Second Round Warehouse

Trying Out a New Gym

Walking into a new boxing gym for the first time is excruciatingly difficult for me.

In this particular case, there had been a number of obstacles to overcome even before I walked in the door. I’d heard about them, but couldn’t find an up-to-date website. Rumor had it they had recently relocated, and I knew they were downtown, but I’d driven up and down the area where I’d heard they were to no avail. Finally I learned about a larger organization with which they were connected, and boom, found a website. With a phone number.

After being re-routed to a different number, I finally connected with a human who was connected to the gym.

Nice guy, very polite and helpful. He gave me the address of the gym and I googled it only to see what I remembered as an abandoned building downtown, located in an low spot beside a parking deck. In Street View (photo above) it still looked abandoned.

Later that day I pulled into the lot and parked behind the sole other car there. A small “Open” sign hung crookedly in the front window, but otherwise there was no indication I was in the right place. I was dressed for training, but decided not to haul in my gym bag; I wasn’t ready to commit myself just yet.

Inside, the place seemed freshly sheetrocked, and a couple of silvery, unconnected HVAC pipes hung from the exposed ceiling struts. Several desks stacked with papers and a handful of metal filing cabinets populated the vast expanse of concrete flooring, and I could see a worn but serviceable pool table just beyond the reception area.

“You’re Lisa!” said the young man who had been riffling through a file cabinet when I arrived. He smiled and strode over to shake my hand.

Second Round, which is affiliated with a non-profit called Haven House, serves youthful offenders and gang-involved and at-risk youth between 11-21 years old. I was deeply aware of how incongruous I would be there, but I’d twice sparred boxers from their gym, met one of the coaches, and was feeling more and more like I needed to check them out.

I got the walk-through, signed the waiver, and worked one-on-one for about an hour in a light, checking-your-basics kind of overview with one of the coaches. I strained to hear his soft voice with its heavy island accent in the echoing gym, which with empty except for two teenagers watching surreptitiously from the nearby weight pit. A brilliant yellow canary trilled and fluttered in a tiny cage near the heavily reinforced doors.

A coach I recognized strode past, a handful of teenagers trailing behind. “Hey, Lisa!” he called, grinning broadly, and I was thrilled that he remembered me from when I’d sparred some of his fighters.

“Hey, Coach Massey!” I returned, waving.

When the first coach was finished with me, we stopped, he packed up the canary into his van, and headed out. I sat in the parking lot for a while, trying to figure out what to do next. Finally I went back in and perched awkwardly on a desk in the gym, hoping to watch and learn. People were starting to drift in, wrap, and begin their own routines.

Suddenly a familiar face entered my field of vision and I was instantly high-fived, hugged, and effusively welcomed by Reggie, one of the peer coaches I’d sparred the week before.

“You came!” he cried. “You came to work with us! I told you you should come.” He punched me lightly on the shoulder and I found myself smiling back. Reggie’s charm is hard to resist.

He stopped grinning and raised his eyebrows, suddenly serious. “You got a hell of a right on you. You got some power is what I’m saying. That was some good work.”

I flushed. He turned and pointed out a young woman just coming into the gym. “There’s your girl,” he said. “Didn’t you spar her one time?”

I had. She’d been fierce and incredibly tough; I had been on my own turf and because of that advantage, plus my height, I probably should have pulled my shots more than I had, but she never lost heart and she gave me hard game without stopping. We’d had three solid rounds.

“So what you gonna do tonight?” Reggie asked.

“I dunno. Watch? I’d like to train, but I’m not sure how to get going…” I trailed off lamely.

People had been incredibly welcoming to me, but there’s still that awkwardness that can only be addressed by gearing up, training hard, and showing that you have something to bring to the ring.

Reggie was off like a shot, had a word with Coach Massey, and suddenly I was in the flow, working in unison with the other boxers, moving from drill to drill, the sweat dripping off me to leave dark splotches on the concrete floor.

I put my lead foot inside a tire with another boxer and we worked the inside game, circling and punching. I did a series of burnouts on the heavy bags, dropping to the concrete to slog through 50 push ups when I didn’t top 100 punches in the first 30-second burnout period. (I broke a hundred every time after that.) The coach lined up weight benches end to end and we did two-footed hops side to side over the benches all the way down the line (miserable). There were medicine ball drills that made my forearms scream for an end to it all.

If you had asked me before I went to Second Round to train whether I was in shape, I would not have hesitated to tell you yes. Hell, yes.

I’ve changed my position on that.

Other than the periodic shouts of encouragement from the coach, and a few congenial shoulder bumps from Reggie, no one spoke too much; we were all working too hard. It was a wonderful place to be.

Later that week Coach Massey spoke to me about accepting a boxing match in Memphis in a few weeks.

I was still feeling the shock of transitioning into a new gym. “I don’t know, Coach,” I told him. “I just got here. I don’t even know if I’m ready.” I paused, watching the young men around me gear down.

“You train with me for three weeks and you will be,” he replied, grinning and flashing his gold tooth. I nodded wryly and rubbed my aching triceps. Those burnouts had kicked my ass. “Besides,” he added, “I’ve seen you in the ring. And you’ve had two fights in the past six months. You’re ready.”

In the end I asked him to let me try and settle in with the team for a couple of weeks, then I would decide.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling the pain of transition dissolve slowly into the pain of getting in top-notch shape.

Lots of ice packs are involved.

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12 Responses to Trying Out a New Gym

  1. workingtechmom May 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    Margaret sent me and I’m so glad she did. I recently posted about my kick-ass boken (sword) and she said I’d love your post.

    You go girl. You really need to accept that boxing match in Memphis. You are ready, you just need to listen to your inner self! Take along the ice packs.

    And I’ll tell you what I tell my kids. Nobody else cares how you do and you will know you did your best. So what is there to lose?

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 18, 2011 at 8:33 am #

      Ok, so YES I need to hear about your broken sword, workingtechmom. My boys all have bokken, or used to, back when I was trying to get them interested in martial arts:

      I had a great time visiting your blog — I’m thrilled that Margaret connected us and I plan to tell her so myself. Well, virtually tell her. You know.

      I hope you get to feeling better SOON. But go slow, let your injury heal. Otherwise you have to wait even longer to get back in the ring. Or on the mat, I guess!

      • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

        I said broken, meant bokken. Boken. Whatevs!! SWORD. (wooot for swords!)

  2. Laura May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Hooray for a new gym! And another fight?!! That’s exciting! Keep us posted….if you can lift your arms to type 😛

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

      HAH! Funny chica. I wish you would visit me, Laura girl. We could go together to Second Round and you could say (with that drop-dead beautiful accent of yours) “Day-um, girl. These people rock!” I miss you!!!

      • Laura May 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

        Ha! I was actually thinking (as I read this post yesterday), “How long is that commute? She could come to DBC!” hahaha Ehh ehhh *elbow nudge* ehh?

  3. Margaret Reyes Dempsey May 23, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    Hey, Lisa. Sounds like you had a great day at the new gym. I, too, think you should accept the match. Glad you and Techy have checked out each other’s blogs.

  4. Keith May 24, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Good story! It seems like the new gym has some good people.

    I’ve been wanting to join a gym for the past couple of weeks, but can’t push myself to go for it. I have no experience and it’s pretty intimidating. Hopefully I can force myself to go for it soon.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

      It’s incredibly hard, but so worth it, Keith. The “no experience” piece is the most painful, perhaps, but the trick seems to be to allow yourself to be a beginner. I know one woman who keeps telling me that even those of us who have a few years of experience have to give ourselves “Permission to Suck at Boxing”! Because we all do, sometimes.

      I went back to this gym last night and I can’t TELL you how grateful I was to see another new person there. The two of us formed a kind of secret society — I covered for her and she cheered for me. It made a huge difference in my misery and discomfort factor.

      And it only gets better.

      I hope you’ll do it. You certainly deserve the chance to check it out. Also, take a look at the video I just posted. Maybe it will give you a little inspiration:

      And let me know how it goes, or if the crew here can answer any questions for you!

  5. niamh May 30, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Another fight maybe? Great, so fast! This place sounds like a real workout too, I’m aching in sympathy, especially the bit where you bunny-hopped. Torture

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 30, 2011 at 9:14 am #

      Yeah, but I’m thinking I’ll pass on this one — I just don’t feel fight-ready. New gym, new trainer, not enough ring time.

      However, that may also be because the women’s nationals are in July, if I can figure out a way to get to Florida for 3 days… That’s one of the hardest parts of fighting for me: arranging and paying for a big out-of-town trip.

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