Hitting like a girl in this gym has a different meaning.
Most mornings when I show up to the gym at 7:15 for a class it’s me and five to seven women. Some middle age, some in college, but only rarely is there another guy in this boxing class. I never would have predicted this before I signed up. In fact, I was more worried about walking into a room full of bros when I started. As it stands, I pretty much represent all men in that gym, bros and literary nerds alike.
I see a guy come in a few times to try it out, then never again. I’m the one who’s committed to it.
I’ve been going to boxing classes for about six months now, and I love them. Boxing is a great workout and good fun. After my first class I had to use the banister to get down my stairs not out of habit, but because I really couldn’t get down them otherwise. And I wasn’t out of shape or anything when I started, I’ve always been a three-days-a-week gym guy.
Boxing, though, is another level.
But, traditionally, it is a male sport. It’s only recently, maybe the last twenty years, that women’s boxing has developed into a sport with a following. And then, even more recently, the fitness aspect of boxing has taken off all over the place, for men and women. It was actually my sister-in-law who gave me the idea to try out boxing—she started boxing classes before I did. So I definitely expected a mixed gender population at the gym.
Not a nearly unisex population.
And not in the female direction.
I’m not really curious as to why so many women like boxing classes—that’s obvious. It’s great, full-body exercise. It’s a novel kind of workout. And it’s fun. But, those are reasons anyone should like boxing. They’re certainly the reasons I do. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend their workout hitting a bag as hard as they can, imagining it’s the thing that most annoys them in the world? And, you know, also burn more calories than you do in an hour at the YMCA.
I’m more curious as to why there are no men gravitating to this workout in suburban PA.
I think it’s a self-sustaining issue. And only at my gym, because I’ve never heard of this at another boxing gym.
The first thing I see is that at my gym they play some pretty generic dance music. Lots of remixes, and sterile stuff—not like amazing DJ work. This is actually the only thing I don’t really like as there is no context in which I’m interested in anything having to do with da club, but I can pretty much block out the music when I’m working a heavy bag.
I can see, though, how most guys who want to put on gloves would prefer a metal or punk soundtrack.
Then there’s the fact that the gym is extremely clean and new. It’s not much like the gyms you see in Rocky or The Fighter. It’s a suburban gym, for suburban people, but I wonder if guys are looking for a little reprieve from that suburbia they live in when they go boxing. My gym is not that, but I love it since I have totally embraced my suburban existence.
More than all that, though, I think the fact that there are already so many women keeps the men away. And it’s not simply the female presence, it’s that, if you’re a novice, when you start you’re the worst boxer in that gym. And what guy wants to be a worse fighter than the women next to him?
Of course, we don’t fight. That’s an important suburbanization of this gym: no sparring. Heavy bags, mitts, shadow boxing, but no sparring. We all have to go to work after we’re done, and no one wants to go with a black eye.
If it’s your first day there, you’re exhausted after a fifteen-minute warm-up, and then all these women put on their gloves, many of them pink, and proceed to beat the shit out of a bag in a way that you can’t.
If you’re a guy, well, that kind of sucks. Intellectually, you might know that it matters not at all, but there’s an Id in all of us, and it does not want to get shown up by a woman when it comes to boxing.
So, all of that together creates an environment that isn’t really conducive to many of the men who’d be interested in boxing in the first place.
And I get that. But also, I don’t. All of these things not traditionally masculine were obvious to me after a few classes, but they were nothing that would keep from coming back to do something I otherwise enjoyed. And, really, none of us are in training. No one’s making weight for a fight. We’re working out.
Maybe I’m a little different because until five months ago when my son was born, I lived in a house full of women. Even our cats are girls. And let’s be honest, my daughter runs the place.
Maybe I’ve just never been anywhere near cool, or a bro.
Maybe I grew up with a mom who’s a ‘60s women’s lib. throwback, and married a woman at least as smart and successful as I am (probably more).
I couldn’t pin it on one thing, but I just don’t care about being the only man in the group throwing combos and doing slip drills.
So, whatever, I box with girls. I have a good time, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since I played hockey in college. And maybe if more guys got over themselves and came out we’d have fewer guts spilling over belts in suburban Philly.