Category Archives for "Boxing Fitness"

Articles and training that will improve your conditioning to make you stronger, faster, and more powerful in the ring. We’ll burn off the fat and build the muscle to give you a boxer’s body.

A Matter of Habit

I want to introduce you to Bob and Jim (or Melanie and Stephanie for you gals out there).  

Bob (Melanie) is that guy/gal we all aspire to be.  He's built like a brick shit-house, ripped six-pack abs, highly successful, wealthy, has a huge social circle, crazy popular.  

Jim (Stephanie), on the other hand, is more like most of us end up - overweight and flabby, lacking focus, energy, and motivation, stuck in a job he hates paying off debts he's accrued, has a few friends but isn't leading the charge.

So what's the difference?  

Meet Bob - image courtesy of David Castillo Diminici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meet Jim - Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why do some people end up like Bob while most people end up like Jim?

Lately I've been trying to figure that out to find ways to keep you focused on your training and eating regimes.  Without consistency - you can't reap the full benefit of either.  That led me to read two books, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  I hate over generalizing, but the reason Bobs become Bobs and Jims become Jims is likely a matter of habit.

SOME BACKGROUND ON HABITS

Your brain is wicked awesome and it's only been the last 15-20 years that psychologists really started figuring out just how awesome it is.  One area of study that I find fascinating as I try to instill positive lifestyle changes in people deals with how we form and maintain habits.

A habit is like a computer program.  Once it is triggered (or run) it runs to completion without intervention from the user unless it encounters a break point (or requires some user input).  There is no decision making or thinking required - and you aren't even aware that some of these things are happening.

As awesome as your brain is, habits form because your brain doesn't want to make a decision about every single thing you do each day.  You can look at your own day for proof of this.  Ask yourself if you make a decision about brushing your teeth or how to brush your teeth in the morning or whether you're going to get dressed or not.  You simply do those things.  In whatever morning routine you've worked out, these are habits that start running after you wake up.

Because some decisions are made automatically, they run unconsciously in the background allowing your brain to focus on making conscious decisions that actually do require your focus and attention like where you're going to go for your next vacation or how to deal with some big work project you've got going on.

You can turn anything into a habit.  Habits run automatically when they are triggered.  They become stronger the more times they are run.  They can change depending on what you need them to do.

Going back to Bob and Jim for a moment - Bob's life is different than Jim's because Bob's habits created his life just like Jim's habits have put him in his position.  It takes a bit of conscious effort to setup a system of habits like Bob's, but once that system is in place - it really is automatic - you'd have to consciously try to stop that success from happening to end up like Jim.

SEEM A LITTLE TOO EASY...?

Well obviously it takes some effort to get the right habits operating in your life otherwise we'd all be Bobs walking the beaches with ripped bodies and six pack abs.

As humans, we are inherently lazy.  We gravitate to what Shawn Achor calls the path of least resistance.  And it makes sense.  The science geeks can help me out here, but I'm pretty sure I learned something about energy that says systems will always attempt to achieve a state where they are using the lowest amount of energy.

If you take a look at Bob's life - it likely does not look anything like easy compared to Jim's.  Just some of Bob's habits include waking up early and exercising, preparing nutritious meals ahead of time, spending time learning skills, playing sports and generally just being on the go all the time.  Jim likely spends a lot more time watching TV, browsing Facebook, and eating whatever convenience foods are available.

But if you ask Bob - he'll probably tell you that even though he does all this in a day - it really isn't a whole lot of effort for him anymore.  It just happens.

And that's because of the power of habits.  They'll give you whatever life you've programmed them to give you.  It's up to you.

FORMING HABITS

You may have heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit.  Not entirely true.  The longer you stick to a certain set of actions, the more likely the habit is to form - but you can get them going in far less time than 21 days.  In my 12 week self-guided boxing body transformation program and coaching programs - I focus clients on maintaining a habit for 14 days which I've found to work fine.  I can get myself following a habit in a few days now without much effort. 

According to Charles Duhigg - a habit forms when you supply the trigger, the sequence, and the reward.

THE TRIGGER

The trigger is some recognizable event that acts as a cue to start the habit sequence.  It can be pretty much anything.  It can be a timing, the sound of an alarm, an action, a signal, a certain smell...it doesn't matter.  You just recognize it as the cue that starts the habit.  For example, most of us have an alarm clock trigger to start our morning habits.  When the alarm goes off, you roll out of bed and head towards the bathroom (or you hit snooze and wait another 15 minutes for the next alarm to trigger the next habit...).

THE SEQUENCE

The sequence is the set of actions that happens after the trigger starts the habit.  This sequence is the habit and it runs from start to finish unless it gets consciously interrupted or another trigger is encountered that starts another habit.

THE REWARD

The reward is the benefit derived from letting the habit run to completion.  It acts like an incentive to ensure the full sequence completes enough times to build the neural pathways in your brain that makes the actions automatic in the future.  Eventually the reward is no longer required to keep the habit going.

DON'T FORGET THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE

Even when we have a trigger, a sequence, and a reward - habits can still be a bit of a pain in the ass to form.  

I can tell myself that when my alarm goes off at 0600 (trigger), I will get up, put on shorts and tshirt, go downstairs, put on Garmin watch, put on running shoes, workout (sequence), and enjoy the satisfaction of having done so (reward) -- but that doesn't mean I'll actually do it.  

If I'm just starting to implement a habit like this, it's more likely the alarm will go off and I'll start debating whether or not to hit snooze, which pair of shorts or t-shirt to put on, whether I need the Garmin as what kind of workout am I doing  - running or strength training, how far should I run, what should I lift, and so on...  Soon I'm back to sleep, exhausted from having to make all those decisions instead reinforcing the habit that once the alarm goes off, I just go back to sleep -- so much easier.

A critical component of starting a new habit is to make it as easy as possible to start the sequence (just like killing a bad habit means making it more difficult to start the sequence).  When setting up a habit, remove all barriers that might keep you from starting the sequence.  In my example, I can put the shorts and t-shirt I'm going to wear next to the bed (or even wear them to bed).  I can decide the night before what workout I'm going to do (or log in to my program here on Commando Boxing and see what training is scheduled).  As I've eliminated the decisions I have to make in the morning - there is no resistance to overcome.  The initial activation energy required is much lower.

WARNING: ONLY ONE HABIT AT A TIME

Studies show that people can successfully implement a habit 80% of the time if they focus on one habit at a time.  If you try and implement two or more the success rate falls dramatically - 30% and decreases the more you try to do.  So, when programming your life - do it deliberately and do it one habit at a time.  When it's running smoothly, introduce another.  It's a cycle of continuous and gradual improvement - but given enough time - you end up with a set of lifestyle habits that turns you into Bob and not Jim.

GIVE IT A TRY

Like I said, I introduce clients to one habit at a time and have them do it for 14 days straight.  I also ensure it is something the client actually believes they can do each day for 14 days.  One of those habits is taking a daily multivitamin .  So we'd set it up something like this:

  1. I have them buy a high quality greens supplement.
  2. I get them to set a trigger.  I usually suggest that the trigger be related to an aspect of food preparation or morning ritual
  3. We get the sequence down which in this case is super simple - get package, open package, mix in water, drink.
  4. We remove anything that might get in the way.  I tell them what brand to buy removing any decision the client has to have to make about what and where to get it.  We put the package where he or she can see it in close proximity to where they are going to make the food - and that's usually enough to lower the activation energy required.  Eventually when the habit is engrained, they can move the package somewhere else and it won't matter - the habit still runs fine.

14 days pass - we track that they were successful, then we implement something else.  Over the course of a year - 26 new optimal life supporting habits are working wonders in their lives.

And there you have it - now all you need to do is decide what habits you need in place to achieve your boxing and fitness goals and program them accordingly.  Good luck and Boxon.

Discover Why Boxers do Roadwork

Mention boxing to someone and they might think of a sweatsuit clad boxer doing early morning runs.

Roadwork is the term used by boxers to describe the time spent pounding the pavement (running).  

More and more frequently we are seeing articles reporting that running is more harmful than beneficial.  Some medical studies are suggesting that people running long distances or exercising vigorously over a number of years develop signs of cardiovascular disease.  They may have increased calcium deposits in the arteries (plaque buildup) and experience changes to the heart that are not conducive to living longer.1

I'm not going to get into the debate of whether cardio damages your heart.  It's pretty clear cardio causes changes but nobody can really agree on whether those changes are ultimately good or bad or how they are handled by different people of different athletic backgrounds.

That said, we know that aerobic exercise like running causes beneficial physical adaptations that can make us better boxers.  With enough of the right kind of training, those adaptations include:

  • a more efficient heart
  • better ability to regulate heat
  • increased energy production
  • increased ability to handle oxidative stress (even though exercise causes oxidative stress)
  • increased ability to use fat as fuel.

UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR BODY PRODUCES ENERGY

Your body has three energy systems that supply the energy you need to be active:

  1. ATP-PCr System - first to kick in.  It releases energy by breaking the chemical bonds of phosophocreatine (PCr) molecules.  Breaking those suckers releases phosphate and energy into your cells that are used to regenerate ATP which is used to supply energy for higher demand activities.  You get about a 10 second burst of intense activity out of this energy system before it can't keep up anymore.  If you try sprinting or hitting the heavy bag all out - you'll notice that after 8-12 seconds you need to slow down - that's when this system quits and your body turns towards a new source of energy.
  2. Glycolytic Pathway - is the second system to kick in.  This system actually gets turned on at the same time as the ATP-PCr system, but it takes longer to start producing energy, so there is a lag before it can be used.  It produces energy by breaking glucose down to be used in a much more complex reaction than system 1, but the end result is energy that will support an additional 80 seconds of intense physical activity.  If you're keeping track, that takes us about halfway through a boxing round.  This system produces lactic acid and after 80 seconds there is too much buildup for the muscles to continue contracting properly.  Again your body looks for a new source.
  3. Oxidative Phosphorylative Pathway - is the third system.  If you continue to push yourself beyond 90 seconds of physical activity, you'll be forced to slow down again until this system can fully take over energy production requirements.  It will not allow you to sustain the same level of physical activity that the previous two systems gave you - but it can supply energy for much, much longer periods of time.  It will be the system that takes you to the end of the round, helps you recover between rounds,  and gets you to the end of the fight.

HOW WILL TRAINING IMPROVE THESE ENERGY SYSTEMS?

System 1 depends on phosphocreatine molecules to be present.  The more of them there are, the longer this system can run.  There is not much you can do to train your body to produce more phosphocreatine, but it is the reason creatine supplementation is successful at giving an extra 1-2 seconds of intense burst activity.  Saturating your muscles with creatine provides the raw ingredients for this reaction.

System 2 ends when you reach your anaerobic threshold.  You can raise your anaerobic limit with proper training by working at and beyond that threshold for periods of time.  As your body adapts to the training intensity - it will learn to need less energy allowing you to either ratchet up the intensity again or last a little longer in this range.

System 3 can be trained to kick in and run more efficiently.  Among other things, aerobic training will increase your body's ability to generate energy using this system.

SO HOW DOES ROADWORK MAKE US BETTER BOXERS?

If we go back to running now - you might be getting a glimpse of how running helps us become better boxers.  For instance:

  1. High tempo interval runs and wind sprints - will help raise your anaerobic threshold allowing system 2 to last longer or for you to use it more intensely.  Interval training means pushing your heart rate high and long enough to outstrip System 1's capabilities and pushes the limits of system 2 before you slow down and let those systems regenerate the ability to supply another burst of energy.  You'll know if you're in the right training range because you'll experience two drops in energy - the first after 10 seconds (an all out sprint), the second after about 80 seconds - something like a 3-400m pace.  Train these systems with a series of 5-10 x 100m wind sprints (resting between sprints) and a series of 5-10 x 400m or 800m runs (again, resting between runs to return your heart rate to a more normal range allowing the systems to recover.)
  2. Tempo runs and Fartleks - To take care of the ends of rounds, your ability to recover between rounds, and to take you into the further rounds of a fight, doing some moderately intense distance runs where you push yourself for 45-60min will actually increase the number of little energy factories (mitochondria) in your cells.  Tempo runs are runs where you pick a challenging pace and keep it for the duration of the run.  Fartleks resemble interval training in that you go out on a long run, but you vary the speed throughout - push yourself when you feel good, slow down as required.

    Notice that this is more about time than distance.  If you ask a bunch of boxers how much roadwork they do - you'll get a variety of answers.  Some only do two miles, some boxers end up running 10 miles a day.  Given two equally motivated boxers, the difference is simply because one has improved his or her level of conditioning to the point where they can cover more distance in that hour at the same perceived intensity as the boxer only covering two miles in an hour.

SHOULD YOU RUN LONG SLOW DISTANCES (LSD)?

Unless you're training for a marathon, then LSD has limited utility in the ring.  Your time is better spent on boxing skills or shorter, higher intensity training lasting up to about an hour - 5-9 hours a week.  Anything over that starts to produce diminishing returns.

DO YOU HAVE TO RUN?

Nope.  You can achieve the same improvements with other types of training.  Some may not be as quick as running at forcing the adaptations, but there is nothing saying you can't do other activities that suit your lifestyle more.  Swimming, rowing, cycling, different intensity bag work, skipping, shadowboxing, etc...  In fact, you will probably stick to a training plan longer if you do mix it up and introduce something new every once in a while to prevent boredom and injuries that might result from the same types of repetitive motions day in and day out.

Personally, I do a lot of running because it's cheap, effective, and I like it.  I've done marathons and ultra marathons and I'm monitoring the studies that come out saying I'm going to die earlier because of it.  However, right now - I'm not convinced that I'm at risk of dying because of running.  Any risk of exercising like I do far outweighs an alternative more sedentary lifestyle.  I'll still be doing my roadwork - I'll just make sure I get the most out of my time on the road.  Boxon.

References

1. O'Keefe, James H. et al. Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise. Mayo Clinic Proceedings , Volume 87 , Issue 6 , 587 - 595.

Your Rest and Recovery Plan

You only spend about 6.3% or 90min of your day training. Most of us spend the other 93.7% or 1350 minutes in some state of rest and recovery.

Learning how to maximize that time for recovery is probably the least understood and least utilized way to enhance performance - which is funny because it's also the easiest and most enjoyable.

You've probably heard it said that the gains you make aren't made in the gym. They are made in-between workouts when your body can repair the damage you did by adapting to perform better the next time. This cycle of fatigue, destruction, and repair is what makes you stronger as your body adapts to what you force it to do.

There is a difference between rest and recovery. Rest happens everyday. When you workout, you fatigue structural, hormonal, and neurological systems. The relatively short periods of rest between workouts allow those systems to re-fuel and re-energize to allow you to perform another workload in the near future. These short-term rest periods allow you to continue the cycle of work/rest as long as the rest period is adequate enough to offset most of the damage being done during the work period.

Longer periods of rest are intentionally built into training plans. They compensate for deficits that build up over time and usually form a transitional period between different types of training. For example, in CBBT for men or women, every three month session is followed by 1 full week of recovery before diving into another three month session.

If you imagine your body as a bank starting with an account balance of $100. Every workout takes $10 out of the bank. Every short-term rest period puts $9 back in. After 11 workouts your balance is zero. You won't be able to do another workout until you replenish the account. You do that by taking a longer $100 rest period to reset your balance.

Where rest is best understand simply as time spent not training, recovery consists of the specific actions you do during times of rest to maximize repair (both the amount of repair and how fast the repairs occur). This includes such actions as sleep, hydration, massage, meditation, nutrition, stretching, stress-management, and others that I'll discuss a little more individually later in this article.

THE BENEFITS OF REST AND RECOVERY

For the most part - the things you do to enhance recovery are enjoyable. That in itself feels counter-productive to most people who think they must work harder to get better results. It's not about working harder - it's about working smarter and focusing on one thing at a time. When we work a proper cycle of rest and recovery into your training, the benefits you will experience include:

Physiological Adaptation = a Better Looking Body

It will be easier and quicker to change your physical appearance and you'll experience fewer injuries.

Adaptation is why we train in the first place. You break down muscle during workouts that are repaired and adapted to handle the workload more easily in the future (meaning more, stronger muscle).

Your muscles can recover relatively quickly as they receive blood directly which (if you're eating properly) contains all the nutrients they need to recover. Ligaments, tendons and other structures get their nutrients indirectly and take a little longer.

That's why inadequate rest can result in joint pain and ligament tears. Your muscles adapt first and can handle the additional workload but they force other structures to do things they are not fully adapted to deal with yet.

Psychological Adaptation = a Better Outlook on Life

Your nervous system deals with a tremendous amount of stress and gets tired when you workout hard. It has to ensure all sorts of things are firing correctly at the right times along with motivating you to keep going past many variations of pain.

Over time mental burnout becomes an issue so taking care of your psychological recovery is as important as allowing your muscles time to recover.

When you renew yourself mentally - it contributes to your level of resiliency and ability to bounce back from adversity. You will feel more confident, energized, and motivated to achieve goals. You will generally be happier and more productive.

RECOVERY TECHNIQUES

Ok, so we've established the benefits of using the 1350 minutes of the day that you aren't training and are resting to do things that enhance recovery every chance you get. What can you do specifically?

Note: I'll eventually write an article covering each of these in more detail, but for now - here they are.

Take a sleeping lesson from your cat - by Madaise.

1. Go to Sleep - All sorts of good recovery processes occur when you get quality sleep. Unfortunately many in the West perceive sleep as a weakness instead of a performance enhancing tool.

I'm guilty of this myself. While I continue to make a conscious effort to go to bed early and wake up early after getting seven to eight hours a night - I routinely find myself trying to fit one more thing into the day before turning in. That is the wrong way to think.

Good quality sleep sets the conditions for you to be more productive and happier. It is essential for hormonal and muscle recovery (i.e. growth hormone is released which helps keep you younger and builds muscle).

Plan on getting to bed early as it's been proven that the hours you sleep before midnight are more effective than those after midnight.

Afternoon naps are also great little pick me ups that clear your head and it may be counter to everything you've ever known - but try having a cup of coffee before taking a nap. When you get tired or sleep adenosine builds up in your brain which causes fogginess/tiredness. That cup of coffee not only has caffeine that will make you more alert, but it helps to clear the adenosine out faster - so when you wake from your 20 minute nap - you are refreshed and hit peak performance quicker than if you hadn't had the coffee.

Stretch after boxing - by Sakulchai

2. Stretching - It's important to be able to move and maintain mobility without pain. Pain will cause you to compensate by favoring the sore spots which can lead to imbalances and restricted mobility elsewhere.

Some sort of pain is inevitable when you train and as muscle is rebuilt you may lose some of the range of motion as muscles get tight. Regularly streching after workouts while muscles are warm will help increase flexibility, keep you pain free, and maximize range of motion.

A yoga class on off days is a perfect way to incorporate a few of the the recovery tips listed here together as you stretch and become very aware of how your body is reacting and where you are in the moment.

Drink Often by Rubbermaid

3.  Hydration - A lot of people walk around in a state of perpetual dehydration. Water is an essential ingredient in pretty much every biological process going on so does it not make sense to ensure your body has enough to work with?

It's not hard - carry around a water bottle and sip from it every few minutes. Yes, you'll have to go to the bathroom more frequently - but that's the perfect time to ensure you're drinking enough. Yellow pee is not your friend - your urine should be almost clear - if it isn't - drink more water (not juice or pop or kool-aid).

Eat Clean by Army Medicine

4.  Nutrition - like water - the right foods will speed up recovery. The wrong foods will poison you, increase inflammation instead of decrease it, and generally try to kill you.

Stressing about food can be just as harmful as actually eating bad food. Unless you are training to be the next Olympian - give yourself a break. Aim to eat clean and practice moderation the majority of the time but allow some slips here and there so you can still have a life while you take care of yourself.

5.  Self-myofascial release (SMR) - this is essentially a deep tissue massage that you give yourself. It is what you are doing when you use a foam roller. It improves joint motion and overall muscle recovery by working out tight muscles and muscle knots.

If you've never used a foam roller - you're in for a surprise - it hurts. Just remember that foam rolling is not a test to see how much pain you can handle - it's to release muscles that have kind of seized up or become restricted.

Regular rolling is a good part of any recovery program.

Clear Your Head by Balint Foldesi

6.  Meditation - Every day I read about some new benefit of meditation - decreased anxiety, increased intuition, more creativity, emotional stability, sharper mind, lower blood pressure, improved immune system, increased energy level, and the list goes on...

The premise of it is to clear your mind and focus on your breathing to bring and keep you in the moment. It takes practice, but the end result is lower levels of stress, better outlook on life, more happiness, and more motivation.

Meditation will help you eliminate stress from your system as well as prevent it from getting there in the first place.

Control your Movement by Ron Sombilon

7.  Mobility - Related to stretching - it is your ability to move a limb through the full range of motion with control. It differs from flexibility in that flexibility is passive whereas mobility requires a conscious effort and strength to move through the motion.

There are various screens you can do to see where you might have mobility issues (compromised joints...) and a joint mobility program is an essential part of your recovery program to limit the degree of immobility and joint issues you might get through hard training.

Apply Heat/Ice/Compression by Simon James

8.  Heat/Ice/Compression - When you have pain somewhere - putting it through cycles of warm, then cold and then compression can help speed recovery.

The ice (cold) decreases swelling and inflammation. The heat increases blood flow to bring the nutrients and healing juices (yes - that's a technical term) to deal with the issue. It relaxes the muscle, decreases muscle spasms, and alleviates pain.

For both - don't apply directly - wrap the warm/cold item in something before applying to the skin.

RECOVERY IN APPLICATION

It's never a good idea to overdo one area of your life to the detriment of others. When you're in the gym - train hard. Focus on what you're there for. At home, work recovery techniques into your daily routine. You'll be surprised at just how effective what you do outside of the gym will be when you get back into the gym.

Your workouts will be more intense, challenging, and fun. You'll have more motivation. Maintaining that balance between work and recovery so your bank account never reaches zero will propel you to new heights.

So what would implementing these recovery techniques look like in action?

Your day might go like this:

  • 0500 - Wake up
  • 0505-0520 - Meditate
  • 0520-0540 - Mobility Session
  • 0540-0640 - Daily Training
  • 0640-0700 - Stretching
  • 0700-0730 - Nutritious Breakfast
  • 1000 - Nutritious Snack
  • 1200 - Nutritious Lunch
  • 1400 - Nutritious Snack
  • 1800 - Nutritious Supper
  • 2000 - Nutritious Snack
  • 2030-2050 - Meditate
  • 2100-0500 - Go to Sleep

Of course, you'd be drinking plenty of water during the day and if you have any specific aches/pains you could use the heat/ice/compression therapy. Other than probably getting up/going to bed a lot earlier than you're used to - it really isn't a massive issue working recovery aspects into your day - and the benefits make it all worthwhile.

Learn to enjoy your rest and recovery periods - they make life a whole lot more fun. Until next time - Boxon.

What’s Your Ideal Weight Class?

Is the boxing weight class you are currently in, the one you should be in?

A few people have asked me if they are in the right weight class. So, here's how you find out what your ideal natural weight class is.

Boxers have pretty small amounts of body fat on their bodies. This makes perfect sense since it is their muscle that helps them perform better, not fat. There simply is no good reason to be carrying more fat on your body than what it needs unless you plan on living somewhere really really cold where the extra insulation might come in handy.

Ultimately, you want a level of body fat that is very close to what you would have if you are competing. Limiting your body fat to this level year round also prevents the drastic changes and punishment some boxers go through to make weight for a fight. If you stay in shape all the time, not only can you fight on short notice, but you will also show up in peak condition - not messed up from your weight cutting efforts.

The Weigh In - Photo by World Series Boxing

For men, that body fat level is 9-10% and women 18-19%.

It's not easy hitting that level of body fat, but when you do, your muscles pop out all over the place and things get so much easier to do. Achieving that level may seem like an impossible task right now, especially if you have a lot more fat than that - say 28-30%, but I guarantee it is totally doable with enough consistent time and the proper nutrition plan.

You have to remember that you didn't put on all that fat overnight. You didn't eat some huge meal, go to sleep, and wake up fat. So, it is not going to come off overnight either. It takes a consistent effort over a period of time. Luckily, that period of time is generally shorter than it took to get fat in the first place.

Notice I said nutrition plan?

So many people think that they are going to get on a treadmill and run off pounds of fat all while still eating the refined sugars, flours, sweets, deep fried death and other crap all day. If this is your plan, don't bother going to the gym at all - you're doomed to be fat forever.

Calculating Your Ideal Natural Weight Class

Anyways, back to figuring out your ideal weight class.

1. Figure out your current body fat level.

2. Figure out your lean body mass. Take your current total weight and subtract the amount of fat you have on your body:1

LBM = Total Weight-(Total Weight * bodyfat %)

3. Add the appropriate amount of fat back on to your LBM.

For Men: LBM * 1.1 (adds 10% bodyfat)

For Women = LBM *1.19 (adds 19% bodyfat)

4. Look up your new weight in the boxing weight class chart - that's your ideal natural weight class.

Your Action Plan

Your first goal should be to achieve your ideal natural weight class. For most people that means cutting some fat off your body. Once you've achieved your natural weight class, you may find that you'd like to change the look of your body and add some muscle to move up in weight classes. Moving up should be the result of adding muscle, not fat to your body.

Some people make the mistake of trying to maximize fat loss and muscle gain at the same time. While it can be done, primarily with people who are new to training, they really aren't meant to happen at the same time. Losing fat is the result of a caloric deficit. Gaining muscle requires a caloric surplus. You can't have a deficit and a surplus at the same time.

About 9 weeks of body weight training and boxing...

That said, there is a spot, and it is different for everyone, where you can add muscle and burn fat. I recently did it over the past ten weeks simply with body weight exercises and some boxing and running. I added about 12lbs of muscle and cut about 2.5% body fat (I was starting to get a little flabby...) Had I concentrated specifically on losing fat, I probably could have cut off a lot more, but it may have been at the expense of losing muscle mass which I didn't want to do.

Ideally, your goal is to at least maintain your current level of LBM while the fat is burned off. If your LBM starts to fall, you need to eat more (good food) and ensure you are still doing some strength training.

So there you go, now you know what to aim for. Boxon.

What Makes a 52 Year Old Decide to Start Boxing?

I received an email from Gerhard Potgieter, a 52 year old who seriously took up boxing to improve his fitness level about 8 months ago at the time of this writing.

I asked him if he would mind sharing his story and the challenges a 50+ year old newbie to the sport has in regards to training and anything else he might find useful. Thankfully, he did and I think you'll agree that his story below is both inspirational and testament to what you can do if you put your mind to it.

Special thanks to Gerhard for writing this, and I would encourage you to leave comments for him after the article especially if you want clarification or to offer words of encouragement.

From Gerhard Potgieter,

I hope this can or will help motivate other people in my situation and even for some younger boxers who sometimes need a bit of a jumpstart to get going again.

I have a serious back problem in that I do not have any cartilage between my lower vertebras. This means that just about permanently – because of bad posture and weak core strength – some or other nerve is always pinched somewhere. It is problem I had from high school days but as I have always been very active, it wasn’t that much of a problem. All my activities meant I had good core strength. I cycled a lot, played provincial underwater hockey and went to gym 5-6 days a week and did scuba diving just about every weekend. I got married when I was 37 and when the family came; all my sport stopped one after the other because of family commitments and finances.

My back problem became worse and worse and there were days that I walked like an old, old man when I got up in the mornings. My weight increased slowly and when I started training, I weighed 120 kg. Length 1.9 meters. My wife gave me a punch bag as a Christmas gift in 2007. I have always wanted to hit the heavy bag but never got round to it. I changed what I had, for a bigger and heavier bag and proper gloves as well. The training I did was a bit wishy-washy, no sustenance or effort to it, stupid pushing the bag around instead of hitting the damn thing. I think I felt too self-conscious to hop around a bag in my garage and call it training!

One morning Feb 2008 as I took my shoes off, I hurt my back quite seriously and could hardly walk because of the pain. After numerous doctors’ visits – who advised an operation - and seeing a chiropractor – who treated me with big success - I decided I need to do something about my health as I could not go from one painful day to next, hardly able to bend or walk properly, let alone jogging or running! I decided to increase my heavy bag activities. The chiro also recommended heavy bag exercises in moderation as well as some other exercises. (What’s moderation?)

At an age where most men would at most play with their grandchildren (I will be 53 in April), I decided to take up one of the most strenuous manners of sport – and I enjoy every minute of it! So I stepped up my training, prancing around in my garage amidst rivers of sweat. But what was I supposed to do and how to do it? I started searching on the internet and found several websites with boxing info, amongst them this website which helped me tremendously.

There is a big boxing club not too far away and went to do some photographs for myself – I am an semi-professional photographer - and for them. I have been invited to train with them by some of the younger boxers I took photographs of – I do not think it will work because of my lifestyle, I could not commit to their rigorous training schedule and in any case, I see clients every day and pitching at a meeting with a broken nose, face bruises or blue eye is not the done thing! Not to mention that I don’t think my speed and co-ordination can match the younger fighters!

Anyway, from here I taught myself how to jab, do the right cross, left and right hooks and upper cuts, etc. As I read further and found more info, I became more and more enthusiastic about my training and decided I will train as close to a real boxer as possible. What I have seen from the training at the boxing club as well as chatting to the boxers I photographed, I try to do just as they do.

Investing in a Gymboss imported from the UK (one of the better investments in a long, long time), I now train in 3 minute rounds, use the proper equipment including hand wraps, proper gum shield, x-large heavy bag, double-end ball, proper 16 and 14 oz leather gloves and recently a friend brought me a good pair of boxing boots from England. (The boots we get here is absolute rubbish and very expensive).

Training:

I found that my family commitments clashed with my training requirements (my wife is away a lot and I have to be Mom and Dad for our son) and to solve the time problem, started training for 90 to 120 min per session at 04h00 every morning, 6 days a week, summer and winter.

Basically it will consist of the following:

  • Warm up starting at ankles and end with neck
  • Recently started jump rope as well
  • Shadow boxing 4 - 6 rounds (all rounds 3 min ea and 1 min rest)
  • Heavy bag – 4 rounds average doing footwork one round, combinations next round, 1-2 next round and hooks and uppercuts the next. Depending on time, I might do more rounds…if I have the energy to still stand that is!)
  • Sometimes – 2-3 x per week – I do speed and power drill, 20 sec hitting the heavy bag as fast as possible and 15 sec rest, done 8 times like in Tabata training.
  • Weight training comes next and I do mostly high reps and not too heavy weights. Concentrate mostly on shoulders and arm.
  • Next comes alternating either floor exercises or purely ab exercises. Floor will be 25x each of wide push ups, sit ups, crunches, leg raises, boxer sit ups, oblique raises and one or two other I see from time to time on the www. Abs I will sometimes do (with a Swiss ball) do 20x ea. woodcutter swings with barbell, upper body raises, leg raises , plank for 60 sec, ‘windscreen wipers’, leg raises, sit ups, etc. As I said, these are done focusing mainly on core strength training.
  • Then I would go running on two 40 and 60 degree up hills for just under 2 kilometer the one morning and the next I will do 70m sprints and jog back (sometimes with push ups, burpees, sit ups at either end) on the 60 degree uphill and jog back home. Distance then is about 1.5 kilometers.
  • Cool down will be done by doing various stretching exercises. I change the route sometimes for a way of a change but normally do between 1.5 and 2 km. I find if I do too much my back starts intruding later in the day when my muscles cool down….

This I do every day and try to have my off day on a Monday. That leaves the Sat and Sun morning with lots of time to do extra technique or try new combinations or whatever without having any time constraints. Sometimes on Sat and Sun I will focus on technique only and do 40x ea of jabs, 40x right cross, etc.

Granted, there are some days that I really don’t feel like it or got to bed late the previous night although does not happen often. I enjoy the whole training thing too much.

Nutrition wise, I eat as healthy as possible. I have never been fond of junk or fatty foods, gas cool drinks, sweets and confectionary in any case. I eat healthy foods as much as possible like fresh fruit, brown rice and legumes, raw vegetables and green veggies, whole wheat bread and pasta and lean meats as much as possible. My big sin is wine – I have always been very fond of red and dry white wine but have managed to cut down hugely on this as well. I only have a few half glasses over a week end as far as possible.

I have slowly lost about 20 kilos (44lbs) since I seriously started training in March 2008 and feel much better. I downsized on my pants and upsized on my shirts! I have minimal back problems now days but that will always be with me. If there is no cartilage, there is no cartilage and no amount of training is going to bring that back.

Obviously, I am not a real fighting boxer but I try my best. I am willing to listen too anybody talking sense who know what it is all about and will always be open to learn something new. My eyes literally opened re the sweet science and I realized that there is so much more to boxing than just two men exchanging blows in a ring. Maybe, just maybe, I would like to take up an offer to spar with some of the guys at the gym….. Naturally in controlled situation with full head gear etc. Just to see for myself how I would match up and naturally really experience the whole atmosphere of fight night and everything that goes with that.

Motivation

Imagining that I train for a real fight and thinking that my opponent is training more that me does drive me to do just that extra 5 or 10 reps or keep on going hitting the heavy bag no matter how tired I am or how heavy my arms are. It helps to get positive remarks from my wife, friends and family about my looks and weight loss and even the car guard at the shopping centre commented on my shape. The more sweat I see on the cement floor of my garage the better because then I know I have been working out and not wasting my time putting on the gloves.

I train with a gum shield (as close to a normal boxers situation as possible, remember) and don’t know what the motorists think of me running kitted out in boots and hand wraps, soaked in sweat – it takes to much time to change into other clothes – but I don’t give a damn. As long as I can train, see some results and I feel good about what I do, I will keep on as long as I can. Comments of crazy to get up so early in the morning, trying to simulate being a boxer, even just the connotation to boxing, etc have elicited some crappy remarks from a lot of people but at the end of the day, who feels, look and walk and run better than 8 months ago? For sure I am the winner in this situation!

I found the following words which I enlarged and put up in my ‘gym’ and it does motivate me a lot!

I do it because I can,
I can do it because I want to do it,
I want to do it because you said I couldn't!

Secrets of an Early Morning Routine

Every day starts the same at 0500hrs...

A faint tune begins to play on the phone next to my bed - it's soft enough not to inject adrenaline directly into my heart but loud enough that my brain registers that another morning has arrived.

Bathed in the soft blue light of the screen, I clumsily reach over and swipe right to silence the alarm. Then I lie back and wait.

At 0505hrs I'm signaled yet again - this time by the less than serene beeping on my watch. It never beeps more than once as, by now I've regained control of my senses and my finger hovers over the bump of the button, poised and ready to turn it off. My brain begins to churn through some list of what I want to accomplish that day.

While my brain does it's thing, I pull back the covers to greet the coolness in the room and sit up swinging my feet over the edge of the bed - take a deep breath and stretch my arms up and out feeling the muscles in my biceps, chest and back strain. There is the faint and amusing sound of the crackling of bones and joints moving back to where they are supposed to be.

After a moment I put my bare feet on the chilly hardwood floor and stand for a moment before bending over to pick up a pile of clothes that were pre-positioned the night before and stumble into the washroom like I just got home from the pub. It amazes me how I have to learn to walk every single morning.

It's quiet - it always is. There is no sound except for the thoughts running through my head and I try to keep them at a whisper so as not to disturb the solitude. As I finish up my bathroom ritual (which, for your benefit, I won't describe), put on my workout clothes, and brush the stench of night out of my mouth while staring at my ugly mug in the mirror - I begin to feel good about getting up at this hour and silently congratulate myself. Most of my part of the world is still asleep and will be for a few more hours. Somehow I feel like I'm getting a head start.

After completing my bathroom ritual, I go downstairs and make a cup of coffee. I sip it as I work on Commando Boxing for the next hour - usually writing or some creative type task. At 0630 I stop whatever I'm doing and head out to the home made boxing gym in my garage. This time of year it's close to freezing or below in there so I quickly switch on the little space heater, grab the skipping rope and get moving. It doesn't take long to warm up and by the time I do, I'm in workout mode.

I beast myself for an hour and at 0740 I head back into the house to wash off the sweat and put on my uniform to get ready for work. At 0805 I make my Commando Boxing anytime breakfast and eat it while reading through the headlines to see what the media is spinning from the night before. At 0830 I walk out of the house and head to work - satisfied knowing that no matter what else happens that day - I've already spent three hours advancing my goals before having to expend effort on the priorities of others.

That's at least two solid hours every day - 14 hours a week - 54 hours a month - just because I get up at 0500hrs instead of sleeping a couple extra hours.

0500-0800 every morning is my time. A time with no obligations, no stress, and no expectations other than those I put on myself. Everything I do in those three hours is about me and my goals - and it feels satisfying and good.

My morning ritual is the same every day of the week. The only exception is Sunday when I turn off the alarms completely just to see what happens. In all but rare cases - it doesn't matter and I get up at the same time anyways.

Benefits of an Early Morning Routine

  • It's first. Think about it - when should you be at your peak? Immediately after a restful night of sleep or when you're tired from a long day of work dealing with all the stress of life. Your day should start with what's important to you - then you can work on other people's issues.
  • It's early. And that means it's quiet. Unless you intentionally fill your morning with stimulation like radio, tv, and internet then it's just you and the void. What other time of the day do you get an environment that is totally devoid of noise without locking yourself away in a sound-proof room? The quiet is quite simply - awesome.
  • It sets the right tone. When you get up and are productive (in whatever way you define productive) it puts you on the right foot for the rest of the day. The small things don't bother you as much. You experience more contentment and ease into the day rather than stumbling and rushing in late. It's much more pleasant.
  • It's insurance. There's nothing wrong with choosing to sleep in but when you don't you get things done that you then do not have to find time to do some other time in the day. Training is a prime example. When I don't train in the morning it means I have to find time to do it after work and that usually conflicts with other family commitments especially with two teenagers in the house. Doing it first thing in the morning means it gets done. If I ever miss training it's because I didn't do it in the morning (rare occurrence).
  • It feels good. I don't know exactly how to describe it but mornings simply feel different than the rest of the day. I'm sure you probably have not had the opportunity to spend all night freezing in shitty weather sitting in a trench full of water, but I can tell you that there is no better feeling than when dawn begins to break and you see the sun coming over the horizon. When you experience an early morning - you'll notice how it feels too.

When is Your Morning?

There is a time of day when you are most productive. You know when it is - when you can get in the flow and focus on something intensely - when you're at your peak.

For me - it's the morning when the rest of the house is still sleeping. That's my time and I guard it like a hawk but it might not be your time.

I'm not advocating that you have to get up at 0500hrs everyday to advance towards your goals - but I am advocating that you have to find your time of day and carve it away from the rest of the world's demands.

If you haven't done that yet - then perhaps getting up at 0500hrs is something you should look into.

And it's not impossible - no matter how much of stranglehold you believe sleep has over you at that hour.

Sleep is important - no doubt about it - but getting up at 0500hrs or earlier simply means going to bed earlier and if you're being honest with yourself - what are you doing at 2200hrs each night that would prevent you from going to sleep? My guess is that you're watching something on TV in the hours leading up to that time. I usually am.

So turn it off and go read in bed. If you're not tired you'll get some benefit from reading, but I'm pretty sure that within a few minutes you'll find yourself nodding off and setting the conditions to help get up earlier.

If you work shift work then your morning is simply going to be at another time of the day - make adjustments.

I'm an all-or-nothing kind of guy which is both a curse and a blessing so if I'm trying to make a change like this I'll just force myself to get up at the new time. If that works for you - great - but it is less of a shock to your system to work yourself into it gradually. You'll stick to it longer and repetition is essential to turning it into a routine and not a flash in the pan. So start by backing the clock up in 15 minute increments until you hit your goal time. It won't take long and soon you'll be awake when everyone else is sleeping and wondering what to do with yourself.

Craft Your Morning Ritual

I once experimented with polyphasic sleep. I tried sleeping 20 minutes every three hours. One 20 minute sleep cycle is supposed to be sufficient and it allows you to be awake and productive for more hours in the day.

It wasn't hard sticking to the schedule but it was hard to find something to do with the extra awake time and I would often find myself laying around wondering what to do - sometimes nodding off as I did thus defeating the whole purpose of staying up in the first place. It's the same getting up early in the morning.

Getting up at 0500hrs with no idea what you're going to do is the perfect way to convince yourself to go back to bed - so take some time and decide how you want your morning to look. Figure out what your priorities and goals are and then map out what you need to do to accomplish them.

Start at the end and work backwards figuring out what you need to do to accomplish that part of the grand plan. When you're done - you'll have a blueprint to follow - a project to-do list that will guide you each morning.

And then stick with it long enough to let it take root. Once that happens - it's effortless.

In Conclusion

If you're aiming to transform your body, increase your fitness, or learn how to box, there are few things you can do that ensure success as much as establishing an early morning routine that supports your training does.

No matter how unpleasant you think it is to get up earlier - I'd urge you to experiment with it and see if it works out for you.

If you think you're not a morning person - it's probably because you think that. It is true that some people have productive times at different times of the day but most people who think they are not morning people just haven't established a morning routine or a bedtime ritual that supports getting up early.

I think you'd be amazed at what you can actually accomplish if you get an early morning routine firmly established. Give it a go and Boxon.

How to Get Everything You Want with SMART Goal Planning

The Importance of SMART Goal Planning

Goal setting and planning is your golden ticket to having everything you want and living the life you want to live.

Considering that the alternative is to live a life that is heavily influenced by your environment and everyone else around you - it amazes me that so few people actually take the time to do proper goal planning.

The truth is:

If you do not design your life someone else will design it for you.

Do you think it's coincidence that almost 50% of the world's wealth is owned by 1% of the population or that only a handful of boxers work their way to the top of the boxing charts and win world championships?

Is it just blind luck that enables a very small percentage of the world to live exciting, fulfilling lives full of experience while many others live a routine, drone-like existence?

No matter who you look at - the vast majority of leaders and people you and I would consider successful such as world boxing champions, olympic athletes, CEOs, inventors, the wealthy - they all understand the importance of SMART goal planning and how it lays out a straight path to follow to whatever they decide they want.

Do You Know What You Want?

Image courtesy of Charisma/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Can I ask you to take a minute right now and look at your life - not in a victim sort of pity party way - but objectively without the emotional baggage?

Stop reading and take notice of where you are. Are you living the lifestyle you've always dreamed of or are you living and working to support someone else's dream lifestyle?

On that note - do you even know what your dream lifestyle looks like?

Next, let your mind ponder how you ended up where you are now. Think back through all those decisions and circumstances that had to happen in the order they did to lead to this moment.

Now try and pick out the major decision points or events that put you on the path you're on - then ask yourself if it was you that controlled those decisions or were they events caused by someone else?

You might be a little shocked to discover that you consciously only made 10% or fewer of the choices that led to your current situation - and that's likely because you haven't clearly defined what you actually want.

Most people never do this or if they do - it is in a moment of complaint or despair. You can go your whole life stuck in a routine, rarely thinking and eventually accepting your lot in life as unchangeable, just doing what has become habit day after day, week after week, year after year until you drop dead.

Depressing isn't it?

What do you really want to look like?  Image courtesy of Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There's a saying that ignorance is bliss - but for those of you who think there might be more to life - I'd offer that SMART goal planning is the way to get there and I'm going to show you how to do SMART goal planning (with some added tweaks).

But before I show you how you can literally change your life - let's consider if your life needs changing. Let's consider if you're actually living the life you want to live? Are you:

  • Doing the work you want to do?
  • Learning the things you want to learn?
  • Do you have the body you want?
  • Are you spending your leisure time doing what you like to do?
  • Do you even have any leisure time?
  • Do you have the type of relationship you want?
  • Do you have enough income to support your dream lifestyle?

If you answered yes to all of that then great - stop reading and go live it, but I bet you are unsatisfied with at least one area of your life. So let's fix it.

The 10000 Foot Overview of Goal Planning

I've already covered why goals are important - so you have and live the life you want - not someone else's version of how you should live. The start point for getting the life you want is to figure out what you actually want and then set goals and I'm sure this is nothing you haven't heard before - from the older, wiser people, media, self-help books...

I have to reiterate the point though.

Goal planning is critical to leading the life you want to live and not one imposed on you.

I'd also like you to notice that I use the term goal planning instead of goal setting.

It's one thing to set goals and another thing to figure out what you want, set goals, follow up with an action plan, commit and make yourself accountable.

Do you want to see your abs?  Image courtesy of David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The entire process of defining what you want, setting the goal according to SMART principles, breaking it down into actionable steps, committing and holding yourself accountable is a complete planning process. Goal setting by itself is just one part of that process.

Without goals, you are adrift in the ocean of life and it's easy to get blown around and off track. A lack of goals and direction is like knowing you want to be somewhere at noon, but you don't know where that somewhere is and you don't have a map helping you get there.

How are you possibly going to get there on time (or at all) if you don't know where there is?

As a boxing trainer and mentor I can help you achieve many things - but how am I going to guide you to where you want to go, if you can't tell me where it is you want to go?

Am I supposed to guess? Because I will and I'll put you on the path that I think you should follow - and you may or may not like the destination - but the point is that if you aren't making those kinds of conscious choices about what your life should be like then you're letting other people do it for you. I don't believe that's the best way to go about living.

I have a pretty good idea of where you need to go (according to Coach Aaron's view of what's important in life) and will get you to the right neighborhood, maybe even the right street, but eventually you're going to have to tell me the address. Make sense?

How to do SMART Goal Planning

SMART + Emotions Goal Planning

I have a system built into Commando Boxing that enables my transformation clients to do SMART goal planning, outline the individual action steps (a checklist of sorts) to achieve them, and then share them with the world as a means of showing commitment and accountability.

The system is simple and actionable and incorporates everything you are about to learn about SMART goal planning - so if you ever want an easy way to implement these principles to ensure you get what you want - become a client.

SMART goal planning has five principles that relate to each letter of the word SMART. I add a sixth - emotions. So goal planning according to Coach Aaron is SMART and Emotional or you can call it SMARTE.

More than any of the coaching and mentoring I provide - this goal planning process is what allows people to achieve the results they do.

That's because good goal planning ultimately leads to actions that move you closer to your goal. Goals built on SMART and emotional principles will motivate you to wake up and go for a run at 0500hrs in the morning or keep you from eating the big piece of cake sitting on your counter.

So let's cover each principle individually:

Specific

If you showed up in my gym and told me your ultimate goal is to get in shape - I'd do my best not to roll my eyes at you.

Those three words frustrate the hell out of me because 99% of people (my unqualified/unsupported assumption) walking into a club or gym show up with that goal in their head.

When I ask Mr. X or Miss Y why they are there - they say to get in shape. It's crazy. What does that even mean exactly? Shaped like what - a goat? a car?

I'm sure that Miss Y has some vague vision in her pretty little head of what get in shape means to her - usually resembling some actress or athlete - but she needs to be able to explain that vision in vivid detail or even present it in visual form.

If she can't do that, her goal isn't specific enough.

Writing down specific goals forces you to make the goal three dimensional, tangible, and real. Taking the time to cover the basic Ws: What, Why, Who, Where, and a little bit of How flushes that vision into something you can taste, feel, see, hear. The goal is no longer an abstract idea - it's a real destination.

So when Miss Y tells me she wants to get in shape - I take a deep breathe, compose myself - and then I begin asking questions to try and draw out answers that turn "get in shape" into something like "I lost 5lbs of fat and built 3lbs of lean muscle mass by consistently following a boxing training plan in my home gym while eating to support my training so I can see my abs and feel confident in my bikini during my beach vacation in Cuba."

  • What: Lost 5lbs of fat and built 3lbs of lean muscle mass
  • Why: So I can see my abs and feel confident in my bikini
  • Who: me
  • Where: in Cuba on my beach vacation
  • How: consistently following a boxing training plan and eating to support that training

Do you see the difference?

A specific goal helps you see a detailed picture of the destination - the end-state of what you're trying to achieve.

Measurable

Your goals should have measures of effectiveness (MoE) built in to allow you to evaluate your progress at any time.

Measures of Effectiveness (MoE) are rules you establish to see if you're moving toward or away from your goal. For example - if your goal is to make $100,000, your MoE could be any increase or decrease in your bank account. At any time you can look in your account and see if you are heading towards your goal (increase in the amount of money in your account) or moving away from your goal (decrease in the amount of money in your account).

MoE allow you to make adjustments as you head towards your goal to ensure you're on as straight a path as possible. Without the means of evaluating where you are - you could find yourself weaving all over the road or taking wrong turns and delaying your arrival at your destination. Worse - you could be following a circular pattern that will never lead to your goal.

That constant checking in to see how you are doing creates a feedback loop that is an essential component of goal planning. Not only will it get you what you want faster, but being able to see improvement (or catch disappointing results early), no matter how small, provides a bump in motivation to continue ahead full steam or make a necessary adjustment.

Attainable

Considering attainability injects a dose of reality into the planning process. Nobody can ever tell you what is attainable or not. It's a personal and objective assessment of whether or not you truly believe the goal is attainable or totally out of reach.

But don't let your objectivity destroy your creativity. In other words - dare to dream big.
Easily attainable goals are meaningless and boring and getting bored is a sure-fire way to remain unmotivated. The really big things that you really want will motivate you, so dream. Set giant goals that scare the crap out of you.

You'll achieve 100% of what you aim at and if it isn't very much----well you get what you wish for. Use your imagination and surprise yourself - don't settle for mediocrity. Very few of us ever achieve our full potential. Big dreams are motivating and when you have a well written monumental goal, your subconscious mind simply starts looking for ways to make it happen. You'll see opportunities to move towards your goal in places you may have overlooked before.

I recently watched The Imitation Game (awesome movie) and it contains the following quote:

Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.

Alan Turing's vision of creating a machine that would eventually make the computer I'm typing this on possible was probably something that seemed completely unattainable to most people, but Turing believed he could do it. He believed it so much that by keeping it as his main focus - he turned that imagination into reality.

So this principle of attainability is relative and relies heavily on your perception of your own capabilities. Truly believe you have the power to do the big things and you'll surprise yourself with the results. Let those big dreams excite, motivate, and scare the hell out of you because they help make life an interesting place to live in.

Relevant

Your goals have to mean something to you.

There is no way you are going to motivate yourself to do something you have no interest in doing. How many people complain about going to work every day? Lots - because they find themselves locked into a job they hate working at to fulfill the goals of other people - goals that mean very little to them personally.

Relevant goals matter to you so when you think you have a goal - run it through the relevance filter. Get introspective again and decide if that goal actually means something important to you. If it's not relevant you're going to have issues keeping it in focus and expending the necessary effort to see it through to completion.

Time-Bound

Every goal needs a deadline.

Deadlines establish a sense of urgency that focuses efforts and available resources.
Goals are seldom unattainable but the deadlines are so keep in mind that there are both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are those you can achieve in the next 30-90 days. Anything longer than that is a long-term goal.

Don't cram goals that are obviously going to take years into the short-term category and vice versa. Be sure to put some thought in to the actual mechanics of how long something may take to achieve.

For someone walking into the club fat and sick - thinking you're going to transform your body into a world class specimen of health in four weeks is not realistic. Time is finite and you simply don't have enough hours in four weeks for your body to deal with years of neglect.

This may seem contradictory to my advice to dream but it isn't - it's simply practical. There are physical laws that exist in the universe - the rules of the game. You have to play within the rules or figure out a way to bend them without breaking them.

Emotions

Do your best to ensure your goal evokes an emotional response.

If you've read any books on habit forming, will power or motivation you've likely come across the analogy of the elephant and rider.

The elephant represents your emotions and the rider represents your willpower. The rider can tell the elephant where to go some of the time, but when the rider gets tired or if the elephant wants to go in its own direction - it will - the rider isn't going to stop the elephant no matter how hard he or she tries.

You'll only achieve the smallest of goals using sheer willpower. Willpower is finite and you run out of it everyday.

Every morning you wake up with a full store of willpower and determination and every decision you make eats away at it until you have nothing left. It's precisely at that point when you are susceptible to outside influences - the cravings and the food commercials. That's when the elephant takes over and your emotions and desires completely rule the roost.

The good news is that you can supercharge the goal planning process by linking positive or negative emotions to every goal. In essence you want to install a microchip in the elephant's brain that controls its focus so the rider doesn't have to do any work. Let emotions drive the process and the elephant will want to carry you to your goal.

Picture yourself achieving your goals and really feeling it - sense the things you see, touch, hear, smell, taste in vivid detail and how those things affect you on an emotional level. Tie those positive emotions to goals you want to achieve and tie negative emotions to the consequences of actions that take you further away from your goals.

My Two Rules for SMART and Emotional Goal Planning

Before I show you how to use the process you have to understand the rules of the game - the framework you're working in.

1. Write Down Your Goals

If you do any type of research on the internet for proof that written goals result in a higher rate of success you'll come across the Harvard/Yale study. It's a great story that details a study that followed the careers of students - finding that only 3% of them had written goals and that those who wrote down their goals ended up with incomes that on average doubled those of their colleagues who didn't.

That in itself should be motivation for writing down your goals - but the problem is that the story isn't true. There was no such study - it's just one of those myths that seems to perpetuate itself because it lends evidence to something most people who write down goals already know.

It would be nice if that study had been conducted as it's simple and shows a concrete benefit of writing down your goals - it would make my job of convincing you to write down your goals that much easier.

Not all is lost though - I do have some real proof - and it was a goal study done by Dominican University in Illinois precisely because the Harvard/Yale study turned out to be a myth. The researchers made three conclusions:

  1. Accountability showed a positive effect on goal achievement
  2. Public commitment showed a positive effect on goal achievement
  3. Written goals showed a significant positive effect on goal achievement

Combine that study with the anecdotal evidence I have and I'm totally confident enough to recommend written goals be your SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). Write down your goals and give yourself an advantage when it comes to following through and achieving them.

2. Goals Cannot Conflict

You cannot achieve conflicting goals at the same time. If you have two goals that have to run over each other to get to where they need to be, you have to take one out of the equation until the other is completed.

Focus on whichever is more important to you right now and then go for the other one later.

For example, you probably want to lose X lbs of fat and you probably want to add X lbs of muscle at the same time. Those are usually conflicting goals. Losing fat is a process that requires a caloric deficit while building muscle uses a process that requires a caloric surplus. At the very basic level - you can't have a deficit and a surplus at the same time. The two simply are not compatible.

There's another factor that goes along with this and it's along the lines of focusing on one thing. There's a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less that I recommend reading if you're having a hard time figuring out what you should focus on. It's all about directing your efforts to the one thing that matters at any given time and saying no to the rest. Worth the read.


Putting the SMART and Emotional Goal Planning Process to Work For You

As I already mentioned - the SMART and Emotional goal planning process I use with my clients is a four step process:

  1. Figure out what you want
  2. Write down your goals using the SMART and Emotional principles.
  3. Develop the checklist/plan to achieve each.
  4. Commit and Be Accountable

The best way to show you how to use this planning process is to go through a complete example.

Step One: Decide What You Want

This can be fun if you let it. Think about what you want. It can be anything and it doesn't have to be super specific at this point. Just a vague notion of something is fine.

For this example the thing I want is - to learn how to box.

You may want a whole lot of things and that's fine. Just write them down and then go through this planning process for each one. At the end you'll prioritize your wants and act on the number one goal on your list. Then you'll move onto number two and so on until you have everything you could possibly dream of.

Step Two: Write Down Your Goals Using SMART and Emotional Principles

Specific

  • What: I can throw boxing punches, execute boxing defenses, move like a boxer, conditioning of a boxer
  • Why: to compete and win and have a boxer's physique
  • Who: me and my trainer
  • Where: in my home gym and local boxing club
  • How: following a consistent, progressive boxing training plan from Commando Boxing

So in this step - you take your want from Step One and turn it into an actual goal using the principles I described earlier:

Putting it altogether my goal has moved from I want to learn how to box to:

I can throw super fast, powerful boxing punches, execute instinctive boxing defenses, move like a boxer and am super conditioned allowing me to compete and win and have a boxer's physique as a result of consistently following a progressive boxing training plan from Commando Boxing at home and with my trainer in my local boxing club.

If you look at that goal - you can see generalizations in it that you'll break down even further - things like "super conditioned". What exactly does that mean?

You'll also dissect your goal based on the time it will take to complete. Long-term goals are really a sequence of short-term goals. Start with your ultimate goal. Then define the long term goals (milestones) that must be achieved on the road to the ultimate goal. Then break those down further into the short-term goals (milestones), the smaller goals, that you need to achieve to achieve the long term goals.

Measurable

A sample of my MoE might include:

  • Number of training sessions I complete
  • Body Fat %
  • Number of good form punches I can throw in a 3 minute round
  • Number of amateur boxing matches I win
  • Number of times I get hit in a boxing match
  • How many consecutive rounds I can do on the heavy bag

Attainable

I do truly believe I can develop the skills to compete and win. There is nothing about this goal that is unattainable. With enough effort and time everything about it is within my grasp.

Relevant

 I've dreamed of competing in amateur boxing for as long as I can remember. In terms of what is important to me - this is number one. It does matter to me.

Time-Bound

 I will win my first amateur match in 6 months. (More to follow on sub-goals below).

Emotions

I am so incredibly happy and satisfied that all the work in the gym payed off. Standing here next to the ref with my arm in the air validates everything I've been working towards at this moment. I feel proud of my accomplishment and feel the energy in the room as all the spectators clap for me in my moment of victory. The heavy medal hanging around my neck feels slightly cold against my skin but makes my heart swell with pride. I feel the relief of having made it through to this moment and am optimistic about what my boxing future holds.

Step Three: The Action Plan

Writing down your goals and developing them according to SMART and Emotional principles does absolutely nothing for you if you never take any action.

Just the act of completing step one and two is usually enough to motivate you to move onto step three and do something, but sometimes the goals you come up with need even more dissection to make each step a complete no-brainer.

First - go through your goal and expand on any generalizations to make a list of actions that need to be accomplished before that aspect of the goal can be considered complete. For instance - throw super fast, powerful boxing punches - I can't do that until I know what all the boxing punches are. So that's probably step one. Then it's a matter of learning how to throw each punch correctly so my next steps might be to:

  • learn how to throw a jab
  • learn how to throw a straight right
  • learn how to throw a left and right hook
  • learn how to throw the uppercuts

Next I move onto - execute instinctive boxing defenses. Just like the punches, I probably need to know what the defenses are so I have to find that out. Once I have the list of defenses I then have to learn each one:

  • how to block
  • how to catch
  • how to roll
  • how to parry
  • how to duck
  • how to bob and weave
  • and so on...

You continue to dissect your goal to the point where you have a massive list of super easy steps to follow and if you ever find one of the steps to be intimidating or daunting - you dissect it some more.

For instance - I can take one of the steps - learn how to jab and break that down into its constituent parts.  I may not know how to throw the jab, but if I know the jab consists of holding my arms a certain way, twisting at the hips, turning my fist over at the moment of impact - I can easily learn each aspect of that punch.  Once I have each individual part mastered - I can start to reassemble them and soon enough I'm throwing a jab.  Step complete.

Depending on the complexity and ambitiousness of your goal you could dissect it into pages and pages of smaller individual steps. These steps become sub-goals of the main goal and you prioritize and assign a timeline to each just like with the main goal.

This may seem like a lot of work - but I guarantee that the time you spend planning is well worth it. Even if you only get the 80% solution down on paper - that 80% forms your road map and action plan that will get you really really close to your destination. From there you can hunt around if you have to to finish it off.

Step Four: Commitment and Accountability

Now that you have your super awesome specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound and emotional goal and a detailed action plan that takes all the guesswork out of what you need to do, when, and in what order to achieve your goal - you're bound to succeed right?

Not necessarily...because there still might be some inertia there that is keeping you from starting and maintaining focus along the way.

So how do you get over that so you juggernaut your way to the finish line?

The answer is by making your commitment real and then putting some accountability measures in place. This is most easily done by firing up your social media site of choice and posting a status update for all your friends and family to see that outlines the goal you're trying to achieve. End it with something like - "if you see me start to slide and put my goal on the back burner I really want you to call me out on it". You'll suddenly have an army of people either on your side supporting you with encouraging words when you need it or waiting for you to slip up. Either way - you'll find yourself wanting to keep on track to appease your supporters and not give all the people waiting for you to fail a reason to call you out.

If you don't use social media - just tell your family or friends what you're trying to do and ask them to help keep you accountable. The Commando Boxing community is also here if you want like minded people to help keep you on track. There's no shortage of connections you can make now that everyone is connected all the time.

Maintaining Focus on Your Goals

At this point you have great goals and you're working towards achieving them and have people holding you accountable. There are three things you should do as often as you possibly can to ensure you remain focused. It's way too easy to get distracted and suddenly you'll be called out by one of your supporters or discover that days have passed and you haven't done anything to move closer to your goal. Getting and maintaining laser-like focus on your goal will make it happen a lot quicker.

  1. Make Daily Affirmations. Take your written goals and come up with affirmations that you can read at least first thing in the morning when you wake up and as the last thing you read/think about before going to sleep.

    You write these affirmations down on a card or somewhere convenient. They are personal, in the present tense, and positive and they represent how you feel having achieved your goal.

    For example - I am so thankful that my body is now 170lbs of lean muscle or I am so happy that I met the woman of my dreams.

  2. Use Repetition. Your subconscious mind is powerful and you program it with repetition. Read your affirmations at least twice a day and leave cues around that help keep your goal fresh in your mind as often as possible. Whenever you have a moment to day dream - day dream about achieving your goal. When you talk to someone - try and bring the conversation to your goal or relate it to your goal in some way. By doing this - you reinforce how important it is and your subconscious mind will pick up on opportunities and see things that you normally would not see that relate to your goal.

    If you don't believe me - test it yourself. Think about blue cars as often as you can over the next few hours/days and then notice how many blue cars you automatically see around you when you're driving down the road or going to the store. They may have been there before but they were filtered from your view. Now that you've told your subconscious that blue cars have some kind of importance - it will do its best to make you notice them. Your subconscious makes things happen - put it to work for you in achieving your goals.

  3. Cultivate Faith through Visualization. Along the lines of attainability - you have to really believe that you will achieve your goal - you need to have the faith that you can do it beyond all odds and negative thoughts you might have. Read your affirmations with conviction knowing they are inevitable. Visualize yourself as you read them as if they are already true. See yourself doing, feeling and acting the way you will when the goal has been achieved. And celebrate the small wins you make everytime your feedback loop says you've made some progress. It's a snowball effect and the closer you get to your goal with all the evidence and faith behind you backing up your conviction and keeping you on track - it's only a matter of time before you have everything you want.

In Summary

Congrats on making it through all that. If you're not totally overwhelmed at this point - then there might be hope for you to actually put this to good use. If you are overwhelmed I get it - I just dumped a crap load of information on you. I'd recommend going back to the top and really getting in to each section and then asking if you have any questions or if something isn't clear.

The worst thing you can do is just give up and go read something else because this post truly is your ticket to live an amazing life. You have the opportunity right in front of you to put the universe to work for you and free yourself up to do whatever it is you want to do. Of course that starts with the decision that you are going to be in charge of your own life and some serious thought about what that life is going to look like.

It won't always be easy and knowing all of this is not going to do much good if you can't control your own mind. Negativity and self-doubt will kill any progress towards a goal or dream you have really quick. In a future article I'll show you how to start thinking differently to make this whole process even more effective. It's exciting stuff - so stay tuned.

For now - put some thought into what you want, master the SMART and Emotional goal planning process I've given you here, and, of course - Boxon.

What Are Your Limiting Factors?

Getting outstanding results in any boxing or fitness program means learning how to overcome any limiting factors in your life.

Finding and removing the obstacles in your way makes your journey much quicker, more enjoyable and effective.

Your top priority should be to identify anything that is holding you back so you can ruthlessly eliminate it.

Doing that requires a good dose of inward looking. In most cases it's personal and what may be a limiting factor for you may not be for someone else.

Everyone has different genetics and lives different lives with different environmental influences meaning I could spend the next ten years coming up with a list of factors that might be affecting your ability to follow a program or eat right to achieve the boxing and fitness goals you set for yourself.

So... I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to address five limiting factors that many blame on their lack of progress:

  1. Your genetic makeup
  2. Your physical activity patterns
  3. Your physiology
  4. Your mindset
  5. Your nutrition

Let's see if we can't figure out which of these may be your limiting factors.

Are Your Genetics Limiting You?

To be honest - probably not.

At the most upper levels of competition, this might be something that could be affecting you, but for most of us - it's not even worth wasting time worrying about. It's rare for people to ever reach the limit of their genetic potential.

If you're blaming genetics on lack of progress or inability to excel in the sport - you may want to get real with yourself. Everyone can improve their health, strength, speed and boxing ability by implementing good training and advice.

In the many years I've been involved in boxing and fitness, I've never encountered someone who didn't improve significantly if they put in the effort.

Is Exercise Limiting You?

Perhaps you're not working out and training at all or maybe you are and experiencing a lack of results.

It's easy to see how not working out at all will limit your abilities. If you aren't doing things that are making you stronger, faster, or working on boxing skills, then you're simply not going to improve. Obviously getting leaner, stronger, and fitter means living an active lifestyle and committing to a regimented, challenging, training program.

Not embracing an active life likely means you are doing your very best to slowly kill yourself with metabolic decline, fat gain, muscle loss, and all the myriad of diseases that go along with that.

However, some people do live active lives and exercise does become a limiting factor. This happens if the training program you are following sucks.

Some training is simply more effective. You're lucky though, as you've discovered a boxing site and boxing workouts are on the upper end of effective, especially for fat loss, muscle gain, and developing overall agility, coordination and boxing skills. Diligently following a boxing training plan will eliminate any limiting exercise factors if your goal is to become a boxer or develop a boxer's physique.

Is Your Physiology Holding You Back?

Physiology refers to how things are working in your body. Sometimes people will follow an awesome program, eat right and still not see the results expected. At that point, it's worth looking a little deeper to see if there is something physically wrong that is preventing you from seeing the expected weight loss, muscle gain, or athletic improvement. This could be anything: a hormone imbalance, gastrointestinal dysfunction, or sex hormone imbalance. There are a lot of things going on in your body at any one time and something might be messed up - highly unlikely - but possible.

Is Your Mind Limiting You?

Your attitude towards your training and the habits you develop are huge factors in achieving your goals. It's one thing to know what to do and quite another to actually perform those things consistently with the intensity required to improve.

Cultivating and maintaining a positive mental attitude is essential. Visualizing achievement of your goal is critical and research shows that those who do have more improved and drastic body composition and athletic changes.

Is What You Eat Killing Your Dreams?

By far, the most influential limiting factor is nutrition.

Whether you are here to learn how to box, use boxing to develop an awesome body, or simply learn a few fitness tricks to shed some unwanted pounds - nothing here will come close to the effect that food will have on your progress.

Eating crap is what holds 95% of people back from achieving their goals. Good nutrition is the foundation for everything else. All weight loss, muscle gain, and athletic improvement starts with nutrition - the training and workouts simply speed up the process.

The right foods in the right quantities will make you healthier. It will build muscle making you stronger, faster, and able to outlast your opponents. It will help you recover more quickly from your training allowing you to train longer and harder and improve at a significantly faster rate than your opponents. It will make you more confident, improve your mood, and give you a positive outlook on life.

In Summary

You don't have to be a victim to limiting factors. Find them in your life and rip them out by the roots. With each limiting factor or impediment that you eliminate you accelerate the velocity at which you move towards greatness - whatever your definition of greatness consists of.

Are any of these factors limiting your potential? What's holding you back?

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