No Running, No Muay Thai


By David Dack

If you're a Muay Thai fighter looking for ways to improve your stamina and endurance, look no further than running.

Here's the truth. Logging the miles is a key part of Muay Thai training and something you should be doing religiously if you want to stay in fighting shape.

In Thailand, most Muay Thai trainees are required to run a few miles before and often after their pad work and sparring sessions.  In fact, "no run, no fight" is one of the most popular sayings in the Muay Thai training world. 

The question is, how does actually running help you improve as a fighter and how to get started? Keep on reading for the answers.

In this article, I'm going to explain some of the benefits that running offers Muay Thai fighters, as well as show you how to incorporate road work into your workout routine without risking injury or burnout. I'll also delve into some of the training approaches you can follow to develop higher-level conditioning.

The Benefits of Running for Muay Thai:

Running has always been part and parcel of combat sports training, whether it's boxing, MMA, or Muay Thai. 

But what does it actually do to a fighter's body?

Here are some of the benefits:

1. Cardio training

Running helps build a strong aerobic foundation for training at high intensity over a long time.

By improving your cardio capacity, you'll have more energy during a fight. This can enable you to throw more kicks, punches, knees, and elbows. The more gas you have in the tank, the greater your ability to outlast your opponent in a fight.

2. Improved Anaerobic Capacity

A smart nak muay must train in a sport-specific way if they wish to be victorious inside of the ring. 

Muay Thai is anaerobic in nature. Anaerobic simply refers to performing an activity without oxygen. Anaerobic training stresses the body at a high intensity for a short period of time.

Here's the good news. Running, especially when performed in high-intensity interval form, improves your anaerobic capacity. This means more energy, which is basically the gas you need to perform at your best.

3. Build Stronger Muscles

Also known as the tibia bone, this leg bone is a key weapon for Muay Thai fighters—both for inflicting pain on opponents as well as blocking incoming kicks.

When you have strong shin bone, you'll be able to strike hard with minimum risk of bone fracture and break. We've all seen top-tier fighters break their shinbones in competition.

As a weight-bearing exercise, running can help you build stronger bones, especially in the shins.

4. Burn Calories

Running burns calories—like, a lot. At roughly 100 calories per mile, logging the miles can help lose or maintain a healthy weight.

Whether you're a competitive fighter or just want to stay healthy, you know how important weight is for training and competition.

How to Get Started Running:

I hope you're sold on the importance of running for Muay Thai training. 

Now let's look at how you can actually make the most out of road work without risking injury or burnout:

  • Start Slow 

It's not uncommon that most professional Muay Thai fighters will start each morning with a 4 to 6-mile run.

But, if you're a beginner runner, build a running base before you try to go the distance. A proper base improves your stamina and your body's ability to exercise harder without injury. Otherwise doing too much too soon will do more harm than good.

As a rule, your first few runs should be a mix of jogging and walking—this is what's known as the run-walk method. 

How fast—and far—you run depends on your fitness level. But as a beginner, stick to a conversational pace and keep it within 20 to 30 minutes a session. 

Over the weeks, aim to increase the time spent jogging while taking less and less for recovery until you're running at an easy pace for 30 minutes straight.

Next, run for longer by following the 10 percent rule in which you increase your total weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent. Increase your load faster than this rate, and you risk injury and/or burnout.

  • High-Intensity Training

Sprints, a form of high-intensity training, are a common session among serious nak muays as it simulates the intense bursts of movement in training and fighting.

But that's not the whole story. Sprinting also improves muscle strength, increases VO2 max, boosts explosiveness, and burns fat—all of which are keys to building a well-rounded fighter.

Sprint training also doesn't take up a lot of time. An example of a quick yet efficient session would be eight to ten 200-meter sprints with 60 seconds of rest in between.  You can add a few squats, push-ups, pull-ups, or sit-ups at the end of each sprint to make it more challenging.

Last up, jog slowly for 5-10 minutes as cool-down.

How many? I'd recommend eight to ten sets of 200-meter sprints once or twice a week. The harder you exercise, the more downtime you need.

To make the most out of your HIIT running, follow a systematic approach in training. You can't just sprint a few times a week, and that's all. You should also be pushing yourself to your maximum with minimal recovery in between each sprint. You should be exhausted by the end.

How Often You Should Run:

Again, this depends on your fitness level and training goals.

Whether you're a Muay Thai beginner or just exercising to stay fit, I'd recommend jogging two to three times per week. Try to build up to roughly three to four miles per run.

But when training for competition or looking to reach the elite level, you should be running at least four to five times per week.

The Plans You Need:

To make the most out of your road work, make sure to include some variety in your training and change the intensity and distances of the runs you do.

Here's how a weekly running plan for Muay Thai should look like:

  •  Monday Sprint session
  •  TuesdayEasy run for 30 minutes
  •  WednesdayRest
  •  ThursdaySprint or tempo run
  •  FridayEasy run
  •  SaturdayLong run of one hour or more
  •  SundayRest

What's more?

To minimize injury and burnout risk, make it a rule to always follow a hard run with an easy one. That's how you make sure to keep improving your conditioning while also avoiding injury. The rest is just detail, as the saying goes.

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