“It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.” – Million Dollar Baby

I heard someone say recently, “We all slow down at the end of a triathlon, but the best athletes are the athletes that slow down the least.” Very true! This sums up success in triathlon perfectly. Triathlon is a sport that requires strength and endurance; it requires power and speed. It’s a sport that tests every aspect of strength and endurance – physical, mental and emotional. As such, I’ve had coaches tell, me time and time again, how important strength training is and how important it is to have a strong core. And while in the past I’ve rolled my eyes at the thought of adding extra sessions (strength and core) to my training – on top of all the swim, bike and run sessions – the longer I am in the sport the more I am starting to realise the importance and benefits of these strength and core sessions. Being a strong athlete really is the ticket to success.     

The thing with strength and core training is, it can sometimes be a little boring, to me anyway – it’s typically all plank, bands, squats and medicine ball… and more plank. So, looking to mix things up and to keep things fun, I sought out to find a different way to incorporate strength and core training into my routine. This search brought me to BoxingFit. BoxingFit is a gym in Port Melbourne that uses Boxercise, a class-based exercise concept based on boxing that was started in 1992, by boxing coach, Andy Wake, to develop strength, power and speed. I thought this would be a fun way to do strength and core, and was excited to give it a go – move over, Rocky!

Eager to try something new, I went down to the BoxingFit gym one Wednesday afternoon. The moment I walked in, Irish ex-pro boxer, Stevie Kelly, greeted me. “How cool is this,” I thought to myself. It was like I was walking into a scene from Fight Club or Million Dollar Baby. Clearly passionate about boxing, Stevie showed me around the centre, gave me a brief low-down on the gym, its history and the classes. He then showed me how to put on the hand wraps, which are required for safety purposes, “to minimise the risk of hand or wrist injury” – plus, they look so cool. I instantly felt so tough! Next up were the boxing gloves and I was ready to box.

I trialled the 30-minute Boxing Circuit class and with Ironman training in full swing I thought, “How hard can this be?” Well, let me tell you. After shadowboxing, punching the heavy bag, the uppercut bag, the double-ended bag and the speed bag; after skipping, doing step-ups, dips, planks and squats, all in 30 minutes, I was huffing and puffing, and dripping with sweat. The HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) based workout was tough but so much fun!

After the class, I sat down with Stevie to find out more about Boxercise, the BoxingFit gym and how this type of HIIT training can benefit triathletes.

Australian Triathlete: Can you talk us through what your background in sport/boxing is? How did you get into this sport?

Stevie Kelly: My name Is Stevie Kelly, I am a trainer at BoxingFit Port Melbourne. I first got into boxing at the age of 11 back in my homeland of Ireland; I had nearly 90 amateur fights representing both my club and country. I moved to Australia six years ago, and I began working for BoxingFit almost immediately. From there I had a short professional [boxing] career under the BoxingFit banner.

AT: Can you talk us through the background of BoxingFit? How did the concept of BoxingFit come about? When was the gym started/established and why?

SK: Mick Hargraves founded BoxingFit in 2006. Mick has been involved in boxing all his life, from his dad taking him to local amateur fights when he was very young, to competing as a kid through to his early 20s, then coaching his stable of boxers to national and international glory. Mick opened up the gym to give back to the community and has helped out a lot of troubled kids in the past. BoxingFit has now two centres, one in Port Melbourne and one in Hoppers Crossing.

AT: That’s awesome. So, why box? What are the health/fitness benefits of boxing?

SK: The major health benefits of boxing are, of course, cardiovascular health, all over body strength, reduced stress levels, hand-eye coordination and for those who are willing to take their food seriously, weight loss. You hear it from health professionals all the time; you need cardio to help fight against heart disease, burn calories, etc. I assure you, you’ll have a lot more fun punching, jumping and skipping your way through 30 minutes than hopping on a treadmill or jogging around a track for the same time.

AT: Good one. Can you tell us a bit more about BoxingFit the gym? What do you offer regarding classes etc.? How much does it cost to become a member? How much do classes cost?

SK: BoxingFit is, and does, exactly what our company name suggests. We are a gym dedicated solely to Boxercise – all our coaches are either current or former professional boxers, so the knowledge and experience they bring to our members is unique. All our classes are 30 minutes long, enabling HIIT training. We run 17 classes a day – over 100 a week. Memberships can be purchased for as little as $17.95 a week, classes included!

AT: Why did you choose to go down the HIIT route, with shorter more intense workouts? What are the health/fitness benefits of these types of workouts vs. more traditional, longer style workouts?

SK: Well, we went down this route for a variety of reasons. First would be weight loss – HIIT is a proven faster fat-burner, or to quote a phrase, gives “more bang for your buck”. Don’t get me wrong, endurance training will yield the same results, but HIIT will get you there faster. Also, we had to look at our market; boxing was becoming and still is, very corporate. A lot of our members work in local businesses, so would come in before work, during their lunch break, or on their way home. Our 6am class, for example, is one of our busiest in the gym.

AT: Why might a triathlete do BoxingFit classes? How would BoxingFit classes complement triathlon training, which consists largely of swim/bike/run training?

A boxing bag weighs about 50 kilograms; so hitting that bag requires you to engage your upper body, lower body and core. SK: I suppose the main benefit a triathlete would receive from adding boxing to their repertoire is over all body strength and conditioning. In an average 30-minute boxing session you could hit a bag up to 200 times. A boxing bag weighs about 50 kilograms; so hitting that bag requires you to engage your upper body, lower body and core to make decent contact with the bag. A lot of our classes here incorporate hand weights, medicine ball and body weight exercises also. I think cross training has become very popular in recent years. When you constantly train for swim, bike and run all your movements become habits to an extent. Now let’s add some boxing to that program, now your mind starts to think a bit differently and you start using muscles you haven’t used that much before. Plus, a bit of boxing technique is handy when you have twenty swimmers kicking you in the face! Also, it’s fun! It’s challenging, it’s tough, and it’s fun. I think the beauty of BoxingFit is that for at least 90% of the classes, the only person you’re up against is yourself. You’re in your own zone; only you can improve you. You don’t have to concentrate on what the person beside you is doing. You don’t have to engage anyone else if you don’t want to, whether you have had an amazing day or a day you’d liked to forget, you can come to the gym and either be spurred on by those around you or take out the days frustrations on a heavy bag.

AT: How often would you recommend that someone do BoxingFit classes? Are there any specific tips for triathletes? Are there any specific exercises/classes that you would recommend that triathletes choose to do at BoxingFit e.g. Boxing Circuit vs. the Ab Circuit vs. the Core Ball etc.?

SK: Nothing specific as such, just incorporate the classes into your training as much as you can. For instance, if you’re having a non-cardio day come in and do your core work in one of our ab classes i.e. Ab Boxer, Core Ball, Medi-Ball and Strength Circuit are just some of our strength/core based classes that we run here. If you find doing that training mundane, come do it in a class environment where you have a trainer and other members to motivate you through the class.

AT: Great! What are your tips on getting started? What equipment do you need to start boxing?

SK: It’s very easy to get started here, you can just jump on our website, you can call us on 1300BOXFIT, or you can even download our app BOXINGFIT App from the App Store. Apply for our seven-day free, and we’ll contact you and set you up. All you need to bring with you is normal gym gear, you’ll need hand wraps which you can purchase here at the centre for $12, we can lend you some gloves to get you started, but we recommend everyone purchase their own if they continue with us for hygiene purposes.

AT: What are some safety tips for athletes adding boxing to their training schedule? Any tips on injury prevention?

SK: My biggest safety tip for anyone looking to incorporate boxing into their training is make sure your instructor/trainer knows what they’re doing. I’ve seen so many people in the past get injuries, just because the trainer decided to “do a bit of boxing”. The trainers had little to no knowledge of stance, punch technique or even pad holding technique. Resulting in silly injuries to wrists, thumbs, knuckles, etc. We are very lucky here, where all our trainers are ex-professional boxers. Mick Hargraves the Owner and Head Trainer here, has been a licenced professional boxing trainer for over ten years. So do your research and go somewhere where you will learn your technique properly. Do NOT put on gloves just because your PT tells you to.

So, would I do a BoxingFit class again? Absolutely! The day after the class my abs were sore – testament to the fact that you definitely use your abs while boxing (there’s a reason why boxers are normally so chiselled). Speak to your coach first, but boxing classes could be a great way to incorporate strength and core training into your regular training routine. And at BoxingFit classes are only 30 minutes, so including a class once or twice a week should be easy. Plus, because classes are open to anyone you could do classes with friends, even non-tri friends. So, instead of catching up with friends for a coffee, why not catch up at the BoxingFit gym? It’s a win-win.   

PHOTOGRAPHY by and boxingfit


Margaret Mielczarek

Margaret Mielczarek is the deputy editor at Australian Triathlete Magazine and writes the web series 'Shenanigans of a Deputy 2.0'. She is a passionate age-group triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher - currently in training for Ironman number five!

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