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Fashion: FALL ISSUE : IN FIGHTING Shape

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Six months ago, New York journalist Lynn Snowden was looking for better physical coordination and some “killer instinct.”

“I grew to my full (5 feet, 9 inches) when I was 13,” she explains. “I never got over the shock of tripping over my own feet all the time. I was never good at sports, possibly because I was so shy, I couldn’t stand the thought of being on a team. Now I regret it, because I think being in business, you need a bit of that killer instinct.”

But help is on the way. Snowden has found boxing. And after months of slugging a heavy, sand-filled bag--under the guidance of a personal trainer--she is ecstatic about her new routine.

“It’s exhausting,” she says. “I don’t do it very long, but it feels like a lifetime. More than anything it has helped my balance. It makes me feel more sure-footed. And I fantasize about getting into the ring. It gets to the point where just hitting the bag is not enough. You really begin to wonder if you are as strong as you think you are.”

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Whatever their reasons, men and women from coast to coast are punching, ducking, scrunching and jumping to get what they claim is the best workout of their lives.

In Southern California, actress Stephanie LaMotta--daughter of Jake (Bronx Bull) LaMotta and a personal trainer--isn’t surprised pugilism is considered the newest fitness champ.

“I have been working out on a bag since I was 12. It’s the only workout I know,” she says. For her, the training routine is an unusual form of physical therapy. She has multiple sclerosis and uses the workout to keep her muscles flexible.

Four years ago, she started training private clients in their homes and at the Los Angeles Youth Athletic Club in Boyle Heights. Her first exercise video will debut next spring, about the time her life story airs on television.

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Her clients include “celebrities, secretaries, a couple of cowboys, some stunt women, actors, actresses and models.” The models go nuts for it, she says. “They’ve found it’s better than taking diet pills. It’s a great way to lose water, because you sweat so much.”

And at the Santa Monica Athletic Club, where Boxercise units (two adjustable punching bags plus a platform for jumping rope) were recently installed, Katie Hogoboom , the club’s general manager, strongly recommends that women use them, “because upper-body strength tends to be one of our most underdeveloped features.”

But if you want to spar, you’ll need a partner. At Bodies in Motion in West Los Angeles, the Executive Boxing classes feature professional Jim Tunney as instructor.

Television director Menachem Binetski says that after taking a Tunney class, “I’m alert for hours. It’s one of the best ways to get in shape, to develop skills and to relieve stress.”

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Emily Woods, bicoastal president of J. Crew, agrees. She keeps a punching bag in her Los Angeles home and spars with a trainer when in town. “It’s a completely exhausting, great workout,” she explains. “And it’s great for getting out your aggressions.”

But Woods says her enthusiasm for the sport did not influence J. Crew’s fall catalogue cover, which shows a man in sweats, T-shirt and gloves pitted against an Everlast bag. It was simply a way “to go back to the traditional look,” she says. “I think the best active clothes are based on old gym pieces.”

Which brings up another point about fitness boxing. So far the wanna-bes are sticking to basic gym styles. They are not wearing shiny satin shorts and fancy robes. Not yet, anyway.


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