The last quarter of the year is offseason for most athletes. For me it’s traditionally been the time I’ve tried different workouts to give myself a break from my usual training. Not only is it a physical shake-up due to new movement patterns, but it’s also mentally refreshing to think about something other than running.
Last week, after Christmas, I went to check out the Elorde Boxing Gym on Marcos Highway in Marikina. (NOT Baguio, as some people on my Facebook wall wondered. Hahaha!) It’s owned by my friend Chris Tan, who I met four years ago shooting a web series called Weekend Warriors. That was shortly before I started running, and you know the story from there…
Chris got into boxing a while back and then invested in the Elorde boxing gym on Julia Vargas in Ortigas. Now they’ve opened a new branch and he wanted me to try a boxing lesson or two.
Elorde is one of the established boxing gyms in the Philippines and their trainers actually do compete in professional matches, so I was assured the training and coaching would be excellent.
I knew my fitness was great, but my technique was non-existent. How would I fare?
My trainer Emman wrapped my hands to keep my fists and wrists aligned (otherwise I could break my wrists! ouch) We started with a calisthenic warm-up, then three rounds of three minutes running around the gym floor. After that, he showed me the proper way to stand and move on the floor. Then we went through the basic jab and straight, right and left hook, and uppercut technique.
What was interesting about this and made it different from the cardiobox group exercise classes I’ve attended before is Emman showed me where the target of each kind of punch would land on the body. He also allowed me to direct some (soft) blows to his own body and hands so that I could feel the proper technique.
And then we put on the gloves.
We got into the ring and started sparring. Emman would shout out a combo, and I would try to hit where his hands (with pads) were. So he would shout, “Jab straight!” And I would punch a jab and a straight. Or simply try to remember what a jab and a straight were, because at several points my brain just turned into a milkshake. The mental focus needed during the sparring session was intense — and I wasn’t even being hit yet!
Next, Emman had me face off against a heavy punching bag. My goal was to punch this bag, which was hung on a ring on a horizontal rod, across the room and back. If Muhammad Ali said he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, I would say I float like a rock and sting like a mosquito.
I chatted to Chris during one of the breaks and he asked me what I thought of it so far. I told him it was a different challenge physically. Not so much for cardio because I had very well-developed aerobic systems, but technique-wise I felt a lot of the movement patterns did not come naturally. When Emman taught me how to bob and weave, the proper movement would be to come low and prepare for an uppercut. I would duck and my body would prepare to run away! So when it comes to the fight-or-flight instinct, my natural instinct is flight, LOL.
But then I told him that boxing had applications for endurance athletes like myself. In long-distance running and triathlon we tend to train and race for long periods of time at one speed, using slow-twitch muscles. But to be a well-rounded athlete at this sport there is a need to break up these rhythms and train at different speeds and intensities so that when need calls for it, you can call on those fast-twitch muscles to help you break away from the pack. I mentioned how another Chris (McCormack) used kickboxing to reawaken his speed when he attempted to qualify for the Olympics.
The mental focus, being “in the zone”, that I needed for every sparring round could be applicable especially for really long events where people start getting fuzzy and not on top of things.
Emman and I did one more round sparring, then he let me go. “No ab work for now,” he said. He didn’t want too much of a shock to my system. I still woke up sore two days later, but I love that feeling. Can’t wait to go back. :)
Elorde Boxing Gym – Marcos Highway is located on the 3rd Floor, Nodison Center, Marcos Highway, Marikina. For more information, call (02) 6477185 or visit their Facebook page.