When a colleague asked me to join him in a boxercise workout last week, I imagined I would find people punching each other, with head guards and painful knuckles. At 11 a.m, we walked towards the GPO building on Kenyatta Avenue into Oasis fitness centre.
In the boxercise class— a word coined from boxing exercises— fitness enthusiasts were not doing any actual fighting but throwing punches, skipping ropes and using aerobic steps.
Daniel Otieno, the boxercise trainer at Oasis, says that the exercise is growing popular especially among women as it is the best workout for a lean body and for mastering the tricks of self-defence.
Most people who do boxercises reduce weight very fast compared to other workouts, he says.
“Women love boxercise as it targets all body parts, especially the stomach muscles,” he says.
Boxing helps tune out body muscles targeting the upper and lower body. The wider stances improve balance and mobility. Hitting a punching a bag strengthens and tones muscles.
Punching engages all the muscles in the arms and the rotational moves as one pulls energy and strength from the lower body to deliver a strong punch, builds the stomach muscles.
Being on your toes also engages the calves, especially for those who want to tone wobbly legs and bulk up to get rid of chicken legs.
In Daniel’s session, participants start with warm-ups before the punching starts. They start with easy steps with arms held at boxing position and progresses to plunges and kicks on the stepper.
Moves such as doing plank pose on your knuckles is a very physical practice. It is also an exercise for learning self-control and discipline.
Then the participants continuously punch the bags as hard and fast as one can until the trainer blows a whistle.
They stop and start the punching again. “One hour of repetitive boxercise, using steps for leg crunches, lunges, leg kicks, stomach crunches and boxing will definitely get you to sweat and keep fit,” says Daniel.
Trainers also use punching pads which he wears on his hands and lets each member in the class punch them as hard as they can.
For boxercise fans, this is not only a fitness regime, it is also therapeutic.
Esther Bosire has been an ardent boxer for two years now. Despite being 65- years-old, she makes the exercise look so easy. Toned and fit, she punches with ease.
“This has been one of the best exercises in terms of building stomach muscles and keeping fit, I wish more people could do this,” she says.
Daniel, who was a professional boxer and also won a bronze medal at the 1996 Commonwealth Games. says that although boxercise is fairly new in Kenya, it is fast overtaking aerobics and Zumba which had become a favourite of many.
“Most people compare it with boxing and construe that it’s for body builders who want to gain upper body muscle which is not true,” the trainer says.
American celebrity Khloe Kardashian in her attempts to lose weight chose boxercises which she proudly talks of as the solution to staying lean.
She has since gained a huge following from women who are determined to lose weight in her fitness programme dubbed “revenge body.”
If you’re bored with lifting weights, grab some boxing gloves instead. For beginners, getting the right equipment is necessary.
Buy gloves, mitts and bandages for the hands in addition to comfortable gym clothes and shoes.