Recovery between sessions is as important as the Muay Thai training itself. Especially as you get older. In fact for us older Nak Muay, recovery IS training!
Its important to give your body the chance to heal itself between sessions, so you're at your optimal whilst training, and to reduce the chances of injury. Not to mention bad form. Tired limbs don't follow the same movement patterns as tired ones.
Recovery is particularly important for Nak Muay coming to Thailand to train. You've spent all year saving up and have a limited amount of time squeeze in as much training as possible. But this isnt always going ot produce the best results. Unless you're 21 of course!
So what can you do recover between sessions?
Warm-up/down and Stretching
Stretching before training is extremely important. Muscles will shrink at rest and need teasing out with a warm-up and stretch before training. This prepares them for work and makes them supple again and ready to be used at their full range of motion. You know how a lizard has to bask in the sun before it can go about its day? Similar principle. Obviously most of us our warm-blooded, so we don't need the suns energy, but anyone who has sat at a desk for a few hours knows the feeling of tight hamstrings and calves after standing up.
So warming-up and stretching gets the blood flowing your muscles and soft tissue and tells your body and nervous system you're just about to enter Beast Mode
Should I warm-up then stretch or vice versa?
Conventional wisdom says that its safer to warm-up first, so you don't pull a muscle or over-stretch. However, there's a counter to this that says stretching from cold teaches your nervous system to not require the warm muscles and is better in the long run. Also, there's times when you don't a chance to warm-up. I.e. when you have to suddenly defend yourself in a bar etc.
The key is to be aware of your bodies limitations and don't force your it into movements its not ready for.
Stretching after training
Its just as important to stretch after training as part of your warm-down. If the muscles have been contracting explosively for an hour or more, they'll be tired, contracted and loaded with metabolites such as Lactic Acid. Stretching will help force the metabolites out of the muscle for the body to process and eliminate waste products
At Khao Lak Muay Thai & Muay Boran, we get ourselves ready with 20 mins of skipping, stretching and shadow-boxing before the class and a warm-down and stretch at the end.
Diet is critical to post-training recovery in Muay Thai. There's the obvious weight management benefits but what and when you eat also dictates how your body responds to the stresses you've put it through. If you add additional demands on your body by consuming heavily processed foods and alcohol etc, there's less resource for getting you ready for the next training session.
There's a lot of debate about anabolic windows and the importance of consuming quality protein within 20 mins of training. Whether there's truth in this or not, over the course of a day you need to provide your body with the building blocks to repair itself. Whey/plant protein are typical go-to's and also animal meat and fish
Carbs are important, as this is your bodies primary fuel source for training and its important to replenish your glycogen stores. You know your body needs energy to fix itself too, not just to train? Unless you're full keto and fully fat-adapted, then it important to to get carbs inside you. The pro Thai Boxers typically eat a large bowl of rice with some fish or chicken straight after training.
Fats are important, but quality fats. Saturated fat from grass-fed meat is super healthy. Your body requires fat and good cholesterol to produce hormones. Think Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone!
Anti-inflammatory and Anti-oxidants
Different colour fruits and veg give a great mix of anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory. Raw uncooked veg like green, red and yellow pepper, carrot, mooli, greens and tomatoes will give a massive nutrient blast. If these are supplemented with fresh fruits and berries (bearing mind the sugar content) such as blueberries, raspberries, oranges, lemons etc, then you'll also be giving your body a nice nutrient blast. Ginger and turmeric are two of the most powerful anti-inflammatories known. Try to incorporate them into your diet
So now we're into the realm of gadgets and technology. We've been trialing compression therapy as an easy way to fix heavy legs after training, and to loosen up the lower body before training.
Early indications are that these work really well. Anecdotally, I feel lighter on my feet when used before training, and a 30-45 minute session after training leaves me wanting to get straight back to the gym.
The idea behind these is that they help the body move post-training metabolites up into the trunk for processing. They also provide a pre/post-workout massage that helps remove stiffness, reduces DOMS, and gets you ready for the upcoming or next workout.
Ben Greenfield has written a great feature on these, and we'll be making them available at the gym soon