There are few rooms in athletics like boxing gyms. They have a sound, smell and rhythm all their own. For decades, they were places for contenders, not pretenders. You wanted to work out, you went to a fitness club. You wanted to box, you went to a boxing gym.
Not so much anymore.
FOR FUN, FOR SPORT
Inside the ring at the Academy of Boxing in Huntington Station, Jillian Haim is hammering away at the focus mitts held by her trainer. A few feet away, circling the perimeter along the ropes, Cathy Lesnik is shadow boxing, jabbing at her image in the mirror.
Both women are sweating, punching, grunting. But there is a difference. Haim is there for the workout. She simply wants to lose weight. Lesnik is training for the Golden Gloves and ultimately the 2012 Olympics. She simply wants to hit somebody.
Two women. Two objectives. One ring.
"I found it to be a lot of fun. It's great exercise," says Haim, a 26-year-old office manager from Plainview. "I do the entire workout. But I don't spar."
BOXING NOW - AND THEN
When the gym opened 20 years ago, it was known as the Academy of Boxing for Women. A lot has changed. Female champs Christy Martin and Laila Ali slipped from the spotlight, and mixed martial arts began to compete for boxing fans. Tae Bo came and went. To stay competitive, the gym's owner - boxing promoter Frankie Globuschutz - began welcoming fighters from both sexes.
BOXING AS EXERCISE
Whether you are looking to beat the scale, Father Time or another fighter, the gym is open to all comers. The training staff - which includes four-time women's world champion Kathy Collins, former pro Dom Marino and onetime New York State Athletic Commissioner Randy Gordon - designs custom workouts. And there is one aspect of the workout all the fighters agree on. It's great for stress relief.
"It's fun to hit bags or hit people," says Lesnik, 25, and an aerospace engineer for ITT Corp. in Amityville. "A lot of us work long days, but you come here, and you let it all out."
BOXING GYMS ON LONG ISLAND
ACADEMY OF BOXING: 2077 New York Ave., Huntington Station, 631-673-3520.
Cost: $45 monthly membership (or $300 a year); private lessons from $40
LONG ISLAND BOXING GYM: 1 Gear Ave., Lindenhurst, 631-422-9526, longislandboxinggym.com
Cost: $140-$350 a month; private lessons from $60
Run by former fighter Eddie Haeffer. Men and women box for fitness and competition. It's home to 2009 Golden Gloves champion Kristin Havdoglous and "The Biggest Loser" season three winner Erik Chopin.
GLEN COVE BOXING CLUB: 4 Harmony Lane, Glen Cove, 516-676-3766
Cost: No charge to train
Run by Frank Pena, this gym produced 1976 Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis Jr. Gym is open to teens, and men and women from 6 to 9 weeknights for fitness or competition. The gym's Ashley Conklin is currently fighting in the Golden Gloves.
BASIC BOXING WORKOUT
(Each round lasts three minutes with a 60-second rest period between rounds.)
-Two rounds of jumping rope for warm-up.
-Two rounds of shadow boxing. Corrects form and works core - hips, glutes and thighs - by bobbing, weaving and slipping under imaginary punches coming back.
-Three rounds on heavy bag.
-Three rounds on focus mitts. Your trainer takes you inside the ring wearing padded gloves. Improves punching accuracy, while also working shoulders and back.
-Two rounds on speed bag. Good for reflexes.
-Calisthenics (push-ups, dips, ab work).