As of the 8th of March I’m half way through my six week stint at 301 Muay Thai and I can’t believe how fast it is going. The first week was painful, really painful. I went through a container of Tiger Balm that week trying to ease pains in my groin, calves and neck as they slowly strengthened and adjusted to their new routine. I can also distinctly remember many nights in that week where I was lying in bed thinking that I wouldn’t be able to make it and questioning why I’m even here at all. Those thoughts seemed to fade along with the easing muscle pain at the start of the second week when I was able to run the 10km run without stopping, an achievement I’m quite proud of. Unfortunately, that first week wasn’t the end of my troubles.
Towards the end of the second week I had learned that I had inherited my mothers’ side of the family’s knees. The grinding knee pain from running moved me from bitumen to sand, then ultimately to change my regime just as I was getting used to, and even enjoying the 10km run. The rest of the training was looking up however as the scabs and cuts on my knuckles healed, telling me that I wasn’t punching like an idiot anymore and I could definitely see improvements in my stance and kicking technique. I have also been informed that I’m a natural ‘kneer-er’ as I seemed to have picked up the technique quickly, which considering my height can be very useful (and dangerous) in the sport of Muay Thai.
At the start of the third week I was beginning to feel once again that I wouldn’t make it as I grew more and more frustrated at problems with my knees and neck. One of the important aspects of Muay Thai is the ‘clinch’, whereby one opponent seizes the other by the back of the head, pulls their neck down for control so that they can knee them or throw them off balance. My neck has struggled to cope under the strain of being yanked around leaving me to all but give up on that part of the training, especially as I’m not here to become a Muay Thai fighter. In response to the knee pain, I experimented with a steroid that another trainee had plenty of that helps lubricate and heal joints, but gave it up after further research told me that it would take at least six of a 12 week course to see the effects. Also the fact that a course of testosterone and an estrogen suppressant post-cycle is recommended to make the most of it wasn’t too appealing. Instead, I turned to more traditional remedies of ice after each workout and I now have a laundry list of natural supplements under my bed that should help in the long term, or at the very least make the climb up Borneo’s Mt Kinabalu (more on that in future posts) a bit more bearable.
Besides the workout itself, my time here hasn’t been without problems with the trainers. Two of the Thai trainers had walked out during the second week leaving Yohan to manage the gym by himself. Unfortunately, due to the huge number of gyms in Thailand, managers have problems with trainers moving between gyms without any notice. Thankfully, the problem was resolved in the third week with the arrival a new Thai trainer and the return of the gym manager who was holidaying in France. The new Thai trainer, Joe, has been excellent and works with me 1-on-1 twice a day in pad sessions to help with my technique. I think I’ve managed to learn more about kicking in two days with him than I had in the previous two weeks! Along with confidence in my technique increasing I’ve also started to see some good results to my body. Abs are (slowly) starting to come through along with the growing and tightening of my arms and chest which are most welcome. I even thought I had begun to tan on my legs and feet, until I realized it was just bruising from kicking the bags. Body weight is down to 78kg’s, although I’m not sure what it was when I started as the scales were broken when we arrived and only just replaced today. I did weigh myself in Tesco last week at 80kg’s so I’m guessing I was about 82-83 when I started. The focus now though is to stay at that weight and lean up for the remaining three weeks.
Another surprising thing I’ve learned about myself is how much I enjoy the hard training. I find myself grinning after falling to a heap when trying to complete the 15 push-ups at the end of three rounds with Joe. I even get a feeling of accomplishment when I stand up after doing my sit ups and see a body outline of sweat on the floor. And then, there is sparring. I’d never been in a fight until this trip, and my first fight was a very intoxicated Muay Thai fight (if you can call it that) at a bar in Koh Phi Phi where I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer myself into the ring. As it turned out I was terrible, and walked away covered in blood and woke up the next day in slight disbelief that I had actually done it. On the plus side I received a free whiskey bucket for participating to help ease the pain. At the gym I’ve now done three sessions of sparring and am surprisingly enjoying the thrill that goes with it. I’ve sparred Mitchy twice and although he is a complete brawler, I’ve managed to hold my own and get a few good shots to the head in (sorry Robyn). The two of us sparring seem to leave the trainers in hysterics as we take it a bit far and throw technique out the window, but it’s still good fun. The third sparring session was with the gym manager, who after three rounds I only hit in the head twice as he was moving around and ducking incredibly fast. The worst part: he didn’t even have his guard up.
Food at the gym has begun to improve after complaints from many of the trainees at how unhealthy a lot of it was/is. At the beginning, much of the food was fried, as is the Thai way a lot of the time. However, with everyone coming here to train, lose weight and get fit, filling out plates with deep fried chicken and eggs wasn’t the sort of diet we needed. The amount of deep fried food has begun to taper off (but the situation still isn’t ideal) and so a common day’s menu would be as follows:
- Eggs (fried/boiled or a Thai style omelet depending on the day)
- 1 or 2 curries – eg. Green chicken curry, red curry, sweet and sour curry etc.
- Stir fried veges, another meat dish or possibly a noodle dish
No lunch is specifically prepared however there is always breakfast left overs. I usually either skip it and have a protein shake or have a can of tuna in curry sauce and rice.
Dinner (7.00) – Any of the following:
- Spaghetti with sauce or other noodle dish
- Fried/seared chicken
- Chicken soup
- Chicken/pork with veges and/or tofu
- Occasionally fruit – Mango, banana or pineapple
The cook also prepares crepes each day after breakfast, presumably because the manager and non-Thai trainer are French. The cook attempts to hide these in the microwave but since discovering them I’ve slowly become more and more addicted to the delicious thin pancake as a snack throughout the day (especially with Nutella and banana), which I justify with the amount of cardio work we do. At first it felt strange to be eating curries in the morning, however traditionally that is the time of day Thai people eat curries. Food wise the only thing I’m missing a lot is good quality yoghurt. The best I’ve found was at a mini-mart in Laos of all places and haven’t had anything comparable to Dairy Farmers or Mungali Creek since.
When not training, we have about seven hours during the day where we can do whatever we want, but seeing as we are so isolated and exhausted, a good two hours of that is spent lying down trying to sleep and recover. Once or twice a week some of us make the trip to the nearest town: Hua Hin, 40 minutes away by mini bus to pick up supplies and get away from the gym for a few hours. A few other days during the week are spent on the 5km walk to the nearest resort with a decent Internet connection. During the evenings, some of us hang out chatting and socializing while others prefer to return to their rooms to read/relax/sleep. Over the weekend one of the trainees picked up a season of the show ‘Spartacus’ which has kept us occupied and sets the right mood for the gym. However at the current rate we are watching it we’ll need to find a new show pretty soon to fill in the final three weeks here.
Even though it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I’m so glad I decided to sign up for the camp. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and in the process have become fitter than I’ve ever been, met some great people and picked up a new skill. Bring on the next three weeks!