I’ve been offline, trying to catch my breath between wave sets and wipeouts.
The turbulence of job shifts (I’m now working from home rather than from an office in another city), training shifts (my trainer moved out of state, my fight is coming up in April), and other big and small events and financial re-arrangements have significantly changed the shape of my days for the past month, and I’m working to discern how I will fit into my own life for the next bit of the future.
Out of necessity I withdrew from nearly all of my social hubs and just tried to hang on. Now the first and biggest wave of the set has passed (that was the biggest one, right?), and I’ve wiped out but I’m upright, catching my breath and trying to figure out how to meet the next one, which I can already see coming. Hell, I can see ten of ’em from here.
I’m in transition, I know this feeling.
In boxing, we work to get good at transitions. The entire purpose of training with intervals, for example, is to get good at physically working hard (sprinting, punching, etc.) for a 3 minute period, then to recover well in 30 seconds or a minute in order to work extremely hard for another 3 minute space. During that recovery time you mentally shift into neutral and try to convince your body to slow down. Deep breaths, hands in the air if you have a stitch, slowing down the heart rate as much as possible. Standing straight, never bending double with hands on your knees. Straight and tall, breathing, looking forward.
I’ve rarely been aware of much outside my boxing corner during the periods between rounds. I don’t hear the perpetual thump of hip-hop over the sound system, the rapid-fire gunning of the speed bag, the shot calls of other trainers in the gym, or the thwack of leather meeting leather on the heavy bags. All those external stimuli are drowned out in the deafening roar of my blood and the heavy buzz of focus that narrows your vision to a 20×20 square of dirty canvas and the ropes that give it boundaries.
The one thing I can hear — and in fact what I am listening for — is a corner.
During the period between rounds, your corner is telling you that you performed well, that you can breathe, that you are okay. You stake everything on believing them.
After a few seconds your corner begins to set your course for the next interval. She outlines a strategy, notes what strengths you should employ, and points out the lapses in your opponent’s style or form and how you can take advantage of them. And in all of this, more than anything else, your corner communicates that she believes in you. I know few powers on earth more significant than that one.
When you are in transition, you need someone to believe in you.
Someone to remind you of the many things you already know, to point out the skills you have worked so hard to build, and the goals that brought you to this point.
As I write this I am one week into training for my next fight, without the trainer I’ve loved, learned from, and counted on for the past two years . Her life has undergone a series of changes as well, and now she’s in New York launching her next big thing.
I’m sporting a black eye just turning to green and nursing a severely strained shoulder. My normal training schedule is completely wonked because I’m no longer at my office, no longer enjoying the work perk of a fitness gym one block from our building. I’ve missed two weight sessions and am looking at a week of restricted activity because of this injury.
I can feel myself thinking, “Well, you aren’t off to a great start, are you?” I took my first round hard, and am having a hard time figuring out how to get through the next.
Listening for the voice of a corner.
And there has been a new voice — entirely unexpected, but there nonetheless.
When I called Terri “The Boss” Moss, promoter of the upcoming Atlanta Corporate Fight Night, to let her know my job had changed, my trainer had moved, and I’d been injured and might have trouble getting ready for my fight, I was expecting her to be polite as always, but privately frustrated and annoyed. After all, she has a lot riding on this event, a thousand details to oversee, and lots of boxers to coach.
What I got was a corner. The voice of an experienced boxer, a woman who knows how training can go awry, who understands the position I am finding myself in, and who immediately began the litany of “You’re doing fine. Breathe. Here’s what I want you to do.” It looks like I may be driving down to Atlanta for some serious corner time.
I have to say this about the women boxers I have met during this strange and beautiful journey: you are the most incredible women I’ve ever known. I can’t imagine how I would have made it without you. Thank you for the hard training, the indefatigable spirit, and most of all, the graceful cornering.
Here’s to the next round.
Image by akeg on Flickr.