Women who are serious boxers always impress me. They are incredibly badass and deeply committed to mastering a sport dominated by men and excluded from the mainstream fitness class circuit because of its specificity and required gear. Sure, we’ve all taken kickboxing classes, but real boxing is a whole different world that pushes one’s mental and physical limits. In a three-part series, I dive deep with contributor editor Sonia Langotz – who got serious with boxing as an adult and saw it carry her through the hardest times of her life and inspire her to train for a formal fight.

What inspired it you to start boxing?

As a child, I played organized sports and always rough-housed with boys, which cemented my love for competing and being a strong physical force. I wanted to box as a child but my parents weren’t thrilled on the idea, so I didn’t begin until about 4 years ago when I was looking for a powerful physical outlet.

How did you start boxing? 

Here in New York, I found a local boxing gym that offered classes and a great opportunity to learn the sport. Group classes were a nice introduction because the format was familiar, even though the moments were anything but! Within a year of training and taking classes at the gym, my boxing habit had become a full blown addiction. I was in the gym 5 days a week and I hired a personal trainer to help me bring my skill to the next level.

What’s learning like? What do we need to know?

Boxing isn’t one of those activities that are easy to learn by simply mimicking the instructor. Even basic movements and technique is pretty hard to get the hang of! That’s why is important to find a gym that you like and will want to come back to again and again — consistency and patience are key.

What challenges arose as your skills improved?

Starting to spar and take my boxing to the next level introduce a whole other set of challenges, mentally and physically. Not only is it tough to get hit (obvious) but mentally, it is pretty difficult to get your head around trying to hit someone else! In addition, my friends who aren’t into boxing thought I was nuts. Explaining why you might want to spend your free hours getting into a ring and pummeling each other can be difficult.

What are some misconceptions about boxing ?

‘Punching hard is all it takes.’ Oh man, if that was the case, I would be an incredible boxer! Learning to move quickly and only apply force when needed is one of the hardest lessons in boxing. You instinctively want to throw your hardest punch all the time, holding back is super hard! Technique, footwork, agility, focus and the head game are all huge contributors to what makes people great boxers.

What keeps you coming back to it?

I am very competitive and love to learn. Boxing offers endless possibilities in both of those categories. If you are eager to learn and be challenged, it is easy to keep coming back to a sport that constantly tests who you are as an athlete and a human in general! Also my community around boxing is so supportive. They want to see you win, I wouldn’t be able to step in the ring without them.

When did you decide that you wanted to compete?

When I realized how much I had learned and advanced over the years, I knew it was the logical next step to put my skills to the test in the ring. It was a tough commitment to make because I was going through a lot of personal and professional changes, and I knew it would only work out if I was fully dedicated to train intensity and stick to a program. Picking a fight date and hiring a trainer has absolutely keep me on track and accountable.

How’s it going?

It is an extremely humbling and powerful sport! Becoming more serious with my boxing helped me move through one of the most difficult stages of my life. It gave me something bigger than just my personal issues to concentrate on. Sometimes the combination of physical challenge and my emotional circumstances creating some unique moments of sweat mixed with tears, but I don’t regret any of it.

Check back next week for the next installment of this series!