Fitness, Lifestyle

“I’m a lover, not a fighter”, Part 2 – Stepping Into The Ring

As I type this my ribs ache, my legs struggle to move and I am currently constructing a den on the sofa so I don’t have to move much, all I need is a catheter and I’m sorted. This is all due to yesterday morning when I did something stupidly daring, I stepped into a boxing ring.

For the past month or so I have been attending a boxing class designed to boost my upper body as opposed to simply running for exercise. Apparently it’s working, last week I was told I had ‘beefed up’ by a girl who hadn’t seen me since I left Sheffield for Sydney.

While it has been difficult the rigours of the class have improved my pain threshold to the point where after five minutes recovery yesterday I was watching lads sparring against each other in the ring. Apparently my endurance could last a while longer and I was invited for a bout with a friend’s housemate to which I politely smile then decline. It takes some balls to go into the ring and after some mild coercing I have plucked out my gloves from the bin, my head ducks under the ropes and panic sets in.

Boxing rings are horribly lonely places. There are no places to hide, no-one to call for help and no policemen at hand should someone punch you square in the face. For such a confined space it feels a whole lot emptier when you are inside. A few steps back and you know your next will find the rope and that is the last place you want to lean. You feel naked by exposure as your body is a wandering, dancing target. This is not a place to hide but to man up and face confrontation.

I have never been in a fight in my entire life which is as remarkable as it is mystifying. By now my razor sharp tongue should have led to fisticuffs but now I am tapping gloves and dancing around the ring trying to work out how to land a punch. It looks so easy on the telly yet when you are eyeballing someone who wants to hit you there are so many things to consider –

1. Position

Try to keep your opponent guessing and move in anticipation. Your left foot should lead while your right needs to keep in step and planted should you try to land a telling blow.
2. Anticipation

Which areas of my torso am I exposing and how is my opponent going to hit them? How can I manoeuvre my body to ensure any punches do not land full and true? Questions, questions, questions.

3. Reaction

If my opponent decides to attack I have to be ready but this is also a great opportunity to get in my own attack. If they aim for my chest I can turn and land a blow to their exposed ribs.

4. Judgement

Size up your opponent. Judge their movement, reach and position early on. Try to spot their exposed areas and work out their combinations so you can work out how to combat them and land your own blows.

5. Concentration

The clock is ticking and every movement matters. One step in the wrong direction and your opponent could spot a chance to land a telling hit so you have to keep focused. Keep your eyes on your opponent and react to every movement whether defending or moving in to attack.

6. Movement

Work around your opponent and resist taking a step back. Try to stay on your toes but do not knacker yourself out by simply moving to evade punches, that allows your opponent to reserve their energy and catch you when you are weary.

We only go for one minute rounds yet a combination of dancing feet and throwing punches has knocked me out after three. Still, at least I have thrown a punch.


Record Store Day 2014 : You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Good things come to those who wait. Great things came to those who waited from dawn outside a record shop for over three hours this morning.

It’s 5am and my alarm has just gone off. That’s an early start for anyone on a weekday, let alone a Saturday morning. Luckily for me I am staying at a friends in Crookes so my destination is only down the hill. 50 minutes later I am outside Sheffield’s prime vinyl emporium, Record Collector.

As I get closer to the shop I start hoping that the cold air has put off a few hardy souls, alas, I take my position on the corner of Fulwood Road and Crookes Road. This is ridiculous, it’s not 7am and already I’m panicking that I won’t be able to get half of what is on my wish list. I am not the only one, there are a few sneers at those at the very front. Part of me admires someone who can kip out in the cold overnight, part of me sneers that their hauls will soon be on Ebay and another part of me finds it a little sad.

Put frankly, they do not look like your average vinyl-buyers. That may sound judgemental but you can tell by the way someone wears a jacket and a pair of trainers that they have taste. Their clothes and haircuts betray a style, an indulgence that befits anyone with a record collection. They are willing to put in the effort and have a sterling record collection at home to prove it. You simply do not get to see much of that these days as MP3s and CDs are all too easy to come by and easy to play.

Further down the line there are fathers and sons, gig-goers, boyfriends and girlfriends. That’s more like it. These are people that actually LOOK like they enjoy watching bands and finding new music. They are also smart enough to kip in their own bed and head down early, people who have social lives and aren’t bothered about making a few quid selling on records. They value vinyl as keepsies, not commodities.

By 7.30am the queue snakes down Glossop Road which means there will be a fair few disappointed faces come 9am. That’s contrary to the incredulous looks from road sweepers and lorry drivers who wonder quite why there are so many people standing outside a shop at this time, in these cold conditions.


The queue snaking round the corner at 7.33am

The queue snaking round the corner at 7.33am

A few minutes later the lovely folk who work in the shop come out. This must be a second Christmas to them as each customer who enters the shop will likely spend upwards of £20, usually around £50 with one ahead of me in the queue spending £338. To show their appreciation they chat to regular customers and hand out drinks to those who have bided their time.

While everyone has their list those behind the counter are wary of supply and demand. For instance, Record Collector only have three copies of the Paul Weller single which is high in demand. Many in the queue are praying there will be a copy left by the time they get in the shop but as soon as they find out there is only such a paltry supply their heads sink. You cannot blame the shop, with the label divvying out records they cannot refuse as the hope alone brings out customers who will likely spend the money on something else anyway. Still, just three copies seems such a paltry amount to even bother with.

At 7.55am the doors open and the queue shuffles forward then the panic begins. We all check our lists frantically and chat about how the event gets more and more cynical year on year. The increasing queues and prices gain focus yet we still come out don’t we. One new aspect that I have noticed is the use of social media, not simply for taking photos of the queue but Record Collector’s own Twitter account which is refreshed minute by minute to check what’s already sold out. Every update brings it’s own groan of disappointment; Weller goes soon enough and after a slew of releases that aren’t on my list sell out I get as far as the counter.

The Haul including Oasis - Supersonic, Tame Impala - Live Versions, Chvrches - We Sink, Joy Division - Ideal For Living EP, Metronomy - Love Letters (Soulwax Remix)

The Haul including Oasis – Supersonic, Tame Impala – Live Versions, Chvrches – We Sink, Joy Division – Ideal For Living EP, Metronomy – Love Letters (Soulwax Remix)

Now I begin to panic. My wish list only consists of seven records, one of which is for a friend and another is a possible birthday present. My heart begins to race as another copy of Tame Impala’s Live Versions leaps off the shelf into someone’s bag. There are some that I should not worry about; namely the reissue of Supersonic by Oasis, the Joy Division EP and the Kings of Leon single. However, as I get closer I realise that two on my list are in danger, with me agonisingly close to getting them. Should I have bothered going to the toilet before leaving the house, should I have eaten cereal, could I have walked a little faster? It doesn’t matter now as the final copies of Jake Bugg’s Live EP and the Jagwar Ma/Temples split covers single depart the shelves into the lad in front’s bag. My heart sinks but I cannot complain with my haul. There’s always Ebay anyway.

Fitness, Lifestyle

“I’m a lover, not a fighter”. Part 1 – The Boxing Class

“I’m a lover, not a fighter”

Now that is a mantra to live by but not one that is going to help when someone is aiming their fist directly at your jaw.Like everyone, occasionally I find myself in situations where I wish I knew how to diffuse a situation without panicked rage peeking inside. As a human being I find it hard to hide my emotions, if something is annoying me it does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that I am pissed off. My face scrunches up, my eyes turn into slits and I emit a deep sigh which really does not help when confrontations occur. If a situation ever came to blows I wouldn’t know how to defend myself.

Since returning to Sheffield a few weeks ago I have sought new ways of staying fit. This is partly caused by leaving my gym shirt and shorts at home yet after a couple of months I was already bored of the gym circuit punctuated by a midweek Kettlercise class. However, I was feeling the results but wanted to do something different, something challenging. On the weekend of my return a good friend persuaded me to come along to a boxing class with a housemate of his and I had nothing else on.

First impressions are… disconcerting. The gym lies in a rundown part of town with a door you can easily walk by. After watching various boxing films (Rocky, that one with Robert De Niro) I was well aware that boxing gyms are not glamourous buildings. They do not tempt you in with £10 first month offers or bevies of tightly wrapped girls. There is no water cooler or soft, white towels to soak up your sweat. They are invariably built and maintained by men concerned with an arena to endure in, this one was no different.

The walls seem soaked in sweat, old posters and newspaper clippings are yellowed and peeling. There are shrines paying homage to the greats with elaborate pencil drawings and warnings of how to correctly throw a knock-out punch. This is also a place of discipline, of course there is banter yet there is a whole load of underlying respect. Pay your dues, be gracious, choose the right kit, work til your body can take no more and everything will be fine.

Five minutes before and laughs are aplenty. Apparently I am supposed to ‘duff up’ my good friend Miles as we work for rival banks. My garish red t-shirt is drawing unappreciative glances in what could easily pass for a work environment. Swearing is frowned upon and black is a favoured uniform with pastel colours just about excusable. Lord knows why I decided on this t-shirt, this is certainly not the place where you wish to draw attention to yourself.

For a few spare minutes I work on my technique, specifically on my feet and learn a quick tip of keeping my feet grounded when landing a punch for maximum power. I try various combinations, keeping my hands up, facing forward and keeping side on. These are the building blocks that everyone needs to know.

At 11:05am Andy announces we are to start and half an hour of pain begins. After a minute of punching a bag there are ten Jumping Jacks then two of any sets ranging from Mountain Climbs (holding your body up on your arms then pushing one leg up after the other), deep squats, full burpees, the plank followed by holding up one side of your body then the other, press ups (Andy’s personal favourite) and sit ups. There are also stomach exercises which always cause me considerable pain. One is balancing on your arse and holding your feet up six inches off the ground, at a 45 degree angle then 90 degrees. Another is holding your feet six inches off the ground then rotating to touch your gloves on one side then the other. Suddenly that extra hour in bed seems criminal, especially when I should have been eating a banana in preparation. My stomach aches and refuses to hold up, the mind is willing but the body is not.

There are ten rounds of this cruelty before Andy tells us it’s over… after 50 press ups. It isn’t all that brutal, we are allowed ten seconds to catch our breath between rounds and he appreciates that ten ‘really good’ press ups are better than 50 rubbish ones. By the end I’m dripping in sweat and gleefully taking any liquid refreshment on offer. Apparently I’ll soon feel the benefit yet right now a sofa seems like bliss.