Intensity is the Key

One of the first things that people who are new to Lions Den workouts say is the intensity is insane. They say it many different ways, but what they’re referring to is what we call intensity. I often hear people say that they workout every day and eat right and they just can’t loose the weight, reach their goal, look like they want, do a pull up, etc. and they have often even written it off that this is just how their body was made. I’m here to tell you very differently.

I am not naturally a boxer in any physical sense, even if I am in every single fiber of my mental and emotional self. Anyone who boxed with me during my first few years probably just scoffed under their breath at that sentence because they know that it’s just so incredibly true. I have to work very, very hard. Not everyone does at first, but eventually, you’ll hit a place in your boxing where you’re not naturally good at something, or in order to push into that next level you’ll have to make a change that doesn’t come easily. Not all of us have a coach pushing us in each workout, but all of us—on a team or not—should be working outside the gym as well, so let’s start with reaching that intensity level in your own workouts.

Timers are your best friend. I use an app called Interval Timer and the clock on my phone. Yep. Pretty basic stuff. I time EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Here’s the reason: most people have no idea how much time they’re taking between sets, let alone how much time they’re resting at the top and bottom of each rep. If you are working out alone especially, it is very difficult to push into that same zone that you would with someone killing it right next to you. There are important times in the gym to stop and do something slowly and for as long as needed to truly get the technique right. Often times, you need to do this work when you’re fresh so that you’re not doing something wrong out of compensation for a tired muscle group. Set a timer and do it for a set amount of time. This not only ensures that you still have enough time to move on to get that burn in your workout, but it also ensures that you’re actually completing that technique practice each time that you intended to.

You should always be dying on your last three reps. If it’s body weight exercises on a timer or resistance training, if you aren’t dying on your last three reps, barely able to pump them out, then you aren’t pushing hard enough. That’s where your growth happens.

Always be leveling yourself up. The second that you can complete a whole set on that next level up (maybe that’s a weight set, maybe that’s pull ups with one-foot assist, maybe it’s jump boxes or step ups), then you should be starting your next set out with the next biggest. You won’t be able to complete the whole next set there. If you can, then you should have pushed up before that. But you should be adding one more rep at that next biggest level each time you do that workout activity. For example, you can only do the 1-foot jump box for 1-minute intervals. Then the next time, you need to start at the 1 and a half (or if there’s something in between), do as many as you can, then go back down to the 1 again. You can only get in 28 crunches in a 1-minute interval? Next set you need to get in 29. You can only do curls with a 12 lb dumbbell? Next set you need to start with the 15, do as many as you can correctly, and take it back down to the 12. Then the set after that, you push to get one more in on that 15.

Prepare your workout beforehand when you’re fresh. Sundays are my day for the family to prep for the week in front of us. I do all of my food prep, clean everything, get the kids prepped with their adventures for the week, and write out my and my athlete’s workouts for the week. By using index cards to do this, I can stay focused during my actual workout time on only the workout that I have in front of me. I can also cross things off as I go along (a small way to encourage myself through it when I’m having a very difficult time pushing). It also makes it very easy to lay them out in order on the prep day and take a look at how complete my workout week really is. Each of these cards has exact times, reps, rest (if it’s active rest then what I’ll be doing), and resistance listed. I always complete a card baring injury. Because I wrote it when I was fresh, and while I was looking at the whole week’s plan, I know that if I just complete the card right in front of me, it will fit into the puzzle of my complete fitness needs.

Figure out what you dread doing, and find someone who also dreads it—or better yet, loves it. I have found that most boxers truly hate to run. Which cracks me up because to be good at boxing you have to spend hours and hours doing the exact same movement over and over and over and over, so I have no idea why running is so much more boring for them. The cardio for running is so much less than the cardio needed for boxing, too. I, personally, love running. I have been many teammates run partners through the years. During the summer, we start every Saturday practice with team runs because so many of them hate getting their runs in. I have two athletes who get here at 5 am to make sure they get their cardio in because they know that they just won’t do it alone. Know your weakness, know when you honestly will not get it in or will only be going through the motions, and get some accountability.

Mix in workouts with similar-level friends. I always jump on a chance to workout with, or spar with, my old gym friends. I miss them and this is pretty much my main way of bonding with people, so there’s that, but it also helps keep your intensity up. It’s a really good check point for me when I know that I’m just fine to get through their workout, or if I know that I’m dying and I shouldn’t be. It also is always a surprise, and when I’m struggling through a workout, I can remind myself that I wouldn’t want to be out of shape and have to decline or not make it through a workout with a friend--Or worse, to not be able to help them get through their stuff (or be a challenge to them) when they’re prepping for a fight.

For those on a team, I cannot stress this enough: If you are lucky enough to have a team that you are working with, first of all, you need to show that gratitude through making sure that you’re always in your best to push them too. Don’t be the taker on the team. Regardless of what level you are, you have something to add. That could be encouragement in the gym, going to their fights, straight up just thanking them for always killing it, being in drill and sparring shape to push them on your strong suits, or finding the activity that you’re the best at and really buckling down and pushing the team at it.

Find the person that’s the best and try to beat them. I don’t just mean the best boxer in your gym. I mean the best in every single activity. Monkey jumps, sprints, squats, punch count drills, everything. I listed monkey jumps because they were my Everest and lead me to a great example of how to get there. First, I had to complete these stupid things. That was honestly my first goal. Next, to not be last. Then, I moved up to picking someone that was about middle of the pack to line up next to on the wall and try to beat them. Finally, once I was consistently beating that person, I got the privilege of picking the person who could do these things forward or backwards, no problem, kill them every time. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever achieved getting better than him (although I don’t know, we haven’t been in the same gym for a long time so we haven’t tested that theory, but my guess is definitely a no), but I do know that pushing to be the best improved my monkey jumps much more than if I’d just be happy with completing them as not last. I do this with every single thing. Will you ever actually be the best at every single thing? Hopefully not or else you need to level up to a more challenging gym, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for that and challenge yourself to that level.

Are you already the best? Add resistance. Make it harder. There’s almost always ways to add resistance or combine movements to make them more difficult. If you’re already cool and not breaking a sweat with 500 push-ups, then maybe you need to try some more challenging versions, or add things like a weighted vest or hand weights to go deeper. I really doubt your coach will have a problem with this. Ask, because you may be adding weight to your body that isn’t in the game plan for your next weight cut, but in most cases your coach will admire your tenacity.

Struggling through something? Don’t be prideful. Ask for help. Ask your coach. Don’t have a coach? I certainly didn’t for about my first year or so—not one that regularly helped me. So I picked a teammate or two that I knew also wasn’t getting much help, and we figured this stuff out. We got there early, stayed late, worked out on the side together, and we learned to do it all or made up workouts we thought would strengthen us to the level to be able to do it. We did crazy amounts of research in our times when we were too tired to move. We learned how to run pads for each other, we made up drills that would work what we were lacking, and we were brutally honest with each other so that we could truly push to the next level. I used to start all of our sparing by telling her what I was really weak at right now (in case she didn’t already know, but she usually did) so that she could catch me every time I did that thing. She would usually do that and then find something new for us to work for me that following week, and I did the same for her. If you are in a real boxing gym then there’s no excuse. With or without a coach that is willing to do anything besides tolerate your existence in his presence (as is often the case for women in gyms), look around. Talk to people. Find a friend in there. If there isn’t someone, do what I did to find the friend above: I talked to every new person who was even close to my weight, and I did whatever I could to help build a workout partner. She jokes that her first day in the gym we finished up, I’d seen that she was pushing like crazy, and I immediately asked how much she weighed and how old she was. That’s the gym life for you. She had it, and I wanted to know her. Know what? We got an amazing friendship in and out of the gym, and a coach who was the best coach I’ve ever had noticed our hard work together and started coaching us.

I do not have workouts that end any other way than me feeling insanely successful, but barely able to walk to my car. I push every day to a new level. Is this what you put in? Your time is valuable. Make it count towards true gainz.

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