Think back to the first time you ever fenced, even if it wasn’t that long ago. You were completely out of breath by the end of it, but your instructor wasn’t. Now ask yourself a question: Have you gotten any better?
Not skill-wise, rather in terms of your endurance. Are you able to fence more bouts than you were on day one? Are you able to breathe at a more normal rate after your fencing bouts? Or does it still feel like your very first day?
Building endurance for fencing bouts takes work, just like any other aspect of the sport. And today, we’re going to discuss the secret to building endurance for fencing. Once you take this advice, you’ll be able to fence more bouts, fence longer bouts, and breathe a little bit more easily by the end of your fencing sessions.
The Key to Building Fencing Endurance
Before discussing the concrete steps you need to take to build your endurance, let’s discuss what makes fencing so taxing. Understanding that will help you create an effective conditioning plan.
You exert quick bursts of energy in a condensed amount of time when you fence; the movements and tempo of fencing make your heart rate shoot up quickly. It’s unlike running a couple miles, which involves maintaining the same speed for an extended period.
As such, building endurance for fencing bouts involves replicating those quick, intense bursts of energy. It also involves taking short breaks between exercises, since you will often end up taking breaks between bouts.
That’s the heart of building endurance for fencing, but what is the how of it? There are two ways to build endurance: cross training and frequently fencing.
Cross Train Outside the Fencing Club
Cross training involves engaging in another physical activity to enhance your fencing performance. It’s easy, doesn’t take much time, and you don’t need access to a gym to do it!
But for cross training to be effective, you need to work the same muscle groups that fencing engages. You should also use HIIT workouts when you’re cross training for fencing. HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, and it involves doing an exercise for an allotted amount of time with the highest amount of energy.
One example of a HIIT workout is doing squat jumps for 30 seconds, with one to two minute breaks in between sets. The catch is that during that 30 seconds you’re doing as many as you can, as quickly as you can. That will make your heart rate shoot up and train you for high-intensity fencing bouts.
Other traditional bodyweight exercises you can use for HIIT include:
- Jumping jacks
- Side/front lunges
- Shadow boxing
- Tricep dips
- Mountain climbers
- Jump rope
If you use HIIT workouts to build your endurance, you should pick three or four exercises and do two sets of each, with one to two minute breaks in between. You can increase the number of sets you do, how long you do them, and make your breaks shorter once that becomes too easy for you.
Fence More Often
Cross training is something you can do on your own time, but the simplest way to build endurance for fencing bouts is…more fencing! The more you fence, the more endurance you build. But just like with cross training, you need to be strategic about it. There are two keys to using fencing to build your endurance.
Giving yourself a rest in between bouts is critical, and the break should be no longer than one to two minutes. Just like with cross training, resting between fencing bouts allows your heart rate to drop, and that allows you to begin the next bout in optimal shape.
Number and Duration of the Bouts
Building endurance means pushing past your normal limits, but don’t push yourself right over the edge. Make sure you’re only doing a manageable amount of bouts. For instance, if you’re just starting out, it’s reasonable to begin with two or three bouts per practice session.
Since the goal of building endurance is to eventually fence more bouts, you should start setting weekly goals once you start practicing consistently. That means not only fencing more bouts, but fencing longer ones too. For instance, instead of fencing to five points every time, you should work your way up to seven, 10, and eventually 15 touch bouts. You will see your endurance build and you will be able to fence longer without fatigue once you start setting these small, incremental goals.
Remember, building endurance for fencing bouts takes time, persistence, and patience, just like any other aspect of the sport. But if you’re serious about it — you cross train outside of the fencing club, take short breaks between exercises and bouts, and push yourself to fence more often — you’ll see results and marvel at how far you’ve come since your first day.
Swordplay LA also makes it easy for you to find opportunities to build endurance on the strip. We have Open Fencing on Monday nights, an adult training class on Thursday night, and you’re welcome to visit the studio during our operating hours and fence with whoever is there. Just call the office and let us know when you plan to stop by — see you soon!