There are few experiences that will get me up at 5 a.m. and to an interview by 6 a.m. This one was well worth it because I learned about boxing and how HMSA senior executive Elisa Yadao uses it to stay fit. Following my time spent with her and trainer and mixed martial arts fighter Derek Thornton, I began to understand why she was hooked.
Prior to their session, Thornton explained to me the basics of boxing and how this alternative exercise can become your regular fitness routine because it combines strength, cardio, and endurance. Although a professional fighter like himself would spend six days a week, eight hours a day training, the box fit style he teaches Yadao is great for people that are interested in using it to enhance fitness.
“It’s all based on fitness. You have to be flexible, you incorporate cardio, you need balance, and you need to be strong,” he said. “Ninety percent of it is also mental; you have to focus on more than throwing the punch and it hitting the mitt. It’s very stimulating in many different areas of being alive that people don’t even realize.”
Standing on the side of Yadao and Thornton as they sparred and worked on technique, I felt the energy and exhilaration radiating from the duo. Not to mention the early morning stillness and rising sun seemed to complement the experience.
I watched this woman, who was easily a foot shorter than her opponent, throw 150 punches in less than a minute, stick a perfect fight stance, keep her chin tucked down and her arms guarding her core and her face, and throw a powerful punch.
I watched this poised fighter calmly become her striking coach, leading her through one to two and a half minute routines of jabs, crosses, hooks, and short and long jumps. Toward the end, he challenged her mental agility with a numbers game, which trains the fighter to stay present and remember the most important element: breathe. I saw a juxtaposition of tranquility and pure adrenaline in Yadao’s face and composure.
“I feel really, really good and have a lot of energy,” Yadao said. “Boxing connects what could be seemingly disparate activities. Weight lifting for strength and agility and speed drills to help with footwork. And, you end up working your brain way more than anything else I’ve ever done. Neuroplasticity! Which is important as one ages.”
Watching them intently also helped me to understand what Thornton means by using many different elements of training to get to the stage of being able to engage in a good, solid sparring match. Although I didn’t witness Yadao doing burpees, push-ups, ladder jumps and other strength building exercises, I saw the moves where these skills made the fighter stronger. I could also see the strength gained from the not-so-glamourous part of training shine through in the one-on-one action, the seemingly fun part.
By the end of my time with Yadao and Thornton, I wanted a taste of boxing too. Thornton graciously gave me a short beginner lesson and by the end of the session, I was sweaty, my heart was pumping, and I was yearning for more. Not to mention the redness on my knuckles made me feel pretty darn cool.
“Majority of people who try it are hooked,” Thornton said. “Look at Elisa, when she walks away from a session, she walks away with her gloves on. She doesn’t want to take them off!”
You can watch some of the box fit action here:
If you’re interested in boxing and would like to train privately with Derek Thornton, you can email him to make an appointment.