As I mentioned last week, I've attended the boxing group at my gym the last two Sundays. It's fun. It's all midlife guys who have about the same level of boxing experience. It has been informally called "fight club." The coach is Glen Freedman, the head boxing coach at East Bank Club. I first met Glen several years ago when I boxed in a charitable fund-raising event for the DuPage County Bar Association called the "Bar Bouts." Glen was in my opponent's corner, and we stayed in contact after that. It's good to see him at GoTime for an hour or two each week.
The workout was a pretty standard boxing training session. Here's how it goes.
During the first part, we do a warm-up and then practice several rounds on all the bags (heavy, speed, double-end, uppercut), jump rope, and do shadowboxing. I almost always do some easy stretching after I break a sweat; I want to remain flexible and avoid injuries. This first part is the least structured; there are about 12 guys training in the gym at these practices, so having some time to get into the routine on our own is helpful.
While all the individual work is happening, Glen calls each of us into the ring to work one round on the punch mitts with him. We get just one round of this, because of the number of guys present, but if a smaller group showed up on any particular day, I think Glen might do more rounds with that. I felt a lot better this week working with Glen. Since the time is limited, there's an added sense of urgency to stay focused and mentally present during the round, in order to squeeze the most benefit out of it.
My round went well. My "finisher" right, which had been a bit sluggish last week, flowed easily as I threw the combination: left jab-straight right-left hook-right cross. It was good to have some power on that last punch without sacrificing speed or accuracy on the first three.
The next part is contact sparring drills. Because we're practicing punches, we wear headgear and mouthpieces and 16 oz. gloves. We start by working on the basics, such as left jab (so far, there are no southpaws in the group), one-two, and so on. As round follows round, we work at more complex combinations, defense, adjusting stance and balance as needed, and counterpunching. This is very helpful to me because it is realistic and lets us practice the fundamentals a lot. (I don't think any athlete can ever spend too much time practicing the basics of his sport.) It's safe and fun, but the guys punch about as hard as they do in sparring, so using defense is an important part of the practice.
Next, we have sparring. The drills and sparring are at a fast pace and Glen keeps everyone moving. There's a lot of rotation, so everyone gets some experience practicing with all the other boxers. I like the quicker pace and it allows us to practice with more of the other boxers. For example, this Sunday, I sparred four rounds with three different guys and had the benefit of practicing with their different styles. What worked well with Mark didn't work so well with Eric, and my two rounds with Brian had plenty of challenges.
(Mental note: I need to move more when sparring with Brian. I could easily see him and me standing toe to toe and trading huge bombs. There is definitely a time and place for that, but I'm trying to avoid developing bad habits, or, as the case may be with my willingness to get into a slugfest, to avoid sliding back into old bad habits.) The pace and power were perfect, too; no one is trying to take anyone's head off, but the guys do push each other and encourage one another to improve. There's a camaraderie--even a team spirit--in this intense, most individual of sports. For example, Eric commented that my jab was working a lot better this week, so it was good to see some of that ring rust falling off.
After sparring, we do some abs work. It's a straightforward routine, but beneficial, and you can work at your own pace in an encouraging environment. The medicine ball gets to play a part, and I always feel especially alive when I get that lactic acid burn as I push myself to do yet one more crunch.
Finally, we finish strong with "30s"--three rounds of punching the heavy bag as hard and as fast as we can for 30 seconds, while a partner holds the bag. Then we switch with our partner and he punches for 30 seconds while we hold the bag. That goes on until all the guys have done their three speed rounds. Final stretching and cool down is on our own.