By “Strength and Conditioning Guru” Dave “Scooter” Honig
Cardiovascular endurance is very important to a fighter’s arsenal. In the old days, the trainers used to say, “What’s the matter? You’re running out of wind; didn’t you run?” Today, the terms have become more refined. However, a good running program can significantly increase a fighter’s stamina. What is cardiovascular endurance? It is the ability to meet the metabolic needs of the task at hand. This is accomplished by providing oxygen and nutrients to active muscles, while transporting carbon dioxide and waste products away from the muscles. When a fighter is capable of doing this, he will be able to fight at a higher intensity and perform the entire fight.
There are three aspects of cardiovascular endurance: 1) Long slow intensity work with a heart rate 120-140; 2) Sustained moderate intensity work with a heart rate between 155-170; 3) High intensity interval work with a maximum heart rate of 170. What does long slow intensity do? It’s a good basic level of conditioning, recovery type of workout, and can be used to burn calories. During sustained moderate intensity training, a fighter will go out and run a certain amount of miles or for a prescribed amount of time. He should run at this pace at a moderate-to-high level heart rate 155-170. The third and most hated work is interval training. However, it is the most activity specific work a fighter can do for cardiovascular endurance. Interval training has to have a work-to-rest ratio of 3:1; we build up to this. Usually we do intervals, balls to the wall running at the following distances: 50 meters, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, and sometimes 1200m. Obviously in a balanced program, a lower ratio of work to rest will be used at first, and we will progressively build up to more work than rest.
The ultimate goal for interval training is to increase anaerobic threshold by improving your body’s ability to metabolize lactic acid. The benefits of training in this zone is to handle lactic acid more easily, increase nutrients to the muscles that are responsible for anaerobic conditioning, and simulate the intensity of fighting during a round.
Try to keep in mind the length of a round. If you fight 2-minute rounds with a 1-minute rest, build up your sprints from 30 seconds to 1 minute with an eventual goal of running continuously for 2 minutes. Always take you’re 1-minute rest. When first sprinting balls to the wall or doing intervals, you may feel nauseous, dizzy, fatigued, muscle aches/cramps, or generalized discomfort. However have no fear, this is normal when you begin. Nevertheless, your trainer must monitor you. Do not do interval training two days in a row because you could over-train. You will be taxing your cardiovascular system too much at a high intensity, and your adrenal system will have to work overtime.
Routine example of a running program for a professional fighter incorporating all three zones:
Week 1 and 2: (Mon-Wed-Fri)
Long slow 2-3 mile runs maintaining a heart rate of 120-140.
Week 3 and 4:
Monday: Moderate 2-3 mile run: 15 minutes hard run, jog 5 minutes, and then another 15 minutes hard and steady run until you reach the 2-3 mile distance with a heart rate 155-170.
Wednesday: Long slow 3-4 mile run with a heart rate 120-140.
Friday: Moderate run, same as Monday.
Week 5 and 6:
Monday: Moderate run 3-5 miles: 15-20 minutes at a hard pace, 5 minutes jog in between until you reach the desired mileage.
Wednesday: Long slow intensity run 3-5 miles.
Friday: Interval training with a maximum heart rate to 175. Warm up ½ mile; jog 6-quarter mile sprints 400 meters each within a 1:30-1:45 time frame. Rest the same amount of time it takes to do the interval.
Week 7 and 8:
Monday: Interval work with 2-quarter mile sprints (goal time 1:30-1:45); 2-half mile sprints (3:20-3:40).
Wednesday: Low intensity work 4-5 miles.
Thursday: Moderate run 3-5 miles with a heart rate 155-170.
Saturday: repeat Monday’s schedule.
This is only a suggested routine. Every fighter’s routine should be specifically prescribed for him and be tailored to his needs. It should incorporate hills and different bounding exercises to strengthen the legs. Get out there, hit the road or track, and at the end of the fight you will stay in there with your arms raised.
Train don’t complain!
Dave “SCOOTER” Honig has been a conditioning expert in the sport of boxing for over 15 years. He has worked with fighters including: Jameel McCline, Vivian Harris, Zab Judah, Kathy Collins, Oleg Maskev, Robert Allen, and Dimitri Salita.