A lot of people would never consider giving boxing a try. For fear of many reasons. If you are scared to try a boxing class, go read this fun post that really strikes out all your excuses.
I’m writing this article to encourage people to give boxing a chance – to experience the wonderful benefits that boxing (martial arts) does for the mind, body and spirit.
Before I share some tips for those wanting to give boxing a try for the first time, I also wrote a post with 8 Tips for Finding a Great Gym (things to think about when you check a gym out) and I have an Empowered Female Athlete series which gives wonderful insight and encouragement into some other atypical sports (right now it’s mostly jiu-jitsu).
Boxing Tips for Beginners!
Tip #1 Check it Out!
Call up a gym (or a few) and ask if you can come check the place out and get a feel for the environment, the trainers and maybe even chat with a few members and ask questions. Most gyms offer a free trial class (or week or month) and have wraps/gloves on hand for those who want to give it a try.
Take notice of what people are wearing (this will give you ideas on what to wear for class), where the bathroom is, locker/cubbies are etc. It will also help you realize there are people of all fitness and skill levels there.
Tip #2 Show Up
Trying something new and vastly different than what you are used to is scary! In fact, it can be paralyzing and terrifying. All you have to do is get there. Get to the gym and walk through the front doors.
Everyone starts. Everyone has their first day, first week, first month. Everyone is a total beginner at some point. So everyone there has been in your shoes before.
When we do something new for the first time, the courage it takes is real. And the internal power you feel when you get through it is huge!
Tip #3 Communicate
When you show up, chances are the trainers will be different people than the ones you talked with when you signed up. Just be real. “Hi, I’m new. This is my first class. What do I do? Who do I talk to?”
Great gyms will have wonderful veteran members who are helpful and provide guidance (and likely even buddy up with you) along with trainers who are very open and excited to see new faces. But some classes are big, there can be a lot of faces moving around between classes and if you are hiding in a corner it can be hard for the trainers to see you. So speak up. Wait by the desk (if there is one), look for the people who know what they are doing. Most trainers will be wearing shirts with the gym name on them and/or be wearing a headset or looking official.
Tip #4 Clothing
Most boxing (and other martial arts classes) do cross training exercises. This means you will likely be up and down and on/off the floor and doing all sorts of exercises. Most boxing gyms can also get hot very quickly.
I recommend wearing layers that you can peel off during your first few classes until you get a sense of how your body responds to the workouts. Wear clothes that are appropriate. Most guys wear regular workout shorts and a tee shirt/tank top.
Ladies tend to be more self-conscious and aware of what is and isn’t showing. Wear a good sports bra, a loose tee or good tank top (that you won’t have to keep readjusting – you will have boxing gloves on remember). A lot of women wear capris workout pants. I personally prefer spandex shorts under regular shorts, and a loose tank top (that doesn’t ride up). I am also rather athletic and push really hard and I sweat like a beast. So if you are a little less in shape and likely moving slower – capris are probably fine.
I often start warmups with a zip up workout jacket over my tank top, then I can peel it off once I’m warm.
Most people wear cross training shoes. If you fall in love with boxing and want to take it more seriously and do additional real boxing training, then you can pick out boxing shoes – at a much farther point down the road. Some people like to go barefoot. I do both regular shoes (my running shoes work fine – have good tread) and barefoot. I go barefoot for kickboxing simply because I use to dance and did so in taekwondo as well. It feels more natural to me.
If you think you might have weak ankles/knees and are just starting to get in shape – wear your shoes (unless that gym says not to due to special mats). Good shoes help with your form, footing and stability, especially with conditioning exercises.
Tip #5 Use beginner gloves
Every gym has a selection of wraps and gloves available to buy. Until you have done several classes, you only need one pair of wraps and a basic pair of gloves. My first pair of gloves lasted two years. I spent the first two years with just two sets of wraps. If the trainers try to sell you their most expensive pair on your first day run. Seriously. Trainers should be focused on helping new participants get acclimated to the class, gym and answering questions – not selling you fancy equipment. Before you invest in the gym, the trainers and the equipment you need to make sure you will want to stick with the classes, the trainers and the gym. And this takes a little time to decipher. Basic gloves will do you just fine!
Most glove brands have shifted into gel gloves and even more fancier materials. You can get gel gloves relatively cheap – again, go with the basic ones until you know you will be boxing for a long time.
Tip #6 Create Mini Rewards
Most people, not all but most, enjoy and highly benefit from little incentives to keep them focused, motivated and showing up consistently. If you are someone who tends to quit and give up quickly, create mini rewards for yourself.
Here are a few examples:
Beginners: For every 50 (or pick a number) of classes I attend I can buy a new pair of wraps. (Some wraps are pretty cool looking)
If you are someone who shows up regularly and is eyeing something fancy – aim for it. If I show up 3x week for 3 months, I get to buy __________.
A lot of gyms offer one on one training – but it can be expensive and add up quickly. Use some personal training sessions as incentive to help you build consistency and develop a base level of skills and ability.
Tip #7 Don’t Over Do It
A funny factor about boxing/kickboxing – you won’t feel the real soreness until 2 days later. When you are just getting started aim for 1-2 classes a week and keep a few non boxing days in between. You will be sore (it’s a good sore!). Your arms, shoulders and abs will feel it! You will use muscles you didn’t realize you had! It takes time for the body to adjust to new activity and use, so allow enough time for your body to recover.
Recall that I mentioned I enjoy classes that are longer than an hour… it takes a long time to build up your stamina, endurance and fitness levels to a level that exceeds basic class lengths and exercises.
If for some odd reason your first few classes seem to be filled with all experienced veterans – don’t let it scare you or fool you. They’ve likely been doing it for years and their bodies have built up a high endurance and tolerance threshold.
It is okay to be a beginner! It is okay to go easy! It is okay to take breaks, catch your breath and even just observe and mentally take in the skills the class is working on.
Tip # 8 Use the Rest Breaks for Rest!
In many martial arts classes, whether just for fitness fun or serious training, classes are usually taught in rounds or segments with short breaks in between. In these breaks are usually cross training exercises meant to build up your strength, balance, coordination and endurance. They are meant to keep your heart rate up.
But when you are just beginning, (unless you already at a fairly decent level of fitness) your body needs to those breaks to cool down and recover just a bit. Use the rest breaks to get a drink, wipe off the sweat, observe, ask the instructor questions. If you are up to it – do keep moving – but allow yourself to move a little more slowly than the veterans are probably moving at.
Again, you are in a total newbie stage – so instead of hopping right into those extra exercises – walk through them slowly. This teaches your body how you want it to be able to move and perform in coming weeks/months as your overall fitness improves.
Tip #9 Bring These….
Bring a bottle of water for during class – especially if it is warm outside. There is likely a drinking fountain you can use, but it is slow. A water bottle is quick and easy and you can ensure it tastes good.
Bring a sweat towel! If you have to go to work after class bring a towel to sit on in the car too.
Have an extra bottle of water (or Gatorade) to drink in the car after class.
If you do boxing class right – you will sweat like crazy and it’s much easier to choose water to rehydrate if you already have it ready.
Change of clothes. Most people show up to class in their workout gear. You will likely sweat from head to toe. Can’t tell you how many classes (maybe all of them) where everyone is soaked through with sweat dripping off them by end of class. I always keep an extra pair of shorts, underwear, top and socks in my gym bag.
I can’t speak for the guys, but I also always have in my bag regular things – face cleansing wipes (I have a long drive home), deodorant, body spray, brush and extra hair ties.
Something small or safe place in your vehicle or bag to put your jewelry (wedding ring), phone and car keys in. You can’t wear rings even with wraps and gloves on – it hurts your hand and is bad for the ring and bags. Remove dangly earrings, your hairy will get messy and you don’t want to keep removing your gloves to untangle flyaway hair.
Tip # 10 How to Wrap and Little Things
Another thing most people are not aware of is the wear and tear on your hands. Even if there is no sparring in your particular class/gym. The repetitive sweating inside your wraps/gloves and hitting on the bags makes your hands and especially your knuckles very dry, and even red for a day or two.
There are also many ways to wrap your hands properly! Every person is a little different and usually in your first few weeks of classes it is good to have trainers wrap your hands. Pay attention to how they wrap them as well to pick up the variations.
If your knuckles rip open, blister or really hurt be sure to talk to the trainers about it and have them show you different ways to wrap your hands. This seems to happen more for ladies than guys, perhaps because we have smaller more delicate hands I’m not sure. There are some wrapping styles that will pad your knuckles up with more protection. Your gloves might also be the wrong size.
Vaseline is a handy tool for helping to prevent rough knuckles and to help heal them. Just rub a dab on before wrapping.
Also – if you have any cuts or sores on your hands, use actual gauze and athletic tape to wrap instead of Band-Aids. Waterproof Band-Aids will come right off due to sweat. It is a good idea to wash your hands right after class too – to prevent infection and well…to wash that yucky sweaty stuff off.
Tip #11 Care of Gloves/Wraps
Once you’ve been boxing for some time it is important to take care of your gloves and wraps.
There are many ways to clean to both, what matters is that you actually tend to this task once in a while.
Two things for helping your gloves last longer. First is wipe down the outside (okay scrub hard if need be – they do get dirty) and then dry them off. I use an antibacterial wipe – its quick and easy. You don’t need to wash off your gloves often, just when you suddenly realize how dirty they’ve gotten. If you over wash them, it weakens the outside of the glove faster. (so they say)
Second is to air them gloves out! Most people toss them the in their bag with the soaked wraps and stinky clothes and zip it up and forget about it until it’s time for class again. I recommend at least leaving your gym bag unzipped on the way home so moisture can evaporate. If they get really stinky you can give them a quick dose of febreeze or Lysol spray and let them really air out. You could also try a scented dryer sheet!
Taking care of wraps is more important as it is the direct contact with your skin (that rubs and create friction). Especially if your knuckles are sore or you have other wounds. Clean wraps help prevent infection.
I know people who only wash their wraps once in a blue moon and I know people who wash them after one use. I tend to stick to 2-3 uses before washing them. Everyone is different.
You can use a little mesh bag and toss your wraps in the bag in your washer or hand wash in the sink. Most people I know air dry their wraps – myself included. Personally I think it airs them out better and helps them last longer.
Tip #12 Keep Your Trainers Informed!
A great gym will actually have someone follow up with you after your first class or two – to see how you liked it, how you feel physically and to encourage you to come back and answer questions.
Even if it is only your first or second class – let your trainers know about any health conditions, nagging injuries/pain and how you are doing.
It is the trainers job to provide a safe training session for you but this requires participants to inform trainers about how they are doing. There are always modifications that can be done for every skill done in class. The trainer should be showing these modifications anyways but if most people in the class have been there a long time it is easy to forget including them.
When you are new (to any sport/fitness program) it all will likely seem difficult and challenging. The more you communicate with the instructors the easier and quicker it is for them to get to know you, your fitness level/experience, your unique health challenges and provide a better and more fun experience for you!
Tip #13 Give it Time
Boxing (any martial really) is a very different type of fitness than most people are ever exposed to. It is a unique set of skills and movements and uses parts of the body that most sports and programs simply don’t encounter. Trying new things can be overwhelming and frustrating.
So give it time. Keep coming back to the class and give yourself a chance to learn something new and different. All forms of martial arts are really cool for the sheer fact that there is always something new and different that can be learned! A person can study martial arts for 50 years and still come across something new they’ve never tried or learned how to do.
Years later I’m still learning new methods, technique and I always see one trainer demonstrating something different to the others.
Real learning and growth and improving your physical fitness takes time. The vast depth of skills that can be learned in any martial arts program keeps training fun and intriguing.
Tip #14 Bring a friend and Make friends
When I first started boxing I didn’t know a single person. Not one. As a fit mom I can’t tell you how excited I was when I met another Mom who had started around the same time I had and liked boxing as much as I did! If you can sucker a friend into coming with for your first class – do it! They might fall in love with it too! If you are the only person you know who thinks boxing might be remotely fun – just sign up and go for it. You will meet a lot of new people and make new friendships with people who will inspire you…which leads me to my last tip.
Tip #15 Inspiration
If you are still scared of trying boxing – I dare you to try just one class! It is so empowering, mentally, spiritually and physically.
You never know who you are inspiring when you show up in life. Where I train we have people from every walk of life, dealing with all sorts of challenges beyond just physical. Every time I see a familiar face it is heartwarming, I know they are dealing with things in life yet they continue to show up, valuing their health and well-being. We are all inspiring each other. We all face rough days where just showing up is the challenge. We all experience classes where we are just not up to par and have to take it easy or even stop before class is done. We all achieve break through moments of progress and learning. We are all encouraging ourselves, people we know and care about and total strangers.
You never know who you might inspire when you show up!
I hope these tips encourage you to get brave and try a new type of sport/fitness class. Obviously, I love martial arts and I firmly believe in the core principles underlying all forms of martial art (honor, respect, character etc). Have more questions or great tips to add? Leave them in the comments. Know someone else who is curious about trying a boxing/kickboxing class? Share this article with them!
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