I’ve been training in Muay Thai on and off since 2013. I got introduced to it when I decided that going to a normal gym was boring and I wanted to exercise in a different way. I was living in California at the time and martial art gyms were plenty. I gave it a shot; I fell in love with the martial art. It is a more intense and interesting way to spend an hour exercising; it’s also a more practical skill, so I found, than running on a treadmill. Long story short, I ended up booking a month at Legacy Gym in Boracay island in the Philippines. Let me tell you all about the experience as it was one of my favourite months in 2017 thus far.
Legacy Gym classes, structure, and accommodation
You can book a room at the gym or stay elsewhere and only purchase the gym membership. Only training costs 12,250PHP or ~ USD$245. Training with accommodations is 24,500PHP or ~ USD$490. If you choose to stay at the gym you get your own room with a double bed, a fan and plenty of place for your stuff. Bathrooms are shared among the residents and gym trainers but they are plenty.
The gym has a solid schedule of morning and afternoon classes. You are not obligated to attend any, it’s your own responsibility to keep a schedule. During every other morning, there is a beach conditioning class (weather allowing). You get to run around pristine beach sand in order to improve your cardio, strength, and endurance. Also, every other day the afternoon boxing/Muay Thai class is switched into a sparring session. You spar with a partner for two rounds, rinse and repeat till the session is over. Overall, Legacy Gym provides boxing, Muay Thai, BBJ, MMA, and conditioning classes. There were no yoga classes while I was there in March.
The classes can be divided into four sections. First, the warm up, it lasts about 15 - 20 min. You can jump around, skip rope, shadow box, whatever you need to do in order to get the blood flowing in order to increase the temperature of your body and your muscles. Next, there are stretching and strength exercises. This too usually last a total of 20 min. Everybody stretches together by following a trainer's routine. Next, the trainers put together some type of conditioning and strength experience. It varies day to day. Some days focus on improving agility while some days focus on improving upper body and arm strength. Next is the fun part, it’s the actual training session. The during the boxing sessions the gym divides into two section: boxing and Muay Thai.
The training sessions last about an hour. The amount of people participating in the session effects on how it will turn out. I’ve seen a session where there was only one Muay Thai student who ended up essentially getting a private lesson. I’ve seen the gym be packed of upwards of 15 or so persons too. Either way, it usually boils down to doing a round on the bags, a round with a partner where you interchange drills, a round with the trainer and pads, and even a quick sparring round with another partner. The last part of the training session is a cool down.
It’s up to you how you want to train
You have the option to take it easy or take the training seriously. The bags are always available, you can go by yourself to practice. I had trouble with getting my kicks correctly. It took some help to get me to understand what exactly I was doing wrong. But, eventually, I got it right. Next, I proceeded to make sure I do them correctly as often as I could. (Okay fine, my left kick is still bullshit.) You’re welcome to schedule a 1-on-1 session with a trainer for any class to get the dedicated attention you might need or want. When I was at the gym the attitude was a little loose. However, I’ve heard from trainers and recurring guests that’s not normal. In the previous months, before I arrived, I heard that everyone took training very, very seriously. Every guest wanted to stay on top of their skills so they trained around the clock. This included the women who were at the gym as well. They would go just as hard during sparring session as the men. Legacy Gym trains people to be fighters, after all.
A piece of advice
It’s good to have a goal. It can be anything from losing weight to winning a sparring session to signing up for an actual fight. But be as specific as you can. If you want to lose weight give yourself a goal otherwise it’s still kind of aimless. If you’ve done this kind of thing before then you know what I mean. For me, this was my first time doing anything like this. Back in California, I’d attend a class two or three times a week just to say I moved my body. I come to Legacy to see if my body could physically take the training. I haven’t worked out at all in the last 6 months prior if you exclude random hikes I did. I was traveling and working. I did not have the time and, frankly, I did not care to exercise.
It wasn’t as hard as I anticipated it to be. Sure it was tedious. But everybody’s energy was intoxicating! It wasn’t until a week and a half before I was leaving that I decided to refocus my goal. I was glad to see that my body was not as rusty as I thought it was. It was nice to push myself physically. If you don’t have a goal at first that’s okay. Talk to the trainers, let them help you set something realistic. Challenge yourself, learn a skill, and embrace the muscle aches. Because at the end of the day, at the end of it all, it does feel so good...
The people of Legacy Gym
Honestly, the people made my time at the gym. It’s been evident to me that travel is about the people you meet a long time ago. However, my time in Boracay was most memorable because of everyone I met. Let’s me start by mentioning the trainers and the staff. The trainers are patient and willing to help you - but only if you really want it. No one is going to hold your hand. Outside of the rings, everyone is very kind and full of life. The trainers will hang out with you, go get food with you and, more importantly, are always willing to grab a beer together.
While I was at Legacy I had the pleasure of training with JoJo, Joemar, DonDon and Chris. Additionally, I’ve trained with Pinoy who still fights almost on a monthly basis. While I was there he managed to win two championship belts. I forget exactly in what divisions at this point. However, since I left two months ago, he has taken up 3 or 4 more fights. He’s a beast. We all love him dearly.
The management staff at the gym, made up of Uncle Mike and Auntie Sol, are too just as kind. They also run a small shop down the road where you can hang out and grab a bite to eat. Auntie Sol calls me from time to time to ask how am I doing, when am I coming back and to tell me she misses me. I fell in love with eating her tuna waffles. When I first tried them I was with one of the trainers, Chris, who with a straight face informed me that each time he orders a tuna waffle he gets the shits. We ordered them immediately. I also vividly remember walking past the Legacy store in the middle of the night and stopping by to say hello to drunken DonDon who was eating a shit ton of chicken like his life dependent on it. We had a short conversation and I was on my way. The next day, he didn't remember anything because he was oh so dunk. He denies the whole thing happened. (I saw you DonDon, I saw you!!!)
Now, about the other guests. I’ve met so many people at the gym; all are wonderful and kind too. I suppose the gym gathers like-minded people. There were some guests who were more shy and quiet but we all found a way to hung out with each other one way or another. There was Pat, a Swiss/Filipino nurse. Micah, a Filipino freelance writer who frequents the gym a few times out of the year. We had the most amazing dates ever, even if there were only a few of them. There was Chris, who had the most amazing drunken adventures that usually ended up with him passed out in McDonald's. Aria, a Finish massage therapy student. Natalie, also a massage therapist, but from Jersey, who was a blast to party with!
I have to make a specific mention to Pornstar, aka Porn. He’s a rescue dog brought to the gym by the owners. He’s the most adorable pit bull I’ve ever seen. Granted, he can be quite annoying and can take a shit that smells for days but he was very sweet. Why is he called Porn? Doesn’t matter, but above is a quick video with a potential explanation. His name makes taking walks with him on the beach a lot more entertaining, that's for sure.
My point is simple, the people I’ve met while I was in Boracay were like a family. I still keep in touch with many of them.
Boracay and the island life
Boracay is a tiny island located in the central Philippines. It’s 10.32 km² or 3.98mi². It’s a pretty popular island. I hear many travel blogs advising to skip it altogether. I see where they are coming from, it has resorts galore. However, I was not part of the touristic crowd and hung out on the side streets. If you are coming to Boracay to experience the Philippines, I don’t think it will give you the best perspective. But if you are coming to Boracay to experience the Legacy lifestyle, I highly recommend it. It's really two different things. On Fridays, Saturdays and birthday everyone goes out. For the most part, the first stop is always Exit Bar right on the White beach by D Mall. They have good priced drinks, the bartender is a pretty cool guy who knows everyone from the gym. I don’t know why, but the gym crowd cannot go out with stopping at Exit at one point or another. From there, we would end up all over the island from Galaxy, to Area 51, to Beach Club all the way back to Epic which is practically next door to Exit. All while running into familiar faces. At one point or another, someone will end up at McDonald's for a middle of the night, drunken snack. I’ve been there, we all have been there.
The food and the beaches
Because the island caters to tourist you can find all sorts of food there. Near the gym, you can find local food which is still pretty western thanks to the Spanish and international influences. You have Grace’s which is next door to the gym. She’s a lovely lady who will serve you up anything from a protein shake to a tuna omelet. Down the path - the gym is up a little hill with a dirt path - there is the Legacy store run by Auntie Sol. She can provide you with beer, cigarettes, chips, burgers or waffles. By the main road, there is City Mall where you can shop for groceries, soft serve chocolate ice cream, milk tea or a fast food burger. On the main road, across from City Mall, you will find Na Meet. It’s another gym crowd favourite. We’re all friends with Rommel. They make very good meat and rice dishes and Mexican food such a burritos. Although if you want a burrito, do not come hungry. It takes for every to get them brought out. And, it is worth the wait every time!
The gym is located on a road to Diniwid Beach. On the beach, there are numerous bars and restaurants. They are much more touristy but still pretty good. For example, Spider House is famous for their pizzas and decks which you can jump off of into the water. While I was there in March, Spider House had a small litter of puppies in the restaurant. You could pick them up, play with them and what not. God knows why they were there, there was no for sale sign. It appeared as if it was a sort of attraction. But hey, I didn’t complain. I got to play with adorable puppies. I have very fond memories of pizza dinners turning into pizza parties becuase so many of us showed up at once.
Diniwid Beach is a short walk away from the gym, about 10 minutes. It’s significantly less crowded than the main, White Beach. You can walk from one to the other easily. There are some stunning cliffs that connect the two. There is always a couple of tourists taking pictures. There are plenty of smaller beaches in the cracks of Boracay but they are harder to get to. Harder meaning, you have to take a trike and pay a lot more than if you go to Diniwid or White beach. One you see White Beach you understand the attraction, it’s long as hell and the shore is, in fact, beautiful.
Getting around the island
There are plenty of places around the gym that you can walk to. Hell, you can walk to DMall through Diniwid and White beach if you wanted to but it will just take awhile. For everything else, there are drivers with a bike to give you a lift or you can take a trike. If you take a regular ride with a trike, meaning they will be able to take other passengers, going from City Mall to DMall costs 15PHP. City Mall to Station 3 is about 20 or 25PHP. My recommendation is to get on and off trikes by City Mall and walk the rest to the gym. The trikes tend to not want to go down Diniwid Road unless they charge you a lot more. For example, a 15PHPH ride turns into 50PHP. If you are with a group, it’s much cheaper and easier to drive it back to the gym though.
Getting to the gym
To get to Boracay you have a few options. You can take a boat to Caticlan, fly into Caticlan or fly into Kalibo. Kalibo tends to have cheaper flights but then you need to take a bus or a taxi to Caticlan. Because, either way, you need to take a boat from Caticlan to Boracay. I don’t recall what I paid but it’s 500PHP easy. Next, you need to take a trike to the gym. If you take a private ride, it should cost 150PHP to City Mall or 180PHP to the gym. If you opt in for a regular ride, it should be 30PHP to City Mall. When leaving the island, no trike is going to take you with a regular fare from City Mall to the jetty. That you can forget. I tried, it was annoyingly unsuccessful. I bet it had to do with being a tourist with bags. However, you’re going to be luckier leaving the jetty going anywhere on the island with a regular fare. There will be many other people going in the same direction.
And that does it, as far a summery goes. I refrained from talking about specific stories like getting yelled at, at 3 in the morning, by Jante and KC that the movies I picked where shitty or any random singing and karaoke session in the trikes, or even about the sing alongs with the dogs for when the power went out. For those you just had to be there :)
I am a freelance web designer who documents her travels with photos and words via Black Journal. Additionally, I work with small companies that want to re-brand their online businesses to create products that change lives of their customers all in the hopes of gaining more customers and retaining their current ones longer.