The Beginner’s Experience: 3 Common Discomforts
Starting from square one is always a hard thing to do.
It can also become downright discouraging when the first couple of Muay Thai sessions are impeded by physical discomforts that seem to reoccur every time.
Just know that this is a common experience and there are others who have worked through the same thing.
So before we start unflinchingly kicking down banana trees, here are the three common discomforts that beginners experience and how to help reduce the chances of them occurring:
#1: Muscle Cramps
Muay Thai is extremely dynamic and involves different muscle groups that are not commonly activated during daily routine, especially not for a beginner with a regular nine-to-five.
After all, nobody goes around doing 25-50 left and right leg kicks in public for fun on a daily basis.
Add high intensity training into the mix and the chance of cramps skyrocket.
That sharp pain in the sides… that calf muscle that feels like it is moving up towards the knee… toes forced into tight, painful curls… These are enough to stop a pad-holding session intermittently.
This one is two-fold: hydration and stretching.
It’s no secret that Muay Thai is not a walk in the park; the first couple of sessions will be quite tough. There will be tons of sweating and lots of re-hydration will be needed.
Proper hydration before, during and after class will reduce the odds of getting cramps. Set aside five to ten minutes before class to thoroughly stretch out the muscles in the legs and calves.
#2: Sprained Wrists & Jammed Knuckles
It is the first day for a “day one” beginner. He or she comes in ready to learn with their jogging clothes, poor technique and bright blue, nameless boxing gloves found at the nearest sports store in town (no shame, we’ve all been there).
The first punch they throw to the heavy bag ends up being their last.
The injury comes in two ways: the knuckles absorb the unfamiliar impact, then the wrist gives. The fingers swell; the hand feels disconnected from the hand; the wrist is in agony. It’s bad, but not debilitating to the point where training is impossible — just enough to affect the range of motion and power of a punch.
Wrap those hands, ladies and gentlemen! Hand wraps are the second line of defense between the heavy bag and the piss-poor padding in the sports store gloves.
There are several ways to wrap the hands and several resources found online to follow. Keep those wrists straight when wrapping, and layer the padding on knuckles to reduce the chances of spraining or jamming when hitting mitts or a heavy bag.
Shock sounds like a funny discomfort, but it is enough to deter a beginner from continuing for a couple of days.
For example, that bag in the corner may look really soft and fluffy. The person on the next bag over looks like they are having a great time unloading combinations without fear or a grimace of pain! “That looks easy enough,” the novice thinks.
Across thousands of gyms in every country around the world, there have been countless instances where fresh beginners find out the hard way that landing their first full-force roundhouse on the heavy bag isn’t a wise idea. Most who do this vanish and stop attending training for a few days; others just vanish altogether.
The most painful hits are the ones you never expected.
The same logic rings true when you throw a strike 100% at a surface area with an unknown density. The mental preparation just isn’t there. They are called “heavy bags” for a reason; not all are going to have that soft, marshmallow-y goodness for the shin to nestle into.
Slow it down. Test the waters. Condition yourself gradually.
Practicing Muay Thai is a marathon, not a sprint. It is understandable that many beginners are extremely excited on the first day, but there is little value in mangling a limb in the initial 20 minutes of class because of poorly managed expectations and staying home for several days to recover when the bruising finally kicks in.
One of the toughest things about starting Muay Thai is getting into the habit of “going hard” on a consistent basis.
That is why the first couple of days or even weeks can be crucial to setting up a routine. However, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome and often the slightest discomfort can deter or sideline novices for several days.
These minor discomforts and painful pitfalls will become less meaningful to you over time if you stay the course. Gradual conditioning is the key to it all.
- Daniel Nguyen is a packaging engineer who trains Muay Thai as a passionate hobby. With a smoker fight under his belt, his ultimate goal is to convince others to join in by conveying his passion for the sport and writing about his experiences.