As I’m writing this article, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing gyms the world over to temporarily close. Your gym may have recently cancelled its classes, leaving you wondering, “how am I going to train?” or “am I going to lose all my progress?”
This is not the first time that I’ve had zero access to a gym. Heck, it probably won’t be the last! Training in Muay Thai, as in any sport, is a journey that will sometimes require you to hit the “pause” button, whether you want to or not.
For instance, you may find yourself in dire financial straits. You may move to a new town that has no gym. You may even find yourself in the middle of a pandemic that requires every gym near you to close (!!!).
Whatever the situation, fear not. Here are some strategies to ensure that you can keep up your training until you can get back to the gym:
The Game Plan is Key
When you had access to a gym, you had a schedule. Your coach taught certain classes at certain times. Now, however, you have to create your own schedule. I can’t stress this enough: you NEED a schedule if you DON'T have a gym.
Did you used to train on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6:00 PM, then Saturday morning at 11:00 AM? That can still be your schedule! Make a training plan which imitates what you had at your gym. Write down your plan in a journal, or on a sheet of paper that you can stick on your fridge. Treat those training sessions like appointments that you can’t miss.
The Meat and Potatoes Still Work
Now that you have your game plan for when you will train, you can think about how you will train. Muay Thai has activities – the meat and potatoes – that are a part of most training sessions. These are skipping rope, shadowboxing, bag work, pad work, drilling and sparring. You don’t need a gym to skip rope or shadowbox. Honestly, some good rounds of skipping and intentional shadowboxing make a pretty great workout, period. You can find some awesome Muay Thai Guy shadowboxing workouts here and here.
A fortunate few also have heavy bags in their homes, so they can certainly continue to do bag work. You can find a bag online, some for less than $50. You don’t need a heavy bag, however, to get in a great workout.
The other “meat and potatoes” activities – pad work, drilling, and sparring – require a partner. It’s best to stay away from sparring while you’re unable to go to the gym. Muay Thai sparring should be done in a controlled environment, usually under the watchful eye of a coach. Clobbering it out with a friend in your garage will lead to injuries and poor technical habits, and, even worse, ruined friendships.
You can drill, however! If your spouse, neighbor, or friend doesn’t have any training experience, that’s alright; nothing will improve your Muay Thai like passing it along to someone else. If you have a willing friend or loved who agrees to help you train, walk them through some of the drills you’ve learned in class, and then practice together (make sure you go slowly, especially at first!).
You may not have pads at home, but I’ve found that a pool noodle sliced in half will do the trick, especially for boxing. You can walk your willing partner though how to hold pads (or noodles), and you’ll find that teaching them makes you better, too.
You Have Time to Cross Train
If you’re not having to spend time in traffic driving back and forth to a gym, you may find that you have more time to cross train. This means engaging in supplemental workouts that can improve your Muay Thai. These cross-training activities may include running, yoga, bodyweight calisthenics, stretching, etc.
When you’re writing out your game plan, as we discussed above, build in cross-training sessions. To help you visualize this, here is an example of my workout schedule during a time when I had no gym to go to:
Monday: Skipping, Bag Work, Pad Work
Tuesday: Running, Gentle Yoga
Wednesday: Skipping, Shadowboxing, Drills
Thursday: Running, Body weight work
Friday: Skipping, Bag Work, Pad Work
Saturday: Long walk or hike
Sunday: Rest day
If you have no heavy bag or pads, you can modify this schedule to match what you have available.
The Internet is Your Best Friend
Even though you may not have access to a gym right now, you still have access to all the Muay Thai knowledge and content online. That’s how you found this article! This means that you have endless ways to keep learning.
See about setting up a Skype session or live stream with your coach so that they can help you through your workout and offer tips. Staying sharp isn’t just about maintaining your physical shape; your “Muay Thai Mind” needs a workout as well.
Join a social media group of like-minded practitioners who can encourage you and help you keep up your training, even from far away. And lastly, use YouTube to come up with new training ideas and combos, to watch an endless number of high-level fights, and to take advantage of free content from certain bald Muay Thai fighters... like this:
Muay Thai Will Always Be There for You
Finally, just because you’re going through a season of life in which you can’t train in a gym doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain your fitness, your skills, and your passion for the sport. Muay Thai will always be there for you. Your forced break from the gym may last for a few weeks, a few months, or in some cases even longer. This too shall pass, however, and if you follow the steps above to keep training, you’ll find that you’ll be ready – or maybe even better – when you’re finally able to get back in the gym.
Take care and stay safe out there!
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