Your work life and fight life are in conflictI know you feel the clock is ticking, that you’re running out of time when it comes to finding out how far you can go in Muay Thai.

It was true for me, and it’s true for everyone – regardless if they compete or not.

We all have a “bucket list”, and although Muay Thai is on there, you feel that your day job inevitably gets in the way. And you may hate to admit it, but even family and friends crowd out your training too!

by Don Heatrick

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The Work Life And Fight Life Battle

The biggest challenge in becoming the best you can be at Muay Thai, is how consistently you can train.

And this is compounded when you pick up an injury or simply don’t seem to recover well.

“If only I didn’t have to make a living and I could train full time!”

But, even pro Muay Thai fighters have to work to make ends meet – a full-time income from just training and fighting isn’t there (yet).

And even then, the truth is a big chunk of your week is tied up with making a living, regardless if you’re a Muay Thai enthusiast, amateur competitor, pro fighter, or anything in between.

And some fighters are balancing this incredibly well, achieving great success both in the ring and in their endeavours outside the ring too.

This balance is crucial, because at the highest level, fighting careers are short, DUAL careers. Any athlete must prepare for post-athletic life.

Ignoring this sees more athletes hitting the skids and crashing into addiction than you’d believe.

Modern day athletes know better, and are being looked after better. A 2015 study shows less than 32% of Olympic athletes follow a sport only career path.

So more than 68% are balancing the demand of either studying for a career beyond their competitive window, or are active in a career while competing.

Like most westerners, you’ve primarily focused your effort on career first and your training second. You’ve built stability, and that’s good!

Not only have you got something else you’re good at to fall back on, but you can better afford the costs associated with training – such as gym fees, equipment, and travel too.

But, finding time to train consistently is the issue! You’re relatively financially rich, but time poor… You begin to struggle with the work-life balance.

And research now recognises that the “life” portion of this balance isn’t confined to the family and friend role – which is better described as a work-family balance – but also a work-health balance, which is where your Muay Thai training lands squarely too. I’d call it your work-Muay Thai balance!

We can lever this understanding to balance the unique pros and cons of your work, family, and Muay Thai training situation.

Work Life Demand

Your work will fall into one of three physical demand categories:

A Sedentary Job – desk-bound, for example a Software Engineer, a Driver, Admin Assistant, Store Manager, or Media Content Creator

An Active Job – standing, or walking around each day, such as a Retail Assistant, Cook, Maintenance Engineer, Massage Therapist, or Personal Trainer

Or a Physical Job – physically demanding, such as a Construction Worker, Gardener, Roofer, Military Personnel, or a Muay Thai coach doing privates

Each job brings with it different challenges and benefits when it comes to planning your training. And I boil these down into four aspects; work capacity, physical fatigue, mental fatigue, and mobility.

Your work provides an ongoing “training stimulus” too. Meaning you can either drop something from your training plan, or you must add something.

Work Capacity – your ability to tolerate physical work – will be low in sedentary jobs and high for physical jobs.

For example, those with physical jobs can typically drop intense circuit training sessions from their schedule, while more sedentary workers should consider adding more of it.

Physical Fatigue, hampers your ability to recover from training, and will be low in sedentary jobs and high for physical jobs.

Therefore you can push the total training workload higher for those with more sedentary jobs. And those with physical jobs will need to use recovery techniques more effectively – such as low intensity running or swimming, soft tissue foam rolling, and breathing practices.

Mental Fatigue, also hampers your ability to recover from training, and will be low in less ambitious jobs, and high in highly ambitious jobs. Again, this affects the importance of appropriately managing both the total training workload and recovery practices.

Mobility and Movement will typically be low in sedentary jobs and higher in physical jobs.

Although both job extremes can affect posture and mobility negatively – either from underuse or from overuse – sedentary jobs will more likely require additional mobility work whereas physical jobs will likely need less, or just to balance movements out.

To better understand the demands of your “working day”, wearing a heart rate monitor at work will tell you a lot about the training stimulus you’re already getting, or not getting from your job.

Does It Count?

Something else to consider when it comes to the day-in, day-out demands of your job, is what sports scientists call The Law of Accommodation.

Your body becomes accustomed to the physical work that you routinely do. Assuming adequate recovery, if that physical work doesn’t progressively change, it becomes like background noise. It no longer provides a challenging stimulus to make you better. But, it’s also something you tolerate well too.

So if you’re standing on your feet all day, and worried your active job is sabotaging your progress in Muay Thai, then as long as you’re used to standing that much – and you’ve progressively built up your Muay Thai training too – then you’ll have accommodated to that background level of activity and it won’t impact your long-term goals.

The trick is to make sure your training progressively targets the things that make you better, and doesn’t just repeat more of what you’re already doing.

Where others may see their jobs as a limitation to their Muay Thai, with the right mindset and a good training plan, you can avoid these excuses for not achieving all that you can.

Instead, you can achieve a balance and exploit your inherent advantages while minimising your disadvantages.

The secret is that one size doesn’t fit all. Your lifestyle, genetic potential and training history all point you toward your own training priorities.

Respect that you only have limited time and it’s important to 80/20 your training to focus on the critical few rather than the trivial many.

Consider if you have a sedentary, active, or physical job, and how ambitious your position is, and how this affects your work capacity, physical or mental fatigue, and mobility.

Your work situation has as many pros as it does cons.

If you organise your training well you can achieve the best you can both in your work-life and your Muay Thai-life. Balanced well, these enhance each other.

Don’t let subconscious excuses prevent you from striving for something important on your bucket list.

If finding out how far you can go in Muay Thai is important to you, go for it.

Make your fear of regret stronger than your fear of failure. Ditch those excuses and make it happen.

And if I’m here to support you on this too.

Don Heatrick

Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning

Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.

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