As much fun as it would be, boxing training is not entirely putting on gloves and hitting stuff. No, there’s a wide variety of things most boxers do over the course of their training schedule – strength training, agility, cardio conditioning. Chief among these are two activities that will be familiar to any boxer or boxer wannabe – running and jumping rope.
Roadwork, as boxers call it, is no problem for me. I like running and while it would be a big honkin’ lie to say I always have, I definitely have since I started actually trying to do it on a semi-regular basis. I’ve done a few 5K races over the past couple of years and I love the spectacle, the experience of running with a few thousand buddies, the swag, the discovery of new roads and paths (or the chance to run straight down the middle of a section of road you’re not normally supposed to run on). Running by myself is usually the way I roll, though – I find few things as meditative and relaxing as running, and I find myself not wanting to share that with others most of the time. I don’t even really mind the treadmill, although outside is always more interesting.
The jump rope has been another story. I know it’s important to my training, and I even concede that it has really helped me be a lot lighter and quicker on my feet. But at first it was nothing but flashbacks to eighth-grade gym class and that time we had to choreograph our own routines with a variety of steps, jumping forward and backward to music of our own choosing. (I don’t remember what music I chose, only that it was on the Cocktail soundtrack because I’d brought in my cassette and half the class forgot to bring their own music so everybody just borrowed my tape, which ensures to this day that neither “Hippy Hippy Shake” nor “Don’t Worry Be Happy” can EVER be dislodged from my head once put there.)
It didn’t help that when I started incorporating the jump rope into my training, I could do it about as well as I could back then, which is to say that 10 skips in a row without tripping was a very, very good showing. I’ve gotten better, and I can do some fancy steps and crosses (still nothing like what I was supposed to know how to do in eighth grade, however – man, I really hated gym class), but it’s still drudgery most of the time. One of the main things that keeps it drudgery for me (besides my own bad attitude, of course) is the fact that I can’t listen to music while I do it.
Now, certain schools of thought hold that you’re not supposed to listen to music while you’re doing roadwork (I do anyway; someday I’ll wean myself off of it). But nobody has ever said anything about listening to music while I’m jumping rope. In fact, a bunch of articles and books I’ve read about various boxers have used their rope-jumping music as a human-interest bullet point – most famously, Sonny Liston’s love of “Night Train.” Dudes, if Sonny Liston was allowed to do it, I think I should be too. But the perfect technical solution was eluding me. When I jump rope, I’m usually in a gym, so putting my own music on speakers is out of the question, and most ipod setups I’ve tried have ended with an ipod on the floor and a set of headphone cords trying to strangle me. Armbands, pockets, sleeves, inside the sweatshirt, inside the t-shirt – these all failed.
Fortunately, technology has finally come through for me in the form of a hooded sweatshirt I found at a crappy discount store. It’s got headphones sewn into it, with the cord poking out of one pocket and the earbuds popping out of strings on the hood. This solves the headphone cords trying to strangle me issue, although my iphone didn’t quite fit in the pocket. So I invested in a very tiny, very cheap clip mp3 player, slightly smaller than a box of Tic Tacs (with about the same sound quality, but oh well, it was cheap), and I can now jump along with any of about 300 songs I’ve chosen for the device. It’s still drudgery, but at least now it’s drudgery with a soundtrack. Thanks, technology!
(Sadly, I never upgraded my Cocktail soundtrack from cassette. But I think I already had more than enough early 90s jams on the playlist.)
(Also, I never actually saw Cocktail. I wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies when I was a kid, and I guess it never came on the right cable channel at 4 in the morning when I was in college.)