Its been a while…

Things have been extremely busy on my side…

For the first time in my life, I really know what it feels like, not to have any time and even when I do have time, there is always something that can and should be done.

It is not a bad place to be, as being busy… Keeps you busy and being in this situation has also forced me to revaluate what I spend my time on and also what my time is really worth.

The above actually has nothing to do with the infrequent blog updates. What has been a really tough mental barrier to break through has been the content of the blog and my subject matter.

How I feel about the content I write is also greatly influenced by whether I am inspired to write or not, and if I am not inspired, I feel that my writing has a very forced feel to it. I am not really comfortable to put out any content with which I am not entirely happy with.

I have also made peace with the fact that whilst traveling, the content came easy and I could write something everyday, as each day was filled with new adventures and exciting events which were in line with what my blog is about.

The subject matter, which I am referring to is my training and my travels. Currently my travels are non existent as I have been living in South Africa for the last couple of months and even though I have technically lived in four different towns since my arrival, I still do not consider this traveling and it would be a dreadful bore, typing out my daily routine of buying household cleaning products and hanging up laundry to dry.

Now as for the fitness, training and exercise part which in my opinion has always trumped the traveling, eating and adventure part. Although I have not been blogging about it does not mean it did not get a lot of attention.

Upon my return, my father said to me “The way you have been training is unsustainable, in a few weeks you will be unfit again.”, which naturally inspired me to train furiously with new inspiration.

Funnily enough, a sort of similar comment sparked the same reaction when I first left South Africa to travel abroad. A friend of mine said that I will not be able to train whilst traveling, too hell with that I decided.

This was before the idea of doing a Muay Thai camp even remotely crossed my mind. At that stage I did not even know that these existed. her comment also sparked a fever in me which drove me to seek out training places regardless of the 45 degree weather in Vietnam and the tropical rain falls in Cambodia, trained, I trained!

The above both led me to where I am right now as I am typing this and ironically I am now a lot fitter, stronger and leaner than I was while traveling, even though whilst traveling I did focus on exercise and diet, here at home I can be a lot more scientific and measure exactly what I put in my body and when.

I also have a routine, schedule and places to train. I think that this makes a massive difference as I have found that the most important aspect with exercise is definitely the consistency.

It is amazing that you do not realize any difference in your body until one day you just do. This does not happen overnight but rather over the course of several months or in my case, it took me well over a year to personally see any change although I knew that there was.

Today I feel like I can keep on writing and writing as I feel super inspired but I will have to cut it short as I have some work to do before going for running time trials in about an hour.

I have been running a lot lately. I actually have a goal to complete a 21km race with one and a half hours but this goal has changed to completing it in one hour and twenty minutes.

I will update with how it went and afterwards, I will be doing some calisthenics training.

Back in Africa!

I have been delaying writing this blog post for the last two months, which coincidentally is about the same amount of time that I have been back home in South Africa.

I started the blog whilst travelling and training in Thailand and the Philippines, in Thailand I spent a month doing Muai Thai training and in the Philippines, I did three weeks of Western boxing training.

Both were great and both were hard.

Since my return I have started doing gymnastics, I know, a bit of a change from the fight training but it has been great. Initially I thought of joining a boxing or Muai thai club again, which I still have not ruled out.

I chose gymnastics because over the last few months, I have been increasingly intrigued with callisthenics and body weight fitness and gymnastics seems to slot right into this.

I have been testing out a few different training routines and I have also incorporated some long distance running. Where I am staying at the moment, Fish Hoek, Western Cape, South Africa, I am surrounded by mountains, beaches and beautiful natural scenery. I am lucky to be able to walk out of my flat and in a few meters I am on the beach, which makes for great bare foot running.

Back to my point about the blog, I am not really sure how to pick it up again or what to really write about. SO I have decided to just take it as it comes.

Sunday a friend and I did a 16 kilometer hike up a very steep mountain, here are some pictures of the six hour adventure. img_1018

img_1021

img_1024

img_1025

img_1028

img_1029

img_1030

img_1032

img_1033

img_1034

img_1035

img_1036

img_1037

img_1038

img_1039

img_1040

img_1043

img_1045

img_1046

img_1047

img_1049

And then we finished the day off with some lunch at the Waterfront.

img_1017

Goals and how my single one panned out.

A couple of months ago I set a simple goal, maybe a foolish goal for a thirty year old but regardless, I set the goal and since that day, I have been working towards it, consciously and subconsciously (I think).

My goal was to be able to do a handstand and hold it indefinitely in three months time.

It all started on the beautiful stretch of beach, in Au Luek Thailand. The water was really shallow, about ankle deep, you had to walk around 500m just to be waist deep.

It was in this shallow ocean water where I suddenly had the urge to do a handstand, with the ankle deep water to break my fall and a relatively deserted beach, I thought, “Why not?”.

I tried my first handstand and as I expected, I immediately fell over with a small splash into the water, but at least it was fun, so much fun I continued to do it for the next twenty minutes, and right then and there I decided that in the next three months I will master the art of the handstand.

Just some background information: At this time I was not really following any exercise routine or fitness program, I would do some daily push ups, crunches and I went for a run every now and then.

My first attempts were miserable failures which is to be expected of someone who has not done a handstand in twenty years and who has also not practiced it at all.

I went to Google for help and quickly realised that there is no quick and easy way to do a handstand. I found several tutorials and guides which explained the motions and movements but they failed to explain the muscles and strength involved in actually doing an actual handstand.

The one tutorial promised that you will do a handstand in 28 days but when I forwarded to the end result, it was not a real handstand but a handstand against a wall, I mean really who wants to do a wall handstand?

So after more Googling, I found an entire exercise routine dedicated to bodyweight exercises and it also happened to include handstands. Having committed myself to the goal of doing a handstand I was thrilled at finding this routine.

The other great thing about the routine was that it was all based on bodyweight training, which meant that you could do it pretty much anywhere and as a traveller this was a really important as you cannot seek out a gym in every location that you end up in.

The routine includes pull ups which I could do on hotels doors with some support underneath them, dips which I could easily do between two chairs and other than that, all I needed was enough space to do a push up in.

This is where my obsession with body weight exercise started. I committed myself to the routine and would do it every second day, usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On my off days I would still practice handstands but as a beginner, I mostly did it against a wall. Sorry to all hotel and guest house staff, where I left my feet marks on the walls, I did always try to clean it but I most definitely missed a spot or two.

My first month of training and practicing handstands were very disheartening. The act of doing a handstand made my entire body feel weak. My wrists would ache, my shoulders would pain, my core would hurt and the blood rushing to my head actually caused the veins in my cheeks to burst, giving me the appearance of a ageing alcoholic.

In all honesty I almost gave up and told myself that I will get back to my goal once I stop traveling and can routinely practice. My mind was making a ton of excuses as why I cannot do a handstand and why I should just stop trying.

Somewhere in this time a mental shift occurred and I told myself that I will do a handstand even if it kills me. So over the next couple of weeks I would wake up and immediately practice my handstands and I would repeat this before going to bed. At this stage I was still confined to doing my handstands against a wall.

I slowly began building more and more confidence until I was able to start practicing my handstands without the wall but I could only keep them up for a few seconds at most. The handstand practice and the body weight exercises started paying off.

A handstand relies heavily upon your shoulders and your core muscles to keep you upright and balanced. Before I started with the body weight training my core and shoulder strength was pretty much none existent.

Over the next couple of weeks I would do handstands everywhere, everyone who was with me during this time can attest to this, some people would even get annoyed as I would break into handstands at popular tourist destinations or even in bars where other people were drinking.

As of today I can confidently say that I have achieved my goal, although there is always room for improvement, I can now hold a static handstand for almost a minute (if lucky) and I can walk on my hands for as long as my muscles can carry me. I find walking on my hands a lot easier than just doing a handstand.

Some may say it is a futile goal at the age of thirty and even I laugh at it sometimes, but committing myself to this goal has not only helped me achieve it, but also introduced me to a whole new world of calisthenics, which will now always be a part of my life and something I will continually strive to improve.

And also I will be damned if it does not feel great to achieve a goal after months of hard work and dedication, no matter how big or small the goal is. Although I cannot do an handstand indefinitely, holding one for a minute and then doing a “hand walk” is great and I will continue practicing my handstand and working on my form.

So without further ado here are some handstand pics from all over South East Asia.

IMG_8879

IMG_8880

IMG_8099

IMG_8225

IMG_7103

IMG_9219

Phuket / Muay Thai Training Day Five Afternoon Session

Todays post start with my food, I am not sure exactly what I had but it contained fish,  crispy pork belly, rice and a yellow fruit like thing which I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is. All I know is, it was delicious! This set me back about 50 Baht which is $2. I will have to show them the picture to order it again.

Lunch, it would be great if anyone can tell me what the yellow fruit is...
Lunch, it would be great if anyone can tell me what the yellow fruit is…

This afternoons session was a killer! After the stretches I kicked it off with 500 skips, so that is 500 hundred little jumps, it really got the blood flowing. This was followed with hitting the punching bag and that is when the coach cornered me.

IMG_8742

He once again handed my ass to me, but there was an immense improvement. I discovered yesterday that I have a nasty flinch reflex, which basically means that as soon as something comes at me (like a punch), I close my eyes and throw my head back.

So last night I did some research about it and there is not much that I can do about it myself. It will only improve as I get use to fists hurling at me and it is apparently very common in the fighting world as it is a natural human reflex to try to dodge an attack. Reading this made me feel way better.

After sparring with the coach, he drilled me with some fitnesss exercises, when he saw that I was about to keel over and die he laughed  and said “see you training tomorrow”. “Yes!” I thought as I started taking off my gloves, but then I heard someone call my name… It was Nic and I remembered that I promised him that we would spar today.

A promise is a promise.

I suited back up and was in the ring with Nic, one of the coaches was our referee. It was amazing! I only lasted two rounds before being completely exhausted but those two rounds were great fun, we went at each other, both landing some solid punches and kicks, but nothing hard enough to do damage.

When we finished Nic still sparred two round with the coach and did I mention that Nic is 59 years old… He is an awesome inspiration, a Scottish guy living in Portugal who trains like he is 21 but is as wise as his age.

Now I thought ok cool, time to chill, then another trainee Walter from China asked me what my core routine is, so we did the routine from top to bottom, we had been training for almost two and a half hours at this stage, handstands were out of the question. Finally I got to grab my gear and head to my room.

After training I was not really hungry but I know I have to eat so I hit the streets and found a quant little local spot which seemed welcoming enough. I love this about Thailand, there are ten restaurants on every block and eight of them are excellent while the other two are good.

IMG_8747

IMG_8746

I had a “spicy pork northern style salad” for dinner, almost the same as what I had for lunch yesterday but this one was better. I asked for a take away because I felt like I was going to pass out any minute. So I ate in my room, in front of the computer.

IMG_8744

It is called a salad but you can notice the lack of greens or any vegetables for that matter. Delicious none the less. Time to get to bed, it is 9:16 PM, way past my bed time.

Phuket / Muay Thai Training Day Four Afternoon Session

There is an old saying “be careful what you wish for”. Today I experienced just that… So yesterday I complained about my trainers being unenthusiastic. Today I experienced the exact opposite, I was paired up with a younger trainer who normally works with the more senior trainees.

He did not take it easy on me, I literally got my ass kicked. I took several punches to the face, my legs were swept out from under me and as the above says, I got kicked, a lot.

I am not complaining, it was one of the most exciting session that I have had and it really had me questioning my fitness. I mean I was out of breath, in one minute, after defending myself against his continuos blows, kicks and elbows. After three minutes the bell rang and I felt like I was going to die but that was not enough, we still had to do 10 pushups.

We went five rounds like this, all followed with pushups, several times I made hard contact with the ring’s floor and my ankle has also swollen up from taking a knock whilst defending myself against his kicks.

He had no mercy, which is cool, I like it this way. Just when I thought that it is finished, he called me back in to the ring for some more sparring, this time we both wore all the equipment and their were no holds barred. But this time I also got a few kicks and punches in but it was basically when he was taunting me and I was like “enough is enough!”.

After the session with him, I still completed my bodyweight routine, I actually thought of abandoning it as I do a lot of push ups throughout training but I have been working it for about four months with great results, so no reason to abandon it. I will just have to man up!

There is no food pics in this post as I was starved and just got the same delicious egg fried rice with chicken as yesterday because I also had a meeting with a client over Skype, which went great! To compensate, here is a handstand pic at the Dragon Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnam 🙂

IMG_8238