It’s been a busy week. I spent most of it on the road, driving the seven hours to Atlanta for the pre-fight press conference and photo shoot for Atlanta Corporate Fight Night. Before that, though, I scrambled madly to make sure I had all my work sent out to clients, so when I hit the road I was already a bit spazzed.
The multiple days of shenanigans in Atlanta went fine; I drove back home, had a glass of wine and jumped in the hamster wheel to catch up — no time for workouts, barely even time to breathe. In the end, I went an entire week with no solid workouts (I did run a few rounds of steps when I got into town in order to pull the worst of the road kinks out), and certainly having never entered a boxing gym for anything other than a photo shoot.
Your brain on fear
So I was facing my regularly-scheduled sparring session with a fair amount of gut churn. Here’s what was going through my head. No filter, no prettification, my actual thoughts:
- I can’t spar.
- I’m going to get my ass kicked.
- I won’t be able to breathe.
- I’m fat.
- I shouldn’t go.
- I suck.
- Cancel, cancel, cancel!
- Red alert! All systems shutting down.
- I’m not feeling so good.
- My ________ hurts. (fill in with anything from eyelash to toenail)
- I hate boxing.
When I caught that last one flying past I did a double take. WTF, self? You LOVE boxing, you’re practically married to boxing, you have a fight coming up in January, and you’re writing multiple books about boxing. What is your problem, dumbass?
The problem was that I had willingly handed my brain over to boxing zombies who promptly ate the offering and left me with a giant head sticky with brain remnants and crawling with fear maggots. (Disgusting enough for you? I got more.)
How fear multiplies
My single biggest problem is that the longer I’m away from the gym, the higher my fear factor goes.
It doesn’t seem to matter how long I’ve been doing this boxing thing, I still want to hand over my rational mind and operate on terrified reflex when it comes time to get back in the ring.
Here are some of the other issues that go into the fear factor:
- There are a lot of unknowns in boxing.
- Sparring demands a great deal, physically and mentally.
- Performing poorly can get you in trouble.
- There’s always the potential for injury.
- You don’t always remember what your specific goals are.
- An emotional setback is hard to overcome.
- There’s no crying in boxing! (Hey, just like baseball.)
- You demand a lot from yourself in boxing (or your coach demands a lot).
- It’s critical to “fight until the bell rings” at the end of a round. Can you make it?
- Your gear may or may not be in great shape, clean, or performing well.
- Your sparring partners are depending on you to give good game.
- You don’t always know who your sparring partner will be. Can you trust them?
- People are watching, dammit!
Add up just a few of those, and suddenly you are out of your game. Which sucks, because the longer you’re out, the harder it is to get back in. What really happened
So I took my freshly de-brained head and drove (very slowly and carefully, like a heavily sedated geriatric asylum escapee hoping to avoid the attention of the fuzz) to the gym.
I stretched, loudly bemoaning my limber-as-a-stack-of-timber muscles, making sure everyone in earshot would be hearing my (excellent!) excuses well in advance. I got through jump rope rounds, ring slide rounds, rope slip rounds, and shadowboxing, and then the time was at hand.
And I was fine.
A brainless idiot, but fine.
I did three or four rounds, starting seeing the specific things I needed to work on, and took a round off with my partner in order to do some drills, then got back in for some more rounds.
And I drove home, mentally rolling my eyeballs at myself and feeling sheepish.
How to avoid this mess in the first place
I’ve written before about overcoming reluctance to train, but the zombie days are a particular challenge. Here’s my take on it today.
Train regularly. Obviously, my main goal is always to keep my training up. Going more than two days without moving my ass off the couch is verboten. It doesn’t have to be furious interval training, but I can’t sit around and suck on Tootsie Pops while the boxing zombies lurch nearer and start to salivate over the giant slimy loops of brain I’ll soon be handing out, for free!
Get a goal! Even if it’s just a small goal. You don’t have to trade a non-essential body part for one, goals are lying around unused EVERYwhere. For me, it was as simple as finally remembering (while doing slip rope) that I needed to explode up from a dip with a ready shot. So I worked on that.
Keep your gear in shape and ready to use. Mine is sweaty, stiff, and stinky. I haven’t washed my mouthguard in so long it tastes like Dempsey Dumpster. But everything works. Eliminate the gear excuse in advance.
Make a Reese’s Pieces trail. Put on your workout clothes (or underclothes) before you go to work. Promise yourself that if you just get your ass to the gym, you don’t necessarily have to spar, you can just do a good warm up and some rounds on the heavy bags. Tell yourself that you only have to do one round of sparring. Because once you do that one, you might just feel good enough to do two. And so on. Lead yourself a merry little chase, straight into your workout.
Develop solid relationships with great sparring partners. The more you trust your sparring partners, the better your really horrible zombie-feeding days will be. Which reminds me: Thanks, Alex, for the good sparring work today, even after the boxing zombies ate my brain.
Celebrate your wins. I’m having a giant bowl of steamed kale (which is a personal fave, and a damn fine zombie repellant), a glass of red wine, and a couple of Paleo chocolate-peanut butter balls (If you’re subscribed to The Glowing Edge you’ll get the recipe! If you’re not already subscribed, click here, get a free book, the inside story, recipes, workouts, and more embarrassing stories about boxing, monsters, and such. Yay!). And just to cap my celebration, I’m writing a post, which makes me happy even though I’m willingly exposing my grade-A idiocy.
Your turn to spill your guts
But not to zombies, hah! Leave a comment below and share your stories about having given your brain to boxing zombies, or how you masterfully took out a shambling pack of them with your beautiful, brutal, and efficient zombie-conquering skills.
It means SO much to hear other people’s stories, doesn’t it? They remind us that we are not alone, that we ARE fighters, and with just the right chainsaw, we can WIN, by Buffy.
Wait, she’s vampires, isn’t she…?
Awesome CC image by Juliana Coutinho on Flickr
- More Zombies Than Usual
- Fighting the Dread of Boxing Training
- I LOVE Not Being the New Person in the Gym