I get two responses when people realize I’m nearly obsessed with boxing. Either I am an undercover psycho with a lot of anger issues, or, they laugh. Dee? Hitting heavy bags? They laugh, literally.

The first time I spent with a trainer on pads, he would stop often and say, “Dee stop smiling. It’s creepy.” I’d laugh and then realize he was serious, so I’d press my lips together as best as I could and focus on that jab-jab-cross again, even though everything in me said, “you suck at this.”

I started boxing near the end of last year after writing a profile on the ringleader of a new studio in town, and became nearly obsessive immediately. I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I was in love with boxing. Since then however, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the reason I box. Mostly, it turns out I’m a lover and a fighter, but let me explain.

At first it was to help me win a bet. Cousin Jordan and I had a bet going on to help us get back into the gym, but after that was done (and I won), I wasn’t about to leave that little studio. I had realized it wasn’t about getting sweet abs, though that would be cool. And it certainly wasn’t to work out my silent anger issues.

It was about me – just, me. While some people might think that’s a little self-indulgent, let me share with you the real reasons I’m obsessed. Hopefully by the end of this, you’ll find your own form of boxing.

FOCUS ON THAT BREATHING//

The first thing you learn in boxing is your stance and how to throw a punch properly. The next thing you learn is that you have no idea how to breathe, and, you might die. During a high intensity class, the only thing you hear is music and the trainer, who is often saying “focus on that breathing, in the nose, out the mouth …” I’m not kidding you, this lesson has followed me in my life. As soon as life starts feeling a little ‘high intensity’, you’ll find me reminding myself to focus on that breathing.

DEFINING THE OPPONENT//

Most people ask me who I picture when I’m smashing punches on the bag. And honestly, my answer is, “Negative Dee.” I could focus on everything and everyone else around me, but I actually end up losing focus, and lose sight of the real opponent. So, when I’m smashing that bag, I’m thinking about who I am, and what I’m capable of. When fear, doubt, insecurity, absentmindedness, or inability whispers to me during class, I remind myself of who I am. Boxing is a mental sport as much as it is physical, and I think life is pretty similar. Whenever I’m tempted to start thinking about external things or people to blame, I can see myself fighting the negativity inside of me instead.

RISING ABOVE//

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say doubt and insecurity so easily make their way into our life on a daily basis. It’s annoying. But for 50 minutes a day, I don’t have time to give to those thoughts, because I’ve got another five seconds to work out a few more combos. It’s a lot like every day, you know? I’ve got this option every single time I am faced with doubt or insecurity to give it the time of day, or, I could crush some goals instead. And every time I chose it, I learn to fight for me.

A lot of my life is focused on other people, which I really love. Between full time school and a handful of part-time jobs, my life gets busy. But for 50 minutes a day I get to focus on me, which I believe is necessary to be able to focus on other people well.

After coffee with a pastor I adore, he reminded me boxing can be my source of rest, if I wanted. It made me think about how I view myself, and what is important to me because ‘rest’ has never sounded optimal to me. I realized through this that oftentimes, I am not important to myself. Much like me laughing and smiling without the ability to focus during my early days boxing, I didn’t have confidence in just me. But now you’ll find me sweaty in the corner of a studio focusing on me. Breathing, letting go, learning, sometimes even smiling or laughing, and being me – just me.

(And of course, it feels pretty good to hit shit sometimes.)

Honestly, I hope you can find your form of boxing – whatever makes you passionate, thoughtful, and cognizant of you – just you.