By Lucy Gornall
As regular readers will know, I'm always looking for my next fitness challenge. Recently I fancied upping the intensity of my workouts, so I opted for a boxing workout every day for two weeks. Sounds tough, right? Well, yes. It was.
However, I kid you not, it was hands down one of the best workouts for arms I've ever done. But before I get into that, a bit more about the boxing…
The sport has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, leading to the opening of various boxing gyms and the addition of boxing-themed classes on many a studio timetable. It's also become much more inclusive, and is no longer seen as the sole domain of beefy ‘tough’ men - as the increased media focus on female boxers such as Olympic gold medalists Clarissa Shields and Nicola Adams proves.
It's not surprising, really. As a form of high-impact cardio exercise, boxing offers a brilliant full-body workout, whilst Greg White - head coach at Rathbone Boxing Club - points our that it's also great for strength and agility training, too.
I used to box regularly but when Covid-19 lockdowns hit, maintaining a boxing routine became tricky - I really needed that boxing bag in my local gym. However, with said gym now happily open once more, two weeks of boxing everyday seemed like a great way to get back into it.
So I dusted off my boxing gloves and gave my wraps a wash. Every day I did at least 20-30 minutes of boxing-based work, whether that be in punching the bag at intervals with set rest periods, or mixed up with skipping and sprints.
Here’s what I found during my two weeks of daily boxing sessions...
My arms toned up - a lot
As I mentioned earlier, the arm workout I got from boxing was fantastic. I noticed that after two weeks of boxing, my biceps and triceps looked noticeably leaner and more toned.
I do naturally build muscle quite easily in my upper body, however this boxing arm workout was seriously impressive and it’s made me consider carrying on boxing for as long as possible. Plus, mixing boxing with jump rope exercises added even more of an upper body burn.
However, it's not just the upper body that get's a good toning workout with boxing. As Coach White says: 'A huge misconception is that people think it only works the upper body, but all of the power comes through your legs, so they get a great workout too!'
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I was sore - really sore
I ached massively two days after my first boxing session - particularly in my back. It pounded with pain everywhere. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sore in my back.
Apparently, this is common with regular boxing sessions. 'When you're punching, a lot of back muscles are activated,' White says, adding that the back pain comes from rotating the body when punching.
However, in this instance my sore back could also be because my body was in such shock from being put through such a grueling workout. At the time I started my two-week boxing challenge, gyms had only just reopened and so my back muscles hadn’t really felt any resistance in a while.
My stress levels declined
I felt noticeably calmer, more collected and ready for the day ahead after each session of boxing.
Often I go into a workout with a head full of things that need doing for the day; I can feel quite pent-up and a bit stressed and in the past I have found myself breaking down in tears during a workout because I can’t quite keep myself together (dramatic, me? Never).
However after a boxing session it was like the weight of the world had lifted and I felt relieved, calm and really happy and collected.
The Harvard Medical School says that exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.
I guess some people turn to yoga as an soothing exercise to help relieve stress. Not me - it turns out I like to bang it all out on a boxing bag.
A lot of calories were burned
My fitness smartwatch (I wear an Apple Watch Series 6) must’ve been shocked at the amount of calories that were being burnt. Research by sports nutrition brand Forza recently found that boxing burns up to 800 calories an hour - more than any other sport.
And when I added some jump rope routines (a classic boxing exercise) into the mix, my calorie burn went through the roof.
With this in mind, regular boxing sessions would be a great way to increase your calories deficit (i.e. burning more calories than you consume) if you're trying to lose weight quickly - as a 2015 study illustrates. Participants were given a 50-minute boxing HIIT workout to do four times a week over a 12-week period. By the end of the study, the boxers' body fat percentage had reduced by 13.2%, and also experienced a small-to-moderate reduction in waist circumference (-5.3%) body mass (-4.1%) and BMI (-4%).
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Boxing gloves need a good clean
If you are hoping to get into boxing, make sure you’ve got some cleaning spray to hand - as those gloves are going to get stinky. Even better would be to invest in one of the specialist boxing glove deodorizers that are on the market.
I didn't ever really think about my hands sweating, but oh boy they do. My wraps were damp after each boxing workout, and after a week my nostrils started to recoil at the smell from my gloves.
My top tips are to spray the insides of your gloves after every workout, and keep throwing your wraps in the wash. You could also try padding your gloves with sanitizing wipes - I left the wipes in overnight and it seemed to help get rid of the vile scent that was festering.
Lucy is Head of Wellness at Pure Sport and was formerly Health and Fitness Editor at various women's magazines, including Woman&Home Feel Good You. She has previously written for titles including Now, Look and Cosmopolitan. She lives and breathes all things fitness; she works out every morning, and mixes it up with runs, weights, boxing and endless box jumps. She is also a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios, primarily Digme Fitness. Lucy is pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to the odd Negroni on the dance floor with her friends.
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