Health & Fitness

By Leslie Rice Hart

I was looking to spice up my daily workouts. The treadmill, Stairmaster and Precor were becoming monotonous. The weight machines were the weight machines. I was B*O*R*E*D! I looked at the list of classes offered at my gym. Step aerobics. Done it. African Dance. No thanks. Boxing. Hmmm. Sounds interesting. I decided to give it a shot. And that’s how I became hooked on boxing.

There was more skill involved than I had originally thought. King, our instructor would tell us to bob and weave. I had no clue exactly what he wanted us to do. So, I decided to take some private lessons. My hope was individual attention would properly teach me the skill of boxing. I learned correct form for punches and footwork. I stuck with boxing, and it has improved many aspects of my life. I have learned an important form of self-defense that has boosted my confidence and self-esteem. My workouts now have a purpose because I can identify how each exercise I perform will help to improve my boxing. I use more resistance with my strength and cardiovascular training because I’m stronger and have more endurance – thanks to boxing.

When I began boxing, more than wanting to learn how to box, I just wanted a new type of exercise. I wanted to learn “non-contact” boxing. I had watched boxing matches – Ali, Sugar Ray, Tyson – and I preferred to keep my nose, eyes and ears intact. Finding out that I had to wrap my hands to protect my knuckles didn’t exactly boost my spirits. A lot of body parts to have to worry about.


Coach King Feliciano, boxer Kate Hurwitz

During my first few lessons, I learned to throw some basic punches – left jab, right cross, hook and uppercut and combinations of these punches. King, my instructor, taught me the drills used in boxing – shadow boxing, hitting the heavy bag and focus mitts – to practice the punching combinations. I hit the speed bag to improve hand/eye coordination. I practiced bobbing and weaving – moving up, down and side to side. All these drills were necessary to learn how to box. They were all very frustrating for me at the beginning because I didn’t do them well. Dedication to the drills paid off. I soon learned to do them with more fluidity.

After my third session, I hung around to watch King give a private lesson to my friend, Ray, who had been boxing for several months. Ray began hitting the heavy bag. His punches were so powerful. The popping of the gloves against the bag was so rhythmic. It sounded like music. Ray moved around the bag as he punched, with so much speed and accuracy. He looked like he had been boxing for years. King worked the focus mitts with Ray. Sure, he started with some basic combinations, but then it became interesting. They started sparring. For three-minute rounds, Ray began executing 10 or 12 move combinations including slipping punches, counter punches, uppercuts followed by hooks. It appeared graceful and fluid, yet aggressive and satisfying. I was watching mesmerized. The first round slightly winded Ray; he was exhausted after the third round. Out of breath and struggling to raise his arms, Ray still wanted to continue sparring. Clearly, any activity that inspires you to push yourself that hard is worth sticking with.


Coach King Feliciano, boxer Kate Hurwitz

Before long, I was ready to spar. Initially, one round was enough to exhaust me. Then, I’d spar for three rounds and want more. I felt confident and graceful as I’d duck a punch and counter with an uppercut. I’d bob and weave. It was exhilarating. My goal was to maintain a high level of movement and punches throughout my entire session. Thus, my workouts took on a whole new meaning.

When I began to exercise, my motivation was to get in the best shape possible. I desired more muscle development. In addition, I wanted to lose some body fat. The problem was that wasn’t always enough incentive to push myself during the workouts. While at the gym, I would sometimes just go through the motions. Boxing has changed all that. Now, my cardiovascular training is necessary to help my endurance during sparring. My upper body workouts, primarily arms and shoulders, improve my punching strength and enable me to keep my gloves raised for protection. My lower body workouts – legs, glutes and hips – allow me to continue the constant movement, bending and ducking required during sparring, hitting the heavy bag and focus mitts. My core workouts (lower back and abdominals) are vital for maintaining balance and stability while punching and moving. Going to the gym is no longer a chore; it’s an obsession.

It’s very gratifying to see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve improved. When I started, I could barely throw a jab and right cross combination, which annoyed the heck out of me. Now I can perform advanced combinations with confidence. I really love being able to block two punches to my ribs and come back with an uppercut and a right. My energy and stamina are off the chart. I am stronger, leaner and more confident.


Coach King Feliciano

Finding the right instructor can be critical, as with any activity. I was extremely fortunate that I hooked up with King Feliciano from the start. King is a former professional boxer, with a passion for the sport. He has inspired me to continue with my boxing. There are mornings when I’m drained, but King motivates me. He’ll yell, “HIT HARDER” or “FOCUS.” That gets me going and my adrenaline kicks in. He is making sure I know how to defend myself. He constantly throws new obstacles at me to keep me on my toes. He tests my reactions and reassures me that I would be able to defend myself if forced to. He is an incredible coach and trainer.

There is not a huge financial investment in boxing. The gym provides most of the equipment – speed bag, heavy bag, focus mitts, and sparring gear. Most gyms provide the gloves, but I’d recommend buying your own. You can find them at most sporting good stores. Hand wraps are inexpensive, around $10.00 a set. Any kind of sneaker will suffice, and whatever comfortable active wear preferred would be fine.

So, if you want to learn an incredible skill, get a great workout and have fun while doing it, wrap up and put on your gloves. Learn to bob, weave and duck. Throw a jab or hook with confidence. Now go to your corner and come out fighting…ding, ding, ding.

Most full service health clubs offer boxing classes and programs, some included in the membership. Some offer private lessons. There are also boxing gyms for all levels of boxing instruction.

If you would like more information, including costs of private lessons for boxing or personal training, please contact:

King Feliciano Certified Personal Trainer and USABF, Certified Boxing Coach, at New York Sports Club, 41st Street and 3rd Ave. 212-661-8500

Leslie Rice Hart, Certified Personal Trainer, at Leslie@BeautyNewsNYC.com or 917-612-8544

Originally published November 2004
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