Make no bones about it, boxing is a physically tough sport. Along with that comes the unfortunate byproduct from hours of bag work, sparring, roadwork and trading punches. The result sometimes means dealing with injuries. Although injuries can usually be avoided, they are going to happen... in training and in competition. Whether they are caused by trauma or overuse, boxing is a high intensity, full-contact sport, and all fighters pay some sort of physical toll.
Ironically enough, even though most of the general public sees boxing as being brutal and painful, most common injuries happen during training and not in the actual fight itself. Sore muscles, sprains, strains, and all kinds of pains are the things that most fighters develop in the gym and simply learn to live with.
Fighting and training with some sort of handicap, no matter how big or how small, is just a part of the sport. Fighters, however, learn how to work around the sore spots and train through it. All things considered though, there are preventative measures that can be taken, at least towards one type of common ailment and that's joint-related injuries.
Sparring, running, and plyometrics are all high impact exercises that can really take its toll on your joints. The constant wear and tear of heavy training eventually leads to the breakdown of cartilage in between an athlete's bones, which leads to inflammation and pain. Most of the therapies such as ice, heat, rest, and topical applications (like Icy Hot) are well known, but are often slow to make a noticeable difference and, frankly, don't do much in the way of prevention. They really just make the area feel better not get better. One method that can be effectively implemented is to arm your body with the specific nutrients it needs to heal this type of injury and provide pain relief in the process. It is especially helpful in injury prevention by building up the strength in your joints and making the average fighter less prone to typical aches and pains.
Searching for an over-the-counter "Joint Formula" supplement is often the first line of defense and the easiest approach. Most comprehensive formulas provide multiple substances that are specifically designed to work synergistically in supporting your joints. Those ingredients typically include:
Glucosamine - Glucosamine is naturally-produced by the body to build cartilage between the joints. It is commonly used among arthritis sufferers because of its ability to prevent cartilage degeneration. It also assists the body in producing a variety of other chemicals that help build tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the thick fluid that surrounds joints.
Omega-3 fats - Many people are well aware of the benefits that omega-3's can provide, especially in terms of anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to the assistance it can give on its own, there's new research suggesting that there are increased benefits to taking omega-3's in conjunction with Glucosamine. This one-two punch works together as the omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the inflammation process and then the added Glucosamine further supports the rebuilding of lost/damaged cartilage. Omega-3 fats can be obtained naturally from various sources including fish, flax and krill oil.
Chondroitin - This is another element of cartilage structure that is produced by the body and is believed to promote water retention, elasticity and prevent cartilage bread down.
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) - MSM is a potent antioxidant and organic form of sulfur. One of the greatest benefits of taking MSM is its ability to neutralize inflammation. This is because of its high sulfur content. It has also been shown to reduce muscle soreness, cramps, chronic pain, to increase strength,
endurance, and reduce stress. An added benefit is that it is extremely non-toxic and has not been shown to have any negative side-effects.
It is best to look for a supplement that contains all or some of these ingredients. Your supplement of choice should be one that is free of additives and chemical fillers. A good rule of thumb is that if you can't begin to pronounce it, then you shouldn't begin to ingest it.
Even though supplements like these are a great tool and can be purchased in pill or liquid form, you can even find a number of them in your fridge or cupboard and they will all have the same (if not better) anti-inflammatory properties.
Bromelain, for instance, can be found in fresh pineapples. This enzyme is a natural anti-inflammatory and it tastes good, especially compared to a pill.
Ginger is a fresh herb that can be steeped into a tea or grated over food. Its anti-inflammatory properties are numerous, but it is most known for relieving pain and stomach aches.
Turmeric contains a substance called "Curcumin". Curcumin is what gives turmeric its yellow-orange color. It has shown to have benefits that block inflammatory pathways and is effective in preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.
Making a conscious decision right now to provide your body with what it needs to strengthen your joints will be a huge asset to you as a fighter. The less time and attention you spend dealing with aches and pains, the more energy you will have to concentrate on training and reaching your goals as a fighter. Plus, the less time you spend on worrying and feeling uneasy about what ails you, the better mental edge you will gain over your opponent. Every advantage in this sport is worth the fraction of attention it takes in preparation. Take action now and make choices that will help you reach a higher level of performance, a higher degree of living and less pains in your gains.
Spencer Ward is a contributor for TITLE Boxing as a boxing trainer and nutrionist.