one of the many people who join a gym as soon as the remnants of the holidays have been devoured and digested, and almost instantly regretted. Because I work from home and despise the winter, I decided I needed to leave the house. And because I had indulged in a number of regretted but enjoyed proseccos and tiny quiches basically every day for a month, I decided I also wanted Gigi Hadid’s abs.
Boxing was something that had interested me on and off throughout the years because I knew it would be unlike any of my Tracy Anderson or Ballet Beautiful DVDs. It would be demanding and essentially kick my derriere — something I knew I needed on both a fitness and a personal level. So I decided to join a boxing gym.
A year later, and I’m still working out at the same boxing gym. Not only did I stick with my New Year’s fitness intentions (I’m all about setting intentions rather than making resolutions), but I also learned a lot about myself throughout the process.
If you’re considering taking on a new activity or sport in 2017 as part of your New Year’s fitness intentions, here are some words of wisdom I can pass on that I learned from my year of taking boxing classes.
You are stronger (physically, mentally, emotionally) than you think
I’m gonna be real: Boxing is hard work. Learning combinations and throwing punches is challenging — especially when you have as little upper-body strength as I do. I mean, prior to boxing, I found opening a jar of pickles sweat-inducing.
Suffice it to say it didn’t come easily to me, and I hated that. I like things that come easily because I also hate doing things “wrong.” There were so many times when my inner perfectionist wanted to quit, but I knew on a very visceral, life-changing level that I couldn’t bob and weave myself out of this test. I would have to, literally, muscle through it.
That’s not to say I loved every minute of boxing. I most definitely didn’t. But I soon learned to love the challenge of it, and soon I was finding success in the smallest of victories, whether it was successfully memorizing a combo or doing 15 push-ups without stopping. I discovered that I was a lot stronger — physically, mentally and emotionally — than I had given myself credit for.
Lesson learned: Keep pushing through because the reward of conquering old fears, thinking and patterns is priceless.
You are more than an outdated label for yourself
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t identify myself as an artist. In high school, I lived in my bedroom, writing stories. Throughout my 20s, I was a struggling actor, putting on plays in black box theatres (read: fancy basements). Now, I make my living from freelance writing, while I dabble in screenwriting on the side.
Despite being an avid exerciser for most of my life, I never thought of myself as a “jock.” To me, jocks were greased-up bodybuilders or those show-offs who always placed first at high school track and field while I was rewarded with a participation ribbon. Even bendy yogis who thrived on green juice and macrobiotic diets were more athletic than little ol’ me.
But by pushing and persevering through boxing class — by being able to both keep up and compete with some of the top athletes in class — I realized that I was actually athletic.
Boxing forced me to admit — to give — to myself this vital side of me that I had denied and suppressed due to an old (and, let’s be honest, probably toxic) belief that I was only “artsy” and not ever a “jock.” Embracing this new me has pushed me to finishing my first-ever 10K race, as well as pursuing an entirely different career path as a personal trainer.
Lesson learned: Don’t restrict yourself from evolving and growing into your true potential based on who you thought you were or what you believed about yourself so many years ago. Believe that you can be this and that and so much more — and you will be!
You are a kickass woman, inside and out
Like many women, I have struggled with my fair share of self-esteem issues. Boxing forced me out of my physical comfort zone, which in turn, helped me to love and appreciate my body more. Now I see my thighs and butt as something awesome because of their powerful abilities rather than something to be so critical and judgmental of whilst in a poorly lit changing room.
And as much as it was hard to love and accept my body and myself, it’s been also a challenge sometimes to receive that love and acceptance from others. Thanks to my gym’s close-knit community, boxing has also helped me to explore outside my social comfort zone too. There’s a sense of “we’re all in this together” that helps to connect and celebrate one another — a powerful combo of support, motivation and healthy competition that’s more powerful than any punch.
Lesson learned: Be a body-appreciative person rather than a body-cognizant person, and remember you are not alone in your journey.
Oh, and one more thing: I did end up getting those Gigi abs, after all.