I Tried Boxing For 2 Weeks—And It Was No Joke

I’m 20 minutes into boxing class and I’ve already done a ridiculous amount of burpees, pushups, and squats. My face is beet red and my shirt is soaked through with sweat—and I’ve still got another 30 minutes left to go.

I’m pushing my body to its limits—and I love it. I think?

For most of my life I’ve been your average, garden variety gym-goer, never veering too far from holistic mind-body-soul workouts used to straighten out my mental state and give me a good stretch. I tried out boxing on a self-dare. (I’ve got this masochistic voice in the back of my mind that loves a new challenge—even if it’s out of my wheelhouse.) I wasn’t planning on jumping into the ring or transforming my body; I just wanted to try something different.

I’d always had a naturally strong upper body (my muscles don’t flinch when I’m carrying super heavy grocery bags and I’m never concerned about trekking an oversized duffle of dirty clothes to the laundromat), but was never able to properly control that strength and often ended up with pulled muscles. I hoped that boxing would help prevent injury, and also limit the pain I often experience from my Plantar fasciitis (when inflamed tissue spans the bottom of your foot).

Still, I was incredibly intimidated by boxing. I’d seen those people running around the perimeter of city blocks sporting boxing gloves and doing burpees—and it never seemed very inclusive or accommodating to different fitness levels. I knew I’d be a fish out of water.

Related: 6 Really Good Reasons To Add Boxing To Your Workout Routine

I walked into the throes of Church Street Boxing in Lower Manhattan to find myself amongst an array of unique and sweaty humans. Every punch was choreographed as instructors walked around their respective groups to make sure shoulders, forearms, wrists, and torsos were all positioned correctly with each individual swing. I grabbed a matching set of gloves from a side bin and waited for the rest of my class to arrive while I continued to gawk at the action around me.

We began with calisthenics: bear crawls, jumping jacks, pushups, mountain climbers, and a run around the block—which could have easily sufficed as its own workout but was very much not even remotely the end.

Back at the gym, I arrived panting. We talked about the proper way to use your strength without throwing your whole arm out, and then we started jabbing, in a circle, with our instructor. With each combination (a.k.a. different kinds of punches) we did a series of burpees until the entire group had finished multiple rounds of this. Then another run around the block, and running up and down the stairs of the multi-level building. Finally, we finished off with various other combos.

My sweat-drenched body was eager to meet the cold air outside as I limped to the train. I knew I should have spoken up about my foot and its history, but felt embarrassed by being new and needing adjustment during my first class. I found myself at home with a bag of ice on my foot wishing I would have swallowed my pride and simply asked to not run. The next morning I had to wrap my foot just keep it compressed enough to walk.

The next few days were rough. My arms were impossibly difficult to lift above my waist and my foot was still throbbing; I had to roll it out on a tennis ball at work when I wasn’t up walking around.

Featured Products

The next class I attended had a different instructor and a brand new set of faces, but the same vibe: so much sweat and strength swirling around the room as trainees punched bags and did situps to a loud and guided count. I made it through a similar round of workouts and immediately cornered my instructor after he announced a run around the block. “I have a major foot injury that doesn’t allow for me to put pounding pressure on my foot…May I have a modification?” He allowed it, and prompted to me to do lunges across the length of the gym floor. “Perfect! Yes! I can do that!” I said. The workout was still incredibly hard, but I didn’t end up having to ice my foot for the next week just to recover.

I continued to go to different classes, trying out new clubs and boutique boxing studios, and I did find things I really loved about boxing, like having to be agile while springing my arm forward…all the while protecting my face. And having to use my center of gravity to keep my body grounded on impact.

Boxing also reiterated this: My body responds and reacts differently to each workout, so I have to be mindful of what I need to do in order to keep moving forward in my fitness life. Boxing might not ultimately be my thing, but it sure taught me to acknowledge my injuries and speak up for my body.


What I Learned About My Mind When I Stopped Working On My Body

A couple of weeks ago, I lay on a white medical table as a doctor stitched up my lower abdomen. I had a small benign lipoma, which is basically a fatty lump under the skin. It had grown twice its size in six months, and it jutted out right above my pubic bone, making me feel pretty self-conscious.

As the doctor finished up, she warned, “Make sure you’re not wearing anything that can press on the area. No bending. No jeans. And no working out.” And then, she added: “For a whole two weeks.”

I normally try to do some form of cardio or strength training a few times a week—it helps me feel my best and gives me a sense of calm and confidence—so this 14-day no-workout rule was not ideal. However, the last thing I wanted was to pop a stitch or get an infection, so I committed to going gym-free. Off to 14 days of nothingness I went.

Related: Why I Never Hide My Plus-Size Body At The Gym

The first no-workout day was straight aces from start to finish. Instead of picking through my dresser to find a clean sports bra for my morning workout, I lounged in bed much later than I’m accustomed to, and read the news on my phone (something I never have enough time to do). I felt great—still sore, but surprisingly energized by knowing I didn’t have to go to the gym.

Off to 14 days of nothingness I went.

Day two was similar in that I got a little extra sleep, strolled serenely off to work, and kept all my promises to not wear jeans. My joints, however, grew stiff from the lack of mobility. Since every move I made had to be somewhat calculated (as to not bump into anything or stretch in the wrong way), my body was starting to tighten and get tense.

By day three I realized that the extra sleep and downtime weren’t actually good for me. The motivation, the endorphin rush, and the sense of accomplishment I had when I stuck to a regular workout was missing—and this gave way to sadness and insecurity.

A self-conscious voice in the back of my head criticized how the pattern of my dress looked across my belly. The voice commented on my choice to use whole milk instead of soy for my morning coffee. It told me that I would probably embarrass myself if I spoke up in a meeting. And, while yes, my-own-worst-enemy syndrome is a thing I struggle with constantly, it’s never as powerful when I’ve taken the time to do some cardio or lift weights.

The motivation, the endorphin rush, and the sense of accomplishment I had when I stuck to a regular workout was missing—and this gave way to sadness and insecurity.

The voice was there when I ate lunch and boomeranged back again when I was doing my nightly skin-care routine. It exhausted me the way it plucked at my self-esteem when as I a teen. By the weekend, my entire demeanor had changed; I was a sad amoeba that sulked from place to place.

On Monday morning, my colleagues asked if there was anything wrong as I quietly made my way around the office, since lacking expression is not exactly what I’m known for.

The depression hit hard as I recoiled into my bedroom, refusing to see friends or do anything that didn’t include applying Aquaphor to my stitches or feeling a general sense of sadness. (Cue the soundtrack to my teenage self.)

Through week two, the blues continued. I still felt sluggish. My workout-less life was fueling a laissez-faire attitude toward food, and I was more or less eating whatever I wanted to. This was also adding to that self-doubt voice (and draining me of my weekly food budget).

My colleagues asked if there was anything wrong as I quietly made my way around the office.

Despite my snacking and interrupted workouts, my body hadn’t changed in any way during these 14 days. Everything fit as normal. It was my mental health that was affected. I just wasn’t as happy being sedentary. As the great Elle Woods from Legally Blonde once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” She was absolutely right.

When I was younger, working out equaled weight loss and social acceptance. My entire perspective of exercise was wrapped up in a warped understanding of what my body should be—and I very much abused myself in an effort to drastically become that idea. But these days, I’ve gotten much smarter about my body’s limits, and I’ve adopted healthier ways of staying fit. A big part of that, for me, is realizing how using my body can benefit my mind.

When the 14 days were up, I sadly—but not unexpectedly—had to seriously motivate myself to get to the gym. In fact, it took me a few weeks to get back on track. The time off reminded me that the gym is a sanctuary of wellness—not just a body-transforming warehouse—and crucial to my happiness.

Featured Products

Why I Never Hide My Plus-Size Body At The Gym

Sweaty and exhausted, my spent body traces the steps back to the gym locker room, where my locker houses all of my post-workout belongings: shampoo, slippers, and a moisturizer. I need a good hot shower after spending 60 minutes running on the treadmill (while watching two episodes of Veep).

I peel Spandex, mesh, socks, and underwear away from my body to free my skin from the compression, and then I stand there, fully naked. I stay naked as I traipse to the shower, back to my locker, and while I apply my makeup and blow-dry my hair. I don’t put my clothes back on until I’m ready to leave.

I do this on purpose.

Leaving my clothes as the absolute last step in my get-ready process is a choice I’ve made because I’m a plus-size woman—and plus-size women often do not get the visibility or representation we deserve.

In order to be represented in a way that allows me to be seen as a three-dimensional person (and not the so-called sexless, unattractive, lazy, fat friend), I have to make myself available and vulnerable in the spaces where my body is often not seen. So, I am taking it upon myself to be a walking statement that says my body is perfectly normal.  

Plus-size women often do not get the visibility or representation we deserve.

Body positivity has made its way across social media in the past few years, but we still need to expand our scope of #BodyGoals to include all different kinds of bodies—and their bellies, hips, chests, legs, arms, and thighs. Championing all kinds of bodies allows our brains to recognize and get used to the fact that there is actually more than once acceptable look out there—which you can see when you see me stripping down alongside everyone else in a locker room. It’s like exposure therapy for the masses.

Related: My Size 18 Body Doesn’t Mean I’m Unhealthy

Have you ever encountered a trend that you weren’t really fond of (hello, everything from the ’90s), but over time grew to accept (or even love) because you saw it so often? That is the basic tenant of exposure therapy—expose yourself to something that makes you wildly uncomfortable and eventually that thing becomes normal to you.

Once, I forced myself to wear nothing but sleeveless tops for an entire month just so I could stop hiding my arms behind cardigans during warmer weather. This was one of the best self-care moves I’ve ever done for myself. Basically, expose yourself to all bodies and eventually you’ll start to see their beauty. It’s all about representation.

My body makes people uncomfortable. It jiggles when I run. It has winding curves and a protruding chest and backside. My body can’t just walk into any store and find a perfect fitting pant—because they don’t sell my size. When I sit down my belly sticks out. When I bend over, a soft ripple extends across my sides. When I walk, my chest sways slightly to the rhythm of each step.

I am taking it upon myself to be a walking statement that says my body is perfectly normal.  

But there I am, walking around the gym locker room with the confidence of a woman that’s been told her body has value.

Sometimes I get stares. I wish I was doing something interesting to garner those glances, like jumping up and down or singing at the top of my lunges. Most of the time, I’m just looking for my makeup bag or tying back my hair.

I used to run straight to the bathroom to change the very moment I turned off the shower. I would try to stretch the far-too small gym towel across my body as though I wasn’t allowed to be seen. A belly roll here, a thigh muscle there—constantly behaving like anyone above size 14 had a secret they had to keep under the towel. Everyone else got to gracefully take their time in the nude while checking their phones at their lockers while I found a bathroom to get ready in.

The moment I stopped hiding was the moment I saw another woman in the locker room with a similar body type to mine doing the same thing I was doing: She was gathering all of her belongings and heading to an open stall to change. It was like a silent, common understanding that we should be hiding.

too good not to share 👀 #bodysuit via @forever21plus

A post shared by laura (@heylauraheyyy) on

But after seeing that woman hide, I couldn’t abide any longer. Despite what people have been told, my body is a gym body—and it’s important for it to be seen as such so that we continue to recognize all bodies across all spaces.

The lack of plus-size bodies represented in general (movies, ads, fashion, fitness) gives me the extra push I need to make sure my body is seen in locker rooms or running in public spaces or simply being confident.

Am I changing the world? No. We as a society have much larger issues to tackle—no matter how naked I get. But am I making it a better place so that other people feel comfortable and good about their bodies? Yeah, I am.

And if you are the kind of person who silently judges the bodies of others in a seemingly-safe space, I say to you this: Take a good, long look, because this is my body goal.

I Weightlift For My Sanity

The. Weight. Room. Hearing those three words used to immediately transport me into a male-dominated turf riddled with loud grunts, motivational tank tops, and a ton of unnecessary flexing. Not exactly a welcoming visual. I had never actually worked out in a gym weight room for that reason—it never seemed like the right place for me—but all of that changed in the past year. And then, so did my life.

My wellness journey is deeply rooted in the need to feel calm, beyond building my strength and endurance. I’ve always been anxious and I also spend a lot of time managing my depression. I use medication, but I also turn to fitness for its feel-good hormones—I’ve done yoga, running, and swimming. For the longest time, I never felt the need to be ripped or to be able to show how much I could lift, so I never even considered adding lifting to the list of activities that could support my mood.

And because lifting never made sense to me, I kept sequestering myself to those other workouts, or to Cardio Island, where my routine felt safer. On that island there were fewer chances for me to incorrectly use dumbbells or show off my poor deadlift skills.

My wellness journey is deeply rooted in the need to feel calm, beyond building my strength and endurance.

The fear of messing up or really hurting myself took over my thoughts, too. And then off to the treadmill I went, where I could zone out for an entire album or a lengthy podcast episode.


A post shared by laura (@heylauraheyyy) on

On top of all of that, I was dealing with minor knee trouble from a previous sports injury. It was seriously getting in the way of my workouts, so I decided to see a trainer for the first time in my life. Maybe she could help me run in a smarter way? I was determined to correct the pain for fear of not being able to run at the gym—I mean, what would I do if I couldn’t do that?

Related: My Size 18 Body Doesn’t Mean I’m Unhealthy

Besides helping my knee, the first thing she did was place a set of eight-pound weights in each palm. She stood before me and mimed the proper way to do bicep curls. I tried to hand them back, explaining that I was only here to help figure out the pain caused by running, but she didn’t back down. She really believed I should be lifting.

One set of 10 reps with eight-pound weights was barely a test. Simple. So I did another set. Not so simple. At that point, everything started to get a little shaky. I couldn’t curl those eight-pound weights after the second set—I really wasn’t as strong as I thought I was!

Honestly, I didn’t like the lifting at first. Mostly because I wasn’t very good at it. I always had to slow down every rep to get the mechanics just right and I got frustrated when I couldn’t find my balance during weighted squats or lunges. I’d get annoyed and then I’d find myself rushing (which only ever leads to pulled muscles).

So, I compressed and iced and elevated my body and went back to training. It was a great lesson, actually. For someone who strived for serenity, I was really putting a lot of pressure on myself to speed through the reps just because I found them to be challenging.

It was a great relief to find something that actually made me feel still, all while watching myself do overhead extensions in a gym mirror.

I kept up with the training and really dived into lifting smarter: That meant no hunching on dumbbell rows, no lazy curls, no swinging my arms to use momentum when the lift got difficult.

Related: There Are Two Types Of Cardio—Here’s Why They Both Matter

Then I started noticing something amazing: I was falling asleep faster—an issue I’ve had trouble with since I was a kid. I was less emotionally reactive at work, and had a generally better attitude throughout the day (I never felt this way when I was running).

Another major benefit? My confidence was boosted. I would walk into work a little taller knowing I was increasing my squat-weight steadily overtime. And as a person who is constantly aware of my own mental health state, it was a great relief to find something that actually made me feel still, all while watching myself do overhead extensions in a gym mirror.

I started with eight-pound weights! I can now deadlift 200 and squat lift 170.

So I stuck with it. I now head to the gym, turn on a podcast, and go through my routine. I treat it almost like a form of therapy. I even track my progress in a tiny notebook, and it’s a real trip to see where I started at and where I am now. Remember: I started with eight-pound weights! I can now deadlift 200 and squat lift 170.

I’m still not in the market for ripped arms and I don’t really want to be able to lift a car (though, that would be pretty cool). I have a lot more autonomy over my range of motion and I’m definitely the person my friends call when they need help moving out of their four-floor walkup.

Related: Shop protein to fuel your next workout.

I breathe easier, sleep better, and find myself more open to trying different workouts because of the chance I took with weightlifting. It’s not going to erase all of my hard days and restless nights, but it makes it a whole lot easier to mentally manage them.

My Size 18 Body Doesn’t Mean I’m Unhealthy

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I’ve played on varsity sports teams, in travel clubs, through individual programs, and even recreationally. Over half of my closet is dedicated to athleisure. Nonetheless, my athletic career (and my dedication to eating well and staying strong and fit) has always been questioned and overshadowed by my size. I am a size 18.

I’m constantly having to explain my body to people that can’t grasp anything outside of the thin-equals-healthy and fat-equals-unhealthy binary. One time, someone asked a group of people I was sitting with if they wanted to do a group SoulCycle outing. They totally skipped over me because I don’t look like your typical spin class rider (um, I basically live at SoulCycle).

LD-weightliftingAnd my experience isn’t mine alone. The average American woman is a size 16, according to the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education.

So, isn’t it about time we start giving all sizes a seat at the fitness conversation table?

To start with, let’s talk about the word “healthy.” Sure, it’s a word often associated with photos of acai bowls and green smoothies on Instagram, but it’s also  a word that only seems to be attached to people of smaller frames. But healthy doesn’t always mean skinny.

In magazines, bodies like mine are consistently and stereotypically labeled “before” bodies, as if I magically house a skinny person underneath all of my fat. This furthers the myth that plus-size people have given up on their own health, are unmotivated to be healthier, or haven’t set a foot in a gym since it was required of us (ah, high school).

That couldn’t be further from the truth, though—lots of thin and plus-sized people alike worry about and want to care for their bodies in the same ways.

Related: Shop training accessories to make your workout the best it can be.

The only difference is that people are socialized to believe that being thin has more value; we’re taught to see bigger bodies as lazy or incapable of fitness or sport achievements.

The reality is that there isn’t always a correlation between body size and healthfulness. A 2016 study in the Journal of International Journal of Obesity showed that a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is not an accurate way to determine a person’s healthfulness. The study found that half of Americans considered overweight by their BMI are actually healthy, while 30 percent of Americans who happen to have an average BMI are actually unhealthy cardiometabolically (which means they have a risk of diabetes, heart disease, or stroke).

Despite this information, size 18 isn’t (at least not yet) considered a healthy size. But my size 18 body is the strongest and fittest it has ever been in my entire life. I can thank the fact that I run, do yoga, and lift weights several times per week for that.

Related: How Parenthood Helped Me Redefine The Meaning Of Fitness

At my smallest size, which was a size 10, I hit a low point. I wasn’t doing any of those things. I was crash dieting, shaming myself out of eating, doing elimination diets, and suffering from disordered eating (which, according to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, have very high mortality rates, proving thin doesn’t always equal healthy). At this point in my life, I was very depressed and very angry.

LD-hanging bar

Sure, I would get compliment after compliment when I was thinner—which only exacerbated my disordered eating and bad habits (I just wanted to keep feeling valued by my peers), but it was truly an unhealthy way to live.

It’s taken years to undo those effects, but I’m finally at a place with my body where I feed it what it wants and needs with without compromising my sanity to do it. And I take care of it by making it strong. I’ve got to tell you—it’s so much better on this side.

I’m grateful for the many body-positive campaigns we’re seeing lately in the media. They’re expanding public understanding of how a bigger body can be a healthy, fit body. They’re showing that ‘healthy’ has no jean size associated with it.

It’s a step forward in the right direction, and hopefully, all people will eventually realize that size doesn’t determine worth.