You may be a top tier runner, but you can always take inspiration from elsewhere, right? What if one of the most beneficial ways to improve your running came from the ancient combat sport of Muay Thai?
You might be surprised – even dismissive perhaps?
Well Muay Thai fighters (Or Nak Muays) are huge advocates of running, so I’m going to walk you through a Muay Thai fighter’s running program and how these benefits can help you run further, faster and better.
Why do Muay Thai fighters run so much?
So, why do Muay Thai fighters even have to run if their main aim is to throw strong punches and kicks?
Well, because fighting in Muay Thai requires extremely high aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels.
Some fights are over quickly and thus require short bouts of intense cardio, but others may go the distance of ten rounds, meaning long term lung capacity is tested to the max. Covering these bases is vital to maximise a fighter’s performance, and running has been seen as a vital part of fighter training for hundreds of years.
Road work is absolutely essential to Muay Thai fighters – so much so that they are encouraged to do it every single day.
They generally run 3-5 miles every single morning just to start the day off, with plyometric warm ups to start followed by light stretches, they will complete their run, have breakfast and take a short rest before hitting the gym.
That’s all well and good but what lessons can you take from this?
First of all, it shows that you are probably capable of a lot more than you give yourself credit for.
Muay Thai fighters will put in the roadwork every morning, followed by another hour or so of fight work, then more training throughout the day.
When you’re near quitting, just remember that half the battle is in your mind. Remember that you can go through your recovery routine afterwards and you’ll be good to go again tomorrow.
Sprints and hill sprints
Sprints are a phenomenal tool to build your anaerobic cardio system. Add a hill into the mix and you’ve got a major cardio workout that’ll get you fit, strip off fat and build your leg strength and musculature.
Sprints are an all rounder, and general staple in Muay Thai fighter training. Fighters will generally do 10 sets of 100m sprints once or twice a week. Any more and you will fatigue your central nervous system, so it’s important to limit them if you add them to your routine.
If you add in 10 sets of sprints once or twice a week into your regular program, you will see a marked increase in your running power and speed – something marathon/long-distance runners can inadvertently neglect due to aerobic training.
Firstly, what on Earth are wind sprints?
Performing a wind sprint is actually a simple process – you progress from a walk (or slow jog) up to a sprint and then back down again, repeating the process about 10 times.
It is basically a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) that differs somewhat to conventional sprints in that you never really rest – the rest period is active, so your heart rate doesn’t quite return to baseline.
This makes wind sprinting a great way to boost your Vo2 max quickly and effectively without having to pound the pavement for hours and hours.
A wind sprint workout can be completed in less than 20 minutes, meaning if you’re short on time but still want to push yourself and increase your running capacity, this could be the perfect solution for you.
We have advocates of extreme stretching – also known as Ballistic stretching who say it is the best thing since sliced bread. But on the other hand, we have those who criticise it for increasing injury risk.
Personally, I am an advocate, and so are the majority of Muay Thai fighters, as it’s proven to increase flexibility and performance in the ring.
Basically, ballistic stretching means taking the joints, tendons and muscles past their usual range of motion using ‘bouncing’ to achieve increase flexibility pre-exercise.
This is great for Muay Thai fighters but it is also perfect for runners. It can get your body ready for high impacts, increase muscle motor performance and increase muscle flexibility – in particular the hamstrings, which is vital for runners, helping you run faster and farther.
And there we have it. Muay Thai fighters might not be long-distance running royalty but their methods can certainly help you to supercharge your performance on the track or the tarmac.