Whether or not clipping an opponent in the boxing ring a la Rocky is something that you have imagined – or perhaps fantasized about – doing, it’s hard to deny the killer workout that comes with a session of hooks, jabs, and uppercuts. Which is why, when I was offered the chance to grab a partner and try a class at SoHo’s new Gotham G-BOX studio, I jumped on it.
The studio, which is located on Crosby Street, is a spinoff of the wildly popular Gotham Gym in the West Village. Run by founder and owner Rob Piela and frequented by A-listers like Gigi Hadid and Bradley Cooper, Gotham Gym has been a fitness hotspot in Manhattan since it opened its doors in 2011, offering clients expert-led boxing, Muay Thai, and sculpt & tone classes. Piela has been professionally training for over 20 years, but as an ex-boxer himself, Piela’s latest venture, as a studio that focuses entirely on boxing and boxing alone, is hardly a surprise.
The entrance of Gotham G-BOX is simple – you’ll find a few shelves of Gotham merchandise and some WellPath products, a cooler with water bottles available for purchase, and a desk where novice and seasoned boxers alike can check in for their class. I took a 7 p.m. class, but other weekday options include a 7 a.m. or 12 p.m. slot, with 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. options on the weekend. After signing in and being given a pair of hand wraps, sparring gloves, punch mitts and a towel, my friend and I walked into the rear space of the gym to find ourselves overlooking the setting of the class: a large boxing ring.
Heading down the flight of stairs to the ring, you realize that the gym is decked out in not-so-typical – dare I say, punchy – motivational quotes to get you pumped up even before you hit the ring; quotes like Mike Tyson’s “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” (this is true) and the even more straightforward “Sometimes you just have to knock a mother***er’s teeth out” (intensity knows no filter).
As my fellow boxers and I ducked into the ring, we were instructed to spread out so as to make sure that we had enough room for our warm up, which consisted of a series of jumping jacks, jump squats, and high knees. From there, we moved onto some shadowboxing so that we could learn the punches. We went through the basics – jabs, hook, uppercuts – along with some more elaborate skills –namely, the art of successfully ducking a punch. Most importantly, we learned each of these things with especially careful attention to form. Our instructor, Felix, made it a point to meticulously correct each class member’s motions, which made it clear that the class was about a lot more than simply getting our heart-rates pumping with a down and dirty boxing workout; it was about actually teaching us how to box.
Once we’d spent a bit of time going through the punches, it was time to pair up and begin putting our new skills into action with a partner. I joined my friend with whom I came to the class, and we decided that I would box first while she served as my receiver. Our instructor guided us through sequences of punches, some focusing on a single movement like a right jab and others focusing on alternating punches and ducking, with each lasting around 30 seconds to a minute. I should mention that for this drill, it’s best to team up with someone of a similar height, build, and skill level as you, since it might make the match more effective as you take turns sparring with one another.
Once we had gone through various punching and ducking sequences, we switched off so that my friend would now punch while I acted as the receiver, which I quickly realized was just as tiring as punching. As you work to make sure that your partner has enough resistance at impact, you’re effectively bracing your arms just as hard as you are when you’re punching, meaning that you’re consistently working your muscles regardless of which side you’re on. Not to mention, the anxiety of seeing a punching mitt come towards you at full force has a way of bringing your heart-rate up until you successfully block it, so we’ll go ahead and call that an added dose of calorie burn.
Throughout the entire workout, projections of classic fight scenes – videos of Muhammed Ali in the ring, and clips from movies like Rocky – illuminated the wall behind our boxing ring, serving as an extra source of motivation to power us through the grueling punching action (you know, for when the “Don’t be a pussy” message on the stairs wasn’t quite doing the trick).
After wrapping up the sparring session, which takes up the majority of the class, our instructor rounded out the workout by having us immediately take it to the floor of the ring for some ab work. This included some planks, crunches, bicycle crunches, and leg raises, all of which served as a nice bit of relief for our tired arms, but quickly had our cores burning, and had me wishing we could just go back to the exhausting sparring.
Finally, just about an hour after we had kicked off the class with our first set of jumping jacks, it was time to cool down and it probably goes without saying that the post-class stretching felt fabulous on my exhausted muscles.
A few minutes later, the workout was officially complete, which quickly proved less of a relieving green light to exit the ring, and more of a chance for everybody to whip out their phones and document the success of a workout well done (let’s be honest: half the fun of a class like this is getting to post about it on the ‘gram afterwards, right?).
After a few snapshots, my friend and I exited the ring and headed to the lockers in the back to grab our things. Having conquered the class, we were feeling on top of the world – very “Rocky at the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps.” And while the hour-long workout was more than enough to have me hooked and planning to come back, the real selling point hit the next morning, with some serious soreness. If that’s not the sign of a workout worth repeating, who knows what is.