Boxing Anniversary

Yesterday was my (and Tom’s) second anniversary of starting to work out at Cappy’s boxing gym. When Tom and I went for the first time two years ago, we were sore for a week. The boxing fitness class is a one-hour workout divided into three-minute rounds with only a few seconds in between. On that first day, we did about six rounds of jumprope to start, which seemed like a cruel joke. We said later that we’d both been thinking after the first round, “Whew! I survived three minutes of jumprope—hooray! Oh-oh, what’s next?” And the answer, several times, was “more jumprope.” You have to be kidding, was my recurring thought.
Also on that first day I remember doing “ring-rope” and “side-to-side medicine-ball chest pass,” two drills that we now count on doing in almost every workout. “Ring-rope” means crouching low to duck under the rope and into the ring, then ducking back out, then back in, back out, back in… for three minutes. The rope is just over knee-high, so in addition to the aerobic effects of crouching and standing as fast as you can, you also get a tremendous groin and hip stretch and a burn in the upper legs. “Side to side medicine ball chest pass” involves two people face to face about four feet apart. Together they step sideways as fast as they can, in a sort of skip or gallop, while flinging the medicine ball back and forth straight across at chest level like a basketball pass (but with a much heavier ball). This gives you a huge cardio spike and an upper-body workout at the same time.
The refrain on that first day, at least in my own mind, was always, “You have to be kidding….” Nonetheless I was pretty sure going in that I was going to want to continue. I’d been working out on my own at the Y or another gym for three years. All of a sudden I realized I was bored and wanted to try something really tough. At the end of that first boxing class, I pulled out the checkbook and signed up for five more classes. I was so worn out that I could hardly hold the pen to write the check. Tom and I immediately went out for Chinese food.
Tom and I went to his gym the next day to try to work out our unbelievable soreness. We jumped rope, walked on the treadmills, and played a little basketball. I went back to Cappy’s three days later and felt intimidated when it turned out that that night’s class was being taught by Julia, not by Cappy. I had wanted everything to be predictable. (I’m not that way any more—maybe because of the boxing classes?) I remember that Julia had the class do a round of crossovers and doubles (jumprope). I started to be able to do crossovers, but as soon as my technique started to smooth out a little, I’d be exhausted and have to take a short break. Then I’d start over and try the doubles (jumping a little higher and turning the rope faster, so that it goes under your feet twice per jump). I’d manage to do one and then I’d stop to reorganize my feet and my rope. Julia said, “The idea is to just keep doing them—do one and keep going with a whole string of them.” Again I thought, you have got to be kidding.
I took one of the extra jumpropes home and started practicing on days I didn’t go to boxing. Gradually I built up my rhythm and stamina. Jumping rope is still hard because, like a lot of other parts of the boxing workout, as you get better, you naturally try to go faster or do something harder. It has not yet become rote or easy or boring.
Cappy mixes up the workouts, substituting a large variety of drills while keeping a few of the basics like jumprope, ring-rope, and the side-to-side medicine ball pass. Lately, one of the more difficult drills has been “crunch-punch,” in which you lie on your back with your feet straight up and grasping a heavy bag that is hanging above you. While holding the bag in place with your feet, you crunch up and punch the bottom of it as hard and as long as you can. Another one that Cappy recently introduced, which some of us like to complain about, is to do crunches while a partner stands over your feet and throws a medicine ball down at you. You have to both catch and return the ball while you’re in the top position in the crunch.
When I do some of these hard exercises, or simpler ones like pushups, which I’m terrible at, I sometimes feel like I must be a real weakling. Then I get a bit of perspective and remember that these drills are really hard, and I wouldn’t have been able to get through three minutes of them two years ago without taking a substantial break. It feels great to be fit.