Today, Sydney Miller greets the day with a smile no matter how early it is. Many mornings she’s up at 5, preparing to put her regular clients and newcomers through boxing drills in Southern California. In the not-too-distant past, however, her daily routine lost its shine.
I didn't feel healthy or happy myself and I knew that I can't really serve other people if I’m not serving myself first
Miller was an English teacher in New Orleans for a total of three and a half years, after completing graduate school in her home state of New York. While teaching students her favorite content (reading and writing) still remains her passion and part of her purpose, the environment of a struggling school system took a mental and physical toll on her ability to nurture her own happiness and strength.
“I kind of was at the point where I didn't feel healthy or happy myself and I knew that I can't really serve other people if I’m not serving myself first,” Miller told Hayabusa. “That was, in the end, what pushed me to switch directions for a while to kind of get a handle on my own health and wellness.”
After her final year of teaching, she gravitated toward the thing that kept her most happy, mentally and physically: indoor cycling. She led cycling courses in New Orleans for some time before trying out for SoulCycle. That took her back to NYC for the training. After snagging the job as a SoulCycle instructor, she moved to Los Angeles for the fitness company.
“I was just trying to chase whatever my biggest dream was, whatever kind of fired me up and made me excited and joyful about life because that’s what I needed,” Miller said. “At the time that was SoulCycle because that's always been the place where I felt re-connected to my purpose and just joyful.”
After moving to Los Angeles in 2017, Miller was approached to try a fitness boxing class at the nearby BoxUnion gym, an introduction that has since provided an unbreakable connection to the sport. At that time, coach Aaron Swenson, a two-time national champion Muay Thai fighter, was in charge of teaching potential coaches the technicalities of boxing. This is where she built a foundation for boxing, and fell in love with the sport.
“I just loved the feeling of when you hit a punch at the right angle or when you master a combination, you feel this sense of intense satisfaction and it's kind of like this moving meditation,” said Miller, a former high school and collegiate swimmer. “And it’s kind of what attracted me to it. You’re so engaged physically and mentally that you can’t really focus on anything else except what you’re doing and I’ve never been that good at sitting down and closing my eyes and meditating, but with something like boxing, that’s my form of meditation because I’m all consumed by the present moment.”
It wasn’t all joy at the outset of her boxing journey. There were times when frustration set in when she didn’t see the improvements in her boxing she wanted. But it was that annoyance that lit a fire and kept her coming back to hone her skills.
“And even now I’ll have a day when I’m sparring someone who is better than me and I’m getting my ass kicked and I feel really discouraged and frustrated, but it's always been the type of frustration that makes me want to come back and be better,” Miller said. “It’s not the type of frustration that makes me want to give up ever. I don’t really know what to attribute that to. I think it’s just at the end of the day, you have control over how much you put in and what you get back, so I’m really enjoying that learning process.”
The Hayabusa gloves are genuinely my favorite gloves I've ever put on
Boxing has given Miller a number of important takeaways, which she has applied to her everyday life.
“I think it's very humbling. There’s no way to fake it,” she said. “Nobody is privileged. There’s no cheating. I guess it's just that really humbling experience that strips you down to how you react to fear, how you move your body, how much work you put in behind the scenes, how brave you are or how gutsy or ballsy, or whatever you want to call it, to get in there and fight.
“I think what I’ve learned most, to answer your question, how do you be humble enough to approach a situation without… any judgment about my opponent. And also the second part I’ve learned is how to bounce back from failure. How to get knocked down and then get back up stronger.”
Miller, who trains 6 days a week, admitted before trying boxing, she wanted nothing to do with it. She thought it was silly for people to throw punches at each other for a living. Then, she began training. Now fully immersed in the boxing lifestyle, she said she met people who were humble, hard working, and intelligent. It has fostered a desire to compete ⎯ not just train ⎯ in the sport.
In that journey, she understands protecting her hands is paramount.
“The Hayabusa gloves are genuinely my favorite gloves I've ever put on,” she said laughing. “I really do love them. The wrist support is huge and that's better than any glove I’ve ever worn. And then, just like the cushion and protection on your knuckles. I do so much with my hands. I’m so active and my whole livelihood depends on it that I really don’t want to screw up my hands or wrists or elbows or shoulders. I just feel so protected and solid and safe when I’m boxing with the Hayabusa (gloves).”
The early mornings, the frustrations, the tears: Why has it all be worth it?
“I think there are two parts to that,” Miller admitted. “The first one is the personal part for me and that is just about accessing a level of my strength and courage that I've never accessed before and proving to myself I can stand on my own two feet and count on myself to step up to the plate, so to speak, or into the ring. The other one is more about my clients and my community. I have seen boxing be the source of inspiration for people to turn their lives around or get engaged with athletics in a new way or conquer a fear or community to a workout routine and various other benchmarks or goals be met around the sport of boxing. It’s given me a way to connect with people of all different backgrounds and like I said, build a community.”