The New Gym on the Block: Title Gym

“Jab, cross, bend, two upper-cuts!”

Michael’s instructions echo all around the small studio. With rivulets of sweat running down my neck, I can’t help but feel a swell of resentment every time I hear the voice. I glance back at the screen in the front of the room – “Round 6” with the seconds counting down at an achingly slow pace. I wasn’t sure that I would last to the end of the hour.

My quest to achieve a healthier lifestyle over the summer months led me to discover Title Gym. Nestled among the lush and luxurious on Boston’s Newbury Street, Title Gym has equipment and training fit for any regular health club, but their specialty is boxing. The clientele is a mix of hardcore gym rats and young women in search of the best #fitspo body. The gym offers classes in total body boxing and kickboxing, with an emphasis on muscle building.

From the outside, Title Gym is well-lit like any fitness studio down the street. The owner Mike Musto greets me upon entry, eager to set me up with the proper equipment. My class requires hand wraps and boxing gloves, the former of which I had no idea how to use. Musto sends me straight to the instructor Michael, who expertly wraps my hands in long, circular motions.

I am then guided to the rows upon rows of punching bags, hanging from the ceiling by a mere chain. I choose one towards the edge of the boxing area, close enough to watch the instructor and close enough to make a break for it if necessary – exercising has never been my forte.

I take a look around the room, sizing up my competition. There are a couple of bros, all muscle tanks and testosterone, in the front of the room. Towards the back, there is a young, fit-looking couple and behind them, a woman not unlike myself (but clearly more experienced as she wraps her hands like a pro). Next to me are two hijabis who also look like first-timers. Overall, I start to feel less out of place on seeing this eclectic mix of people. I instead direct my focus to the front of the room where a screen displays a timer in bold red letters. Like most workouts, I assume this will begin with some stretching and light cardio.

This was not like most workouts.

Our instructor immediately has us bouncing on our feet. Then we move into squats and, much to my frustration, I already feel a dull ache in my thighs. Michael begins to call out repetitions for us to complete: three squats, five jumping jacks and three jumps into squats. We continue this “warmup” for 15 minutes, which feel like an excruciating 45 minutes.

The class pauses for a water break, during which I chug more than half of my water bottle. I feel a smidge of regret as the water sits heavily at the pit of my stomach. We move on to the boxing portion of the class. I feel ready to take on any opponent – in this case, it is the punching bag – as I strap on my gloves.

Michael teaches us a variety of hits including jabs, crosses and upper-cuts. At first, I mimic the boxers I see on TV with their mean hits. The owner, Musto, comes over to gently correct my technique.

“Swing around with your fists,” Musto says kindly, mimicking the action on the other side of the punching bag.

To my surprise, his kind tone encourages me to perfect my hits. Though I don’t come close to this goal by the end, I pick up on the nuances between a weak hit and a solid hit. Proper technique, including hip movement, feet placement and posture, helps me strengthen my hit.

I am elated when Michael calls out “active rest” because I assume that means it is break time.

As it turns out, that assumption is both right and wrong. Though it is a breather from the tough punches, it is not meant to slow down our heartbeat. During our active rests, we complete a variety of low-impact exercises including jumping jacks, bicycle crunches and, of course, squats. I try to keep up but eventually I unstrap my gloves to give my poor fingers a breather from being curled for so long.

The last fifteen minutes are dedicated to the cool down, which as expected, is no less intense than the first two sections of the workout. We each grab a medicine ball and I consider how much I would be judged for asking for a lighter ball. The lightest one is 8 pounds, but with the intense workout we had just finished, I didn’t think my arms could support the heavy ball in the air.

It takes a lot of unattractive grunting and heavy breathing, but I am able to get through the exercises. One requires us to swing the ball from one side to the other. In my mind’s eye, I imagine myself dropping the ball on the ground, or worse, on my foot. Another requires us to do sit-ups, but we are only allowed to touch the floor on count five. As a result, Michael prolongs the five seconds with a cruel “foooooour… five”.

With thighs burning, hands smarting and body sweating buckets, he finally calls time at 8:30 p.m., exactly an hour later. I stagger out of the gym on shaky legs soon after, a sense of accomplishment blooming in my chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#CursedChild: The Event of a Generation

A uniting factor among many millennials today is a young boy with a curious scar: Harry Potter. Dubbed the “Potter generation”, many of us have had the opportunity of experiencing the sheer euphoria at getting our hands on one of the coveted books – and promptly scrambling home, lest a Pettigrew spoil the ending. J.K. Rowling has thrown a bone, so to speak, to her fans after nine long years with the release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I and II”, a special rehearsal edition of the script used for the two-part play with the same name currently running in London.

I could not even remember when I had pre-ordered “Cursed Child” – it was that long ago (after a glance at my receipt, it was in May). I felt giddy with excitement because I had always felt like a cheat. For being such a great Harry Potter fan, I had never been to the midnight book releases. As a girl in my early teens, I was too embarrassed to be seen with my parents, so naturally I had the books pre-ordered to my house. This time, I would get to live out my dream of truly experiencing what being a Potterhead would be like.

Harvard Square would be turned into “Hogwarts Square” for the night. Restaurants in and around the area would serve special treats to guests. One of the movies from the franchise would be shown in the open air.

My friend and I set off in search of the bus stop. We were unsure of its location until we saw a young, frizzy-haired woman in Gryffindor robes waiting on a street corner.

Bingo.

It turns out her grandmother had hand-sewn the robes, an impressive feat considering the actual Harry Potter merchandise did not look half as nice. She was also headed to Harvard Square for the festivities. We discussed the things we had heard about the book at length. How would the script form affect the prose we know and love? Would the story stick to the canon?

The bus ride across the river was short, and our search for Potterheads was even shorter. We found the open air theater after a few minutes of walking. There were so many people that some had taken to watching the screen from the back – a hazy view, but one that guaranteed open seats.

We sat among the diverse audience members. A mother and daughter giggling away at young Ron’s actions. A father gamely propping his daughter up so she could see the screen. A group of four friends murmuring the characters’ lines. A proud audience drowning the sound out with their applause when Harry finally caught the snitch.

Content aside, the Harry Potter series is magical for its ability to capture the intrigue of so many different people. A poster was set aside for fans to write what the series meant to them. Someone wrote “I love Hermione! She’s a hero, too! Smart girls rock,” while a different message from 7-year-old Thea said, “I want to go to Hogwarts when I am 11.”

We then took off for Porter Square Books, where I would eventually get the prized script book.

The line to get into the crowded bookstore wrapped around the corner unsurprisingly. Once we got to the front of the line, they checked our names off the extensive list of pre-orders and handed us the “house” we would receive our book at. It was a smart organizational tactic, though I was unhappy to get a yellow Hufflepuff card.

Adults, teens, children and families lined the store. Some were filling out trivia questions (the Hard questions proved to be too much for my friend and I) while others were sampling “Harry Potter” themed food and drink.

We made our way to the back of the bookstore where a costume contest was taking place. While I thought my hand-drawn Dark Mark was impressive, these people took dressing up to another level. There was a woman dressed as Hagrid with a large beard, “Harry Potter” pants, a lantern and other outlandish items. Another woman was dressed in various shades of green, from the tassels hanging out of her blonde hair to the leaves adorning her skirt – we assumed she was the physical incarnation of Slytherin. The only other one that stuck out to me was this shy, little girl – she couldn’t have been more than 11-years-old. She had dressed as Harry Potter, complete with the lightning scar and Gryffindor robes.

You already know she won the costume contest.

As the announcer coaxed her to stand on a chair for all to admire her costume, the audience was deafening with their applause. The mousy girl cracked a small smile as it was revealed that she would be the first to get a “Cursed Child” book.

The spirit and camaraderie among the crowd never really died. In one corner, two Luna Lovegoods were discussing the merits of their costumes while a group of Slytherins in a another were jokingly discussing cheating on the trivia.

The minute before midnight, the crowd began to chant the seconds to the official release of the “Cursed Child” book.

“5…4…3…2…1…”

Some jokingly shouted “happy New Year” into the air while other whooped and hollered in excitement. There was an air of something new, of something exciting.

The fun of these events is not solely centered on getting the book; it’s meeting people who share the same passion and dedication to something that has come to define a generation.