Roadwork For Boxing | Why Do Boxers Run?

Roadwork For Boxing | Why Do Boxers Run?

Roadwork has been an inseparable part of boxing training since the very early days of its existence and despite getting some bad reputation in the last 20 or so years it’s still a key element of a comprehensive boxing training regimen.

Do not mistake roadwork for simple running though. Leave that to marathoners and casual fitness enthusiasts. Running for boxing has to prepare you for the demands of a boxing fight, or at least gym sessions and sparring. That’s why it’s called roadwork and not simply running.

Benefits of boxing roadwork

Manny Pacquiao out on his morning run

The main thing that roadwork builds is stamina. Running regularly will build the baseline endurance needed not only for a fight but for the grueling and much longer than an actual fight training session. Boxing places very high demands on the heart and nervous system and running are great for building and fortifying both. It is one of the safest and least taxing ways of keeping your heart rate constantly up for extended periods and thus increasing your overall aerobic threshold. Add to that the obvious benefits for leg endurance and footwork.

For the better part of boxing’s history roadwork was a simple endeavor. You get up early in the morning and do your 5-7 mile run at a steady pace, then repeat it the next day. But with the rapid advancement of sports science, people have found out that there are better ways to prepare the body for a boxing fight.

The thing is fighters today don’t seem to have more endurance than their predecessors. Despite what some coaches and fighters may tell you running is not obsolete and even today’s highest-level boxers are proof of that. But for optimal use of the training time and energy expended on the roadwork sessions you should take the best of both the old ways and the modern methods which means adding different intensity intervals and exercises to the standard runs.

Another benefit of roadwork is mental. Long-distance running is tedious and time-consuming, but doing it gives you confidence in the knowledge that you have done the hard work and are prepared. Moreover, the 30-40 minutes are the perfect opportunity to visualize different techniques, fighting in the ring, or other types of mental training often used by the most successful fighters.

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How to structure a good roadwork routine

The good old steady pace miles are still good. But they are not the best way to spend time. Here are some other exercises and variations that spice up roadwork.

Sprints

The main criticism of classic roadwork is that it’s purely aerobic while boxing is mostly anaerobic and it consists of periods with varying energy expenditures- explosive bursts, low-intensity movement, and rests. This is where sprints come into play. Some research suggests that the 200-meter sprint is the best distance to build boxing-specific physical attributes. Another excellent drill is the dreaded hill sprints. Of course, they will be shorter in distance, but much higher in difficulty. There are very few things that build the anaerobic threshold like sprinting.

Lateral and backward movement

A big way to spice up your steady-state running and make it sport-specific is adding movement in different directions. Periodically do the shuffle sidestep on one side, then on the other. Throw in some dips and ducks, move diagonally like you would in the ring.

Then add running backward. We are so used to moving forward, that running backward even short distances challenges the muscles and whole body in a very different way.

Another cool thing you can do while running is to throw light continuous punches. You’ve surely watched Rocky at least half a dozen times. Not only do these hypes you up, but they also build some endurance in the shoulders if done for long enough.

Add plyometric exercises

Another way to add intervals of high intensity into the mix is by adding plyometric exercises that will switch things up and put an explosive demand on the body. This can include various exercises- burpees, jump squats, jumping lunges, explosive push-ups, everything can work as long as it’s high-intensity work. Add them at specific time points during the run. This is how you combine traditional roadwork with modern HIIT protocols.

Other low-intensity workouts

Running is the most popular aerobic exercise but it’s far from the only one. Cycling, swimming, rowing machine, and using an elliptical trainer can also maintain your heart rate at the required levels for long periods of time.

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When to do roadwork

Professional boxers do roadwork daily, but for most boxing practitioners a morning roadwork routine and an afternoon boxing session schedule are not viable. As a beginner especially it’s vital to build the base endurance and not overdo it. Boxing training is difficult as it is without the need to burn yourself with too much running. One to three 30-minute sessions per week is more than enough when you are starting. Even for more intermediate boxers doing roadwork 3 times per week is sufficient.

It’s best to do the roadwork workouts on separate days from the regular boxing sessions, so you are fresh and ready to learn. Once you feel like you’ve reached a high enough form, you can do roadwork in the morning and then box in the afternoon or evening.

There is no set order of structure to the roadworks session. If I have to advise on a simple 3 day split you can go two ways.

Day 1 – 30-minute steady pace running.

The main point is to keep your heart rate between 130 and 150 bpm the whole time. Use a heart rate tracker for best results. There are formulas to calculate the exact heart rate, but if you are in an active age 130-150 BPM are all the numbers you need. Never forget to add side shuffles, backward running, and throw some punches while you run.

Day 2 Sprints

10×100 meter sprints are a great goal to aim for. Sprint the 100 meters, then walk back, then sprint again. Increase to 200 meters when you feel ready. If you find a suitable spot try the hill sprints as well.

Day 3 – 30-minute alternating intensity running

Start running at a steady pace. Set specific time periods or places on the road where you will do plyometric exercises. This way you mimic the variety of a fight more realistically.

Another viable way to structure the roadwork is to include all aspects into one session and then do it 1-3 times per week.

For example:

(1) – 10 minutes steady run

(2) – 10 minutes alternate between jogging and plyometric

(3) – 10 minutes of sprints.

None of this is set in stone. Everyone should train according to their current fitness level and goals. Increase the time, volume, and intensity when necessary. The important part is to include the different aspects of roadwork – steady pace running, various boxing-oriented movements, sprints, and other HIIT protocols. This way you can build and reinforce all the energy systems in the body required to become fit for fighting.

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What to wear for running

Why boxers run

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s now time to get your gear in order for running. (Not just boxing!)

It’s important to kit yourself out with the appropriate running gear. The most obvious is, of course, a good pair of running shoes! If you have the budget I highly recommend you get rid of your old worn down shoes, as this can be detrimental to your performance and prevent injuries.

Personally, I like you to use Adidas Falcon 2.0 shoes (Check out on Amazon or JD sports), or why not consider Mizuno or New Balance, who are known for creating robust running shoes that will put the test of time.

In terms of everything else you wear, quite often many people are running wearing heavy cotton jumpers and t-shirts in the winter. This can stay wet and can be dangerous when in cold temperatures. Or in warmer climates, it can cause create chafing or just be comfortable running in wet clothes. Basically, I would avoid wearing 100% cotton materials.

If you’re looking for a boxing-specific brand that also works for your roadwork training. I highly recommend you check out BOXRAW’s fantastic range of apparel.

They do things such as hi-tech t-shirts, technical joggers\shorts, windbreaker jackets, sauna suits, and much more. Check them out in links or look at some of my apparel reviews at the end of this article.

After your roadwork

Now that you have finished your roadwork, it’s all about recovery from here. As you need to make sure you are prepared for your next boxing training session. Here are some useful ideas that might help you out

I highly recommend you check my 16 recovery tips after boxing training here for more ideas


Hopefully, this article was able to give you a better understanding of roadwork in boxing. And how you start implementing it as part of your overall boxing training plan.

I recommend you check out some more useful training related articles below:

I highly recommend you also check my other related article around this topic below. 

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Jamie - Boxing Life

I'm a boxing analyst, amateur boxer, and blogger looking to pass on my boxing experiences and passion to anyone looking to learn or find out more about the sport of boxing. Whether that be gear reviews, fighter analysis, news, training tips, or my own personal journey, I'll be covering it on 'Boxing Life'.

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