You don’t have to be a boxer to participate. But it certainly helps to be a fighter.
“Before I started doing this, I worked out with weights and stuff with my fiancé. Because I’d already been working out, it wasn’t too bad at first,” said 27-year-old Jessica Pennington.
“I end up sweating more doing this for 45 minutes than I do during an hour and a half using weights. It’s a whole lot more than I thought it would be.”
Pennington, the mother of two small children, joined Audia’s ladies’ class to help “lose baby weight.” She has no expectation of ever tying on the gloves for an actual bout. But she is a huge fan of the workouts.
Barry Audia, who was a ranked professional middleweight boxer in the WBA and WBC in the 1980s, has held men’s boxing classes at his gym since it opened in 2006. Some of his regulars will participate in boxing matches at the Lee County Fair on Sept. 4.
Audia offered a women’s class when he first opened the gym, but interest eventually waned.
“I pretty much gave up on it for about two years. Then these girls at (Lee High School) during a soccer game came up and wanted to know if I’d start a class back,” Audia said. “I told them if they could get them out here, I’d do it.”
The men work out at the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. The women meet on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
Audia said his women’s classes consist of all the fundamentals a boxer would do for the first half of a workout: two rounds of footwork, two rounds of speed bag, two rounds of double-end bag, two rounds of heavy bag and one round in the ring with gloves facing Audia wearing hand pads. After that, a bracing 15-minute workout with 9-pound medicine balls.
“It’s pretty tough on them,” he conceded.
The circuit is demanding and the gym is hot — intentionally so. Audia likes it around 85 degrees.
His niece, Hannah Audia, prefers the heat. The 21-year-old East Tennessee State student, who is slated to graduate from the nursing program in December, was a stellar athlete at Lee High and competed for two seasons on the ETSU track and field team.
No stranger to endurance, she competed in the 400, 800 and 5,000 meters while running for the Lady Bucs. She continues to maintain an exceptional level of fitness.
During the workout, rivulets of sweat trickled freely as she moved from station to station. Watching her in action would make a person crave Gatorade.
“I’ve only gotten to do this a few times this summer,” she said, adding that her uncle’s workouts are very intense — and a great deal of fun.
“I like to get in the ring with him, working on my footwork and stuff. It’s hard to catch your breath when you’re throwing all those punches.”
Sheena Lawson, a rising junior at Lee High who plays soccer and tennis, was one of the original conspirators who asked for the class. She credited her mom, Marianne Arney, for putting her up to it.
Arney has become a huge fan of the boxing workouts. The Pennington Pounder is helping her take off the pounds.
“I think I’ve lost about 5 pounds since we started. But I really haven’t paid as much attention to my diet as I have the workouts,” the 36-year-old Arney said. “This is the best workout I’ve ever done. I’ve done Tai-Bo and worked with different machines. This is by far the best.”
Her favorite part of the workout, by far, is pummeling the heavy bags.
“The most challenging thing is getting in the ring with Mr. Audia. But the most fun thing is the big bag. If you have any kind of stress, you can leave it all here,” she said.
Lawson’s favorite exercise is the double-ended bag. It comes right back at you, she said, and you have to fend it off to keep it out of your face.
“I have a bad day, this is an especially good place to go,” she said.
Barry Audia’s sister-in-law, Kathy Audia, is a yoga fitness instructor who teaches classes out of the fellowship halls at Jonesville United Methodist Church and Gilbert’s Memorial Methodist Church. While taking her usual break from yoga in July, the boxing workouts have been a refreshing change of pace.
“I’ve been in the family a long time, so we’re pretty close,” she said. “This is a lot of fun. Especially when you’re trying to hit your brother-in-law.”