The Art and Unexpected Benefits of Boxing

muhammad ali, benefits of boxing

by theslowman on July 15, 2012

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.” // Muhammad Ali

In the winter of 2011, I decided it was time to get off my ass.

I am 5-foot-7 and at the time I weighed around 180 pounds. That’s fat.

I hadn’t worked out in any respectable capacity for a couple years. My wife had recently started going to the gym daily and she was slimming up and getting sexy fast.

That was the shock I needed to get my system going. But what to do? I had always hated exercise — treadmills, lifting weights, exercise machines… if I wasn’t falling asleep from boredom I was always an inch away from injuring myself.

Exercise for its own sake was not something I’ve ever been interested in. I needed to find something effective, efficient, and ultimately useful. And I needed to learn how to do it correctly.

I had always had a fascination with boxing. Muhammad Ali was a hero of mine since I was a kid — for his drive, commitment, gift for words, and, oh yeah, his boxing skills.

“Screw it,” I thought (not my exact words). “Let me try this boxing thing.”

So back in the winter of 2011, I committed to putting my money where my fat mouth was and hired a personal boxing trainer and got my bloated ass in shape.

My goals with boxing training were actually two-fold:

  • Get into decent shape once and for all.
  • Learn how to exercise properly so I could it do by myself.

You know what? It totally worked.

Today, I weigh a more respectable 150 pounds. I have strength. I walk and carry myself with more confidence. I know how to throw a decent punch. I dropped numerous sizes in clothing… I haven’t gotten any taller, but that’s OK.

All that is great and I’m satisfied with a mission accomplished. But there’s more to it. I received a couple bonus benefits from training in and continuing to dabble in boxing (I have no dreams of entering the ring).

These benefits have come in handy in the rest of my life, career, and relationships. If you want to follow in the footsteps of the Slow Man (and who doesn’t, right?), I highly recommend getting into boxing. Here’s two things you’ll get out of it and can put to use in your own life:

The Art of Balance

When I first started training, I was eager to start punching shit. But before that could happen, my trainer spent a lot of time focusing on what arguably is the most important thing: stance.

Having balance — weight equally distributed across your body — helps keep whatever comes flying at you from knocking you over, whether it’s a left hook or a text message from your significant other saying, “We need to talk.”

It’s also what helps you launch an effective attack. Both defense and offense stem from the stance. That’s pretty important.

How balanced do you think you are? Like my trainer did to me, I invite you to have someone just give you a gentle push and see how easy it is to fall down when you don’t have the proper stance.

The Art of Relaxation

One of my favorite part of the boxing regime is putting on the gloves and hitting the bag. Even better is when someone else puts on pads and you go through combinations of punches.

There’s a particular sound you get when you square off and strike a good punch. It’s a loud, sharp sound that screams satisfaction. I learned pretty quickly you can never get that sound when you’re too uptight. Contradicting every notion I came into with the sport, in order to get anything out of boxing — and again, LIFE LESSON here — you must be relaxed.

Yes, boxing as a physical activity involves exertion, intense activity, and profuse amounts of sweat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be relaxed while you’re doing it.

What does that mean, really? I take it to being fully aware, in the moment, feeling every part of your body working and flowing, and letting go of all the tension that you’ve built up throughout the day.

If you’re like me dealing with annoying coworkers, rude subway riders or aggressive drivers, bad TV, catastrophes on the evening news, etc., can really build up intense stiffness in your mind and body. But, just like boxing, you can’t strike those satisfying punches if you’re all clenched up, uptight, and too rigid — either mentally or physically.

Relax. Punch. Hear that sound?

If not boxing, get into something. Stop dreaming about it and get outside your comfort zone. I can almost guarantee you’ll step out of the ring with a new perspective on the rest of your life.

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Much like the rest of planet Earth, I saw “The Avengers” recently. I had a revelation in the midst of all the avenging, quipping, and smashing. SPOILER: it didn’t have to do with Scarlet Johannson’s badonk (we all knew about that already).

I finally understood a deeper reason why the Slow Man, since his nerdy youthful days of reading comics, has always liked the Hulk. Sure they both talk in third person, but there’s more to it than that.

See, the Hulk gets all green and smashy when his host Dr. Bruce Banner — played with understated, but palpable anxiety and internal intensity by Mark Ruffalo — gets angry. The common conception is that Banner loses control of his anger and unleashes the Hulk unwittingly on buildings, people, baddies, and mountain ranges.

But, the Avengers movie does something extremely interesting with the Banner-Hulk dynamic, something that made my own gamma ray induced brain go pop. POSSIBLY REAL SPOILER: Towards the end of the film, Banner turns to his brawny and bewildered buddies and tells them, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”

Hulk, Say What?!

Our image of the Hulk — and other Id fueled monsters of absolute destruction — is that they are the results of uncontrollable anger. This one line in this billion-dollar-movie takes that notion and wraps it in a Slow Man-approved flipped script.

This Hulk is awesome because he has anger inside of him all the time and chooses when to let it loose. In the movie it is always when it’s most useful to him.

But if he’s always pissed off inside why isn’t he a violent monster 100% of the time?

How You Can Be the Hulk (Without Destroying Property and Your Wardrobe)

I think there are a couple choices we face when it comes to anger. Counter-intuitively, we can learn about these choices from this nuanced Hulk of 2012:

1. Recognize that we all have anger.

Anger isn’t only for angry people. We all experience it. The problem is we usually hang onto it longer than we need to. Or beat ourselves up about it.

What a Hulk-controlling Banner has to do on a daily basis, minute by minute is take that anger and push it along and through himself. Some people do it through meditation, or exercise, or through giving something to others.

However you do it, the way to be Good Hulk is to realize that anger is completely normal, natural, and manageable. Recognize you have it — just like everyone else — and move on. Your anger ain’t nothing special. Recognize it, give yourself permission to feel that way, then let the rage go.

2. Use anger to smash the things that make you angry.

The Hulk has this down pretty pat. The difference for us non-green people is we can’t just go punch a flying alien living tank-thing (which was an awesome scene in the movie, by the way).

Non-superhero Hulks like us need to face down the things that make us angry and deal with them.

Most of us get mad for pretty tangible reasons, whether they are rational or not. Figure out what they might be, identify them — target them, to use that macho, combative language we love about superheroes — and smash them into dust.

The sooner we deal with the sources of our anger and distress, the quicker we can become calm, cool Banners again. And the quicker we can move on and stop holding onto the emotional detritus that keeps us feeling angry, fearful, and threatened.

In short: Become the Hulk to stop being the Hulk.

There are plenty of other reasons why the Hulk is incredible. And he stole the show in “The Avengers,” in my opinion. A lot of that has to do with the sheer, raw power that anger holds over us. What the Banner-Hulk complex teaches us is that controlled anger can save the day.

More Awesome Avengers Sh*t

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How to grow a beard? Why grow a beard? Do women like beards? These aren’t questions mankind has had to deal with until recent times. Personally, The Slow Man is a bit partial to his facial hair — but that’s mainly because his woman prefers him that way.

But if you study the history of manly facial hair and learn how women’s attitudes about dudes with beards have changed so dramatically, it leaves you wondering: Should you sport the clean shaven look or hold out for a woman who can embrace the beard? Check the science and sociology of beards below and let me know what you think.

[click to continue…]

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Are you settling into spring yet?

Around my household, my significant other actually dislikes spring. The time change, putting all the winter stuff away… she always gets struck by a mood when winter dies. That’s pretty contrary to the normal reaction to the great awakening called springtime. And I like that about her. It makes her unique and our connection like no other.

I’m hoping I can build that type of unique, outside the norm connection with people who choose to check out this site and the stuff I talk about on it. It’s my platform, I suppose.

Here’s a few things that I’ve been sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets. Now that my fingers are all thawed out from spending too much time smoking cigars in the winter chill, I expect I’ll be posting a bit more. As always, open for suggestions and ideas.

Happy spring.

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What’s So Great About Slowness?

some things should go slow

by theslowman on February 23, 2012

What’s so great about being Slow? It’s a fair question.

Usually, the fast, cheap, and easy are applauded. So much so that everything that has to do with slowness has negative connotations. But, come one, sometimes things are just better when you take your time, right?

I believe there’s a great benefit to taking this Slowness approach. There’s a lot wrong with the world and much of that is because we are moving too damn fast. Sometimes, I think it’s a tough concept to convey, but that’s part of the reason I’m here writing this crap — to figure out how to tell the story…

Maybe it’s easier to tout Slowness by explaining whats wrong with moving too damn fast.

Moving too damn fast is:

- taking a blind shortcut
- acting at the expense of others
- sacrificing long term benefits for short term gains
- ignoring the true costs of our actions and decisions
- letting others do for you what only benefits yourself
- making convenience a driving force

Lets face it: speed kills. No one ever died from taking one step at a time.

What else? Does “moving too damn fast” bring anything particular to your mind?

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5 Things I’ve Learned About Self-Confidence

by theslowman on January 16, 2012

For reasons both personal and professional, I’ve been on a bit of research kick around the idea of confidence. The short version of the story is that I came to a realization recently that I will never achieve any of my goals and desires if I don’t figure out how to get more self-confidence. Publishing this site is a part of my process to deal with self-confidence, in fact.

Some people who know me personally might be a little bit surprised by that confession, but it’s no lie. I’ve struggled a long time with a somewhat warped sense of self-confidence — believing in myself up to a point, but never far enough to take too many risks. Put that together with being a natural introvert and you realize it’s always a challenge living  in a world where confidence (often without competence, but we’ll get to that in a bit) is vastly more rewarded than just merely being good at something.

So, I needed to find out a few things. Is confidence merely a state of mind? Is it a set of trainable behaviors? Can you fake it when you need to? In the little bit of reading and personal discovery I’ve been through over the last few weeks, I came up with a small (but growing) list of things I learned about confidence:

  • Confidence and self-esteem are not the same thing. You can be confident without self-esteem and vice versa. It’s important to recognize the difference.
  • Confidence cannot be given to you. You have to take it for yourself. If you rely on others to give you a sense of confidence, you end up codependent.
  • Building your confidence requires taking risks — often. Get used to it.
  • Yes, you can fake confidence. Just be sure you have the competence to back up what you’re doing, eventually.
  • One surprising thing I’ve discovered — be eager to give and share. It’s amazing what a boost this can be.

I believe confidence is the key to achieving everything you want. Sure, you need the world to cooperate for some of your goals and dreams, but who will the world better listen to: the wallflower who doubts every other word he says, or the vocal, forthright, steadfast person oozing self-confidence that not only wants to get what’s his or hers, but is willing to share it with you in the process?

I will write more about all of this in future posts. For now, tell me, how confident do you think you are? Are you doing anything to improve your self-confidence?

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Who Is the Slow Man?

by theslowman on January 8, 2012

What is the Slow Man? Or better question: Who is the Slow Man?

I have to be honest. The Slow Man isn’t me — at least not yet. The Slow Man is something I aspire to be and in that spirit, it seems a good opportunity to list out all the elements of the Slow Man that I know of, up to this point today.

The Slow Man is:

  • fearless, in that he recognizes his fears and attacks them so that they get out of the way.
  • gracious, in that he knows how to accept and appreciate the quality gifts and graces bestowed upon him by the world and by those he cares for and connects with.
  • deliberate, in that he acts with purpose and thought.
  • selfless, in that he recognizes the happiness and desires of those he cares for means as much, if not more than his own happiness and desires.
  • mature, in that he is sure of himself enough to act his age.
  • present, in that he always pays proper attention to what’s going on around him. He is alert, appreciative, and lives in the moment.
  • open, in that being the Slow Man doesn’t mean you have to closed off to new ideas, new impulses, or having fun.

This is sort of the Slow Man laundry list — a bunch of ideas, adjectives, and aspirations that I will be researching, thinking about, and writing on for the blog. I will likely be adding more.

If you have thoughts about any of this stuff or have specific requests for ideas to tackle — let me at ‘em.

Also, if you even remotely like the Slow Man — and how could you not?! — please share this with all your friends. Click that Facebook button down there or email this around.

Thanks for reading.

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The Slow Lane: Drunk History Christmas and More

Post image for The Slow Lane: Drunk History Christmas and More

by theslowman on December 20, 2011

Getting ready for Christmas, down time, and the opening of the New Year. Much is in motion and changing in my life, which is always a good thing. How about yours?

Be sure to take time and reflect and make an action plan for your life – doesn’t have to be daily, but make sure you do it regularly.

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Why It’s Better to Drink Cheap Whiskey … Usually

evan williams bourbon 1783

by theslowman on December 8, 2011

If you know the Slow Man even a little bit, you know I love whisk(e)y. When it comes to the spirits world, nothing reflects better the soul of the Slow than the brown stuff.

Why Whiskey Rocks

No offense is intended to those who tipple vodka, gin, and other sorts of clear swill. But whiskey, bourbon, rye, and other similar elixirs have been touched by barrel and age – most from 3 or 4 years on up to 25 and more. And they taste much better because of it. All that process, care, and patience makes whiskey the booze for complexity, richness, and deep flavors that satisfy the Slow Man’s palate.

Like The Balvenie brand ambassador Samuel Simmons says, “Much of the magic, mystery, and flavour in whisky comes from the years spent in oak casks. Take that away and, while interesting, you’re just drinking grain vodka.” Vodka just doesn’t cut it around here.

How to Get More Whiskey for Your Money

But I’m not here to talk shit about vodka (much). I am here to start a conversation about what I’ve found to be the best, cheap whiskies around. As much as I love the brown stuff, it doesn’t always make sense to drink nothing but $100 single-barrel or single-malt when sometimes you just need a good stiff drink. It also defies logic to pay a lot of money if you can’t appreciate what’s going on inside the bottle.

The best way to get that appreciation: practice with good quality stuff that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Spend your time on the mid-range world of whiskies and you can experiment more. Think you prefer bourbon over scotch, Irish over rye? How do you know unless you taste around? Palates change as knowledge grows, so build your taste buds and get a buzz by trying some of my favorite cheap whiskies. Spend enough time with the cheaper/mid-range stuff and you’ll soon better understand why you should (or should not in many cases) pay more for the top-shelf bottles.

(prices are approximate and in some cases depend on where you buy it.)

The Slow Man’s Top 7 Favorite Cheap Whiskies

7. Sazerac Rye ($26)

One of my favorites of all time at any price. It’s full-flavored, with some citrus and a tang that I can’t describe beyond that word. Goes great in a mix and is my go-to choice for Sazerac and Old Fashioned cocktails.

6. Evan Williams Single Barrel ($22)

One of the most affordable single barrel choices out there. Single barrel means no two releases taste alike. Can usually find it for around $25 in NYC and each year tastes a little different. The 2002 bottling sounds like it’s going to be good. If I was a baller, I’d buy a case each year and compare and contrast. As it is, I buy one every now and then and enjoy it till it’s gone.

5. Bulleit Bourbon (about $25 west of the Rockies, definitely more on the east coast)

A favorite all-rounder bourbon. Great on the rocks, neat and in Old Fashioneds. Don’t like it in Manhattans, but then I usually make them with rye… It’s spicy, robust, and tastes like you should punch somebody after taking a shot. (Kidding. It’s much more sophisticated than that.)

4. Evan Williams 1783 No. 10 ($18)

A little thin, with a tiny bit of burn on the tongue, but this super-cheap bourbon opens up in the glass for a nice light grainy drink. The one sub-$20 bottle on my list and worth it because it’s so damn cheap and so damn drinkable. Way better than Jack Daniel’s… Note this is not the Evan Williams Black Label, which I’m not a big fan of.

3. Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon ($24)

Don’t scoff at WT. I turn to it all the time. For the price you get a massive wollap of taste, including leather, spice, citrus, and a long finish. And the higher proof means you can use it in mixes without losing any bourbon flavor. I also keep this leathery, spicy bourbon around for warmer days where the strength of the whiskey can withstand a bunch of ice cubes (or one giant cube) and I’m in cold bourbon heaven (or hell?).

2. Wild Turkey 101 Rye ($24)

Similar to the 101 bourbon, this is a strong, muscular drink. Since it’s rye, it’s what I prefer to use for mixing Manhattan cocktails. Bars in NYC tend to use Old Overholt, which I like neat or on the rocks, but it just gets lost in a Manhattan. WT rye stands up to the mix of the vermouth and bitters and is my choice for a kick-ass cocktail. Tastes good with a couple of cubes too. Trust me on this one.

1. Buffalo Trace ($24)

Buffalo Trace is my all-time favorite great, cheap bourbon. If I could only choose one bourbon, it’d probably be this one. At 80-proof it’s on the lower end of the get-wasted scale and has a charming, sweet taste to it that just keeps on delivering. It’s complex, but not confusing and delivers – to my mind – what I always imagined bourbon to taste like.

There are others I could include, but none of them have made it into repeat mode in my liquor cabinet. I’m sure I might have missed a couple. If you have a favorite sub-$30 whiskey, leave it in the comments.

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When your ceiling caves in because an idiot upstairs neighbor left the bathtub running for hours.

When your computer seemingly dies in front of you.

When you have to spend hours quelling panic in the office.

When you think you’re going to break up with your significant others.

When that damn morning train is so damn late. What do you do? You keep on.

Each day brings its new set of challenges. Each day brings its new set of solutions. Here are some links I found that might help. Have a great week.

Extra Bonus Multimedia

Phantom Cocktails – wherein we watch a bunch of cocktails explode in slow motion.

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