This next group of posts is going to have to do with all of the things that make boxing a lifestyle, not a hobby or something that you just do for a few hours 5 nights a week. These are the things that we mentioned in the last post called Your Brain, Your Responsibility.
There are certain things in the boxing life that there’s a very good chance your coach isn’t going to just sit you down and outline for you. You are probably going to pick it up as you go along, and start to just hear other people on your team talk about it or maybe you’ll learn it the hard way by a coach chewing you out that you’re not doing it (I have learned this way more than once...). I think the best way to start this conversation is to break down some of your outside exercising that you should be working into your daily life. I try very hard to not spring any of my expectations onto my boxers. Instead, as soon as they’re ready to start doing that next step into the boxing lifestyle I start helping them learn how to integrate that in. That is one of the reasons that our gym offers so many conditioning classes outside of our normal practice times.
When it comes to outside conditioning, I believe that most coaches would concur three days a week of sport specific conditioning is ideal. In our gym, we’re talking about approximately an hour—including warm up and cool down. Because we have a high percentage of women, and because this blog is designed for women fighters, I’m going to outline some of the things we do in there. However, I would like to be clear that every boxer’s body is different and has very different needs. When I train some of the male boxers and MMA fighters I rarely do the same things at all that I do with my female boxers. For example, in our conditioning classes, we often have 2 days of lifting and 1 day of speed or bodyweight training, but when I train adult male boxers in conditioning, I almost never put them on weights. Their bodies gain muscle mass very differently than women’s. I have found that my female fighters become far more explosive and stronger for their size without gaining hardly any weight by doing weight training specifically designed for boxing.
Specifically designed for boxers. I would like that to be noted as many times as you need to reread that sentence. We are not weight lifters. We are not body builders, and we lift very, very differently than those who’s goals are to make muscle mass gains. We also eat very differently. For example, as a general rule, we only do low reps high weight about every two weeks or so—and even then it depends on the individual’s body. We generally hang around the 12-15 reps mark when we are lifting. What we’re going for is the endurance strength. This has added incredible things to my boxer’s explosion and power. We also focus pretty hard on technique. I always explain to them beforehand exactly what muscles we should be using, and how the movement directly relates to their boxing. This helps mentally with the transfer of power and movement into their boxing. Sometimes, it also helps them understand what they should have been feeling the whole time while they have been trying to get a technique that they haven’t been quite getting right. Every set is designed for the individual in the class and what their goals and weaknesses are. I stress this so hard because in any weight based sport it is very important that you understand that we’re not lifting to get strong, we’re lifting for it to show up in the ring.
In fact, that’s true when it comes to anything that you do to add to your boxing. I had a coach once tell me that “we don’t run to run anymore, now we run to fight”. I know that might seem like a basic statement, but it blew my mind. It completely changed the way that I had my runs designed throughout the week. I have always been a distance runner and running had been my first love. I still take distance runs sometimes, but I always have to remember what the purpose behind my running is now. Now, my runs are limited to up to five miles. Every day of the week is a different style: speed mile, 2.5 or 3 mile trail run, 1.5 mile incline sprints, 5 mile distance, etc. I hear so many boxers that say, “I don’t know, I’m doing my runs”—yes, but how are you doing them? What is your purpose behind them while you’re actually on the road training? This includes my running technique and stance. I had to throw out my old style and stance and open my hips up wider, taking different lengths of steps, pushing differently off the back foot, and with a different turn of the hips. I understand that many of you may be saying to yourselves, “I have never even thought about one of those things in my running, let alone worried about changing them”. What I’m telling you is that if you haven’t, then you’re wasting a lot of time and energy by probably getting a tenth of the results that you could be from your training.
I cannot design a conditioning schedule that would work for absolutely everyone reading this blog post, but I can help give you an idea of how I help my boxers stay on track. First of all, we all have sheets called “dailies” that we have to complete and turn in on Mondays. You will find three examples of these to the left.
None of these are meant to be a whole workout and done by themselves in a big chunk. They are meant to be done in little pieces throughout the day. This means that some boxers set a timer and every 45-60 minutes they stand up from their desks and do 25 squats. For some, they just work them in while they’re standing at the kitchen sink or stove, or do some pull ups while they are zapping their coffee for 1 minute. I have other boxers who prefer to just take a giant chunk in their mornings and get them all out of the way. For myself, I always just have to mix it up depending on what that day’s work schedule looks like. If you can mix them into your day though, you’re not only going to get a whole other workout in without have to give it much thought after a while, but you’re also going to keep your metabolism raised all day long and keep your body healthy by making sure that you aren’t sitting for longer than an hour at any point during the day.
So what kinds of things are you going to find on your dailies and what counts towards them? Well, absolutely everyone’s list that I make is different. By them having to turn them back in to me, it helps me create their list for the following week. It also helps hold everyone accountable. Nothing that I've told you to do during a practice counts towards dailies. I know what all of their daily sheets are, and I know who is at that practice, so it is safe for your to assume that I am well aware that you already had to do 300 push-ups, and yes, I want you to still give me 25 more push-ups between rounds.
As you may notice, there are pretty different numbers listed on these! There is also one list that has boxing written in on it and the others do not. I do that for my own list to ensure that I’m taking time out for myself when I’m not coaching. I also do that for my boxers that live further away and aren’t able to attend practices with the team, or are maybe only able to attend one or two days a week. You might also ask about the fact that there are 5, not 6 days listed on all of these lists. This is for two reasons. First, it gives boxers a full day to go back and work on anything they missed throughout the week and still take a full day of absolute rest. Secondly, we have to find balance. Our practices on Saturdays are done at 7:30 am. I know that seems extremely early on a Saturday, so how is that balance? Because we have families. It is very, very important to be able to spend the time that most people have kids and partners home from work with them. Our goal would be that you get done with Saturday practice just as your families are waking up and then you’re not thinking about food or dailies or your next workout at all, that you’re able to just spend that time with your families. We’re going to hit hard on your mental and emotional health over the next few weeks because I feel like it’s one of the least talked about difficulties in the ring. Everyone who ever steps inside of that ring will be in really good physical shape. If they aren’t, then…wow, you should have surely been stopped by someone at some point weather that was a family member, a coach, the commission… But a whole lot are not able to understand their emotions, mental health and well being, or what’s going on inside of them well enough to control it or make sure it doesn’t come out as a weakness inside of the ring. Those are all lessons for another week though.