When Spinks started training, Shilstone put him on a revolutionary regimen. Traditionally, a fighter runs long distances, anywhere from two to 10 miles, usually first thing in the morning. That, says Shilstone, "makes sense if you are trying to burn calories, to make weight." But there is no weight limit in the heavyweight division, and "after a certain point in the run, he isn't getting any benefit. In fact, it is just the reverse. While in Vegas, someone told me Holmes was running six miles at a 10-minutes-a-mile pace. He was deconditioning. He was shortening and tightening and making his muscles inflexible; and at his weight it is tough on his body to do six miles."
Previously, in bringing Spinks down to 175 pounds, Shilstone had him run not a set distance such as six miles, but a set time. To duplicate fight conditions, he ordered 15 three-minute sets, with a one-minute rest between each. This time, Shilstone, shifting the emphasis from time to distance, decided that the 880-yard run was the perfect conditioner. "That was our mainstay for training," he said. "A run that would not break him down and make him lose weight, yet would condition him for the rigors of a fight."
An athlete's performance limitations are largely determined by his production of lactic acid. Anytime he becomes out of breath, begins to huff and puff, he is producing lactic acid. The arms become heavy, the legs slow, the reflexes dull. During the one-minute rest period between rounds, a fighter's lactic-acid level is reduced.
"So we had to train Michael's recovery system," says Shilstone. "We not only had to train him to fight for three minutes, but we had to train him to recover during the one minute of rest to pull the lactic acid out. I had to give him the ability to throw a great many punches—Spinks threw 612 in 15 rounds—and I had to give him the ability to recover. The problem is, you can eliminate 100 percent of the lactic-acid buildup only in three minutes. We didn't have that much time. We had only one minute between rounds. But you can get out 75 percent in one minute. So we set up our training mode to get the full 75 percent."
Shilstone set up this weekly schedule:
Monday: At 6:30 a.m. begin a light program of walking and jogging to pre-stretch the muscles. "No 'road' work," says Shilstone. "I knew a typical boxer's jogging would shorten and tighten Michael's muscles." Then a series of four 880s at 75% effort. Spinks usually ran them in 2:46. Then a series of four 440s, followed by explosive calisthenics, such as squat jumps and elevated push-ups.
Tuesday: Two miles of variations of 440s and 330s with 30-second rest periods. Then weight training with 30-to 50-pound dumbbells, curling and pressing, all done from a boxer's stance. "Which everybody said was wrong," said Shilstone, referring to trainers' traditional fears about their fighters' becoming "muscle-bound." "If anyone knows anything about weightlifters, they know that they are some of the most flexible guys if they do the full range of motion, which we did."
Thursday: Running (880s and 440s) and weights.
Friday: Running (440s and 330s) and explosive calisthenics.