The day before Thanksgiving, you were probably thinking about doing some damage to a plate of turkey and mashed potatoes. At Headbangers Boxing Gym in Southeast Washington, brothers Lamont and Anthony Peterson had very different opponents in mind.
They’ve been preparing for Dec. 10, when the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will host HBO’s first live boxing event in the city since 1993. Lamont, 27, will take on British champ Amir Khan for the International Boxing Federation/World Boxing Association light welterweight title in the most anticipated showdown of the evening. Also fighting that night are Anthony, a 26-year-old lightweight, and 29-year-old Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell, of Brandywine, who’s trying to maintain his undefeated streak as a heavyweight.
For all three local fighters, the holiday season won’t really begin until that night ends. There’s no room for dessert — except for maybe a tiny slice of sweet potato pie, admits Lamont — when you have to make weight in order to compete. And there’s no taking a break from the gym when you know each missed workout makes you more susceptible to a knockout.
The rest of us are allowed to keep our guard down, considering the fiercest opponent we’re likely to face in the next few weeks is a box of peppermint bark. But if you’re looking to burn holiday calories, it couldn’t hurt to pay attention to some of their techniques and consider copying some of them at home.
So let’s head back to Thanksgiving Eve at Headbangers. The Petersons had already gone on a three-mile jog by the time I arrived and were shadowboxing to warm up. Then they alternated turns sparring in the ring — mostly with other opponents but a few rounds with each other.
Just watching the bobbing, weaving, lunging and pounding was making me sweat, so when I heard Anthony finally announce it was time for Playstation, I figured he deserved a break. When I looked around, however, there wasn’t a video-game console in sight.
Turns out the term is a cruel joke. “Playstation” is an endurance routine that strings together a series of one-minute drills with no breaks in between. That day, Anthony was apparently looking too “fresh” so he earned three extra rounds of (1) running on a treadmill set to the highest speed and incline, (2) holding dumbbells while punching as fast as possible, (3) jumping in and out of a tire while gripping a medicine ball, (4) lifting and lowering a 30-pound kettlebell and (5) hoisting up a medicine ball and circling it around his head.
“It ain’t ever easy when you’re dealing with me,” coach Barry Hunter announced when more guys joined Anthony, who had sweat so much by that point that towels were needed to prevent people from slipping on the floor.
But Anthony says he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’ve never felt like this in a fight. No man can ever make me feel like Playstation,” he says. “It makes you question yourself and your will and your skill.” But when he manages to get through the ordeal, even when it includes the dreaded “wishing well” — jumping down into the hole made by stacking two tires on top of each other, then launching back up — he knows he can get through anything.
For Lamont, the Playstation is also a confidence builder. His lowest point? When Hunter made them go through an exercise circuit while wearing a gas mask, which limits oxygen intake. “A few times I just wanted to pull it off. But I kept going,” he says.
If that kind of training seems too punishing, try lightening up the weights and decreasing the length of the workout. With enough modifications, Hunter says, Playstation can be scaled back to almost any skill level. The point is to keep moving and use different muscles with each exercise.
Make sure you don’t tire out your midsection, however, because you still have to do your abs. Mitchell, who trains at Dream Team Boxing Gym in Clinton, doesn’t have one core move. He has 600.
That’s right: His every-other-day abs routine starts with 100 crunches. That’s followed by V-ups, where you lie on your back, then bring your hands and feet off the ground until they meet. He does 40, then 35 and then 25, for a total of another 100. Next up, he lies on one side and does a side crunch so his elbow connects with his knee. “It keeps the sexy going,” says Mitchell, who completes 100 of those on the left and the right.
For the final exercise, he holds a 40-pound dumbbell in one hand by his side and bends to move the weight closer to the ground (and target his obliques). He’s not done until he has completed 100 of those on each side. “It’s quick, intense and effective,” he says of this killer combination.
If you give this regimen a try, don’t beat yourself up if you need to start with fewer reps. Mitchell did, too.
The other exercise Mitchell recommends you steal from his regular routine is jumping rope. There’s a reason boxers always do it. “It mimics what we’re doing in the ring,” Mitchell says. But bouncing on your toes, working your arms and engaging your middle also helps you win battle of the bulge — as long as you’re eating well.
Diet is, of course, the other half of a boxing training program. Lamont, who’s had fights scheduled for early December for the past few years, has settled into a regular Thanksgiving dinner of cabbage, greens and baked chicken. But don’t feel bad for him. He has the chance to become a world champ for Christmas, which should also taste pretty good.
Not ready for HBO? You’ll find a routine for the rest of us through Prime Time Boxing, a program that launched in October at Mint Fitness in Adams Morgan (1724 California St. NW, 202-328-6468, www.mintdc.com). You don’t need any experience, says instructor Maurice Henderson, “Just be ready to work.” The trainers will wrap your hands, go over the fundamentals, get you punching at specialty bags and give you some one-on-one instruction. It’s all non-contact. The class ($25 each, $15 for members) takes place Fridays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. A second weekly class started Wednesday at Mint’s downtown location (1001 16th St. NW).