Contact / About

Don HeatrickMeet Don Heatrick, strength and conditioning coach, former pro Thai boxer (previously UKMF ranked 4th Super Middleweight at the age of 40 years), MuayThai instructor and fight coach.

From a young age, it was clear that Don was not only an athlete, but also very analytical and keen to learn as much about improving physical performance as possible.

As A Kid

Throughout his time at school, he walked the path of both the geeky-nerd and sports fanatic, being selected to represent the school in athletics, cross-country running, hockey and rugby while also studying in the top science set.

Don was the kid with broken glasses (held together with tape) and muddy knees from playing American Football with his class mates in the lunch hour. In fact, eventually Don had laser eye surgery as it was no fun being smashed in the face while wearing glasses or contact lenses.

Constantly seeking to get more from his athletic performance, Don began reading all he could on the nutrition and training methods of elite athletes and began practically applying this to his own training practice. All this was a hobby, albeit a very passionate one, and Don left school to pursue a career in mechanical design engineering for which he’d also shown great aptitude.

Along Came Martial Arts

In parallel with his engineering studies, Don continued to train and research his beloved contact sports, moving from American Football in 1991 to Judo, Kyokushinkai Karate, then earning blackbelts in Freestyle Kickboxing and Taekwondo before discovering MuayThai (Thai boxing) in 1997. The following year saw Don earn his BSc. (Hons) degree in engineering, and freed up considerable time for him to invest in learning all that he could on becoming a better athlete.

MuayThai was the perfect fit for Don, and there he now had a direct focus for all the supporting strength and conditioning work he was using. In 2000 Don became a MuayThai instructor and has regularly taught classes ever since.

In 2003, after an advertising enquiry to Combat magazine’s editor Paul Clifton, Don was invited to write regular training editorial for Combat, Fighters, Traditional Karate and Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts magazines.

Don discovered that his written work developed quite a following and he continued with monthly articles for a period of 3-years. At this time Don also wrote and published a free online “Nak Muay” magazine providing news, results and training ideas for Thai boxers.

Don Heatrick entering the ringIn 2007, aged 34-years-old, after winning EMF Amateur MuayThai Southern Area titles at three different weight categories, Don was selected by the EMF Amateur MuayThai team to represent England at both the EMC European Championships and the WMF World Championships in Bangkok Thailand.

This proved to be a fantastic learning experience for Don.  On his third successive day of fighting, he eventually lost a split-decision fight to Russian defending two-times World Champion Vitali Salnikov at the 2007 WMF World Championships.

Later that same year he went on to claim the 2007 EMC European Cruiserweight Silver Medal in the final with Mahmet Ozer from Turkey, despite being injured with long-term patella tendonitis.

During this time, the publication of Nak Muay Magazine proved to demand too much time and the project had to be parked.

In 2009, Don decided part-time training and coaching of fighters was not going to cut it, and he decided to dump his 18-year engineering career in favour of fully immersing in his passion for MuayThai.

He gained formal qualifications in Personal Training and continued his studies in Strength and Conditioning and opened a full time gym. This decision allowed him to provide a facility for athletes to engage in strength and conditioning training – the missing link for the fighters currently training in health and fitness gyms without the equipment, space or culture to allow Olympic weights and medicine balls to be thrown around.

In fact, in the first year that Unit 1 Gym opened, it was listed in the top 5 Combat Gyms of the Year at the National Fitness Awards 2010. Following a 2-year break from competition to build up the new business, Don got back onto the pro MuayThai circuit at the age of 40-years-old, climbing to 4th ranked Pro in the UK at Super Middleweight.

At the start of 2015, Don decided to hand over the full time gym to his business partner and concentrate on coaching private clients and Muay Thai classes, and shift his focus to providing online support for Muay Thai fighters looking for professional strength and conditioning information and programmes.

Sports science is constantly evolving as we better understand how the body really works. Don doesn’t claim to be an expert, but he enjoys learning the current best practices and applying them to his own training and the fighters and ‘regular clients’ he works with.

He’s passionate about what he does and wants to share what he has learned. Don very much practices what he preaches, and believes that if he learns to be the best he can be, he can show others a quicker path to becoming the best they can be too.

Don has enjoyed over 20 years marriage to his (long suffering) wife Deborah, and loves raising their son and daughter to live their own healthy, happy lives. With a son into track athletics, rugby and motor sport, and a daughter training as a classical ballerina, physical activity is in their genes.

Having athletic, Thai boxing, gym training parents (yes, Deborah too), it was kind of inevitable! Although learning and training obviously play an enormous role in his life, Don always puts his family first.

5 thoughts on “Contact / About

  1. […] Don Heatrick recently wrote an excellent article for Muay Thai Scholar on his methods of identifying weak links in fighters and how he prevents these weaknesses from negatively affecting muay Thai performance. […]

  2. Hi Don,

    I am intrested in signing up for your program. I have some questions I couldnt find aswers on your FAQs.

    1. I only have a standard barbell (skinny bar), able to do bench, military press, rows, deadlifts etc. But as there are no rotating collars I cant do explosive movements as seen in your sample video. I have heaps of kettlebells, does your program allow for substitution with KBs for cleans, jerks etc?

    2. You wrote “The maximum is typically 2x weight training sessions, 3x short conditioning sessions” in reference to the program. Does typically mean weight training is set in stone as two per week. Or is there options to train more, say 3 times per week for the strength portion?



    • Hi Adam,
      Thanks for getting in contact, and for your interest in the online program.

      To answer your questions:

      1. You can certainly get by with a non-olympic barbell and plates, as long as you are able to load it sufficiently (this depends on your body weight/strength levels).

      The Olympic lifting variants you’ve seen in the video are from the third phase of training, so quite a way into the program, and even then there are alternative exercises suggested. Phases 1 and 2 develop strength and explosive power without the need for Olympic lifting technique or equipment.

      If you are proficient with kettlebells, then you can certainly substitute them in at certain points of the program.

      2. The program is designed around being as effective as possible with just two strength/power gym sessions each week (as that’s all most Thai boxers can commit to with the amount of Muay Thai training involved too), but three sessions works well too.

      I’ll need to provide alternative example week structures to show how to best place these, but alternating the two different routines over three sessions each week will work very well…

      Week 1 – Session A, Session B, Session A
      Week 2 – Session B, Session A, Session B … etc.

      Training more than three times per week would interrupt Muay Thai skill practice time too much.

      I hope that all makes sense? Please let me know if you have any more questions Adam.


  3. Jurij Thomsen says:

    Hey Don!
    First, I like to say, I fucking love your site! It’s the first muaythai site I stumbled upon which is really helping me and has proper, scientific answers to my questions. I’m studying Physiotherapy in Germany, what helps me understand all the scientific content. Unfortunately, the studying is really expensive, why I can’t afford the pro membership, so I don’t know, if you already wrote something about my following question:
    I keep getting Shin Splints (hope its the right term, in german its roughly translates to ”pain syndrome on the margo medialis tibiae”, its a chronical inflammation of the periost caused by a tendonitis of the m. flexor digitorum longus/m. flexor hallucis longus I guess) . I keep getting these Shin splints from time to time, especially if I’m running or skipping rope a lot. It already got a lot better in the past year, since I used compression calve sleeves, do ankle stability exercises and olympic weight lifting.

    Do you have any further tips for me? I think I got those shin splints because of Valgus-ankle and hypermobile foot structures… I also have a limited foot extension (with a hard stopping at the end of passive range). I know It’s not possible to do diagnostics by Internet, but I thought I’ll ask you anyway ;)

    Keep on the great work! Best martialarts training site on the web!
    kind regards from a true fan&nerd
    Jurij Thomsen

    • Hi Jurij, great to hear you’re finding the site so useful – and all the best with your studies!

      I’m written a post that I’ll soon be publishing that you’ll find interesting… I use running (and foot pronation in particular, as an example). If you get yourself on the mailing list, you’ll be messaged when it’s out.

      In the meantime, regarding your shin splints:

      Your calf/shin structures need releasing off, and the best way to do this yourself is using self myofascial release “tack and stretch” techniques. I’ve not got any public videos outside of the Pro membership showing you this kind of stuff just yet, but in for now check out Kelly Starrett’s video here:

      In my experience, I’d also say that you’re probably over-striding as you run too – heel striking. Try reducing your stride length a little, running using more of a “barefoot” pose running style even if you’re wearing regular running shoes and I’m sure that will help.

      Let me know how you get on! ;)

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