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How & Why Boxing

I am often asked about boxing. Asked about the how and why I, a middle-aged woman found a fascination and a place in boxing. Over the years there have been long and short answers, depending on the context and who is asking. The story or pitch on the how and why has evolved overtime as I have come to understand this, my boxing story, ever in motion, still underway.

I know for sure it all started as a diversion from feeling stuck (a 40s aged malaise) along with a lifelong fascination with sports of all kinds. A moment of why not try this because life is short etc. As I continued training my story became about surprise - some ego for sure - and mastery, with me marveling at getting reasonably good at boxing and wanting to get better, to finetune the technique and form and practice. Thousands of hours of practice pass and then the story becomes about a habit that gave me joy.

The story has always been about the welcoming community of others in boxing. The men, women, trainers, experts and novices, varying ages and sizes and abilities, who encouraged and shared their world with me. This world gave me a place to be and never once asked for a how or why. In Montreal, Las Vegas, Chicago, Brooklyn, Philadelphia - all the places I went to train - nobody at a boxing gym ever asked me why I was there. I think that being present there, trying, loving the sport, was enough, the price of entry, the way we bonded. A love for the sport, the moves, the sweat, the effort, the feeling of a much loved thing. Something unspoken maybe? A gym owner in Chicago once said to me, "I just watched you wrap your hands and I knew you were legit." No how or why.

The love story with boxing has had ups and downs. Injuries slowed me, an aging body always moderating what I can do, reminding me that even what I did a few years ago may need some adjustments. My reflexes are slower. I walk instead of running and my slowing metabolism means my weight doesn't drop as fast as it would have even in my 40s. Sometimes my boxing story has been about simply getting lazy, dropping workouts to sleep in, or wondering just how long I can keep this up, keep going. There have been moments of doubt and failure - I will never get faster, less likely as I age to get lighter, and every once in awhile I am reminded that with each year everyone around me is dramatically younger and faster.

But I have always gone back, starting again, finding a comfort in the place and the routine I know. A warm up on a bike, wrapping my hands, shadow boxing, hitting the bag, checking in with friends gathered around the ring, watching the younger boxers spar in the ring. My thousands of hours practicing boxing? They are my muscle of joy and comfort in a thing I know well.

A few years ago a colleague approached me asking if she could come boxing with me. Would I introduce her to the sport, take a beginner class with her to get her started. Yes of course - I had done this many times particularly with women my age interested in the sport. The beginner class completed my colleague confessed how much she hated the experience - I asked why, understanding there are many reasons the intensity of the workouts and the sport is not for everyone. She said, "I really don't enjoy exercising". Well ok but wait why did you insist on trying boxing I asked? She had realized during the class that it wasn't about boxing - it was about wanting something to love as much as I loved boxing. She wanted to find her thing as I had found my thing - the thing to practice, enjoy, follow, the thing that would have her both excel and fail but continue. It was not boxing but that night she knew she wanted to try harder to find her thing. And that night I understood that boxing had indeed become my thing - a constant in my story, a thing I would continue as long as I could.

Two years into pandemic open and closing measures my time at the boxing gym has been more off than on. Travel restrictions mean I can't get to those other much beloved boxing gyms in other cities. I ride my stationary bike at home, wrap my hands and shadow box, trying to stay inspired by an online workout. It's not the same but there is some comfort still in running through the routines I know.

I will always be asked about the how and why of me and boxing because me and boxing is an unconventional love story. Each time I am asked I learn more about my how and why. There is no standard simple response and that is in part the power of storytelling - the way stories get us reflecting, reframing the how and why. There is no single, no easy answer to my how and why. But I know it will continue to morph and shift and I am grateful for each time I am asked, how, why.

So this story continues. Hoping yours does too - may you find that your thing, your how and why.

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