Written by Mikaila Kukurudza | Photo by rez-art/istockphoto.com

Doing anything new for the first time can be intimidating, but add in the fear of getting punched by a stranger, and that uncertainty amplifies. Spoiler alert: No writer was harmed in the reporting of this article, and sparring in the ring is not something that happens during your first boxing class.

I had maybe put on boxing gloves twice before in a circuit group fitness class, but my experience with Girls Just Wanna Box, one of Canada’s most prominent female boxing clubs, was entirely different. It was legit boxing. The other women in class looked confident as they wrapped their hands chatting and did some fast footwork to warm up. Me? I wasn’t sure if wraps had a right and a left hand. Luckily, founding partner and coach of Girls Just Wanna Box, Kristina Ejem, was there to show me the ropes. 

“Trying any new exercise routine or class can be nerve racking regardless of what it is, and that's totally normal,” says Kristina, who started Girls Just Wanna Box in 2007 after her first boxing match. “What we suggest about boxing is to really do your research to find a place where you like the vibe and energy. When you go to class, be confident and ask questions including: Do they have a female coach, women's washroom, and female competitors?”

It’s important to note that there is a difference between a boxing club and a fitness boxing class. I have done the latter a couple of times, but in my experience, you don’t really have time to learn the basics during those classes—and especially don’t have time to learn the technique.

Images courtesy of Girls Just Wanna Box 

One of my biggest takeaways from my whole experience is that technique is uber essential. Hit that bag the wrong way and expect sore wrists. Though it may seem tedious, learning the proper stance is number one for your own safety (and to get the best sweat out of the sport). “Boxing is one of the best sports because it is the original HIIT workout,” says Kristina. “The rounds are short bursts of intense cardio exercise that use your full body.”

And she was right. Not only was I sweating by the end of class, but my mind got a workout in the process. “There is no better way to punch stress in the face and really engage your mind, body, and soul during a workout,” says Kristina. “Time flies when you’re learning and having fun, and the benefit is calories burned and loads of sweat.”

As a dancer, I had assumed my coordination would help me and that and memorizing sequences would be a breeze, but I was only a couple rounds in when I realized this sport takes time to learn. And that’s why it’s so addictive—you can always improve. The hour session flew by, and I felt disappointed to leave. I was just getting the hang of it!

“I really want more girls, women, and anyone identifying as female to have better, safer access to the real sport of boxing,” says Kristina. “I have introduced thousands of women to the sport over the past decade. It's literally my greatest joy showing women how strong they can be, and of course getting them into the ring to compete and making it a positive experience.”

Boxing is still a male-dominated sport with even the gear available for women being quite limited. After years of trying to make men’s boxing gloves work for her, Kristina and her business partner Coach Helene had enough and designed their own. Now with wraps, gloves, and gear for women, they’re forging a bigger mission. “Boxing can be so amazing for women as a confidence booster, a stress reliever, and overall physical and mental health,” says Kristina. “My hope for the amateur and professional side for women, just like most sports, is equity in pay, opportunity, and media attention.”

As for me? I may not be heading into the ring anytime soon, but I am ready to get my wraps back on (this time all by myself) and train alongside these badass women.

First-Timer Boxing Tips

So, what do you need to know before you dive into your first class? The short of it is, nothing. If you find the right class for you, you can go in having little to no understanding of boxing and come out feeling like part of the club.

But here are three things you may want to consider prior to hitting the bag:

1. Boxing takes time to learn. I know you might want to feel like Muhammad Ali after one session, but boxing is a sport that can take a lifetime of practice to master. Practice patience, not perfection.

2. All the gear and no idea. Before you go out buying headgear and everything else, know you’ll most likely only use wraps and bag gloves—for now. If you are just testing out a class, inquire about rentals, but if you’re diving in, check out Girls Just Wanna Box gear. Kristina and her team designed boxing gear specifically for women that’s as pretty as they are practical.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions. Everyone was a beginner at one point, so don’t be afraid to ask for help putting on your wraps, how to stand, and everything in between. The most important thing is to find a class that you’re comfortable in. And if going to the club is too intimidating right off the bat, Girls Just Wanna Box offers virtual classes from the comfort of your own home for women around the world.  

Mikaila Kukurudza
Mikaila is a Toronto-based writer, photographer, and fitness enthusiast. Follow her at @mikailakukurudza