|Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
It is no surprise that many fighters often default to running as their primary form of cross-training. 'Roadwork' is as much a part of fighting culture as sauna suits and Monster energy drinks; again, a little cliche, but still useful at times. But, is running the best method for increasing cardiovascular output? In other words, will running make you a better fighter?
By the way, has anyone ever looked as happy as this bitch does while running?
|Trudging and looking incredibly miserable about five years ago|
Breathing: Running (or more appropriately, trudging) means keeping a moderate pace with a specific breathing pattern. A fight or match is anything but steady. You have to breathe at inopportune times and frequently throughout a fight, you will not be able to breathe at all. After owning a gym for several years, I've had many runners walk through my door who were excellent athletes and in great shape. Put them on a heavy bag or through a round of focus mitts for three minutes and they are doubled-over trying to catch their breath. The reason why...breathing for running is simply not the same as breathing for combat. Consider the basic breathing pattern for MMA: exhale with tenacity at every punch, kick, slip, sprawl, shot, etc. Now think about how you breathe when you run: two short inhales followed by one long exhale (my personal pattern) or something like that. Those two styles simply do not correlate nor do they even combine well.
Impact: Combat sports are very high impact; kicking a bag (or a person), punching, jumping, being thrown to the ground, etc, can take a toll on your joints and overall bone health. The key to maintaining the integrity of your body is a certain amount of moderation, smart training and quality mats. Running, however, is incredibly high impact and for little return. The constant jarring of the knees and pressure on the ankles (not to mention the shins) can exacerbate injured or healing bones and joints.
Weightloss: I'm hesitant to really attack this methodology, but I just do not think that running helps people lose weight. At least, for the amount of time one must put into running, you could burn twice that many calories hitting the heavy bag, doing focus mitts, rolling, jumping rope, etc. I would rather see people fight close to their walking weight and get lean through nutrition rather than running.
All of this does not mean that cardio cross-training can not or should not be an important supplement to skill and technical work. The key is to use your 'roadwork' to maintain and improve your dynamic energy and breathing rather than slow it down through distance work.
Other 'Roadwork' Options:
Find a hill, run to the top, come back down carefully, wait 10 seconds, then repeat. To make it harder, try running up backwards (fun) or adding in calisthenics at the bottom of each sprint. Even more challenging: focus mitts or sparring rounds at the bottom of each hill sprint. Have you ever tried to sprawl while gasping for air...awesome.
|Sprinting at the end of a 400m|
Running 40 yards on the track is a standard test of fitness for many sports, including football and baseball. The great thing about the 40 is that you can go all out and it only takes seconds. Try sprinting 40s, 100s, 200s (my former event in high school), 400s or the dreaded 800. The 800 (twice around a standard track) can take anywhere from 2-4 mintues, depending on your speed, and require a long stride as well as strategically interspersing bursts of speed with a more steady tempo. When you do any type of sprinting, be sure to stay on your toes, lean forward slightly and pump your arms vertically rather than horizontally.
|Running with my guys last year at the Red Rocks|
This is one of my favorite ways to hit longer forms of cardio. Mike and I will go hiking, keeping a steady pace, when one of us will yell "Sprint!" We both take off, running as fast as we can through the uneven terrain, jumping over rocks (for my short legs, they appear more like boulders) for about 10 seconds. Since we're at a higher altitude in Colorado, both of us are severely out of breath, but we allow ourselves a maximum of 30 seconds to try to get our breathing back under control. We'll repeat this several more times over the course of the hike. Anyone who has done tournament competition or been in the ring knows that the minute break between rounds can feel supernaturally short. Learning to control your breathing as swiftly as possible is a great way to condition yourself to push hard and recover quickly. The ability to recover quickly can give you a strong advantage over an opponent who is still gasping for air when the bell rings for the round to begin.