Why I'm learning to box clever when it comes to exercise
It was one of those weird situations that you accidentally fall into and wonder, 'How on earth did I end up here?' I awoke one morning last week in serious pain. Serious to the point that even before I opened my eyes, I could feel the deep aches running through my neck, arms and legs – reaching as far as my fingernails and toes.
Have I been in some sort of accident, I wondered? When I mustered the energy to finally open my eyes, I raised my hands to survey the damage and was shocked to see bruises running across both sets of knuckles and my fingers shaking uncontrollably.
And then I remembered: 'Ah, that's right, I've taken up boxing.'
Like most of the best things in life, my foray into the brutal sport of boxing happened completely by accident.
I signed up for a dancing class called Bokwa which, I was told, is dancing to the letters of the alphabet. I'm pretty good at the YMCA so that sounded just fine to me. But when I turned up, it transpired that I was the only one in the mood to dance and the course was cancelled.
Having already paid up-front, I was offered the option of joining a class called 'Intro to Boxing' instead. So I did, thinking it would be a Mr Motivator, music-fuelled boxercise-type dance.
But I soon realised it's far from boxercise. It's proper 'I can knock your pan in' boxing, taught by Billy, who has clearly done more than a few tough rounds in his lifetime.
I've never so much as watched a boxing match before and I don't really like getting hit, but Billy assured me it was exactly the same as dancing – you just have to remember when to duck.
Before I knew it, I was strapping on two gloves and learning how to left hook and stun a punch bag. And I loved every minute of it.
Billy – 'scuse the pun – pulled no punches.
He was full of motivational talk as he had five women run ragged with circuits, skipping, shadow boxing, throwing a massive ball at each other's heads and 'Letting it all go, kid' on the punch bag and pads (hence the bruised knuckles).
He knows none of us are going to scare Katie Taylor in the ring, but gives us pep talks as if we actually are heading that way.
He threw the circuits in to raise our heart rate before taking on the pads, to prepare us for fighting in front of a crowd. It was at this point, it started to dawn on me: 'Oh my gawd, he's serious. Can I go back to dancing?'
"Everyone's got a tiger inside," he told me. "When you come into this room, your tiger comes out. We don't want to see the nice person that you are outside this class. Leave her out there.
"Come in here, let your tiger out and get all that stress off your shoulders. Let it all go, and you'll feel like a better person when you walk out."
And he was right. Despite the bumps, bruises, aches and pains, I was smiling as I looked at my poor wee knuckles.
My hands shook for about three days before the pain finally wore off.
But a week later, I was back, the proud owner of some pink knuckle guards and with the opening bars of Eye of the Tiger running through my head as I strapped on my Everlast gloves.
My only regret is that I didn't discover boxing years ago. I coulda been a contender.
How I know it’s feline like summer
Everyone has their own sign heralding the imminent arrival of summer — like the clocks springing back or the start of exams. For me, it’s the disappearance of our cat Mac, who goes on a long adventure every summer.
When it first happened, we panicked and assumed she had moved in with a new family.
But she came back after a few months, as we know now she always does, when the weather starts to turn cold again.
So I can report that Mac’s been gone for a full week now — the surest sign there is that summer is on its way.
Now sort out the other pole-toppers
Contain your excitement — it’s election day! Regardless of who tops the poll in the most boring election for quite some time, the one thing we can all look forward to is the election posters coming down.
They have no real purpose in life other than to make our neighbourhoods look messy and tribal.
So, politicians beware, you have 14 days to clear the lamp-posts or face a fine.
Given the indecent haste in some posters going up after the Giro d’Italia had wheeled out of town, I’m confident the parties can execute the same speedy operation in getting them down.