Question: Can you change your body shape in just over three weeks by learning one form of exercise and enduring hardly any dietary deprivation?
How? Boxing, that is how.
Maybe it is just me, maybe I’m particularly suited to skipping around a sweaty, square ring aiming punches at pads, or maybe this is truly a tiny miracle in a sea of ever-more complicated and confusing exercise choices. Or perhaps you just work harder when you’re enjoying what you do? Whatever it is, my arms are more defined, my core is firmer and my legs are visibly stronger. It's a quick turnaround for a woman of 47 who won't entirely give up booze or caffeine and has to squeeze fitness round a hectic work and family schedule.
I can only conclude that boxing, in my limited experience of it, encourages one to focus: a skill applicable across everything in life. And focus gets results. Simples, as they say in <that> advert.
I embarked on this eight-week fitness adventure for the following reasons: to get in shape for 2016, cure my sudden insomnia, reduce my increasingly frayed temper and eliminate unnecessary daily stress. I am pleased to report that all of these problems are being effectively tackled by boxing.
And, despite my initial reticence, the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) element of my training with former British champion boxer Cathy Brown has proven useful and practical.
Cathy (whose own background would make an inspiring book, but more of that in a later post) is trained in CBT to look at the specific situations that cause stress in detail, encouraging me to think them through in training and seek the simplest solution (it’s amazing how quickly answers come to you when you’re faced with a former boxing champ).
For example, when I get home from work I am instantly bombarded with questions and needs. Often, I still have my coat on an hour after getting home, leading to a frayed temper and raised voices. The solution? Asking my family to give me 10 minutes alone when I get in. It seems so simple, but I’d become trapped in a negative pattern which was causing everyone stress. Bigger issues can be tackled too – and sometimes they come out when I am sparring with Cathy in the ring. We chat as we train. It's a two-for-one approach worth investing in. And that is the crux of the matter here: commitment. If you want your life to change, your plans to work, if you want success in whatever you do, just commit to it. I have a no-nonsense approach to exercise: you get out what you put in.
The schedule for this adventure is high maintenance, and I acknowledge I am in the fortunate position of being able to make it work because I am the boss, but it’s not a gruelling project involving a martyr-like approach. I box three times a week, twice a week I do half an hour’s worth of weights plus a tedious but effective HIIT session, and occasionally I swim. But the results are worth it. I am certainly stronger and fitter. I can do more press-ups, I can run for longer, the weights I am lifting are heavier. My body and my mind feel better. Time is what you give to get what you need.
The other changes I have made are as follows:
1. Not no coffee, as prescribed, but one coffee a day. I am over the initial caffeine withdrawal now, but if you are going to do this, brace yourself for headaches.
2. Not alcohol-free, but weekends only, when the amount I can drink happily seems to be ever more reduced. I said no to a second gin and tonic on Saturday, and to my surprise, the universe didn’t stop with shock.
3. All-brown everything – step away from that white pasta, bread and rice.
4. A selection of daily multi-vitamins, including magnesium and Vitamin D.
5. A homeopathic pill to help liver function as the 3am wake-ups could be due to the liver struggling to function.
6. Guided relaxation via the app SleepStream: I don’t manage it every day, but at least three times a week. Bear with it. It works.
7. 10 phone-free minutes a day while walking outside – alone.
8. The occasional lunch away from my desk – diary issues for me make it impossible to do it every day it I am getting there.
9. Drinking 2 litres of water a day: dull but doeable.
10. Not no sugar, as recommended but a small piece of dark chocolate every day.
11. The elastic band: Cathy suggest that every time I sense an angry reaction brewing in a stressful situation I ping an elastic band on my wrist to remind me to stay calm (googles Chanel elastic band).
This whole schedule is a challenge to be honest, and I wonder if I can keep it up for more than eight weeks, but it gives me hope for a lifestyle change that will
deliver what my mind and body need to function better – both at work and home. I have tried many sports over the years. Running is my first love, but boxing is challenging it for the top spot because it is so much fun and makes you feel so powerful (both mentally and physically). I will definitely keep this up. Life is slowing down for me, which has made me less stressed, but that doesn't mean I am achieving less, just the journey less manic. This 'change of state', as Cathy calls it, is a good thing, as it will form the groundwork for a more balanced life. And that’s what everyone wants right?
‘It’s amazing how consumed we can get within our own lives. We’re so busy running around that we fail to see the simple things in life that are causing unnecessary stress. As successful women we battle constantly to make things work and never give up on anything, however being that eternal warrior is sometimes producing more work for ourselves. By making small changes to our lives we can actually create a better balance whilst still achieving what we want – building changes into your life does not mean being defeated, it means you’re being smart with your time and therefore more of control of your life. Lorraine has made these choices herself; I just helped her take a step back so that she could see the bigger picture clearly, and where she needed to make alterations.
I love the fact that Lorraine has fallen in love with a new type of exercise, so she is not doing the same thing repetitively. Running needs to be complimented with other forms of training, not just because of the stress it creates on the body, but to keep her mind invigorated too. I’m encouraging Lorraine to find a sustainable level of balance, so that she doesn’t feel deprived or fatigued. Training should be fun and food should be enjoyed!
Lorraine has developed a mean uppercut and her hook is starting to follow, but it takes time to learn this incredible art. That is the beauty of boxing: you have to focus and declutter your mind, as there is so much to learn. It’s not the Neanderthal sport everyone thinks it is, there is a lot of skill involved. I am so proud of how far Lorraine has come in such a short space of time, and that is down to her determination coupled with the fact she is enjoying it. She is getting stronger by the minute and, I don’t know if I mentioned in my last blog, but she hits like a truck!