In Dubai, boxing is not just a sport for the pros (you’ve seen the types – burly men and muscular women), but it’s increasingly becoming a way for scrawnier folk to keep fit and tone up more effectively than spending hours glumly plodding away on the cross trainer. Some gyms are cottoning onto this trend: one of our favourite new deals comes courtesy of Dubai-based gym Ignite Fitness, which is offering a free pair of boxing gloves to all those who sign up for its Boxfit classes at Riva Beach Club on the Palm and at The Shack gym on Kite Beach. Though if you’d rather just watch punches being thrown, there’s always the Dubai Fighting Championship on Friday May 4 at 8pm at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa.
Eager to throw a few punches in the name of fitness, I sign myself up for a class at Haddin’s Gym in Abu Dhabi. Yet being only 157cm tall and incredibly weak, I’m slightly apprehensive as I arrive for my session. The only thing keeping me happy is that I’ve managed to colour coordinate my gym outfit.
Michael Haddin, founder and owner of the gym, explains that boxing is a mix of technical skill, grace, speed and aggression. ‘When all of these elements come together, this is when boxing is at its best. You need to master the basics to become a great boxer.’
After a quick warm-up of skipping, footwork drills and a few circuits with the dreaded medicine ball, I’m already wondering what I’ve got myself into. I’m shown how to tie my wraps (long lengths of fabric to protect my wrists and knuckles) and don a pair of boxing gloves; both are provided by the gym, though you’re welcome to bring your own.
Michael informs me that boxing is a great full-body workout that’s ideal for people who are bored with their gym regime. ‘Boxing is great for weight loss and muscle toning, and is also good for people who have issues with their knees and hips or have have trouble running. It’s also more fun.’
The first thing I learn is the boxer’s stance. I’m told it’s the basis for everything else I’ll learn, so it’s important to take the time to get it right. The theory is to create a stable platform from which I can unleash my fury, without falling over or being caught off balance. I bend my knees slightly and feel for the floor with my lower body. My torso is turned slightly sideways, presenting a shoulder to my target. The aim is to create a strong base: Michael tells me I should feel that no matter who pushes me, I won’t fall over.
‘Boxing is great for coordination, balance and core strength,’ he explains. ‘The rotational movements mean it’s a really good abdominal and core workout. If you continue with boxing, you’ll lose weight and increase muscle tone, especially in the upper body, and you’ll notice an overall improvement in general fitness level.’
Once I’ve perfected the stance and defence positions, I’m now ready to learn some punching techniques. There are four basic offensive moves in boxing: jab, hook, straight and uppercut. We practise these using the punch bags, mixing the moves up in quick succession. It’s surprising how cathartic the punching feels: when the glove connects perfectly with the bag, the resulting ‘thwack’ puts a huge grin on my face.
Michael finishes off with a few tips. ‘Don’t try to go too hard on the punching – focus on technique for the first few couple of sessions. In the long run, this will help you to get a better workout and will also help to prevent injury,’ he explains. ‘The other key factor is to breathe. Try to get into a rhythm with your breathing – stay relaxed through the shoulders and try not to tense up.’
Michael Haddin runs regular classes at Haddins Fitness Centre, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, www.haddins.com (02 403 4200). Until April 30, Ignite Fitness in Dubai is offering eight Boxfit sessions for Dhs600, plus a free pair of Everlast 10oz boxing gloves with every sign-up. Riva Beach Club, Palm Jumeirah, and The Shack Kite Beach (04 448 7142).