Nike trainer, triathlete and boxing coach Ashley Wilking takes us through boxing 101, starting from the ground up. Try her tips the next time you wrap up to help tighten up your form and give your punch a bit more power.
Head of Video: Tina Rosh DP: Paul Terrie
“What do you do when life punches back?” I sat down with Nike Trainer and Rumble boxing instructor Ashley Wilking to see how she pulls from her varied athletic background to inspire a different kind of boxing class.
Boxing certainly has a hook in this culture, from the real-life noughties underground fight club of New York’s models, millionaires and marines to the Victoria’s Secret elites who #TrainLikeAnAngel. As this ever-growing accessibility hits the masses, we must ask ourselves, “What do you do when life punches back?” I sat down with Nike Trainer and Rumble boxing instructor Ashley Wilking to see how she pulls from her varied athletic background to inspire a different kind of boxing class.
“Boxing has a couple different sides to it, of course, there are those who spar and are training to fight, but even in learning the foundational movements, it can be an empowering way to learn how to take care of yourself. It teaches you how to confront your struggles, how to provide strength, protect and show up for yourself.”
Ashley Wilking caught my attention back in July when she won her division of the New York City Triathlon (yes folks, this race kicks off with practically a full mile’s swim in our lovely Hudson River). Not only is Ash an unassuming powerhouse of an athlete, but she is powered by heart.
Raised and schooled in Louisiana, Ashley was the middle child of a naturally athletic family. She says competition (aside from a bit of sibling rivalry) was never the motivation, just the joy of being active and working towards new skills. Ashley excelled in speed work with swimming and track and field, along with a gift of choreography honed from dance and a fierce fighting focus from her 14 years of karate. Growing up, there was never a question of, “Am I as good as the boys?” it was always, “How much further can I push?”
At the age of 12, Ashley was faced with the devastating sudden loss of her sister. It was at this point that she began to realize that athletics can be as much a mental game as it is physical. “You can never fully prepare for what life may throw at you, but when faced with your breaking points, you have the choice to be strong or to be defeated. Over and over again, you must decide to be stronger than your struggles”.
Moving to New York out of college, Ashley worked in human resources for J.Crew, Theory and lastly with Under Armor. This is where she began teaching group fitness on the weekends, while also training for her first marathon. Growing up as an athlete, she says, “I was conditioned at a young age to discover my boundaries and to do whatever it takes to break through them.” Of course, we all have our limitations, and our bodies have a way of forcing us to pay attention. Just weeks before her race, her body began to break down and she was left with a fractured hip. “Injury,” she says, “is the frustrating time where you really need to start assessing the Whats: What are the reasons I am doing this? What can I do to take better care of myself? and What does a future in fitness look like for me?”
Boxing came as a natural progression in her career, highlighting her skills as a 2nd degree black belt (taekwondo), and her innate ability to coach and inspire those around her. “Boxing has a couple different sides to it. Of course, there are those who spar and are training to fight, but [boxing is] also an empowering way to learn how to take care of yourself. It teaches you how to confront your struggles, how to provide strength, protect and show up for yourself.” When first starting with boxing, Ashley recommends to try and show up without expectation, listen to your body and do what feels right for you (each day), ask questions, and take the time to learn things properly.
New York tends to draw the kind of hardworking, always pushing personalities, but in order to keep moving forward, there has to be some kind of balance. “I have learned to have a realistic idea of what I am able to accomplish in a day and keep my larger goals in mind. On busy days, sometimes that looks like a bike ride to work or 20 minutes of yoga. I love going to the farmer’s market and cooking with friends. It has to be a balance,” she says. “Fitness for me is about taking care of myself and nurturing all of what that entails. Sometimes that is rest and Netflix, and sometimes it’s hiking, but [it’s always] allowing yourself to check in and make healthy decisions for yourself daily”.
“In stepping back and understanding my drive, I was able to start forming a healthy lifestyle in support of my goals.” Wellbeing is your whole; it goes beyond your physical self. Working out allows you to face your emotional struggles — by focusing on the task at hand, the physical pressure you exert helps you cope with overwhelming external stresses. You are then able to step back into your daily grind with a sense of calm, accomplishment and strength. “Consistency is key, find something that you are excited to show up for, and keep at it. Not every day will be ideal, but if your focus is on the energy you are creating than this too will continue to strengthen. The mental benefits of working out affect change in the conversation you have with yourself on a daily basis. Keep showing up.” You can see Ashley’s heart in her giant smile, but this knockout wears her strength in everything she does.