From the predictability of such primitive wiring comes opportunity, at least for London-based fitness center Gymbox. The gym has increased the hostility index of its Holborn location with the Human Punching Bag: an employee ensconced in a padded tube who taunts boxing clients as they pummel his cushioned torso. The invention is central to the “Goadivation” technique Gymbox created to keep those in its boxing workouts fired up.
“We noticed that in combat classes, people fade near the end of the session,” says Gymbox operational director David Cooper. “The Human Punching Bag’s goading provokes and motivates them to fight through the fatigue. It’s the same idea as having a trainer standing next to you and yelling. We just built a bag around the coach.”
While much of the mockery comes in the form of such playground standards as “You hit like a girl,” an increasing number of visitors are accepting the gym’s offer to print masks of someone they’d like to beat senseless.
“It started with celebrities like Simon Cowell,” says Cooper. “We’d print an image of his face and put it on the person inside the Human Punching Bag. Then we invited people to submit their own photos through Facebook. Now they can pretend they’re hitting their boyfriend, their boss, anyone they want.”
Though the Goadivation-oriented approach is primarily intended to generate a second wind in conditioning-minded Gymboxers, sports psychologist John F. Murray notes it could provide a secondary benefit to clients who are training to competitively box.
“You always want to practice in conditions similar to those found in actual competition,” he explains. “In high-pressure situations, athletes are going to face provocation. Getting angry can provide a short-term energy boost, but before long you’re going to lose that adrenaline rush and get tired. What training with something like the Human Punching Bag can do is acclimate you to provocation, enabling you to deal with it more effectively.”
That habituation may not bode well for the continued efficacy of Goadivation, but it sounds mighty sunny for those boyfriends and bosses being pummeled in effigy.