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Join the fashionable fighting-fit club
By Ellie Pithers – Telegraph.co.uk
To listen to the preachers, boxing is the best thing for your body since kale. Its arm-toning, core-strengthening, stress-relieving, fat-burning capabilities seem to know no bounds. But no one warned me about the smell. Twenty minutes into a Punch & Pad class at Frame, a fitness studio in east London, I rip off my boxing gloves and the stink makes me recoil in horror.
Boxing is fashion’s latest fad, New York’s Gotham Gym its original locus. Scores of models, including Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner, flock to classes at this club to hone their silhouettes (and Instagram them afterwards). It’s catching on here, too: Sport England reports that the number of women taking part in boxing once a week for at least 30 minutes has increased by 30 per cent since 2005. Classes such as Bitchboxing at Gymbox cater exclusively to women, while Fight Klub (which holds classes all over the UK) boasts a ‘nightclub atmosphere’.
‘Gone are the days of slogging away for hours on a spin bike,’ says Pip Black, a founding partner of Frame. ‘It’s all about getting strong, lean and toned through functional training, and having fun.’ Some women, however, are taking things more seriously. ‘There has been a significant crossover of women competing and taking part in sparring,’ says Carl Martin, the personal-training manager at Equinox, a gym in Kensington. ‘The idea that a girl might be afraid to break a nail is laughable when she’s hitting you in the head.’
Keen to take sparring to the next level, I venture north to the Islington Boxing Club for non-contact boxing fitness training. The smell is headier, thanks to pools of sweat on the gritty sponge floor. Ryder, the coach, shows me the moves, adjusts my stance and cautions me to tuck in my elbows to avoid cracked ribs. Then we begin 90 minutes of all-out exertion: planks, press-ups, tuck jumps, box jumps, squats, sit-ups, medicine balls, skipping ropes… The final exercise is sparring, which here means practicing with a partner, not being violent. ‘Relax,’ Ryder purrs, as I hunch my shoulders in preparation for my best Floyd Mayweather move. I exhale, and land a glove on my unfortunate partner’s jaw. ‘You’re clumsy, but you could be worse,’ he says. The next morning I can barely walk. It feels fantastic.