Boxing good aerobic alternative

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2001

Sports Editor

If you’re like me and your knees crackle as much as rice krispies saturated in whole milk, running or jogging for aerobic health is not an option.

I used to love to run and worked up to eventually maybe four miles a day, but that was before the ACL popped in my right knee during a flag football game. After surgery, my left knee gave out during a pick-up basketball game with my friends.

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Following those two injuries, jogging became more and more difficult. Running outside on concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads was a no-no, but I still was able to manage maybe 20 or 30 minutes on a treadmill.

Soon, though, I realized I was increasingly turning my knees into crumbled up saltine crackers through the stress of pounding one foot after the other.

So a searched for an aerobic alternative.

I didn’t own a bicycle and the thought of spending half an hour on a stationary bike wasn’t all that appealing. Stairmasters made my knees ache more then a treadmill and elliptical trainers, (which resemble nordic tracks on steroids), were just too confusing for someone of my low-coordination to command long enough for a good workout.

I realized that I couldn’t just cut out aerobics all together. Like most southern-fried boys, I like to eat. Running, while not turning me into an ultra-lean marathoner, did hold my fat cells somewhat at bay.

Therefore I turned to an old piece of equipment that I had been using off and on since 1996.

A punching bag.

If you’ve never worked out with a punching bag before and you’ve grown tired of stale aerobics and Tae-Boe, I suggest you get one.

Mine’s an Everlast model that weighs about 80 to 90 pounds. I first had it hanging up at home inside my parent’s garage on a wooden beam, but had to remove it when I cracked the beam during an intense workout. When I moved to Troy, I bought a stationary hanger for the bag that is anchored to the floor with weights. I try to get in at least 20 minutes, three times a week with the bag.

The thing about hitting a punching bag is that it gives your entire body a workout. You’re working your leg muscles when you dance around the bag and the muscles in your back, chest, arms and shoulders when you hit it. And I like lifting weights as much the next person, but a punching bag develops the muscles from different angles that free weights or machines can’t get to.

Early on I used to go 20-25 minutes straight on the bag, nonstop. Now I work out at intervals, almost like rounds in a boxing match, going for three to four minutes straight and then a minute of rest. Intervals give you a chance to go all out for a short period of time, recuperate, and then go at it again.

Besides the bag itself, (and somewhere to secure it where you won’t tear the garage down), you’ll also need bag gloves and hand wraps. I’ve got a set of gloves with a thin amount of padding that I’ve used since I started. Thicker gloves are available and I would recommend them if you’re a beginner.

Regardless of what size gloves you use, you’ll definitely need hand wraps, which protect your hands somewhat, but let me warn you: get ready for a few bruised knuckles and some torn skin. I’ve been working out with a bag for almost five years and there’s places on my knuckles that open up constantly after a particular heavy workout.

I’ll take it for granted that you know how to punch already, but if you don’t there are numerous books available to study up on the "sweet science." Jabs and right crosses are the bread and butter of boxing. I’m right handed so that would be my "power hand"; the fist I use to throw crosses and straights to an opponent’s head or body. There’s also hooks and uppercuts and once you learn the basic punches you can begin forming your own combinations to use in your workout.

And remember, just because you can beat up a punching bag doesn’t give you an excuse to go out and tangle with every Joe on the street. The world doesn’t believe in fighting fair. More then likely, you’ll end up nursing a bruised ego, in the hospital or maybe even dead.

Working out with a punching bag will give you confidence and allow you to vent some of the frustrations of everyday life. It will also help you build muscle and lose fat, as well as keep your heart in good working order.

It won’t, however, turn you into Sugar Ray Leonard.