Running Routine and Philosophy
Boxing has many aspects of training. There is the technical aspect of punching, the coordination required for effective footwork, the flexibility required to move through the range of motion, and the courage to be effective defender.
The cornerstone of these attributes is the conditioning that allows one to put in multiple rounds of offense, but also to absorb the punishment that a skilled opponent dishes out. Boxer’s train to be great defenders, but every shot delivered by a skilled opponent is painful. It’s simply a matter of whether you are hurt or injured by the attacks.
Running is how I develop my physical, mental and emotional constitution. This post will outline my general running routine, the benefits, as well as discuss how running not only fits into my boxing training but into my life philosophy as well. After reading this post, you should have a better idea of how to run, why you should run, and how to use running to improve areas of your life beyond the physical.
The Over-Arching Themes
I don’t run to get in shape. In terms of efficiency, hitting the heavy bag with intensity for 10 rounds or swimming a mile is better sports specific boxing training. Running does helps my leg endurance during the fight, but a stationary bike achieves the same effect without the impact to my knees, hips and ankles. There are obviously physical benefits to running, but there are better ways to get them. So why do I do it?
I run because it’s uniquely difficult. I don’t like running until I’m done with it. I do not enjoy the act itself. I don’t struggle through running, but it is not a pleasurable feeling. I’d rather not run. Because I have all of these feelings towards running, I have to do it.
In this way I not only build my physical ability, but my mental constitution and emotional will is fortified. Combine running with waking up early, and you quickly learn a valuable lesson for boxing and life: How you feel about something is irrelevant if it is essential to your success. I don’t think about a run in terms of “difficult” vs “easy” or “long” vs “short”. I view running is “necessary” vs “unnecessary”. Will power will always be necessary, therefore running will always be necessary.
I almost never run to music. This is another important part of running. I believe that the key to getting through difficult situations is to focus intently to summon all resources to your aid. I want to put my mind deep into the pain as a type of meditation. Music makes this extremely difficult. I need to center my mind and have it work with me on the run. I don’t need it following along to song lyrics. This increases my ability to focus in other areas along with making me a superior runner.
Set Up For Success
Before you begin anything, you must know what you want to get out of it. Many people have trouble with running because they approach it with a generic, non-specific goal in mind. “Running to get in shape” is a good example of a terrible goal. What is “get in shape” and how will you know you are there? It’s non measurable, vague, and subjective. Another terrible (and sadly popular) example is “I want to do a 5k”. If you’ve never even run a mile before, you have no frame of reference for this goal and thus it is also arbitrary. This isn’t a post about how to set goals. Just know that what gets measured gets accomplished.
I can’t tell you exactly what you should aim to get out of running, but I can tell you what my specific goals are as an example. I aim to
-Reduce my resting heart rate (50 beats per minute or lower)
-Increase fat loss (12% body fat or lower)
-Increase muscular endurance (increase length of time doing an exercise before fatigue sets in)
-Run a sub 20 min 5k (excellent measure of aerobic and anaerobic faculties)
While I have non-measurable goals like “increase pain tolerance” and “increase concentration”, I focus on the measurable outcomes because they indirectly influence the development of the others. “Pain tolerance” and “concentration” are not objective measurements. They may increase, but that increase cannot be independently verified.
I can track the improvements in measurable goals, providing me with motivation and proof that my efforts are worth something. Pain tolerance and concentration are difficult (i.e. impossible) to measure, so I don’t use them as my primary goals.
If it can’t be plotted in a graph and independently verified, it’s not a good goal.
My runs are designed to develop my aerobic and anaerobic capacity. I do this becauseboxing requires development of both systems. With that said, I think most people only think of aerobic style running. The things that come to mind are long distance runs and light jobs. The longest distance I run is 5 miles. The following claim is non-scientific, anecdotal and total bro science, but I simply don’t see any physical benefits from running longer than that. For those who specifically do distance running, I’m obviously not talking to you. For the general training public, anything longer than 5 miles isn’t really necessary.
You need the proper gear for running. Correct shoes are non-negotiable. Over the years I have used a variety of shoes, but the brand I trust now are Asics. They are durable, affordable and most importantly they offer great support and cushioning. I’ve had to replace running shoes because the arch support wore down or my ankles rolled too easily. Not the problem with this brand. That’s why outside of the shoes I was given during basic training, I’ve used Asics for the past 5 years. They work great for distance and sprinting.
Since I started discussing distance running, I’ll continue with that. I like to do a distance run twice a week. For me, a distance run is a 5k. Rarely, just to test myself or to do a relaxed run to enjoy the morning air or scenery, I will run 5 miles. The goal of my distance runs is to always improve my time. That’s it. Even if you only improve by 1 second, the aim for each distance run is to do it faster than the last. Since you’ll be leaving your I-Pod and cell phone behind, a basic and cheap stopwatch will allow you to keep track of your times. Eventually you’ll find your limit, but you will surprise yourself with how fast this truly is.
My anaerobic runs are conducted twice a week. These are my sprints. If you had to choose between distance and sprinting for your run workout, then you absolutely should go with sprinting. It burns fat and lowers your heart rate better than distance running ever could. These require no special gear outside of what I suggested, but you definitely should carry bottled water. You will need it.
There are a variety of ways to go about getting a sprint workout, but the formula is the same: Push your body in an all-out sprint for 50-100 meters, rest, repeat 8-10 times. Stretching before and after is very important for sprinting. I also recommended the use of a foam roller for afterwards, as it DEFINITELY reduces the inevitable soreness.
Right now I use a standard sprinting track. I sprint the straights and jog the curves continuously until I’ve done 10 sprints. I switched up my run in preparation for my upcoming fight and did 10 sprints up a hill of about 100 meters. The resistance is greater on a hill, but if you don’t have access to one the workout is still fantastic and effective.
Using this routine, I put in 4 days of intense road work. If I want to relax and clear my mind, I will do a very light “steady state” run. For a period of 20-30 minutes I like to do a light jog to clear the mind. This run is not about the physical. This run is about paying attention to your body, mind, breath and surroundings. Clearly there is no music allowed on this run either.
Running is as much about what it does to the mind as it does to the body. In fact, it’s more important to train your mind. The body quickly follows the condition of the mind. I use running to train myself to push through difficult things. While I’m sure there are people that get addicted to the “runner’s high” and chase that, I am not one of them. I chase agony so that I can learn to thrive there.
From a purely practical perspective, run with a goal in mind. The goal must be measurable and specific. The rest of the benefits will follow as you remain dedicated to a routine. My run routine can be kept up indefinitely and does not require “cycles”. Make sure yours do the same.