By Megan Miller
Six women sat on the glossy, wooden floor in Studio 216 of the Stony Brook University Campus Recreation Center and dutifully wrapped their hands in long ribbons of black fabric, talking and giggling above the thrum of trendy music.
At promptly 6 p.m., SBU’s newest Pink Gloves Boxing instructors, Krista Pullen, a sophomore double majoring in biology and applied mathematics, and Estelle Gyimah, a junior majoring in health science, joined the group of women.
“Where is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled?” Pullen asked.
This is how the instructors of Pink Gloves Boxing, a women’s-only fitness program that integrates competitive boxing moves into a weekly cardio regimen, begin each hour-long class session—with a question, any question to elicit an engaging discussion intended to bring the boxers closer together.
Adopted by SBU last spring, the program’s main goal is not only to provide women with a space to exercise without inhibition, but also to foster a sense of camaraderie, Dean Bowen, a Campus Recreation official and male Pink Gloves Boxing instructor, said.
“It’s a women’s boxing club, but we create a community,” he added. “We see the same women every class and it has a different feel than any other fitness class.”
Founded by personal trainer Garret Garrels in 2006, Pink Gloves Boxing evolved into a seven-tier system designed to give participants “the direction and motivation to accomplish [their] fitness and personal goals,” according to the official PGB website. Stony Brook currently offers three tier-one and tier-two classes, but Bowen said the focus for the upcoming spring semester is mainly on introducing more of each.
Since new material is taught in each class session, attendance is mandatory to reach the next tier. If that expectation has been met at the semester’s end, Amanda Turnbull, a manager of fitness and wellness programming at Stony Brook who also instructs PGB, said students are awarded the opportunity to “test out and tier up” by accurately performing a series of exercises learned throughout the term judged by their instructors.
When Pink Gloves Boxing was first launched at the university, only one class was offered with an entrance fee of $50 for undergraduates and just 23 available spots for the semester. Bowen said based on its projected demand and popularity, Stony Brook was given funding for the program by the Stony Brook Foundation extending through the next
Consequently, undergraduate, graduate and faculty women could enroll in one of the three Pink Gloves Boxing classes offered during the Fall 2014 semester free of charge. According to Bowen, it took less than 12 minutes to fill the 60 available spots when registration opened online.
There are currently four independent Pink Gloves Boxing facilities and eight gyms that host the program across the country since its founding. Garrels and his business partner, Nick Milodragovich, are looking to double their present four locations in Sweden and possibly expand into Norway in 2015.
Within the United States, Pink Gloves Boxing has also been introduced at seven universities. Five, including Stony Brook, implemented the program during the fall and spring semesters of last year and six more universities are preparing to introduce Pink Gloves at the start of 2015.
“I enjoy the program because I have excellent instructors,” Zoe Sumner, a sophomore majoring in English, said in an email. “They are kind, patient and just a lot of fun. The people in my class are also very friendly and we have gotten comfortable around each other so that also helps.”
Garrels said national expansion of the program was “redirected” to focus on university recreation centers where “fitness is a way of life rather than just a business.”
The Pink Gloves Boxing website tells the story of the program in a letter signed by Garrels. In 2006, Garrels received a call from a woman who had just fired her personal-fitness trainer because he had compared her to his other clients, and the comparisons were often negative. As her new instructor, Garrels vowed never to demean her.
At one session, in an effort to mix up his client’s workout, he brought gloves and punch mitts. This exercise was a success, and his client asked to bring a friend. Friends brought more friends, Garrels went from training one woman to training 10, and Pink Gloves Boxing was born.
“Because there are no other programs to compare PGB to, it’s something that people have to experience,” Garrels said in an email. “By combining mental, emotional, physical, and social aspects we hope to build communities that celebrate individuality. Communities where it is safe to be yourself.”