Boxing’s in Your Blood

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As you strive and struggle through some of your workouts, there may be moments when all of it just seems unnatural. You feel awkward, like everything is forced and you may begin to question whether you’re cut-out for boxing at all.

Honestly, there are some individuals that simply aren’t made to compete. The truth is, nearly anyone can pick the sport up for fun, fitness, cardiovascular and strength-building benefits, but a smaller percentage are actually meant to get in the ring and fight for real. That’s just reality. But if your heart is set on it, you’re determined to climb through those ropes and put up your dukes, then let me reassure you that we, as human beings ARE hard-wired for combat. We were made to fight. Physically, mentally and spiritually, it’s in our DNA. There’s more to the sweet science than just the execution of throwing blows. There’s actual…science.

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A recent study published by the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport demonstrated that when physical contact is heightened, it can actually cause your body to convert cells into lean tissue to help protect you. When traumatic contact is made, when you get hit, punched or even elbowed, it causes your brain to send signals to your body that it needs to be protected by muscle instead of by fat. This conversion occurs at a cellular level without you having to DO anything, other than endure. It’s your body’s natural way of helping guard and protect you from an attack. In life or in the ring you’re genetically predisposed to be ready for battle, for hand-to-hand combat.

Another new study in the Scientific Journal Biological Reviews suggests that male skeletal facial features have evolved to better cope with hand-to-hand combat. Early human skulls exhibited prominent jaw bones, but with the face being a primary target in fistfights, the skeletal structure changed to provide better protection. A protruding jaw would make for a primary target in fighting, so over time, the face has adapted to reduce fractures and/or injury by becoming flatter. The human body is a highly-adaptable machine. In this case, a fighting machine.

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The other natural characteristic that is necessary for fighting (several previous blog posts have already been dedicated to this topic) is your natural response to FEAR. The “fight or flight response” or the feeling of being scared prepares your body for combat. Your brain sends a message that you are in some type of danger. It then releases a series of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.  These hormones create a burst of energy in anticipation to fight. That then causes your heart to race and increases oxygen and energy flow.  Your blood pressure rises, your breathing increases and you start to sweat. Your body’s central nervous system goes into overdrive to adequately prepare you for combat.   Although it can be an unsettling feeling, this process prepares your body for confrontation in a complete, natural way that you could never recreate on your own simply by thinking-through what you need to physically, emotionally and physiologically do to get ready to fight.

In addition, a recent study conducted by Keele University has shown that this type of adrenaline rush also gives you the ability to endure mild pain much longer…by as much as 65%. The Franklin Institute also found that adrenaline improves and heightens all of your senses. You can easily see how all of these “side effects” of being scared could be beneficial natural responses to draw on in the ring.

So, even though fighting may not always seem simple or like it comes naturally and there may be times when you feel like you’re not cut-out for the sport, you’ve actually been made to do it. Your heart, mind and body have all been magnificently created to fight for your life. All you have to do is act naturally.

Lessons for and from the Gym

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I know that part of it is just my skewed perspective, but most of what I experience in life, I either draw a parallel to what happens in boxing or to my own time in the gym. So, it occurred to me today, mid-way through my work-out that even though I know that changing up your routine is crucial to continued growth and improvement, that unless you’re making conscious choices, in some form or fashion you’re probably gravitating back towards the exercises and movements that are most familiar to you. You inevitably fall back into “known territory.” The neuro-pathways in the human brain are so engrained that, unless you make a thoughtful, concerted effort to “change it up”, you or I will naturally revert back to what is comfortable, even if it’s not best for us.

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This isn’t necessarily a new revelation for me. It’s absolutely a fact I’ve known, talked about and experienced before, but for some odd reason it took on more clarity today. If that’s the case with something so intentional and measured, like a training session, then how often am I doing that in everyday life? How about you? How often DO us all do that in our own lives…make unconscious choices on auto-pilot…ones that are not in our best interest! In spite of knowing better, that our well-being and growth is dependent on breaking out of life’s routine, we still tend to go back to what is most familiar, comfortable or “easiest.”

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Be sure that when you walk in the gym, you are not phoning it in just because it feels like it should be working. Continually ask yourself while you’re in that moment, “Is this all I’ve got? Is this the best approach? If I try this in a different order will I get better results?” Growth comes from change, big and small, so don’t be afraid to question everything. It might mean more work or require more thought, but if the hours you spend in the gym are the same no matter what, why not get the most out of them. You can spend three minutes BS-ing on the bag and getting little benefit, or you can invest the same three minutes, focusing, applying full effort, using your brain and getting better. Both three minutes have 180 seconds in them, but when it’s over you’ve either spent them unwisely or invested them in self-improvement.

This also goes beyond the gym because I’m not just talking about “going one more round” or “banging out one more rep.” I’m talking about doing things differently for better results, just by making conscious choices. Without clear ideas and the willingness to THINK our way through life, just like I was not-thinking my way through my own workout, we’re likely to get sub-standard results, even though we’ve put in the same amount of time and effort, just less intentional thought.

You don’t have to live to go to the gym or go to the gym to live, but there are some amazing life lessons to be learned there.

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LESSON: Live life intentionally. Even if it requires more thought, effort and desire, your results will pay bigger dividends. There is a time to just float down the river, letting the waves and current move you along while you relax.  BUT if you want to ARRIVE, then pick up the paddle and steer your boat to exactly where you want to go.

Advice from a Coaching Legend

Blog-main-071414If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I have, up to this point, never written or spoken in first person. The reason is that I didn’t want this blog to be all about me, but instead be very technique and teaching focused. In my opinion there are variety of principles and ideas about boxing fundamentals that are pretty black-and-white so I didn’t want to let an editorial approach get in the way or cloud the message. Having said that, it’s time for a departure. I’m coming out of my shell and, from time to time, I am going to start sharing more insights about my own personal experiences, learnings and perspectives on the sport.

Making Progress towards Making Weight

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Weight-loss or cutting weight has long been a part of boxing. It is oftentimes the topic of conversation among fighters, trainers and coaches and plays an integral part of most fighter’s general health and diet plan. Whether it’s a challenge in the weeks leading up to the bout or right before a fighter gets on the scales, it plays a definitive role in every boxers pre-fight preparation. Some fighters result to drastic measures in order to make way, while others take a more sensible approach to diet. Regardless, there are good ways to make weight and unhealthy ways. A few of the more healthy ways are:

Boxing Conditioning = Control

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Although once you get in the ring, you often come face-to-face with a variety of things you didn’t expect, the one thing you can absolutely control in boxing happens before you ever climb through the ropes.

You determine how well-conditioned you are and that happens in the gym, in your preparation. It’s where you put in the work that yields results come fight time OR exposes you as an underprepared athlete. Skill, talent and adaptability will take you far, but conditioning is part of a strong athletic foundation that those traits depend on.