PAIN: Don’t Suffer It, Buffer It

Pain is your body’s Check Engine alarm. There is a problem somewhere and, until everything is all clear, your brain is blaring out a high-pitched alert that, after a while, is largely pointless and wholly frustrating. You can’t ignore it completely, but, with a little work, you can learn to muffle it and not let it ruin your work. 

Experiencing pain is natural and never a sign of weakness. Interestingly though, your emotions can actually affect how well you tolerate pain. For example, if you lose a tough match, physical pain can be exacerbated by feelings of sadness and disappointment, whereas if you’re entering the final round of an exciting bout with a crowd cheering you on, suddenly pain can be easily ignored. In studies, women have shown a tendency to be more severely impacted by the emotions resulting from being in pain, whereas men tend to focus mainly on the sensation itself - another way of saying that women are more sensitive to pain.

PAIN: Don't ignore it, endure it

PAIN: Don't ignore it, endure it

And women actually tend to feel pain more than men. That’s not a judgement, that’s biological fact. Woman’s pain, physical pain that is, lasts for longer durations and derives from a greater percentage of their bodies than that of men. Additionally, there is some evidence that men have higher pain thresholds and tolerances - respectively, the points when they begin to feel pain and when the pain becomes too great to bear. There is accompanying speculation that estrogen and testosterone hormones play a significant part in how pain is experienced. 

While you cannot turn off the pain signals completely, the signals to the brain can actually be strengthened or weakened. As we pointed out earlier, maintaining a positive attitude is a good first step toward keeping pain sensations from overwhelming you. There are countless meditation and deep breathing techniques to try to alleviate your suffering. You might even try visualizing the pain in your mind as a blinking light that you can gradually dim. By imagining it as a physical presence you can both subconsciously affect the pain as well as take mental focus off the sensations. While these “mind over matter” techniques may not be useful in the thick of a fight, by developing a higher tolerance you can eventually make pain less of a factor during competition.

Serious athletes will use many techniques, sometimes drastic, to be able to play through the pain, including simply ignoring the pain signals and focusing only on their performance. These athletes can build up very high tolerances to pain almost as if they’ve developed an immunity. The downside, however, is that in the long run the nerve pathways can become more sensitive to pain sensations and chronic pain may linger even after an injury has otherwise healed. This can lead to other issues including physical abnormalities (for example, favoring one leg over another) and drug dependence.

Still, the old saying “just walk it off” may apply here. Moderate physical stimulation can promote healing and allow you to experience the pain in a way that you can live with without significant risk of re-injury. We want to be careful to say that it’s one thing to endure minor pain temporarily, but it’s something else entirely to ignore the pain in a way that leads to or comes from an injury. Any coach will tell you that you can play hurt, but you cannot play injured. It’s a matter of semantics that can be difficult to define, but it boils down to understanding what’s at stake - whether you can cause further serious systemic damage and how much it might be worth it.  We all love the fighter who never gives up, but it’s important to know when enough is enough.

Also, it is often recommended to try to avoid using prescription painkillers and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) if possible. Pain relief pills can actually interfere with the body’s natural healing processes (hint: inflammation is a natural healing process) and taking prescription meds can sometimes lead to addiction. Obviously if you need them, you need them, but since we’re trying to enhance our ability to tolerate pain, it’s better if you can just deal with mild to moderate pain without chemical assistance.

Pain is a warning signal and a valid part of strenuous physical activity. Your body is working to fix something. Exercise is an important part of healing so don’t take off from training for too long. You may need to dial down the intensity and/or limit your routines to avoid aggravating an injury, but pain is no excuse to be idle.

If you want to keep pain from derailing your performance you’ll need to develop a higher tolerance. As always, you know your body best; listen to it, and keep that machine running strong.

Posted on April 9, 2015 .

Add Cartwheels to Your Training

You used to do cartwheels. They were a part of school recess fun. You’d do cartwheels in PE class just to pass the time between bouts of tug of war. … They’re a fun and youthful demonstration of joy, but cartwheels are also a good way to develop balance, flexibility and strength and a great way to test yourself in these capacities. Best of all, cartwheels can be done nearly anywhere and you need no special equipment.

Firstly, let’s not forget that the seemingly modest cartwheel is ultimately a gymnastics maneuver. Most anyone can do at least a limited version. Some folks can kick their feet halfway above their head and then come to rest on all fours, while others can make it up to a decent handstand yet end up landing on their knees. These demonstrations are not a disgrace, simply a lack of grace. A well performed cartwheel is beautiful in its seemingly effortless simplicity. To do a good one you need to employ a modicum of balance, flexibility and strength plus a good supply of confidence. And confidence comes with practice. 

A Look Back Under the Hood, 2014

Fight Like A Girl  (November 18)
A little extra fat on an otherwise athletic body can be helpful when it comes to stamina, due to the added stored energy. And women are more efficient than men at converting stored calories into fuel, therefore remaining a dangerous threat even in later rounds.

Stop Worrying and Love Your Gut (November 4)
Unless you’re already biologically programmed to have minimal belly fat it’s going to be a tough road to attain a photoshop quality belly. Form doesn’t always follow function. A fighter can have well developed stomach muscles, but that doesn’t mean her stomach will be aesthetically pleasing, at least by conventional standards.

 The Old Rope Slip Drill (October 28)
Developing defensive skills, such as slipping, is invaluable for any fighter. Keeping an opponent from landing solid hits protects you from damage and can set them off balance and vulnerable to your own counter. The Old Rope Slip Drill is great because it’s effective, doesn’t require specialized gear and can be performed just about anywhere. 

Fight Faster: Develop Second Nature Reflexes (October 22)
In sports every 100th of a second counts. With proper and substantial training you can limit the time lapse between stimuli and response. The ultimate goal would be to get where you’re responding almost subconsciously; to eliminate the “think time” of a nervous rookie and develop the fight reflexes of a relaxed pro.

Core Work for Fighters (October 15)
Strengthening and solidifying your “fighting core” is not the same thing as developing a sexy “six pack” or flat stomach. You want a functional core that is strong, yet agile and highly responsive. You want what elite trainers call “dynamic stabilization”. For that, look for routines that emphasize the same kind of movements you’d use in a fight. 

Control Your Breathing, Control Your Destiny (October 7)
When you’re breathing efficiently you’re delivering more oxygen per breath. This saves a ton of energy and ultimately allows you to turn up the intensity. Superior athletes have efficient breathing and you can see this, not only in their athletic prowess, but also in their hyper focus. More oxygen delivered + less energy expended = sharper awareness.

Shoulder Soreness from Training (September 30)
What you are feeling is the stress of the anterior deltoid, the front shoulder muscle. This is a small muscle that typically doesn't get a lot of attention at the gym. But in boxing training you will discover it for sure!

Short & Strong, Not Light & Long (September 16)
Jogging, like any kind of moderate exercise, will burn a moderate amount of calories, but will never produce serious results for fighting - because your body is unchallenged, the effects are diminished. Going at full speed in bursts, pushes the entire system and provides a workout that is something to grow on.

Hip Mobility is for Fighters, Get Some (September 8)
Besides punching power, having good hip range of motion gives your body the ability to duck and dodge your opponent’s throws and then recoil and reload for another offensive. Hip mobility assists in lateral movements as well, so it complements your agile footwork.

Lift Weights, Lift Your Training (August 26)
There are so many ways that weight training can benefit you as a fighter - improved strength, power, balance, bone strength and even injury prevention and speedier injury recovery. Sister, you’re out of your beautiful mind if you’re avoiding the weight room.

Cramps… Why? (August 19)
After strenuous activity you should be experiencing some level of soreness and the possibility of cramping is increased due to the build up of lactic acid in the muscle. Lactic acid isn’t actually a bad thing, it’s a byproduct from your body producing energy for your muscles and it’s a perfectly healthy process.

Nose Breathing is Easy Breathing (August 12)
Because you’ll need fewer breaths through your nose, you’ll actually be able to breathe slower, which in turn will allow you to be more relaxed in the thick of the fight. Plus every breath you save equals precious energy you’ll save as well. You’ll enjoy more stamina and focus, all thanks to your nostrils.

Wrist Soreness from Fight Training (August 5)
As a female, your wrists tend to be quite vulnerable to injury. Your wrists will get stronger and adapt, but it may take time… maybe a lot of time. Additionally, you need to get to know the limits of what you can handle. Remember, you can feel fine at the gym and not know until the next day that it was too much.

Boxing is Safe for Women (July 29)
Interestingly, women may be less prone to injury in boxing than men. This is due in part to having a more flexible neck than men. Thus, in boxing women tend to suffer less concussions and other injuries than men. In many other sports females are substantially more vulnerable to injury than their male counterparts.

Fight Parkinson's with Boxing (July 22)
Rigorous physical activity that emphasizes muscle activation and coordination, balance and rhythm can have a positive impact on flexibility, range of motion and posture. There are also studies showing that certain intense activities, such as boxing, could actually slow the progression of Parkinson’s.

Elbow Soreness from Fight Training (July 14)
The elbow should only be activated to rotate your forearm as you move through the punch. The real power of a proper jab should be coming from your shoulder (and your hips). Consult your trainer to make sure you’re ALWAYS using proper form to avoid possible injury and also to put an end to any lazy, ineffective jabs!

Just Do It... Outside (July 1)
Oxygen is what makes fresh air so… fresh. And oxygen has many healing properties on the human body. Therefore if you’re exercising outside, breathing faster and deeper, you are multiplying the amount and quality of Oxygen you’re bringing into your system. 

Cross-Training for Fighters (June 18)
Athletes know better than anyone the value of cross training to help improve their performance. Any occasional break in routine can add new challenges for muscles, push the nervous system, sharpen reaction time and improve overall athleticism.

 

Cortex: 3D-Printed Cast (June 11)
 

Seek Performance, Not Fatigue (June 6)
Your body is talking to you - listen to it. Get to know your limits and don't believe the hype - if at the end of your workout you're vomiting or limping it doesn't mean you've had a great workout, it means you've overdone it and wreaked havoc on your body.

Posted on December 9, 2014 .

Fight Like A Girl

There are certain obvious physical advantages that explain why men tend to excel at sports more naturally than women. But don't call it a weakness, women have their own set of physical and psychological advantages. Women can shine at sports and you better believe women can fight!

Boxing, with it’s speed and precision, may not be the best choice if a woman wants to challenge a man to a fight. Men tend to have a slight reaction time advantage over women and that, coupled with men’s typically longer reach (when comparing fighters of equal height) could allow men a field day of counter punching. Plus men’s naturally thicker muscle mass provides greater protection of vital organs from attack.

Posted on November 18, 2014 .

Stop Worrying and Love Your Gut

Not every woman can have a perfect “six pack”. It’s one thing to have well developed muscle, but she’d also need to have limited body fat around the midsection to achieve defined abs, and many women simply won’t get there. Not for lack of trying, but simply for want of such fortuitous natural endowment… they ain’t got the right genes for it. 

The natural fact is that women are supposed to carry extra fat around their belly area in order to help protect the reproductive organs. Additionally, estrogen in the body gets in the way of fat burning - again, to get the female ready for child bearing. So if you're one of those women who obsesses over obtaining a washboard belly, the first thing you need to do is ascertain whether it’s a realistic goal for yourself. 

Posted on November 4, 2014 .