Boxing is for girls — OK, and for boys, too.
Seven years ago, Eliza James and Lori Leighton came across an old garage tucked off 1100 East in Sugar House. They cleaned it up and brushed on some paint. They hung up some heavy punching bags, got some weights and other workout equipment and launched their dream: Boxing Is For Girls fitness studio.
"I found this broken-down garage here," James recalled. "And I said, ‘This is our gym.’ "
Today, the structure is spruced up with Leighton’s abstract paintings, as well as works by local graffiti artists. It’s got a rubber floor and mirrors all around, but it still holds true to the women’s original vision: using boxing as training for all-around conditioning and fitness.
"I was going to college and running marathons," James remembered. "A friend suggested I cross-train with boxing. That’s where I found my true love."
Later, a storefront directly west of the garage at 1983 S. 1100 East became available and the pair expanded with a state-of-the-art fitness machine area.
But it’s not just about muscle. Their training regimen is guided by a philosophy of personal wholeness — that is, they emphasize inner well-being along with physical fitness.
"We’re breaking down the muscles, and we’re building up the spirit," James said. "It’s not a typical gym. It’s a place where people can come and worship their environment and their community."
Among other things, Boxing Is For Girls is about community-building. And when it comes to safeguarding their Sugar House neighborhood, James and Leighton are as tenacious as Smokin’ Joe Frazier.
The pair garnered a lot of publicity recently for their opposition to a proposed extension of the Sugar House Streetcar north from 2100 South along 1100 East. They organized two protest demonstrations and led a cadre of their friends and clients to voice opposition at a City Council public hearing.
James is a whirlwind of energy and is the head trainer at Boxing Is For Girls. It’s what she has focused on since college.
These days, Leighton runs the business end of things. An athlete in her own right, Leighton went to Brigham Young University on a tennis scholarship and later earned a master’s degree in psychology at the University of Utah. She spent a decade working in counseling and substance abuse. Eventually, she sought a change back to her roots as an athlete.
"It was exciting because I’ve been an athlete all my life," she said. "When we started, we both did training and we had as many clients as we could handle."
James and Leighton started Boxing Is For Girls on a shoestring. The pair worked hard and showed their clients how invested they are in each individual’s fitness and well-being.
The business grew through word of mouth and Boxing Is For Girls hired more trainers. When the economy crashed in 2008, it had no discernible impact on business at the fitness studio, which now employs five trainers in addition to James.
The pair seem to have found the key ingredients to success. They train would-be Olympians, college athletes and everyday folks from office workers to homemakers.
"Every person who comes in here is our big client," James said. "Everyone is the same. They can feel that."
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