"I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'"
—Muhammad Ali, Former Boxer and Three-Time Heavyweight Champ
Whether you're midway through off-season training or about to begin, it can be difficult to stay motivated for high intensity workouts. But if you aspire to become a champion, you have to suck it up and continue your high level of training.
Many athletes become complacent part way through off-season training. Feeling content with a mediocre workout leaves the door open for opponents to be better prepared for the upcoming season.
"The biggest gains in skill development, technique and even mental toughness happen during the off-season," says Dr. Robert Bell, assistant professor of sport and exercise psychology at Ball State University. "The best way to frame [your training] is to set goals during the off-season to stay motivated."
Weight room goals are great for staying focused. Set new goals, such as a faster 40-Yard Dash or heavier weight in your Clean and Squat. But don't forget your long-term goals—beating a rival team, compiling a winning record and making it to the playoffs—because they will add fuel to your motivational fire.
During Muhammad Ali's three-time reign as heavyweight champion of the world, no one worked harder—which is especially impressive since boxing is notoriously difficult to train for.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. [he changed his name after converting to Islam], Ali adopted an unorthodox style for a heavyweight boxer, relying on his quick feet to avoid punches. He eventually wore down his opponents, opening up opportunities for knockouts.
Although "The Greatest" never focused on weight training to gain power for his punches, he still managed 37 knockouts, thanks to an intense training program. Running, skipping, jumping rope, punching the heavy bag and sparring were all part of his daily routine, which Ali performed several hours a day for months leading up to a fight.
The Champ's motivation was simple: defend or reclaim his heavyweight title. Ali knew that if he out-trained his opponents, he would be able to move quicker during the later rounds and win the bout.
In 61 professional fights, Muhammad Ali went 56-5, defeating legendary opponents such as Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. He truly earned his self-bestowed title of "The Greatest."
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