Muay Thai as Cross Training

One of the reasons we are in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is Saigon Sports Club.  I know it sounds nuts but it’s really what we are looking for.  The gym is across from our apartment and having said that, overall it’s a really good deal.

Last year, we trained the first half of the year for a tough Trans-Himalayan mountain bike stage race that covered 6 passes all above 13,000 ft in 9 days in Ladakh, India.  We lived at 11,800 ft for two months acclimating and training before the race in Leh, Ladakh India. Our training consisted of building up muscular strength at altitude and two multi-day block of training to simulate the race.  It all paid off and we finished strong.  It was hard, challenging and unforgettable.

Right after the stage race, we packed up and headed to Valmorel, France for some mountain biking and trekking.  Immediately after, we headed to Chamonix, France to train for our first ever trail running race in Europe.  We left France very happy with our fitness and finishing the brutal 35km trail run in the French Alps.  Since we had some good trail running in France, we raced another 30km in Chiang Mai, Thailand with both of us finishing in the top 20.  We were really happy about that!

Now, we are in Vietnam training again but totally different from the long endurance mountain biking and trail running.

It’s a lot of high intensity for us and it takes a while to learn the technical aspects of Muay Thai, unlike running or mountain biking.  However, there are a myriad of benefits to having Muay Thai as cross training for long distance or endurance activities.  In my opinion, it compliments each other and it’s a good way to execute periodization for both Muay Thai and trail running or mountain biking.

If found this article “What Runners Can Learn From Muay Thai Fighters” this morning and it does make sense.  Muay Thai is a form of short intensity training that can build up good neuromuscular benefits for trail running.  It’s also a great overall maintenance or improvement of body conditioning to strengthen the body overall from bone density to building more lean mass and less fat.  It also would improve energy system such as VO2Max if training consistently.

I also found this great resource about “Periodization for Mixed Martial Arts” and a lot of the concept on energy systems are very similar to training for cycling.  We’ve been training using Joe Friel’s methodology of periodization for over 15 years and most of this methodology applies in other sports.  The only difference is, in Muay Thai it’s not measurable unlike a power meter or even heart rate because Muay Thai is not really an endurance sport unlike triathlon or road cycling.  However, the article talks about it and I still have to do a bit more research to see how to incorporate a working training plan for Muay Thai.

It’s been almost three months of learning the techniques and practicing.  We are at a point where we can do bag drills on our own and shadow boxing.  Slowly, our fitness is also getting better and we are now doing 3 min rounds, 5 or 6 times in a class.  We do additional 3 min rounds outside of class if we are not fatigued.  There’s so much to learn in our training and this is new to us but exciting as well.

There’s so much reading to do!  This one really is fascinating as it talks about nutrition, “Nutrition in Combat Sports.”

I’ve written training logs since we started and have yet to publish…oy.  It’s good stuff because it shows my progression.

Our biggest goal is body composition change into fitness range.  For me, that’s about 21-25% body fat with a higher percentage of lean body mass.  It will be really tough to get below 21%, that’s a reality because my intention is not to restrict my eating.  To reach athletic body fat percentage requires a much more higher dedication.

Cross training to get to fitness range of body composition with good lean mass will help us get to our goal once we build up in France this year.  We want to beat our 35km train run time with races that are around 4,000-5000 ft gain.  The mountain trail races in Europe are very tough because of the technical terrain, specially the downhill.  The climbs can go up as steep as 25% or more and about 3-4 kms in distance.  The downhills are treacherous…

We’ve got 4 more months to train in Saigon Sports Club before we head back to Chamonix, France.  Earlier, I mentioned how Muay Thai and endurance sports like trail running can compliment each other.  Interestingly, SLTH (Sleep Low, Train High) is an interesting concept specially how it can apply to Muay Thai – for next year.  Many studies show that SHTL (Sleep High, Train Low) benefit athletes in raising their hematocrit levels and there is a boost in their performance once they race at sea level.  In our case this year, when we head back to France, we are going to sleep at 4,000 ft and train at about 7,000 ft max height for three months.  This will be interesting, because we’ve always done the SHTL scenario.  On the other hand, studies have shown that SLTH method improves ATP energy system over time.  It’s also known as “Intermittent Hypoxic” training.  Muay Thai Pro explains the energy systems well if you want to understand about it.  Going back to SLTH, some studies indicate improvement on sprint ability as explained in this article which could improve our Muay Thai training for next year.

“…François Billaut, a well-known researcher who recently moved to the Institut national du sport du Québec in Montreal: his results suggest it can be helpful for team-sport athletes who need good repeated-sprint ability. The idea is that exercising with low oxygen stimulates adaptations that improve anaerobic energy production.”

We will have to see how that goes.  We’ll have to do some shadow boxing at 6,000 or 7,000 ft and find out how that feels!

We are making good progress with our fitness as well as techniques and the club is going to be open earlier starting March 24th which will give us great morning workouts before our 9am Muay Thai class giving us at least 2-3 hours of quality training in.  Our goal is to be able to train around 4-5 hours each day with Sunday’s off.  This week is a great start to build up a training plan based on some of the research so far and modify based on how the body feels.

A lot of geeky stuff coming up…


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