On this episode Nadia delves into how boxing has been a big part of her journey to overcoming shyness and becoming Shy and Mighty.

When was the last time you pushed yourself to do something that scares you, like, really scares you?

I’m going to tell you a story about pushing yourself beyond anything you thought possible.

I’m going to show you that even if right now you’re feeling like a quiet, soft person, you are stronger than you know.

As someone who is incredibly self conscious, I know what it’s like to be trapped by worries and fears. I know what it’s like to let shyness keep me small. And yet, I have found a way to push past these limitations and become probably the least likely boxer ever to step into the ring.

Find out what happened when I decided to take part in a fight. A real life actual fight, with another person, in front of hundreds of people! It’s the perfect story to give your self belief a big ol’ boost. And after all, if I can do this, then you can do anything you set your mind to too!

“About three years ago, I was in my late thirties and I overweight, and I was feeling rather frustrated about a few things in life. I had tried to get in shape but I couldn’t seem to commit to anything or find something I actually enjoyed.

When I was a kid, I used to do a lot of horse riding. It was my absolute passion. I used to spend my days in muddy fields, galloping through mud and jumping over big dangerous objects.

As an adult I’d tried to get back into riding, but it was a bit scary. I felt like my back was not up to it and I was just really worried about falling off and dying. I didn’t want to get severely injured.

As a mum I was spending way too much time in coffee shops, and my work as a coach meant I was spending way too much time sitting on my bum. So I decided to start training with a personal trainer.

One day she suggested putting on a pair of boxing gloves and hitting a punch bag, to get my fitness levels up.

It’s very strange, because I’m a really quiet shy person. I’m not aggressive or loud or scary or intimidating.  I’d never been hit before by anybody… other than my sister when we were kids! But there’s something about whacking a punch bag that I really like. It makes a nice noise!

And then my trainer moved away. I was gutted.

A friend of mine mentioned to me that there’s actually a local boxing gym and recommended that I go and give it a try.

There was no way I was going to attend a class because I was so nervous and self conscious. So, I texted Brian, the head coach, and signed up for some one to one lessons.

I didn’t really know what to expect, having never stepped into a boxing gym before in my life. And you know what, if I had known what it was going to be like I’d never have gone!

I’m not a big fan of going to new places on my own. I’m really shy. It’s not my favourite thing. But, perhaps, I was driven by a subconscious desire to whack something. So off I trotted, in my Sweaty Betty workout gear, and stepped into the kind of gritty, sweaty environment that you imagine in a Rocky film.

The first person I meet is Nick (who I now know is a world champion kick-boxer) He’s basically the largest person I’ve ever met in real life. He’s like six foot goodness knows what and he has huge hands.

He tells me to put my hand wraps on because Brian is coming. I am literally a shivering, shaking mess. I doubt he’d ever met anyone as useless as me, with the audacity to rock up in his gym and not actually know how to put their hand wraps on. And I’m pretty sure middle aged mums were not his usual kind of client.

That first session changed my life. 

It was the first time I had forced myself to do something so out of my comfort zone, physically challenging in a completely different environment all by myself.

They did classes as well, but I was so consumed by my awareness of my general crappiness that I wasn’t prepared to go to any classes until I’d got some more skills.

The thing is, I found that in that gym, everybody was incredibly encouraging. Nobody questioned why I was there or whether or not I was good enough to be there, have only ever been met with positivity and kindness.

And it’s become a kind of surprisingly safe space for me to go and to be myself.

And over the years I’ve trained really hard and I’ve got a lot better. Obviously, I’m not brilliant, far from it, but I really enjoy being in the gym and I really enjoy punching stuff hard. It’s a fantastic feeling. I particularly enjoy punching Brian and he punches me sometimes, which is a bit strange, but at the same time I’m used to it now!

I never thought I was a strong person. I’ve always kind of focused on the things that I’m not good at or the things that I am that make me weak. The things that make me less than other people. And I’ve come to realize that you can get better at stuff and become braver.  

Bravery is a muscle. You can practice being brave.

I guess the first time I stepped into the club, I was brave. The first time I put my gloves on and had to go and I was brave the first time I went to a class and joined in with other people and it builds and it builds.

I still struggle with things and I struggle with silly things. So for example, we’ll be in a class and mainly it’s men, maybe one or two women, but usually it’s guys, sometimes I’m the only girl.

The thing I find hardest is when I feel that people are looking at me. I know they’re not, but it feels like they are and I get really self-conscious and awkward and embarrassed and then I will like tripping over my feet and I feel like a real wally.

So I’ve tried to learn how to kind of focus on what I’m doing and relax rather than worrying about what other people think of me. I find it difficult when we go round the room and you have to say an exercise, for example, when we do core exercises at the end, when you have to say, do the plank, you know, or 20 sit-ups. In those moments, I find it really difficult to say anything to, to speak loudly in front of people. The words don’t seem to come out. And if I do it and I don’t do it loudly enough, someone annoying will usually go say it louder and I have to say it louder and I’d want to die in that moment, but I do it. There’s no mercy!

And then I remember a couple of years ago I heard Brian and Nick talking about the white collar fight that was coming up and I didn’t really know what it was all about.

I’d never been to see one, which was probably for the best. And I said, maybe I should do that. And I remember Brian sort of looking at me funny. I don’t think he thought I was ready. But the fact I wasn’t supposed to do it, made me want to do it!

So I signed up for this eight week program of training, and at the end of the eight weeks, there was gonna be an evening of fights at the local nightclub. It was hardly bare knuckle fighting. There would be head guards and mouth guards and big 16oz gloves. So, I figured how bad could it be?!

I’ve never been quite so scared for a prolonged period of time as I was then. Even just going to training in a big group of say 40 other people, perhaps five other girls and everyone else, blokes. And knowing that you’re gonna be fighting probably one of those people and you’ve never done it before. I found that so many things about that experience scared the living daylights out of me.

Even talking about it now gives me palpitations.

I had to do a weigh in. It wasn’t in public… exactly. But having someone else weigh you and write it down. And having people know how much you weigh. That was really hard. I cried.

Then we had to do a face off thing. Where you face your opponent and had your picture taken and you have to look scary. Ugh, that was awful. Having my picture taken is so not my favourite thing, but having it taken in front of 50 people, whilst trying to look scary, was really challenging!

Oh my God, I don’t think I’ve ever got three quite so much deodorant as in those few weeks and then it comes to the fight. I’ve been training like a beast by this point. I’ve lost a bit of weight and I’ve got better. I’ve, you know, I’ve obviously been boxing by this point for a while, probably about a year. Kind of know what I’m doing.

But, I had never actually been hit.

I’d never stepped in a ring. Really never done much sparring.

The first day we did sparring in the training. Oh my God, I wanted to cry. I had no idea it was going to be like that. You wear a gum shield and you’re trying not to get hit, but when you’re not very good at defending or moving, you get hit. So I’m good at punching but not very good at avoiding being punched.

I got hit in the eye and it really hurt.  I’m thinking, what the hell am I doing? This is awful!

But having a coach who believes in you and he knows you can do it, that’s what got me through it.

And then, the big day arrived.

I headed to the night club for my medical. And it struck me how weird my life was. On one side of the car park is the night club where the fight was happening. And opposite, on the other side of the car park is a leisure centre, where people go to play tennis and kids have parties. The night club is pretty dingey, with very sticky carpet! And outside are a whole bunch of enormous guys covered in tattoos. And outside the leisure centre is my friend, in a dress, drinking diet coke, with her kids.

And it just struck me that it was all weird juxtaposition I guess of the different parts of my life. On the one side, is me the mum and on the other side, this kind of weird world of boxing that I had become involved with.

I headed into the venue, feeling so nervous. It was crazy. The ring was all set up. I felt like I might have a panic attack just looking at it.

Before people arrive and before the fights you have to have a medical and one of the things they do is they take your heart rate and your blood pressure. You can imagine that mine was through the roof! I had to do some breathing exercises just to calm down, so I could pass the medical.

Thethe hours passed and the guests start arriving. Eventually there’s probably 700 people in this nightclub. The fights are underway. It was like nothing I’ve, I could have imagined. I’m quite glad I had never been to one of these events before or I would definitely not have signed up! Did I mention that?!

That first fight experience was like nothing I could ever have imagined.

Nadia Finer how boxing helped me overcome my shyness
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Even just doing the walkout to music in front of 700 people and having to climb into the ring without tripping over. That was a big step towards overcoming shyness. I was so embarrassed… as you can see, this is not my mean menacing face!

But then fighting three rounds against a beast of an opponent, in front of all those people, and being hit in the face…. It was the most daunting and scary thing that I’ve ever done. The adrenaline pumping for your veins is unbelievable. The adrenaline dump is crazy. You have to push through it and resist the urge to capitulate or run away.

And I remember, there was a moment during the fight where part of me thought, oh my God, what am I doing? I need to get the hell out of here.

There’s nothing like being whacked in the face by somebody who’s a lot bigger than you to trigger the desire to fight on.

Having Brian, my coach, in my corner, helped me to carry on and to keep pushing myself beyond what I ever thought was possible.

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It was an extreme experience and I’d, I dealt with it. I hadn’t melted. I survived. I didn’t win that fight but it was close. And I did myself proud.

That first fight experience changed my life, because it helped me realize that if I can do that, then I can, I can do all kinds of things. It has definitely helped me overcome shyness and become braver and more confident. 

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Since then, I’ve had three more fights and I’ve won those ones and I continue to train really regularly try and go every day. If I can.

And I think the way that boxing has helped me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be has been life changing for me. It’s helped me overcome my shyness. A bit, at least!

I’m still shy. I still get scared by things. I still assume I can’t do things. I still want to avoid situations and I want to hide away. But I tried to remember that if I’m someone who can get in the ring and fight and have a fight and win, then I have a strength in me that means I’m shy and mighty.

And I think that’s why I wanted to share that story with you to show you that if I can do that and can continue to train and continue to push myself again and again to higher and higher levels, then you too are stronger than you know. And you too can be shy and mighty.”

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