NOT the Boxing New Person

I LOVE Not Being the New Person in the Gym

It is so incredibly hard to claw your way up the learning curve — and I’d rather say the straight-up learning cliff — in boxing. You can put years into it, and still feel like a beginner.

But once you’ve gotten solid enough in boxing to get in the ring and spar (for me that took a few months), you’ve made it to the first big ledge. You can stand there for a minute and try to catch your breath.

Every time you spar is an exercise in overcoming fear, but it actually gets easier (did I just say that??) if you are doing it regularly with people you know and trust.

The next ledge up is your first official fight. What a life-changing experience. I was terrified for the ten days leading up to my first match, and the fear multiplied by about seven bazillion once I actually rolled under the ropes and took my place in the blue corner, waiting for that first bell to ring.

But once you get to this stage on your climb, it gets ever so much better, I promise. It is never, never easy — this is boxing, after all — but it does get less terrifying, and it’s that first fight that really makes a significant difference in your mental attitude about the fight sport you hate and love.

There’s a certain amount of boxing cred you get when you’ve been in the ring, particularly if you’ve had official fights. And that cred goes such a long way in helping overcome the natural suspicion and stress involved in shifting to a new gym, getting a new trainer, going to spar at another gym, or having another boxing team coming to spar with your team.

Twice this week I’ve enjoyed the peace that comes with not being the new kid in the gym.

On Wednesday I traveled up to NBS Gym to spar with Amy, who is a 25 year old technical writer who will kick your ass for you if you let her. Amy has had a couple of fights like I have and helps condition the team at NBS. I have sparred with her once before, and I really like getting ring work with her because she’s pretty near my weight (she’s actually 10 pounds lighter, so I actually have an advantage, which is nice for a change) and she has a fantastic, let’s-go-get-em attitude.

But the absolute best part of our work, which included me finally getting my first good sparring in a while, was that I wasn’t a bundle of nerves walking in this time.

I wasn’t a new boxer and I wasn’t unaccustomed to the ring. Damn, but that’s nice.

Last night I went to train at my own gym and noticed the same general effect.

I drifted in around 6 pm, and saw that there were three new guys training with a team boxer. A couple of my teammates were getting through their stretches and I fell in with them. After a few minutes, the coach put us all to shadowboxing 6 rounds together in front of the two old busted mirrors that are leaning against the cinderblock wall opposite our ring. The new kids were sloppy and tired by the end of the 6, which didn’t bode well for them. Shadowboxing is the warm-up.

And at the end of the 6 rounds, the coach called everyone over. “You, you, and you,” he said, jabbing his hand in the direction of each of the new guys. “Far end of the gym. Heavy bags. Work some jabs. Team, get on your circuit. You know the drill.”

The new kids eyed us enviously — and maybe with a little resentment — as we went our separate ways.

And I felt that silent thrill that I wasn’t banished to the shadows, and the parallel misery that comes with knowing that I would be working with no round breaks for the next 15 three-minute rounds under the eagle eye of the coach, being constantly evaluated, hounded, and corrected.

And it was miserably, damnably hard work. At the end of 15 rounds (heavy bag, angle bag, headache bag, rope ducks, and toe-touches on a medicine ball) with no round breaks (did I mention the “no breaks” part?), we were put into the ring for mitt work rounds. After which we were graciously allowed to rest by jumping rope for four rounds.

Thanks be to all the boxing deities that I can do this without puking.

It’s usually only the new kids who puke.

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15 Responses to I LOVE Not Being the New Person in the Gym

  1. Margaret Reyes Dempsey September 3, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    I love that there are all these writers in the ring. It certainly helps dispel the notion that all we do is sit around, type, and get ass-spread. πŸ˜‰

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 3, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

      I have to admit to some surprise on that count, Margaret. When I started this gig I thought I was the only one, then slowly, slowly we began to find each other. Still, why not more?

      How many, I dunno, tennis players out there also write? Probably lots. Runners? Bazillions. But boxing, about a dozen.

      And I guess I’m talking exclusively about women boxer/writers…

      • niamh September 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

        and a double ps cause I just saw this comment – there are quite a few. It was interesting that you’ve even fought another boxer right? even if she was from the other side of the world

        • Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

          Yeah, niamh, you’re right. It’s hard to find women to fight, much less women who fight and write! But still, a few of us are out here, huh?

  2. Els September 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    This is so recognizable! Just a couple of weeks ago I was still the ‘new one’ in my gym, and though of course I’m not nearly as good as any of the more experienced fighters, it feels so good to be able to join them on their routines.

    I never puked though πŸ˜‰

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 3, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

      No puking is good, eh?? (Some outsider will wander by this blog and think What in green hell are those people talking about, how good it is not to puke!) Heehee.

  3. Amy Scheer September 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Me jealous. Me never puke, but still jealous.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 4, 2011 at 8:48 am #

      Well, dear Amy, you can’t be jealous, because if you had been there, Coach woulda put you on the team circuit. And if you want, you can re-enact the team circuit at your gym. And if you ever meander down NC way, I’ll totally take you with me to Second Round and you’ll get to not puke with me! πŸ™‚

      • Amy Scheer September 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

        Don’t think I don’t try; I make notes from your post and incorporate them somewhere–in my own routine, in the fitness class I teach. Thanks for being such a great resource!

        I would like to visit. it’s not totally out of the question. Plus we’re going to meet in NY, right?

        • Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

          Oooo, that would be so fun. My former coach is in NY state; would love to see her again, too. So many reasons to want to go to NY! It’s hard to believe I’ve never been…

  4. Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 4, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    I fear this post will soon start to rank for the keyword “puke,” hah!

  5. Hillari Hunter September 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    I wasn’t nervous about the first fight I had until I got to the boxing show and learned I actually had one. But like stage fright, the nervousness disappeared once the bell rang.

    I nearly puked in the corner during the third fight I had. But I was determined to win (I had lost the first two fights), and I didn’t want to give my coach any reason to stop the fight.

    The anxiety over being the new person in the gym is why I’m so quick to make everybody feel comfortable when they first start training at the gym.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 7, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

      I’ll bet women in general are much more aware of this — in fact, I bet older women (i.e., not teenagers) are the best about it. It seems more like we “get” what it’s like to have to fight our way in to a gym, and we try to help make it easier on the others…

  6. niamh September 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    ha ha I love how you mention ‘the puke’ so casually, top of the list of Things I Don’t Miss about Competing! No 1 without any contest.

    (ps – I think you’ll like these pics I had up last week. Let’s just say this woman is serious about her boxing. )

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

      Hah! The voice (and guts) of experience, that’s you!

      And YES! I LOVE those pictures. What an incredible body that fighting woman has. Incredibly impressive. In fact, I had to get over to your site and catch up on lots of stuff! Keep on with the incredible work, niamh. I’m so glad you’re out there blogging about the inspiring women of sport.

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