When you look at any elite level fighter train, roadwork is always an essential part of their Muay Thai training program. It is the building block to having sustainable cardio in the ring and in training.
Having good cardio can be the difference between being a good fighter and an elite level fighter. One thing is for certain, if a fighter isn’t running, they’re setting themselves up for disaster. If a combat sports athlete wants to truly challenge themselves, they will make time for road work. Without it you leave yourself at a disadvantage in the ring. But the chances are you already know that!
Types of Roadwork
There are three main types of road work that I include in my training. They all have slightly different benefits. I try to keep a good variety of each in my program, not only for the different benefits but also to keep my training fresh and interesting.
These types of runs are good to be kept relaxed. One pace throughout the run. What you will find is the more you do this type of training, the faster your “steady state” will become. On the build up to a fight each week you will see that your times will be getting quicker for the same route you have been doing. Numbers don’t lie so you will know if you are getting fitter.
Hill sprints will really tax your anaerobic system in a short amount of time. These are great for pushing yourself to your limits. The slight gradient will make it harder for your legs to work which in time will build up your lactic acid threshold. This means you’ll be able to kick and move for longer periods in fights.
Similar to hill sprints track work will really push you to your limits. This is your chance to really work on the fast twitch bursts that are needed in a fight. Trackwork is for explosive power development. I always find when I put the work in at the track my sparring counters and reactions are so much quicker as I can move with more agility.
Why running is necessary
The question I often get asked is “Is roadwork essential?”. The answer is always yes. You need to run and run often. Roadwork is the base point to building up a strong aerobic energy system which is a vital asset in combat sports. Putting the physical benefits aside, roadwork does alot for a fighter’s mental strength and character.
Roadwork, for most people, is probably the most mundane, tedious aspect of their training program. It doesn’t have the same spark and enthusiasm that you may get from padwork and sparring.
However, this is why it is so necessary. Muay Thai is a very mentally taxing sport. Getting up early in the morning and getting those runs in does wonders for building a killer mental toughness. For this reason alone, you should never cut corners and avoid this aspect of training.
Benefits on running
Along with the mental demands it is obvious that a combat sport like Muay Thai requires some serious physical strength too. It is essential for a fighter to be in the best condition possible come fight night to ensure that they have a good chance of winning.
Here are some of the physical benefits on roadwork:
Builds your cardiovascular endurance
Roadwork builds up your lung capacity which will ensure that you have enough gas in the tank to perform at optimum levels.
There is nothing worse than feeling like you have nothing left in the ring, it is like drowning in thin air. Believe me I have experienced this myself. I have had fights where I have decided running isn’t essential and I have paid the price for it in the ring! I don’t want you to make the same mistakes, so make sure you run.
Strengthens your legs and shins
Muay Thai is predominantly leg based so having good leg endurance in a fight is a must. Running can help you become more agile and mobile so that you can react efficiently. You don’t want to feel like you are stuck in the mud in a fight just because your legs have given up on you. It is also said that running increases your bone density which is a major advantage in Muay Thai.
Mental & physical conditioning – testing your body
There is nothing like being out on the road running for miles when your body feels like it wants to give up. This very much simulates the feelings of a fight when things get tough. Doing regular roadwork can help build up conditioning and ability to push yourself to your limits. Come fight night, knowing that you have put the work in, you will trust your strength.
How often should you run?
That is not to say you need to be running for miles and miles everyday. Over the years I have learnt that frequency is more important than distance. It is better to run shorter distances more often that you can recover easily from, than run for miles and miles and then have to have a few days off because you may have picked up a few niggling injuries.
For someone who has just started in Muay Thai or just trains as a hobby I would advise running 2-3 times per week. Try to build up to around 5-6k per run.
If you are in fight camp or you want to progress to elite level you need to be running 4-5 times per week. Now I would advise including some variety in your workouts and change the distances and type of training you do. A guide I go by is 1 track day, 1 day of hill sprints (can be done on a treadmill) and the rest is steady state.
How to avoid injury
Now when you push your body to its limits it is important that you recover properly to avoid injury when training next. Your body will build up all sorts of niggles and tightness. There are a few things you can do to reduce this.
It can be very boring and tedious I know but dedicate 5-10 minutes before and after every session to stretch properly to avoid your muscles tightening up too much.
5 MUST SEE Stretches For Any Muay Thai Warm-Up!
Ice baths reduce inflammation and improve recovery by changing the blood flow in your body. Taking an ice-cold bath may sound painful, but some believe it’s one of the easiest, quickest ways to soothe post-workout pains. Jump in after a session for 10 minutes and you will see a big difference.
Roadwork is a must if you want to perform in the world of Muay Thai. It is a tedious task at first but something that you must be disciplined with to build up the cardio and physical capacity needed for this sport.