Punching in the park

When I walked into my Saturday morning “conditioning class” at my regular gym, Coach Beth said “Nicole, you look so summer-y!” “Summer is my season!”, I confirmed. I don’t know if it is because I was born a couple days after the summer solstice or if I naturally prefer carrying around less layers or I just thrive on longer daylight hours. Regardless of the reason, when we finally reach warm weather each year, I feel as though I come out of my crustaceous shell just a bit more. I look forward to more outdoor activities. I embrace my summer athlete.

A picture of Nicole, from last summer, doing push-ups with her feet elevated on bleachers, at a park. Embracing her summer athlete.

I walk everywhere, all year around and find more opportunities to walk in the summer. I run all year round, but the distances get longer and the outings become more frequent in the summer. I can also go out much earlier which works for me as a morning person who runs in the city and prefers the quiet early morning streets.

During the pandemic, my regular gym was doing outdoor classes in the park which I attended regularly and loved. I loved the fresh air, small group of regulars and a great conditioning workout. Understandably, since the gym has been able to resume regular indoor classes, they have ceased doing outdoor workouts.

Very early in the spring, I attempted a half-assed attempt at gathering some of the regulars for our own hill running at the park. But, it was too early, too wet outside, and too cool for park workouts, now that there are many other options again, and that didn’t pan out.

My park workout loving, inner summer athlete, was interested when, about a month ago, Newsgirls announced they were going to organize boxing in the park starting late spring. Newsgirls had a studio space that closed during the pandemic. It describes itself as “a safe space for women and Trans* folks to explore the sport of boxing”. For the upcoming boxing in the park, we had to fill out some red tape and then Savoy, the owner, would let us know about times, etc.

When I heard the first class was going to be on the coming Sunday, I already had my weekend workouts scheduled in my head. Conditioning workout on Saturday and long run on Sunday. My brain doesn’t love changes to schedules. It starts worrying that if I mess things up, I won’t get my long run in or something similar. I wasn’t sure Sunday would work for the new boxing class. In the month between expressing interest and now, I had become comfortable, again, going back inside the gym for the Saturday conditioning workout. Prior to that, I was doing my long run on Saturdays and figured I could do boxing on Sunday. My workout buddy, Laura, had arranged to go to the boxing class, as well. I was looking forward to trying the class with her and I recognize the benefits of mixing things up here and there. After going back and forth in my brain, I made myself comfortable with going to the outdoor boxing class on Sunday and getting up extra early on Monday for my long run.

A photo of Riverdale Park where boxing in the park took place. The park has a great “broad view” of the Toronto skyline. You can see the track in this photo. This photo was not from Sunday, when Nicole had too much fun to take photos.

The boxing class was to be from 10-12 on Sunday. Usually I am done my long run by 9 am and at Boxcar with coffee in hand at that time. This may sound weird to people who aren’t so schedule-oriented, but again, I had to get myself adjusted to the new schedule. I woke up at 6 am. Had coffee with my husband and dogs in bed. Walked the dogs. Went for a long walk with Gavin en route to Boxcar, which opens at 9 and had coffee BEFORE my workout. I was a little out of sorts on my way to the park, thinking I would rather be done my workout at this time, rather than starting it. But, of course, once I started, I forgot about my own weird mind ramblings, and I had FUN.

The weather was PERFECT. About 20 degrees Celsius and mostly sunny, with a bit of shade from the trees and a nice breeze.

Savoy was as easy-going and fun in person as I pictured from following her online. I would say the overall vibe of the workout was “easy-going”. We filled out forms. Savoy joked that there was a rule that every time we said “sorry” throughout the class, we would have to drop and do 10 push-ups. We talked about boxing names. I had thought mine would be Rev as an ode to my Mom’s side of the family, where there were some well known boxers in Toronto in the 40s. But, I was wearing my Cycology tank top and Savoy suggested my boxing name be Cyco (a kinder spelling of Psycho).

With the formalities taken care of, we were instructed to do two laps around the track, two sprints up the hill and one, going up, backwards.

I used to do hill sprints during the park workouts, but not since the fall and the hills were shorter. These hill sprints were challenging. They are also something I should be doing anyway to complement my endurance runs.

A photo of a woman with brown hair in a pony tail, black sunglassed and black tank top and black shorts, running up the hill at Riverdale Park.

After the running, Savoy told us to do our own stretches for about 8 min. With these instructions, I carried out some of the active stretches that Beth used to have us do at the park.

After stretching, it was the ab workout. No problem, right? Except, it was 3 rounds of 8 ab exercises. We forgot about this after the first round and were surprised to be reminded that we had to do all exercises twice more. It was a challenging and good workout!

After the ab workout, Savoy spent some time showing us how to wrap our hands. Despite dabbling in boxing at various gyms, I had never been shown this before. Savoy has a dry wit throughout and between jokes, she showed us how to wrap our hands and explained why we were doing so, to protect our wrists and knuckles.

With our wraps secured, Savoy took us through a series of 6 punches. We played with those for about 15-20 min. My FitBit lost its charge partway, so I wasn’t able to check the time, which was cool.

Next, we donned our gloves and she instructed us through different pad work. Laura and I were partners and had fun practicing and chatting throughout. Savoy, good naturedly joked that this was one of the perks of Newsgirls vs more serious boxing clubs. Chatting wasn’t discouraged. Just saying sorry was and Laura and I both said sorry once, which resulted in us dropping for push-ups.

Following the pad work, Savoy had us practice throwing a tennis ball, back and forth. I had momentary “elementary school gym class flashback anxiety”, but it was all good. Laura and I continued to catch “most” tennis balls and continued chatting and laughing under the trees.

Before we knew it, it was after noon. Time to get on with the day. It’s always good for the brain and soul to try something new and the two hours playing and learning new skills in the park was a pleasant addition to the weekend. We also noticed a group drawing in the park, as we were leaving, and noted that we should find out who was organizing it.

On the way home, a guy with a table set up outside the local Scientology branch asked me if I wanted to “take a stress test”. I didn’t know what he was talking about at first but quickly caught his table set up Scientology books in the corner and I said, “ahh, no thank you”. As I was walking away I thought I could have said that punching in the park was more effective for stress than anything he was proselytizing, but because I was in a good mood, I just carried on my way.

Summer athlete Nicole with coffee in hand (from last summer)

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