I have strong opinions about health-and-lifestyle magazines. I could go on for days and days about how both men and women are marketed to and made to feel insufficient in many different ways. If you want to look nice, you’ll buy this $800 dress shirt. If you want to get shredded, all you have to do is follow this three-move ab workout. Carbs are bad this week and praised next week. Corporate America is our savior. Your girlfriend would rather do it with Jason Momoa.
And none of these things are ever very accurate (except the Momoa part, of course).
I mean, damn. I give up.
But as ugly as I am to the likes of Maxim and Men’s Health magazines, I can’t deny that it was one certain Men’s Health mag that got my attention, and indirectly changed my life. The free workouts they provide in these magazines are either misleading in what they claim to do for your physique or require equipment the average person isn’t going to have. But there was one issue that introduced me to the sport of boxing.
The workout was simple -- three three-minute rounds of jump rope followed by three three-minute rounds of heavy bag work and three sets of core exercises done with a medicine ball. My problem was that I didn’t have a jump rope … or a heavy bag … or a medicine ball. But I was interested in boxing and knew a little about the sport, so I dove in. I mimed the jump rope, shadowboxed around a support beam in my garage and did the core workout with a 20-pound dumbbell.
And it worked! I lost quite a few pounds and continued on my fitness journey. Most of you know this part already so I won’t bore you, but fast forward a little bit and I found a boxing gym, worked my way up from a member to a trainer, to a certified personal trainer to the gym’s head trainer all just within a few short years. Boxing not only made me lose 100 pounds, it also gave me a passion I didn’t know I had.
Boxing is a very special sport for a number of reasons but I want to share with you all a few that are my favorite things about pugilism.
There is No Max
Many skills have a finite amount of knowledge to attain -- a limited amount of weight to move, progress to make. You learn so much about something, you learn it all, then you just move on to the next thing. It’s like reading a book or playing a video game. You can play it again, but after a while, you’re doing it in your sleep and reciting cheat codes in your dreams.
Boxing doesn’t allow this. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve boxed, your footwork, head movement, situational awareness, jab, cross, hook and uppercut can all get better. You can always be stronger, faster or tighter. And there’s always going to be someone out there hungrier than you, someone out there training harder than you. In this way, you never max out on your boxing skills. There’s always something to refine, always something to learn, always something to tweak.
Basics are Badass
Who remembers Rocky IV? Rocky is preparing to do battle with his toughest nemesis to date -- the dreaded, murderous Ivan Drago. Ivan is a fighting machine that has been groomed by the Russian government to kill in the ring. And when it’s time for Drago to fight in the big event, what does he do? He’s indoors using the latest in conditioning technology and anabolic science in order to gain an edge over his meek opponent, mister Rocky Balboa.
And where is Rock? He’s in a barn on a snowy mountain, lifting his trainers overhead in a wooden carriage. He’s doing roadwork in shin-deep snow and pulling a net of stones overheard with a rope. It wasn’t flashy, it wasn’t modern but it worked. The concepts of strength and power were there and it was enough to get Rocky the W in his match with the Russian.
That’s the beauty of boxing! Boxers train by skipping rope, running, shadowboxing and sparring. Minimal equipment required -- just heart and grit. They make new devices and training methods to help fighters train and it’s a lot of fun to use a lot of them! But at the end of the day, classic conditioning is the end goal and boxers have been doing that since the beginning of time.
Thinking About Quitting? Hell, Nah!
Life can sometimes be really hard. We realize we lack certain skills or contacts, we’re maybe overwhelmed by what’s required of us or we simply have no idea where to start. Frequently, we decide it’s much easier to just quit while we’re ahead.
So we do. We give up. We quit.
But what happens in a boxing match if you decide to just stop? You drop your hands to your sides and you quit moving ... You get KILLED. Your opponent may not even be much better than you, but you make it look a lot easier for them when you drop your guard and stop being evasive.
We’d do well to use this boxing example in our own lives. If you don’t want to get beat up but you don’t know how to attack, we keep our hands up, elbows in, chin down and we stay on our toes. We’re always breathing and always moving. It doesn’t matter whether we’re on the offensive yet or not. Keeping our guard up keeps us moving forward, even though it may be slow. Slowing down is okay, taking a moment to breathe is okay, but stopping? Re-read the headline.
The Little Things Build Great Accomplishments
One of my life philosophies I stole from a video game. Nathan Drake from the famous video game series Uncharted wears a ring from his ancestor Francis Drake that has the Latin inscription Sic Parvis Magna -- roughly translated “Greatness comes from small achievements.” We accomplish goals by achieving small victories. In other words, we don’t set out to win the big prize with a single strategy -- we win our big prize by accomplishing all the minute little details required to achieve it.
Boxing is the same. You don’t become a championship boxer by simply being a badass. You become a great boxer by developing the grit, practicing your footwork and balance, training your head movement, strengthening your core, frequently experiencing fight-scenarios, learning the counters and perfecting your defensive strategy. These things on their own are limited in their overall helpfulness, but when you combine them all, a fighter is unstoppable.
Are You Fit? Are You Fat? Are You Young or Old? Doesn’t Matter …
Boxing is an amazing sport in that it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, boxing will meet you there. I have worked 1:1 with super fit 20-something-year-old women and men in their 80s with one thing in common -- they love boxing! Bite-size boxing training can be done by anybody no matter what background or shape they are. And when they get more fit? Boxing scales with them.
That’s why boxing did it for me when I was nearly 300 pounds and it continues to do it for me. There are no excuses when it comes to the sport of boxing. The only thing preventing you from doing it is your own limitations and negative opinions of yourself.
Until next time, fellow Heathens ...