Make me a better runner: boxing (part 4)

The fourth blog in our new series, in which we guinea pig ourselves trying training programmes and workouts from different sports to see which ones can help your running. This week we explain why punching bags and pads can make you run faster.


by Kerry McCarthy, RW Commissioning Editor

The first three blogs in this series concerned some of the supplementary aspects of boxing training: sprinting, weights and so on. We were, in effect, circling the real subject, dancing round it like Ali prancing round Foreman in Manila. But now KAPOW! We’re down to the business end: the act of hitting stuff.

But not people’s faces. Yet. That comes in Blog 6.

This week we’re concentrating on bag and pad work, and how it affects your body. Boxing is one of the greatest types of training for coordination, agility, balance and conditioning – all things runners need to be effective – and pulling a pair of gloves on and hitting a bag is one of the quickest ways to test your strengths and weaknesses in this area.

When I started my boxing programme with Cathy Brown I obviously knew nothing about the technical side of boxing but was pretty confident in my aerobic fitness. After all, I’d been running for 10 years and had clocked up over 35 marathons.

I’m not going to lie, reader. I lasted less than a minute on the bag before I had to stop: sweat streaming down my face, blowing like a whale and feeling like my breakfast was about to make an unwelcome reappearance.

Fortunately, after a few pithy comments about my conditioning, Cathy (pictured above) reassured me that this is normal.

‘Bag and pad work is a complete workout for your cardiovascular and endurance systems,’ she says. 'It also trains your upper body, lower body and develops core strength. Calorie expenditure and fat burning are very elevated during these workouts as it is such a high intensity workout, utilizing large muscle groups and multiple energy systems - and because you are constantly moving and changing direction, your heart rate is elevated immensely.’

In other words you’re getting the best possible bang for your workout buck – especially useful if, like many people, you’re pushed for time and want to fit in a quality session that will reap major benefits without eating into your work day or home life. A few sessions on the bag and pads and you should find, as I did, that your cardio fitness has improved so much that you can push harder in speed training sessions without gasping for air and your short distance times (up to 10K) will start to come down.

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