I Just Started Muay Thai & My (Blank) Hurts. Is This Normal?

When i first started Muay Thai my body and mind were soft. The sport has shaped me for the better inside and out.

After a fight in 2004 – I’d been training 2 years at this point. When I first started Muay Thai my body and mind were soft. The sport has shaped me for the better inside and out.

I get this question at least once a month. I’m not trying to be funny or poke fun at anyone. When you’re starting a new sport there is a huge learning curve for the mind, the body and the culture that surrounds it. If you factor in the steep decline of our youth’s athleticism and combine it with the new popularity of combat sports like MMA you’ve got a lot of newbies starting a challenging sport that need a huge amount of (re)education about how to simply move their body safely, condition it well, and recover.

These days being athletic is the exception and not the norm. Even playing outside as a kid is unusual. I’ve trained many clients who have never played a sport in their lives and others who played the occasional sport in high school, but from college through several years into their professional career they haven’t done anything athletic consistently for any length of time. Then they show up to the gym with mobility issues, muscle imbalances, poor diet, crappy cardio and a few extra pounds on them. The situation finally gets to the point where they are willing to take action. Change is possible, or course. With effort and consistency, all these things can be reversed or at least drastically improved. I’ve seen adults train and become more athletic and fit than they ever were in high school.

However, if true athleticism is the student’s desire, they have to be open to an entire re-education in fitness and health. Getting an athletic body means you have to develop an athletic training ethic, an athlete’s mindset and the skill of listening to your body, knowing when to push it hard and knowing when to back off. I played basketball and tennis in H.S. I was on the varsity team at a very small private school, but I was far from the star player. I was mediocre at best. It wasn’t until I found Muay Thai  after college that I truly excelled at something athletic, developed an athletic body and most importantly learned to suffer through challenges to get rewarded with success. I will share with you what I have learned in my time training Muay Thai since 2002. The physical challenges, conditioning, and setbacks I experience along the way and how I coach my clients through their Muay Thai journey.

In this blog, you will learn how to navigate the new world of Muay Thai training injuries, specifically the physical conditioning and recovery aspects. What to expect, what changes your body will go through, what will hurt, what pain is healthy and what is not, the difference between an injury and the discomfort in stages of progression, how to care for your body, rest, recover and grow. You may also want to check out my Blog: Tips for Muay Thai Beginners

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How to Set Action Goals & Get Results!

 

How many times have you set a weight loss goal or made a resolution in your life and not been successful?

…Or been temporarily successful, only to put the weight back on or backslide later? Some of my clients come to me with a history of repeated failed attempts at weight loss. I know this can be disheartening at best and at worst can lead to a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting and self-loathing. As an athlete in a weight class sport for ten years, I sympathize, the scale can feel like your worst enemy.

The scientific and nutritional reasons why diet and exercise often fail people is a topic for another blog. I’ll touch it briefly by saying that successful clients don’t focus on calorie restriction (especially low calorie, low fat and hi carb diets) and excessive exercise. Instead, they focus on real food choices, food quality, lifting weights & finding joy in sports (like Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, basketball, rock climbing or tennis).

Today I would like to focus on how to set a fitness, health or even a life goal, something that when done correctly can bring great happiness and fulfillment to our lives. I’ve written before about willpower and neuropsychology has lately been the research topic that is most interesting to me. Goals setting is just a part of the willpower and habit human experience. If you want to know more, see the end of this blog for recommended reading.

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My Muay Thai Story

I often get asked how I got into Muay Thai. The sport seems such a part of my life now I sometimes forget that its unusual or even interesting to outsiders that anyone, especially a woman would gravitate towards a full contact sport that appears bloody and violent. When I meet other coaches or fighters I find their stories fascinating. What draws people to this type of training, what makes them want to excel in a sport that is so highly competitive, so physically demanding and pays nothing in the beginning and has no promise of a financially stable future is always very personal and tells me so much about who they are, where they came from and who they want to be.

Me in elementary school on my way to an orchestra recital... I know what you're thinking, future fight right? ;)

Me in elementary school on my way to an orchestra recital. I know what you’re thinking… future Muay Thai fighter right? 😉

This blog is about my Muay Thai story, my reasons for loving to fight and my reasons for wanting to make Muay Thai a part of my life forever by coaching and supporting the sport in any way I can. It’s a bit long, but not as long as the book I will one day write about my adventures.

If you read on I hope that my story will resonate with others in the sport and remind them of their humble beginnings as well as help Muay Thai beginners see that with enough strength, passion and dedication anything is possible. I also hope you will see that my love for Muay Thai, as violent and bloody as it can be, is really about empowerment and self discovery.

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Holiday Health & Fitness Survival Guide

The time of year is fast approaching when people deal with a lot of temptation that may derail them from their fitness goals. But you don’t have to feel helpless when it comes staying on course. January guilt and re-written New Year’s resolutions is not a fate carved in stone. Now is a great time to strategize a holiday fitness survival plan that keeps you moving, motivated, eating clean, indulging a little and most importantly feeling sexy and dashing at your Holiday parties!

But before I get started, let’s debunk the myth that the average person gains 5-10 pounds over the holiday season. This just isn’t true.  It’s estimated at 0.8, which isn’t a lot but can add up year after year and it’s not good that about 50% of the average yearly gain of 1.5 pounds is occurring over the Holidays. Realizing that you are not doomed to gain massive weight will alleviate unnecessary stress and help you think more clearly while strategizing a survival plan. A word of caution, though, overweight and obese test subjects (14%) gained an average of 5 lbs!  So there was some variance. That also means that a portion of the test subjects must not have gained any weight or just a small fraction.

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Flex Your Willpower Muscle

This article was originally written in 2008 for Wfighter.Com a site that doesn’t exist anymore, so I am republishing it here. Edited and updated with lots of sources. I noticed (thankfully) that my writing has improved since this piece was first written and I also noticed I did a horrible job of linking to studies and references. So I researched again and added the goods 🙂

If this topic interests you I suggest the book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney (Aug 2012) as recommended additional reading on this topic.

If you are interested in health and fitness, you know the importance of willpower. We use willpower to get us to the gym, to run that extra 10 minutes, to choose carrot sticks over cookies, to get to bed early, to pass on a second cocktail, even to hold off on telling off our boss.

If we can understand how willpower works, we can conquer many of our personal demons that prevent us from optimal success. We will train harder, eat healthier, and be calmer. We can unleash a powerful, disciplined fighter in us all.

Fighters are notoriously disciplined, training 2-3 hours a day, following a careful diet, sacrificing social activities for the sake of a good night’s sleep. No fighter is perfect; we all have areas we would like to improve on. However, the world’s top fighters are inspiring because they have an enormous amount of willpower and discipline

In the last ten years, scientists have made some interesting discoveries regarding human willpower. First it’s important to note that willpower is a mind-body response, which means that when we exert willpower, it affects our physical state and when our physical state is altered a certain way, it will change how we can use willpower. Willpower is an evolutionary characteristic we developed to help us ignore instinctive instant gratification and focus on long-term goals. Willpower has helped us become the educated, career focused society we are today -but where is gets interesting is in the details of how it works.

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What I Love about Muay Thai that I Hope Never Changes

Roxy Balboa Muay Thai 2006

This is me in January of 2006, in my pajamas, REALLY excited about Muay Thai! Why, yes those are cherries on my pants. 😉

It’s easy for me to get nostalgic about my early days of training. When I discovered Muay Thai it quickly became my sole passion. It did for me what true loves does for most people. It captivated me, thrilled me, challenged me and made me want to be a better person. Not everyone may feel this way about a sport, but everyone that becomes a fighter or even just becomes good at Muay Thai feels at least a little like this at some point and remembers it well.

I started Muay Thai in the spring of 2002 in Philadelphia when I was 24 years old. I was dating a guy who trained and he wanted to show me what it was about. At the time I was just bartending in the city after graduating college. I hit up Bally’s to workout a little on occasion, but had very little clue about fitness other than what I gathered from playing basketball in high school and reading Shape magazine – and I had definitely never taken a martial art in my life.

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What’s The Best Conditioning for Fighters… & Fat Loss?

I wrote this article in July of 2010 when it was printed in Caged360, an online publication no longer in operation. I have re-issued it with a few changes and updates here.

Conditioning for Fighters

When I first started fighting 10 years ago I got up every morning and ran 3-5 miles. I did this because a) I wanted to keep my weight down b) I wanted to have good cardio c) my trainer told me to. After my run, I would have breakfast,sometimes take a nap, then train again around 4pm for a couple of hours. This was my routine 6 days a week, with sometimes a longer 5-6 mile run on the weekend.

My cardio routine looks very different now. Today I know that although the long runs I did in the morning may have done something for my character, they did very little for my goals of maintaining a healthy fight weight, staying strong and improving my fighting cardio in the way I wanted it to. Plus my knees hate me today. When I first started Muay Thai I didn’t have the health & fitness knowledge I have today. In my naive fitness days I was always hungry (living on a high carbohydrate diet), never satisfied, always worried about making weight and definitely not as strong as I could have been.

“But running is good for me, right?!” “It makes me fit and improves my wind!” Well, not exactly. Let me explain.

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How to Find More Purpose & Increase Health

Finding Purpose

This is me, probably thinking about something to do with purpose 😉

When I have a consult with a new client I ask some unorthodox questions about their life. I want to know if they have long term and short term goals. I want to know if they enjoy their work. I want to know their priorities, passions and focus. Essentially what I am getting at, is do they feel they have a purpose? The average client usually looks to hire a personal trainer because they want to lose fat, feel good physically and look better naked. What I have discovered over the years is clients rarely succeed at this if they are stressed, unhappy and/or hate their life. I’m not a therapist, but find my job does include a good deal of life coaching, as well as fitness and nutrition tip; especially since what motivates people is so closely tied with their priorities and their general attitude.

Today I’d like to take a closer look at one area people usually think is unrelated to their health goals, but is incredibly important: Purpose. There are many aspects of wellness. As a culture we tend to think that if we just control what we eat and do enough exercise our bodies will magically be what we want them to be and we will automatically be free from disease and illness. This black and white thinking based solely on calories in, calories out leaves out a major component of wellness, the mind. If our minds are not healthy, we are not healthy.

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20 Tips for Muay Thai Newbies

Muay Thai Profile

This picture, taken three years after I started training; my cheeks still look chubby, and it reminds me of being new to the sport 🙂

Do you remember all your fears about the first day of a new high school or college? Worrying if you could find the right class room, wondering if you were overdressed, under-dressed, or had even picked the right image to present yourself to your new classmates. Always checking your schedule, trying to figure out where to sit, trying to decide if you should raise your hand or not in class. Looking around the room and wondering who would be a good person to talk to and become friends with, wondering if you were cool enough to be their friend. Well thank God that’s over for me, and for most of you, but I like to remember that feeling because it can be a little like the first day of school for people when they walk into a Muay Thai gym for the first time.

If you have been in the fight scene for a while, you forget what it was like when you first started. For a newbie, instructors, fighters, and other students are intimidating. Muay Thai traditions are completely foreign. You don’t know a Thai pad from a kick pad, Thai oil smells funny, three minutes of jump rope feels like an eternity, and you have no idea how to take 180 inches of fabric and somehow with what seems like 37 different twists and turns, wrap it neatly around your hand without either cutting off your circulation or having the whole wrap fall apart after the warm-up.

At my gym, I try to make beginners feel comfortable and explain to them all the things they will need to know before they move on to the mixed level classes, but I will probably always fall short. It’s so hard to remember all the things beginners don’t know because it’s been so long since I was one.

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How to Beat Sugar Cravings

Ask yourself these questions: Do you just have to have something sweet after meals?  Does the idea of living life without bread and pasta scare you? Does afternoon fatigue prompt trips to Starbucks or a candy binge on a regular basis?  If someone offers you cookies, cakes, ice cream or candy at a party is it impossible for you to decline them?  Is it hard for you to stop after one cookie, candy, etc.?  Is drinking black coffee or tea without sweetener out of the question? Do you obsess over your next sugary treat?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you are probably addicted to sugar.

Sugar is addictive. Many doctors now recognize the damage of sugar addiction, although it might be several more years before we can sue Coca-Cola for pushing its “drug” on kids.  Maybe it’s not as noticeable as illegal street drugs, but sugar does give you a mild “high” – why else would we jokingly call it “kiddie crack”?  I’m not fanatical or preaching sugar abstinence.  I love ice cream just as much as the next gal, but I find that many of my clients are plagued by sugar cravings and feel out of control when it comes to their diet.  I can relate.

You’re talking to a girl who single-handedly picked every chocolate chip out of her roommate’s trail mix (sorry, Monica). I remember when I was little stealing cookies from the jar at my grandmother’s house and eating them behind the couch so I wouldn’t get caught. I’m pretty sure I also remember also eating an entire frozen pound cake – while it was still frozen. I am no angel when it comes to sugar.  My history with sugar goes deep into the core of my psyche – but although I love the occasional treat, I am no longer consumed by sugar. I rarely have insane cravings, and I can stop after just a couple bites. How did I achieve this you ask?

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