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Female fight club: why women are mad about boxing

Thanks to a new wave of upmarket clubs, the alpha woman’s latest workout of choice is boxing

Forget the yoga mat and downward dog — the latest morning workout for alpha women is more likely to involve an uppercut, a jab or a left hook. Women are swapping breathing workshops and vinyasa flow yoga for boxing classes and punchbags in a bid for a better body and calmer mind.

Swanky boxing gyms are opening all over London, but leading the way is Kobox, which is becoming to boxing in the UK what SoulCycle is to spinning in the US. With the strapline “Fight club meets nightclub”, Kobox was opened last year by the fitness trainer and former strength and conditioning boxing coach Shane Collins on the Kings Road in Chelsea. Over the past ten months Collins has seen the number of women coming through its doors rise and rise, and he counts Jourdan Dunn, the supermodel, and Cheryl Cole as fans.

Collins is on a mission to bring boxing training to the masses and take any perceived scariness out of the sport. “We are trying to bring a really authentic boxing experience to people in the most friendly way we can,” he says.

Experts say that boxing will give you the body of your life. When I did it I’d never been in better shape

Instead of the traditional grimy boxing club, at Kobox you’ll find grey walls, polished concrete floors, chicly logoed boxing gloves and luxurious changing rooms. You can choose from up to 12 classes a day, seven days a week, set in a sleek studio with shiny black punch bags, an Ibiza-style sound system and special blue downlighting (you train in the dark so no one sees you sweating and grunting).

The gym also offers a one-on-one session in a boxing ring; I did a few rounds with Collins last week. We shadow-boxed and he honed my technique — correct punches, ducking, fighter footing and advice on protecting my face. I felt every inch the boxer under the spotlights, with wrapped hands and boxing gloves. The fact that the next day my body felt as if I’d been in the ring with Mike Tyson (I could barely lift my arms) was proof of how this sport targets your whole body.

Experts say that boxing training will give you the body of your life — I once did six weeks of it and I don’t think I have been in better shape (or felt better, for that matter). It’s no surprise that the Victoria’s Secret models keep in shape by boxing. “When you’re boxing you use every single muscle from the toe right up through the body, and out through your arms to your fingers,” says Collins.

It’s especially good for toning the stomach area because of the twisting and throwing punches that come from the hips. “It’s way more efficient than doing 20 minutes of crunches,” he says. It’s also a lot more fun.

“When you’re boxing you use every single muscle from the toe right up through the body, and out through your arms to your fingers.”Amit Lennon for The Times

Michelle Boon, who runs a PR company and is a Kobox fanatic, says that it has totally changed her body shape. “I was so bored in the traditional gym. Kobox is cardio without feeling like cardio, and it has strengthened my whole body,” she says.

Kobox has proven so popular that Collins is going to open a second site in early 2017 in the City of London, where he feels there will be big demand — throwing punches after a long, hard day in the office has got to be the ultimate stressbuster. I have never experienced an endorphin rush quite like the one I had after a class.

Elaine Slater, a psychologist explains: “When we experience excessive stress, the fight, flight or freeze response is triggered. This is hardwired into our brains and when stimulated initiates a release of chemicals into the bloodstream such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, which can go unspent and become stored in the body. Any task or challenge that successfully tests the boundaries of our comfort zone can result in a boost in confidence.”

With boxing training cemented as one of the most effective workouts, it’s no wonder a host of other smart boxing brands are starting up. The fitness boutique Another Space has recently opened in Covent Garden, London, and provides a boxing HIIT (high-intensity interval training) class set to an explosive soundtrack in chic studios.

In Marylebone, a 12,000 sq ft gym called BXR is due to open in January 2017. With the professional boxer and Olympian Anthony Joshua as an investor and ambassador, a professional-size boxing ring and numerous classes, the facility offers the highest level of professional boxing training there is. Olia Sardarova, one of the co-founders, says that their focus is on creating an authentic experience. “Most of our trainers will be professional fighters, giving members the opportunity to train with an athlete.”

With a gym full of state-of-the-art equipment, a collaboration with the renowned Danish juice bar Joe & the Juice, and an in-house osteopath and physio clinic powered by Harley Street’s CHHP (Centre for Health and Human Performance), Sardarova says: “It will give our members a chance to train like a champion and recover like one too.”

Any task or challenge that successfully tests the boundaries of our comfort zone, such as boxing, can result in a boost in confidence, say psychologistsAmit Lennon for The Times

If glossy boxing isn’t for you and you would rather experience the real deal in a spit’n’sawdust-style gym, these are increasing in popularity too. Pete Liggins is the owner of Box Clever Sports, based in a disused car park in west London. The classes are filled with super-stylish Notting Hill mums and Net-a-Porter staff; even David Beckham has been spotted throwing punches. With its no-frills, unplastered concrete walls and battered equipment, half of the thrill of training there is its edgy feel.

There is also the Power of Boxing, based in authentic boxing clubs in Battersea and Vauxhall in south London, where professional boxing coachesput you through your paces inRocky-style HIIT sessions. The co-founder and boxer Bear Maclean runs 18 classes a week for men and women of all ages and abilities, with investment bankers, former SAS soldiers and mums working out side by side.

So if you’re bored by the treadmill or not finding enough Zen in your downward dog, it may be time to take up boxing. As Collins says: “You don’t have to be a fighter to come, but you need to have a bit of fight in you.”

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