Boutique boxing gyms have stolen the show on the London fitness scene in recent months - dazzling their way into the limelight with killer conditioning classes, and taking the reins from CrossFit and TRX as the latest selfie-lover's workout. I mean, who doesn't look badass posing in retro boxing gloves?
Cahoonas writer Amy Andrew continues the circuit of London's Boxing clubs with a visit to Islington Boxing Club. Here's her verdict:-
But before these über cool boxing studios emerged, with their free shower gel and Aesop moisturiser,* spit and sawdust amateur boxing gyms like Islington Boxing Club, in North London, were ruling the boxing roost - although most offered very little for the keep-fit enthusiast.
Islington BC was different. In the 1990s, well before many of the other amateur clubs cottoned on to the benefits of offering recreational classes, Islington helped to financially sustain its competitive teams - run on a combination of volunteers and goodwill - with sessions for those that wanted all the fitness benefits of the sport, in an authentic gym environment, without the actual getting-in-the-ring-and-
Plus, for those that prefer not to remortgage their homes - London boutique classes can cost up to £30 for 45 minutes - to sustain a boxing hobby in the capital, they are much kinder on the wallet.
Before we go on, I probably need to point out that I am 100 per cent biased. I am an active competitive boxer for Islington Boxing Club, I coach the infants, and take the occasional recreational class myself.
However, I must also point out that without the fitness journey that I took, thanks to Islington BC, my love affair with the sport may have died out. Along with ballet, swimming, netball, spinning, Pilates, and the many other sports or fitness trends I've tried. So I speak first-hand from my experiences as a newcomer to the sport, and as an Islington BC customer, in highlighting its positives - and negatives.
The gym is a tightly-run ship when it comes to classes - the 20-something years of experience in recreational boxing have come in handy, it seems. There are 10 recreational sessions a week, and 15 competitive. They range from mums-only to amateur boxing training. White collar, chess boxing, children's lessons - you name it, Islington offers it. At affordable prices. Classes cost £4 for children or £7 for adult recreational members - plus membership, which is £25 for the entire year.
Recreational boxing classes, which last an hour-and-a-half, are the most popular. Newbies are herded off after the warm-up to learn the fundamentals of boxing, while the rest are partnered up for combo boxing drills - which is when the sweating begins.
Next is a boxing-based circuit; think skipping, bagwork, abs, partner drills, pad work, weights, and even body sparring, although this is optional. Coaches are on hand to correct technique and make sure everyone is working hard and on the right station.
It's organised using a number system, which is explained at the start, and banging tracks blast at full volume to keep you working through the pain. The session finishes with a bodyweight circuit.
It's a great all-over workout, it's fun - you'll get plenty of banter from the coaches - and gets you fit, quick. Plus, it's aimed at all levels - complete beginners to long-time boxing aficionados.
Other sessions are also popular; attendees of Saturday morning strength and conditioning, run by potty-mouthed Auzzie Sunni Torgman, are evangelical about the benefits - specifically, her booty exercises. The kids classes are so in-demand there is currently a waiting list, and if you want to box competitively, the amateur gym is one of the most established in the country.
If classes aren't for you, walk-ins, available between 7.30am and 5pm cost £5, and you'll get the run of the gym, weights room, bags and other equipment.
Now, the negatives (this could be a big mistake. The next few paragraphs may determine how many fights I am picked for this season..!).
If you're not from the area, and are used to tube-stop convenience, you may struggle. It's a 10 minute walk - or five minute bus ride - from Archway tube, so great for those living or working in North London, but perhaps not ideal for those that aren't.
Also, classes are large - there are often around 50 or 60 people in recreational boxing sessions. They are spread over two floors, so you're guaranteed a spot, but fitness benefits may reflect your input. Those that work hard will struggle to walk out of the gym, on account of all the newly acquired muscles. But it could be tempting to slack off when coaches turn their backs - although this isn't recommended. If they catch you taking it easy, I can guarantee extra burpees are coming your way!
In a nutshell
It's a fun, authentic, boxing gym providing the perfect platform for fitness enthusiasts to learn a skill, develop abs, or progress in the sport to the very top level - for those that choose to. Competitive boxers can also go straight to the amateur section via the academy.
Value for money is where Islington BC really excels. Even if I do say so myself(!) you'll get excellent coaching (staff are mostly boxers or former boxers) and fitness, at a price that won't break the bank.
Plus you get to work out in a proper boxing gym - complete with old-school fight posters - providing an almost endless array of selfie opportunities. Beat that, boutique boxing bunnies.
Opening times: 7.30am - 9.30pm Monday to Friday. Saturday
Cost: Ranges from £4 - £10.
Classes: Recreational boxing, mums classes, strength and conditioning, infants, youth, academy and competitive. White collar and chess boxing.
Personal training: Yes
Disabled access: Yes
Address: 20 Hazellville Road, London, N19 3LP.
Contact: 07920 280230