Middle Age Muay Thai

A wellness blog focused around Muay Thai

As I work on becoming a better person, I am constantly working on being grateful. I don't mean grateful in the sense of “every day above ground is a good on”, but more along the lines of every day I am given the opportunity to improve myself. It is really hard for me to try and take all of these perceived negatives and turn them into positives, but that is exactly the kind of work that I need.

We all have shitty parts of our day, but how we react to those moments is where gains can be made. I am constantly working to help myself realize and understand that these annoyances or inconveniences are opportunities for growth. Just like with physical exercise, the biggest gains typically come during the most uncomfortable moments.

I am working on being grateful for the opportunities to improve, refine and refocus my mindset that I am presented with on a daily basis. Reshaping anger or frustration into something more positive is not easy, at least for me, but until I can do that, everything else is worthless. Being fit and healthy only goes so far if your mind is unhealthy.

I started this process just over four months ago, so I thought it might be a good time to document some of the physical changes I've noticed.

The biggest thing I've noticed has been my weight. Before I started trying to live a healthier lifestyle, my weight would typically stay around the 190ish pounds area. There were days I'd be 185lbs, but there were also days I'd come in at 198lbs. For about a week now (so I think it is accurate), I've been at the 175lbs mark (plus or minus a pound), which was my goal weight when I started. With all of that being said, when I started doing this, I decided that weight would just be a metric I could use to help me get an overall picture of my body. I didn't want weight to be a single goal as I don't think it really captures what I am aiming for. My overall weight is certainly an important part of what I'm trying to change, but it isn't the whole thing.

I'm sure a big contributing factor to my weight has been my diet. Four months ago, it wasn't uncommon for me to have two (or more) full sugar sodas a day. I was eating unhealthy fast food probably every other day, and stuffing myself at every meal. My snacking was just as unhealthy, and the amount of water I was drinking each day was a joke.

Over the last four months I have really changed my diet, but honestly, it hasn't been super crazy (aka difficult) changes, it has been more just common sense type stuff.

I hardly ever drink soda these days. In fact, I was talking with my spouse the other day and mentioned that I can't remember the last time I had a Mountain Dew, which is crazy because I used to drink that stuff like it was going out of style. When I do have a soda, it is either a Zevia or a Coke Zero. Certainly not “healthy”, but way better than what I was doing before. If you were to average it out, I'm probably having a soda every other day now.

Outside of Taco Bell bean burritos (ha), fast food has pretty much been non-existent. I didn't go crazy and replace it with a bunch of healthy, diet oriented meals though. Instead, I just have “normal” meals. Sandwiches, noodles, etc. Stuff that isn't super complicated so it is easy for me to put together, but it is still somewhat healthy compared to what I was eating. For the first time in a looong time we had fast food burgers the other day, and honestly, it was gross. It is crazy to me how the body/mind can reset itself when given the opportunity.

Aside from the kind of food I'm eating, I've also changed how much I eat. I have made it a point to really listen to my body with regards to how much I need to eat. I take my time eating, and when my body tells me it is full, I stop. For me, the key word there is my “body”, not my brain :). I have found that if I take my brain out of the mix, my body does a great job of telling me what it needs (or doesn't need), so I've really just been trying to listen to it.

Closely related is how I've changed my snacking habits. I still snack which isn't a bad thing. As my activity has increased, my metabolism has picked up as well, which means I'm frequently hungry. Going back to the idea of listening to my body, my snacking is now based around when my body tells me it is ready for some fuel. When my body is ready for a snack though, no more Cheetos or cookies for snacks. Instead I turn to things like yogurt, granola and fruits/vegetables. So I'm still eating multiple snacks a day, I've simply changed what it is I snack on.

My fitness level is another area that I've noticed big changes in, which makes sense as most of what I've been working on has been focused around exercise. This area has been a bit tricky to track progress in, but at the same time, there have been big milestones that I've hit that tell me things are moving in the right direction.

I can say with a good amount of confidence that my cardio level is the best it has been in 10 years. I have hit a point where I can jog a 5k without issue, which has been a great personal milestone of mine. Why is it such a milestone for me? Simple: I hate cardio. Even when I was younger and in shape, I avoided any form of cardio. The closest you could get me to doing something cardio related was to push me onto a mountain bike, but that was pretty rare.

With the better cardio conditioning, I have noticed that at the gym my endurance has really improved. When we are doing drills/pad work, very rarely do I feel my energy draining away anymore. This is crazy because when I started, I was the guy who always had his hands on his head, catching my breath in between rounds. These days though, at least for the most part, once the round starts I am constantly moving. I have actually had a few partners comment on much exercise they were getting holding pads for me because of how active I am during our drills.

As you would imagine, my strength has also increased, but I haven't really put any time into measuring this or finding a way to track it. As I continue down this path I'll likely add in some type of weight lifting routine, which will help with data, but it isn't something I'm looking to make a big portion of my program.

This is all fantastic, and I'm really happy with the results, but the physical aspect is only a portion of what I've been working on. I'll try and create another post later covering the mental changes as well, as I think those are the real changes I was after. The mental changes are what facilitate the physical changes, so reflecting on my current mental state will be a great opportunity to showcase how it all relates.

This morning I knew what I had to do. The recent string of shitty events and my shitty mindset were still lingering, so I knew, that no matter what, today I was going to get a run in. I wasn't looking to solve all of my problems at once, that isn't realistic. What I needed was a spark, a small “W”. I needed a healthy outlet to get some energy out, provide myself with a chance to reflect, and most importantly, some adversity that I knew I could conquer.

I'm still dealing with frequent shin pain, and my hips have started to flare up again, so I had taken a break from running, but I had finally had enough. I wanted to run, so today I was going to even if it was uncomfortable.

Probably about ½ mile in it started. I knew it was coming though, so I was prepared. The mental adversity...

“My legs feel really heavy this morning, maybe I should stop and try again after lunch”

“The air quality today isn't great, maybe I should put this off until it gets better”

“Did I eat enough breakfast? Maybe I should skip this morning and make sure to eat more tomorrow before I go”

Nope, not today. I knew that was me trying to negotiate with my weaker self, the person I am moving on from. I knew that my body was just fine and that this was a mental block I needed to push through. So I did, and I kept moving.

About another ½ mile later, another mental hurdle...

“Man my legs are heavy and this part of the run is uphill. The path branches off here to go home, maybe I just take that and get a short run in today, better than nothing”

Nope, not today.

That pattern repeated itself pretty much my entire run, and each time it came up, I shut it down right away. Leaving any bit of room for that mental weakness to creep in was going to cause me to fail, so I had to close that door as soon as it started to open.

The end result was a 2.5 mile run which is my current standard as I work towards a full 5k (~3 miles).

The physical aspect was of course one of the benefits, but the mental aspect was what I was really after. It was one big mental test that just so happened to be a physical activity. It gave me a chance to get a few of those wins and to build some momentum, a chance to re-solidify that I can do this. A reminder that adversity isn't something to hide from or to avoid. I am building the mental strength to take adversity head-on, evaluate it, and then deal with it in a healthy way, my body just happens to be along for the ride :)

I haven't been writing much. Life has been less than ideal and a bit hectic recently, and honestly, I just haven't felt like writing, so this will be a short one.

Nothing I'm discovering (and sharing) is new, tons of people before us figured things out a long time ago. The trick is taking what they learned and applying it to your life.

One lesson that has stood out to to me has been something I've known since I was in grade school: follow your conscience. Outside of those dealing with mental health issues (which can make your conscience not really yours), I think this one rule can provide the biggest change to a person's life when it comes to wellness. I'm not looking to pontificate on good/bad outside of the realm of wellness.

I know I shouldn't have eaten that shitty meal. I knew it before I did it, and I felt bad about it after. My conscience was telling me the whole time, I just needed to listen.

On days I don't exercise I feel guilty, I feel like I've let myself down. That is my conscience letting me know I screwed up. It was telling me that morning “get that exercise in”, and I willingly ignored it.

Think about it, are you really happy after you've done something unhealthy? Probably not. Just listen to your conscience when those moments come up and it is time to make a decision.

I also realize just how hard that can be, trust me, as I mentioned before, it is something I deal with frequently. If it was easy, we wouldn't have an entire fitness industry overflowing with workout gurus, trendy diet fads and magic pills to help you get fit. But as someone going through it I will tell you, the feeling of making the right decision, and then making it again, and again? It is a fantastic feeling. The pride and feeling of accomplishment you gain each time you make that right decision can really snowball. The feeling you get when you realize that you can show restraint is amazing and a fantastic self-esteem builder.

I've mentioned before how my class does mainly pad work and very little bag work. What that means is that every class you are paired with someone who is holding pads for you to hit vs you just doing drills on a punching bag.

As time has gone by, I've started to notice just how much your pad holder can impact your training. There are of course the obvious things like if they are holding the pads correctly, but there is a lot more going on there that I've started to take note of.

One of the biggest? The energy or demeanor of your pad holder. This all really hit me recently when I paired up with a classmate who, for whatever reason, just didn't seem to be into it. While they were holding the pads they were not engaged, frequently lost track of where we were in the drills and were actually yawning (a lot!) during drills. At the time I didn't think much of it, but after class on the drive home I started to realize that their lack of energy (or lack of positive energy) had impacted me. My energy had changed because now my brain wasn't focused 100% on the task at hand. Had I done something that pissed them off? Were they annoyed? Was something going on with them personally? Should I have asked if they were ok? All things I don't want to be dealing with during class.

Through social media I get to see a lot of muay thai content, a lot of which is high-level fighters training. I started to pay attention to the pad holders and noticed something: they are always high energy! Every reaction they have seems to be exaggerated. They are (typically) always talking to the fighters during the drills. They are not only holding the pads, but they are also motivating the fighter through their actions. Here is an example:

The pad holder is constantly moving (showing energy and engagement) as well as using their voice to acknowledge “good” strikes (or corrections).

Another great example:

When I started digging into all of this, a phrase I'd heard before came to mind:

“the energy you give is the energy you get”

While this translates great to this topic (holding pads), it was also a great reminder of how I go about my daily life. Just like my focus was lost, and honestly, my positive energy as well, while I was hitting the pads with a holder who was not super into it, the same can be applied to life. When I go to a negative thought, or a shitty mindset, that carries over to everything else. My interactions with people, how I go about my daily tasks, everything. That is the exact opposite of how I want my daily interactions to be. I want to be promoting positivity and I want to be putting off positive energy for those around me. Just as a low-energy pad holder can bring down a training session, a person bringing in negative energy to a situation can make things worse. Or even worse yet, they can ruin a positive situation by bringing in that negative energy.

Since that class I've added yet another thing to my list to focus on and that is making sure I am engaged, vocal and energized when I am holding pads for others. When they are in their fourth round of pads, and they are starting to hit that wall, I should be across from them helping them push through it. I'm acting as their personal cheerleader for a few minutes a day in an attempt to get them to their next level. And one of the keys to that is that I should be enjoying it! I should be excited to help this stranger hit their personal goals. I should be thinking about how happy I was when I hit goal XYZ and how I'd like this person to achieve that same feeling, with the hopes that they can then do the same for someone else.

Discipline, discipline, discipline! That is all you need to hit your wellness goals. So easy right?

The more time that goes by, the more I realize that discipline is what is going to make me who I want to be. The workouts, nutrition, mental attitude? Those are all byproducts, they are worthless without discipline.

I have a choice: do I have that soda filled with sugar and calories, or do I have that horrible tasting fizzy water with no sugar and zero calories? Discipline is what makes me grab the horrible tasting fizzy water. Discipline is what makes me grab the horrible tasting fizzy water EVERY SINGLE TIME. Not just a few times a week, or when I feel like it... EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Discipline is what gets me jogging on the days that I told myself I would (off days from the gym), even when it is a shitty day or the weather isn't playing nice.

Discipline is what reminds me to avoid that negative self-talk. Don't let it creep in. That isn't part of the plan so it needs to go. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Discipline is what allows me to step-back and analyze the situation when negative self-talk DOES creep in. Discipline is what gets me re-focused and back on track.

Every day we are presented with hundreds of choices and options. Being disciplined is what allows us to make the correct choice. Not occasionally, but every single time.

This can be incredibly hard, I know it is for me. It is easy to convince yourself “you did good all week, it is ok to stray a bit at dinner tonight” or “it is just one ____, how bad can it be?“. You can't though, as soon as you start going down that path you've opened the doors. As with most mental things, it is all about repetition and routine. You can do fantastic with your choices for __ days, but as soon as you stray, you've un-done all of that work and you are now back to square one. When I say “work”, I mean the mental work, the discipline. Is having a single donut on Sunday morning going to totally derail your weight? Probably not, but what it will do is allow your mind to go back to that undisciplined place again later. You've invited it in, and now you can't get it to leave.

“I had a donut last week and nothing happened, I'll be fine having this ice cream tonight”

“I had a long walk yesterday, it won't be the end of the world if I skip jogging today”

Full on, 100% self-sabotaging behavior. Little slips like this snowball and become bigger issues.

It is so simple, just one thing (discipline) to master and everything else will come. This isn't rocket science, it is the same thing people have been saying for years, but that doesn't mean it is easy.

Being older and out-of-shape, my ability to recover from workouts is pretty important. If I can't train or workout, I can't get in shape, but while I'm training I need to make sure that I'm going hard in order to get my body to change. Training at 25% isn't going to get me anything, I need to be going as close to 100% as possible every time.

In order to help make that happen, I've had to change the way I think. When I was younger, I didn't give a shit and just beat the hell out of my body. Warm-ups? Ha! Stretching? Who has time for that? These days though, that is a recipe for disaster and something that I've had to come to terms with. I'm not 20 anymore and my body doesn't respond like it is, so I need to accept that and figure out how to keep it happy.

So far I've found a few things that have helped, and when I do them consistently, they seem to keep my body from breaking down too much. Nothing here is groundbreaking or new, it is all the same stuff we've always been told to do. The trick is that you have to do it. Frequently :)

First on the list is the muay thai staple of Namman oil. A lot of folks use this stuff pre-training, but I just use it after. My routine is to come home from the gym, shower and then bust out the Namman oil on my lower body. My lower body has suffered the most abuse over the years, so it is typically the area that I need to focus on the most. It might just be the placebo effect, but I've found that my aches and pains go away quicker when I use the oil vs when I don't, so that has been enough for me to make it a constant in my routine.

Next up is the epsom salt baths. Usually at the end of the week I will try and get in an epsom salt soak in the tub. Nothing fancy, just hot/warm water and generic epsom salt. Again, I tend to focus on my lower body for these, but I will submerse my hands, wrists, forearms and elbows in the tub for awhile as well. I will also try and work in a half-ass massage for any problem areas while I'm in the tub. I'll also use this time as a sort of reflection time since it is quiet and free of distractions. Again, is it a placebo? No idea honestly, but it seems to work for me.

The latest addition to my routine has been the foam roller. A ton of people swear by this and you'll probably see most of the hardcore athletes using some type of rolling routine. Lucky for me, my spouse had introduced it to me many years ago so I was already familiar with it and had the roller ready to go, so it was just a matter of identifying what needed rolling. My shins and calf muscles are my number one problem point (outside of my knees), so most of my foam rolling is focused on my legs. I will typically do a quick session on the foam roller before I do anything, and then again after I'm done. I can say, without a doubt, that this process has helped get me back up and going quicker than anything else. I started the foam rolling routine after becoming so frustrated with not being able to get my runs in. My shins were in quite a bit of pain, the kind that you know is not something you just want to push through, from running multiple times a week + training. I knew that this was not sustainable long-term, so something had to be done. I started making it a point to use the foam roller before and after my runs and guess what? Things started getting better! I'm now back to the point where I can get my runs in every week without the crazy discomfort.

“Gratitude is gained at the bottom”

I was working in the gym with the roll-up doors open and the rain pouring down outside and a thought hit me: “how great is this?!?!”. A cool breeze coming in, the sound of the rain outside and of course the smell from the rain... all combined into a moment of clarity. It is probably one of the most used (and abused) cliches out there, but we need to remember to be grateful for what we have.

We recently celebrated father's day here where I live, and I feel like this year it happened to coincide well with some of my personal development.

Like many parents do, I told myself that I was going to give my child a better life than I had when I was growing up. I think a lot of people immediately go to the money portion of that statement, which is totally fair. Being able to provide for your child monetarily is certainly something to strive for, and there is no question that being in a position to do that can improve your child's life. Providing a better life for your child financially is only one part though, what about life skills and emotional support?

Looking back at what started me on this journey a few months ago, one thing that I kept asking myself was “what am I showing my child?”. Am I “walking-the-walk”? Am I clearly demonstrating to my child all of these things I am always preaching? Discipline? Responsibility? Love?

There is a phrase that has stuck with me that I reference a lot which is: “love is a verb”. Love is not just hugs and kisses, there is more to it than that. Love is demonstrating a healthy (mental and physical health) lifestyle so that your child can see firsthand what it takes, but also so that they can learn the skills needed so that they can grow up healthy as well. Love is holding your loved ones accountable because you want them to be the best they can be. You want them to be what you know they can be. Love is sacrificing yourself for the good of those around you.

I did not grow up with parents who were able to help me with this, so I am learning these things as I go. My father was absent physically most of my childhood, and for those few years when he was physically present, he wasn't present mentally. He was a weak man who preferred drinking and drugs over his family. The final few years he was around (he died when his liver finally gave up), he spent most of his time on the couch wasted. He couldn't be bothered to play with his young child, or to teach life lessons. Even when he knew that his time was fading, his first thought was of himself and what he wanted. The exact opposite of what love is. My mother wasn't an alcoholic or junkie, but the results were nearly the same. Many times a new “love” interest was prioritized over her child. The few activities we did were organized around her interests (or the newest companion's interests). I still remember her telling me when I was older that the main reason she worked extra hours was to “get time away from you” where “you” in this statement was me, her only child. Selfishness.

It wasn't until recently that I realized just how much being exposed to behavior like that has impacted me. Sure, I learned a lot of life skills around taking care of myself, but that is the thing, everything I learned was for me. I didn't learn about giving yourself to others. I didn't learn about showing love with actions. I didn't learn about “love is a verb”. This is something that has taken me a long time to identify, and now that I have, I am in a constant state of re-learning. I am to the point where on a daily basis I am having to analyze and evaluate my decisions, because most of my life I was doing it wrong. That doesn't mean I've been a bad person most of my life. I think that in the grand scheme of things, I have been ok (hopefully others agree), but I can be better. Just as love is holding others accountable because you want them to be the best person they can be, love starts with holding yourself accountable.

It all starts with you.

Am I going to pout and get depressed when something doesn't go my way, or am I going to recognize that it isn't always about me and that I am being presented with a learning opportunity?

Am I going to do that unhealthy action that keeps me overweight, or am I going to make a conscious decision to NOT do it so that my child can learn-by-example?

Am I going to get worked up over dirty dishes sitting on the counter and pout about “I'm the only one that puts my dishes away, blah blah blah”, or am I going to take it in stride and clean those dishes without a single complaint as an act of selflessness?

These are all simple things to physically do, I mean it takes less than five minutes to clean some plates, but for me the difficulty comes from the mental aspect. Re-training my mind to not go negative right off the bat. Taking the time to pause and reflect on the situation so that I can really understand what my brain is doing.

None of my examples involved my child directly, but they don't need to. How I carry myself and the actions I take on a daily basis are things my child is going to see. They will see how I react to situations. They will see what I do and what I don't do.

This is currently something that I struggle with every.single.day. It isn't something you can just change overnight. Just like diet and exercise, it requires commitment and dedication. A day hasn't gone by since I started this process that I haven't though to myself “wow, you handled that situation horribly and in exactly the opposite way you should have”, but I am taking notes and learning each time. There is a lot of work ahead of me, but it is work that I am ready for. The changes are to me, but I am making those changes for the people around me, for my loved ones, but most importantly, for my child.

“Love is a verb”

What a shit week. From the start, this week presented me with challenges and frustration. So much so that I had not posted a single entry here. The mantra is accountability and discipline though, so here we are...

Mental mistakes (both inside the gym and outside of it), my body not co-operating with me and the usual life challenges have provided me with plenty of opportunities for reflection this week.

“adversity truly introduces us to ourselves”

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