“I try and go to yoga at least twice a week and I think it’s brilliant for the mind, body and soul. I don’t think it’s just athletes who should do it.” Professional middleweight boxer, Michael Hennessy Jr., caught up with us about what he eats day-to-day, how he trains and how he keeps on top of his mental health.
What do you eat on a typical day?
On a typical training day, I normally get up quite early and get a big breakfast in before my first session of the day. Breakfast normally consists of porridge, fruit, and either a protein shake or a protein bar which I like to have to get rid of my sweet tooth in the morning.
I’ll let that digest for about an hour before I start training, so I don’t feel sick. For lunch and dinner, it’s very important for me to get a lot of protein in for my recovery, and to get the gains from training. However, I like to stick to a mainly vegetarian diet, and have as little meat as possible. For example, I get my protein from chickpeas, lentils, beans, pulses, etc. If I do have meat, I’ll have chicken and fish. Of course, for a boxer, it’s very important to get lots of carbs in, because they give you energy. I get this from foods like rice, pasta and jacket potatoes.
Lastly, I have a lot of greens with my lunch and dinner. Vegetables have lots of nutrients, and they also fill you up without containing many calories which is very useful when making weight. I work around very close to my weight, so I’ll have the odd sweet thing here and there, because I feel like if I deprive myself, it puts me in a bad mood when I’m training. Having the odd sweet thing here and there makes me feel a lot better.
Lastly, I take vitamin D because in the UK climate, we obviously don’t get too much sun, so it’s very important for me to take them. I also take B12 vitamins because it’s what you get from meat, and I try to have as little meat as possible, so therefore I’m probably not getting enough B12 from my diet alone.
What is a typical day of training like for you?
My training programme normally consists of roughly two sessions a day, six days a week, and then I rest on Sundays. At least one of the sessions per day will be boxing, whether it be bag, pads or sparring. I try and fit in at least two spars a week because that’s as sport-specific as it gets. Sparring is how you get your fight fitness, your timing, your reflexes, and it’s the most important part of training, without a doubt.
My other session will either be running (for my fitness), or weights (for my strength and power) which complement the boxing training very well. I train all year round, so I’m always fit, but in a physical sport like boxing, it’s very easy to pick up injuries. If that does happen, what I’ll normally do is I’ll work other body parts that aren’t injured. If my left hand’s broken, I’ll work my right hand. If both hands are broken, I’ll work on my head and feet movement. There’s no excuse, you can always be working on something.
What do you do to keep your mind healthy?
I’m quite a happy individual, but like everyone else, I do have down days. What I find really helps on those down days is actually going to the boxing gym, because when I go there all my worries and negative thoughts just disappear. It’s great taking my anger out on a heavy bag or my sparring partner. No matter how bad I feel going into the gym, I always feel great coming out.
Another thing I do to help keep on top of my mental health is yoga. I try and go to yoga at least twice a week and I think it’s brilliant for the mind, body and soul. I don’t think it’s just athletes who should do it. I think it’s a very important thing for everyone to do, to stay on top of their mental health. The same thing happens: no matter how bad you feel going in, once you leave you feel so relaxed and happy about life.
I find in a tough sport like boxing, it’s extremely important to have down time with your friends and family and enjoy yourself when you’re not in hard training. Boxing is a tough enough sport as it is, and if you’re not having fun in between, it can lead to you feeling down a lot, and not good about life. It’s very important to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy yourself.