Birthday cake

40

Today is my 40th birthday and I decided to mark the occasion by documenting a snapshot of what my life and thoughts look like at the moment.

Thoughts

When I was a kid I didn’t have a clear image of what I wanted to be as an adult. My earliest memories involve pretending to be a drummer and a chef/restaurateur. However, I grew up with the idea that I had follow a traditional academic path and end up in some sort of managerial role.

At this stage, my life is not textbook-perfect: I’ll never have kids, I don’t have a car, I will probably never own a home and can’t see myself as a manager, and that’s all fine. I think it’s more important to do what you want to do instead of what is expected. The first step to wisdom, IMO, is knowing yourself.

Food

Back in 2011 I decided to experiment with the paleo diet (gasp!) and discovered by accident that gluten was triggering some of my health issues (reflux, joint pain and allergic reactions to pork). I continued eating paleo for a few years and then reintroduced some foods such as dairy (mainly cheese, yoghurt and some cream), rice and legumes, all of which work fine for me from a health perspective. A lower carb approach works better for my body composition goals and energy levels.

My diet these days is more akin to Tim Ferriss’ slow carb diet, with some legumes and very few high-starch foods such as rice and potatoes. I have also implemented his advice of 30g of protein within 30-60 minutes of waking up, most days in the form of 3 eggs + baby spinach + kimchi +/- a tablespoon of lentils or homemade mayonnaise.

I do eat gluten-free bread and treats (including beer!) occasionally. I cook the bulk of our food because I believe that’s the best way of ensuring you’re getting quality food in your body. I post most of my lunches on my Instagram page.

The only supplements I take regularly are protein powder (usually whey protein isolate) after lifting and collagen hydrolysate most days to help with tissue repair.

Drinks

My current liquid intake, in order of prevalence, goes like this: water, coffee, tea, red wine, gin & soda. Cider, gluten-free beer and sparkling wine appear here and there but their contribution by volume is negligible.

Exercise

Even though injuries and other circumstances have kept me away from competing, I haven’t stopped weightlifting because I still enjoy the technicality and challenges of the sport. I do not enjoy getting injured but hey, that’s part of the package.

I started doing Krav Maga in November last year, initially to get back to martial arts and use it as conditioning for my lifting. I fell in love with Krav, especially because of its practicality in real life and the philosophy behind it: learn to defend yourself in order to protect others. Very Buddhist IMO.

Right now my routine looks like this:

  • Weightlifting 3x week
  • Krav Maga 3x week
  • Yoga 0-1x week
  • Swimming 0-1x week

I use a foam roller and a lacrosse ball most days to work on tight spots and get chiropractic/physio care and massages when needed.

Last but not least: meditation and sleep

10 years ago I started my Buddhist practice and I have managed to meditate almost every single day. Of course I’m still eons away from enlightenment but I can tell the methods work on everyday life.

Anyone who has ever tried to work late or party with me knows that I’m not a night person. I go to bed early and require 7-8.5 hours of sleep to function properly.

Final thoughts

Here I am at 40, healthier than what I was the first ~26 years of my life. I don’t know what to expect in the next 5-10 years but fingers crossed it won’t be a downhill journey just yet.

Injury update

On October 15th, just under 2 months after my injury, I started lifting again. My chiro’s instructions were to do only 2 exercises (anything except snatches, clean & jerks and front squats) per session at 30-40% (of weight). Boring, I know, but much less boring that just stretching, swimming and cycling.

Weights

I’ve been slowly incorporating more exercises back to the routine as prescribed by my coaches, keeping the weight light and focusing on technique. As of last night I have done everything except SOTS press, full cleans and any type of jerks (split or power). I have done light power cleans with no problems. I won’t be PBing any time soon and I don’t feel 100% recovered from the injury but will get there eventually.

Food for thought: A glimpse of the fitness industry

As you may or may not know I’ve been “gymless” since mid-November. I had been going to the same gym for 4 years. Given my (until recently) unknown housing situation I decided to let my membership die and started trying other gyms close to work (some close to my current home, too). I’ve been using free trials, as well as voucher-type deals. It’s been a fun experience because I’ve been able to mix and match different training styles, settings, etc., while saving a lot of money.

I was surprised to see how many gyms offer trials and discounts, and also how desperate they are to get new members. It tells me the fitness industry is not doing so well. Too much competition, maybe.

I’m keeping a list of each place’s pros and cons to help me make a decision after I come back from holidays. I won’t share the specifics here because I don’t think they’d be useful, considering we all have different priorities. Also because I haven’t made a decision yet. I will say, however, that it has being interesting to realise that things like music and the number of squat racks are much more important to me than prices.

One of my favourite workout tunes… hard to find in most gyms

I have also noticed a shift in my preference between working out on my own vs. having a coach. Lockers and showers are a nice thing to have but I can shower at work, so it’s not a deal breaker. And pushy sales reps are definitely very off-putting.

These are the places I’ve tried so far:

I’ll keep this post updated with a few more places I’ll try in the next couple of months.

Learning to walk, a post on shoes

A few years ago I started reading about minimalist footwear (aka “barefoot” shoes) and became interested in giving it a shot. Unfortunately, the physiotherapist that was treating my knee issues recommended “good” (by conventional wisdom’s standards) running shoes with lots of padding and arch support. I got those and, needless to say, they did nothing to improve my condition. Diet did, and so I decided to integrate shoes as another layer of my lifestyle adaptation process.

After reading heaps of reviews I decided to try Vibram Five Fingers but unfortunately they didn’t fit thanks to my fat and crooked toes. My next options were the New Balance Minimus Trail and Merrel Pace Glove, both of which featured Vibram soles. I liked the looks of the NBs better, so I purchased a pair online.

The shoes fit very snugly and felt extremely light compared to every other shoe I’ve ever worn. It took me a while to get used to the lack of padding, and general minimalist feel, even when these shoes have a little bit of drop (difference in height between the heel and the toe) and a firmer sole (because they’re made for trail running). At that time (May 2011) I was still doing hill sprints in Sydney Park once a week (we lived 5 minutes away from the park). I tested the Minimus and fell in love with them instantly. I tried them in the gym too, and really loved the more grounded feeling I got from using them. I’m sure they have impacted my posture, stride, etc., favourably.

The only thing I didn’t like about the Minimus is that because the soles have holes in them to make the shoes light, if the grass is wet, your feet get wet. And when it’s cold and/or raining, they don’t dry on time for the next day’s workout. I kept using my old Puma shoes in those cases, but I knew I needed to get another pair of minimalist shoes.

I wanted to try a different brand/model, and instead of the Merrels I got a pair of Vivo Barefoot Lucy Lite. These look more like street shoes, although they’re marketed as fitness shoes. They’re wide even for me (I’ve got fat feet), and extremely light and flexible. Because they’re not trail shoes, the soles are really, really thin. They come with a removable insole that is meant to be used in very cold days or while transitioning from non-minimalist footwear. I was glad I had used the NBs for a while because the Vivos are the real deal. Walking around in them feels almost like walking in socks.

Shoes

New Balance Minimus (left), Vivo Barefoot Lucy Lite (right)

They’re really good for realising how lousy your walking technique is, how much you beat up your poor heels, how badly you treat your joints and, ultimately, your whole skeletal structure. I’ve noticed some pain on my right foot when I walk around quite a bit in these shoes, so I know I still have to re-learn how to walk properly. I’m using them for all my workouts except sprinting. They’re specially good for deadlifting, because of the zero drop. There are only two things that bug me about these shoes: because the sole is not rugged, they tend to slip when riding a push bike, and the glue came off in a couple of spots after just a week of using them.

Because I’m a poor full-time student and part-time employee I don’t have the money to replace all my shoes for their minimalist versions, but it’s certainly my long-term goal.