Box clever and get fit
The last thing Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin aka Sam Blake, thought she’d be doing at the age of 46 was learning to kickbox, but the author and mum of two has discovered it’s an excellent way to get every bit of you toned and fit.
“I had a car accident about three years ago, a head-on collision, and I still suffer from pain if I sleep in an unfamiliar bed or sit badly when I’m working. Getting into shape after the accident has helped hugely with my recovery and, crazy as it sounds after an injury, kickboxing is great exercise that increases suppleness and tones you up.”
There is method in her madness, and it wasn’t just post- Christmas podge that led Vanessa to the boxing ring. Maeve Binchy always said “write what you know”, and there are times when no amount of googling will give you an answer. Writing under the pseudonym Sam Blake, her debut novel “Little Bones” is out now with Bonnier Publishing’s exciting new imprint Twenty7, but to get into the head of her character, 24 year-old Garda Detective Cathy Connolly, Vanessa knew she needed to talk to a kick boxing champion. The novel, the first in a Dublin detective trilogy, reveals what happens when Cathy makes a shocking discovery – at both a personal and a professional level – finding a baby’s bones hidden in the hem of a wedding dress!
Getting into Character
“Cathy is an incredible character, but getting her just right took a bit more than just sitting at my desk. I went along to Elite Martial Arts in Dun Laoghaire to talk to coach Glen Heenan and kickboxing champion Damian Darker about what it takes to be the best – and to find out how this level of training effects their daily lives,” says Vanessa.
“Cathy is a champion kickboxer and I got a really clear idea from Glen and Damian how daily training would effect Cathy’s routine and the cases she finds herself embroiled in. I went back to my laptop, and was reading over a chapter I’d written about her sparring in the gym, but it didn’t quite gel. I needed to feel what she was feeling, so I went along to a beginner’s class to try for myself. Learning the techniques first hand was vital to writing the scenes where Cathy is training or fighting, and I discovered I loved it.”
Good for Stamina
Vanessa visits the gym regularly, although she runs several businesses and getting time out can be hard, but she says: “If I’m feeling wrecked, even 20 minutes in the gym in the evening clears my head and makes me feel great, giving me the energy to get back to my fictional world. As well as going to Elite to train, I try to get to a boxercise class at the Glenview Health and Leisure Club every week – Jason Flynn is the trainer and has spent nine years as an amateur boxer, so we get to practice punches as well as do circuit training and rope work. When I started kickboxing I couldn’t skip for more than about 30 seconds, now I’m keeping up with the guys. Kickboxing had built my stamina hugely, giving me more energy for writing.”
Women’s boxing became an Olympic sport in 2012, with Ireland’s Katie Taylor taking a gold medal, and more and more women are trying kickboxing, including celebs like Pippa Middleton and Ellie Goulding, who have been spotted getting fit in the ring. Vanessa adds: “I got into kickboxing to understand and learn more about my character, Detective Garda Cathy Connolly, but I found that it’s a really fun way to get in shape. It’s addictive!”
The benefits of kickboxing
Provides a full body workout – combining martial arts techniques and heart-pumping cardio, kickboxing is a highenergy workout that is guaranteed to burn anything from 750 to 900 calories in an hour.
- Tones your entire body – a kickboxing session uses every muscle group in your body. Engaging your core ultimately improves co-ordination, while the constant movement improves flexibility and reflexes – and the kicks are great to tone your bum!
- Relieves stress – kickboxing offers a healthy way to get the day’s frustrations out of your system, which aids sleep and helps improve mental clarity. Boxing increases the release of endorphins, which can diminish with stress, and if you are really cross with something, taking it out on a punch bag is a sure way for you to feel in control.
- Improves confidence – if you get in shape, you feel good and look good, and there’s nothing better than being able to get into that dress that used to be a bit tight. With improved fitness comes improved stamina, so getting through a long day, still smiling at the end, becomes a possibility.
- Teaches self-defence – kickboxing is a contact sport and knowing you have the ability to protect yourself is a valuable asset. It’s empowering to know that if you were in a dangerous situation, you have the knowledge to get yourself out of it safely.
You can find Little Bones by Sam Blake in all good bookshops.