My lungs are on fire. My arms feel like lead. I’m so tired I can hardly think. Every inch of my torso hurts. It takes enormous effort to not sit down. My feet begin to slip on the tiled floor. I look down and realize I am literally standing in a puddle of my own sweat. In other words, I have been boxing. A few minutes later, as I step out of the shower and commence icing my tender elbows (a result of sloppy technique) I can’t help but ask myself: “Why the hell am I doing this?”

Why indeed? A little background is necessary before I can truly answer. I consider myself to be a healthy individual and have been a regular gym goer since my teens (turned 31 this year). Barring some short periods of travel and illness, my weight has been within a couple of kgs of my college years. My regimen has always centered around weight training.  Due to an old knee injury, I stay away from high impact activity such as running. This suits me fine because I have always found cardio to be a little boring. Regardless, I did do a token amount of cycling to take care of my heart and keep fat levels under control. Due to a combination of bad luck, ignorance and extensive hiking, I ended up severely injuring my knee last year. Long story short, my training had to be severely curtailed and cardio went out the window. The result? An expanding waistline and a shrinking wardrobe. It took 4 months of therapy, but I am now about 90 percent recovered. High impact activity is still out of the question but cycling is ok. Unfortunately, low intensity cardio is not going to help me reach my goals. I needed something that was easy on my knees, high intensity and most importantly; not boring.

So back to my original question. Why boxing? Here’s why:

1. A complete workout. Boxing trains every aspect of one’s physical self: Strength, agility, coordination, stamina and balance. The only thing it does not improve much is flexibility. Regardless, boxing is hands down the most effective workout you will EVER do.

2. A great stress reliever. The next time you suffer through 2 hours of traffic after a day of being yelled at by your boss, try this: instead of grabbing a cold one and plopping in front of the TV, go a few rounds on a heavy bag. You will be surprised at how relaxed you feel.

3. Mental conditioning. Few people realize how tiring a few rounds of boxing can get. Fewer still understand what it takes to keep focused while doing so. The ability to think when one is physically exhausted is rarely appreciated. It is hard to focus on technique, foot movement and targeting when all you want to do is just collapse. Anyone can throw a few punches. It takes discipline, will power and tremendous concentration to earn the title of a boxer.

4. Confidence. With the high energy levels and mental clarity boxing brings, not to mention the physical benefits, the confidence that follows is surprising. The shift between thinking “Can I even do this?” to “What more can I do?” will most likely astound you. It is something that flows over into every aspect of your life.

5. It is fun! A boxing session is dynamic. No two rounds are ever the same. It can be as intense and varied as you want it to be while still providing all the benefits of the sport.

6. It takes very little equipment. Most people will need nothing more than a heavy bag, hand wraps, gloves and a skipping rope. A ceiling fan hook is ideal to hang a bag from. Voila! The excuse of “I don’t have time to go to the gym” becomes a joke when the gym is literally in the next room.

If you are anything like me and hate the idea of doing something monotonous, give boxing a shot. It is not a sport for everyone but it CAN be. As a fitness routine it is tough, intense, and extremely efficient. As a lifestyle it will transform who and what you are. Yes it hurts, but hell, so does life. Besides, the rewards will make the pain well worth it. I know this because regardless of how exhausted I may feel at the end of eight rounds, by the time I take those gloves off, I’m smiling.