Muay Thai training has been gaining popularity as a form of fitness in recent years, yet misconceptions and controversies continue to surround the art of eight limbs, including beliefs that it is only for experienced fighters or an aggressive and violent sport. In reality, Muay Thai is accessible to anyone looking to improve their physique, relieve stress, and boost their mental well-being.
Former Thai Boxing World and European champion, Matt Parks, shares his top 10 tips on Muay Thai exclusively for Healthypedia’s readers.
10 tips for Muay Thai beginners
1How to overcome intimidation and what to expect from the first Muay Thai class
Before taking on anything new, we all tend to go on the Web and look for some info to get to know what we should expect. The same goes for Muay Thai. The Internet brims with videos of learning Muay Thai as a martial art that pictures professional fighters training immensely twice a day for up to three hours per session.
For an average person who is looking at Muay Thai as a form of fitness, seeing such a picture can be intimidating and make us anxious.
However, engaging in Muay Thai for fitness is nothing like a combat sport.
You shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the variety of activities included in the session like shadowboxing, and sparring that you might see on YouTube videos. If you are a beginner you will be taught everything from scratch. As Matt reports, ‘From the beginning, you will be taught your movements, forward, back, sideways, and circular movement. Everyone knows how to do punch or kick, thus you will just be refining your kicks and punches until they become correct from the perspective of learning the discipline.’
2Start with one class per week
From small beginnings come great things.
Matt recommends starting with one class a week. This will help you to gradually get used to Muay Thai and learn the needed ropes. As you develop an interest in learning this discipline, you might be willing to take 2-3 classes per week.
3Stick to your regular pre-workout routine before Muay Thai class
Matt recommends preparing for the first Muay Thai class the same way you do before any of your workouts. Doing your routines can help decrease stress levels by creating a sense of manageability and predictability in the situation.
The clothes that you should wear are a pair of shorts, trainers and a T-shirt. Everything else like gloves and hand wraps will be provided by the gym. However, to ensure your hygiene you may buy your own hand wraps, they are not that pricey these days.
4Push yourself to your own limits
When starting something new, especially activities that involve self-improvement, we may overwork ourselves. Sure, when going in for sports, we face a challenge and really have to stretch ourselves to see the results. Matt suggests that ‘it is best to take everything at your own pace, don’t go too hard as you don’t want to feel lightheaded and feel unwell.’
Muay Thai training is tough, it’s not easy. One analogy for Muay Thai might be sprinting and jogging combined together, you are working aerobically and anaerobically. So, when you are kicking pads or punching a bag, you can get carried away and you can leave yourself feeling exhausted.
In order to make the Muay Thai class safe and enjoyable you should listen to your body and make sure you push yourself to your limits.
Breathing is really an essential element of every workout. When you push yourself and try to keep up with all the exercises, you might be out of breath. Breathlessness during exercise can be a sign that the body is not getting enough oxygen, which can cause fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. It can also lead to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, which can cause discomfort and reduce endurance.
For this purpose, you may try breathwork ‘Box Breathing‘. All you need to do is while counting to four slowly and lightly inhale, then again while counting from one to four gently exhale. Repeat till you feel that your breathlessness is gone and your heart rate is back to normal.
6Take a cold shower and stretch to relieve muscle pain
After an intense workout muscle soreness and fatigue is a common aftermath. However, as Matt says, ‘The good thing about Muay Thai, boxing and kickboxing is that the muscle soreness is generally not comparable to the one you get after a leg session at the gym. You won’t feel like you can’t walk the next three days because you are not targeting one specific muscle group, you are working the whole body. You might have some soreness, but it is that kind of soreness that gives you the feeling that you’ve worked out the day before.’
Matt also recommends taking a cold shower as low-temperature water stimulates muscle recovery. You should also nourish your body with protein-rich foods and refrain from processed protein shakes.
Stretching is also a great way to relieve muscle pain but this step is included in the Muay Thai class.
7Body loves variety: engage in different physical activities for better progress
‘Improving your cardio is going to improve your endurance. My clients always ask me “How many times a week should I do Muay Thai?” My suggestion is to train 3 times a week minimum, regardless of whether it is Muay Thai or any other activity. And if developing a passion for Muay Thai, increase as you desire. The body doesn’t like having repetition, it doesn’t respond that well. So having a variety in your workouts is going to give you better results.’
Thus, any cardio and strength workout is going to improve your progress. It is beneficial to do a yoga or pilates class as they help to stretch very well. ‘You need variety,’ – this is the key😊.
Giving yourself time for rest is essential not only for the purpose of not burning out but also for building muscles. When you engage in physical activity, your muscles experience small tears in their tissues. The repair phase happens during rest, allowing your muscles to heal and become stronger, resulting in more efficient workouts in the future. Therefore, taking breaks and allowing your body to recover is crucial for improving performance in Muay Thai training.
9Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: practice makes perfect
When beginning something new, it is impossible to do it with no mistakes. As long as you haven’t become Muay Thai savvy, don’t be afraid of doing some movements, kicks or punches wrong. This is all a learning process. So, feel free to ask questions in order to improve.
When asked, ‘What is the most common mistake people do when they come to their first Muay Thai class?’ Matt commented on this as a tough question, explaining that ‘everything you do is a learning process, you are not making mistakes, you are progressing and learning.’
10Find a training partner
Training Muay Thai with a friend can be a great way to reduce stress and make the experience more enjoyable. When things become difficult, having someone to rely on throughout your Muay Thai journey can be extremely helpful. Muay Thai classes are like a miniature community of people who share a common interest and goal (at least one🙂), so don’t be shy to introduce yourself to your fellow classmates and make some new friends along the way.
Sum it up
Starting a new fitness journey can be intimidating, especially when it comes to something as misconnected as Muay Thai. However, with the right mindset and approach, anyone can overcome their fears and start reaping the benefits of this challenging and rewarding discipline. ‘Be patient, don’t be critical, don’t be the perfectionist, and what is most important – have fun.’ Such a mindset will bring you both physical and mental progress.
Not enough? Here is more
Combat Culture is a channel that focuses on technique videos, gear reviews, and interviews with legends of Muay Thai. This video provides more insights into how to start Muay Thai training for fitness.
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