Pulling no punches

Pulling no punches

I think therapist number one might have been right when he kept going on about me having issues with anger – on my first workout I punched the training bag so hard I sprained my hand.

With some trepidation, I decided to join the boxing club with a friend. It’s part of Mind’s Get Set to Go programme in Herefordshire, which aims to improve the lives of people with mental health problems through sport.

I had to take care of myself during the day to make sure my nerves didn’t get the better of me but I needn’t have worried. The trainer seemed to get what a big step it was for both of us and looked out for us all the way – his understanding made the world of difference.

Exercise has always helped my mood when I’m not feeling too bad – but what’s different with boxercise is that there’s an accountability that gets me out of the house when I’m not in a good place. And even on bad days I feel better for going – in five weeks I’ve only had to leave one class early because I couldn’t cope: this is huge for me.

In addition to making me feel less like wanting to remove myself from the face of the planet, what’s really surprised me is the knock-on effect boxing’s had on other aspects of my life.

I recently got my first road bike. Having never ridden one before, I’ve struggled to get to grips with the biking experience. To begin with I was so terrified that I couldn’t move my ‘death grip’ hands from the entirely alien drop handlebars.

I cycled to boxing in a state of sheer terror but as I got back on my bike to come home I realised that all my anxiety had disappeared. I could move my hands like there was nothing to it and I changed gear without getting off – incredible. And now I have the memory of being able to do it, I can keep doing it.

This made me reflect on the disabling nature of having a mental health problem and how much of that is caused by society and other people’s attitudes, rather than the illness itself.

I often beat myself up for not being able to leave my house. It feels utterly pathetic that a 41 year old woman finds the world too scary to be part of. Yes, I know it might seem stupid that I sit in my porch for hours before getting past the front door, but telling me “You’re just being silly” isn’t very helpful.

If society accepted me for who I am right now, asked questions to understand rather than judge – or could acknowledge the effort it takes just to keep on surviving, then I’d probably be in a much better place. So come on, I’m asking nicely: don’t be so quick to judge others; try to walk in their shoes for a while before deciding what to say. It makes a world of difference.


Kate joined Get Set to Go run my Herefordshire Mind. It’s also available in seven other areas, check our Get Set to Go pages to see if there’s a programme near you.

How boxercise can help:

  • Non-contact boxing is popular with both sexes
  • You’ll get a great cardio workout
  • Some gyms run sessions specifically for those of us with mental health problems