Guest Blog: Boxing Correspondent Marysol Castro Tries JOYX's New XX Class

There are few finer figures than that of the boxer. 

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I often question whether a boxer would actually be able to float.  You see, boxers have very little body fat. From the corner of the ring where I’m perched, I see every inhalation and exhalation almost in slow motion. A jab with the right to the opponent’s head, followed by a left hook, a pivot on the foot and a flurry of uppercuts to the kidneys. All the while, torsos expand and contract exposing ribs and fibers of muscle I didn’t know exist. The only thing to wake me from this trance is the bell signaling the end of three minutes.  My bloodied boxer finds his corner, collapses onto a stool and expectorates into a filthy bucket. It is only then that I realize my perfectly painted face is sprayed with sweat.

That’s my day at the office as a host and reporter for boxing on ESPN. I figured trying out a new boxing class at JoyX, called XX, felt like the right thing to do. I mean it wasn’t like I was going 10 rounds with anyone, right? I walk into the very modern and familiar orange hued studio intent on pushing my body to its limits. There is a dark, club-like feel to the room with its wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and neat rows of punching bags. If JoyX is anything like its sister gym JoyRide, I know I am setting myself up for success (even if it means I will quietly curse my instructor under my breath.) For the next 50 minutes, not one but two instructors, Flow Trandu and Andy Berman, coach me and 23 other women through hell.  I wish I could tell you I cursed them both to their faces but I cannot. I was too busy trying to catch my breath and will away the desire to puke. I may or may not have asked the woman to my left if she wouldn’t mind holding my ponytail in the event that I did in fact lose my lunch.

The class was split in two: 12 women at the bags and 12 women on the floor. My group started on the floor. We did 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 10 mountain climbers and repeated that drill for one minute thirty seconds.  It sounded fair enough. Except for the part when the minute thirty was over and we went through another set of exercises for one minute thirty seconds.  Our teammates on the other side of the room boxing were kind enough to join us. Actually, Andy and Flow made certain they joined us. 

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s three full minutes of work. That’s also one full round of boxing.  Great boxers are great because they endure and they are resilient. They dig down deep and they fight. The good folks at Joy X really know what they’re doing. We repeated this interval training with a host of seemingly easy exercises except they were not at all easy. When I thought I might need my friend to hold my ponytail, Andy got eye level with me (which is hard because he is easily 2 feet taller than me) and smiled and encouraged me to “keep those knees up, higher, higher. You got this!” I believed him.

During the 45-second rest, I ambled over to my water bottle in search of hydration and hope. Miraculously, both arrived. The good thing about having tandem coaches, one or both check in with each and every one of us not only to make sure we’re ok, but to make sure we are getting what we came for: our own sense of power. 

After 25 minutes of floor work (don’t forget that minute thirty drill in between), my group was headed to the bags.  JoyX provides boxing gloves and even hands out latex gloves so you don’t get someone else’s hand cooties. It’s a win-win for everyone. I wasn’t sure how much gas I had left I the tank but something occurred to me.  As I looked around, every woman was a) still standing and breathing and b) smiling. There is definitely something to this idea that we as humans feed off of one another’s energy. Through exhaustion, we were raising one another to a higher level.  Either that or the music blaring from the speakers was getting us hyped.   

The mirrors in the studio were rendered useless because they were fogged up with our sweat.  Yeah. We were badass.  I found a bag in the corner and shockingly realized, I still had a ton of energy left. With 25 minutes still left on the clock, the work-out began again. Flow gave us the drill: jab, cross, cross. Again, sounds doable….for 30 seconds. For one minute thirty seconds? Taxing. And of course not to be outdone by that nifty drill in between (did I mention there were burpees involved?  A lot of them.)

I’m familiar with these moves, the jab, the hook, the uppercut. I understand the concept of keeping my hands up at all times to protect my face and body. I can pivot my feet instinctively because maybe that’s just the way my body moves.  I have seen a pugilistic choreography countless times. I have cringed when I hear leather meet skin in such a perfect place that the skin neatly splits open. I have watched grown men fall face first into the canvas that is the ring. And I have seen those same men, stand up, raise their gloves and invite their opponent back over to finish the fight. 

In this class, I had no opponent except for the bag.  I was, in fact, fighting myself, which is the hardest fight however trite that sounds. My legs and arms want to move but if I’m not careful, my brain will shut it all down in a hot second.  Fatigue will turn a jab into a poke, a hook into a bear hug with the bag and an uppercut into nothing more than a stare down with the Xs that are perfectly placed on the floor in front of each bag.  But fatigue is no match for that tiny bit of energy I have left along with the tiny bit of energy we all have left.  And as if on cue, Flow now meets me at the bag and counts me down, “one-two, one-two, one-two. You got this!”

I’m certain that workout meant something different to each and every person in that room. I got a small taste of what my boxers subject themselves to on a daily basis. Those 50 minutes were intense, brutal and satisfying. On my way out, I caught a glimpse of myself in a pocket of defogged mirror. My entire body is covered in sweat. This time, it’s my own.

An excerpt can be found in the May issue of Westport Magazine and on WestportMag.com.

 

By Marysol Castro