Your first time joining a boxing gym can be daunting. Depending on your motivation and your goals you will need to think about preparing to train, getting the right equipment, and getting your body ready. This should cover all the basics, all the bits you need to pick up and all the things to expect from your first few classes, so read on and learn what to anticipate.
What you should do
Boxing is a pretty intense activity, and there are some dos and don’ts that will help you get the most out of it. For point number one, stay hydrated. Boxing workouts are going to get warm, and you need to be prepared for some intensity, so make sure your body is working under the best conditions. To that end, keep your energy levels high – bananas are a good shout for a snack, something like one hour before training. The thing you really want to avoid a short time before training is fat and fiber. If you’re on some keto diet I’ll let you make your own judgement on the fat, but ideally, you don’t want things that are going to be hard to digest and make your body work harder than it has to. So, if you’re looking for fruit that isn’t a banana, avoid things like apples – they might seem like the healthy choice, but the high fiber content make you feel the best you can.
As for just before training, if you have any injuries or medical conditions make sure to inform your instructor. They will want to know what is going on, and may be able to adapt the session accordingly. At the very least, if you do have a medical issue, they will be in a better position to help out. And should come early and introduce yourself anyway – martial arts are a fantastic way to build communities, so go and see who you relate to. Having a welcoming training environment that you can keep coming back to and that you actively want to come back to is probably the best thing I can advise in terms of getting you to train regularly.
What you should buy
Clothes are the primary thing that you want to think about. If you work out regularly already, don’t go too far from what you know. You want things that you’re comfortable moving in, that aren’t too baggy, and that you’re not going to have a problem sweating in. If you don’t know where to start, avoid things like cotton that will pick up all the sweat. Get some basic sports shorts and a top that isn’t restrictive, and you should be good to go. At the start you (probably) won’t be going five times a week, so just pick up what you need for one or two sessions, and if you need different stuff, or just more, you can deal with that later. I wouldn’t worry about boxing shoes at the start. Regular sneakers will be good enough. Also, most places will allow you to train barefoot, and it’s an unnecessary investment for a complete beginner. Skip on the shoes to start with.
Equipment comes later. Most gyms will have boxing gloves to use, but they won’t be nice (consider how many people have used them before you). You likely just want to use them for taster sessions, and if you think it’s somewhere you’ll stay then pick up a pair of your own. Don’t get them too light either. They’re there to protect your hands and your opponent (if you spar) so go for something 14 or 16oz. The other piece you’ll need are hand wraps. There are plenty of guides on YouTube on how to wrap your hands, but you’ll want to get some longer wraps to provide proper protection (5m wraps are what I’d suggest) and enough that you can wash them and never be without them in a training session. These are the pieces that you want to make sure you invest in at the start of your journey – if you’re not taking shots to the head, your hands might take a bit of a beating doing this sport.
If you plan to spar, there are other pieces that you will need to pick up. A gum shield is first and foremost because nobody wants to lose their pearly whites. Research online and get one that looks reasonable. There’s no need to break the bank, but don’t get the cheapest on the market. After that, there are plenty of other pieces that you might want: a cup, a head guard, and boxing shoes (if you don’t yet have them) spring to mind. This will depend on the policy at your gym and how they like to set up sparring sessions, but this shouldn’t be your first port of call for purchases anyway. When you’re almost ready to spar, ask your coaches and teammates, and they will be the best source of knowledge.
And the last bit, it’s just general exercise stuff. Bring water, bring shower stuff if they have showers, and get anything else you might need for an intense workout. You can be the best judge of this bit.
What you should expect
So this will vary from gym to gym and class to class, but I’m going to assume that you’ve gone for a more beginner focused session. Warm-ups are going to be general fitness and getting ready – think jogging around, star jumps, getting your joints ready and getting limbered up. Really the important things here are breaking a sweat and getting to the state where you’re less likely to be injured (it’s not likely, but you still want to get this work done). And then the content of the classes might vary massively, but generally speaking, you’ll be taken through the basics of punching mechanics, how to throw your staple punches, and how to hold your guard and keep your stance.
Don’t expect to get things right on the first try. You’re going to be shown the basics of how to carry yourself, but following that, you will be best served to learn by iteration what works best for you. You’ll also likely need to learn how to hold pads. Many schools will have students hold pads for one another, in order to practice combinations and techniques. Give a bit of resistance on the punches without moving the pads towards them too much. It’s another skill that you’ll need to work on, so start off slow, and you’ll pick it up soon enough.
What you don’t need
You don’t need to be in shape. This is one of my biggest gripes with people starting combat sports in general. You’re not going to go in on day one, with zero experience, and have to fight someone else. You’re going to go in there and learn some technique, get some fitness, and hopefully enjoy yourself while doing it. But I’ve heard too many people express interest in martial arts, and in sports in general, but be too afraid to begin because they’re too unfit. But being in good shape isn’t a prerequisite for going to boxing classes, it’s a benefit. So, get out there and train.
If you can’t make it to a boxing gym
In the unfortunate case that you can’t get down to a boxing gym, you’ve got options. If you have a partner, go and grab them – getting feedback is the most important part of learning a new skill anyway. Having someone on hand to provide information and pointers will serve you better than anything else could. If not, then pick yourself up a heavy bag and get to work on that. You can complete a beginner’s boxing video course online, and that should be a great way to get started. There’s no complete substitute to learning from an instructor, but it’s a good start to get ready for the real classes. But if you want to continue training alone, we’ve got the great Heavy Bag Pro app to give you all the direction you need for punching bag workouts.
What to remember
Boxing is not just about the exercise. This is a cool and useful skill, something that you should learn and develop. Just turning up and throwing punches might do it for some people, but I think most will need something a little more complicated to sink their teeth into. Work on perfecting the techniques and strategies of boxing, and approach it as a new lesson to learn, not just a HIIT session. I honestly believe that’s how you’re going to get the most rewarding experience out of a boxing class.
This is a new skill, it’s something you’ve not done before, and you’re probably going to be pretty bad at it. And that’s ok. So was everyone else. You’re the newest person coming into an environment, and that’s something that everyone else should remember doing. It’s a very common fear for beginners that they will be wasting the time of their training partners, but I’m here to tell you that’s not something you should be afraid of. If a more experienced boxer is getting nothing out of training with you, that’s on them – part of becoming more experienced is learning how to make the most out of those situations. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable for being new, that’s a fault of theirs that they need to address. Sports and similar practices only survive due to people like you coming in and keeping it growing, so make sure to just show up, apply yourself, and learn. You’ll start off bad, you’ll learn slowly, and you’ll become skillful in time. Just embrace the learning process and you’ll be a boxer in no time.