Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Are You Ready…?

by Doug Ward on August 15, 2012

There are several things you can do to better prepare yourself for actual competition.   A few simple adjustments can be made in your training routine and approach so you will feel more ready for the conditions you will face in the ring.

Change the size of your training gloves leading up to the fight.  A solid pair of sixteen or eighteen ounce training gloves offer great protection and coverage during gym work and sparring, but they’re a bigger size (almost double in some professional scenarios) and more weight than you actually fight in.  For the final week of real training, switch to a pair of actual lightweight, competition gloves, closer to what you fight in.  Shadowbox with them on, hit the bag and even do some light sparring (very light) to get used to how they affect your punches. Obviously, there’s a distinct difference in 8 ounce professional fight gloves and 16 once sparring gloves, so the switch will slightly affect your speed, timing and punching power.  The weight of the gloves you compete in can have a fairly significant impact on what happens in the ring, so it requires and deserves some getting used to.  The overall idea is to get acclimated to as many variables that come into play during actual competition BEFORE you have to experience them for real.  That way there are fewer unknowns and new sensory influencers to face at a time when you are already dealing with a heightened, emotionally-charged experience.  Anything you can do to familiarize yourself with actual “fight feelings”, the better you will be able to then focus on the new stimuli you encounter.

Adjust the training time to replicate actual fight time.  That means, in the days leading up to your bout, you need to use the same amount of time to warm up and mentally prepare yourself as you would come fight day.  It also includes training for the actual round length and rest duration as you lead up to your bout.  Replicate the exact rounds and rest periods so that your body has a chance to adjust to the exact time that is required to perform.  Your body needs to experience, in advance, how it will feel before, during and after a round so it knows how to properly recuperate rest and do its part in bringing your heart rate down in between rounds.

Mimicking fight time also has a lot to do with when you work out.  Most fights happen at night. Training usually occurs for most fighters in the early evening.  It’s best, leading up to a fight, to try to duplicate the same time frame for training as you will be fighting at.  If your body is used to shifting into high gear at about 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm each night, but winding down by 9:00 pm, it has created a pattern and habit that is familiar.  If you suddenly throw a new schedule at it, where it is beginning to get prepared for combat at 8:00 pm and fighting at 9:00 pm, then you are working against a pattern you have previously established, a routine your body has adjusted to.  If you don’t allow your body time to train and adapt to the actual fight time, the outcome may be that you just can’t get up for the fight.  You may have a hard time getting your blood flowing and body moving as easily as if you were calling on it to do what it has become used to in the past, when it has become used to doing it.  Sometimes when you see fighters who look flat, lethargic or just have a hard time getting going, it sometimes comes from an imbalance in training versus actual fight times.  Like any other move or activity you do hundreds and thousands of times in the gym, you are creating a habit.  Timing is no different.  Habits are hard to break, even when everything is on the line.

In the final days of training, get used to wearing a mouthpiece.  It affects your breathing, how you hold your jaw and how you clench your teeth when you’re punching.  If you are fighting for eight rounds and are only used to occasionally having your mouthpiece in for three or four rounds, you will likely notice a difference.  You may even have harder time keeping your jaw shut and your mouthpiece in when you get fatigued.  If you’re not used to keeping your mouth closed tightly around a good guard for several rounds, your jaw can get tired and you end up fighting with your mouth open.  And you know what happens when you do that, right?

Try your gear out in training before you fight in it.  Don’t put new trunks on right before a fight and, if you are fighting in the amateurs, the same goes for a jersey or new headgear.  And the biggest caution is, if you get new shoes for the fight, be sure to break them in first.  Don’t wear them for the first time in actual competition.  They may not fit right or rub in a way that gives you blisters.  That can be very distracting.  At the very least, they may just be a little stiff at first and just require some breaking-in.  This is even more important if you don’t always wear boxing shoes, but sometimes train in street shoes.  Street shoes are typically much heavier than boxing shoes, so when you switch them out for training or competition, you will notice that your footwork is quicker, they provide better support and just feel different when you move.

Heading into a fight, you’re dealing with a bunch of emotions.  You are nervous, scared, excited and anxious to just fight.  At the same time your senses are on high alert.  You can feel the tension, your blood is pumping, the new gloves feel foreign, the ring floor is hard and the boards are noisy.  The ropes are loose, you know that all eyes are on you and the speaker system is too loud when the ring announcer is saying your name.  It can all feel so surreal and almost dream-like, so the more you’ve worked in training and leading up to the fight to eliminate as many known sensory influencers as possible, the more capable you will feel in taking-in your new, unfamiliar surroundings.  You will likely feel better prepared if you have familiarized your mind and body with the things you can control, creating enough of a
comfort zone to then focus on the other experiences that are new and different.

None of this is monumental.  It’s minding the small details and eliminating some of the unknown variables that can work against you, even when they seem insignificant.  As you already know, sometimes the difference between winning and losing can be an inch, a split second or a moment’s distraction…all little things that can make a big difference in your outlook and the outcome.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.

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