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: Distractions

This recent article on the Catalyst Athletics website talks about why training with distractions around you is beneficial because it prepares you for the distractions during competition. I haven’t competed in weightlifting (and think I never will) but I can totally relate this concept to my one and only taekwondo competition and the dozens (hundreds?) of times I played with my bands in front of an audience.

And just because I love drawing analogies between things that interest me, I can also relate this to meditation. There are people who are against noise and distractions while meditating. Perhaps those are the ones who don’t come to our Buddhist centre anymore (we’re located in a busy corner in Newtown). True, minimising distractions can be useful for people who find it difficult to focus, but is that really training you for the real meditation (i.e., keeping the highest view ALL THE TIME)? Also, thoughts and feelings will always appear naturally and the task is not to suppress them but to watch them come and go without attachment. External sounds and other distractions should be treated the same way, and IMO are easier to dismiss than one’s internal Disneyland.

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.

Food for thought: Change

Hi there. I’m introducing a new section in the blog called Food for thought. Not very creative, I know, but it does describe what I’ll be attempting to share here: all those things that occupy my mind and do not fall into the “regular” food categories that already exist in the blog.

Topics you can expect to find here are: science, nutrition, Buddhism, training, rants, etc. Most of the time they won’t make any sense, so feel free to skip them and wait for the next restaurant review. I’ll try to keep posts as brief as I can to avoid being boring and also taking too long to write them.

On to today’s post: change. The motivational speaker that is buried deep down inside me always says that changes should be embraced as opportunities for improvement. In reality, I’m as uncomfortable (maybe even scared) when faced with change as everyone else. We like to think our lives are pretty stable but the truth is that change is the norm, not the exception. Chaos theory. Entropy. Every cell in our bodies gets replaced every 7-10 years. In Buddhism we talk a lot about impermanence and we meditate to be less attached to what we typically value as important – work, money, friends, family – but that unfortunately will not stay in its current state forever. By dissolving attachment to everything impermanent, we can get to enjoy lasting happiness.

Change is good. The theory of evolution and natural selection tells us that the stresses species face allow them to become fitter. This concept also applies to tiny things (induced mutagenesis in microorganisms) and medium things (the human body). If you do one activity only, you become better at it, more efficient. That means you require fewer resources to accomplish the same goal. For example, if you look at burning calories, getting efficient means you’ll burn less for the same amount of effort. Crap! This is where the concepts of cross-training, Crossfit, volume/load cycling, etc., come from. The aim is to keep the body guessing, so that it is forced to adapt to new circumstances, and thus get fitter/faster/stronger.

I’ve been going to the same gym for 4 years. It’s cheap, close to home, it has the basic stuff, and people are nice. I’ve been doing roughly the same things (some weights, some boxing, some yoga), although I’ve been cautious to vary my lifting program every few months. I now have the opportunity to stir things up because my membership is about to expire and we need to move houses soon to an unknown location. If I renew now I get a juicy discount, but we might end up living too far away. If I don’t renew and we end up living nearby, I will lose the discount. So it’s not just the change aspect playing a role here, it’s also my “third world”/”brainwashed by marketing” mentality that doesn’t want to miss out on the discount. I’ve decided to let it go and see what happens, as I think I’ll get much more from the change of circumstances.

How my bodyfat went logarithmic… and back to normal

Around June 2006 I had a bit of a problem. I had a taekwondo test to get a new belt, which included a fight against a more advanced student. Everything went well until I accidentally kicked my oponent’s knee with my big toe and I felt pain. There’s lots of pain involved in contact sports, so I just glanced briefly at my toe and noticed that it was twisted. I knew there was something wrong, so I stopped and stepped aside. The Korean referee checked my toe and pulled it back to its place. I limped to where some friends were and sat down, one of them, who is a doctor, told me that since I could move it, chances were that it wasn’t broken. I stayed until the end of the test (of course, I didn’t have to break boards due to the circumstances), went downstairs, took a shower, went to the ground floor, got out of the gym and took a taxi to the clinic.

Once there, a nurse asked me what was wrong and sat me down in a wheelchair. “There’s no need” I said, but that was the procedure. The resident traumatologist had a look at my toe and sent me for X-rays. When they were ready, he told me “it’s broken”. I couldn’t believe it, I had never ever had anything broken. He showed me the image of my broken bone. A huge “X” all over the phalange confirmed it was seriously broken. The doctor plastered my foot up to the middle of the calf, while I called my mom to tell her the news. I told her to buy me crutches and wait for me outside of the house. I took a taxi, went home and spent the next two weeks there, working in my room.

I was in bed or at my desk most of the day, with the foot up, alternating work with TV (only changing between Discovery Travel & Living and elgourmet.com). I went downstairs three times a day, to eat the delicious meals that my mom cooked for me. Of course, I was getting spoiled, which meant that besides creamy soups and great stews I also had some tasty bread and sweet treats. Needless to say, I gained lots of weight (luckily, I don’t like tight clothes, so I didn’t have to buy new pants). I was still going to my cookery classes, but I had to miss the final exams and reschedule them. But I couldn’t avoid tasting my friends’ dishes for their final exams… lots of calories and zero physical activity.

After two weeks I had an appointment with the doctor to check the healing process and I asked him to take the plaster off. He told me the average time was between 4 and 6 weeks but I insisted and he agreed. I still had to wrap my foot and walk on crutches but I felt much more free. Of course I still couldn’t work out for a while so my fat percentage kept increasing.

The healing process was slow but eventually I went back to training, first doing some cardio (taebo, body combat) and weight lifting and a few weeks later taekwondo, very carefully and with martial arts shoes for a bit of protection. Slowly I burned all the fat again. My toe still hurted for a long time, so I could never practise TKD with the same intensity as before.