The most terrifying place to be in America this week? In the ring with Marlen Esparza at the USA Boxing National Championships in Spokane, Wash.
It’s much safer to meet the 24-year-old flyweight, who brought home a bronze medal from the 2012 Olympics, through the TV in your living room. With her debut DVD, “Power Boxing Workout” ($17, acacialifestyle.com), Esparza can show up any time to flash a smile and introduce viewers to technique, lingo and her training philosophy.
“It’s how I throw punches. It’s how I learned,” says Esparza, who was drawn to her dad’s favorite sport at the age of 11.
With this beginner program, she hopes to hook a broader audience on boxing, which she views as a training ground for more than just physical fitness: “It takes a lot mentally. You learn what you’re capable of.”
You also learn what’s required to power up a jab or cross. Much of the conditioning in the hour-long workout is focused on the lower body and core. (“You’re like a tree — you need a strong trunk,” she explains.)
The lunge series that involves stepping out at every possible angle is something Esparza always relies on when she’s tapering before a big match. There are no weights, but it’s still a killer routine, she says.
And although she’s not usually one to stay still, Esparza will stop moving in order to strengthen her mid-section.
“I started to fall in love with the plank in 2010 when I realized how it warms your body,” she says. “I have to shadow box for five to six minutes to get warm. I can hold plank for a minute instead.” (Viewers may get downright hot following along with all of Esparza’s plank variations in the workout, which include rotating from side to side and alternating leg and arm lifts.)
Wonder why Esparza insists that you do some squats on the balls of your feet? “In the ring, you never get on your heels. That’s the wrong position. You always want to be ready to go,” she says.
Once Esparza has run through the conditioning and explained boxing basics, she tests that readiness with a barrage of moves. At that point, you should know how to get into “orthodox stance” (left foot forward, right foot back), and follow along as she orders, “Live, jab, cross, hook, cross, escape!”
When you’re wiped out, it’s time to join Esparza for her “shake out.” The ritual is partially a physical cool-down to loosen up her body and check in with how her muscles feel. But it’s also a chance for a mental release.
“I can’t leave the gym and be worried. I have to get my mind correct. Whatever happened, it’s done,” Esparza says. “If you bring those other days with you, you’ll never feel fresh.”
Working on this DVD has also served as a reboot for Esparza, who says that getting into a coaching mind-set motivates her to fine-tune her own technique.
“I know how to throw my jab. But if I explain it to somebody, I’m perfecting mine all over again,” she says. “The simplest things to me aren’t that simple.”
It’s not difficult, however, to understand her goal for this week’s championships — and every other fight leading up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio: “I want to not just win, but dominate.”
Expect Esparza’s instructions on how to do that in future DVDs.
Even Olympians make New Year’s resolutions. So what’s Marlen Esparza’s? “I’ve been trying to work on my butt. I want to make it more proportional to my body.”
Other New DVDs
Local fitness guru Denise Austin offers her take on the Latin dance craze with four quick routines. If you can’t keep up with the choreography, just shimmy as much as possible. In addition to the 30-minute cardio workout, Austin also leads a 10-minute toning segment — think mambo steps plus bicep curls.
Element: Barre Conditioning ($15)
Pleasantly perky instructor Sadie Lincoln, the creator of barre3 (a national chain of studios, including one in Georgetown), dips into her repertoire of tiny pulsing movements to make you shake and sweat in two half-hour routines. A chair can double as a ballet barre to provide support while you target your “seat.”
R.I.P.P.E.D. Total Body Challenge ($17)
Terry and Tina Shorter created this entire workout program — down to the tunes — that’s taught at gyms (rippedplanet.com). Try it at home with this high-energy 45-minute DVD, which features tutorials that introduce exercises like sumo squats and pendulum pushups. And most moves can be modified for beginners.