Road Work for Muay Thai

Sticking To It: How to Make The Road ‘Work’ This Winter

What is Road Work?

Road work is the term typically used by a boxer to describe the activity of running long distances outdoors to condition their cardiovascular system. However, road work can also include interval running or sprints, side shuffling, back pedaling, shuffling in your stance, and shadowboxing while in motion. The frequency, intensity, time, and type of run will all vary depending on a fighter’s needs. One thing is for certain, if a fighter isn’t running, they’re setting themselves up for disaster. If a combat sports athlete wants to truly challenge themselves, they will make time for road work.

Hitting The Road

Rain or shine, a fighter must hit the road each day and accumulate the necessary kilometers to ensure that they will outlast their opponent on fight night. Nothing is more frightening than knowing that you have nothing left to give while your opponent continues to march forward. It is like drowning in air.

Road work might be a fighter’s least favorite component in their competition training cycle. It lacks the luster and excitement of hitting pads, practicing drills, and sparring. It is typically a solitary endeavor. It can be very mundane and routine at times. For the novice fighter who is always asking their coach, “What do I need to do?” this article is definitely for you. The answer is: You need to run. A lot. And a good majority of that running should be done outdoors. There is no cutting corners. No bargaining. Just hard work.

As an added degree of difficulty, cold weather is on its way. You will need the right equipment, clothing, and attitude to stick with a road work program this winter.

This article will offer a few tips and tricks to ensure that you stay ahead of your excuses, and follow through on a road work program that will give you an edge over the competition in the cold months ahead.

Prepare for Success

Winter is pretty much here, and it’s not getting any better until next summer. Make sure you have the right gear for road work. Rain, snow, sleet or hail. You should be ready for anything. No excuses. You especially need to keep your feet, hands and head warm. It’s also helpful to invest in a mouth covering that will help recirculate warm air into your lungs on extremely cold days.

Remember the 5 P’s :  Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

Run in the bad weather now so that you can appreciate running in the sunshine next year. Do it with a smile, knowing that you have a mental and physical advantage over your opponent, who is taking the easy road by using a treadmill, which is vastly different than running outdoors. More on this later.

Attitude is Everything

There is a Navy Seal quote that says, “The only easy day was yesterday.” Let that be your mantra throughout the rest of the year, and into the dark months of late January and February. You will need every ounce of mental strength and commitment to defeat the little voice inside you that will find reasons not to do it.

All of your inner battles are won or lost based on your attitude. If you think you can do it, and have the resolve, anything you set out to accomplish will be seen to completion.

Aim Low

This may not be the advice you were expecting to hear, but it comes with a logical argument.  If you have never done road work before, you can expect your lungs to experience bronchoconstriction once the cold, dry air gets to it, moreso if you’re less aerobically fit. Eventually your body will adapt. The last thing you need to do is suffer an enormous setback within the first week.

Don’t set out to run 5km on your first day if you can’t even run 5km on a treadmill. You’ll find that 5km of road work is very different than indoor running, Set daily goals that are realistic. You may even have to split up your running; Half on the treadmill, and half outdoors until your body acclimatizes to the cold air. The tightness in your chest and shortness of breath will go away after a few outdoor sessions.

Lastly, use some measure of common sense when running. You need to be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Know your limitations, then make it a goal to surpass them.


Road work (running outdoors) has many positive benefits that can’t be achieved from running on a treadmill.

  1. Connect with nature.
  2. Build mental strength.
  3. Burn slightly more calories in the cold because your body will naturally heat itself.
  4. Engage more muscles because you must focus on traversing uneven terrain.
  5. Arguably build a stronger immune system.

If you think running outdoors is hard, just have a look at Wim Hof. He has slowly conditioned his body and mind over time to withstand temperatures that could nearly kill an average person. He is an exceptional example of what a slow, methodical increase of your limitations can look like over a long enough timeline.

Check out some of our other helpful articles like How Martial Arts Helps People Deal With Stress

For more information about Lanna MMA and how to try a free class Click Here! 

Written by Ryan McKinnon, Lanna MMA Team Member and host of The Bloody Ballet podcast, a weekly Muay Thai show that can be found at The Bloody Ballet 

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