Health & Beauty, Life

Inside Chicago’s boxing bootcamp

Soho House’s old-school boxing gym is home to one of the best workouts around, says Collette Lyons

“I ain’t gonna hurt ya, promise,” laughs Jimmy Mango, the co-owner of Franklin Street Boxing, as he aims a giant yellow soft foam sausage at my face. As his jabs, hooks and uppercuts have been flying around my head in this Boxing with the Bosses class for the last half hour, this is comforting.

Jimmy’s hour-long circuit, during which I repeatedly struggle to get my gloves on and off, spar (tricky), skip (exhausting), throw a medicine ball a pathetically short distance (embarrassing) or to hit the speed bag at any sort of speed (like playing whack-a-mole with the Tasmanian Devil), is certainly a full-body workout.

But it’s more than that. To avoid being whacked in the face by either the punchbags or Golden Gloves champion Jimmy, you have to be fully in the moment. Which makes
a change for me, as an hour at the gym is usually an hour spent thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner.

The boxing classes are some of the most popular among staff and members here at Soho House Chicago. Some have become so hooked that they sign up for regular Fight Nights, when the gym floor is transformed into a 1920s-style underground boxing club, complete with its own bar.

The boxing ring is the centrepiece of the second floor gym’s warehouse-style space, and there are multiple options here for pummelling and being pummelled. Manager Dan Wilsea and in-house boxing coach Terrence Smith, a two-times Golden Gloves winner, have devised a Fight Club boot camp session, which is billed as a “physical assault” – in practice, half an hour sparring with Terrence, bookended by strength work, core and cardio “just to really make sure we kill you,” says Dan.

The staff boot camps on Tuesday and Thursdays at 1pm and 4pm are becoming increasingly popular as word has spread. It helps that you see results quickly. “Boxing boosts hand-eye co-ordination, balance and strength with muscle movements you’d never make in normal life.”

It also nails the current exercise obsession with HIIT (high intensity interval training). “In boxing, you have two or three minute rounds, and you are going at incredibly high intensity for that time, whether you are punching, dodging, protecting yourself
or moving away,” says Dan. I can confirm that three minutes sparring with Jimmy felt like 30.

I can also confirm that he was lying about not hurting me – I couldn’t lift my arms above 45 degrees the next day.

Soho House & Co people can attend free classes in our gyms. Email your HR rep to find one near you

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