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It’s time to bust out your boxing gloves, Ottawa

By Marina Irick on April 28, 2015

It’s time to bust out your boxing gloves. Never owned a pair? That’s fine, too. The energetic fitness leaders at UMTBC Lifestyle Center on Hamilton Avenue in Hintonburg are anxious to teach you the basics – or the complex combos – of Muay Thai boxing.

I’ll admit, the first time I stepped foot in the studio to try the Foundations class, I was a bit nervous. The upbeat music was blasting, the fitness instructors were bouncing around bursting with energy and smiles, and some experienced-looking members were taping up their wrists. I could only think: What am I getting myself into?

But my jitters faded as I was approached by Riad Basile, one of the instructors, who welcomed me with great enthusiasm – asking how I’d heard of them. His friendly and supportive demeanor made me feel at ease.

UMTBC Photo 1The class began with a fast-paced warm-up including jumping jacks and burpees, which involves jumping up, crouching down, and then doing a push-up. My heart was pounding in no time. I soon realized though that you don’t have to be an experienced boxing athlete to get by in the class – Corey Sheikh, the CEO, and the other instructors will help you perfect your pose. But even if you can’t figure out the difference between a “cross” and a “jab” – let alone your left from right hand – they’ll offer words of encouragement.

If you’re particularly uneasy, you can meet with one of the instructors one-on-one 15 minutes before the class to work on your technique. Included in the one-month membership, you’ll also get a one-on-one fitness assessment.

The “Lifestyle Center” concept means that UMTBC not only provides fitness classes, but you can also learn how to meditate, receive nutritional counseling, and even participate in sound healing – a unique experience that uses various instruments including the digeridoo and Tibetan Bowls.

Corey Sheikh explains that UMTBC was originally called Ultimate Muay Thai Boot Camp, and was geared towards individuals wanting to get in shape, learn martial arts, and have fun.

“As the idea progressed, the company took a turn into a much more expansive direction,” Corey says. “Deepening myself into meditation practices, physical movement training and nutritional changes I, along with Mike Alemao (other co-founder), went through a deep transformation which led us to re-evaluating our vision and bringing together a more holistic vision for what the lifestyle center was to become.”

The center offers a free class on Sunday afternoons called Renew, a great way to get started and learn the basics in a non-intimidating setting.

If you’re up for a challenge, instructor Tiffany Garnett will make sure that your muscles are tired after her Elevate classes – which brings together yoga, Muay Thai, plyometrics, and calisthenics.  The “sculpt” version of the class involves circuit weight training, and the “plyometrics” version of the class has you doing lots of push-ups and jumping.

After your first class, be prepared for a friendly follow-up phone call the next day, just to check in and get some feedback from you.

It’s a tough, rewarding workout in a positive community-driven atmosphere – that teaches you some self-defense in the meantime. A win-win!

UMTBC is very active on social media – so follow them! @UMTBC on Instagram and on Facebook.