Putting on gloves in aerobics class can take off pounds THE PUNCH BUNCH

January 03, 1995|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Sun Staff Writer

Anyone who has sweated through a tough aerobics class probably has had the fleeting desire to smack the instructor silly.

Now you can -- with the instructor's encouragement. Classes combining aerobics and boxing moves, offered under names such as BoxAerobics and Brick Boxing, started to catch on in local health clubs in the fall.

In this variation on the sweet science, participants practice jabs and uppercuts, bobbing and weaving to upbeat music. The instructors then don training mitts, or ask the class to line up in front of heavy bags, so each participant can get his or her licks in.

But no one gets hit back -- and that's what separates the aerobic classes from real boxing, says Thomas "the Promise" Trebotich, a former middleweight who began developing the program in 1986.

"I noticed a lot of people got interested in boxing," he recalls in a telephone interview from his Miami home. "But the question is: 'Do you want to get hit?' If you really want to box, I'll send you to a boxing gym. This won't turn you into a fighter."

And it won't turn a fighter into an aerobics instructor: Mr. Trebotich prefers to teach boxing moves to instructors who already know how to run a class. But the low-impact class,

suitable for beginners and advanced students, appears to be a demanding cardiovascular workout that helps develop upper body strength.

"It's the new thing, the new fad, the new trend -- a gimmick," says Marty McGinty, an athletic trainer at Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center. "But it's a good gimmick. You're going to tone and strengthen the upper body. You really can't go wrong."

In the past few years, aerobics classes have increasingly relied on gimmicks to keep students interested. Benches, slides, elastic bands and weights are just some of the variations used to provide variety, as well as the benefits of cross-training.

In this case, the accessories provide the sense of novelty -- the hand wraps, the gloves, the jump ropes and heavy bags. A first-time student may be seized with a sudden desire to hum the "Rocky" theme or imitate Marlon Brando in "On the Waterfront."

Participants may not realize until later that the gloves, weighing up to 16 ounces each, also function as hand-held weights,

increasing the workout's intensity. That's BoxAerobics' little secret.

"From the first time I put the gloves on, I was hooked," says Gail Horowitz, a Baltimore social worker and a regular in the weekly BoxAerobics class at Meadow Mill Athletic Club. BoxAerobics is also offered at Bare Hills Club, Greenspring Lifestyle Center and Sinai Fitness Center.

"It's such a great tension release, just the physical act of punching and making contact, and the sound," Ms. Horowitz says. "It's a much harder workout than anything else."

Ms. Horowitz first tried boxing techniques in workouts with her personal trainer, Jon A. Kaplan, one of 20 instructors nationwide certified to teach Mr. Trebotich's method. She liked it so much she decided to try one of Mr. Kaplan's classes, which draw up to 20 students on an average night.

"I fell in love with it," Mr. Kaplan says of his first exposure to the class earlier this year. "Men like it because it's not very dancey and it's a great workout. The women love it as well, because it's different. It's not the same old grapevine."

But will it be the next Step Aerobics, a one-time gimmick now a fixture in health clubs? BoxAerobics' backers think it has that potential.

Erin Miller, aerobics director for Padonia-based Brick Bodies, has her doubts. She says students loved the class when it was introduced in the fall, but only on a limited basis.

"They really liked it a lot, they thought it was fantastic," she says. "But I don't see it becoming the next step, or even the next slide. There's only so many moves you can do."

But others think BoxAerobics has huge potential.

"I honestly think it's one of the best ideas to come along in a long, long time. I guarantee you it will catch on," says Joseph Signorile, an assistant professor at the University of Miami in the field of exercise physiology.

Recruited by Mr. Trebotich, Dr. Signorile plans to study BoxAerobics in his university laboratory. He thinks it may prove more demanding than the other classes available.

"Look at how a boxer looks," he says -- apparently thinking of someone along the lines of Evander Holyfield, as opposed to George Foreman. "That's not an accident. It's because of the interval workout."

An interval workout is one in which the heartbeat soars from a relatively sedate pace to a virtually breathless pace, then levels off.

In BoxAerobics and its variations, the most intense spurts come in the one-on-one sessions with the in

structor or heavy bag, but students get a respite as they bounce from side to side, or bob and weave in place. The classes' primary appeal, however, is the chance to pummel and pound.

"We're kind of a combative animal," says Dr. Signorile, who now keeps a heavy bag on his patio. "This is a very nice release."

However, for anyone interested in trying BoxAerobics or its variations, the usual precautions apply: Consult with a physician before beginning any exercise regimen and work at your own pace.

0 Then, with any luck, you can be a contender.

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