There may be some of you who are living your dream of training and fighting Muay Thai full-time but for most nak muay, the journey in the art of eight limbs has to contend with another pressing, everyday struggle: the day job.
Some of us have engaging careers that we’re very passionate about and want to continue alongside our training. Others have dreams of fighting and coaching full-time but still need the day job to pay the bills until that dream can become a reality.
Either way, juggling a full-time job and the stressors of rigorous training can take their toll on the body and mind.
While it’s no small feat, managing both a vocational career and a fight career can be done.
Just ask Ognjen Topic: in the earlier days of his fight career (circa 2013), Topic was not only competing professionally at a very high level, but also maintaining his nine-to-five graphic design job.
You can go back a bit and listen to his thoughts on juggling a pro fight career and a full-time job on the Muay Thai Guy Podcast during episode 009.
But what about the rest of us — those who are balancing a bourgeoning amateur fight career and a day job? The tips below explain that it’s all about discipline, preparation, and deciding how bad you want it.
The first step might be the most painful, but it’s by far the most necessary: what are you willing to sacrifice to simultaneously pursue both your career and your fight training?
Know in advance what you’re willing to give up.
Personally, I am willing to sacrifice Friday nights out, happy hour, staying out late, and watching hours and hours of Netflix so that I can both work and give it my all during training. I decided in advance what I would be willing to go without during fight prep, and this helps me stay true to my training when temptations arise.
I know that I won’t go out for happy hour during fight camp. I know not to get entangled in some addictive Netflix show with seven seasons because I don’t have time to sit down for hours and watch TV.
I’m ready to say no to things that will distract me from my goals because I’ve already decided what those things are.
This is a concept that you’ll hear repeated if you go back and listen to some of the older MTG podcast episodes, especially the one with Ognjen Topic that I mentioned above.
If you’re working nine to five Monday through Friday, chances are you won’t have the time to train six hours a day like some professional fighters or even high-level amateurs do.
If you fall into this day job category, remember that the quality of your training is more important than the quantity.
You might only have two hours a day and five days a week to train, so those two hours have to be defined by intensity, purpose and focus. Don’t expect to show up at the gym after work, go through the motions, and then be able to hold your own in competition (this is true whether you train for one hour or three hours).
Every round matters. Every strike counts. Every session should have a goal.
At my old gym, we practiced mindfulness meditation for three minutes before every session. This was a great way to set my intention, purpose and focus for training. I would envision the intensity with which I was going to go after my goals, revisit my purpose for training (health, my upcoming fight, facing my fears, etc.), and establish my main focus for that session (bettering my timing, relaxing under stress, or even just improving my switch kick). Quality training sessions are what will shape you into a quality fighter.
One of my old coaches used to say: “Preparation prevents perspiration.”
Simply put, proper planning in advance will save you a lot of time and stress.
If you are balancing a full-time job or school schedule with your training, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good prep work. If you want to make it through a fight camp and weeks of projects and meetings without feeling like you’re drowning, then it’s time to get organized.
Plan your weeks in advance. Know which days you’ll be at the gym and which days you’ll be doing strength training. Plan out when you’ll do your roadwork and how far you’ll run or how many sprints you’ll do each day (sit down with your coach and trainers and discuss these plans to make sure that you are preparing properly).
In short… get a calendar and detail out your training schedule.
Preparation also includes nutrition. Meal prep will seem like a lot of work to someone who hasn’t done it before, but it will actually save you a lot of work during the week.
Every Sunday afternoon, especially during a fight camp, sit down and plan out your meals for the week. Start by making a list of the meals that you’ll eat every day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Then make your grocery list accordingly.
Once you have your groceries, go ahead and prepare in bulk your meals that you can refrigerate for later in the week, and set aside snacks. It’s much easier to stick to a healthy fight diet when you already have healthy meals prepared in the fridge, so invest in some plastic. Lunches at work will be ready to grab and go, and your dinner will be waiting for you, already cooked, when you get home.
This tip rings true particularly for the fighter who has a career outside of Muay Thai.
We have all heard the old adage: “How you do one thing is how you’ll do everything.” The habits that you reinforce during working hours will bleed over into your training, and vice versa. If you half-ass something that your boss asks you to do, then you’ll get used to cutting corners during other tasks, like sprints and pad work. In the same way that you can practice discipline, you can also practice laziness.
Instead of looking at your work day as something that you have to “get through” in order to make it to training, try tackling it with the same intensity and desire to improve that you have during your Muay Thai classes. Don’t waste 40+ hours a week mired down in the attitude of “I’m having to do something I’m not passionate about.”
Passionately approach everything that you do. This includes both training and work. Dedicate yourself to excellence in whatever you do and see how your attitude about it changes.
If you can’t make someone a latte, write a report, or conduct a meeting with excellence and discipline, how do you expect to respond to pain and fatigue during fight camp when things really get difficult?
Practice excellence in all things and it will become a habit in both work and Muay Thai.
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