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Lessons From Boxing: Running is the Best Cardio

It goes without saying that taking up running is a fantastic way to get fit. As a cardiovascular activity, it has long been considered to be among the best, if not the best, way to keep fit. Being able to run anywhere, and with minimum equipment, is one of the great draws of the exercise, and may be a factor as to why running is so lauded. To start out, running every other day is advised, which, in itself, is quite a lot of time dedicated to one particular exercise. Then again, sports such as boxing incorporate running into their training regimes as a standard. But, are there better ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness?

Benefits of running, as shown by boxing

IMAGE SOURCE: Carrusel Deportivo, via Twitter

Despite it appearing to be a sport that merely involves punching one another, boxing is a very well-rounded sport, where the boxers need to push for peak physical fitness to gain even the slightest edge. As boxing is such a pure sport, the professionals who rise to the top are the ones who are not only primed in the ways of boxing but also overall fitness. We all know that classic scene from the 1977 movie Rocky, where Rocky Balboa is running down the streets of Philadelphia and up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or even the 2001 biographical film Ali, starring Will Smith, when Muhammad Ali was running on the streets of Zaire in 1974. Running and boxing training have gone hand in hand for decades, but why? In boxing, running outdoors is known as roadwork, which was once described by ‘Smokin’’ Joe Frazier as the most crucial training that boxers do, per Live Strong. Frazier showed the huge benefits of his roadwork when, as an undefeated 27-0-0 heavyweight champion, he defeated the 31-0-0 Muhammad Ali by unanimous decision. At Madison Square Garden, on March 3, 1971, Frazier went the full 15 rounds with Ali in the Fight of the Century, proving to have an engine far superior to his challenger.

Modern boxers still utilizing the run

 IMAGE SOURCE: Bad Left Hook, via Twitter

That was a boxer in the ‘70s, but these days, even the most elite boxers around the world surround their training with running. Take four-title world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, who wanted to mix up his training routine in preparation for his fight with Kell Brook on September 10, 2016. As recorded by ESPN, Golovkin changed a lot of his regime, such as removing sparring sessions, but felt the need to keep running as a core part of his routine. The Kazakh’s dedication to training and running has him standing at an immaculate 37-0-1, often credited for his incredible engine, drive, and inability to slow down. He may have succumbed to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in his last fight, which resulted in a draw on September 16, 2017, but he’s rated as the favorite at -175 as of December 15 with Betway to defeat the 49-1-2 Mexican when they have their rematch on May 6, 2018. The fact is that fitness is key to success in boxing, and so many elite boxers past and present utilize the benefits of running as a cardiovascular exercise to help them last through 12 rounds of intense boxing. One former world champion, Carl Froch, who retired with a 33-2-0 record – zero losses by way of knockout – in 2014, says it best when he claims that boxers “become a semi-professional runner,” per the Telegraph, and that it provides “the core fitness that everything else is built.”

Is running the best cardiovascular exercises?

 IMAGE SOURCE: Haylie Pomroy, via Twitter

One of the problems with running is the risk of injury. When running outside, be it on the street or a trodden path in the countryside, obstructions and the uneven surfaces can result in freak injuries that keep you from further exercise. Also, a reason sometimes cited by the bigger boxers who defer from doing roadwork is that the harsh surface can put unnecessary stress on the joints. But, other exercises grant similar perks to running and without the need to go outside. Cross training is one such excursion as it reduces the risk of injury, can be done even when nursing certain type of injury, and can keep you out of harsh weather conditions. But, cross training is said to be better utilized as part of a running program, as opposed to a replacement. Other good cardiovascular activities often involve great intervals of mass excursion, such as cardio workouts, circuit training, indoor cycling, and high-intensity interval training. While they all have their perks, and can certainly be a good way to improve your running and cardiovascular fitness, running still provides the top method of doing so. On a decent length run while braving the elements, you will get the best possible cardiovascular benefits, and with more running, you’ll continue to improve and be able to run more for more benefits. However, to improve your performances when running, other exercises can be greatly beneficial.

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