“It's important, not just for boxers, but for everyone, to be able to talk to family and friends. They can pick you back up again. There's no shame in it.” We recently caught up with Shakan Pitters, undefeated light-heavyweight professional boxer, talking about his day-to-day routine and how he stays on top of his mental health.
What do you eat on a typical day?
I normally I wake up about 8 o’clock, I have a coffee and something light: either Weetabix or porridge with blueberries, or scrambled egg with avocado or some fruit. I have my first session, and once I finish my first session I'll come back to my meal preps which I have in place. These normally consist of either sea bass or salmon or grilled chicken with broccoli, veg and sweet potato to get some light carbs in there.
I’ll have a meal after my first session, which will probably be about half 12, then I'll have another session later on, followed by another meal which will be about 3 or 4 o’clock, and then dinner will normally be about 8 or 9. I normally have three pre-prepared meals plus breakfast, so four meals in total.
I don’t take any supplements – the only thing I normally take is Omega-3, the cod liver oil capsules. It’s something I’ve taken from a young age and have adapted at my older age to carry on taking because I see the health benefits in it. It’s not only good for the brain and vision, but I feel good in my body for taking it.
I drink loads of water. For athletes like myself or anyone who trains, water is the cure for your body. It’s what the body needs. I get through about three to four bottles of one and a half litre bottles of water a day.
What is a typical day of training like for you?
So, my training programme on a typical day: my first session is around 10 o’clock and each session will be about 2 hours long. After my first session in the boxing gym, I come back home, refuel, and then I’ll have a second session at 4 o’clock which we class as the evening session. That’ll probably finish around 6 o’clock and then if I haven’t done a run in the morning, I'll go for a run or a swim in the evening.
I like to do swimming – I think it's a good all-body workout, and it works all the muscles: muscles that I probably wouldn’t work in the gym. On Wednesday and Friday, I also do strength and conditioning. On a strength and conditioning day I maybe don’t include the run or the swim – it all depends how I feel on the day. I normally rest on the Saturday or the Sunday, depending on the week. The body needs a rest to regain itself, and repair itself. I'm sure many boxers may agree and relate to this – there’s a lot of impact on the hand when we hit the bag, and a lot of demand on the body.
Injuries are part of the game – whether it’s pulling a hamstring when running (which I have done before), shoulder injuries or knuckle injuries. Since we do a lot of impact work which is on the arm and the hands, a lot of boxers tend to have a lot of chipped knuckles or broken hands.
If things do present itself like that you just adapt around it: if you have an injury on the right hand, then you don’t hit the bag with the right hand. If you have an injury to the arm you rest the arm – it’s the body indicating that it needs to rest.
What do you do to keep your mind healthy?
The way I keep on top of my mental health is just by doing the simple things. I try to keep my life as simple as I can. I keep the same friends and if I'm ever facing any problems, I’m open with friends and family, and I make sure to talk to them.
I like to learn new skills so something – as funny as it sounds – like cooking, takes my mind away from the everyday things I do. Boxing is a demanding sport, so cooking takes my mind off it.
Being in a boxing gym, when you hit the bag, and when you are training – it's a good relief for your mental health. When you’ve had a stressful day, which we’ve all had, I find that when I've been in a boxing gym and come out, I feel relieved, I almost feel like a new person because I’ve let that physical stress out of my body.
I do feel it's important not just for boxers but for anyone, to be able to talk to family and friends who can pick them up and lift them on their feet. There's no shame in it – it’s important to talk to people and do things that you enjoy which will take your mind off any kind of stress that you might face day-to-day.