Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Some of the most crucial aspects of boxing, what fighters should be paying attention to, are also the most obvious.  When fighting is your business, you should be examining every detail that will allow you to be physically and mentally prepared and, ultimately, more profitable.  You should be constantly taking inventory to be sure you have all of the equipment you need and secure that you have your business is in order.  All of this starts at the surface…what’s most obvious to that guy who’s looking at you in the mirror when you’re shadowboxing, as well as that one in front of you on the other side of the ring.  It can be part of making a first impression, but your skin can also leave a lasting impression on your boxing career…depending on how you care for it.

The largest human organ is skin.  It covers a surface area of approximately twenty-five square feet and, just like the rest of your body, it needs to be kept in shape.  You need to work to maintain its tone and flexibility as much as any other part of your body.  If it fails you in training or in the ring, it can lead to injuries, cuts, abrasions and general poor health that could sideline you indefinitely. Obviously your skin guards and protects the underlying muscles, ligaments, bones and your internal organs so it’s important to take a few precautions to be sure it remains intact.

Clean it.  Because it is one of the main barriers between you and the environment, your skin plays a key role in protecting your body against disease and excessive water loss (temperature regulation) so keep it clean. This will eliminate most bacteria and toxins so that it can function properly and meet the demands that come from intense training.  Body odor is going to happen as a result of a strenuous workout, but if you stink from having poor hygiene, you are exposing yourself and your skin to a host of bacteria that is unhealthy.

Hydrate it.  Like the rest of your body, your skin needs H2O and moisture.  Let it dry out and it can make you more prone to cuts, cracking and bleeding, which can, in turn, lead to infections and surface injury.  Busted and bleeding knuckles may look cool, but hitting the bag with an open wound on your fist can become painful, so protect your hands by keeping them moisturized.  No guys, that doesn’t mean lathering on so much baby lotion that you can’t grip your gym bag, but a little moisturizer isn’t unmanly if it allows you to keep punching, especially in dry climates or through the winter season.

Protect it.  Wrap your hands, wear headgear, cover your body, be sure you have good, well-maintained gloves and avoid the outside elements.  Anything that will help reduce extraneous contact, like good wraps and protective headgear is healthy.  Anyone who says that “Wrapping your hands doesn’t allow them to be toughened” or that “Wearing a headgear gives you a false sense of protection”, has just plain taken their macho attitude too far.  A smart fighter uses whatever tools he has available to protect himself properly.  It will ultimately make your career last longer and allow you to reduce unnecessary wear and tear on your body.  Toughing yourself and properly preparing your body for hard battle is one thing, abusing your body is another.  Try not to confuse the two.

Another component that comes into play during actual combat is the use of Vaseline.   When it is applied liberally to the cheekbones, the chin, forehead and the bridge of the nose, it can help prevent cuts and abrasions that come from contact.   It helps keep the skin pliable and makes your opponents gloves slide off more easily. When the glove makes contact with dry skin, it causes friction and can more readily produce cuts and small tears in the skin.  A little Vaseline reduces contact and irritation.

After good technique, your skin is the second line of defense against the elements and your opponent and you should do all you can to keep it in good working order.    Take it for granted, assuming that it will just take care of itself and you might be disappointed.  Considering that it’s your livelihood, your body requires time, attention and a little TLC (tender-loving-care.)  It may go against your instincts as a fighter, as a warrior, for you to think like that, but consider this…your skin is your shield of armor.  Shine it, buff it, hammer out any dents and prepare yourself for battle.  It’s not about vanity.  It’s more about honor and self-respect and those go much farther than skin deep.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.