Staying Fit in Koh Tao
Oh, Koh Tao… what a paradox that a place that requires you to more or less live in your bikini also makes it so easy to pack on the pounds? My own very scientific studies have shown that a steady supply of cheap and delicious rice and noodle-based dished, a hard partying lifestyle with nightly buckets (literally) of sugary alcohol, and a strong temptation to spend any and all daylight hours parked on the sand like a bloated beached whale do not add up to the kind of hard body I would like to be frolicking around Southeast Asia with.
This time around, I’m trying to embrace a new lifestyle. Koh Tao was actually the perfect place to start my Southeast Asia journey without sacrificing my new focus on fitness. In my two and a half weeks there, I worked out ten times! And thanks to the decent variety of ways to work up a sweat, I never once got bored.
Let’s pretend this fitness-y looking photo is from Thailand, and not Hawaii, shall we?
Island Muay Thai
There is no more location-appropriate way to work out in Thailand than to take part in the national sport! Muay Thai is a combat sport similar to boxing and martial arts. However, Muay Thai uses the entire body, incorporating punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes.
I will always love Muay Thai for being the first workout that I ever truly loved — It’s so intense and energetic that I never found myself looking at the clock. I went semi-regularly throughout my time on Koh Tao and became increasingly dedicated up until I left the island. I found myself really looking forward to my hour long sessions — the high impact workout, the stress relief of kicking someone (with pads on!) as hard as I possibly could, and the fun I had socializing with the trainers.
After a brief warm up and stretching, a trainer will call you over for one-on-one rounds of three minutes. After, they will send you to work with the bags before doing ab workouts and stretching in the ring. Island Muay Thai is very laid back compared to other Muay Thai gyms I have been to and read about, but the trainers will to some degree give you back what you put in. For a casual work out, it was the perfect gym for me. However, women should expect some degree of flirtation.
Training lasts for about an hour from either the 8am-10am session or the 4pm – 7pm. One session is 300 baht, four sessions per week is 1000 baht, seven sessions per week is 1,600 baht, twelve sessions per month is 2,500 baht, sixteen sessions per month is 3,600 baht, and 20 sessions per month is 4,500 baht. Custom packages can be arranged. Island Muay Thai / Facebook Page / Haad Sairee, Road to Hin Wong Bay / Tel. 086 271 2212
Muay Thai Training Centre
I have not trained at this gym but I am including it as an alternative for those looking for a more serious Muay Thai education on Koh Tao. This Mae Haad based gym takes a more holistic approach and expects its participants to follow a strict regime of diet and excessive and abstain from excessive partying. This is a more formal training program that issues certificates recognized by the Muay Thai Association of Thailand. With only one trainer, it is a small gym and not one for socialization or casual drop-ins.
One session is 400 baht, four sessions a week is 1,500 baht, six sessions a week is 2,100 baht, twelve sessions per month is 4,000 baht, sixteen sessions per month is 5,300 baht, and twenty sessions per month is 6,000 baht. Muay Thai Training Centre / Mae Haad, across from Lomprayah Pier / Open everyday 8am – 9pm / Tel. 077 457 125
2018 UPDATE: Muay Thai Training Centre is now closed.
photos courtesy of Muay Thai Training Centre
Koh Tao Gym and Fitness
This is exactly the kind of gym you don’t expect to find on a small island in the Gulf of Thailand — a two story fully equipped gym with one completely essential ingredient — air conditioning. I love working out at this gym with my friend and favorite personal trainer Will — he kicks my butt!
The upstairs features all the usual cardio suspects, while the downstairs has a wide range of weight equipment. A towel and water is provided with passes and a full stock of supplements are available for sale. There’s a good community vibe here and the Western staff is very friendly and always up for a chat.
Open Monday through Friday from 7:30am — 11pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 8am — 10pm. A one day pass is 200 baht, a five time pass is 800 baht, one week is 1000 baht, one month is 2,500 baht, three months is 6000 baht. Longer membership and monthly activations and payment plans are available. Gym and Fitness / Haad Sairee, Road to Hin Wong Bay / Tel. 082 801 4014
photos courtesy of Gym and Fitness
For those looking for cardio and basic weight training at a more rustic and budget friendly location, Monsoon Gym does the job. This gym is attached to Island Muay Thai and is open air, so come early in the morning or late in the evening — those fans can’t do much against the brutal midday heat.
A one day pass is 150 baht, a week pass is 400 baht, and a one month pass is 1,200 baht. Monsoon Gym / Haad Sairee, Road to Hin Wong Bay / Tel. 086 271 2212
2018 UPDATE: Monsoon Gym is now a completely separate facility from Island Muay Thai, and is located on the main road between Mae Haad and Sairee. Island Muay Thai no longer has a gym facility.
This incredibly popular yoga centre is feels miles away from downtown Sairee, nestled in a little garden off the beach. Hatha yoga style classes are two hours, which I personally find a bit long, but they do leave plenty of time to explore new poses. The instructors rotate but all that I have practiced with were friendly and welcoming. Arrive early to ensure you get a spot — these classes are crowded!
Classes are 300 baht, or a 10 class card can be purchased for 2,500 (and can even be shared among friends!) Classes run everyday from 10-12am, plus Mondays and Thursdays 6:30-8pm, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 4-6pm. Haad Sairee, in Blue Wind Resort / Tel. 084 440 6755
Freshly opened as of my most recent visit to Koh Tao, Grounded is not just a yoga studio but the island’s first wellbeing center. They offer a variety of services, including Yoga, Tai Chi, Self Defense, Meditation, Acupunture, Nutrition, and more.
I dropped in at Grounded the day after a somewhat frustratingly overcrowded class at Shambalha, and it felt like a breathe of fresh air. The outdoor sala features peaceful views of palm trees swaying in the Koh Tao valley, and the five of us in my class had plenty of room to practice and lots of hands on attention from our lovely instructor. With 90 minute classes and a more affordable price tag, this will be my go-to yoga studio on Koh Tao from now forward.
One class is 200 baht, and drops to 150 baht per class with a 10 class loyalty card. Four classes everyday starting at 10am, 1pm, 3pm, 7pm and running 1.5 hours. Grounded is open everyday 8:00 am – 8:30 pm. Grounded Koh Tao Website, Grounded Facebook Page, / Haad Sairee, Road to Hin Wong Bay / Tel. 088 503 7055
2018 UPDATE: Grounded no longer has a studio and instead offers classes in various locations around Koh Tao. Check their website or social media for more details.
photos courtesy of Grounded
Of course, Koh Tao itself can be the world’s most beautiful gym! There’s a glittering blue ocean to swim in, and green rolling hills to run up and down.
Looking for more up-to-date fitness information on Koh Tao? Check out the update to this post, as well as a post about creating a DIY Health Retreat in Koh Tao!
How do you stay fit when you travel?
I’ve never tried boxing but I can imagine a one hour session is very tiring indeed! I dare say the humidity will sap your energy too.
Absolutely! I try to get there right at 8am… any later and it really does start to get insanely hot.
Oh how I struggled through the ‘downward dog’ that time we went to Shambala. I wish you had written this post in 2010 ! I could have skipped that ‘puffy’ phase of mine entirely. It’s so frustrating because there are such amazing mountains to climb there, but realistically who feels like climbing mountains amidst humidity. My daily exercise on Tao in the heat was swimming laps out to the dive boats and back, but that of course is completely dependent on the tides behaving themselves xx
Ha, I think my puffy phase was unavoidable. But man, am I glad its over. And yes that was the most hysterical yoga class… “Whose dog is this!?”
See, I had never considered there would be gyms in Koh Tao, but I guess it makes sense as many people stay there long term right?
Yup! There are tons of expats here making use of all these gyms. Lots of Thais also do Muay Thai and work out at Monsoon Gym as well!
I’m trying to make the change to a more healthy lifestyle as well! You’re much more motivated than I am though.
WELLLLL…. February has been a bit of an embarrassment in comparison to this post! Time to get back on the bandwagon. I will say that I think progress is exponential. As soon as I saw a little of it, that is what motivated me!
This is so motivating. I have found it so hard lately to fit in exercise, so seeing you do it on the road is a huge boost!
I think it’s all inertia. Once you’re in the routine, it’s easy to keep going!
I don’t think muy thai would be my thing, but the yoga looks blissful in such pretty surroundings!
But now I’m spoiled… don’t think I can ever go back to doing yoga in a crowded tiny studio in NYC!
wonderful blog you have here!
quick question, does the running start when you get there @ 8am or do people run before that?
Some other people were saying Island Muay Thai is a bit chill, and your posting kind of confirms my suspicions:D
But looking at the other muay thai place, i’d rather work out in an open air gym.
Hey Mark! I believe people run before. I say before because… I’ve never done it 🙂 There’s always an option to train at both gyms, do one for the technique and the other for the socialization. However, some of the trainers will give you a hard time about it…
Great posts about fitness options in Koh Tao! But I checked the website for Island Muay Thai and the prices seem quite higher than your blog. Do they use high/low season pricing? And where do you reccomend to stay? Thanks!
I don’t think they use high/low season pricing… either they’ve raised their prices since I was there in February (when I copied prices down from the gym itself) or they just have special deals in person. Sorry I can’t be more help!
I have really enjoyed reading your post and I am getting even more excited about getting there. I am interested in doing a combi of yoga and thai boxing – could you recommend me a location from where I could combine them both? As in have them near to each other? I don’t mind walking around, I am just wondering how will I be able to combine them all 🙂
Oh, have I mentioned that ideally I would also want to learn to dive?
Don’t worry, Koh Tao is really small — you could walk to literally every place listed in this post in a day 🙂 Island Muay Thai and Grounded are super close together, and right between them is my favorite dive shop — Roctopus! Hope that helps!
God send! I’ve been looking for outdoor yoga ANYWHERE in
Thailand and am struggling to find just one place! Why would you go all that way and do it in a studio!? This has given me two great options! Did you happen to check out New Heaven yoga? That’s the sort of view I’m after. Thanks again for helping me make a decision!
Oh and PS I know you said they’re all close, but I’ll be alone and don’t fancy travelling much each day, so where’s the best place to stay? I need maximum yoga and a nice beach! That’ll do me!
Hey Jackie! I never did try New Heaven, if I recall that was down in Chalock and while it’s a short drive I was usually content to go to the other locations which were right in my neighborhood 🙂 While I don’t have a specific accommodation recommendation I think if you want to practice in the places listed in this post, you’ll want to stay in Sairee. If you want to practice at New Heaven, you’ll want to be in Chalock.
Cool post, I’ll definitely have to give these yoga studios a shot!
Yoga is my primary means of staying balanced and in shape, although I go through dry spells so long that sometimes I wonder if it is even worth it to travel with a mat strapped to my pack, especially when I find it easy to make up excuses even though I’ve got a mat, some great guided practice sets, and speakers!
I’m also pretty passionate about mountain trekking and try to get out several times a year, usually finding that I feel fully conditioned and fit again within a few days of setting out.
Oh, and I guess dancing?
I’m impressed you travel with a mat! I don’t have the discipline to do yoga unless I’m in a class.
Hi there, how do I find grounded? . Plan to go this week, sounds great
Hey Dora! Walk up the road toward Roctopus Dive and keep going, and turn right at Suksamran Villas — sorry, streets don’t have names 🙂
Why do white folk continue to refer to themselves as expats. When you see all these guys staying in Thailand for as long as they have the correct term should be ‘immigrant’.
God forbid we actually put white folk on the same level as the locals though. Can’t be having that.
Hm, well, I have to say I have non-white friends on Koh Tao who refer to themselves as expats as well! The two terms do have different connotations to me, which is why I would not use them interchangeably, though I have never gotten the impression that anyone found it offensive until now.