On Feb. 20 and Feb. 21, University of Maine Campus Recreation held its first Pink Gloves Boxing (PGB) training camp. PGB is a fitness program that not only delivers a challenging workout, but also builds a community by empowering self-confidence in women. Implementing the core movements of competitive boxing, PGB is a non-contact program for those who want to lead a healthy lifestyle.

In 2006, Garret Garrels, a college graduate based in Helena, Mont., who had a passion for fitness and a background in boxing, founded PGB. Garrels partnered with his college friend and football teammate Nick Milodragovich and in 2013 they decided to go on a road trip to discover ways of expanding PGB.

“We rented a car and went to a bunch of colleges where we introduced PGB, and it was really successful,” Milodragovich said. PGB training camps were held at Montana State University, George Washington University, James Madison University and many more, including UMaine last weekend.  

Caitlin Caserta, assistant director for fitness at the UMaine Recreation and Fitness Center, heard about PBG at a 2015 regional National Intramural Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Conference held in Long Island, N.Y. She heard the co-founders speak about PGB and present a demo of the exercises that it offers.

“I met with them [the co-founders] and thought it would be an awesome program to bring to UMaine,” Caserta shared. “The process of making it happen here has gone smooth, because I have the support of my supervisors and that is really helpful. I haven’t had to go through a bunch of hoops to get this done, and having this support, having them [my supervisors] understand the importance of this program has been great, and I am really thankful for that.”

Last weekend’s training camp was held for anyone interested in learning about PGB, and for those who wish to become certified PGB instructors. It is required to complete the training in order to become an instructor. UMaine Campus Recreation is adding PGB to its fitness schedule for the fall semester.

“This training is a way for us to demo for the fall,” Caserta said. Community members and students, especially first-years are encouraged to attend upcoming PGB classes which will be held twice a week.

“Freshmen could have an opportunity to move up each tier of PGB, and could potentially finish the program by the time they graduate,” Caserta said.

PGB is comprised of a tiering system. There are seven levels, and in order to move up a tier, the participants need to demonstrate their improvements and complete certain exercises, like a combination of punches. After completing each tier, the participants get boxing gear and tokens that help them throughout their training, like pink boxing gloves, hand wraps and more.

One of the things the participants received were pink wristbands, which said “revealing a champion” on the outside and “from within” on the flip side. Revealing an inner champion from within each other is the vision of PGB.

“It is about challenging and comparing yourself with yourself, not with others, which is becoming harder to do with the social media,” Caserta shared.

Five women went through the training camp last weekend.

“It [training] can be all sorts of sizes, but it is a lot more intimate when the group is smaller,” Milodragovich, who drove up from New York City to instruct the training, said. Milodragovich modified the training especially for the group, noting that the music, given the size of the group and the room, was playing much quieter than in other PGB training camps. “Everyone gets more hands on experience in a smaller group. Not everyone is necessarily coming to be a trainer, but they are at least coming here to improve,” Milodragovich added.

At the beginning of the training, the participants introduced themselves to each other, and throughout the course of exercises, Milodragovich referred to everyone by their names.

“PGB is different because it is more than a workout. It is a community of women that empower each other, and cheer each other on as they are learning together,” Caserta said. PGB classes in the fall will be offered twice a week, and Caserta shared a difference between a regular PGB class and a drop-in fitness class. “PGB creates this friendship and positive attitude, whereas in drop-in classes, it is all about the workout. You might not have the same sense of community, because you are not with the same group of people every week. PGB is all about that social and emotional growth that you might not always get in other group exercise classes.”

During the circuit part of the training, the participants were divided into pairs, and completed various exercises in four different stations simultaneously.

“There is a better energy when everyone is paired up, otherwise it can get quiet,” Milodragovich said.

There was a station for punches in front of the mirror, a lunges, pushups and spider crawling station, a station for punches with a punching bag and boxing mitts and a floor ladder running exercise.

“There are different stations we move through, so everyone is doing something at the same time,” Caserta said.

After the circuits, the participants got to cool down in a circle, and get to know each other more by sharing one unique thing about their hometowns, and showing their favorite core exercise, which the group repeated. Following a quick break, participants got to learn how to wrap their hands so that their thumb, knuckles and wrists were protected.

“They [participants] get to learn real boxing, not the phony stuff,” Milodragovich said.

After learning several punch combinations, the ladies not only got to come up with their own combinations, but they also got to lead the team by demonstrating the punches in front of the class. Eventually, as they got more comfortable, participants carried on the punch combinations with their eyes closed.

“Closing the eyes helps so much,” Milodragovich said. “We are always in our heads, always think of our forms and always think that we have to be perfect. This is an opportunity to feel your inner self. We live in a society that is all about numbers, stats and it is too much intellect. We need some way to get back to instinct. Closing your eyes is a technique to shut off the intellect,” Milodragovich shared.

Julie Beauchesne and Victoria Lovejoy were paired up together during the training. They shared that their favorite part of the training was punching the punch bags. Neither of them have done boxing before, and that is the primary reason why they attended PGB.

“It is a new opportunity to do something different,” Beauchesne said.

During the time leading up to the training, Lovejoy shared that she, “had pure excitement about PGB.”

If interested in doing PGB during the fall, please contact Caitlin Caserta. Since the spots are limited, it is encouraged to register ahead of time.