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

How Sore is Too Sore?

It’s very common for people to have soreness for 1-3 days, after a Muay Thai workout, especially in the beginning. However, after consistent training, you won’t get really sore from a basic Muay Thai workout unless you’re pushing it super hard. Sometimes students get a little freaked out by the soreness, thinking they did something wrong or hurt themselves. Some people also think they need to be 100% not sore to workout again, but this is not true. There are many reasons that your soreness is more severe than others. #1 Maybe you haven’t worked out in a long long time. #2 Maybe you have never worked out those particular muscles in the way Muay Thai works them. #3 Maybe you have a poor diet that has too many processed foods or inflammatory foods and/or don’t drink enough water. #4 Maybe you don’t sleep enough #5 Or maybe you are just sensitive and have a low pain tolerance. I’m serious, some students I’ve noticed are just more sensitive than others.

#1 Maybe you haven’t worked out in a long long time. #2 Maybe you have never worked out those particular muscles in the way Muay Thai works them. #3 Maybe you have a poor diet that has too many processed foods or inflammatory foods and/or don’t drink enough water. #4 Maybe you don’t sleep enough #5 Or maybe you are just sensitive and have a low pain tolerance. I’m serious, some students I’ve noticed are just more sensitive than others.

#2 Maybe you have never worked out those particular muscles in the way Muay Thai works them. #3 Maybe you have a poor diet that has too many processed foods or inflammatory foods and/or don’t drink enough water. #4 Maybe you don’t sleep enough #5 Or maybe you are just sensitive and have a low pain tolerance. I’m serious, some students I’ve noticed are just more sensitive than others.

#3 Maybe you have a poor diet that has too many processed foods or inflammatory foods and/or don’t drink enough water. #4 Maybe you don’t sleep enough #5 Or maybe you are just sensitive and have a low pain tolerance. I’m serious, some students I’ve noticed are just more sensitive than others.

#4 Maybe you don’t sleep enough #5 Or maybe you are just sensitive and have a low pain tolerance. I’m serious, some students I’ve noticed are just more sensitive than others.

#5 Or maybe you are just sensitive and have a low pain tolerance. I’m serious, some students I’ve noticed are just more sensitive than others to pain in general, including soreness.

The only time to worry about muscle soreness is if you are peeing blood, which can indicate a condition called rhabdomyolysis. However, I have never seen anyone get rhabdo from a Muay Thai workout in all my years in the sport. I’ve only seen rhabdo occur from a CrossFit workout, as the weights plus intense exercise can be too much for a unconditioned body to handle. As a side note, you are more susceptible to rhabdo if you are on statins (cholesterol-lowering medication).

I generally recommend that if you are just starting an intense exercise routine like Muay Thai, to train three times a week with rest between the days. M/W/F or T/TR/SAT are good schedules to follow. Come all these days regardless of muscle soreness. Once you warm up and start moving around the soreness will diminish to allow you to workout safely. That’s another reason to be on time for class. You don’t want to skimp on the important warm up. As you get more conditioned you can add more days.

I also suggest you invest in a foam roller. This nifty invention will help speed recovery and help prevent injury. There are plenty of online tutorials on how to use your foam roller for various muscle groups.

One last tip if you are very sore is to come to class and just work on technique, drilling combos while going much lighter than normal. The activity will help you recovery faster while not pushing your body too far. You can also just jump rope, stretch, and shadowbox in open-gym – this is called “active rest” and is good for recovery.

Ouch, my shins! Sorry, this might hurt a little…

Kate McGray's spilt shin after a fight in Canada.

A split shin after a Muay Thai fight.

Shin conditioning is a necessary part of Muay Thai. For some students, it takes longer than others to condition shins. In order to have shins that withstand Muay Thai fight competition, you have to go through a lot of pain and TLC before your shins are hard enough to check kicks without shin guards. That’s not everyone’s goal, but even if you just want to wail on the Thai pads and heavy bag, your shins will need to toughen up a bit.

When I first started Muay Thai my shins were black and blue. I guess I bruised easy, or maybe I  just had wimpy shins. Today I hardly ever bruise. The body is amazing at adapting to outside conditions, this is the basis of evolution… but yes, using your body as a weapon will hurt a little.

If you find that your shins ache, bump or bruise after kicking pads or heavy bags don’t worry, you didn’t break anything. Trust me, a stress fracture of your shin feels absolutely horrible. You will know if it’s broken. It kind of feels like a lightening bolt going up your leg every time you touch it. What’s super common is a basic bruise/lump. If this happens to you, you need to ice your shin after training. I personally spent every day after training for three years with ice packs on my shins for 20 minutes while eating dinner. Then I just stopped needing to unless I got a major bump from sparring.

Used by bad-asses everywhere.

Used by bad-asses worldwide!

You don’t need to stop training because of a shin bump. Bumps are common, mostly from sparring and hitting an elbow or knee by mistake, but they can also happen by hitting the edge of a Thai pad the wrong way. Most of the time they just need a few days to heal. It helps to massage them after a hot bath or shower or before training with Thai Liniment, a menthol oil from Thailand used by fighters to warm the muscles before training and fighting.  Thai oil helps numb the shins a bit while you train so the bruises hurt less and it also makes it easier to rub out the lumps in your shins…. yeah, this is not a sport for the timid.

It’s important to remember to wash your hands after you put on Thai oil.  A swipe in the eye of that stuff and you will be crying. Or worse you use the restroom and forget to rinse the Thai Oil off first! LOL

If the bump is really bad you might have a bone bruise. These can take a longer time to heal usually 2 -6 weeks, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop training. Many times I have hurt my shins sparring: bumps, bone bruises or even stress fractures and I went back to train, but just didn’t kick with that leg for a while.

The awesome thing about Muay Thai is it’s the art of 8 limbs (not 2) so if one of my weapons is busted I can use all the other 7. Unless you are the amazing Baxter Humby you all have 2 hands, 2 elbows, 2 knees, and 2 shins (that guy is awesome, next time you are complaining, think about what he has accomplished). I’ve trained Muay Thai with a busted hand, bloody elbows, bruised knees and completely destroyed shins. It’s not required that you do that, but just a note that this is what fighters do.

The most magical thing I've found for swelling, pain and bruises.

The most magical thing I’ve found for swelling, pain, and bruises.

Black Blue & Every Shade of Purple

Guys: Girls love bruises and scars, don’t’ sweat it.

Girls: I’ve sported many a dress with sexy bruises on my legs. If you are a Muay Thai chick and some guy has a problem with your bruises, they are probably not the guy for you… However, here’s my suggestions to minimize bruising…

First, if you really can’t deal with bruises I don’t recommend learning to spar. Just stick to pad work. You WILL bruise sometimes if you spar or drill defense and you have little control over this .

Second, make sure you have your diet in check. A poor diet can make you more susceptible to bruises. Eat veggies, drink water, get sufficient protein.

Ready for the magic formula which will allow you to bruise your leg on Tuesday and go to the beach without getting stared at on Saturday?  Traumeel! It’s the best thing I discovered since Amazon Prime…and you can get Traumeel on Amazon (of course you can). Buy some and keep it on your bedside table. Slather it on anything that hurts or looks purplish. Your welcome very 🙂

"My foot hurts. Can I go to the nurse?"

“My foot hurts. Can I go to the nurse?”

“My Foot Hurts.”

When you are first learning to kick you’ll probably hit the top of your foot a lot. This is one reason why I suggest not going hard when you don’t have the proper technique. Slapping your foot across a hard pad does not feel awesome. Once you learn to kick properly you will crush the Thai pads & kick pads with your shin the right way.

Once you start sparring injuries to the foot and toes are common as it’s hard to anticipate an opponent’s movement and kicking a knee or elbow is common. Sparring more advanced partners helps to cut down on the bumps and bruises, as they are more accustomed to sparring and have better control. If you sustain a bone bruise on the top of the foot just don’t kick for a while with that leg while sparring or doing pad work, until it heals.

Throwing push kicks when sparring is the number one cause of broken toes. Catching an elbow or knee to your toe is not a good time, but broken toes are really not a huge deal, they are just really annoying. Most of the time, it’s not really a break, it’s just badly bruised and needs some rest. If you severely break the big toe you might need a cast or operation, but this is pretty rare. You can’t cast most broken toes. All you can do is tape the broken toe to the toe next to it, creating a splint of sorts and ice it as needed. If it’s still painful when kicking don’t kick with that leg until it heals.

Knees make a great sub in class when you have shin, foot or toe issues. Your knees will get awesome and your opposite side kick will improve significantly as the limiting injury will help you get more reps in as you are forced to focus your attention. The key to training Muay Thai long term (which is the only way to get really good) is to figure out what you can safely do pain-free, while still allowing some recovery for your minor injury.

Troubleshooting Your Wrist Pain

I have the smallest wrists known to man or woman, at least it seems that way. I also had a really bad habit of jacking up my wrist with hooks for most of my career. I finally found a way to throw my hook that didn’t jack up my wrist, thanks to one coach, but by that time the damage was done. I also think it was from years of waiting tables and bartending that started my wrist pain, but that’s another story. Anyway, at the end of my career, I ended up having such bad wrist pain it would just ache while I wasn’t doing anything…. all day. Driving really aggravated it big time. I’m pain-free now, but I only train Muay Thai a couple times a week so I’m not exposing it to constant impact like before. I tell you this not to scare you against punching things. Punching things is fun, but you don’t have to end up with crappy wrist pain like me if you do it right.

This is the way I like to throw my hook. Notice the contact of the top two knuckles on the chin with a straight wrist.

This is the way I like to throw my hook, turning it over at the end, facing the palm down. Notice the direct contact of the top two knuckles on the chin with a straight wrist.

First, make sure you are throwing your punches correctly. You should always be hitting with the top two knuckles (the index and middle finger knuckles) with a perfectly straight wrist. If you bend your wrist or hit with the smaller knuckles of the ring or pinky fingers you will hurt your wrist, especially if you are throwing hooks like Vandalay Silva. That bad-ass can get away with crazy punch angles, but he is also super-human. Hooks from strange angles create an uneven distribution of the punch and most often you will tweak the wrist or in the worst case scenario break your hand in a fight, particularly if your wrists are weak or you have other underlying repetitive movement issues like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Second, you must have a good wrap job that keeps the hand and wrist secure. I made two videos on how to wrap your hands for Muay Thai: Version 1 and Version 2 . I think version 2 is a little easier to wrap on yourself, but both work for protecting the wrist. If your wrist is a little tweaked, focus less on the knuckle pad and add more to the wrist protection, notably securing the hand and wrist to prevent bending. I strongly suggest getting some 2-inch athletic tape with which to tape your wrist. Secure the wrist a couple times with the athletic tape before putting on your wrap. Make sure you put the tape on while you are making a fist with a straight wrist.

If possible tape and wrap your hands after your jump rope, so you can make it very secure. Don’t cut off your circulation, but you want a wrist that won’t bend much, which makes warm ups and jump rope more difficult or loosens the wrap during warm up. Do the best you can. If you have to wrap your hands pre-warm up due to class programming. I suggest making a fist on the ground instead of bending your wrist for any body weight movements like mountain climbers, bear crawls or push ups, so as not to loosen your hand wraps.

If you do tweak your wrist ice your entire hand in a bowl of ice water after training for 20 mins, and apply Traumeel until it heels. You can usually go back to training with a good tape job and just hit a little lighter than usual on that hand until it feels 100%, make sure to tell your pad holding partner, so they don’t give you more resistance than necessary. You can ice after every training session if it’s a chronic inflammation.

The Kind of Roll you Don’t want: an Ankle Roll

Rolling your ankles is super common in all sports and the downside is once you roll your ankle once you are more prone to injure it again. Muay Thai is practiced barefoot and you need strong ankles to support all the single leg movements of various kicks and knees. Jumping rope helps to strengthen ankles, which is one reason it’s a good warm up. Those anklets you see Muay Thai fighters wear are actually not designed to support the ankle, they are designed to catch sweat from your body and keep the mat dryer to prevent slipping. That’s good for protecting your ankles if you perspire a lot, but it doesn’t really protect the ankle in any other way. It also, as I found out the hard way one way doesn’t allow the skin on the top of the foot to get conditioned to the heavy bag. I used to wear anklets every day, then I forgot them one day and did a heavy bag workout with a lot of high kicks and wore the skin off my foot. Good times. After that, I just wore them for fights, not training.

To prevent ankle rolls the best thing is to understand your kick angles and improve your footwork. Don’t try to do kick combos too fast before you feel very comfortable using kick switches and transitions. The number one strike in which I see ankle rolling is the left switch kick. When a student switches stance to throw a kick they try to switch faster than they are able to adjust their balance and their foot slides under them. Foot placement matters a lot too. If care is not taken to step off the center of your partner or heavy bag when you kick you have little balance and again the foot can slide or roll under you.

Be cautious with jumping or switching moves. Like with any new combo you should do several reps slowly with focused intention until you feel confident in the footwork and your instructor says it looks clean, then you can pick up speed and power. This concept of learning and breaking things down is the cornerstone of any good athlete’s progress and the key to top technical performance. You have to perfect the movement slowly, breaking down the sequence before doing it hard or fast. If you don’t not only will you not learn good form, but you will risk injury. 

This can happen through wraps & gloves if you punch really hard.

Wearing the skin off your knuckles can happen through wraps & gloves if you punch hard.

Bloody Knuckles

Once you do start punching correctly with power, you might notice some redness or even lost skin on the knuckles. If you get bloody knuckles on the index or middle finger you did it right, if you got them on the smaller pinky or ring fingers…back to the drawing board, you’re hitting incorrectly. It’s easy to take care of bloody knuckles. Here is my proven method to getting back to mitt work the next day.:

  1. Put some antibacterial ointment on the bloody knuckles
  2. Cover them with a band aid, two or a large one if it’s both knuckles. These work well.
  3. Loop some 1-inch athletic tape over so it’s double sided sticky and covers the knuckle(s)
  4. Stick a pad of boxing gauze over the tape and press gently. This will ensure the gauze won’t slip and slide.
  5. Proceed with your hand wraps as usually, giving a little extra knuckle pad support.
  6. Punch away to your heart’s desire.

You still might feel it a little bit, but if you are training for a fight you gotta work through it anyway, it will heal if you keep taping it this way, I promise. It’s worked for me countless times. If you are not a fighter, just use this method and punch a bit lighter for a couple days to speed healing.

Simple neck exercises for beginners.

Simple neck exercises for beginners

Pain in the Neck

The first time you train clinch in Muay Thai your neck will get very very sore. To prevent extreme soreness I highly recommend icing for 20 minutes before you sleep that night, or you will be in for some major discomfort the next day. Most people don’t do neck strengthening exercises regularly, and after just one short clinch session you will see just how unconditioned your neck is. As you get better at clinch work your neck muscles get stronger. To help improve this process you can do neck strengthening exercises. There are simple beginner ones like the ones pictured left. Then there is old school shit like this that may or may not give you buck teeth. New contraptions have solved the buck teeth problem while getting resistance from bands.

Personally, I just stuck to some basics head turns and nods while laying with my back on the boxing ring with my head hanging off the side of the ring. Then I just clinched a lot and that got my neck stronger.

How to Hold Pads & Not Jack Yourself Up

Pad Holding is a skill. You will suck at first and you have to work at it to get better. Learning to hold pads correctly will help your understanding of the sport as well as your timing. It will also help you to strengthen your body and keep your hands up.

I try to partner up students by size and power, but sometimes you will be matched with a partner that is stronger than you. It’s important to ask them to go slowly at first to get a feel for their power and how much resistance you need to give back into the strike to deal with the power. If your partner is hitting harder than you can handle and makes no adjustment in their power for you to work with you can always ask to be paired with someone else. If you don’t give enough resistance to your partner not only is it an unsatisfying pad workout for them (too easy), but it’s dangerous for you, as you risk getting your shoulder tweaked when your hand flies back after punches or you risk hitting yourself in the face with the Thai Pad when they kick.

Learning a martial art is learning how to use your body’s power, part of that is learning to punch and kick and defend strikes, but another part is being able to absorb strikes if necessary. Holding pads teaches you how to make your body hard upon impact, allowing you to meet an opponent’s power with your own force and not let it make you off balance or knock the wind out of you.

Breathing is an important part of pad holding, as it is an important part of striking, just like you breathe out sharply from the abdomen when you strike, you breath out when you hold pads and tense against your partners strike. This helps you remember to breathe when you get hit with a body kick, knee or punch so that you can resist the strike. I was taught to say “hush” when I strike, but any sound or grunt that makes your abs hard is acceptable.

Be careful not to expose your elbows when holding pads for kicks. Keep your elbows tight against your body. If you reach for the kick and leave a gap between your arms and body , there is a chance your partners kick will slide under the pad or worse, hit your elbows.  For the same reason keep your elbows tucked behind the kick pad when holding it for body kicks. I made this video which is a beginner holding pads tutorial.

protractor-anglesThe angle you hold the pads matters. For punches always hold the pads straight with the center of the pad at your partner’s chin level (not yours). For kicks, you need to angle the pad slightly downward. If you are looking at a protractor and your partner is directly in front of you the angle of the pads would be about 50 degrees, or 130 degrees depending on if it were a right or left kick. If you are holding pads for someone that can’t turn their hip over well (pivot on the kick) you may need to hold the pads more towards 20 degrees or 160 degrees. Again, communicate with your partner as do a few test kicks if you are working with someone new!


Me training for a fight in 2008 with my S&C coach Kris who is excited about my pull ups.

Why you need to stop doing so many (shitty) push-ups and start pulling and rowing.

If you box you are making repetitive pushing motions frequently (punching and pad holding are pushing movements). This can lead to a rounded pack, tight chest muscles, and muscle imbalances, which predisposes you to shoulder injuries.

I highly recommend minimizing the push-ups in your program, especially those shitty ones where your back sags and you go about halfway down, your legs touch the ground, not the chest and you do like 50 in 30 seconds just to say you did 50. Those are stupid and yet I see so many martial arts gyms do them. Not only do they not strengthen your chest or shoulders or do anything for your core, but they make your shoulder injury chances even worse. Here’s an example of good push ups – my client Ali  kicks ass at them!. Doing 5 of these correctly is better than 50 shitty ones.

Second, you should focus less on push ups and do more rowing motions to even out your upper body musculature. I love the TRX for body rows 3 sets of 10 at a challenging level 3 times a week is a good start to your rowing program. I also love pull-ups (done right) and the concept2 rower. These are all good beginner exercises. Deadlifts and cleans are also great for fighters, but those are too advanced to go into now.

The C2 rower, pull up bars and TRX are made available to our F5 fitness students at open-gym for this reason!

Push Through or Give it a Rest? 

Fighters or other high-level athletes I usually have to send home from the gym from trying to train injured or sick. It’s this kind of “push through” mentality that separates them from the rest and makes them excel at their chosen sport. I’m not suggesting that training injured is smart, far from it, but I am saying that the desire to train regardless of circumstances is what is needed for high-level success. The decision to train with bumps, bruises or soreness is entirely up to you, but I will say that there have been many days when my muscles ached, my shins were battered, my toe blue, my wrist painful and I dutifully slathered on my Thai oil, wrapped up well, got warmed up and in 15 minutes felt no pain, only the adrenaline of competing in a sport I loved.

Of course, there are those injuries the require rest. Have the flu? Rest.  Tore your knee? Rest (and see a doctor). Have a concussion? Rest. When I tore my knee a few years ago I took time off, but as soon as I was able to walk I was in the gym doing pull-ups, dips, rows, bench press and shoulder presses, whatever I could think of that didn’t involve the use of my knee. If your goal is to compete as an athlete or just be very fit, injuries don’t mean a complete cessation of your routine, they mean careful and smart modification of it.

Sleep & Body Work is a Requirement 

Kimura sleeps 16 hours a day & she has a mean left hook and a killer vertical jump!

Kimura sleeps 16 hours a day & she has a mean left hook and a killer vertical jump!

If you are going to push it hard in training, you need to spend equal time and effort on your recovery. I can’t stress this important concept enough. The harder you work, the more intensely you train the BETTER care of your body you need to take. Exercise is healthy, but not getting sleep, regular chiropractic visits, massages and learning some basic recovery and mobility correctives when you exercise regularly is like driving your car more and more miles every day and not taking it for it’s scheduled tune-ups – in time disaster will strike. Exercise is stress on the body, it’s a healthy stress yes, but it’s still stress. So when you stress your body out intensely, (like is necessary for athletes and those wanting athletic looking bodies), you need to spend ample time on R&R.

If you train moderately (3-4 times a week for 45-60 minutes a session) 7-8 hours sleep is required. If you train intensely (5 or more times a week) 9-10 hours a night is best. If you neglect your sleep, not only will your results suffer, but eventually your health will too.

When I was fighting I usually got twp chiropractic visits and two massages a month, more if I had a minor injury. Now that I train less I get about one massage a month and a chiropractic visit every two months or so, just to keep healthy. Even if you don’t have chronic pain it’s smart to get preventative care. Those who don’t have any major chiropractic issues to address will benefit from just some smart recovery exercises like foam rolling and stretching. We offer a “Tune-Up class at my gym for this reason. Everyone should own a foam roller at home. Check out the Mobility Wod for great instructional videos and posts on taking care of your body.

real_food_pyramidNutrition for Recovery

If you eat well, keep hydrated and sleep well you will recover faster & experience less soreness post workout.

I’ve written many blogs about nutrition, so check them out. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet will help you recover more quickly and improve your performance in the gym.

No Pain No Gain?


Thank you, 80’s for leg warmers and workout myths!

Jane Fonda popularized this catch phrase in the 80’s with her workout videos. She was specifically talking about the “burn” from repetitive aerobics moves, but with bodybuilding popular in the 80’s meat heads worldwide made the phrase their own and it shaped the fitness culture as a whole into thinking that without some level of muscle discomfort gains were not being made. The 80’s were rife with fitness and nutrition myths. While “no pain no gain” is not exactly true because “the burn” does not mean you are getting results any more than repeatedly waving your hand will get you ripped triceps, there is some merit to the phrase.

While actual pain is not necessary to result, I believe some discomfort be it mental or physical is crucial to progress and success. Ask me if someone has the potential to be a top fighter or athlete and the first thing I want to see is their ability to endure suffering. Even if you have no desire to compete at Muay Thai or any sport for that matter, if you want to improve simply for your own education and/or fitness benefit you will need to step out of your comfort zone at some point, experience some degree of physical or mental stress, maybe even “pain”, endure it and come through the other side more experienced and tougher from accepting and beating the challenge.

The challenge is what I love most about Muay Thai.  I was never a real athlete before I found the sport. Accepting each challenge along the way from bashed shins to making weight to title fights was what drove me to want to succeed more. Learning a sport like Muay Thai can teach you how to develop your thick skin, something I feel is lacking in our basic educational system. Muay Thai can teach you how to love that something is hard, embrace it, tackle it and win or lose love the journey and go back for more. Even if you never get in a fight in your life, this is an invaluable lesson.








  • Hi, Is there an option for me to subscribe to your blog page? Im loving it!I just started muay thai in Thailand! Also, after reading Ive discovered Im still addicted to sugar. I thought I was ok, because I dont have it in my tea or on anything but realised its in my bread and I have bad cravings after a meal at night How can I replace my bread etc to beat these cravings? Its seriously affecting my ability to cut any weight…

    • Thanks for reading! What a great idea to add a subscribe button. I will ask my graphic designer about that, thank you. I’m always available for one on one counseling. I do skype calls and love to help fighters find the best nutrition for health & sport! Visit my website for more info: http://function5fitness.com/nutritioncounseling

  • Crystal

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU!!You have given me so much insight and understanding. I had my orientation with a Muay Thai studio here in Philly and it kicked my butt (I have a cold too) but I have never challenged my body before.. no point in getting in shape and looking like I can kick someone’s a$$ and I can’t! lol My biggest concern is making time for the shakes and the right food. I can avoid the bad, bad food, but making time to eat and prepare is my biggest challenge. Conditioning, brusies, soreness and blood is cool. (I think lol) Anyway, just thanks again, loved your story and advice!

    • Thanks for reading, wishing you the best in your Muay Thai training! 🙂

  • Vigneshwar Sivaraj

    I’m practicing muay Thai for the past 2 months and day by day am getting more and more addicted to it. yesterday while conditioning my coach landed a left and right cross to my face which I handled well. But the thing is I remember just the first two punches to my face. When I received the 3rd and 4th punches I was out of my breath and fell down and the other students made me stand for the next round of conditioning, which I don’t even remember. Now I was thinking that I am pushing my body beyond its limits, running that extra mile,knowingly getting hit and calling it as conditioning. But after reading thus article I’m pretty sure that I’m definitely on the right path.
    Now I understand this:
    ‘No pain.,
    No muay Thai!!!,’

    • No disrespect to your coach, but it’s not smart training to not remember your “conditioning sessions” because you where TKO’ed in the session. Not to mention that sparring after just 2 months of training is not a good idea. “No pain no gain” is not my motto, i touched on the saying because i think there should be some discomfort in progressing as an athlete, but there is a big difference between discomfort that makes you improve and discomfort that is unsafe.

  • Beautifulsoul

    Hello everyone..

    🙂 My name is Sarah, It is very nice to meet you all… i just wanted to say i was wondering i have just started Mixed Martial Arts and i was wanted to know the first few times it has been like almost two weeks and i still get pain and out of breathe is that okay! i get so sore. OR SHOULD I PUSH AND KEEP PUSHING TO THE ULTIMATE LIMIT and not stop CAN U collapse? or can a human handle the pain do you keep going when their is pain how do you know. Even with warm ups when it is okay to keep going.

    🙂 Thank you guys much love.

    • Hi Sara, thanks for reading! I can’t really answer your question because I don’t know what your your doing in classes or anything about your healthy history or the safety of your workouts. I do know that the mind is a powerful tool and will get you though a lot. At my gym we encourage beginners to start with a 3 days a week program for the first couple months so they can allow their bodies and lungs to adapt and get stronger, especially if they came from doing no exercise before. Our classes are challenging, but it’s what you put into your workouts as far as intensity that gets you results. All our drills are scalable and our instructors give modifications for students if necessary. If you question to safety of your workout and are not sure how hard you should push, you should ask you instructor(s), if they are experienced and knowledgeable, they should have the right answer for you.

  • Alyssa

    I’m 12 and I just started mauy thai three weeks ago. When I first signed up they gave me equipment, and it all works great so far except the shin guards. They gave me the tigerclaw 2000 series brand that guards my shin and feet. Whenever I use them they rub against the tops of my toes, knawing off my skin in patches. Its tolerable so far, but I want to be able to move freely in class. Is there anything you can recommend? Also, the only size they had was a large, so that’s what I got.

    • I’d get some new gear! Large is too big for a young girl and that brand is a cheap TKD brand of gear, not meant for Muay Thai If they are giving it away it’s probably really cheap. For sparring I usually recommend the Revgear Ultralight shin guards (barefoot style). They are comfortable for me and I’ve always like them, but are one size fits all so if you are small, may not work. You could also go with a basic Revgear cloth shin & instep guard, as long as you are not sparring very hard, they are cheap, but supportive enough for light sparring for unconditioned shins and come in various sizes. However, I’m not sure why you are sparring if you just started MT? But that’s another story. But yes, definitely get some new gear, that’s not normal! 😉

  • Carlos

    Hello,I’m going to my free trial class tomorrow and I’m psyched up! I come from a competitive background (cat2 cyclist) and finally gave it up after getting hit by a car and pulverizing my tibia plateau 3 years ago oh and having a baby girl 7 months ago.I managed to compete 2 weeks after hardware removal(6 months after initial surgery). After on and off the bike the last 2 years I finally called it quits. I mentioned it just so you can see the mindset I can have. Now to my question,I know I’m going to stick to MT for a while and was wondering what do you do for Fitness(lasting in ring)? Running? I boxed a bit in my teens and the trainer always emphasized running,”road work”. I want to do good in may this and if running will help Lorain longer than I’m a go! I used to ride 4 hours a day(65-80 miles) 5-6 days a week.
    Thank you for your help and good luck!

  • Holly Fish

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I have been training Muay Thai for 3.5 years and currently doing Black Belt boot camp for the next three months. It is extremely intense and the hardest thing I have ever done. I am fine with pain, sure I feel like I have been hit by a truck today but it is all good. I really need to strengthen my ankles especially my right which has arthritis and old injuries. I really need to get and keep that heel up. Any other suggestions besides jumping rope for getting the most height I can in that right ankle? It is really hindering me in this process. Plus it makes my left kick horrible. Thanks again.

    • I’m not sure what Black Belt boot camp is, but if it’s like hard fight training I know that can be very demanding on the body. Good sleep, hydration and nutrition are key to helping your body recover from workouts, for more specific mobility issues and solutions Check out Kelly Starrett and his Mobility WOD – he has great info. You can find videos on YouTube and he has a book out called the “Supple Leopard” 🙂 A quick search of his name + ankle mobility should show you some of the exercises we use in our programming for ankle mobility. Much easier to see than describe!

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  • michael cordon

    I’ve been training almost 2 months 3 times a week and developed tennis elbow. How can I get rid of it and can I train through it. Oh ya I’m 42 and a former Marine, no competition just like the adrenaline rush of being in the gym hitting stuff.

  • I just picked up Muay Thai (class one was 2 days ago) and I am inspired by your story and all your posts have been very useful for a Muay Thai newbie like me. I think I’m starting to love this sport already.

    • That’s awesome Michelle! Thanks for reading and enjoy your training 🙂 x

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  • Hi Roxy, I’m thinking of getting in to Muay Thai and I think your blog is really great! Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for reading! Sorry I haven’t posted anything new lately – I’ve been busy working on a new site launch – stay tuned 🙂

  • Julie

    I just started Muay Thai & love it! My only issue is that it tears up the balls of my feet! I’ve already blistered & opened the blisters. How do I toughen my feet if I continuously get blisters! How should I clean my feet after to prevent infection? So does this mean I must have calloused feet? Not very feminine! =P

    • The only way to toughen yr feet is to keep kicking. Overtime u do develop calluses on the balls of yr feet. Not exactly sexy, but the reward of being bad ass at Muay Thai is more awesome than soft feet! You care for yr feet like any other blister. Making sure it’s kept clean and has some time to heal but some days u gotta tough it out and train on feet that hurt. You can try to tape the feet with athletic take when u get a blister but I always found that to be more annoying than the blister. Over a several weeks of regular training the blisters don’t occur anymore… unless of course u train on a weird surface u are unfamiliar with. It is also possible that yr gym has crappy mats 😉

  • Lance

    Came here looking for advice and insight on shin injuries (really painful hematoma on my right shin), and ended up reading through all the excellent advice you took the time to post. This is basically the unpublished beginner guide that they should hand out when you join a gym.

    • Thanks for reading!

  • Hey, I just read your blog, because I was researching my wrist pains. If you have a few minutes I’d like to ask you some questions and pick your brain as your blog described to a tee how my wrist is feeling.

    I train in an orthodox stance, and my left/lead wrist is killing me. I’m unsure if it’s from throwing sloppy hooks, or years of playing guitar with my wrist in a compromised position for hours on end…or both.

    I was taught to throw hooks with your palm facing you, using your top knuckles. I always felt very weak when throwing a hook like that, and to be honest it’s hurt since day one. I wasn’t sure if it was a conditioning factor, or my wrist just collapsing so I just dealt with it. I feel like it mostly “jams” up on the outside of my wrist towards the little finger side.

    I came across a seminar of Anuwat Kaewsamrit where they go over his hook. Palm down, first two knuckles. Much like you mention, and show on the picture of your blog. Throwing it this way feels much better on my wrist.

    I try to throw mine like that but I can’t “screw” it correctly at the end. Do you have any advice, or knowledge of good instructional videos to check out? I get stuck in a YouTube hole a lot of the time when I try to find option.

    Thanks for your time!

    • Hey Jaime – I have three suggestions for you. #1 definitely use athletic tape under your wraps on your wrist to secure it better. #2 to throw the hook facing down think about the punch coming out initially like a jab with your palm facing the right, but then turning a corner by lifting your elbow to the same height as your wrist( shoulder, elbow and wrist should all be at the same height), pivoting off the front foot and shifting your weight to the back foot. (I’ll make a tutorial one of these days, it’s on my list of videos, I’ve just been behind in them!) #3 make sure you make a tight first and contract at the end of the punch – Hope that helps!

  • Angela

    Hi! I LOVE your website! I’ve just started MT training about three weeks ago. Sessions are 90 minutes. I was originally planning on going 3xs a week (plus weightlifting on 3xs/ week on the off days) but my body is in so much pain that I may scale it down to 2xs to give myself more time to recover.

    my question: during yesterday’s session, I got a sharp pain in my left shoulder every time I threw a hook. other punches I was fine, but the hook was very painful. I thought I may have been doing something wrong technique wise, but the trainer said he didn’t see anything wrong with my technique and said I needed to relax (I guess I tend to tighten up my shoulders when I’m punching). any tips for “relaxing” or shoulder mobility/ stretching/ recovery? I love MT and want to be able to perform when I’m on the mats.

    Thank you so much for all of the info you’ve made available to women who want to pursue this sport.

    • It’s true you need to relax in in you stance and between punches, but also tensing muscles at the end of the punch is important to you don’t mess up your joints. Sounds like you may have some mobility issues that require outside help. I would recommend checking out http://www.mobilitywod.com/ for good exercises and also finding a good chiro in your area to asses your posture and alignment. Sharp pains are never normal and are often nerve issues which a good chiro can address.

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  • mmafan3 .

    “Doing 5 of these correctly is better than 50 shitty ones.”
    I couldn’t agree more, Roxy! I try to instill into myself to make every rep count instead of counting reps. I do that with each day as well

  • Greg G

    Hi there! Just found your website and love all the info contained. I love training MT, but yes, it’s not for the faint of heart and it’s easy to hurt yourself in some form or another. This page is great and addresses a lot of issues that I sometime have trouble finding good info on the web about.
    The past few weeks I’ve been getting knee pain, particularly from flying knee strikes against the bag. Doing clinch/knee drills feel fine, but jumping and striking with my knee (particularly my right knee) now gives me a sharp pain around my kneecap. I don’t want to stop, but don’t want to cripple myself in old age either… I rest for a few weeks, but the pain always comes back. Am I doing this too hard, or at an incorrect angle? Do I just need more strength training around this area?

    • Roxy Richardson

      Hi Greg sorry for the late reply, there was an issue with my site, where new comments weren’t being email to me! My recommendation would definitely to see a specialist to get your knee checked out to make sure you don’t have an existing injury. I have never encountered this problem before. Best of Luck!

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  • Lamia F

    Hey! I love your blog – it’s got such honest and interesting information. I just started Muay Thai 10 days ago – and I have these weird chronics neck and upper back pains. There’s also pain in the shoulders. Everytime I try to straighten my back, it hurts insanely. I used to train for rowing, and have played basketball and football. I’m also a dancer and a swimmer. Admittedly, I haven’t been doing any regular intensive exercise (apart from yoga, but that’s not an intense exercise) recently, and by recently I mean for the past 6 months or so. Could this be why I’m experiencing the pains? Looking forward to your reply! Many many thanks in advance 🙂

    • Hi Lamina – Thanks for reading! That’s not a common pain, even for people that haven’t been exercising and then start up Muay Thai. I’d go get it checked out by a chiropractor or physical therapist for assessment and see what’s going on. Best of Luck! x

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  • Gabe

    Hey! I’ve been training Muay Thai for a few months now and I love it! I stumbled upon this blog after looking for information/advice about my injury.
    A few weeks ago during training, after throwing a few right kicks at the end of the class I felt a pain in my lower back and I could hardly walk after. After a couple of days (with pain killers) the pain was gone. However by next training session, afterwards it came back. It’s been happening every time now, but in particular, last weeks training left me in a lot of pain and I could barley walk! Even laying still I was in pain. It’s starting to get better again now, but I just wondered is this common? And is there any particular reason why I may be suffering this lower back pain?
    Thank you 🙂
    Also, I am making sure I stretch and warm up before sessions, and stretch after!! 🙂

    • Hi Gabe, Sorry to hear about your back pain and sorry to tell you that this is not common. I’d definitely get it checked out by a physical therapist or doctor. It’s possible that the particular motion of kicking is aggravating a preexisting injury, or that you have postural problems that are unresolved and causing pain when cut in the particular motion of kicking. Best of luck to you!

      • Gabe

        Thank you for the reply! I’ll get it checked, and hopefully something good will come from it.
        Thanks again for your help!

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  • Suki.karydis

    Hi, I’ve been doing MT for 6 months and just getting onto leg work. I am not looking to compete and wondering whether to get shin guards. Nobody in my group has them but the teacher sometimes uses them and recommends them. If I kick or defend with shin guards will that hurt my opponent more?. I’d like the protection but I don’t want to hurt opponents more than I would without. How common a shin splints and other shin related injuries in MT?

    • If you are sparring (person to person contact, not person to pad contact) you MUST have shin guards. The shin guards protect both you AND your partner, as it hurts much more to kick each other’s shins than to kick leather shin guards. Shin injuries are common (as outlined in the blog above), lots of bumps and bruises are expected to happen when you first start sparring even WITH The shin guards on, it will be worse for you and your partner without them. You may hit knees and elbows by mistake, which can be painful even with the shin guards on, but with time and care shins will become more conditioned. Shin splits however are not that common in Muay Thai, the are more common in running sports. Thanks for reading and good luck! x

      • Suki.karydis


  • Jenn

    Hi – just wanted to say that I scoured your entire blog about a year ago when I began training – amazing – thank you so much for all of your posts! I’ve been training muay thai 3-4 days per week for the past year including supplemental roadwork/conditioning and strength training. In the past 3 months or so I have been sparring a lot more, double sessions twice a week, and also incorporating a lot more sprints/hiit into my conditioning. I’m at the point where my shins don’t bruise anymore from thai pads or sparring, but I landed a low kick on the wrong spot on my shin….on top of pretty chronic shin splints…and have continued to train through it as I usually do but its been a bit more than a week and the pain is still pretty bad. Bearable and definitely not a fracture situation but not normal. Was just wondering if you had any experience or advice with shin splints that would allow me to continue to train? I’ve tried to research but there are a bunch of varying opinions ie. ice is bad, ice is good, massage is bad, but could be good…figured I would reach out to someone who has been in the same position. Thanks so much!

    • Hi Jenn, thanks for reading! The lump you describe is probably a bone bruise (not a fracture, but in between a stress fracture and a regular bruise), which has nothing to do with shin splints – these are very common to get from sparring/fights even through the shin guards. The bone bruises, depending on the severity of them can take anywhere from a week to few months to heal – although most of mine usually healed up in a 2-4 weeks or so. You want to 1) push any “shin lumps” you get from sparring down right away after training – it will hurt, but it somehow speeds the healing 2) ice the shins after training 3) massage with thai oil before training, and really get in there with pressure massaging any lumps.
      If the bone bruise is bad you will need to take time away from sparring or kicking with that shin. You might be able to go back to hitting Thai pads with that shin before bags because the heavy bags are rounded and can cause pain on the bruise. When you get these little bumps, or more major bone bruises it’s a good time to just focus on your other kick or your boxing and let the shin heal. And of course a healthy diet and plenty of rest (at least 7.5 hours a night) is important for healing. As for shin splints sounds like you may have done to much too soon, I’m not sure how they developed chronically on you, but usually shin splits are a result for too much impact and/or miles ran that accumulated too quickly. Take some time away from the pavement and always be sure to increase your training incrementally, making sure the more you train the more rest and recovery you are able to get. Warming up the shins with toe taps can also help, but mainly it’s an overuse too fast issue. Best of luck! x

  • Helena

    Hey Roxy! I’m going to be going to my first Muay Thai training session in a week. I’m a former gymnast and have a healed stress fracture (it was actually two fractures that kept breaking in the same spot) in my right tibia. Is there something I should tell my trainer as a heads up to help with conditioning my shin while also being cautious of the healed break? Thanks!

    • Yes! definitely tell your coach about any physical limitations or injuries, if kicking bothers you, you may want to sub with knees and push kicks until it heals 100% – Best of luck with your first session!

  • felipe cabral

    Hey Roxy, thanks for your post. Ive got this one question about the method used by my MT coaches in leg conditioning..Every MT class we are supposed to take a low kick from the professor (immediatelly after leg work out and in the 5 final minutes of the class). People normally suffer for 10minutes or so but in the next day they are fine (i think). But for me…ive been training for almost 3 months now and my legs just dont get used to the pain. I keep telling myself that eventually i will feel no more pain or at least tolerate it better ( as i can barely ealk the next morning) but i dont really feel any progress coming… A friend of mine from another country is a MT trainer and told me this method of leg pain conditioning is absurd and he doesnt use it for their students. Whats your thoughts?? Best,

    • In all my years of training I have never seen this type of “conditioning” done in classes at any Muay Thai gym. It is absurd. Sometimes fighters will train taking kicks from each other in drills with shin guards on, but rarely full force and never without shin guards (I’m assuming this is how it’s being done, as you don’t mention shin guards) – constant damage to the leg doesn’t make it stronger, it just means you are taking damage. Further more unless you are planning to fight I see no point in this type of “conditioning” and even IF you were going to fight, pad work, bag work, drills and sparring are plenty conditioning enough to harden the body, as these are time tested methods that every fighter has used and gotten tough with.

      • felipe cabral

        thanks for the reply!
        no, we get no shin guards at all ,although the trainer doesnt do the low kick with full force (maybe 50% force?). i agree with you, just wanted to check with different experts in the area to check if i am not too weak in the legs or something..
        I will consider changing my gym then, as i do want to fight but the constant pain does not allow me to explore all the moves i have learned.


        • Learning to take the leg kick is an important part of the sport, but BLOCKING the leg kick is far more important – Also if you just started training Muay Thai learning to take a leg kick is not high on the list of priorities to train your body. I would only do that with my “fighters in training” – You may also want to check out my blog on sparring, which gives insight into evaluating what you reasons for wanting to spar/fight are: http://liftfightlove.com/post/muay-thai-sparring/ – thank for reading and best if luck!

  • Pooja Ganesh

    Hey Roxy,
    Your post was soo beneficial to me as it’s my first week of Muay thai training and despite having a prior background in Yoga and Taekwondo it has been an uphill battle but i love the sport itself. I am experiencing the soreness and I also attributed it to being a plus size girl and sometimes not all of us can get smoothly into doing 25 burpees 😛 Is there anything to keep in mind if you are a bigger person with a lot of muscle and bone weight as well when performing kicks?

    • So glad you enjoyed my blog 🙂 Everyone I know gets sore their first couple weeks starting Muay Thai. Burpees, aren’t even part of Muay Thai so don’t sweat not being great at them 😉 They get everyone huffing and puffing and they will definitely be harder or a plus sized girl because you are moving more weight up and down over and over and that’s challenging! I would just go to the plank position at the bottom (not chest to ground) on the burpee until you have the fitness to do a full push up (that’s what I tell ALL my students who can’t do a full push up or the chest to ground is just silly and leads to poor form “snaking up” with bad posture). As far as the kicks go, it’s really the same as everyone else. Balance, mobility and technique are things ALL people work on for better kicks regardless of size – no additional tips for that. Bigger legs make for powerful kicks! So you have that going for you. We have some big guys and girls in our classes and they have killer kicks! Keep at it! And kudos for you for trying something new by taking up Muay Thai!

  • Morgan Walker

    This is a great blog! I plan to use your blog as my Muay Thai bible as a beginner. I also feel it will keep me motivated to push past the soreness. Thank you!

    • Thanks for reading, Morgan – My blog has been neglected for several months (busy at work with the gym), but I have plans to start it back up very soon – so stay tuned and if you join the mailing list I’ll send out an email when a new blog is out 🙂

  • gwyn nunnelee

    I’ve just started training and notice when I’m doing knee kicks to the bag I’m getting big friction burns on the top of my knees, any suggestions how to avoid this? Doesn’t feel so great the next few days…

    • Sounds like you are kneeing the bag in too much of an upward direction. Long Knees to the body and skip knees on the bag should thrust in, not just go up, so u make solid contact with the bag. When u do this right your skin won’t graze the bag and should reduce friction. However conditioning the skin to bag work takes a little time so once you improve the technique there could still be redness or bruising on knees, shins, feet until your skin becomes conditioned.

      Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

  • Happy Gamer

    Am I too old to start training Muay Thai? I am not interested in being a fighter, but at the same time want to experience it legitimately. Not like a cardio, kick boxing thing at a local gym, but really learn about the art and culture. Only athletic experience I had was MMA for about 4-5 months and prior to that, I rarely ever went to the gym. I am 36 now, and I have lost a total of 65 lbs or so since I was 25, and my last 15 lbs was from MMA training, which I took out of the gym and kept doing because I loved it. Of all the aspects of MMA, I was particularly in love with Muay Thai (we had both muay thai and dutch muay thai instructors). I never really got around to it more because o my busy life style, but I’d love to get into it as long as I am healthy.

    • Hi, thanks for reading :)You are definitely not too old. I have many students who started in their thirties. The eldest student at my gym is in his 60’s and he only started 5 years ago! I do however, always recommend to my students that they participate in some mobility work and strength training as well as Muay Thai, which are important as we age to keep muscle mass and improve movement.

  • Ciarán Bonass

    I’m 10 weeks in to learning Muay Thai. Trying to get in 2-3 sessions a week. Progressing fast but making sure not to skip learning technique. At 43, 5’7 I’m twice as old as most of the guys in the sessions and half the size but I am 100% keeping up. I’ve actually better cardio than most of them 😉 I’m also getting stronger and leaner (thanks to sweaty pad and combination work). The thing is my recovery is hard when I get an injury – but as your article says – I work through it.

    However, the last two weeks my hands are sore and stiff. Particularly the lower part of my thumb, the base knuckle joint and the fleshy / padded part joining the hand. Any advice apart from icing them down post every session. Or what might be causing it?


    • Hi, Thanks for reading! It’s harder for your body to recover from injuries and harder to condition your body for new sports as you get older. I find even with my experience in Muay Thai, my body still doesn’t recover like to used to as I am now forty years old. I do not recommend working through injuries, but rather working AROUND the ones you can. If you hands need more recovery focus on kick and knees and go light on the punches. Make sure you have a good pair of leather gloves, wrap your hands well and maybe invest in a knuckle pad. If you thumb hurts it’s because you are punching incorrectly. Slow down and focus on technique and make sure to hit with a focus on only the top two knuckles of your index and middle finger. There should be no impact on the thumb at all. It’s probably from an incorrectly landed hook (common mistake).