By Mira Reverente
Boxing instructor Karim Prince makes his rounds on the floor weaving his way through swaying punching bags and errant elbows. “Jab, cross, hook, upper cut,” he repeated a few times over the blare of disco music.
“Now, switch sides,” he said, showing a perfect boxing stance and demonstrating the combination on the right side this time. “Do the same thing – jab, cross, hook, upper cut,” he said, describing one of his favorite boxing combos.
It’s just another day in the life of a veteran fitness instructor like Prince, 40, a hapkido (Korean martial arts) devotee and part-time actor, except that this time he is instructing a class of seniors.
The brainchild of Lisa Oliver, Silver Sluggers is a cardio-boxing regimen at Title Boxing Club geared towards seniors. It is the only program in the franchise targeting the senior population.
“We saw a demand and decided to address it,” said Oliver, general manager of the boxing gym in Newbury Park. Oliver is also credited for pioneering the PD Fighters, a specialized program for members with Parkinson’s Disease.
“Some seniors find the regular boxing classes intimidating,” said Oliver. “So we decided to create a stepping stone for them, until they’re comfortable and can transition to the regular classes, if they want to.”
Offered three times a week, the Silver Sluggers classes are taught by experienced instructors and trainers like Prince. Focusing on stamina, flexibility, balance, muscle strength and over-all cardio-vascular health, the first few classes this March is already attracting a loyal following, including Mary Loll.
The 65-year-old retired teacher has been a gym member for a year, going to the regular classes as well as the PD Fighters classes, which her husband participates in. The new program piqued her interested so she decided to give it a try. “I love that I can go at my own pace,” said the Thousand Oaks resident.
Loll even brought a fellow retired teacher, Angeline Campbell, with her for a trial class. “It was a really good workout. Karim is fabulous and helpful and his instructions were clear,” said Campbell, 62. “I am planning to sign up soon.”
Mike Matthews, 60, was in the audience when Lisa Oliver recently came to his Kiwanis Club meeting to promote Silver Sluggers.“I gave it a try and I was sore for three days after the first class,” he said with amusement. “But it’s been great. I was using muscles I didn’t even think I had.”
Matthews also stays active by hiking with a local Sierra Club chapter. “There is a Monday class I’ve been meaning to attend then I’m planning to hike right after,” he said. “I can’t want to see how I’ll feel after those two work-outs.”
Oliver said it’s all about taking control and feeling empowered again. “We want them to fight back and have more control over life events,” she said. “Instead of just saying they have high blood pressure and can’t work out, I would say ‘come work out and lower that blood pressure’ or prevent it if it hasn’t happened yet.
“We want to help build their self-esteem and take their fitness to the next level. To add to that, numerous studies have suggested that seniors who regularly work out rebound from sickness and injuries faster.”
While the Silver Sluggers classes are not age-specific, Oliver estimates that most of the attendees are anywhere in the 55 to 80-year-old range, with an equal split between men and women.
Silver Sluggers classes are the same length as the 30-plus other classes at Title Boxing Club, which include a 15-minute warm-up, eight rounds of three-minute boxing work-outs, a 15-minute core work-out at the end of the class and the requisite one-minute active rest periods in between rounds.
“The combos are just a bit simpler, slower, until such time that they are able to master the techniques and build stamina,” said Prince, who signed on right away when Silver Sluggers was still in the planning stage. “I like to inspire people and make them feel excited and vibrant,” he said.
Silver Sluggers classes are currently being offered on Mondays at 10:30 a.m., Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. and Fridays at 1:30 p.m. For more info or to schedule a free trial class, click here.