Middle Age Muay Thai

A wellness blog focused around Muay Thai

Go search for “complacency quotes” in Google and you'll find enough results to keep you busy for days. The reason? Being complacent is a surefire way to stop yourself from growing as a person and a lot of folks figured that out before you or I were around.

Five years ago I knew it was creeping in. Four years ago I felt it getting stronger. Three years ago I saw it coming and thought I could ignore it. Two years ago it was staring me right in the face. A year ago it had taken over. Complacency.

The feeling of reaching a lifestyle that I never thought possible as a kid had caused me to stop moving forward. Beautiful, supportive family? Check! Owner of two homes? Check! Living debt-free? Check! Six figure salary? Check! I couldn't help but feel like I had made it, and from an outsiders perspective, it might have looked as if I had. Behind the scenes though I was a mess.

I had stopped doing anything of value. The hobbies I had I would start and stop in spurts, never sticking with anything that long. My physical activity was decreasing at almost a monthly rate. I found myself skipping activities that I had loved doing since I was a kid, simply because I “wasn't feeling it”. My diet was a joke and I'm incredibly embarrassed when I think back to what I was eating five years ago. Most of my time at work was spent shooting the shit with co-workers or on social media. The work that needed to get done got done, but that was it. I was no longer working on advancing my skills as I had done throughout most of my career. Not only had my career started to stagnate, but my life had as well. Complacency.

The worst part is that I knew it. I knew exactly what was happening and when I took 30 seconds to step back and observe, I could see it clear as day. But I didn't do anything to change it. One of the bits of wisdom I've latched onto over these last few months has been something that most of us are taught when we are kids: listen to your conscience. It is so simple to listen, but it can be incredibly difficult to follow through. The thing is, if you keep ignoring it, and you keep doing the things that you know you shouldn't, the negative actions and feelings are compounded. Now you feel like shit because you are doing things that you know you shouldn't be, but you can’t (won't?) stop doing those things, so now you feel even shittier because you're failing twice. I won't speak for everyone, but personally, when I fail at something I don't feel that great. So failing all day every day was doing a number on me mentally. I had everything I needed to be happy, but I felt like I was always in a shitty mood.

But guess what? Failures present opportunities for learning. If you can be objective and honest with yourself (harder than it sounds), you can look at your failures, identify why you failed, and figure out how to avoid failing the next time. Here is the trick though, the part that I couldn't do five years ago: you need to FOLLOW THROUGH. All the assessments and planning don't mean shit unless you FOLLOW THROUGH. That was (and still is) the hardest part for me. Everything I need to do is right there in front of me, I just need to put in some effort and follow through. Not just today, or this week, or this month. This is a lifetime commitment we are talking about.

Earlier this year I started a process I had gone through multiple times: being honest with who I was and where I was in life. This time though, I didn't go out and buy a bunch of exercise gear or spend a bunch of money on the latest diet routine. I didn't look to all of these personalities out there today for their suggested “life hacks” or self-help books. Instead, I decided to listen to myself.

It has been a long and challenging process, one that will likely never end as life will always present challenges, but it has been working unlike anything I've done before.

I spend a lot of my time thinking to myself “is this the right choice for me and my family?”. I've found myself in awkward situations where I have decided not to do something that others are doing (I do this without judgement of them, they are free to do as they want) which can lead to uncomfortable conversations where it sometimes feels like I have to defend my decision. I've changed jobs so that I can work somewhere that aligns to my beliefs and how I see my career progressing. Many (many!) times I've sat alone for long periods of time wondering what the hell I am doing and why am I making it so hard on myself. These are all good things. They might not seem like it at the time, but these are signs of growth. That growth is key to ending the cycle of complacency. The discipline I am building is what will help fuel the growth. The listening to myself is what will keep the discipline in-check.

Conscience –> discipline –> growth

My forearms are so sore and tired that even typing is uncomfortable.

My foot looks like a pillow due to swelling, the result of a direct hit to an elbow earlier this week.

I have back muscles that I didn't even know existed screaming from getting their ass kicked two days ago.

I've had a rough morning around the house and at work.

The thought of skipping the gym tonight crept into my mind for a split second.

It sure would be nice to sit on the couch tonight and watch TV. Or have a couple of drinks with my spouse. Or read a bit. Or maybe work in the garage.

This is when the gains come. These situations are where we as humans can either take the next step forward and continue creating a better self, or we can sit back, be comfortable and let the opportunities pass us by.

As quickly as the thought of skipping the gym tonight came, it has gone away. I'll be there tonight and I'll be enjoying every minute.

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.

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.