What I talk about when I talk about running

This blog title has been borrowed from the book title by the writer Haruki Murakami and the main image is from the fan blog, http://www.haruki-murakami.com.

I have been toying with the idea of writing a blog post, inspired by the above mentioned book and my running habit. The book, a memoir, is a sort of autobiography which centers around the writer Haruki Murakami’s running habit.

Here is a small excerpt:

“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. ” – Haruki Murakami

Ever since I can remember, I have always been an avid runner, probably influenced by my father who at the age of sixty two still competes in marathons and runs on a regular basis. I keep track of his progress with my Runtastic App and can see exactly how many kilometers he has run for the month thus far.

I have fond memories of us running together, competing in races together and of him dragging me out of bed, telling (bamboozling) me, that we are only going for a quick jog around the block, which always ended up being a tough eight kilometers fast paced run around several blocks.

I don’t know why, but I always fell for his bamboozles.

Running on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
One side of running on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
Running on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
The other side of running on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

Also, I have many memories of primary school, of waking up at the crack of dawn only to run the two or so kilometers to my school’s sports grounds, and then starting my official running training.

After high school I became a lazy student, who neglected health and fitness by citing academics as an excuse. Once I started working I did not get any better at all, I did a few fun runs here and there but nothing serious.

At the age of 26, I competed in a half marathon (The Two Oceans) with absolutely no prior training, just will and determination. It was a horrible idea. Once I passed the three kilometer mark, I dreaded every single meter thereafter. At times, I thought of flagging down the medical team and tapping out of the race, and at other times I contemplated just giving up.

Luckily I did neither, finished the race, and vowed that I would never run a half marathon again in my life…

The next year I ran the same race but this time, I had trained for about three weeks prior to it. As expected, it was yet again a horrible experience.

I remember how angry I was during the race. Angry that I had entered, and angry that I allowed others to influence me to enter.Not only did I vow to never enter a race again, but this time I told myself I was done with running. I actually think I bought a mountain bike a few weeks later.

The point of the stories above is that I do have a certain degree of natural fitness, a bit of crazy, strong will and determination and an affinity for running, which I have only embraced again recently.

I ran a couple of random races over the last couple of years but never in my life have I run like I run now. Every run is a small competition. A competition to try and beat myself, beat my time, beat my pace, and mostly: beat my mind.

Running to me has become an escape, and definitely a small addiction. Yes there is the physical element, where the brain releases endorphins, but there is a lot more to it.

I have grown to love the scientific and mental aspects of running as a sport, where I challenge every factor which could have had an influence on my performance for a specific run.

For example, on Monday, I will do a ten kilometer run at 6:00PM, my time will be approximately forty six minutes and seventeen seconds. Then on Wednesday I will run the exact same route, also at 6:00PM, but this time, my results will be approximately forty four minutes and twelve seconds. Which results in a difference of two minutes and five seconds.

Now this is where my mind starts working, I consider each factor: from what I had for breakfast to what time I went to bed. Then I also consider the mental state in which I was in when I started my run, and once I finished.

I weigh each factor and determine the influence that it may or may not have had, then I take note on how I might alter an element to improve my run.

The other day, I ran without drinking coffee, and I did exactly the same run after two flat whites. Needless to say, the post coffee run was way better than the no coffee run, this article explains more.

The above example is a little self explanatory, but there are more examples which are a little harder to explain, like the Kanye West vs Chance the Rapper phenomenon…

I have found that I run way better while listening to Kanye West than when I listen to Chance the Rapper. There could be several explanations for this, but my friend’s explanation still remains the best: “If I had to listen to Kanye West, I would also run for my life.”

Hilarious.

All jokes aside, Kanye’s earlier, pre-dark stuff is actually pretty uplifting and inspiring, I use it all the time for training.

So now you know what I talk about when I talk about running. As the title suggests, I do in fact talk about running.

This is not a topic which I can and will cover in one post, as I still have a lot that I could say when it comes to running. With that being said, I will end this with another timeless quote from the book title by the writer Haruki Murakami, one which has been a sort of a mantra for me.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.” – Haruki Murakami

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 action at Boracay Legacy Gym

I woke up feeling a whole lot better today, my energy levels were still not 100% but I was ready to train. The wind was so loud, it drowned out the roosters, that normally wake me up. I did not think that there will be beach conditioning due to the windy weather, but at 8:00 AM I got ready for it anyway.

Despite the windy weather, the group gathered and we made it down to the beach, where we had another intense session of sprints, jumps, crawls and push ups on the beach.

It was not the hardest session ever, we have had worst but I was thankful as I am still recovering from the flu.

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After the morning session Tim and I went for fruit shakes, I had a banana, peanut and chocolate shake, no sugar. Melissa who runs the little shake and breakfast shop already knows the drill, no sugar and no milk, just the fruit, some cocoa powder and ice, simple but makes for a great shake.

We were planning on doing boxing training after our shakes but training had been cancelled, which again, I was thankful for and took the time to rest before going out a few hours later for lunch.

Lunch was at our old time favourite Na-Meet, we had the usual of rice with a couple of side dishes, delicious home cooked food.

This afternoon I had an interesting training session. We did our warm ups and was immediately told to wrap our hands and put on our gloves. We were paired up with a partner and did two rounds with that partner before moving on to a new partner.

My first partner was great, he is very fit Filipino boxer, who clearly has some great experience, he gave me a real run for my money with his ducks, dodges and side steps, very good session.

After two rounds I moved on to Christiaan, with whom I did spar with before but very lightly. Today it seemed that he had some kind of score to settle up as he threw punches hard enough to take my head right off. Keep in mind, the sparring sessions are supposed to be without real power, therefore I don’t even wear a mouth guard.

So after repeatedly asking Christian to take it easy, the coaches also told him to control his punches from the side, I realised that I have to fight back. One of his weaknesses is his fitness, I definitely have the upper hand when it comes to raw fitness.

So I started dancing around him, staying out of range of his punches and just coming in close when I wanted to attack. I could immediately tell he was frustrated with my tactics as he was hell bent on hitting me even harder.

After dancing around him a couple of times and also hitting back with all the power I had, he stopped me and said, “You are hitting hard.”, I said “Yes off course!” and showed him my bleeding lip where just moments before he threw a straight punch which I could not block and the inside of my lip exploded.

The last few seconds we went very hard, it was more than just sparring, it was a personal little battle but it was still good fun. In the end we bumped gloves and moved on but I am sure that I could take him if we were to have a proper one on one boxing fight.

My third partner was Leah, yes a girl who packs a mighty punch and also knows some pretty wild combos. By the time I sparred with her, I was exhausted and barely finished the two rounds.

It was great. I think to really compete I need to take a private lesson or two which I might do tomorrow or Thursday. That is it for today, here are some more Boracay shots.

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Boracay Legacy Week Two

This is my final week here at Boracay Legacy Gym and also my final week of training before heading back to South Africa. I have a lot of traveling ahead of me.

Firstly I will fly to Manila, from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Dubai and then from Dubai to South Africa.

It is going to be a bitter sweet journey.

I skipped two days of training as I have been ill with the flu. I have noticed a pattern in my body, when it comes to getting the flu, it seems to happen when I travel and when I train really hard. I also got the flu whilst training in Thailand and was out for a few days and before that, I whilst training for the Iron Man, in Vietnam, I could feel a flu developing but I managed to fight it off with loads of vitamin C and coconut water.

I am always very weary to train whilst being sick, as I have a vague recollection of a story told by my grandmother, that my grandfathers brother passed away at the age of 21 from a heart attack caused by over exerting himself whilst he had the flu. If I remember correctly, he played a rugby game and it was the last rugby game he ever played.

So I have no quarrels with taking a day or two off to fully recover and then go at the training harder than ever.

I can already feel that my body has almost won the fight with the flu, by tomorrow I will be back up and ready for action. I waas really hit hard with the sickness and spent the entire Saturday in bed. All the other trainees went out but I was confined to my bungalow.

One still has to eat even though one is sick, here are some of the munchies from the island:

This is another local Philippines dish but I forgot the name.
This is another local Philippines dish but I forgot the name.
Rotisserie chicken sold on the side of the road, also one of my favourites.
Rotisserie chicken sold on the side of the road, also one of my favourites.
This is Chicken Adobo, a Philippines special. Very tasty.
This is Chicken Adobo, a Philippines special. Very tasty.
Close up of the Chicken Adobo.
Close up of the Chicken Adobo.
This is Namis, where we eat most of the time. It is great food for a great price.
This is Namis, where we eat most of the time. It is great food for a great price.

Skewers at Namis.

Nami's skewer.
Nami’s skewer.
At Nami's you order some rice and they cook different meals each day. This is the closest that I have come to a home cooked meal in all my travels.
At Nami’s you order some rice and they cook different meals each day. This is the closest that I have come to a home cooked meal in all my travels.
Tis guy fries an assortment of goodies on the  side of the road.
Tis guy fries an assortment of goodies on the side of the road.
Assortment of fried goodies by said guy.
Assortment of fried goodies by said guy.

 

Boracay Legacy Training Day Two

Another day has passed in the Philippines, so that means two training sessions and my first day of doing a complete morning and evening session. Tuesday our morning beach session was cut short due to the high tide.

Needless to say it was tough, really really tough. The morning session kicked off with the warm ups and was followed by high intensity fitness exercises. Once we were all moaning and groaning, we had to to partner up and practice several different techniques during several rounds of boxing. We also did two rounds of sparring where I was beat down by an experienced boxer from the States. I am still struggling a bit with my flinch reflex but it is getting better.

Here at Boracay Legacy Gym, the focus is on Western boxing and not Muay Thai, making the training very different to the training at Suwit gym. It is very hard to compare the two places as both are very different and focus on different types of training. Both are excellent choices to do training at but it really depends on what you want to work on.

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I almost went to bed after the morning session but my hunger kept me going. For breakfast, myself and another two trainees went down to Melissa’s which is the go to spot for post workout shakes and meals. I had just that, an avocado and banana shake as well as some garlic chicken with rice.

After the meal, I went back to my bungalow, which is both my bedroom and office,to get some work done. The bungalow is really growing on me, apart from the mosquitos and the REALLY loud geckos I could actually live in one of these. If you do not know how the geckos in Asia sound, listen here. It is amazing that such a small lizard can be so loud.

I went down to the beach for a quick swim, where I bumped into Nic, another guy who trained with me at Suwit. Nic spotted me as I was doing handstands on the beach, he saw some guy doing handstands and thought to himself, “that must be Siegfried.”

It was good catching up, he was supposed to train with us but injured his knee. It has been giving problems for the last few years and with the high intensity boxing exercise, the problems just got worst. We will be going for a run before the beach conditioning class tomorrow.

I barely made it back in time for the afternoon session. This session our fitness exercise consisted of doing a circuit of various ab exercises, jumps, lunges, push ups, pull ups and a lot more. All in all it was around 16 exercises lasting two minutes each with one two minute break in between. It was absolutely devastating but great exercise.

In all honesty, fitness wise, I could handle the exercises really well but energy wise not so much. After a few minutes into the circuits, I was completely drained but I willed myself to go on and finished with the circuits.

I will make sure to eat a banana or two before training just give my body some fuel to work with. I did eat some boiled eggs before training but I have never heard of some one eating eggs for energy 🙂

For dinner, a bunch of us went to a restaurant part owned by a trainee who does the beach class with us. The view at the venue is insane, providing you with a 360 degree view of the island. Once you see the island from this view, you realise how small it actually is.

I had some BBQ chicken, rice and veggies and washed it down with a banana/mango shake, a light beer and a bottle of water.

BBQ chicken and rice, the flower was decorative.
BBQ chicken and rice, the flower was decorative.

Boracay Legacy Training Day One

Today was my first day of training at the Boracay Legacy gym, it was insane! The training is a lot tougher and stricter than the previous gym, Suwit in Phuket Thailand.

Suwit was great but it had a kind of laid back attitude, we would stretch, then do our own thing for a while and then spend some time with the coaches, no one really drilled you. A lot of the times I made it harder for myself by adding more exercises but trust me, that is not necessary here at Boracay Legacy gym.

So this morning I awoke at 3:32 AM from what I think was a cat hunting a rat on the roof of my bungalow, this woke up all the roosters on the seven surrounding farms, who took it upon themselves to wake up the rest of the island.

My humble abode for the next two months.
My humble abode for the next two months.

So instead of lying in bed, admiring the chorus of crowing cocks, I decided to get up and start working, at the end of the month there is always a lot of admin to see to, like taxes, invoices and payments.

I finished up my work, and met the rest of the team at the gym, we  then headed down to the beach for a fitness and conditioning class. Apparently the tide is the highest that it has been in months, making our route to the beach a rather tricky one as we navigated over rocks knee deep in the water.

The beach class was hardcore, we started with a fast paced warm up/stretching session, followed by an array of high intensity exercises. We then did sprints into the ocean, with the object to get as far into the water as possible. The first five times were great fun but the next twenty five times were energy drenching.

After the beach work out, we went for fruit shakes and Korean soup. I had a delicious banana peanut shake and then some amazing beef brisket Korean soup.

Take away banana and peanut shake for 120 Pesos, which is $2.
Take away banana and peanut shake for 120 Pesos, which is $2.
Side dishes served with the Korean soup. From bottom to top, Kimchi, Omelette with veggies and a sort of potato salad.
Side dishes served with the Korean soup. From bottom to top, Kimchi, Omelette with veggies and a sort of potato salad.
The Korean soup.
The delicious beefy Korean soup.

After the meal we got a Tuk Tuk back to the gym and took it easy for an hour before we started training again. This time it was just Tim and who ran through my body weight routine.

About this routine… It is not an easy one, it consists out of active stretching, which already gets the sweat flowing, followed by several core exercises, then skill work, which is hand stands and holding the dip position on rings, both for 5 minutes and lastly the strength workout which is three reps of pull ups, dips, squats, l-sit, push ups and reverse pull ups.

I have been doing the routine for the last five months, so I am very familiar with the routine but this was Tim’s first time and he handled it like a champ.

A little more about Tim…

He is a big guy, when we started training together a month ago, he had not done any training or exercise apart from playing volley ball, which is mostly a stationary sport, for the last couple of years. So he was not really in shape, since he has started training he has lost just over 12kg, it is amazing especially in a months time!

He stuck with me through the entire set and did not complain once!

We finished up and headed to the beach for a swim, it is just a few minutes walk from the gym and it is an insanely beautiful beach.

Views from the beach.
Views from the beach.
Views from the beach.
Views from the beach.
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Tim the man, himself!
More views!
More views!
Amazing views!
Amazing views!

After the swim, we headed back to the gym and I picked up some eggs, to boil, as I have ran out of protein shakes and you cannot buy it here on the island. I also bought some peanuts, milk and a grilled banana 🙂

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Path up to the gym.

By the time I got back it was already time for afternoon training. I arrived at the gym and we had 15 minutes to warm up, so I did a combination of sit ups, push ups and some leg exercises.

Once warm up was complete we did stretches but unlike Suwit, where stretches are slow and relaxing, here stretching is a work out on its own, we quickly move from stretch to stretch and finish up with various jumps and movements.

After the stretches you rotate between the punching bag and the trainers, spending five minutes on each with short breaks in between and in the short breaks, we do more exercises. The coaches here are very similar to drill sergeants, barking orders and screaming profanities as you lie exhausted on the gyms floor. I was scared that I was going to drown in a puddle of sweat.

The coach announced the final round and I saw a glimmer of hope but this quickly faded as Tim informed me that we end each session with 400 various stomach and core exercises of our choice. Like I said, this is tough.

After the training we went for dinner at a local restaurant, I am amazed at the cost and quality of the food on Boracay. Tonight was like a home cooked meal consisting of a pork skewer, a piece of fried chicken, green beans, beef stew, lentil soup and rice.

Dinner!
Dinner!

I have also setup my work space in my bungalow! It is not ergonomic and with all the chords, it may be a fire hazard, but it will do for the next two weeks, I am very excited!

Week Three – Wednesday Training

I missed the morning training session as I had an appointment with the hospital to get a follow up injection for my dog bite. I will have to get four more injections over the course of the next month.

I am on a Verorab course, which is an anti rabies vaccine, I am pretty sure that the dog does not have rabies as it is a domesticated animal but I would rather be safe than sorry.

The upside of the whole expedition was that I could explore Phuket a little outside of the gym and the running route. On the way back from the hospital the roads had been closed, due to construction, so I had to take a detour which took me to the wonderful “Old town”.

This changed my whole perception of Phuket as it is a little hidden gem which I would not have heard of or visited otherwise. It is littered with coffee shops, art galleries and beautiful graffiti, it really feels like a different world. Here are a few pictures from the visit, also it has the best coffee that I have had in Phuket.

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Like I said, really cool place, I wish that I could have spent some more time there but my visit was cut short as I had to get back to the training.

Training has once again fallen into a rhythm or rather a routine, which it does deviate from, but the majority of the days are the same.

I started off with stretches and immediately afterwards taped my hands, normally I would do some skipping and other exercises before taping up my hands, but today I really wanted to get into the fighting. This was mainly due to a conversation which I had with my father, where he said, “Fight as much as possible, you can always still exercise but the fighting experience is invaluable.”, which makes sense and are some wise words coming from my old man.

So after taping up my hands I proceed to pound on the boxing bag for five minutes, this was followed by fifty sit ups, twenty push ups and the routine was repeated twice before I got called to the ring by my coach.

The more I fight, the more fun it gets, today we extended my repertoire by including some low kicks, up elbows and backwards elbows into the mix. As I have mentioned in previous posts, as soon as you master one fighting skill, the coach adds another ten to the table.

What I really enjoy about broadening the moves that you know, is that all of it can be combined, for example, you can do a one punch – two punch- low kick – elbow – uppercut… These get hard to remember but if I am ever to compete in a Muay Thai fight they should come in handy 🙂

After the session with the coach, me and some of the other trainees had an impromptu fitness class, doing several exercises including squats, pushups, plank, squats, lunges and wrist mobility exercises. This was followed up with some pull ups and diamond pushups.

Overall a great training session, as I type this I can feel my muscles aching which is always a good feeling.

After training, some of us went for a quick dinner and afterwards everybody went for an ice bath. You lay in an ice bath for a few minutes and then follow it up with a sauna, apparently it is great for the muscles. I had to decline as I had some work to do but it is definitely on my to do list.

The food below is a salted egg spicy papaya salad. It is the first time that I have a salted egg, apparently it is called the thousand year old egg, which I would assume is because of the grainy texture that the yolk assumes. A really strange texture but delicious non the less.

Below the salad is a bowl of noodles with an assortment of additions, which I am not sure what they all were, I could make out egg, prawns, pork, squid, sausage and there were several more, also really tasty.

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That is it for tonight, I have decided to do the progress pics in the morning, so I will upload them first thing tomorrow. Peace.