A lot has been written about the pre-fight training, dieting, drilling and more, but what happens afterwards? Many have trained to fight, some have fought, and only a few have racked up enough experience to develop their own post fight recovery strategy. Having seen and been through the sensation of the adrenaline dump after the fight many times, I have started to notice patterns in mine and others behaviour after a competition.
What should happen:
Unless you were lucky enough to score a first round knockout, you will likely have bruised shins and thighs at the very least, possibly a black/swollen eye or broken nose, and possibly even a facial wound that requires stitches. This is an important time to start treating your injuries. Your legs should be elevated, with ice on any haematomas (bruises/corks). While this is happening, the doctor should give you a check up to see that you haven’t sustained any injuries, and will stitch you up if you received any cuts. This is a good time to rehydrate and replace the electrolytes in your body that you no doubt lost during the fight to ensure you have the best possible post fight recovery.
What actually happens:
This will vary a little depending on whether you won or lost your fight, but once you step out of the ring, there will usually be lots of pats on the back from friends and supporters, followed by a very similar conversation being had with many different people. It’s not uncommon to hear things like this:
“I thought you had him in the second round, but he held on and came back well.”
“You should have thrown a head kick and knocked him out”
“Dude, I love you man.” – the drunkest guy in the room.
At the end of it all, the only opinion that truly matters is the one of your corner, and they will tell you whether you did your job well or not.
As mentioned earlier, this is the best time to rehydrate, so most fighters rehydrate by heading straight to the bar to polish off the first of many beers that they will have throughout the evening. Not only does this make the fighter too busy to go and ice those bruises, but the alcohol itself also causes injury recovery time to increase. Most fighters do themselves no favours by celebrating with alcohol immediately after they fight, but they feel they deserve a little reward for sacrificing their social lives for the weeks/months leading up to the fight, and who can blame them!?
My personal post fight recovery strategy usually falls somewhere between what was covered in “what should happen” and “what actually happens”. I have begun to realise that my body recovers more slowly than most other fighters, so it is important that I start icing immediately after the fight. I’ll try and elevate my legs and put ice on any bumps that I feel, no matter how small they seem at the time. When I go to sleep that night, I also sleep with my legs elevated on some pillows, and put compression socks on my legs. I have noticed that this process has helped me with my recovery the most through out the years.
I also usually have a beer or two on the night of the fight, but my stomach is usually a little upset from the adrenaline dump and I never feel like more than a couple of beers. I do however tend to have a celebration the next day where I hang out with a few mates and have a barbecue with some drinks. In the earlier days I used to go out and celebrate by trying to drink as much as I could, but that doesn’t happen any more, as I don’t want to put up with the aches and pains the next day.
Bottom line is, the better you execute your post fight recovery strategy, the sooner you will be able to return to the ring. I have seen fighters be so disciplined that after they fight, they are immediately back on their diet to try and fight again as soon as possible. While I envy this commitment, I also believe that it is easy to lose motivation if there is no rewards. As long as I get myself back to training within 2 weeks, I won’t have set my body back too far, but I also will feel refreshed from the break, and motivated to get back into my training again.
– Ben Johnston – Muay thai fighter and trainer.