Thursday, January 15, 2009

Speeding Up By Slowing Down

Last week's training started slow due to craziness at work, but I was able to finish strong with great workouts on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I cut back some rounds on my bag circuits to focus a little more on my legs and really try to start generating some more speed and power from my lower half. As I continue to work on my footwork, balance and pivots, I want to make sure that I have the physical tools to support my technique. I've always liked the metaphor that "you can't shoot a cannon out of a canoe," but I'm starting to apply something more along the lines of "you can only shoot as quickly as you can reload."

Similar to the sayings above, I saw someone wearing a t-shirt that has another (cheesy) quote that I like a little too much: "Speed kills, strength punishes."

There's nothing prolific about this quote other than the fact that it fits my new gameplan perfectly. Since seeing it, I can't help but call upon it when I need a second wind in my workouts or devise my training schedule for the day. It’s not quite a mantra, but it's definitely a theme as I train for my next bout on February 21.

Pound-for-pound, I've been one of the strongest fighters at every gym I've ever trained at. At the same time, I've been far from the most successful fighter at all these places.

As I think back to some of the best fights and fighters of 2008, I realize that none of them simply overpowered their opponents like I try to do all too often. While I walk through punches, bully my foes and eagerly stand (flat-footed, grinning like a serial killer – I’ve seen the pictures) in the middle of the ring and exchange power punches, world-class pros are entering the pound-for-pound top ten list with a combination of being stronger, quicker and hungrier than their opponents.

I’m not a sloppy or unsuccessful boxer. I’ve just realized that I’m entirely too eager to turn every bout into a war, and my training shows it. Which one trait exclusively will win you a fight more times than not: power, hustle or speed? And by speed I mean being quicker and consistently able to beat your opponent to the punch. Which, obviously, can win you a fight on it's own. I've been good at the first two and neglecting this far more important third option - speed, speed, speed - far too much.

And ironically, I’ve been increasing my raw in-ring speed by slowing everything down. I’ve been shadowboxing slower and watching my feet, knees, hips and chin in the mirror. I’ve been thinking my movements through as I work the heavy bag, evaluating the “success” of each combination and my end position and balance before unloading again. I’ll spend a few rounds tapping the double-end bag before I’ll start flurrying.

I’ve been treating boxing like a fencing match – I’ll score on you while you can’t penetrate my defense – rather than Sherman’s March to the Sea.

I had my best workout of the New Year tonight and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started it with (after skipping rope and stretching) nine “slow” rounds shadowboxing and working the bags. Working the mitts with one of the trainers later, I was told that my punches felt solid and my technique was tight and sound. My angles were sharp and effective and my feet were keeping up with my hands - and the few times they didn’t, I fixed it in takes two and three. And then did it (correctly) again over and over, with more and more power as I felt comfortable and got the nod of approval from my trainer.

I was boxing instead of brawling my way through the workout.

So here’s to five more “slow” weeks and the speed advantage I’ll have in the ring on the 21st. Because it's going to let me use my God-given power to KO some poor schmuck.

Monday, January 5, 2009

First days of 2009

Went to the boxing gym Saturday and had a fantabulous workout. On Friday I did an upper body circuit and ran 4 interval miles, so I had a nice (sore) baseline to work with as I gloved up for the first time in the new year. Punished the bags (and my joints) with a steady 12-round circuit on the heavy, double-end and hook bags and finished with 4 rounds of abs. I'm definitely happy with my "raw" strength and cardio but, as my relatively "normal" workout reminded me, lifting, running and cross-training is only mortar - the real work and "brick-laying" has to be done in the ring. A lot (ton) of work ahead of me, but it's good to be back.

Ran into an old sparring partner and talked about our training timetables. Going to touch base again later this week and set up some workouts. He works at the gym part-time, so he knows his stuff, can help break down my technique and - the big perk - has a key to the gym so we can workout unimpeded late at night or on Sundays when the gym is closed.

No excuses, train like a champ.

Speaking of which, I officially have been left out of the 2009 New England Golden Gloves, which begin next week. I shouldn't say "left out" so much as "left behind," since, as I've mentioned before, the gym owner literally left me behind when the team drove to register. But that's old news and neither here nor there. I can still feed off my usual training partners and have sparring sessions aplenty the next 2 months, so I'll still continue to sharpen my game and save myself a 'L' on my record. (I train with a 3-time champ in my weight class. I wasn't going to go anywhere anyway.)

I had a scheduled day off on Sunday but was so pumped that I ran 6 miles and did some body weight exercises. Glad that the holidays had such a refreshing, invigorating effect rather than bogging me down.

I read an article in Sports Illustrated where Michael Phelps' coach said that, to recover from an extended break, you need to train 2 days for every 1 day you took off. Based on these past few workouts, I definitely can live with that.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Holiday Swoon

This has been more of a book with chapters than a real-time blog (although I wish it had been the latter) so no updates on the boxing front means no new chapter in my career to chronicle here. Which sucks. But yeah, I haven't been writing because I haven't been training, or not at the boxing gym at least.

But not everything delaying my training has been bad, like the holidays and a pending order of new (and desperately-needed) boxing gear. To break it down:

- Went home for a long Thanksgiving weekend (geez, it really has been awhile since I’ve written in here) and to get my Mizzou fix. Did what I could with the heavy bag, assorted dumbbells and miles and miles of still all-too-familiar road and managed to squeeze in a couple two-a-days. Great trip home on all fronts – family, food/beverage, football and boxing.

- Returned to Boston and hit the gym hard, despite some crazy days in the office extending into the evening. Had some good sparring sessions with a few people I’d never moved around with before and was able to work on some basics I’d been neglecting, slowing the pace down to focus on footwork, timing, and some upper body movement. In addition to working with some of the regulars, the gym owner fed me a steady diet of novices and girls preparing for bouts, which further helped me control the tempo and think, think, think – before, during and immediately after every step, punch and pivot.

- The gym owner alerted me that a group was carpooling to Lowell (an hour drive) to register for an upcoming tournament and renew our fight passports for 2009. He gave me the day and time to meet him at the gym, but when I showed up (15 minutes early, mind you), another fighter and I discovered that we had been left behind for no reason other than the whim of the gym owner. I was definitely put off and couldn't help but feel a little disrespected. It's bad enough that I constantly have to fight to keep the owner's and trainers' attention in my training, but to have to struggle to even get registered to compete was beyond ridiculous.

Between the bad taste in my mouth from literally being left behind, two blizzards, and travels/festivities surrounding Christmas and New Year's, I haven't been back to my boxing gym in over two weeks. I'm not throwing a fit, so much as I just lost motivation to drag my stuff to Allston to show my face to people who aren't taking the same interest in me as I am in the sport. I've been cross-training hard on my own, so my raw strength and cardio should still be where I need it, and I'm jumping back into my "usual" routine this weekend, so again, no hard feelings - just another irritating setback in my floundering amateur career.

- I added a Twitter feed in the hopes that it wouldn't seem like I'm totally abandoning updating the blogosphere on life in and out of the ring. I think I just need to get in the habit of writing shorter, more frequent posts, and what better time to do that than the start of a new year, eh?

As cliche as it seems, I feel like there's no better time to revamp my training than the start of a new year. There are no resolutions involved - I still have the solid physical foundation and aggressive mind-set to pick up where I left off last month. If anything, I'm stronger, fresher and more motivated than I was immediately after my last bout. Now it's just an issue of waking up from my holiday swoon and making it all happen.