| Tweens + Teens | Child Health + Development

Boxing: a knock-out workout

The bell rings, an insistent five-beat clanging that punches through the din of gym noises. The slap of jump ropes against the floor, the staccato of the speed bag, the shuffle and squeak of footwork, the fump of glove against sand-filled leather, all set to an eclectic blend of hiphop or Latin or reggae or punk.

The boxers take a break, sipping water, breathing hard. Then the bell rings again, calling them back for another three minutes as the jumble of noises fills the room once more.

This could be any boxing gym or any group of boxers in the world. But it’s not. And they’re not. This is Cappy’s Boxing Gym, located in Seattle’s Central District, and these are the kids in the youth boxing classes held there Monday through Thursday afternoons.

Lead by local professional boxer Tricia Turton and former Cappy’s client-turned-boxing-coach Margaret Savas, the classes bring together boys and girls for hour-long sessions of conditioning activities such as jumping rope and pushups, and boxing-specific drills such as punching a speed bag.

Beyond fitness

Fitness is obviously a huge part of any boxing workout, but Cappy’s takes its definition of fitness way beyond how many push-ups or sit-ups you can do. “It’s about sweating and working hard and feeling tired, but it’s also about being able to focus,” Turton says. “So if you get distracted, it’s being able to bring yourself back.”

One way to train that ability to focus, Turton says, is through body awareness, which is a big part of the Cappy’s philosophy. “You have to know where you’re at in the ring at all times,” Turton says. Awareness of alignment and body positioning, especially for younger athletes, provides a solid foundation. As Savas points out, “We work in the gym with mirrors to get kids to see first where they are and what their bodies are doing, and then to go back to how that feels.”

Youth boxers especially are encouraged to take their heightened awareness beyond the gym. “If you’re at school sitting at a desk, you can be active,” Turton says. “You can be thinking about your alignment, and use it to enhance what you’re doing in the gym.” This concept of “everyday fitness” is at the heart of Cappy’s approach. “We work elements of that into everything we do here,” Savas says.

The advantage of variety

Katrina Vogel, MS, DPT, of the Seattle-area physical therapy clinic Biosports Northwest, notes that in the 6-10 age group, attention spans tend to be short, and the risks of specializing and overtraining young bodies can be high. The variety offered by a properly supervised boxing-based regimen can address both issues. “The best fitness programs for 6- to 10-year-olds are those that are fun and keep them moving,” she says.

However, Vogel does not recommend contact to the head or neck for this age group. This is not an issue for beginners at Cappy’s, because no contact is allowed for beginner boxers. Beyond that, parents and coaches discuss the option of allowing sparring and possibly competition.

For children with lots of energy and who like variety, Vogel believes the benefits of a boxing-based program can be significant, ranging from increased agility and balance, to improved hand-eye coordination, overall body strength and flexibility.

“A boxing-based class encompasses a lot more than just hitting a punching bag,” Vogel adds. “It builds self-confidence and an increased awareness of one’s body.”

So is boxing right for your child? According to Turton, there’s only one way to find out.

“Come to class and you’ll know right away,” she says. “That’s all I tell people on the phone. Come down, take a class, and you’ll know right away if this is the environment you want to be in.”

Josh Parks is a senior writer at the Garrigan Lyman Group.

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