I was in my late-30s when I started training Muay Thai. Due to some physical ailments several years back, I had led a sedentary life prior to Muay Thai. I will never forget my trial 1-to-1 session with an instructor: I was so exhausted at the end that I was retching.
But right after shower, I actually signed up for a whole year of membership on the spot without further consideration. I spent the next few days back in sedentary mode, trying to recover from a whole body’s worth of muscle aches and wondering to myself,
“What have I gotten myself into?”
My first lessons were equally memorable. Wobbly legs after class, random aches that lasted for days, sore knuckles and dear lord, the shin bruises! But you know what, I have not felt so alive for the longest time. It wasn’t only just the endorphins talking.
As I continued to train, I was feeling happier, more positive, healthier and certainly fitter. It has made me more focused in life which has had a positive effect in my work and life.
Is 40 too Old for Muay Thai?
Not long after I started Muay Thai, I was surprised to learn that there were plenty of older folks training at my gym. I am not even talking about the 40 year-olds but sprightly 50 year-olds who continue to beat the crap out of my ass during sparring with bodies that look half that age.
I also met a few in their 60s and a smiley 70 year old grandpa who only does private sessions. Too old for Muay Thai? Apparently 40 is far from being too old for Muay Thai.
Concerns for Training Muay Thai
If you are in your 20s or 30s, you are in the prime of your life and you shouldn’t really need to ask the question. But if you are in your middle age, I reckon your 2 biggest concerns are 1) if Muay Thai is dangerous and 2) if Muay Thai is too physically taxing.
Indeed, Muay Thai has a rep for being one of the most intensive and harshest sports. As with all competitive contact sports, there are definitely health risks involved. The keyword here being “competitive”.
The fact is, a majority of modern Muay Thai practitioners aren’t actually competitive at all, and many do it purely for fitness and health purposes. Men and women alike. So if you just want to pick it up for fitness, losing weight, or recreational purpose, the danger is actually minimal.
A typical Muay Thai training session will have you skip, shadow box, kick/punch pads and heavy bags, and also engage in some conditioning workouts. Muay Thai is certainly a highly intensive sport.
But that’s exactly the point of taking up Muay Thai: To challenge yourself. If it were any easy, you are probably better off taking walks at the park.
Muay Thai is an exciting and literally heart-pumping exercise to engage in. If you haven’t been working out all these while, it can be taxing at the start. But fret not if you aren’t in top shape, because Muay Thai will whip you into achieving the best shape of your life.
Benefits of Muay Thai
Most people sign up for Muay Thai looking for some form of value-add to their lives. Here are some of the benefits that Muay Thai training has to offer (especially for those who they are too old for Muay Thai):
Very few sports make you burn as much calories as Muay Thai. If you are looking for an exercise to lose your middle aged belly fat or menopausal muffin top, look no further.
Of course, on its own, Muay Thai won’t make you lose weight if you don’t pay attention to your diet but it certainly makes the job easier.
Make New Friends
There is a strong sense of camaraderie at the Muay Thai gym and it’s certainly one of the best places to make new friends. You share a common interest and you are all working towards a common goal of improving your fitness or Muay Thai skills.
Staying social is a key ingredient in healthy aging and Muay Thai training can widen your social circle with people of all ages.
Muay Thai is Fun
Without a doubt, an hour of Muay Thai is certainly a lot more fun and fulfilling than an hour on the treadmill or lifting weights. Definitely more exciting than a boring jog or walk in the park.
There is always something new to learn and makes your every workout interesting instead of the same old routines.
Training in Muay Thai regularly will improve your stamina, energy, overall fitness as well as make you stronger. “Strong is the new sexy” and you can look good at any age as soon as you make an effort.
More importantly, having stronger leg muscles can help to combat joint problems by taking the load off the aging joints.
Unless you are a very driven and self-motivated individual, there is no way you can push yourself to the same degree as a Muay Thai training session. Very often, your instructors will push you to your limits and beyond.
If you keep doing this, training on a regular basis, you not only get stronger physically, but also mentally. Regular Muay Thai training will fortify you with the mental toughness to handle many of life’s challenges.
You know that high feeling you get after a really good workout? That’s endorphins at work and a Muay Thai session is guaranteed to give you an endorphins rush.
Endorphins are part of a group of chemicals secreted within the brain and nervous system. Among its many benefits, they trigger positive feeling, aid in your stress management, help you to relax and improve the quality of your sleep.
Muay Thai will boost your energy and make you feel young again.
Muay Thai Health & Safety Tips
All that said, Muay Thai is a physically demanding sport. But hey, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. Here are some tips to help you stay safe and make the best of your Muay Thai training:
Always Warm Up
The importance of warming up can never be overemphasized. Instead of revving your body into instant action, warming up prepares your body by gradually increasing your heart rate and circulation.
This loosens the joints and increases blood flow to your muscle. Adequate and proper stretching will also prepare the muscles for physical activity and helps to lower risk of injuries.
Use Joint Support
As we age, there are physiological degeneration that cannot be avoided. Our joints are especially susceptible so the use of joint support -for ankles, knees and elbows- will help to protect them from injury and risk of damage.
Joint supports also keep the joints warm and this helps to increase comfort by improving blood circulation.
Hand wraps are also important and can help protect the hands and wrists.
Rash guard is the best choice of workout attire. Researches have shown that the compression function prevents acute muscle injuries and help speed muscle recovery. They also help to keep you dry and odour-free by wicking the sweat away faster. (See related article: “Rash Guard for Muay Thai“)
Start slow by allowing at least 1-2 day of rest in between training. Doing this gives ample time for your muscles to recover which reduces risk of fatigue-related injuries.
Consider Taking Supplements
As a full contact sport, even if you are not sparring, you will be punching and kicking a lot of pads and heavy bags. There is going to be impact on your body and it affects you regardless of your age.
Muscle and bone loss are the two most common age-related issues which start when a person reaches around their late-30s.
To prevent and decrease the impact, you can consider taking supplements such as calcium (for bone loss), glucosamine and chondroitin (for cartilage), fish oil (reduce inflammation) and whey powder (for muscle loss).
Are You Too Old for Muay Thai?
Is it too late for you to start training Muay Thai? Well, if it’s 2 in the morning, where all the fight gyms have closed, it’s definitely too late.
Never let your age dictate what you should or should not do in life. As they say, age is just a number. Never underestimate what you and your body are capable of. If you never try, you will never know. So go forth and seize the day!
NOTE: If you have a medical condition, you might want to get yourself medically approved or certified by your specialist before getting enrolled for Muay Thai classes. This might include -but not limited to- metabolic bone conditions, muscular disorders, respiratory or any chronic conditions.