Secrets from the Training Room: Try your hand at boxing?

Nicole Wokas says boxing appeals to her because it challenges her both physically and mentally. Courtesy of Bob Miller

Life as an athlete doesn’t begin and end on the field. The dedicated are relentless in searching for a perfect mix of diet, clothing, sleeping patterns and cross-training that will beat the competition. Although the choices are seemingly endless, we’re making your search easier by going to coaches, trainers and athletes and bringing you back the secrets from the training room.

This week, we’re taking a look at boxing as cross-training.

What it is: A sport that underdog movie dreams are made of, boxing pits two competitors of roughly equal weight in a ring for a specified number of rounds. The winner is determined either by judges’ scoring or when one competitor is unable – or deemed unable -- to continue.

How it works: Although a sport based on hand-to-hand combat may not seem beneficial to the total body, boxing doesn’t leave many areas out when it comes to training. Gary Dobry, owner of Pug’s Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake, Ill, refers to boxing as “the art of being relaxed while performing at a sprinter’s pace,” a practice that takes incredible focus and conditioning.

Boxers must have great endurance, agility and flexibility. Plus, mental sharpness is key to staying one step — sometimes literally — ahead of your opponent.

Who does it: These days, participants include moms who want to get back into shape, kids who attend boxing classes alongside trumpet lessons and soccer practice, professional athletes dreaming of gold medals, and, of course, girls in high school looking to cross-train and potentially excel at another sport.

Does it work? Given the accessibility of boxing trainers, gyms and coaches across the country -- along with the addition of women’s boxing to the 2012 Olympics -- it would seem the sport is doing something right for its participants.

Bob Miller, co-owner and coach at Warrior Boxing in Downers Grove, Ill., trains one of the largest female boxing teams in the country.

“(I’m) happy that there is a good avenue for girls to express their talents in this area,” Miller says.

One of his boxers, sophomore Nicole Wokas, loves the sports because it challenges her on multiple levels.

“(Boxing) not only demands physical agility,” she says. “But also forces you to mindfully pace yourself, which builds stamina.”

An added bonus, according to Lake County Boxing Club coach Larry Lentz, is that with women’s boxing just starting to catch on, a smaller pool of competition allows for a higher chance of excelling.

“It’s easier to turn a good fighter into a champion,” he says.

And even if your sights aren’t set on the championship in the ring, Dobry provides another benefit.

“Life is all about challenges and going the distance,” he says. “If you can take on a scary opponent inside the ring, the challenges outside will be a piece of cake.”