With my 30th birthday looming around the corner, I decided it was now or never to jump in the ring and actually test my fighting skills. Despite years of instructing kickboxing at various fitness classes and boot camps, I was curious to see how I’d fare against an opponent instead of taking it out on focus mitts or a punching bag.
Having been in the ring a few times now and having just defending my Alberta Golden Gloves title with a TKO this February, I’m sharing my top five differences between boxing for fitness and fighting, just in case you’ve ever been curious what it’s like to get in the ring!
- Footwork – Movement in a fitness class is a great way to increase the heart rate, but in a competition it can quite literally save your butt. Lateral footwork and smart rolling can not only help you steer clear of your opponent’s hits, but it’s also essential to good boxing technique. Most fitness classes focus on movement secondary to hitting (because hitting things is fun, whereas movement is tough!), but shadow boxing and visualizing your opponent is key to creating good footwork habits.
- Handling Stress on the Body – Getting sore from workouts is something that every athlete knows well. Aches and pains can be normal, but training hard for competition can lead to repetitive use injuries. Knowing when to stop (or, when keep training) is important to keep your body at 100%.
- Strong Mindset & Game – No one will ever deny that getting hit sucks! In fact, the whole idea about combative sports is to try and NOT get hit. Sure, when you’re boxing in a fitness setting it might accidentally happen in training, but it would never be with malicious intent (at least I hope not anyway!). Getting in the ring with someone that really WANTS to hit or kick you takes some real guts. Handing the mental stress (fears, anxiety and doubt) can be the make-or-break factors in success or failure.
- Targeted Exercises & Conditioning – In fitness, we want to have a well-rounded workout that targets our whole body. However, when getting ready for competitions, you want to have sport-specific training that will improve particular movements, like a faster, more impactful jab.
- The Right Team – This is something that I think is essential whether you are training for fitness or for competition. At the end of the day, you want to work with a great instructor (or coach) who can motivate you, correct your form, and who cares about your goals. Having a reliable workout partner (or sparring teams) can force you out on those days when you just don’t want to get to the gym. The right care team (i.e. physiotherapists and massage therapists) can all be factors in keeping you at your best! Although it may be a different group of people for competitive vs. fitness, being surrounded by the right people is crucial for success, in any element in life.
Even though the idea of putting your dukes up against another person may sound incredibly intimidating, as with many obstacles we face in life, it can be surprising to see how strong we are (and more importantly) how much stronger we can come out on the other side of the experience.
Jessica Sparrow is the owner of Foxy Kickboxing, western Canada’s premiere women’s-only kickboxing program with over 75 locations across BC, AB and SK. No stranger to the camera, Jessica has been featured as an expert personal trainer on TV and has also appeared in fitness DVD workouts. As an amateur boxing, Jessica won the Senior Novice 57kg Alberta Provincial title in 2015 and will compete in the Ringside World Championships this summer.