My secret fit life - The Media Planner Boxer

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If even sofa-diving’s an effort after a day’s work, prepare to be inspired. Andréa Childs meets three women whose fearless after-hours pursuits help drive their nine to fives.

The Media Planner Boxer

Kate Oates, 20, plans advertising campaigns across press, TV and social media. At the weekend, she perfects her knockout punch with a hardcore boxing workout.

At work I’m known for my heels and pretty dresses. When I’m boxing, I wear a cropped top and shorts, with wraps around my hands and boxing gloves. The sweat drips into my eyes, my shoulders are shining with perspiration and my body hurts – but it feels so cleansing! I box on a Saturday afternoon and it’s an amazing start to my weekend. Afterwards, I play Rihanna really loud and sing along. It completely de-stresses me and I feel like I can handle any pitch or client my boss throws at me the following week.

‘In 2007, when I’d moved to London from Derbyshire and was having a hard time after a break-up, my mum suggested I join a gym. I loved the endorphin rush I got after exercising but I always felt inadequate there – I wasn’t dressed right and I had no idea what to do after my programmed 20-minute run, ten-minute row and 50 crunches. I wanted a more exciting, less clinical workout so I Googled ‘boxing gyms and signed up with a local personal trainer. It was a bit of a random choice but it looked like a good workout and I thought it would help me with stress. Nobody else I knew did it, which attracted me, too. The first time I went to a session I was shocked – the gym was down a dodgy backstreet in a rough part of London, there was graffiti on the walls, a dog was chained up outside, and the boxing club was full of huge sweaty men. It was so raw but totally accepting – there was no posing or people looking down at me because I didn’t know what to do. I thought it was awesome!

‘These days, I train for two hours. The session starts with press-ups, burpees and squat thrusts, then we‘ll move on to combinations of boxing punches, followed by sparring. I’d never want compete in the boxing match – I always joke that I’m a lover, not a fighter – but I love the discipline of this sport. I get a real sense of achievement from it, like the day I shadow boxed with weights for the first time, or when I increase my personal best of press-ups, or do well in a sparring bout. I’m always paired with women who are bigger than me because I’m strong and scappy, and it’s a real boost to my confidence to know I can handle myself against them. I think it’s influenced the way I work, too, as I’m more timely and organised, and definitely less antsy and stressed. I’ve never been injured while sparring – we have a rule to avoid face and boobs – but I have almost been sick; a vomit bucket sits next to the ring, just in case.

‘Most women I know can’t relate to boxing, but that makes it even more of a havent for me. I’ve recently joined the Tribesports social network (tribesports.com) and have swapped tips on everything from technique to music to box to. It’s great to dip into a like-minded community when I want to. At work I’m feminine, ambitious and sometimes stressed. My social life is busy and fun. But boxing is just for me.’

The Company Director Rock Climber

Jess Reading, 30, is a director at online travel company laterooms.com. when she’s not in the boardroom, she can be found hanging off rock faces in the Peak District.

‘When I’m climbing a tricky route, I’m totally in the moment. And when I reach the top, the adrenaline is just incredible. It’s a complete switch-off from the stress of my work life, where my brain is constantly buzzing between projects and I’m in meetings all day. I thrive on the variety and challenges of my career but I need the freedom of climbing. I crave the fresh air – so different from an air-conditioned office – the views across the Peak District and the physical exertion. I even eat more healthily when I’m climbing, so it’s a picnic of cheese sandwiches, fruit and salad, instead of a rushed tin of soup or a packet of crisps at my desk.

‘I got into the sport six years ago, when a friend started talking to me about a climb he’d just done – he was still on a high and his excitement inspired me to have a go. He took me to an indoor climbing centre in Sheffield and I absolutely loved it. I introduced my partner, Rob, to climbing and now we go at least two evenings a week and every weekend. We climb outdoors unless the weather is really awful or it’s dark, and tend to do a lot of bouldering, which involves shorter, low-level climbs that you do without a rope or harness.

Bouldering is really powerful – the equivalent of a 100m sprint rather than a 1,500m race – and I’m fanatical about increasing my climbing fitness. I do pull-ups every night, exercises to increase my finger strength so I can grip the rock, and yoga DVDs to improve my flexibility. My body is definitely stronger and more toned since I started climbing.

‘I get on really well with my work team but I don’t tend to mix my professional and social life. My job is based in Manchester and the guys will go to the gym and then on to a bar or club. I commute straight home to Sheffield and we go out with a big group of climbing buddies, perhaps to a meal or a film. Our friendships started with fitness but they’ve become a lot deeper over the years. The two halves of my life aren’t totally separate, though. With climbing, I’ve had to train myself to feel fear yet be brave – especially as I’m only 5ft 1in and reaching a tricky hold can sometimes seem impossible. But that determination helps in my day job, too. If I have a goal at work, I always make it happen.’

The Antenatal Teacher Night Biker

Jude Palmer, 37, a former management consultant, is an antenatal teacher and mum of three who spends her eveninggs hurtling down the Surrey hills on her mountain bike in the dark.

‘There is and idea that antenatal teachers are a bit airy-fairy and wear open-toed sandals, but I’m not like that. I love my job because I support people at a really important time of their lives. In my private life, I like activities that allow me to take risks and to push myself physically. It’s why mountain biking at night is such a perfect fit for me.

‘I began cycling when I was 25, mountain biking around the Lake District and Wales with my husband, Matt. We moved to this part of Surrey because it has such great trails to bike on. Since having children, taking off together for a weekend of biking just isn’t possible, so now we book a babysitter once or twice a week and cycle for between two and four hours in the evening instead. We have a big group of friends from the village who ride with us.

‘I love going out as the sun is setting – the views and scents in the air make me feel alive. Then, as darkness falls, I switch on the lamps and keep riding. Night biking has become a real movement, with its own clubs, websites and forums. Regular cyclists are attracted to the adrenaline buzz of the sport. Even with the lights you can’t see much, so cycling feels faster and it’s definitely more thrilling – you can’t anticipate holes or dips on the trail. We cycle across the Surrey hills, so at night it feels really remote. Sometimes I just switch off my lights and enjoy the darkness – you can see animal eyes glowing in the dark. I’ve often fallen off. The worst time was when I hit a tree stump and lost all feeling in my legs for ten minutes, but I got back on my bike.

‘I’ve always had good upper body strength, as I used to sail when I was younger, so biking has been brilliant for my lower body and overall fitness. Mostly, I love that people don’t expect me to this. I run antenatal classes, I look after children (two, four and six) and I’m also very involved in village life. Night biking has a reputation as spooky and cool and, well, a bit mad. I love the fact that it teaches me to hold my nerve and test myself more as I get older. As far as extreme sports go, I feel this is just the start; I want to have a go at triathlon and ice climbing next…’

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