Welcome to this blog about my time at Punch It Gym! Let me start by introducing myself, my name is Dustin and over de last couple of months I have had the opportunity to train at the amazing Punch It Gym, Koh Samui. Back home I work as a nurse in the main hospital of Amsterdam and have been training kickboxing for a year now. What makes my story notable to write a blog about is that I have been a type one diabetic for twelve years and believe me, training Muay Thai in Thailand being a diabetic is not a joke.. First I will explain something about being a diabetic, next I will dive deeper in what made me go to Thailand to train Muay Thai and how you (diabetic or not) can and should do as well.
So what is diabetes? There are two main types of diabetes; type one and type two diabetes. Type two diabetes means you are insensitive to the hormone insulin or produce less of it. The hormone insulin makes the sugar that ends up in your blood after digesting carbohydrates leave your blood to go into your cells. In fact it can be seen as a key to open a cell in order for a glucose molecule to enter the cell and be used for energy. Now what happens when you don’t produce enough or are insensitive to this hormone, your blood glucose levels rise. Most people with diabetes are type two and this form can be treated with lifestyle changes and only in more severe cases is treated with insulin therapy.
Now type one diabetes is something totally different. A type one diabetic does not produce any insulin because at one point his/her own body shut down the cells responsible for insulin production. Another word for this phenomenon is an auto-immune reaction, making diabetes type one an auto-immune disease. Type one diabetics always require intensive blood glucose monitoring and insulin therapy, either through injections or with the use of an insulin pump (like I am showing in the video). Now being a type one diabetic it is your fulltime job to control your blood glucose levels and keep them between a certain reach. A very short explanation; too much sugar in the blood damages blood vessels in the long run and increases the risks of cardiovascular diseases. Too little sugar in the blood makes you pass out and can be fatal.
With that out of the way I will explain what made me go on this trip. Last august was the first time I went to Thailand and only stayed there for two weeks. A couple months before that trip I had started to train kickboxing in the Netherlands and fell in love with martial arts. Coming to Thailand I saw the huge influence of Muay Thai into Thai culture and immediately decided I wanted to come back and train Muay Thai. Two days after I got back from that two week trip I booked a single ticket to Koh Samui. I started searching for gyms to train at and pretty fast I ended up at Punch It Gym.
Preparation is key
Now the first time I went to Thailand I found out a lot about how to handle my diabetes in a country like Thailand. There are a lot of external and internal factors that influence blood glucose levels in type one diabetics and coming to Thailand adds about a hundred extra. Not to mention training up to twice daily…
I knew I had to take a lot of preparation before I went on this trip as I planned to stay for three months (also planned to travel Vietnam for 5 weeks). As a diabetic you need a lot of supplies, even more when you are on insulin pump therapy like I am and there is no way of resupplying your stash whilst in Thailand. So, as a diabetic your priority should be calculating how much supplies you normally use in three month, then double it, or even triple it just to be sure! From previous trips I found out the hard way to always have back up for your back up.
Next you should bring a great amount of insulin and have means of keeping it cool whilst travelling. To be honest I am pretty sure that insulin is pretty easy to come by in Thailand but I just used my own stash. Also make sure you have the right documentation with you, I.G. an official doctors letter explaining all your medication, vaccinations sorted out etc.
Things to take into consideration
Now with all the preparations done it is time to head to the paradise island, Koh Samui. Through trial and error I found a couple of things a diabetic should take into consideration;
Your hygiene should be a priority! The climate of Thailand makes you as a diabetic very susceptible to infections and a Muay Thai gym is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, meaning any little cut or scratched mosquito bite can get infected in a second. I would highly recommend diabetics and even ‘regular’ people to rinse themselves with Dettol anti-bacterial soap during and after training.
Thai food contains a lot of hidden sugar. Almost every Thai dish contains sugar one way or another, being it in a curry or the marinade of your chicken skewers. As a diabetic you can eat anything and everything but you just need to make sure you inject a correct amount of insulin to account for the sugars.
The climate a really extreme and should not be underestimated when you are a diabetic. I spent three months in Asia and up to this point have not figured out what impact the heat had on my sugar levels. One day I would think it would somehow make my levels rise, while the other day I would think it made me more susceptible to low sugar levels. Also coming with the weather it is important to use smaller amounts of insulin in your insulin pump and refill more often with fresh insulin as the heat damages your insulin making it less potent.
Why Punch It?
Training at Punch It Gym has been nothing but amazing. Unlike a lot of Muay Thai gyms, this gym has extremely good customer service, is very clean and offers amazing food at the healthy café that is attached at the gym. The accommodation is great and really luxurious for the price paid. Both main accommodation sites are right across the street making the gym very accessible even for people who don’t want to rent a bike (even though I highly recommend you do).
Not only the customer service is top notch, the training itself is unparalleled from training in the Netherlands. The trainers are exceptional masters of their craft, witty but with the right amount of sadistic traits to push you into becoming a better fighter. All trainers have had tons and tons of fights and truly live and breathe Muay Thai.
An amazing addition to the training at the gym are the fight nights hosted nearly every week. These fights range from high level Muay Thai fights in the prominent Phetch Buncha stadium to fights hosted in the gym for first or second time fighters.
The moment I left I knew I would come back. My plan now is to order my life and work so that I can go to Thailand at least twice a year to train and live in paradise. I would highly recommend anyone reading this blog to travel to Koh Samui and train at Punch It Gym. And if any diabetics happen to read this, you can contact me on Instagram @ceo_of_sugar if you are interested in more information about traveling Asia as a diabetic.