In part one of my interview with muay Thai fighter-coach Roxy Richardson, we discussed her evolution from student, to fighter, to coach, and how the sport has evolved right along with her. Having come up a competitive woman in a male-dominated sport, Roxy has a special perspective on working and communication with female clients.
Female clients tend to gravitate toward her and her gym, she said, because, “there are not too many other gyms with female muay Thai head coaches in the world.” That being said, she does have male muay Thai students and personal training clients, too, and used to teach mostly male group classes when she worked at MMA-focused gyms. But she is able to reach female clients. “[I]n general women need more encouragement, most women are self conscious and nervous about being athletic. They need a little more love.” But on the flip side, she finds that women are better listeners, focus on technique more, and learn faster. Roxy is able to tease her male clients and students. The men respond positively to “Suck it up!” Women don’t respond as well to that kind of interaction.
Men and women alike need sound fitness, nutrition, and health information, but Roxy finds that the women who avoid resistance training, sufficient calories, and dietary fat are her biggest projects. “When I can get a girl to lift heavy, understand that just running more miles will not equal a six-pack, consume three good sized meals a day, and get rid of the fat-phobia eating habits I’m so happy.”
Roxy finds female fighters to be different than her regular female clients, though:
Most female fighters are a bit more aggressive and type-A than most girls. They have a fire in them and I can be a bit rougher with them. But female fighters are generally not motivated by ego, so you can’t attack their ego in training to make them work harder. They are motivated by a desire to not let the team and coach down. Praise and guilt make female fighters work harder.
In Roxy’s experience, her female fighters may err on the side of working too hard, so she has to make sure they don’t over-train, and she rarely has to pester them about eating well or doing their cardio work. “One thing that is really different about female fighters is that they need to chat with their teammates for about fifteen to twenty minutes before the start of training. I now just let them chat and warm up together for a while until I come out and then we can get serious.”
Despite the differences between male and female clients and fighters, Roxy believes there are some fundamental concepts that apply to both men and women. She calls them the Five Pillars of Fitness. Her gym’s name – Function 5 – is based on them. They are:
- Nutrition: Just eat real food.
- Strength and Conditioning: Resistance training is just as if not more important than cardio training to overall health and body composition.
- Sport and Play: Find something you love doing and set goals to do it better. Fitness should be fun.
- Focus and Purpose: Find out what motivates you, have a goal, a reason to get up in the morning, and have a positive attitude about training, health, and life in general.
- Rest and Recovery: Sleep, relaxation, and balance are equally as important as working your butt off to get to your goal.
Naturally, as a coach of women, Roxy is eager to help women feel comfortable and supported in their training. At her gym, there are three female instructors. Over half the students are women. Not every gym is this way, however, and Roxy would advise women who are interested in training but feel a bit intimidated “to do her research, read reviews, watch classes at potential gyms, talk to the instructors and then possibly set up some private instruction for a few sessions to get her feeling more comfortable before starting classes.”
Along those lines, men who want to be supportive of women in muay Thai or other martial arts can simply support them as they would in anything else. Said Roxy:
If a girl became passionately involved in knitting classes guys wouldn’t think anything of it, but because muay Thai is physical, male dominated, aggressive, and possibly dangerous it becomes an issue. If a guy struggles with being supportive it usually has to do with his own concept of gender roles.
This is true of women as well, she said. Women who want to be successful in the gym and in their personal lives need to:
[L]eave your personal issues out of the gym and leave the gym out of your personal life. Easier said than done, but basically for female fighters it’s about getting in touch with your more masculine side in training and your feminine side in your home life or dating life. You can be an alpha female in the ring, on that mat, etc. but then when you get home flip that switch off. You don’t need to be asserting your dominance while cooking dinner and watching Breaking Bad.
Roxy also recommends women not date their teammates. It’s difficult, but it’s a lesson most female fighters learn.
On the flip side when you are in social settings looking to date you don’t need to be that alpha female always on the defensive, always ready to verbally spar, always ready to attack. Outside the gym, girls can relax and be receptive – save that aggression and rebellion for the ring and it will do wonders for your dating life.
In ten years, Roxy plans to have an expanded gym space – maybe even multiple locations, with lots of classes and many opportunities for her thriving fight team. She described how she invisions her role at that time:
More of a fight coach, a manager, and a business owner training my staff to give the best instruction around. I still train general population clients now, but I see my life becoming more involved in the athletes, the business side of things, and general health and fitness education through outlets like writing. I will always stay fit and practice what I preach, but I don’t see myself ever competing again – that fire is gone. I can live vicariously through my fighters now. I want to give them everything I had and more.
For more information visit Function 5 Fitness, and if you missed part one, be sure to read Muay Thai Evolution: An Interview with Fighter-Coach Roxy Richardson, Part 1.