Club SAR, Mountainside Fitness Discuss Benefits Of Boxing

Road rage, workplace stress and a slow recovering economy are fueling hooks and uppercuts at boxing gyms across Scottsdale. Men and women of all ages are lacing up their gloves and reaping the sport’s payoffs in mental and physical health.

With a one-hour class burning approximately 400 to 800 calories, those who hit the boxing gyms are slimming down, building muscle and strengthening their minds and hearts.

“Boxing provides total body conditioning that includes strength, endurance and flexibility without having to focus on any one particular area,” says Tabitha Citro, athletic director at Mountainside Fitness, which offers boxing and kickboxing classes in Scottsdale. “It becomes a total package, an all-in-one sport.”

Dating back to 688 B.C. in ancient Greece, boxing has served as an outlet for those with combative tendencies. But for those who would prefer to not be hit, boxing conditioning can be accomplished without sparing.

“Some people are looking for the cardio benefits,” says Diedra Nietz, instructor at Club SAR in Scottsdale. “They don’t want to fight in the ring, but want to learn about self-defense and get in great shape. Many of our classes have people working at their own pace, on their own bag.”

Boxing conditioning classes often involve learning basic punches like jabs, hooks, uppercuts and footwork. Conditioning classes also include training to increase speed and strength using sprints, push-ups, sit-ups, squats and other grueling exercises that work the shoulders, core and legs.

The Great De-Stressor

Andrea Mijak, a school psychologist, started boxing to improve her performance in mixed martial arts. She fell in love with the sport and found that it helped reduced stress.

“When you are stressed, boxing can become a release,” Mijak says. “If you channel it, after the workout, the aggression is gone.”

Mijak says boxing has the ability take the negative energy that stress or anger creates and transforms it into something positive.

“Many of the boxers I’ve talked to say that boxing helped them to channel their aggression in a more positive way,” Mijak says. “It also empowers people. For some women, they might come in more timid, but after they get into it, they find they enjoy throwing a punch.”

Instructors say boxing is a workout that evolves into a skill set of fighting moves with increased coordination, confidence and strength. For those bored with going to the gym, boxing provides a workout with purpose, says Jonathan Couvdos, Club SAR instructor and former amateur boxer.

“It’s fun to work out when you have a goal,” Couvdos says. “At the end of it, you’re learning a technique and a sport. You forget you’re working out. Instead of running on a treadmill, when you do boxing conditioning, you’re getting a better workout, and it’s interesting.”

The Sweet Science

One of the great skills that boxing develops is the ability to respond to the unexpected. Boxers have to decide in split seconds on how to counter an opponent’s tactics.

Thomas Harrison, Club SAR manager/instructor and former amateur boxer, says boxing is called “the sweet science because it’s somewhat of a chess game. Yes, it is a fight, but there is thought involved. There is a method to fighting, such as counter-punching. You want to use your opponent’s moves against him. Hit without being hit. Accomplishing that requires a lot of study and practice.”

Learning to leverage one’s body to deliver heavy-hitting punches while maintaining balance and speedy responses also gives the brain a good workout.

“You’re working on your coordination, so it keeps you sharp,” Nietz says.  “You’re focusing on movements and what you do next. It teaches you to be quick on your feet.”

Self-Defense for Beginners

For people wanting to learn how to box for self-defense, boxing offers some basic building blocks. While it gives people confidence in throwing punches and taking hits, Citro says it’s just the beginning of learning to protect yourself.

“It provides a foundation for self-defense movements that could be applied to potentially dangerous situations,” Citro says. “It prepares the body to take a defensive mode in unexpected dangerous circumstances. But boxing should not be considered a substitute for a complete self-defense program. However, it provides great fundamental skills.”

Out of the Ring

Learning a sport and consistently exercising can also benefit your career. A study from the University of Bristol in England showed that 79 percent of people who exercised on days that they worked improved their professional performance.

“I think employers like the fact that people know a sport well,” Harrison says. “They know how to work hard, be regimented, disciplined and put themselves on the line to accomplish goals. All of that can be used in the corporate world.”

But for those who just want to punch something after a day at the office, taking it into the ring will serve as a stress-reliever and a big calorie-burning fitness program.

“(Boxing is) for people with different athletic abilities, from (those who weigh) 300 pounds to professional athletes who want to stay in shape during the off-season,“ Couvdos says. “It’s for anyone who wants to be challenged.”

For more information about Club SAR and Mountainside Fitness:

Club SAR
8055 E. Camelback Rd.
(480) 312-2669

Mountainside Fitness
11611 E. Sahuaro Dr.
(480) 889-8889

Scottsdale Living Magazine Fall 2011