Pomona business takes gloves off approach to battling mental health

By Lesly Velasco Guerra, Feb. 2, 2021

The Self-Care Lab Boxing Club, a Black, female-owned establishment in Pomona, targets mental health issues through physical exercise such as boxing. With rising concerns for mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lab is taking a jab at changing the way it is culturally approached, especially for families of color.

“I saw that there are readily available resources for maybe foster youth or domestic violence youth, but not many for everyday common youth that someone probably overlooked,” said Nita Watson, the club’s founder. “That’s what I wanted to do.”

Members of the lab can engage in activities such as fitness and competitive boxing, weightlifting, circuit training and yoga. (Courtesy of The Self Care Lab Boxing Club)

Watson, a Pomona native, began brainstorming the idea of the lab in 2015. By 2016, she began training at a Covina park and although her vision was still not set, her determination to take on mental health issues persisted. A year later, Watson and her team opened the site located at 273 S. Park Ave.

The lab was created as a space where individuals of any age, gender and race are welcomed to practice boxing, exercise and go toe-to-toe with issues such as anxiety, depression, impulsive behavior and low self-confidence. The Self Care Lab is an U.S.A. Certified Mental Health Boxing Club, offering courses in fitness and competitive boxing, weightlifting, circuit training and yoga.

Pomona resident Jasmine Jimenez said her confidence has increased since she first joined the club in 2020, helping her build her character through her fitness journey.

“It’s a very warm and welcoming environment,” said Jimenez. “They don’t really take into account gender here. It’s very inclusive.” Jimenez joined the lab wanting to support small Black-owned businesses and found the lab through Instagram.

The Self Care Lab is led by (in order from left to right) coach Paul Hernandez, Director Nita Watson, coach Lalo Mendoza, coach Alejandro Herrera and Mariana Muro. (Photo by Lesly Guerra)

Like the Self-Care Lab Boxing Club, the Counseling & Psychological Services at Cal Poly Pomona, offers a variety of resources for students seeking help with mental health issues.

Dr. Daniel Martinez, associate director for CAPS, emphasized how important physical activities are to benefit mental health, especially during the pandemic.

“What we know now about mental health is that it’s not separate from other healths,” said Martinez. “We tend to be one human being made up of different parts, and when all of those parts work together, they impact each other. When one part is failing and not doing well, it can drag the other parts down, and the opposite is also true. When you strengthen one part, it can also strengthen others up.”

According to HelpGuide.org, regular exercise has numerous benefits and can reduce stress, improve memory, promote sleep, as well as boost the immune system and overall mood.

“Research has proven that intense exercise really helps to target the symptomologies of traumatic behavior—especially from PTSD,” said Watson. “Some of those could be recurring flashbacks, impulsive behavior and it even helps combat aggressive behavior.”

Director and business founder Nita Watson hopes to continue training in addition to helping local business owners. (Courtesy of The Self Care Lab Boxing Club)

In the future, Watson hopes to expand and create The Self-Care Lab Therapy Launch where families can go from the clinical practices to the gym. Eventually, she also plans to open The Self-Care Lab Barbershop with the idea that when one looks good, they train even better.

“I want to let people know it’s okay to talk about mental health,” said Watson. “I want to change the idea that it’s okay for women to exercise and train in boxing clubs, I want to let people know it’s okay to come from broken households and actually do something amazing.”

The Self-Care Lab Boxing Club can be contacted on Instagram, @theselfcarelab, or via phone at (909) 561-1751.

For more information of activities and resources offered by CAPS visit their website at https://www.cpp.edu/caps/index.shtml 

 

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