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Cross-Training: Should you Take a Swing at Boxing?

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Sometimes as runners we need more than just a break from running on our cross-training day. We need something completely outside of the running box. Weight training, cycling, swimming, and Pilates seem to be the obvious sister cross-training exercises to running. Getting out of a regular gym setting can do wonders for your mind and your running workouts the rest of the week.

All over the country gyms designed for bringing boxing to the masses are opening up. No longer do you need to go to some ancient, gritty building housing a boxing ring hoping there is some way you can reap the benefits of boxing without getting knocked upside the head. These new gyms even sell or rent everything you need right at the front desk and it’s not much. Maybe some gloves, hand wraps or mitts. Boxing as your new cross training is the best new, old-school exercise idea to hit the mainstream in a while.

Boxers Real Athletes

Everyone has seen a lean, mean boxer float through the ring covered in Vaseline and sweat. Boxing is a very demanding sport. The rests between rounds in a boxing match are barely enough time for the competitors to catch their breath. It’s the running equivalent of an almost all out sprinting then sitting down for a minute only to get back up and sprint around again.

Boxers are infamously lean athletes and would be lean even if they didn’t need to target a certain weight class; training like a boxer can push your calorie burn to up to 30 calories a minute. You might also notice that boxers have slim muscles that help them create a lot of power in their fists in the most efficient way possible. Having an opponent wanting to hit you is not something runners would necessarily want, but training like a boxer might be especially since beating around a speed bag or heavy punching bag will help with the day’s stresses.

Benefits of Boxing

Boxing, shockingly, is an extremely demanding sport on your lungs, heart, and muscles. It is known to increase the muscular stature and also prominently features mental strength as a benefit. A single training session can burn 500-900 calories. Boxing doesn’t seem to be lower-impact but you can control the intensity at which you hit the bag thus helping the overall skeletal system. It also helps flexibility of all muscle groups; something all runners need.

It also boosts arm strength like nothing you’ve ever seen. Think about it, when you box your goal is to swiftly snap out a punch with all your engaged muscles, then draw back and bounce around. You’re intermittently pushing muscles to a maximum effort related to power and speed. A lot of runners use their runs as a way to relieve stress. Cross training should be no different. Punching, kicking and sparring will help get out even the deepest of frustrations and stress. For anyone, women specifically, boxing as cross training can come in handy as a means of self-defense knowledge.

Boxing as a Workout

A class at a boxing gym will probably be floor work (plyometric type work), ring work, bag work and sometimes partner work. There may be different types of classes so ask; some could have awesome loud music and give you group class feel, while others might focus on technical moves. Regardless, in most classes, you’re going to spend a lot of time aiming at the heavy bag.

Out of the gate, you don’t need to buy anything; rent or borrow from the front desk. On the apparel front, wear your running clothes or other workout clothes. Boxing is not a fashion forward sport and if you can sweat in it, it works. You want lightweight shoes that won’t stick to the floor and will allow you to pivot.

Similar to running you’re going to be asked to remember things, but unlike road turns this times its combinations, so be present. Boxing is a very real type of cardio, so don’t be surprised that even though you are a runner that you end up out of breath. And, like most first time or workouts you rarely do, you will be sore the next day.

Benefit for Runners

During boxing sessions, sparring and punching require repetitive motions of the arms which will amp your arms muscles. Wanting a little extra push to get yourself up that hill on race day? A strong set of arms will be your best friend, plus from a vanity standpoint, they’ll look good too.

One of the goals of boxing, and training like you are boxing, is to keep moving, bouncing and jogging in place. So while you aren’t logging miles you are getting a cardio workout while strength training. If you are seeking to work out your heart and lungs as well as, or until you get used to the boxing better than, when you run, boxing is a great cross-training option that will accomplish that.

Selecting an exercise like boxing that will turn your focus away from items you concentrate on when running like pace and distance covered, will be a great mental break. In some other cross training exercises like swimming or cycling, the same parameters as running are used to judge how well you are performing. Boxing will allow you to focus only on the speed and placement of your punch. While you will be working all muscle groups, it feels as though you are predominantly focusing on your upper body; a nice change from the lower body focus of running.

Boxing can be a fun alternative to cross-training activities we as runners have fallen back on. At some boxing gyms, the whole family can train together and take the same class; even angst-ridden teenagers can get into knocking a bag around. Should boxing be your next cross-training activity? Go ahead, take a swing at it.

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