The Her Movement Interview: Marnie Swindells
Interviewed by Charlotte Simmons
Marnie Swindells was recently nominated for the Community Award at Sky Sports' Sportswomen of the Year Awards. A champion boxer herself, receiving a Silver in 2014 and Gold medals in 2015 and 2016 at Haringey Box Cup, she knows exactly how it feels to be in the ring and how much dedication it takes to get yourself into the best shape possible.
To celebrate the release of Creed II, Her Move were invited to attend a one-off women’s boxing class inspired by the film at Double Jab Boxing. Double Jab Boxing have a huge focus on women’s boxing, with champion Marnie Swindells leading a team of all-female coaches. The gym see’s approx. 300 women attend classes each week!
Stereotypically, at a young age boys are more encouraged to do boxing while dance / netball etc were aimed more at girls. Can you tell us a bit about how you found boxing and why it stuck?
I started boxing when I was 17, I wasn’t particularly good at sports or even very athletic but there was something about boxing that I connected too.
At that time I had distanced myself from the world, I spent a lot of time in my own company and I was very confused about what I wanted to do. I was passionate and fiery but also angry and frustrated. What I loved about boxing was that it didn’t judge me for that, in fact it encouraged it. Being a little rough around the edges was celebrated, aggression was admired and being forceful was a necessity.
Suddenly everything that was deemed negative about who I was became a positive and it felt like I had found the thing I was looking for, something that spoke my language and something I was good at.
I think more boys are pushed to boxing because we deem these qualities; aggression, power and dominance all to be things only felt by men, but every human being feels those things. For me those feelings were right at the surface and boxing gave me the perfect outlet to be exactly who I already was.
With amazing women like Nicola Adams becoming household names, do you think that young girls are starting to see boxing as a sport they want to try?
Definitely! Nicola Adams has done great things for women’s boxing, most importantly she has shown that you can be a competitive amateur boxer of the highest level and still be a normal person! Previously, any image you saw of women’s boxing was a woman looking as angry and as intimidating as possible – it’s almost as if female boxers weren’t credible unless they were portraying as many “masculine” traits as possible.
On the other hand when you think of Nicola Adam’s the first thing you think of it that amazing smile, her quiet voice and of course her incredible skill in the ring – it gives young girls a incredibly inspirational role model who has a personality to match.
I started boxing before the 2012 Olympics which was when the whole world really saw women boxing for the first time and I used to become extremely frustrated when every interviewer would ask “are you going to be the next Nicola Adams?” It was like there was only ever room for one woman at the top and in order for me to be successful in the sport I’d have to replace her, which is crazy – we are entirely different weights. It’s like asking Anthony Joshua at the start of his career whether he was going to be the next Floyd Mayweather?!
Congratulations for your recent nomination for the Community Award at Sky Sport’s Sports Women of the Year Awards! Can you tell us a bit about the work you do in the community and why it is so important?
My role in the community is to get as many women in gloves as possible! The actual boxing part doesn’t even matter – If they don’t know their left from their right that’s fine as long as they are out the house, around other women, getting fit and trying something new.
I started Bad Gyal Boxing in 2013 as a way of enhancing female membership at Double Jab Boxing Club and all honesty I was only running sessions as a favour to the club’s Head Coach. Back then, I thought I was just running boxing sessions but it turned out I was actually doing a lot more than showing people how to throw a jab.
What I didn’t realise was that bringing women together and providing them with an everyone-welcome, non-judgemental, feel-good space gave them a sense of togetherness and pure love that you just can’t find anywhere else.
I can’t express the differences of the women in our sessions – their ages, their experiences, their jobs, their backgrounds but when they are all in there working together it’s like we are all cut from the same cloth. The energy felt by everyone in the room and the laughs we share supersedes any need to learn how to box – that part is just the bonus!
Boxing can be a daunting sport to try for a lot of women, how can we make the sport more accessible and encourage more women to try? And what advice would you give women wanting to give it a go?
I think the feeling of being daunted comes from within and much as it does from external forces. I truly believe a lot of women are guilty of taking themselves out the game before even giving themselves a chance!
If you refer too and identify boxing clubs as ‘male spaces’ then of course you would feel daunted by it and have a sense of not belonging there. If on the other hand, you don’t even acknowledge it you can just walk straight through the doors like you own it (which is exactly how my boxing coach playfully accuses me of doing when I first joined haha!)
If that’s a step too far, I think just having an open mind is a great place to start, most places have fully warmed up to the idea of women in boxing and if you find yourself in a place that hasn’t – my doors are always open!
At Her Move, we like to focus on the benefits of exercise beyond that aesthetic. Can you tell us a bit about the mental and physical benefits of boxing?
Starting with the obvious, the physical benefits of boxing are undeniable. People always underestimate how much of the body is used in throwing a good punch. I tell everyone that boxing starts in the feet not the arms so if you are doing it right you truly will be getting a full body workout!
I think boxing has started to come to the forefront in the fitness world as people are finally realising how truly dynamic the sport is – we have drills that improve explosive power, accuracy, co-ordination, stamina, movement and speed so it’s really not just about punching.
The mental aspects, while less obvious, can be even more life changing. At a recreational level you are constantly pushing yourself past your own self-imposed barriers, learning new things about your capabilities and building a lot of confidence and self-belief in the process.
Health & fitness is one of the most powerful forces on social media & not always for the better. As Female athletes are more in the public eye, do you have any advice on how to build a healthy & inspiring social media feed?
I think it is very important for female athletes to keep it real! They are more than just athletes – they are daughters, mothers, sisters, career women, party girls and whatever else they want to be. I love seeing female athletes show both sides of them – one day they are running 10k the next they are out at dinner with their best friend.
It’s so important because it shortens the distance between the athlete woman and everyday woman and shows that you don’t have to be a superwoman with a six pack to still get involved in a little exercise each week.
I also love when women are open about their failures, no one is perfect and it’s hard to remember that when all you can see is the flawless beautiful bodies of Instagram fitness models – show us the sweat and the slip ups that also shaped your journey!