boxing training after 40

Boxing Training After 40

If you’re over 40 and in the amateur ring, boxing most likely isn’t (and isn’t going to be) your career. But you can pretty much guarantee that it will change your life.

I’m not trying to convince you of something, I’m mostly reminding myself. It helps to remind myself, because boxing will gobble up your life and body and leave you with little, if you let it. Being an amateur boxer after 40 is sort of like owning an exotic, voracious racing beast. Only weirdos like you love these things, can’t get enough of them, and are willing to put the incredible amount of time and energy into training and upkeep.

And I’m not even really joking. Here’s what I mean…

1. Boxing Draws the Intensely Passionate

In my experience, there are mostly two reactions to boxing: people find it to be sheer brutality they can barely stand to think about, much less watch… Or it gives them a massive jolt of juice, and they can barely tear their eyes away.

I fell into the first category for most of my life, but when I stumbled into boxing for fitness, then began to watch my trainer, Bonnie Mann, bring amateurs into the ring — I got my first jolt of the juice. It was bizarre, exotic, empowering. It was as if some channel in me that had been blocked up for 40 years was suddenly opened, and I was flooded with energy.

The intense rush swept me right into competitive boxing, and suddenly the stakes changed. Not only was I a wife, mom of three boys, and full-time corporate marketing person — boxing began to take it’s first fat weekly paycheck of heart, time, and pain out of my life.

This meant I had to do a lot of re-scripting of the way my personal universe ran.

The life I thought I had wanted now chafed. I was no longer willing — after decades of doing it — to be at home for my family’s needs every single night of the week. I was no longer willing to give up most of who I was for other people. There was something big, something powerful, something only for me that I wanted, and to get it I had to quit giving everyone else all my time and energy.

If I hadn’t done it, I don’t know if my marriage would have lasted, and I definitely wouldn’t be the same parent I am now.

Some days I think I owe boxing my life.

This is not a small change to go through at age 42. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

2. Boxing Demands a High Standard of Training at the Lowest Levels

Part of the reason boxing has such incredible power to change your life is because it requires an intense commitment at even the very lowest levels of the sport.

You can’t stroll into a boxing gym one day, hop in the ring and spar with someone (any gym worth their leather would never let this happen anyway), and expect to come out well.

There’s a fairly sizeable learning curve.

The moves only come after months of practice. It takes time to overcome your basic “flinch” and “turn away” impluses. The tiniest moves (advancing on the jab, basic pivots, footwork) may come easily in practice, but are magically, mysteriously, painfully absent when you’re under fire.

And basic fitness shape is nowhere near boxing shape.

Even basic boxing shape is nowhere near boxing sparring shape. And sparring shape is related to, but not the same as, competitive fighting shape.

If you’re over 40, you definitely want to be in good shape, and hitting the local boxing gym for some regular classes every week will be all kinds of awesome for you. But to get up to sparring level, you’ll need all that, plus serious interval training.

To spar, you need to be training 3-4 days a week, with intervals, minimum.

To compete, you’ll need a 6-7 week “training camp.” That means you eat right and train hard and very specifically for the opponent you expect to meet (or to increase your strengths and minimize your weaknesses) for about 2 months.

You’ll probably be in the gym 4 or 5 days each week, although not all those days are boxing-specific; you’ll work on cardio, speed, accuracy, explosion, power, etc. in addition to hitting the bags and sparring. You have to stay mentally focused, and be extremely careful not to get injured toward the end of that period of intense training. And I don’t mean blood or bruises, I mean the kind of injury that would nix your fight.

If you’re over 40, you’re not likely to want to maintain that level of fitness for more than just a training camp. Because, you know, you have a life outside boxing. (Sort of.)

3. Boxing Takes a Physical Toll

The main reason I’m not in the boxing gym more than about twice a week during regular times is that it takes a fairly large toll on your body.

No, it isn’t about getting beat up, but yes, Virginia, boxing hurts.

Even just hitting the speed bags and heavy bags for 10 rounds is going to cause some aches and pains and build up a cumulative pain in my joints. After several years, and plenty of minor injuries (sprained wrist, broken rib, torn rotator cuff x 2) to teach me my boundaries, I’ve learned how to create a boxing training regimen that works for me.

Actually mixing it up in the ring during training has a lot of potential for damage, and it’s good to learn to minimize sparring damage early on.

Interestingly, the chances for getting injured during your actual boxing match (if you are competing in the amateurs, not the pros) are far lower than your chance for getting injured during training.

Mostly that’s because you are only there for a very short period of time. Amateur rounds are typically 2 minutes each, and you only get three of those. Even though you’re both fighting all out, looking for the knockout or at least for blood and damage, it’s over before you know it, and there isn’t really enough opportunity for someone to get seriously hurt.

Several things to know if you’re over 40 and interested in competing in boxing…

First, everyone you fight will be within 10 years of your age, so you’re likely to get harder ring work at your gym, where everyone is 20 years old!

However, everyone you fight will have given up just as much as you have, and may have trained harder.

Maybe they don’t have kids still at home. Maybe they have not avoided interval sprints like you did. Maybe they’ve been training longer than you have.

You can get beat easily.

But you can also win.

And that’s pretty damn good.

Photo Credit: OfficerGregcc

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43 Responses to Boxing Training After 40

  1. niamh March 7, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Well, I’m not over-40 but let me add that anything over-30 means aches + pains in places that never ached before no matter how hard you used to train. So hats off to you Lisa 🙂 Great post with lots to think about for anybody thinking about boxing!

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe March 7, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      You muy thai people are some serious tough, and I imagine the training is harder on the body, considering that you add in all the kicks and other moves.

      What are some of the particular issues you have to watch out for in training and competing in your sport, Niamh? I’d love to hear if you get the chance.

      • Gaylord Tyler-Perkins November 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

        Great inspiration lisa.keep it up.
        Women martial artists are carrying the ufc these days in terms of skill,charisma and drawing audiences in

      • Shawn May 29, 2020 at 1:14 pm #

        They ant no age limit on Pro boxing if win win if loose loose at least you tried. Do what makes u happy.match up weight class

        • Melanie Douglas August 27, 2020 at 2:03 am #

          It didn’t take much to convince me…shoulda did it sooner!!

        • Chris Finning November 3, 2020 at 6:29 pm #

          Could i get a boxing match if i train at home and spar with friends..ime 43..18stone.but.starting training again tmrw.had 3mth off looking after my dad…but still fit..

  2. DaveG March 7, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    Thanks for posting this Lisa, very recognizable 🙂
    Went to the gym yesterday and put a lot of rounds in, afterwards I could barely get down the stairs due to calf and tendon aches. First order of business is to get some new running shoes. I should really change them once a year since I run several times a week, in addition to boxing training.
    I also hear you about mixing it up with the youngsters: sparred against a newbie yesterday, about 18 yrs old. He mistakenly thought that getting in the ring equals street fighting and hitting full force.
    I caught him with a straight jab that backed him down a bit but afterwards the trainer had a word with him…
    Got to look out for yourself!

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe March 7, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      Dude, Dave, that sounds like such a familiar experience — both the shoes issue and the 18 year old! 🙂

      I figured out the shoe issue back when I started this whole thing. My feet really need the extra padding, and boxing shoes suck for this, don’t they? So most of the time I wear running shoes to train in, and I put in an extra insole so I have to buy my shoes a touch larger than usual.

      The disadvantage to running shoes in the ring is that they slip around on your feet more — try doing 3 rounds of ring slides, with sharp direction changes — and you’ll be wishing you had on your boxing boots. Also, running shoes don’t slip smoothly around on the canvas, either. They’re grippy. You can’t pivot and move as easily.

      But I’ve found I would rather put up with all that than have my feet hurting so bad after a hard training session. I save my boxing boots for actual sparring or competition. And it’s nice — it’s like suddenly taking the weights off your feet!

      So glad to hear you taught that 18 year old a small lesson in respect, and I’m especially glad to hear your trainer had a private word and backed you up on that. Maybe he’ll settle that street shit down some and be a good sparring partner…?

      • DaveG March 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

        I always wear my boots in the gym, I’m not switching with the running shoes since it takes some time to lace up properly 🙂
        Also it feels sooo good to train with the boxing shoes, sliding smoothly across the canvas, and they do provide excellent ankle and calf support.
        Yeah, the newbie…typical isn’t it? First time I talked to him, he was talking about fighting bouts and whatnot. Sure dude, try sparring like a normal person first!

        • Lisa Creech Bledsoe March 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

          “…try sparring like a normal person first!”

          Hah! Love that.

          And no, it’s not me in the picture. Crappy boxing gloves (I had those when I started, though) and very heavy-duty facegear, huh? How can she see in that thing, I wonder. Still, it’s SO hard to find images of *women* boxing that I love to post them when I find them in the Creative Commons pool…

          • DaveG March 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

            Hehe, that looks a lot like the headgear I’m wearing, need the extra eye protection. Still beats sparring with a face cage, wore that thing to allow the nose injury to heal. Wore my normal headgear again yesterday, damn that felt good, almost…liberating 🙂

        • Hector Gomez January 17, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

          So often young people mistake boxing for street fighting. I have also had similar exp. With youngsters. But it doesn’t take long for them to figure out that street shit don’t work lol. Lots of respect to the Trainor to settle that boy down before he gets himself hurt

      • Jeff Tupu February 1, 2020 at 6:27 pm #

        Awesome post couldn’t agree more I’m a former state champion in Queensland ,and I think it couldn’t be explained better , keep it up your a great voice for boxing

    • Slapahonation81 February 27, 2023 at 9:49 pm #

      I’m 41 and just recently decided to start boxing and I intend to become a contender and prove that age doesn’t matter.

  3. DaveG March 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Forgot to ask: is that you in the picture?

  4. Steve September 16, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    Yea boxing after 40 is both courageous and quite mad some days I wonder why the hell am I doing this? Your body is just not the same as when you were 20 or even 30. But enough of the excuses the fitness is great and if you avoid getting smashed in the ring thats a bonus. I keep reminding myself they all paid their dues in what ever field so if you pay them at 20 or 40 as long as the prize is worth the race I guess it all equals out some where? Cheers

  5. Ankle Braces December 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    So inspiring! Keeping yourself fit in your 40s is important and so is doing what you love! There is no remedy better than happiness!

    • Byron Cowan January 19, 2016 at 12:06 am #

      So true. I want to be a Boxing and MMA champion. Always been a late bloomer. I’m 42 will be 43 in may. I’ve dedicated my life to this goal. Sparring with younger guys is interesting. There kicking my ass right now but I can see what I need to learn. My trainer said I should be ready by May to box. I take private judo lessons and have red belt I. Taekwondo. I’ve started sparring more and need to run and swim more to get my cardio right. The guys say my nerves are making me tired. I pulled a muscle today, got jammed throwing a right cross. It’s frustrating but I love it and will never quit.

      • Michael Thompsob March 20, 2021 at 10:55 pm #

        I’m 66 and work out in a boxing gym! Your never too old to do this! I can defend myself against younger guys anytime! It’s a great sport!

  6. Peter January 13, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    @Lisa Creech Bledsoe, I’m over 40 and have started boxing for fitness. I ‘ve been in traditional martial arts for years, but we never do head shots, so I’m not familiar with the cumulative outcome of this. I would like to know if frequent head shots are okay for someone my age if I wear densely padded head pads.

    I spar with someone bigger than me regularly at least once a week, but we don’t kill each other and we only do semi contact sparring.

    For your inputs please.

  7. Cathy February 22, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Hey Lisa,

    Just starting boxing at age 51 and just started sparring with my trainer. Awesome experience. Everything hurts but like you said it empowered me. Have a mom who is elderly and I am taking care of in addition to the normal life things. It has really changed who I am and what I want for myself. It was always about the kids and husband and now its about me. I spar 2 times a week and 4 times a week cardio, heavybag, and strength training. I should have done this earlier. Love you post

    • Dan March 31, 2021 at 4:15 am #

      What a nice post. Boxing is the best!!! I hope u draw from the skills you’ve learnt & follow the sport

  8. Sam Wybenga April 22, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Hi Lisa,
    I am getting up there in that age and have been contimplating taking up the sport. So much in fact that I am looking into the Master’s division. I finally got the wife to agree to go to a boxing gym with me to work out and get in better shape. I really do hope it works for her, simply because she has MS. I read an article about a woman in Colorado Springs that has MS, but also boxes, so now I’m hoping that it will help her with her balance. Wish us luck.

  9. Lisa Creech Bledsoe April 23, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    GFY for getting in there and giving boxing a try. It’s never easy getting started, but the benefits are WELL worth it! *Make the workouts suit you* (adapt, adapt, adapt), and enjoy the hell out of it.

  10. Tony B June 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    At last….. someone with half a brain who doe not profess to say 3 HIIT sessions 3 times a week will get you in shape. You are looking at around 20 hours min per week (amateur) when you are getting close to the big occasion.

  11. Jumbo August 13, 2013 at 3:04 am #

    This is such an inspirational post, thank you!

  12. John September 18, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Your so right. Boxing is not a casual hobby. And boxing after 40 takes real dedication.
    I’m lucky to have a boxing gym at my home and I still have trouble at times staying with it. Thanks for the wisdom Lisa.

  13. Mike September 25, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

    I’m 40 now and if anyone’s going to give me a pat on the bum and say “There there, you’re 40, you’re too old. You can’t compete”, I call bullshit.

    “Oh but you need to train hard and eat right…”. Really? Suddenly what, once I pass the age of 28 I’m incapable of eating and training right? Well shit, I have 40 years on me, I guess some how I’m magically incapable of pushing my body to the limit.

    “It takes time to overcome your basic “flinch” and “turn away” impluses. The tiniest moves (advancing on the jab, basic pivots, footwork) may come easily in practice, but are magically, mysteriously, painfully absent when you’re under fire”. Guess what, I’ve already gotten past that part, next? Or is that 2 months going to be too long? Let’s see… I’m 40 years and 9 months old. Oh god damnit… that means that if I didn’t lose that flinch and turn away mechanism in time, then once I hit 40 and 11 months old, my body’s just gonna turn to dust.

    Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that being 40, doesn’t mean squat in terms of boxing. There are just as many good 40 year old boxers compared to me as there are just as many good 20 year old boxers compared to someone else who’s 20.

    Guess what, there are also 40 year old boxers who can beat the pants off of a 20 year old boxer of the same stats.

    Telling someone “Oh, no no you shouldn’t have the same shot at a boxing career as someone 10 or whatever years younger” is pretty low in my books.

    And if you think the tone of this reply is too aggressive or pissed off towards the nay sayers? Then tell me how you don’t feel I have the same passion needed for this sport…

    • W. Creets November 19, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

      I agree with you 100%! You do you! Don’t stop because of some random post with a bitter undertone. I do it because I love boxing! No other reason needed. No age requirement. Box on!

  14. Nick November 30, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    Hi, great post and very inspirational especially as I have also taken a boxing at the age of 41 and am now four months into training. I couldn’t agree more about how it can change your life, and it’s great to read so many others having the same experience. In addition have to agree it is very addictive, in a great way!

  15. Burt December 25, 2016 at 6:52 am #

    I went back 3 weeks ago, had bruising from headgear and hard punching heavier spar partner and I perforated my right ear on Saturday- love it though, just need fitness to catch up with were I think I am at

  16. Israel August 31, 2018 at 7:44 am #

    Thanks for the inspiration, I fought amateur in my 20s and always regretted not becoming pro. My son ,now 10 years old started to box and won his first golden gloves tournament. I have started to spend more time at the gym and recently helped in the corner for 3 professional fights. Am I too old to accomplish my old dream? I’m 42 and I have really been thinking about it!

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe August 31, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

      Going pro in your 40s would be a challenge, but others have done it. Why not get started training and see what happens? Best of luck!

  17. gil vazquez January 31, 2019 at 2:31 pm #

    wow i see comments from 2012.. its Jan 2019 and here I am 🙂
    I am 44 but wow i dont feel or look it.. im puerto rican and aging well.. been boxing for 2 years now and man i want to compete bad but my age keeps going up.. what brought me here was that i typed in google “boxing leagues for 40yrs and older” and this article came up.. so i am serious and wondered if a 40 and up league existed… there is so much i can write here but will keep it short.. keep your hands up people and best wishes in the ring !!!!

    • Derekp July 7, 2019 at 4:30 am #

      Do it man. I’m 38 now, previously boxed from 15 yrs old until 19 when I left for the Navy. I got out in 2004 and went straight back into boxing till 2006 then I dropped off the boxing world and focused on work and my son. Now years later I’m 38 years old and training out of my garage for the time being. I set up two heavy bags, speed bag and a bunch other tools for drills. I found a gym I can box out of which isn’t close but doable. I also found a guy to coach me in my town who fought professional and said he would coach me and help me with sparring etc. I’m giving myself till the end of the year to be ready for a match. The only set back I’ve found is I have to get USADA to approve my TRT (testosterone treatments for my boxing card. I take them due to my body no longer producing it after having surgery and my testicle removed from a hematoma. Probably caused from taking too many low blows when I was younger lol.

  18. Chris Finning November 3, 2020 at 6:30 pm #

    Could i get a boxing match if i train at home and spar with friends..ime 43..18stone.but.starting training again tmrw.had 3mth off looking after my dad…but still fit..

  19. Angela December 5, 2020 at 5:34 am #

    Love this post. I have just started training this year at age of 41 and these words make so much sense. I am more motivated now to get out and do anything physical that will improve my training than I ever was pre-40. I go to the pool for a casual swim and find myself working just my upper body to strengthen up; I go for a walk to get some fresh air and the next thing I know I’m sprinting uphills and sucking back oxygen like a vacuum just to strengthen my legs. I can’t do anything physical without challenging my limits anymore.

    And the best part at this age – sure I’ll see all those young people passing me or lifting more weights than me at the gym but I don’t care because this is me challenging myself. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone else except me fulfilling this desire to improve myself.

  20. Jeremy McMasters February 23, 2021 at 9:30 am #

    I am 41 and found the boxing gym this past October. I read this and I swear I wrote it. Everything about how you feel you hit right on. Am I sore in the morning yes. But when I put those gloves on all of it goes away. All of the day is unleashed in front of me. I have 4 kids and I have enjoyed taking them and having mit time with them. Nothing like watching my 6 year old (Princess) do a jab/cross and snap the mits, just pulls the heart strings.

    -J

  21. Hiten May 9, 2021 at 1:20 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I first came across your blog last summer when I was contemplating starting boxing training. I had doubts as a 41 year old. Reading your articles on this topic felt like you were talking directly to me. Thank you!

    I did start 121 boxing sessions and I quickly became hooked. I still am and as soon as I finish a session, I’m already looking forward to the next one. I’m totally fascinated by the sport, can’t stop thinking about it, and it has already improved my fitness and confidence massively. Just this afternoon I spent 30 minutes analysing the Canelo vs Saunders fight. 🙂

  22. Marie December 11, 2022 at 4:24 am #

    I am an amateur boxer in Spain but as I am now 45 I am no longer allowed to compete. According to all sources no one is allowed to compete in boxing over the bage of 40 but my federation allows people to compete in shows until they are 45. there any way round this? My health and fitness are excellent.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe December 11, 2022 at 11:24 am #

      I have no idea, Marie, sorry. Rules are different from country to country. I can tell you that I got so much pleasure out of training and coaching even after I stopped competing. Good for you for being in great shape, and good luck to you!

  23. Jeremy Bishop October 31, 2023 at 6:37 pm #

    Thank you for this! I got into boxing fitness classes last year when I was 40. I’ve lost 60lbs and developed a co-dependent kind of joy for it. I’ve been working out now 6 days a week instead of 1 then took the plunge for a trainer to get me to camp. I really just want to experience the amateur league to see how it goes. My trainer mentioned there is a certain age you shouldn’t go into boxing in which I asked what age. He said some say 30, some say 50. From a boxing fitness class perspective one feeling good. I outlast 20 something’s, 30 something’s and 40 something’s. My resting BPM went from 87bpm to 56bpm. Not sure of how my head will react to getting punched but I’m southpaw so at least I have some weirdness going for me!

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