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I Spent The Morning Boxing Parisians At Ken Club

It was really chic.

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If your image of the Parisan woman is a waif-like muse of the Nouvelle Vague in a Breton-striped shirt, you’ve never been to a Lady Boxing class.

Even though I grew up with an uncle forcing me to watch all the Rocky films, I never thought to try boxing for myself until it started trending in the world of juice bars and Lululemon. Curious and completely inexperienced, I knew there was only one place to go in my current hometown of Paris. 

When I entered the luxe Ken Club, one of the city's swankiest exercise spots, I got the impression that I'd escaped to a Bali-esque refuge: there was a wall of exotic green vegetation that I felt an urge to pet, and floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto a pool that sparkled. I approached the coffee bar and the espresso machine, also sparkling, that were beckoning me to sit atop the plush red stools for a caffeine boost. It was only 9 a.m., after all. But I was directed straight to the fitness studio for a strict start time, because what I'd actually come for was an ass-kicking from national boxing champion Haifa Fay. 
 

We began with cardio. I jogged around the brightly-lit studio with just a handful of other early risers, noticing a sense of familiarity that warmed the room as our coach, Haifa, greeted everyone by name. There also seemed to be an unspoken dress code reminding me that we were still, in fact, in Paris. Almost everyone was uniformed in all-black, and managed to look elegant as we accelerated our laps around the room. I tried to shake off my nerves as we settled into spots before the ballet bar and mirrored our instructor: heart rates up and expectations high. 

Boxing has become somewhat of a cool-girl sport, thanks to the Gigi Hadids and Adriana Limas of the world who flood our social media feeds with the latest trends in fitness. While previously, gym-goers were apprehensive about partnering up and punching it out, the celebrity clientele of places like Gotham G-Box in New York have shattered the perception that this workout is dangerous. More women have ditched ellipticals and yoga mats for a new, fierce fitness experience. They're pulling on their gloves to test out the benefits of this total-body exercise that's efficient, improves hand-eye coordination and is an awesome form of stress relief.  

Gloves on and geared-up, I was ready for my Million Dollar Baby moment. 
 
We paired-up and alternated between adrenaline-pumping sessions of punches and kicks, followed by strategic periods of rest. The class moved fast, and following the coach's instructions for each new set of moves wasn't easy. When I did nail it, I felt like a rock star. As the class went on, I felt stronger and my confidence grew, even though the moves got more complex and harder to master. 

Whether we were up against one another or jabbing enthusiastically at punching bags, the session was peppered with sets of planks and crunches that I thought would destroy me. But I was energized by the hip hop beats that blurred together with Coach Haifa's barked words of encouragement. Was that French she was speaking, or was that English? Or was it just Rihanna telling me to work (work, work, work, work)? In the last few moments of the class, I attacked that punching bag like it was President Trump and each fist carried the force of every angry liberal in the U.S. right now. Ferociously alternating jabs between my left and right fists, it was that impossible sprint at the end of the marathon. I felt like a badass. I felt accomplished. 

One thing was for sure: these women, some of whom were twice my age, could out-kick, out-punch and out-crunch me while maintaining that blasé attitude only a Parisian could perfect. I reminded myself that they'd done this before, as I watched them nail their high-kicks and pivots effortlessly. Meanwhile, I struggled to turn my body in order to have my foot land in the right place on the human target standing across from me. What’s advantageous about doing this in Paris, where boxing is just starting to blow up, is the one-on-one attention you get from your coach. As a New Yorker, I've tested out a number of exercise classes in studios where elbow space is prime real estate. I was pleasantly surprised that Coach Haifa not only retained my name, but was so focused on my form that she wasn't letting me leave until I improved that pivot. 


I was sore for days, but it was the kind of sore that made me proud.

It wasn't that lasting, depressing soreness from too many hours spent hunched over a desk or from unhappy feet after a night out in unforgiving heels. In the aftermath of my experience at Lady Boxing, the lasting ache in my abs and the pain in my inner thighs were reminders of just how hardcore I could get. It brought me back to my glory moment in front of the punching bag, those surprising final seconds of rediscovered strength. 

I wasn’t exactly Hilary Swank-level strong, but I certainly channeled my inner Victoria Secret model with the confidence to match. The class boosted my mood, and the activity triggered an endorphin release that beat my experience with any other sport. It was empowering to get tough and throw punches. It also felt good to work with a focused partner and to feel like I had worked on my form throughout the duration of my class. Am I ready for the ring? Absolutely – just as soon as my body stops aching. 

For more information about Ken Club hours, membership costs and class schedules, visit the website

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All photos courtesy of Ken Club.
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