Popular in New Orleans since the late 19th century, boxing is gaining traction as an exciting, efficient fitness routine. The trend proves you don't have to be a world-class fighter (or a fighter at all) for this exercise to kick your butt.
"There is not a better-conditioned athlete in the world than a boxer," says Daniel Massicot, owner and trainer at the New Orleans Boxing Club.
Boxing strengthens the muscles of the calves, arms, shoulders and back, and can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour. The secret to this full-body workout is the high-intensity, low-interval training. Most sessions involve punching bags and mitts, jumping rope and strength training for three- to four-minute intervals in a circuit.
Axel Murillo, who teaches an adult class at Kenner Boxing Club on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, says boxing is such a great workout that athletes from other sports often train with him to increase their speed and endurance.
Massicot says many of his patrons cancel their other gym memberships once they realize they can lift weights, do cardio and box at the club. The gym, which also trains competitive boxers, mostly does one-on-one training but also offers classes geared toward people who want to learn the basics and get a good workout.
"Boxing becomes a lifestyle and an addiction," Massicot says. "Once you start, you have to learn more."
Robert Abba teaches the boxing class at the New Orleans Athletic Club. He says boxing keeps people focused and moving. Some new boxers are apprehensive about the prospect of hitting things, but Abba says, "Boxing is more about the body movement and the activity rather than the punching itself."
Sparring, or fighting with another boxer-in-training, is optional. "You can learn how to do everything that a boxer knows how to do without getting a glove laid on you once," Murillo says.
In addition to the physical fitness, the real benefit to boxing is mental. "It's an endorphin rush and an adrenaline high," Murillo says. "If you love the training and the boxing, it is a feeling and not just exercise."
Abba says lots of women feel more confident once they learn the proper technique behind throwing a punch. "Knowing how to fight and defend oneself can boost self-esteem and self-awareness," Abba says.
Personal coaches, many of whom also train professional and amateur competition boxers, are available through several boxing clubs. Other facilities have classes, like TITLE Boxing Club in Metairie, which offers monthly and annual membership, and the New Orleans Athletic Club, which has "boxercise" classes.
"Some people can be intimidated by it," Abba says. "But when they get in there and try it out, they find that it's a lot of fun and it's a great workout."