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Thanks to supermodel Gigi Hadid, where boxing was once reserved for men in sweaty, no-frills gyms, now it’s all the rage. Then there’s Great Britain boxer Nicola Adams who took home gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and helped inspire a generation, proving boxing is just as much a woman’s sport as it is a man’s. Boxing is also a full-on workout. And it’s not just about mindlessly punching a bag, either. In fact, boxing includes combinations of moves that require coordination and a sharp mind. It burns around 700 calories an hour and is a sure-fire way to lean out and tone up your arms and abs. It was with these benefits in mind that I visited Kobox, a studio devoted to high-intensity boxing-based classes for its Fight Club—seven classes in seven days.
Keep reading for more about my Kobox experience, and how effective boxing workouts are, in general.
What Is Kobox?
Located on King’s Road in Chelsea, London, and founded by Cheryl Cole’s trainer, Shane Collins, along with Joe Cohen and Ronnie Shahmoon, Kobox is a studio that offers high-intensity, boxing-based classes. As experts note, boxing is a particularly challenging workout. "Often, boxing classes are interval-based, meaning that the intensity changes throughout the class allowing for periods of both high and moderate-intensity training," says Chris Gagliardi, scientific education content manager for ACE Fitness, a nonprofit exercise professional and health coach certification organization. "In addition, boxing is a great workout because it often takes place in a group setting that sets the stage nicely for social support, camaraderie, and inspiration while also targeting all major muscle groups across all planes of motion."
Gloves are provided, but you need to buy wraps in order to protect your hands (seriously, you'll bleed without them). It takes a few tries to perfect the art of wrapping, but once you do, you legit feel like Rocky. The studio is split into numbered bags (the most luxe-looking, jet-black, high-shine punching bags you ever did see) with corresponding numbers on the walls. You can choose to start on the wall or the bag; throughout the class, you switch between the two. On the bags, each punch corresponds to a number: on your left-hand side, the jab (punch straight ahead) is one, hook (punching across) three, and uppercut (punching upwards) five while on your right side, the jab is two, the hook is four, and the uppercut six.
The trainer flashes up different combos of numbers onto the wall throughout each round. It sounds confusing—and it is, for about 10 minutes—but eventually, you get the hang of it, I promise. Kobox is as much about serious technique as it is about getting fit, so you’re encouraged to take on a boxer’s stance and block as you would if the bag was about to retaliate.
Each numbered wall section has a pair of gymnast rings and a medicine ball. Around the room are mats, dumbbells, and weight plates that are utilized at different times throughout class. Each class has a different focus: Mondays and Wednesdays are lower body, Tuesdays and Thursdays are upper body while Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are full body. Each instructor has a different style, from their playlist to their teaching approach. But what’s standard is that throughout the 60 minutes you go from punching the bag to various workouts at the wall (think burpees, push-ups, pull-ups, squats with weight plates, ab bicycles) before switching back to the bag to start all over again. Rather than intervals, and sticking with the boxing theme, each segment is called a round. Rounds can last anywhere from three to seven minutes, and the shorter and sharper the rounds, the faster I felt the class went. Needless to say, you’re left soaked in sweat by the end of it. Thankfully, there are showers, complete with fluffy white towels and Ren products on-site.
Benefits of a Boxing Workout
• Strengthens the core
• Improves balance and posture
• Improves mental acuity
• Boosts endurance
Like any aerobic exercise, boxing gets your heart pumping and can, therefore, help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. "A single boxing class combines a blending of a variety of training variables that forces the body to adapt," says Gagliardi. "In one segment of a boxing class, you may be training balance, coordination, muscular endurance, speed, the cardiorespiratory system, and cognition all at the same time."
As Gagliardi notes, boxing also helps with your cognitive and mental health, thanks to all that hand-eye coordination and the overall intensity. According to a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, those who performed high-intensity workouts for an hour or more released significantly more endorphins than those who undertook moderate exercise regimens.
What to Expect From a Kobox Workout
I decided on day one that seven consecutive days felt far too daunting to comprehend and that I would take the week class-by-class, round-by-round, exercise-by-exercise. I feel like this is an important lesson for many aspects of life, whether you’re embarking on a big work project or revamping your house. You need to have an overarching goal and a plan, sure, but you also need to take it step-by-step so as not to feel overwhelmed.
It was a pretty tiring week; I’m not going to lie. I live nowhere near the studio, so I had to be up at 5:30 a.m. to make the 7:15 a.m. classes to be able to be at my desk in time for work. I was exhausted and starving by 11 a.m. each day. The thing is I really wanted to get results this week so I knew I needed to be in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than I burned). If I ate all the food I craved after the workouts, this wouldn’t be the case. To ensure I stayed on track, I counted my macros. The truth is that you won’t see the best results from your workouts if you don’t eat healthy (I’m a qualified personal trainer, I know this to be true). It doesn’t mean you have to lead a miserable existence, though. I had after-work drinks on Tuesday, dinner with friends on Wednesday, and a birthday lunch on Friday, and I ate and drank what I wanted on each occasion—I just stayed healthy the rest of the time.
While I had pushed myself at Kobox, I had also had a hectic week socially, so I was genuinely surprised to find, by the end of the week, I had lost 2.5 pounds and an inch off my waist. What’s more interesting is that for the first four days I didn’t lose anything. Monday through Friday I didn’t notice much change, but I truly believe that’s because I wasn’t sleeping long enough (thanks to those 5:30 a.m. start times) to reap the benefits. On Saturday morning I slept until 10 a.m. before hot-footing it out the door for my 11:45 a.m. class. Beforehand, I weighed and measured myself and that long sleep was where the magic happened—I seemingly lost two pounds and 3/4 of an inch off my waist overnight. You see, I love to exercise, but I love to sleep more. Rest is key to diet and exercise success, so much so that sleep should be factored into any healthy routine with a rest day being key to success.
The Final Takeaway
So, would I embark on Fight Club again? You bet I would, seeing as how I lost an inch off my waist without having to eat lettuce and forgo alcohol for a week. Not to mention that, every so often, it’s good to push yourself to a limit you didn’t think possible—it’s confidence-boosting. I feel stronger and look leaner, but next time I’ll factor in plenty of sleep to compensate for that missed rest day.
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Saanijoki T, Tuominen L, Tuulari JJ, et al. Opioid Release after High-Intensity Interval Training in Healthy Human Subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018;43(2):246-254. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.148