At 34, Terri Moss was a depressed, overweight bicycle cop when a friend dragged her to a boxing class. Her friend quit after a month but Moss was hooked.
She trained hard, lost weight and worked her way to pro status, eventually earning the WIBF strawweight world title and the WIBA mini flyweight intercontinental title. In 2009, she was inducted into the Guinness World Records for being the oldest female boxing world champion at 42.
Retired from the ring, Moss now coaches three professional female boxers and teaches Rocky-style boxing fitness classes at the Decatur Boxing Club in Atlanta. But it's not just boxers that come through the door.
"I've trained every type of athlete you can think of in the ring," she said. "Tennis, football, soccer, dancers. Boxing takes your game to the next level."
Not convinced? Here are five reasons Moss says every athlete should incorporate boxing into their workout routine.
1. It's a killer core workout. Forget Pilates. "Boxing strengthens your core like no other workout can," Moss said. Boxers sit low in their stance, using their quads and abs to achieve a low center of gravity, and the power of punches and jabs comes directly from the abs. "That's why when boxers are tired in the ring, you see them stand up," she said.
Try this at home: Shadowboxing. Using a mirror to check your form, get into a boxer stance -- bend your knees (almost in a half-squat) and engage your torso. Then practice your punching, jabbing and upper-cutting the air. Turn your upper body to follow through with each punch. "Once you get the form down, move to a heavy bag for a harder workout," Moss said.
2. One word: cardio. There's a reason boxers are some of the best-conditioned athletes in the world -- and it's not because they spend their time on the treadmill. "You'll burn more calories in 15 minutes of boxing training than an hour on the treadmill," Moss said. Sure, there's running involved in training, but it's using their whole bodies in a mix of intense punching drills, sparring and bag work that gives boxers the edge in physical conditioning.
Try this at home: Circuit training, without weight machines. All you need is three different boxing bags: heavy, speed and double-end. Work one for three minutes (the length of a round in boxing) and then move on the next when the time's up. See how many rounds you can go, before you're gasping for air.
3. Increases hand-eye coordination. "When facing an opponent, you only have a split second to see a punch coming to block it," Moss said. And when your life is on the line, there's a lot more incentive to improve that skill, as opposed to say, improving your hand-eye coordination for a tennis game. Sure, you want to win, but the ball isn't likely to hit you in the face if you miss it.
Try this at home: Speedbag. Holding your arms up with your elbows parallel to the ground, roll your forearms around each other in a circular motion, using your fists to make contact with the bag. Start slow, then speed up as you get the hang of it. "Not only does the speedbag increase your hand-eye coordination, it quickens your reflexes and builds your triceps and shoulder muscles," Moss said.
4. Improves your rhythm. "Good athletes typically have a natural rhythm," Moss said. "Quarterbacks need a rhythm to drop back and throw a pass, soccer players need a rhythm to dribble." But no other sport training solely focuses on improving that rhythm, like boxing does.
Try this at home: Skip rope to music. Get a jump rope and turn on some jazz. "James Brown is my favorite," Moss said. Skip rope to the rhythm of the song, or "dance" with the rope -- holding both ends in one hand, swing it around, slapping the ground with it, while bouncing lightly from foot to foot in rhythm with the music.
5. Sharpens your mind. In boxing, your mind has to be as quick as your body to prevent being hit. "Unlike any other sport, you're thinking of offense and defense at the same time," Moss said. Not to mention, there's a certain fear you have to overcome when stepping in the ring -- and it's not just the fear of being punched in the face. "It's the fear of being humiliated in front of people," Moss said. "Boxing is a character-building process that takes mental toughness and overcoming some of your biggest fears."
Try this at home: Find a trainer, get in the ring. Nothing can compare physically or psychologically to actually sparring someone. You need a boxing trainer to help you work up to that level, but once you do, you'll get the mental benefits that come with the pressures in the ring. "When you beat an opponent at boxing, you'll have the confidence to do anything in the world," Moss said. "Or it will be the most humbling experience of your life."