Smarter Running / Roadwork for Boxing & MMA

Roadwork is an important part of any fight sports strength and conditioning program. Generations of boxers & MMA athletes have pounded the pavement, the process of lacing up your shoes & smelling the morning air is almost ingrained in our DNA. Roadwork is a time to build fight endurance, manage your weight and also a time to think and relieve built up stress.

What has changed over time is our intelligence and access to information, specifically in this case – understanding our bodies better. This helped us get smarter about our roadwork program, maximize our time & reduce the chance of injuries. The goal with this guide is to help you add specificity & purpose to every run, and thus improve your performance come fight time.

The Intensity Scale:

The best roadwork program includes a varied mix of intensity.  Throw the age old “no pain, no gain” mentality in the trash. There’s a time for pain, but if your entire training program is based on pain you will reach a plateau quick, often with injuries.  On the flip side, if you’re always running easy you may not improve.  A careful balance of intensity is key.

So how do you gauge intensity? You can do this two ways. A heart rate monitor or “perceived exertion, RPE”.  Heart rate values in the chart below will be measured as a percentage of your personal maximum heart rate – this makes the guide very personal & individual. If you are utilizing a heart rate monitor find your personal maximum heart rate(MHR). A basic formula that you can use is 220-age.  Perceived Exertion (RPE) is essentially how the intensity makes you feel.




Active Recovery, Warm Up


·  Easy to breathe

· Can hold a conversation easily

· Feels like you can sustain for hours


Basic Endurance, Fat Burn


·  Easy to breathe

· Comfortable steady jog

· Can hold a conversation

·  Light muscle load


Aerobic Fitness


·   Slightly more difficult to breathe but can sustain pace

·  Conversations more difficult

·  Moderate sweating

4 Increases Max Performance Capacity 80-90%

·    Heavy breathing

·    Muscle fatigue

·    Cannot hold conversation

5 Performance & Speed Work 90-100%

·   Very exhausting

·   Hard to breathe

·   Cannot sustain for long



Base Training

One of the most important aspects of beginning a new running program is building a solid base. A good base builds up your endurance and your bodies ability to work harder.  If you’ve already been running for more than 3 months you set this at 2 weeks. If this is your first time incorporating road work into your plan it’s important to complete this phase, possibly more depending on your fitness level.

Phase Duration  4 Weeks (new runner)2 Weeks (3+ months of consistent running)
Frequency 3-4x Per Week
Base Workout “Basic” Workout:·

  1. 5 minute Warm Up – Zone 1
  2. 10 minute Basic – Zone 2
  3. 2 minute Work – Zone 3
  4. 10 minute Basic – Zone 2
  5. 5 minute Cool Down – Zone 1



Once you’ve completed the base building phase, you can start incorporating harder “fight like” efforts into your plan along with longer duration endurance building workouts.  In this section we’ll give you 3 “Staple” workouts. You should hit all 3 workouts during the week; you can add additional mileage with the “Basic” workout.

Workout  1:“Persistence” This workout is designed to learn to push a tempo intensity.

  1. 5 minute Warm Up – Zone 1
  2. 10 minute Basic – Zone 2
  3. 20 minute Work – Zone 4
  4.  5 minute Cool Down – Zone 1

Total Duration: 40 minutes

Workout  2:“Evolve” This workout is designed to increase your endurance and teach your body to react and recover.

  1. 5 minute Warm Up – Zone 1
  2. 20 minute Basic – Zone 2
  3. 3 minute Work – Zone 4
  4. 20 minute Basic – Zone 2
  5. 3 minute Work – Zone 4/5
  6. 5 minute Cool Down – Zone 1

Total Duration: 56 minutes

Once a month add one interval to this workout to increase the duration

Workout 3: “Greatness” Hit your local running track for this one! Purpose: Build speed and increase your ability to sustain sprints & hard efforts. This also mimics the stress and recovery times in fights.

  1. 5 minute Warm Up – Zone 1/2
  2. 4 minute Work – Zone 4
  3. 1 minute Sprint – Zone 5
  4. 1 minute Recovery – sit down·
  5. 5 minute Cool Down – Zone 2
  6. Repeat interval 2-4, 3 times.

Total duration: 28 minutes




Scheduling & Building Volume

Making sure roadwork is scheduled with adequate recovery is an important part of the program. Also factor in your fight specific training into the overall plan to find the perfect balance of training and recovery. Here are some general rules to follow:

  • Stagger the 3 staple runs. Example: Monday: Persistence, Wednesday: Greatness, Saturday: Evolve
  • Complete “Greatness” on fresh legs. So no heavy workouts the day before.
  • Balance your fight sport specificity. Example: Since Greatness will have a high training load, it’s not best to do a hard leg heavy day the following day. So no hard wrestling workouts on Sunday if you ran hard on Saturday!
  • “Basic” will have a low training load if the run is under an hour, but you can also add more work periods for a longer workout. Just keep in mind cumulative fatigue will kick in. Basic is your go to run for ANY run outside your Staple Runs.
  • As you progress it’s important to add work, but do it smart. You can bump up your Greatness set by one interval as you get more fit.
  • Throw in a recovery week every 4 weeks, where you back off on the volume by 20% for the week.
  • Be sure to taper for your event/fight. We find a 2 week taper works great. During taper you’ll remove Greatness from your schedule, and start reducing total volume by 50% to make sure you’re on fresh legs for the fight!


About the Author:

TeamEverlast. The #TeamEverlast Squad is a team of storytellers who are passionate about the world of boxing and MMA. We’re also a group of fitness enthusiasts.. yeah, we work out… That’s why we provide workouts, tell you about the latest trends in fitness, and share industry nutrition advice. Our goal is to give our readers all the latest and greatest in fight sports news, workouts, and occasionally gossip about your favorite athletes… Just keep in mind, the squad’s opinions and stances do not reflect the opinions of Everlast Worldwide… just us.. and well, anyone else who also happens to be right..