Open for Fitness: We Tried Boxing for the First Time at Pālolo Boxing Club in Honolulu
Sometimes we get a little punchy working for a magazine that has constant deadlines. So, for this month’s fitness adventure, we hit up Pālolo Boxing Club to unleash some aggression.
Editor’s Note: Stacey and Katrina are at vastly different fitness levels (and ages) but both enjoy working out. We thought it’d be fun for the two of them to try new or interesting workouts together each month. This month, they tried a one-on-one session at Pālolo Boxing Club.
Photos and videos: Katie Kenny
WHAT IT IS
Pālolo Boxing Club, in the Pālolo Valley District Park gym, offers classes for new and experienced boxers. But if you’re a total beginner, like us, you can get one-on-one lessons with Coach Joe and Coach Cedric to learn the basic moves and proper form.
HOW WE FELT: BEFORE
Katrina: A little nervous because I can only do arm curls with 10-pound weights. But I really wanted to find a workout that strengthens my arms so I can carry my baby niece for longer periods without getting tired. And being able to lift things just seems like a valuable skill I should have by the time I turn 30.
Stacey: EXCITED! I always wanted to try boxing. Even before all the Victoria’s Secret Angels made it popular.
We arrived at the gym on a Tuesday afternoon. Other students were jumping rope, hitting the small speed bags and working on their punches. After Joe and Cedric wrapped our hands for protection, we grabbed some jump ropes to get our heart rates going. Each round in boxing is three minutes, therefore, so were our exercises.
Katrina: I used to love Jump Rope for Heart in elementary school and prided myself on how long I could jump without messing up. Now, jumping for three minutes straight is almost unbearable. I messed up a lot, mostly because I was too out of breath to keep going. We only did two three-minute rounds (with one minute of rest between them). I really need to work on my stamina.
Stacey: Pālolo Gym is legit. The place smelled of pain, sweat and tears, which I contributed to when I started to warm up. I went into jumping rope like a champ, thinking, this is easy. Forty seconds later, I was huffin’ and puffin’. I could blame it on my bum knee, but Coach Joe did make jumping rope easier for me by letting me jump with the rope in one hand and twirling it in circles on the side of me. Who knew something we did so easily as kids would kick our asses as adults?
Stacey: I worked with Coach Joe. I like him. He’s on the smaller side, but you can tell he’s feisty and old-school in his coaching tactics. Very Mr. Miyagi, but not as old! His first lesson was teaching me to shuffle my feet. Basically it’s like dancing and your lead foot (for right-handed people it’s your left) is always in the front. Shuffle to the left, shuffle back, shuffle right. Never cross your legs, keep on your toes and turn on the balls of your feet (I think!). And keep moving! It took me a while to get this down, which is embarrassing to admit, but maybe with age you lose coordination skills too?
Katrina: I worked with Coach Cedric, who showed me how to move properly, always keeping my right foot forward since I’m a southpaw, and take small steps. Verbal cues really helped until I got into a pattern and the movements felt more natural. Then it was easier to change direction and follow him like an opponent.
Once I had the footwork down, Cedric showed me how to jab with my lead hand (my right). I’m surprised how difficult this was for me. I would forget proper positioning every time I jabbed. It’s a lot to remember when it all happens in a split second: arm straight out, knuckles level with your eyes, drop your other shoulder, keep your feet in the right position, knees bent, head down, eyes up. Then we added in power shots from my dominant left hand, making sure I turned my body and used more force.
Stacey: Adding punches like a one-two combo (jab and cross punch) added more confusion to the workout because, not only do you have to shuffle to keep moving out of your opponent’s way, you have to twist your shoulders to punch with force and keep your hands up to protect your face. It’s a lot. But, Coach Joe was “encouraging” me the whole time. “Pull your opposite shoulder back when you punch. Don’t lean too forward. Keep your hands up. No, you can’t sit down! There’s no sitting in boxing.” I learned the last lesson the hard way when I tried to cop a squat and he pushed me over.
I swear I did 689 rounds with Coach Joe. He would probably say it was five. But, however many rounds it actually was, I learned a lot. How to lead with my big knuckle when I punch. How to throw my opposite shoulder back for more power. How to keep a good distance from your opponent, so they can’t get cracks in. How to be agile and quick on your feet. Basically, float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
Katrina: After practicing the moves, we put gloves on. Stacey sparred with Joe while I worked my way around a punching bag as Cedric called out, “One two one! One two! One two, one two!” He kept yelling out numbers pertaining to which hand to punch with, but I needed to rest. We weren’t allowed to sit for the entire hour and I couldn’t even open my water bottle with my gloves on, so the coaches had to pour water into our mouths (and then down our backs—thanks a lot, guys!). I took a short break to catch my breath—I tend to hold it in when I do core workouts—and watched Stacey, who, as usual, had a huge smile on her face.
Stacey: The best part? When I landed punches on Coach Joe’s mitt and it sounded like, POOOOOW! Oh, and when he took turns sparring with me and Katrina, that was highly amusing. He used these big, red, floppy gloves to whack us when we forgot to hold our hands up. For some reason, I got whacked more than Katrina.
Katrina: We still weren’t allowed to sit until we left the building, so we walked a couple of laps around the ring to catch our breath. Joe showed us how to unwrap our hands and store everything properly.
Stacey: I just wanted water! I forgot my water bottle and the gym offers water in these squirt bottles, but they’re for public use. The germaphobe in me was like, “Hell no!”
HOW WE FELT: AFTER
Katrina: My hands were shaking as I packed my things. My upper arms started to hurt before I even left the parking lot. I loved that unlike pure cardio workouts or more skill-based classes, this session combined the two. Two days later, I felt it in my calves—I guess that’s what happens when you’re on your toes for an hour! I also really liked that they were very hands-on with us. If I wasn’t bending my knees enough, Cedric would push down on my shoulders. If my hands weren’t hovering near my head, Joe would whack me until I learned to protect myself. It’s great to have one-on-one attention like that when you’re a total beginner and want to get the basics down before attempting a class.
Stacey: Sore right after. Sorer the next day. Sorest the third day. This workout caused me the most post pain. My hands, shoulders and back ached. But I loved it! It was a new kind of achiness. My legs and ass usually benefit from all my workouts, but workin’ and strengthenin’ my upper body felt great! Would I do it again? Already did!
Pālolo Valley District Park gym, 2007 Pālolo Ave.
One-on-one lessons are $30 per session, which you can split between a few people.
To set up a private lesson, email email@example.com.
Read more stories by Stacey Makiya
Read more stories by Katrina Valcourt