Giles Barnes took a unique approach to his fitness routine in the offseason: He subjected himself to getting hit in the face.
To get in better shape for his second full season in MLS, the English striker turned to the boxing ring for his offseason fitness routine. And the returns have been more than positive as he has been very active for the Dynamo and contributed a game-winning assist in their 1-0 win Saturday over the Montreal Impact.
“I think it is one of the hardest cardios I’ve ever done, to be honest with you,” Barnes told MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview Thursday. “You’re hitting the bag, you get hit at times as well and it takes it out of you as you use different parts of your body for different kinds of energy.”
Boxing is a routine that Barnes employed during his offseasons in England and as a kid. However, coming to Houston meant a change in routine. Looking to get in prime shape for 2014, Barnes returned to the ring and bobbed and weaved his way to some lost weight and a fitness level he has not seen since arriving in MLS.
As his fitness increased, he also worked on his footwork. Quick feet are a good skill to have in the boxing ring just as they are on the soccer pitch. It also serves as a startling reminder that he can't stand still for too long.
“It does for sure because you’re trying not to get hit,” Barnes quipped when asked if the boxing helps his footwork. “You’ve got to move your feet as well, so that’s what I like to do.”
The work in the ring has also paid off in Houston’s system that requires a lot of work out of their forwards. Barnes is helping to push the pace in the Dynamo attack and is playing with an energy that has helped Houston’s perfect start.
With an active Barnes up top, his work to drive the attack and to link up with fellow forward Will Bruin has become a potent weapon through two games.
“I think we actually look for each other quite a lot,” Barnes said. “I don’t think you can really find many times when Will and I are more than 20-25 yards off each other, if that. We have a good understanding. We’ve got the ground work set, and we’re going onwards and upwards.”
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That was evident on Houston’s only goal against the Impact, when Barnes set up Bruin with a deft layoff for the winner.
With Barnes in better shape and his understanding of that forward partnership ever evolving, his start to 2014 has been strong, even if it has lacked a goal. But with other things falling into place, Barnes knows that, like his fitness, will come with hard work.
“I’m confident in my ability to score goals, and I showed it preseason,” he said. “The team’s doing well, so it doesn’t bother me. I’m there to score goals, but I think my general play and what I’m offering to the team with my play is worth its weight in gold as well.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.