Health & Fitness

By Katie Calautti

My fitness history boasts more twists and turns than the script of a daytime soap opera (and three times as many plot holes). These days, my daily walk to and from the subway is my workout weapon of choice. Alas,  my 30th birthday looms on the horizon and so it’s becoming increasingly apparent that my naturally svelte physique doesn’t much feel like maintaining itself sans any exertion from Yours Truly. Clearly, I need to trick myself into exercising by undertaking an activity that removes the “work” from workout. (At least, in theory).

Enter: Church Street Boxing.

Perusing the gym’s web site filled me with nostalgia for the days when my dad and I parked on the couch for hours watching re-runs of famous fights. Who wouldn’t want their shot at attaining even an iota of the grace and raw power wielded by champions like Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson? In a moment of uncharacteristically inflated aspirations, I signed myself up for a private training session.
I ventured to the venue – located in Manhattan’s financial district (right off – you guessed it – Church Street), descending two sets of stairs (lined with black and white photos depicting famous boxing matches) to arrive at the main gym.

Upon walking in, I was intimidated – to say the least. The high-ceilinged space – lined with mirrors and a collage of thousands of photographs – included an enormous center ring surrounded by various bag workout sections and cardio corners. Muscle-bound, sweat-covered men jabbed, punched, jump roped, crunched, sparred and grunted to a soundtrack of various 70’s-era, rock, metal and rap hits. I was struck – and empowered – by the realization that my session was going to be totally legit.

The incredibly helpful Cory greeted me at the front desk, had me fill out an information form and then pointed me in the direction of the cardio area and told me to warm up for 10 minutes.

Once I’d broken an impressive sweat on the treadmill, I met up with Jonathan Earle – the gym’s lead trainer. Jon’s laid-back, professional, patient demeanor immediately set me at ease. As he taped my hands (to protect my knuckles and joints beneath the gloves), he discussed his 7-year history as an amateur boxer, along with his subsequent 2 years working at Church Street Boxing.

“I really love what I do here,” he smiled, “I take pride in making my clients feel happy about themselves – I take all the stress off their shoulders during a session, and I make their day better.” Jon explained that most of the gym’s morning and afternoon clientele is comprised of boxers, but by the evening the space is filled with Wall Street professionals looking to decompress. About 15% of Church Street Boxing’s members are women (I saw a few during my two hours in the space, and – much to my surprise – they bore a closer resemblance to Anne Hathaway or Kate Hudson than a “Girlfight”-era Michelle Rodriguez).

Jon told me about the gym’s most popular membership, which comprises full access to all the facilities (including a more secluded private space in the back, where Muay Thai sessions are offered), along with private training during each visit. There are 4 or 5 trainers on the floor at all times, and no reservations are necessary – members simply show up and pick – or are matched with – their trainer of choice. I must admit: a gal could get used to that kind of catering.
With the niceties out of the way, it was time to get down to business – Jon stood me in front of a mirror and walked me through the stances for the basic “learning punches”, including: the hook, jab, uppercut, right cross and straight right. I learned to concentrate all of my power in the upper portion of my body, to snap back to stance after each punch was thrown and never to cross my feet.

Once I’d perfected my swings, Jon moved me to the bag section, where I navigated between the wall bag (to practice my uppercuts), the heavy bag (to work on a combination of each punch), and the double-end bag (my least favorite – a moving target that hones hand-eye coordination). Between bag punches, I was told to break into jumping jacks to keep my heartbeat and adrenaline consistent.

Next, Jon decided that I was a “quick study” (or perhaps he was appeasing me), and ushered me straight into the center ring, where he tested my reflexes with pad work, shouting various combinations and begging me to stop thinking so hard and “Just punch!” “You feel a good punch through your entire body,” he proclaimed. It was true: by that point, my arms, shoulders, back, legs and abs were aching, and I quickly learned that bad form meant stinging wrists and knuckles.
Finally, it was time for calisthenics. “You’re going to LOVE me after this,” Jon joked as he ran me – drill sergeant-style – through various abdominal and leg exercises. Once we were finished, I descended the steps from the ring to the main floor, feeling like a piece of spaghetti. A fully cross-trained, completely enthralled, newly knowledgeable piece of spaghetti.

Church Street Boxing – forgive the pun – pulls absolutely no punches. Every member that walks in the door is given the same treatment: a thorough, no-holds-barred workout with some of the city’s most credentialed trainers. If you’re looking for a hands-on, unexpected way to spice up your fitness routine, check out http://www.nyboxinggym.com or call (212) 571-1333 for more information. Your biceps will thank you later!

Originally published April 2010
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