by Katie Mark
Dim the lights. Cue the music. Turn it up. Stare down your opponent: a black, 100-pound bag hanging from a chain. Slip your wrapped hands into the gloves. Lift both hands up against your face. Jab, jab, cross. Hit. That. Shit.
Boxing. Who would’ve thought this traditionally masculine workout would become trendy among women? Despite its history, boxing is a heavy component to the exercise curriculum of this generation’s models who really work out—models who workout like athletes.
Boxing is the new exercise in the gym that’s challenging spinning, Pilates and, barre classes. It rapidly improves body composition because—guess what—skinny fat is out. A lean machine is the new cool.
Aside from allowing you to hit the shit out of something, boxing holistically improves health. Let’s explore how boxing enhances three important pillars of overall health: physical, mental, and emotional. Then we’ll look at which Victoria’s Secret models use boxing to #TrainLikeAnAngel.
Lean body composition. The goal of exercise shouldn’t just be weight loss because that can be due to fat, muscle, or water. Focus on a leaner body composition, meaning more muscle mass and less fat mass. Boxing combines muscle-building strength moves with calorie-crushing bouts of cardio, which is the left side to the equation of a leaner body composition.
Strengthen the ENTIRE body. You need strength to punch, kick, and jump. Yes, to beat the crap out of a 100-pound heavy bag. In one workout, you could kick and punch a bag at least 100 times. This engages your upper body, lower body, and core (hello, abs.). Strength training moves, such as kettlebell exercises, planks, mountain climbers, pushups, and burpees, between rounds will have you drenched in sweat in no time.
Enhance cardiovascular health. How boring is jumping on a treadmill to reduce your risk for heart disease, burn calories, and lose weight? The purpose of cardio is to put a moderate amount of stress on your heart and lungs to challenge them to make physiological adaptations. Boxing keeps your heart rate up in a fun way, unlike a monotonous treadmill. And boxing may be more strenuous than other cardio options. Can you have a conversation when spinning on the bike? Good luck finding your breath to do so while boxing.
Reduce negative psychological states. A study conducted in 2012 used participants with health difficulties and placed them in a six-week structured Boxercise program. The authors found positive physical and psychological benefits and observed increased levels of hedonic (pleasure) and eudaimonic (meaning/self-realization) well-being. Boxing brought “affective beneficence” – the enhanced levels of positive affect and well-being immediately following chronic and acute activity participation.
Increase confidence. Learning to throw punches can give you confidence in defending yourself, improve your primary sport performance, or increase overall confidence. If you’re willing to get in the ring to trade punches with someone, then the benefit only increases. Ability to take a punch gives you greater confidence not only as an athlete, but also with respect to what you’re capable of in life.
Increase concentration. Boxing gets you focusing on the ‘here and now.’ It pushes you to focus on concentration. You have to practice controlling your concentration when punching at a swinging, inanimate heavy bag, speed bag or partner in the ring. These will all force you to think and react quickly.
Decrease stress. Any moderate-to-intense physical activity can decrease stress. Physical activity increases endorphins, boosts mood, and serves as a meditation exercise. And like Elle Woods says in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” You need more than just a walk around the block. You need a place to “leave it all out on the field.” And that’s what boxing does: It gives you the heavy bag or the ring.
Reduce worry. In boxing, you transition through two periods: high intensity and moderate intensity (recovery) periods. During high intensity, there’s no time to worry about a deadline you have tomorrow or the mess in your kitchen. During rest periods, you’re focused more on breathing and the next high intensity period…not on your packed calendar.
Fighting spirit. Boxing and fighting go hand-in-hand. And it’s the spirit from fighting that gives you the strength to get back up. We’re constantly fighting small battles both consciously and subconsciously. We react to what’s thrown at us, and we might punch back with no sense of purpose. Boxing gives you the tools (self-confidence and strength) to fight these everyday battles.
Victoria’s Secret Models: Boxing to Angel Slim
Victoria’s Secret (VS) developed the “Train Like an Angel” series that provides insight into the VS models’ workout routines.
Adriana Lima has boxed for the past decade, but not only for the VS Fashion Show. She credits her body to boxing and has claimed that you get toned, but not bulky, from boxing. Lima describes boxing as her passion and enjoys training like a professional fighter through 90-minute workouts several times per week at Aerospace NYC with former middleweight boxing champion Michael Olajide, Jr. He also runs a “Supermodel Training Camp” in Tulum, Mexico, to help VS angels prepare for the VS Fashion Show.
Swedish VS model Elsa Hosk might not wear the same wings as Lima, but she also boxes every morning. Another VS angel Lindsay Ellingson also mixes up her workouts with boxing. And the newest VS angel, 23-year-old Australian Shanina Shaik hits the ring, too.
Lily Aldridge, VS angel and Sports Illustrated model, frequents the Gotham Gym, a boxing gym in the West Village of New York. Gotham Gym attracts many models who partake in body weight training with rounds of cardio, specifically three minutes of fighting with a one-minute rest. As new VS angel Gigi Hadid tweeted about the gym’s owner Rob Piela, “[he is] the guy who makes up for my love of burgers and pasta.”
VS angel Karlie Kloss does her ModelFIT, a downtown Manhattan fitness studio, workout and says she “treats” herself more as an athlete than a model.
Train Like an Angel for Better Health
If there’s one thing about VS angels that you should copy, it’s their workout routine. Boxing, as long as you do it consistently, can bring significant physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.
I’m not promising you’ll end up looking like a VS angel—maybe you will—but you could end up feeling like one…minus the angel wing status.
Katie Mark is a second year MS/MPH student interested in a career as a registered dietitian focusing on sports nutrition. She attempts to #TrainLikeAnAngel in her free time.