Hi, Everyone: From time to time we’ll share a guest post, and here’s a unique look at the the life a part-time MMA fighter by our friend Craig Boyle. He is an MMA fighter and journalist in the UK and represents Maxinutrition.
Please enjoy this insightful piece about what it’s like to train and struggle while trying to make a living. Included are some helpful tips on how to pull it all together. If you like this post, leave Craig some love in the comments and share it, too. Thanks! – Bill
The Life of a Part-Time Fighter
It’s coming to the end of my shift and I’m itching to get away from the job. Each and every day makes the job seem like more of a chore as I head towards my fifth amateur fight. Each hour at work is an hour I could be training. Each night sat in traffic driving for 45 minutes to get to the gym is a slow torture as my nerves and excitement build. It’s nearly fight time.
Working and training can be a real hassle for any martial artist. Your sport generally means far more to you than your career, so you spend most of your working hours daydreaming about training – jealous of those who can do it more frequently even at the expense of good wages. Even the most committed workaholics who train wish they had more time in the gym.
Physically, the effects of full-time work on training are quite obvious. Typical 9-5 roles leave you tired and groggy for an evening of training. Conversely, hitting early morning sessions tends to make you alert and awake for half the morning and then crash into a stupor where you’re slow and inefficient at work.
So how do you find the balance? How do you make training work around a 9-5 job? It’s a tough prospect and one many fighters outside of the UFC struggle with. Holding down a job in a sport as low paid as MMA is essential for those supporting families or paying rent/mortgages – so managing to balance the working hours with those training can be tough.
For office workers, you’re generally stuck in front of a computer for eight or more hours per day. Your life is more sedentary and as such, you find weight cutting far harder. You’ll snack at your desk without knowing it, you’re sacrificing exercise you could be getting by driving to work and sitting still for so long and you’ll feel tired and hungry by home time. It becomes a slog to get to the gym.
Instead, you need to try and break up your working day. At lunch, make sure you have a little walk around and stretch. Make sure your training sessions contain adequate rest days and take place at a time that lets you get to the gym without worrying about traffic.
Space out your meals so that you have something with carbs in it before you train – but try to keep that meal about 2 hours before training. Also make sure you’re properly hydrated at your desk and try to get about 2 litres of water in you per day. Eating too close to training will make you nauseous once you’re grappling and sparring. If you’re hungry before training, perhaps drink a sports nutrition drink from the likes of Maxinutrition. Keep your real meal for after training and before sleep.
If you work a more active job, like construction or personal training, you’ve got a completely different lifestyle. Your job will consist of more physical activity, so you’ll have less energy come training time. Experiment with training early in the morning or after work and find what feels best for you. Keep your nutrition steady and even throughout the day. Isotonic drinks will be your best friend.
I put too much time and mental effort into work during my last fight and as such couldn’t cope with the mental strain of training for a competition. I knew I should have been in the gym almost every night, but work was too tough and the drive to the gym was too long. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was exhausted both mentally and physically. I lost to a guy who had more desire than me. He wanted to win. He’d trained harder for it. I had a paycheck, but I’d lost at the sport I loved.
Balancing working life with training is possible, but tough. When I worked as a bartender I had much more time for MMA as I could fit sessions in at different times throughout the week. I didn’t just sit at a desk all day then slog my way to the gym when I was tired and hungry.
Shift work seems far better for training, and most of the fighters I know locally who fight at a high level work in jobs that allow them to train through the day as well as nights. Nightclub bouncers, security guards, taxi drivers and self-employed builders.
If you don’t have the luxury of training full time, you’re going to have a tough time of competitive-level training. But by being smart about nutrition, sleep and motivation, you can succeed just as highly as any other fighter.