The Ageless Warrior

age is only a number

Boxing history has had a handful of fighters who were able to, not only compete, but reach a high level of success into what most would consider past their prime. The “Ole Mongoose,” Archie Moore, fought late into his forties, George Foreman won the heavyweight title at age forty-five and, more recently, forty-seven year old Bernard Hopkins has gained a great deal of attention for being able to tap into a virtual fountain of youth and show some of today’s young guns, that age really is only a number.  Were these boxers genetically gifted?  Did they have a secret to success for fighting into their golden years? Were they just well-preserved because of their lifestyles outside of the ring?  The answer may be…all of the above?

Regardless of how each of them were able to personally prolong their boxing careers and experience the best of themselves at a time when most fighters are riding off into the sunset, there are things YOU can do to ensure that you have a long, healthy career by the choices you make now.  Or, if you’re already up-there in age, just beginning, or well into the twilight of your boxing career, it’s never too late to do what you can to slow the aging process down and turn back the boxing clock on your internal timer.

One of the most important contributors to aging is Human Growth Hormone.  The presence of it reduces the effects of aging, helps build muscle and improves your general health.  You can improve your natural levels of HGH by getting plenty of sleep (at least 8 hours) and reducing stress. Too little sleep and too much stress produce a reaction from your body that releases hormones from your pituitary gland that, in turn, decreases HGH levels. Yeah, accomplishing both of these in this fast-paced, demanding world is easier said than done, but worth striving for, as they are major contributors to the aging process.

On the other hand, it has been proven that intense exercise, such as interval training or boxing training, actually increases testosterone output.  Since your levels of testosterone and HGH begin decreasing substantially once you hit your 30s, it’s more important than ever to increase your intensity and the level at which you train.  Those days of casually going in the gym and meandering from bag to bag, getting a few rounds in and just getting by are over.  The days where youth is on your side has to be replaced by a concerted effort to use every minute you’re in the gym.  Shorten your rest periods, eliminate idle chit chat, don’t let your mind wander and push yourself every minute of every round.  It may sound like common sense or pretty basic advice, but you might be surprised at how many gyms house a slew of fighters who are skating by on raw talent and depending on their natural physical gifts.  Guess what?  Their days are numbered.  So are yours, so start counting them now.

Your ability to maintain muscle mass peaks between twenty and thirty years old, but declines by one percent every year once you hit forty.  You lose up to sixty-eight percent of your bone density by the time you reach sixty.  To offset that, compound weight-lifting movements have been proven to increase muscle mass, bone density and overall strength.  You may have been hesitant to incorporate weightlifting in the past, but you might want to reconsider adding some multi-joint movements to supplement your boxing routine. These types of exercises focus on explosiveness and power, not building muscle so “no” it won’t slow you down and “no” it will not make you muscle bound.  What it will do is help you keep what muscle you do have, prevent your body from deteriorating and prevent your power from diminishing.  If you’ve hit that magic number in age, you might want to consider if it is worth holding onto that old belief that boxers shouldn’t lift weights or, instead, realize that it’s time to move some iron and pump up your boxing routine.

Every decade after the age of 25 your aerobic capacity declines by approximately 10 percent.  The answer isn’t running an extra 5 miles every day or increasing your time on the stationary bike, but maybe mixing up your aerobic routine.  Try swimming.  It can help fight-off aging by increasing your blood pressure, helping build muscle mass through resistance training and has been shown to improve your blood chemistry.  Most importantly, when approached with an intensity and sense of focus, it will increase your lung capacity.

Lastly, your diet is crucial…maybe even the most important contributing factor.  The ins and outs are too vast to get into many specifics, so let’s just say this…if you can’t catch it with a net, shoot it with a gun, pull it from the ground or pick it from a tree, consider not eating it.  Most likely it’s not good for you.  If it comes already prepared, pre-packaged, frozen, boxed, preserved or canned, in most instances, its health benefits are going to be questionable.  If the cavemen didn’t have it or couldn’t get it, you don’t need it.

It really is true when they say age is only a number.  You can be every bit as fit at forty years old as you were at twenty, if you make the right choices and adjustments to your training.  It’s never too late to start living right, eating right and training right to have a boxing career that keeps you young at heart.

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