To Run Hard or To Run Long… That Is The Question
While it’s not absolutely necessary to run when you want to fight, it is necessary to do so if you want to perform well.
With running, you can opt between short, fast, explosive sprints or long, steady, long runs. This begs the question: which is better to do? What would help you more as a Muay Thai fighter?
Let’s get a few simple scientific terms and facts out of the way. There 3 types of skeletal muscle. “Slow twitch” are used when doing activites of low intensity, such as walking. They’re called slow because the muscles take a long time to contract, and can endure without fatiguing for a long time. Slow twitch fibers do not produce much force, so they’re not the type of muscles used to lift weights. (Ivyroses, n.d.).
“Fast twitch” muscle fibers are involved in activities that require short, fast bursts of power, such as heavy weightlifting or 100m sprints. As the name suggests, the muscles contract very fast, but are extremely prone to fatigue.
Both types have its pro and cons – but is there a happy medium where we can get the benefits of both? Power and speed without rapid fatigue?
Luckily, most of our skeletal muscles are made up of third muscle fiber that is like a mix of both slow twitch and fast twitch. Fast oxidative fibers are not as fast as the fast twitch fibers, but are faster than the slow twitch. They fatigue faster than the slow twitch, but not as fast as the fast twitch. (Ivyroses, n.d.).
Another factor to this is recovery. You can increase the type of desired muscle fiber but what good is it if you can’t get yourself feeling as good as possible between rounds?
Sprinting has been shown to increase fast twitch muscles the most while long-distance/endurance running increases both slow twitch and fast oxidative (Laughlin, 2008). But it is not necessary to choose one. Moreover, it seems like it is better to do both. It’s been suggested that endurance training helps recovery from sprinting (Tomlin & Wenger, 2001).
However, it is quite interesting to note that there are quite a few studies that suggest similar athletic changes, no matter which one was done. Let’s look at a study (Macpherson, et al, 2001) that took two groups and tested the effects of interval training and endurance training on each respective group. After 6 week of training, there were similar changes in both groups: decreased body fat, decreased 2-km run time, increased VO2 max. However, maximum cardiovascular output was increased in the endurance group only, by 9.5%. But, only sprinting can increase explosion, allowing you to generate more power without using more effort (Gaudette, 2004).
As a Muay Thai fighter, you need the power and explosion from the fast twitch muscles to help you react and strike, AND the endurance of the slow twitch/fast oxidative muscles to keep you from fatiguing too fast too soon. So if you only do sprints, try doing a 5-10 km run a few days a week. And if you only do long distance runs, do sprints on some days instead.
Check Out More Posts About Running/Roadwork
Is Running Essential? A Talk With The Muay Thai Guys – Sean and Paul chat about their philosophies on running in one of the episodes of The Muay Thai Guys Podcast
Is Jogging TRULY Essential, or Overhyped? – Pro fighter DJ Miller isn’t a big believer in that you must run in order to be a fighter. He shares his thoughts in this detailed blog post.
Gaudette, J. (2004, July 22). The Role of Muscle Fibers In Running. Retrieved April 5, 2017, from http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/the-role-of-muscle-fibers-in-running_82416
Ivyroses. (n.d.). Types of Skeletal Muscle Fibres. Retrieved April 5, 2017, from http://www.ivyroses.com/HumanBody/Muscles/types-of-skeletal-muscle-fibers.php
LAUGHLIN, M. H., & ROSEGUINI, B. (2008). MECHANISMS FOR EXERCISE TRAINING-INDUCED INCREASES IN SKELETAL MUSCLE BLOOD FLOW CAPACITY: DIFFERENCES WITH INTERVAL SPRINT TRAINING VERSUS AEROBIC ENDURANCE TRAINING. Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology : An Official Journal of the Polish Physiological Society, 59(Suppl 7), 71–88.
Tomlin, D. L., & Wenger, H. A. (2001). The Relationship Between Aerobic Fitness and Recovery from High Intensity Intermittent Exercise. Sports Medicine, 31(1), 1-11.
MACPHERSON, R. E. K., T. J. HAZELL, T. D. OLVER, D. H. PATERSON, and P. W. R. LEMON. Run Sprint Interval Training Improves Aerobic Performance but Not Maximal Cardiac Output. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 115–122, 2011.
- Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.