The following article is a guest post by Belen Bode, a Muay Thai fighter and career woman living and competing in Thailand. She’s fought on televised shows as well as international tournaments like IFMA, all while working vital roles in corporate or start-up settings.
As someone who has combined her martial arts career with a corporate one for some time now, I would like to share my experiences about having my feet in both worlds.
I have been living in Thailand now for 2.5 years. I’ve been working off and on during this time, part-time and full-time. I had some fight camps where I trained full-time too, so I have a good comparison between both worlds. Most fighters chose just to fight, and they often ask how I balance the two.
I truly believe that you can have a career AND fight on a very high level. There are caveats, as well as limitations you should keep in mind, which I am happy to share.
Being Comfortable on a Tight Schedule
Most people that work during the day would need to train very early in the morning and/or in the evening. Doesn’t matter if it’s am or pm, but you need to watch the clock. Start your training early or finish your work on time to rush between the office and the gym. I am often in a hurry – it’s sometimes a bit annoying but that’s just how it is. I’ve moved around several times too, but I generally try to live as close as possible to the gym, within a 10-15 min commute. That’s the maximum time I give myself to commute to optimise my life in both worlds.
Become a Master at Planning Ahead
Plan, plan, plan! I think it speaks for itself that you would need to plan your weeks ahead of time. But the next level of planning is to ensure you don’t have intense work weeks combined with the peak of your fight camp.
If I know I am finalizing a project, and have to present the results to the management team of my company, I can’t be working on it during the most exhausting days of fight camp. When you plan, you’ll know when you need to change it up, change your training schedule or change your work schedule. I have always had bosses that were open to this, and we worked together to look for a flexible solution.
Be Kind to Yourself
Having a full-time job and training at a high level is extremely exhausting, and it can be a stretch for your body. You don’t have the time to nap midday as the full-time fighters do, and therefore occasionally your body will signal you that it’s simply had enough. It’s ok to take it easy sometimes or even skip training. I know this sounds RADICAL but trust me. To prevent injuries, or burn out, you need to listen to your body.
If you have a good coach, they will support you in this. I had a coach who once sent me home after 30 min when he saw I was simply too tired to train. I appreciated that. I rested for the remainder of the evening and came back recharged the day after.
The number one requirement is rest and proper sleep. Having a busy and tight schedule is fine, but don’t sacrifice sleep and rest.
Sleep a minimum of 8 hours a day. If you work from home, try to sneak in a very short nap. During the weekends, it’s also important to rest as much as possible. Don’t go hiking, sightseeing, or on a day trip. Maybe go for a coffee with a friend, read a book. Hang out. Chill. I used to rest one day in the middle of the week and trained throughout the weekend. I noticed that didn’t work so well, because I needed more rest than that.
Combining an office career and a fighting one IS POSSIBLE, but it can be tiring. And the latter is something to accept – so don’t get frustrated about it. Finding the perfect balance will be impossible. The best you can do is give it your best effort with managing your time and other resources. But it’s satisfying to be able to do both and know you have a plan B in your life.
Personally, I find it nice to have a distraction from my office career with my fighting fighting one, and vice-versa. I get to release stress and overthinking about either one. Listen to your body and rest, rest, rest when you can. These will be your keys to successfully have both alongside each other.
Final edits to this article done by Angela Chang
If you want an in-depth guide to training in Thailand, I’ve got just the thing.