Muhammad Ali, road work and the quiet morning ritual that birthed a champion.

Written by Cole Schafer


There’s a great deal of controversy surrounding Muhammad Ali and his approach to training.

Some remember his dedication being nearly unmatched, while others claim he often seemed disinterested when he hit the practice floor.

His longtime trainer, Angelo Dundee, was once quoted saying…

“He’s the worst gym fighter in the world.”

In an interview with Sports Illustrated back in 1980, Dundee reflected on his boxer’s approach to training…

"Ali hasn't won a round in the gym since I've known him. He's the worst gym fighter in the world. But he always showed me flashes: 10 seconds, 15 seconds."

As with everything associated with the larger than life persona that was Ali, his approach to training seemed, at times, embellished.

Long before this interview with Dundee, Ali told Life magazine that instead of lifting weights he would box underwater and the water would act as a sort of resistance for his muscles.

While the photograph is one of the most legendary shots of Ali ever captured, the entire story was apparently a steamy crock of shit…

He didn’t even know how to swim.


There is, however, one element of Muhammad Ali’s training that has seemed to weather any sort of controversy over the ages… road work.

During the 10 weeks of training leading up to a fight, Ali would lace up his running shoes each morning and hit the streets for a 3-5 mile run he poetically described as “road work”.

Jogging has always and will always be an instrumental part of boxing because it builds endurance; the boxer’s lifeline throughout a match that can last as long as twelve rounds.

So, while Ali wasn’t always gung-ho about sparring and other aspects of his training regiment, he didn’t seem to cut corners when it came to building his endurance.

Ali, of course, hasn’t been the only one to believe in the power of road work.

Legendary copywriter, Gary Halbert, wrote in-depth about his unwavering belief in the power of a morning jog in the infamous Boron Letters.

Retired Navy Seal David Goggins shared on The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast that he runs, at a bare minimum, 7 miles per day.

And, at 79-years-old Dr. Anthony Fauci, the world’s leading expert on infectious diseases and currently the spearhead in the fight against the Coronavirus, still finds time to run most days.

Road work, is really a metaphor for meditation, though.

There are specific activities that balance us as human-beings and force us into the present moment with our thoughts, while allowing us to dive deeper in our prospective crafts.

For some people, road work might walking versus running. For others, road work might look something like reading or even writing.

Brian Koppelman, the brilliant writer behind Billions and Rounders, is known for fulfilling his road work in the form of something he calls Morning Pages… three pages, of longhand stream of conscious writing, done each morning.

Whatever your road work is, the only rule is that you do it, that you abide by it, that you find the courage each day to lace up your shoes and hit the road, whether that’s figuratively or literally.

By Cole Schafer.