Have you ever wondered why some people are able to accomplish more in and training and improve faster than the people around them?
While most people assume that hard work is the biggest factor to accomplishing more (it certainly is a factor), what is often not mentioned is the state of mind that allows these individuals to reach this peak level of performance on a regular basis.
When you watch these high-level performers in training you will notice that their mind and body are working in complete harmony with each other. Everything they do is “in rhythm” and seems effortless. Watch any high-level Muay Thai fighter hit pads on their best day and you will see this mind and body symmetry in action.
“The Zone” is a mental state of complete focus in the present moment.
While there are a number of names to describe this state of mind, most people refer to this mind set as being in the Zone. (Some sports psychologists also use the word “Flow” to describe this term)
When you see Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, at the start of a race before he breaks a world record, the look he has on his face is something who is in the Zone. When Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot in NBA finals, he was in the Zone.
When you see a fighter who is about to pull off an upset against his opponent standing in front of him, they often have the look of someone who is completely in the Zone.
The Zone is where athletes and fighters achieve their best performances inside and outside of competition.
In essence, this is the ultimate state of mind for achieving the best results that you can. Fighters who are able to achieve this state of mind on a regular basis are able to win more consistently than their competition.
Failing to reach the Zone in competition can result in losing fights that you should have won and failing to live up to the expectations that you have for yourself.
Training in the Zone
While it is might be easy to describe someone is competing in the Zone, learning how to get into the Zone starts in training and carries over to competition. If you don’t enter the Zone in your training, you will never be able to compete in the Zone.
High-level fighters are able to consistently train in the Zone, which allows them to achieve more in the same amount of time. They push themselves harder in training and it carries over to the ring.
Training in the Zone means that everything you do is effortless. All of your Muay Thai techniques flow without any effort and your power comes without even thinking about it. The body is completely loose but ready for anything that you tell it to do.
This is the place where your mind and body are on the same page. You are focused. Nothing can distract you and take away your complete focus on the task at hand.
While every fighter knows what it feels like to train in the Zone, the key is to learn how to train in the Zone on a consistent basis.
Here are 4 important things that will help you get into the Zone:
1. Mastery of the Basics
One of the keys to training in the Zone is not having to think about what you are doing. When your training asks you to throw a series of strikes, you don’t have to think about your technique, you simply do.
If you are still learning how to throw a kick or a punch, all your focus will go into trying to perform these techniques correctly.
To enter the Zone in training you need to have a good mastery of your fundamentals. When you can perform all of your techniques without thought, that is how you will be able to achieve your peak performance level in Muay Thai.
This is one of the reasons why you only witness advanced athletes and fighters train and compete in the Zone. They have such a mastery of the basics that they are able to perform techniques that look very difficult with ease.
You will not enter the Zone until you are completely comfortable with all of your Muay Thai techniques and everything you do feels effortless. You want to make sure that you are performing good technique, otherwise, you will end up cementing bad habits into your game.
If you want to learn how to find your ideal fighting style, make sure you read this article here
2. Peak Physical Condition
Gassing out is one of the biggest things that prevents people (including myself) from constantly training in the Zone. When you don’t put in the time doing your road work (running), you will find that gassing out is the biggest hurdle to reaching the Zone.
If you are going with a pad holder who takes it easy on you then you won’t have a problem with conditioning, however, any real volume of kicks or punches will result in you becoming fatigued very fast.
Gassing out will gas you to break your concentration and prevent you from reaching the Zone
To maintain a high level of training you need to have the cardio system that can support your workload. You need the conditioning that can do 30 kicks with each leg at the beginning of a pad round without gassing out by the end. This is the conditioning that gives your mind confidence that is ready for the ring.
The moment you start to feel tired and fatigued, it will start to take away from your mental concentration. Instead of being in the zone, you will start to worry about how much time is left on the click and if you will be able to survive another burst of 30 kicks.
Conditioning not only means you have the ENERGY to perform at the peak level, it gives your mind confidence that you can do anything required of you. This confidence is the key ingredient that fighters need before they enter the ring. Knowing that you have the cardio to last 5 HARD rounds of a fight, will prevent any doubt from entering your mind when you are getting prepared to step into the ring.
Fighters who are preparing for a fight have a much easier time getting into the zone because they have the conditioning that allows them to achieve that state of mind.
If you want to learn how to achieve high-level conditioning make sure you read our 3 part series on Muay Thai conditioning.
3. A Focused Mind
One of the keys to entering the Zone is being focused. For most people getting in peak shape is the easy part, but staying focused is what gives them the most trouble.
Focus can be difficult to achieve because of the many distractions that are constantly begging for our attention. If you train in the evening, everything that you do prior to training can end up taking away your attention from training.
Trouble at work, fighting with a loved one, and even the latest “breaking news” are just a few of the many things that can all take away your attention in training. If you go to training thinking about something else, you will find that you have a difficult time turning your focus to your training.
“Staying in the moment is the key to being focused. Don’t focus on the future or the past, stay tuned into the present and what you are doing at that very moment.”
When you aren’t focused in training everything you do will feel like a chore. This is how people end up going through the motions in training and don’t improve. You do for the sake of doing, without being focused on what you are doing.
A focused mind will allow you to put all of your concentration on whatever you are doing. Whether you are sparring, hitting pads, shadow boxing or doing bag work, everything you do will have a specific purpose to it.
This is the key to entering the Zone.
4. A Training Ritual or Routine
Another thing that all high-level competitors have in common is they have a ritual/routine that they perform before every training session. By going through the same routine step by step, your mind will start to get into the right frame of mind for training.
In Thailand, the training routine often consists of a 5-10km run before training. Running before training allows you to clear your mind of all distractions and prepare yourself to enter the zone. The same can be said for skipping or any form of endurance training that doesn’t require much effort.
Once you come back from the run, you do some light stretching and then put on your hand wraps. This is another process of the ritual that slowly starts to put you in the right frame of mind to enter the zone in training.
After putting on the wraps, the shadow boxing is the first stage part of the training session. This is the moment you start to focus on your technique and work on your weaknesses and strengths. If you are focused up until this point, you know that you will have a great training session that will follow.
Being Thrown Off Your Schedule
Sometimes the smallest thing can completely throw off your training schedule and throw you out of wack. Showing up late to training and missing your warmup is probably one of the biggest culprits to having a bad training session. If you have a routine of always showing up a little bit early to training, it is much harder to throw off your schedule if you are running a little bit behind. The key is consistency and timing.
Anytime you miss your regular training time because of work or travel, it will always take time to get back into the zone. It haven’t takes a few weeks of hard consistent training before you will find any sort of rhythm and find yourself entering “the Zone.”
The key here is routine and ritual. Having a set routine allows you to remove all of your external thoughts that you have throughout the day and start to get dialed into your training session. Follow any high-level competitor and you will notice that they have a ritual that the perform before every practice or competition. While the rituals will vary from person to person, the key is to have a set routine that will help you get into the zone without even thinking about it.
***I am going to write a more in-depth article about the importance of a training ritual and routine in the near future. Stay tuned for that.
While you should always aim to train at your best, there will always be days when you simply don’t have it. You might be feeling under the weather, have a bad stomach that day, or had a personal issue that you simply can’t shake off.
No matter how hard you want every practice to be good, there will always be those days when things simply aren’t clicking. When those days happen the key is to focus on what you can do to have a better training session next time.
If your stomach was bothering you all training session, try eating earlier or avoid eating greasy/spicy food. If you were thinking about work during your training session then maybe you should do some meditation to clear your mind of your thoughts.
This is one of the reasons why having a consistent routine before and after training is very important. Sleep and nutrition are equally important in ensuring that you have the energy to perform your best.
Being able to consistently train in the zone will help you get the most in your Muay Thai training.
If you enjoyed reading this article then I highly recommend you check out my book called Muay Thai Strategy. This book walks you through everything that you need to build a complete Muay Thai game from the ground up. Click here if you want to learn more about the Strategy bundle