From running in heels to running an empire: How boxing changed my life

CEO of Real Boxing Only, Michelle Kuehn shares her journey from running in heels to running a gym, and how stepping into ring helped her win some battles of her own
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From running in heels to running an empire: How boxing changed my life

After boxing for four years, there are no boxing trophies in my room or belts hanging over my desk. In fact, as a boxer I haven’t always had a winning streak, but as a woman – thanks to boxing – I am the best ever.

In 2015, before I discovered boxing, I was unhappy with how I felt about my body, I was insecure, and I was angry that I felt this way – it was impacting my professional life and I knew I had to do something. I had never run a day in my life, and boxing training was a lot harder than I had anticipated. I barely survived day one, two or three without vomiting, quitting or laying lifeless on the hard gym floor unable to move.

Yet after only three boxing classes, I was able to run 15 minutes, uphill; and even though I wanted to quit after the first few sessions, my coach forced me to keep going despite my cries, the disagreement and my constant ‘I can’ts’ accompanied by laboured breathing. But at the end of this class, I lay on the floor – drenched in sweat, shaking from exhaustion but filled with a great sense of achievement – and I had an epiphany. I realised I had been allowed – wait, not just allowed but taught – to underestimate myself, to question my abilities if they were outside a defined set of rules, to not overachieve as it makes others uncomfortable, and to only succeed in moderation.

At that moment, I knew without a doubt I was limitless. At that moment, I stopped believing everything I was taught, I stood up off the gym floor – sweaty, tired and on fire – and I knew that my lifev was going to be completely different from now on. Fast forward to 2017, I left the media industry, completely changed my career and opened a boxing gym. In a short space of time, I went from mediocre to unstoppable. I knew nothing about the fitness industry or how to run a gym. The only thing I knew and that still drives me daily is that boxing changed my life and that I had to share this gift with the world every day for the rest of my life. When I built the gym, I made sure the female bathroom was put upstairs so I can close off the stairs to have ladies-only classes – so every female in all of the UAE can come to my gym and find a safe space from a world where we face so much criticism. Not in my gym. Unsolicited opinions are not welcome here; the only person you are facing here is yourself, because in boxing, it is you versus you.

I am proud to say I have a high ratio of female clients in my gym, from all walks of life, and I am ashamed to say that they all face the same issues with self-image and that this negative view of themselves is out of control. They think they are unable to do push-ups, unable to run for more than a few minutes, or that they have some special body make-up that means they are unable to do something. Guess what? You are not that special, ladies.

Sorry to be the person who has to say it, but we are all strong and we are all capable of greatness. Do you know why you can’t do that push-up? Because you don’t do push-ups. Do you know why you can’t run? Because you don’t run. Here in my gym, all are created equal and if you put the work in you can achieve anything, and that is what we call empowerment. I am not in the boxing business, I am in the empowerment business. My love for boxing comes from that core ethos – no matter who you are, it’s the work you put in that matters. I have watched timid, shy members blossom into feisty, fit and happy, prospering women who are empowered, and that transmits into their daily lives. Boxing isn’t just for those who want to fight, it is for everyone in the battle we call life. The only thing you need to decide before you walk through my doors is, do you want to be good or do you want to be great?

It’s OK if what I’m saying has yet to hit home, I’m here to help you convince yourself that no matter where you are in life, you are capable of more than you know and powerful beyond measure. I don’t care who you are, I only care about who you’re meant to be. Never stop fighting for her.

  • Find the Real Boxing Only gym at Warehouse 37, 8th Street, Al Quoz, Dubai. Call +971 (0) 4 272 7774 or visit realboxingonly.com