Fast, strong, healthy

I’ve been through a few phases of fitness over the years. Like most of us, I go through various periods of having higher or lower fitness levels, and I’m going to collect some of my thoughts on the matter here.

When I was in high school I was more into endurance sports. The kind where you would train pretty much every day, sometimes twice a day. With my body type, this is the kind I’m probably more naturally suited to – that is, I’m an ectomorph who has never struggled with my weight. Well, that’s not entirely true, there have been periods where I’ve been underweight. Towards the end of high school I kind of left sports for quite a while and concentrated on other things, like study and video games. I was never terribly unfit, but I was rail-thin. Later I got into martial arts, and for a period, general strength training.

When I was strength training, I wanted to get stronger and gain muscle. Eventually, however, I realised that being big and muscular just wasn’t for me – my food bills started to get me down, I was sick of eating all the time, and my endurance was suffering. I didn’t want to keep my endurance at too high a level because burning all those calories would mean I’d lose weight! Plus, for no reason I’ve been able to understand, the dreadful soreness resulting from strength training never, ever left me. I read in some corners of the internet that muscle soreness goes away to some degree when you settle into a regular strength routine. Well, I was strength training regularly for several years and each and every day I pretty much felt like I’d been run over by a bus.

I still kept at the weight training, as well as martial arts, but I ratcheted up the latter and reduced the former. That was the point I’d probably say I was at my fitness peak. I was training for my sport roughly three or four times a week, plus strength training three times a week, and I’d probably fit in a run or a ride somewhere too.

Since moving abroad it’s been difficult to keep that up. I had a good collection of training implements back in Oz, but I’m not keen to pack my apartment with equipment during the time I’m here. So right now, I’m training with:

  • 2x10kg kettlebells (they were on sale at Lidl)
  • A few resistance bands
  • A pair of running shoes.

That’s it. That’s certainly not enough to maintain the 140 kg squat I used to be able to pull off. But hey, this blog is about simple stuff! So I don’t mind making a foray into some simple fitness ideas. There’s no amazing open-air gym around here, but there’s a place a 10-min walk away where I can do pull-ups, bar dips, and box jumps. It also has a good set of stairs for stair sprints. Quite some time ago I spent a while trying to learn some isometric strength moves like planches, so I’m starting to work on that again (although I find it incredibly difficult to make any progress). After a bit of attention to ankle mobility I can do better pistols than ever, and I’ve started building up my rep count for handstand pushups (against a wall).

I guess the place I’m at now in my life is that I’ve internalized that fitness means different things to different people, and it’s more than a matter of preference but also about your body type. I think it’s advisable to try to maintain a bit of everything, and you have to admit to yourself that pushing a long way towards one component (like strength, endurance, or flexibility) will come with tradeoffs from the other components. Even if you don’t want to admit this from a physiological standpoint, you have to admit it if you take into account the opportunity cost of time. That is, if you also work a job, have a family, etc., and don’t have an uninterrupted life of training-eating-sleeping. I had a road bike back in Oz, but I quickly realised that I absolutely did not want to invest the amount of time necessary to become a proficient road cyclist. It was still handy for reducing car usage though!

So I say to everyone, do some strength work. Do some endurance work. Make sure you work on your mobility and do a range of movements, even if people think you look weird. Do handstands in the park! Cartwheels! Hold a squat position in your office to stretch out your hips and ankles! Join other people to play a sport, because it’s often more motivating than training alone. Remember that being fit means getting sweaty, getting sore, and sometimes it means feeling relieved to lie down in bed because you don’t have to move those aching muscles anymore.


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