You’re Never Past It – Let These People Inspire You

Russian kettlebell maestro Sergey

Russian kettlebell maestro Sergey

Last week I had the honour of training with kettlebell world champion Sergery Rachinsky. He’s one of the strongest men in the world, holding multiple world records for strength and endurance such as his 100kg back squat for 180 reps.

His feats and mental toughness are mind-blowing on their own but one thing I found particularly inspiring was that he’s still smashing strength records at 42 years of age with plans for many more to come.

A has-been by 30?

About 10 years ago whilst working in a bank in England I remember a conversation with a colleague about fitness and exercise. I’d just started training and was really getting into it. I recall him holding his belly and telling me how it all goes downhill when you hit your late twenties. The weight just piles on, he told me. And besides, with a wife, kids and job there’s no time left to look after yourself. He basically said that he was on a steady decline towards ill health, powerless to do anything about it.

At the time I was concerned for my future and his words stuck with me.

Of course, I now realise that he was externalizing all his reasons for not looking after his health in an attempt to convince himself that his poor state was due to factors beyond his control. He felt better thinking that yeah, he was unfit and in bad shape, but what more could he do? It was all because of his age/job/kids/schedule etc.

Sadly, by relinquishing responsibility for his health he probably never did anything to change it.

The truth is, you can achieve incredible feats of fitness, strength, endurance and skill at any age.

I’m not talking about a 50-something who does a leisurely jog in the park twice a week – I mean elite athletes, world record holders or sportsmen and women dominating people their children’s or grandchildren’s age.

Here are some incredible stories of strength at all ages:

Herschel at 48

Herschel at 48

Not content with being a top NFL player and world class sprinter, Herschel Walker has gone on to become an MMA fighter into his 50s. Here he is fighting at 48. Seriously, scientists should study this guy.

Dara Torres was still beating records going into her 40s and at 45 she narrowly missed out on the 2012 Olympics by 0.32 seconds. Here she talks about her lifestyle.

In 2011, 54 year old George Hood set the world record for the longest plank hold at 1 hour 20 minutes. Not content with this, he smashed it 2 years later with an incredible 3 hours 7 minutes.

Canadian strongman Kevin Fast, 46, set the World record for pulling the heaviest object, a C-17 cargo plane. This is undeniably a cool record, but he outdid himself when he set the world record for most people lifted at once, with 22 girls on his back.

Kevin lifted 22 girls to set a world record
Kevin lifted 22 girls to set a world record

Just shy of her 50th birthday, tennis legend Martina Navratilova won a mixed doubles championship at the U.S. Open. This was an all-age full event, not a masters.

Sportsmen who didn’t just compete, but played in the top flight of their sport during their 40s: Jeff Carney, NFL player aged 45, Teddy Sheringham and Brad Friedel, football players in the English Premiership aged 40 and 42 respectively. Dikembe Mutombo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, two NBA legends who played at the highest level until they were 42.

On a personal level, my uncle serves as a great inspiration to me. He’s 53 and in great shape, runs a few marathons a year ranking high in his age group, goes rock climbing every week (he outclimbed me when I tried it) and often beats me at tennis. He fits in all this training and competing while running his own company.

This guy ran a 3:15 marathon at 80 and smashed my 5km target time by almost a minute #noexcuses

This guy ran a 3:15 marathon at 80 and smashed my 5km target time by almost a minute #noexcuses

I’ve had many friends who’ve run marathons. Most go for sub 4:30 hours, or perhaps 4:00. Occasionally I have a very fit and active friend who trains hard and goes for sub-3:30. Ed Whitlock recorded a time of 3:15:53… at age 80 (no typo, that’s eighty), a respectable time for a man his great-grandson’s age.

Fauja Singh was running marathons at 100 years old. He finally hung up his running shoes aged 101, with a 10km race in Hong Kong. He ran for premature babies charities, being billed as ‘the oldest running for the youngest’ – what a beautiful and inspiring goal!

Olga Kotelko is a 92 year old athlete competing in numerous track and field events, such as high jump, long jump, javelin, shot put and sprints. She holds 23 world records and 17 records in her age category. She told the NY Times that she has more energy now than when she was 50.

Olga at 91

Olga at 91

The World Masters Athletics records page is a huge inspiration to me not only as I age, but also now. I set some 2013 running goals of a 20 minute 5km time and a sub-1 minute 400m time. I was a little embarrased to discover that the oldest person to record a sub 1:00 400m was 74 years old. Our marathon running friend Ed Whitlock (pictured above) hit a 19:07 5km time aged 75, a time I would be massively proud of.

Equally impressive are the 100m world record times. Some inactive guys my age would struggle to hit a 17.5 second 100m time. A time of 17.53 was recorded by Frederico Fischer when he was 90 years old. 90 goddamn years! Please record your 100m sprint time, and if it’s not as fast as Freddy then let it be the biggest wake up call of your life.

I’ll leave you with this video from the Veterans Athletics Championships in the over-95 category. Seeing Emiel power through like Usain Bolt in lane 4 brought a tear to my eye. I sincerely hope that’s me in 65 years time.

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A Bangkok Juice Fast + No Caffeine or Alcohol

After eliminating meat and grains and playing around with my meal frequency I was eager for a new food experiment.

Displaying exquisite timing, Codi from Lifestyle Juice Cleanse (I’ll refer to as LJC) contacted me asking if I’d like to try a 3 day juice fast and blog about it.

3 days consuming nothing but juice didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, which was all the more reason to do it. I signed myself up.

I regularly do 24 hour fasts where I abstain from food and calorie containing beverages from, say, 2pm one day to 2pm the next, so I felt as though I would be well prepared for this experiment.

Why juice fast?

It seems as though the main reasons people juice fast are to lose weight and to detox, presumably after a period of abuse. Juicing can also provide a good way to cram in a load of nutrients in a simple, easy serving.

I didn’t want to lose weight and didn’t feel I was toxic enough to require a detoxification, but I thought it would still be interesting to see how I felt and what the effects on my body would be. Also, if friends or clients asked about it or wanted to try it I would be well placed to give a first-hand opinion.

LJC told me about a movie that demonstrates the power of juice fasting. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead tells the story of a big bloke named Joe, who does a 60 day juice fast during a road trip across America and pretty much saves his life from disease. Unlike Joe I’m not a morbidly obese truck driver dying of self inflicted illness so I’m not sure how relevant his story is to me, but it is an incredible story nonetheless and it’s clear this approach did wonders for his health and waistline.

Release the evil

I was told that feeling terrible during the fast is not only nothing to worry about, but is actually celebrated. Anything negative felt during the 9 day process is simply ‘toxins leaving the body’, which I’m not sure I completely buy. Broken out into spots? Great, that’s the toxins leaving you. Feeling down and moody? That’ll be the toxins entering the bloodstream. Grown a third nipple? Fantastic, that just shows that it’s working.

I think it’s fair to say that your body may be uncomfortable and struggling with the new health kick, but I don’t think it’s necessarily all about the evil toxins being released. Blaming the toxins is a convenient answer, but I think a lot of the negative feelings during the fast are your body generally being under stress and a weakened immune system during this time.

Other possibilities are that your body is struggling with the calorie restriction or perhaps just withdrawal symptoms from stopping smoking or other addictive substances that you’re refraining from during the fast.

Onto the fast

The 3-day juice fast was actually a 9 day process, broken down into the following essential components:

3 day pre-cleanse: preparing the body for the fast – slowly reduce or eliminate processed/’toxic’ food, caffeine and alcohol

The main event: no solid food – just juice and tea for 3 full days

3 day post-cleanse: 3 days of gradually reintroducing food into your system to complete the process from toxic blob to vibrant health hippy.

Added Bonus: The 3 day pre- and post-cleanse are strictly no caffeine and alcohol, so this also offered a few bonus experiments. 9 days without alcohol is pretty normal for me so no test there, but one of my big vices is my daily 2-3 cups of coffee, usually lattes. I’ve had at least a coffee a day for the last 10 years so I was interested to see whether I had my habit under control or if I was a full-blown caffeine junkie.

Pre-cleanse

I got through the pre-cleanse easily – 3 days of healthy eating and natural food to start to rid my body of all those evil toxins and prepare it for the good stuff. Whole, natural meals were also provided by LJC, but as I was concerned about losing too much weight I topped up the provided food with extra fruit and vegetables, ensuring I kept it all healthy for a smooth transition to the juice.

I was advised to drink the 6 juices in order, but I don’t think it matters. My preferred order was close eyes, stick hand in fridge and bring one out ‘lucky dip’ style

Day 1

The first day was pretty normal – I laughed, I played, I drank juice and just generally went about my day. I had an empty feeling in my stomach but my energy levels were fine. No dramas. The juices tasted great and I looked forward to drinking them. My experience with fasting also helped prepare me and it was all pretty easy and fun.

I drifted off to sleep at the end of day 1… and dreamed of food (seriously).

Day 2

Day 2 wasn’t quite as smooth. I started the day with some fruit infused water, which was a bit of an experiment for me but it worked well. It involved leaving lemon, lime, strawberries and cinnamon in water overnight. I topped it up with a little coconut water the next day and it tasted amazing. This set me up for a pretty steady day again, but later on in the day I started to get hungry when I saw food.

Lemon, lime, cinnamon, a couple of strawberries and a splash of coconut water. Top up with water and leave overnight.

Lemon, lime, cinnamon, a couple of strawberries and a splash of coconut water. Top up with water and leave overnight.

I went to the supermarket to get some limes and all the goodies looked very appealing. The street food and fruit stalls made me pine for solid food consumption. This made me consider whether I was truly hungry or if it was the sight of food that had triggered my cravings. I think often we are set off by visual stimulation, food marketing and even cleverly placed indulgent items in food stores. Often we’re not really hungry but something sets off a trigger and we convince ourselves we’re starving or need to eat. However, I think by this stage I really was just goddamn hungry.

Understanding Real Hunger Vs Food Cravings is crucial to success in your healthy eating journey. I think fasting really helps to distinguish and understand the difference.

By the evening I felt pretty moody and was looking forward to eating again.

Day 3

Me goofing around at the park on the last day - I was feeling lively and upbeat

Me goofing around at the park on the last day – I was feeling lively and upbeat

I woke up feeling pretty good and my moodiness had gone. Perhaps the moody toxins had left my body overnight. I had a pretty normal day and I trained hard in the park. I didn’t feel at all affected by not having eaten for 2 full days and I pulled, pushed, ran and jumped around feeling pretty much at my best. This left me feeling positive and enthused, although I was still looking forward to eating again. The rest of the day carried on as normal and I was happy to go to bed safe in the knowledge that sunrise would bring grub.

Fast over and start of post-cleanse

I woke up early pretty excited about bringing food back into my life. I held back for a few hours and then made a peanut butter, coconut, strawberry and banana smoothie. It tasted absolutely incredible. I savoured every mouthful, each one offering a sensual explosion of taste and pleasure. That might sound a bit over the top, but it really was that good.

The heavenly smoothy that broke the fast

The heavenly smoothy that broke the fast

LJC told me to just eat fruit on the first day, I felt fine so I had a salad with a little chicken for lunch, as well as another tasty juice. I reintroduced food over the next few days without any issues.

No Caffeine

I didn’t suffer any caffeine withdrawal symptoms at all, which didn’t surprise me much. I did miss the process of going into a cafe and sipping a latte while planning my day, but t was good to discover I don’t need it.

Conclusions and summary

So that was how it all panned out over the 9 day process. I must say that it was all a bit of an anti-climax really – I didn’t feel all that much during or after, but others I’ve spoken to have had more of a ‘health epiphany’ during their fast and really valued their experience. I’ve been told that perhaps I’m not your typical juice faster, and those who live an unhealthier lifestyle might benefit more from this approach.

Here is a summary of my main thoughts and feelings on juice fasting:

I’d sooner recommend other dietary approaches and solutions before trying juicing. If someone said they wanted to try it I’d say go for it, but I’d recommend other approaches over this one if someone wants to be healthy and strong long-term.

I think it promotes a culture of unhealthy habits followed by a ‘detox’, which is then repeated ad infinitum. This isn’t a progressive approach. If that’s the only way you can live your life then maybe it has a place, but if you’re doing the right things most of the time you shouldn’t need to do this. We all know people who are always talking about ‘needing a detox’ as if that’s the answer to all their health and life problems.

LJC say a lot of great things on their website about healthy, long-term changes which should be commended, but their slogan sums up who their typical target client is: Work Hard. Play Hard. Cleanse. Repeat. That approach to health and life isn’t going to do you many favours.

The best use for a juice fast is as a kickstart into healthy habits. 9 days of healthy food with a 3 day juice fast could help you understand hunger better, could help wean you off processed junk and could be the start of new habits and a new you.

Intermittent Fasting Vs Juice Fasting: I felt as though I was stretching a 24 hour fast (which I occasionally do) over 84 hours, which to me made it a less enjoyable process than intermittent fasting. I prefer eating fruit and vegetables rather than drinking fruit and vegetable juice, so I would sooner do an occasional 24 hour abstinence from food and calorie-containing drinks and just continue eating normally the rest of the time. I would find this easier to do consistently long term. This is just my experience though, and others find juicing a more enjoyable experience.

Weight loss during the fast was a concern as I’ve dropped a bit recently and didn’t want to lose any more. I lost 1.6kg during the fast which stayed off for a few weeks. Whether the weight was water, fat or muscle is hard to say. I would say water. It was commented that I looked a little gaunt after the fast, so this is something to bear in mind if you are of a normal, healthy weight.

Final Word

Some people have felt great, refreshed and revitalized after completing a juice fast. Others have got incredible weight loss results.

It would be very arrogant for me to say that what they did was wrong – Joe the truck driver used this method to save his life – but I personally believe they would have got the same results from making some positive dietary changes or doing something like a strict raw food diet for a set amount of time.

If can only adhere to a diet plan strict, regimented rules, then give it a go. If you wonder how you’ll feel or would like to use it as a boost to a healthier lifestyle then give it a go… but first up I would suggest trying to just eat more real, whole foods most of the time and seeing if that can get you the results you want.

Has anyone tried a juice fast recently? Did you enjoy it? Would you do it again? Please comment or drop me a message.

I would whole-heartedly recommend Lifestyle Juice Cleanse if you decide to try one out. Good quality, great tasting juices coupled with home or work delivery and solid service. Contact them for more info.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, I kindly ask you to ‘like’ our Bangkok Fitness Facebook page, ‘like’ it here and share on social networks if you feel others would benefit. Many thanks!

My blueprint for 2013

I’m not a huge believer in strict, regimented new year resolutions and rarely make them myself. However, 2013 is going to be a big year for me so I took my 10 day break to have a think about the direction I’d like to go in this year, and some habits I’d like to continue and form… not just in 2013, but for life.

Below is a list of things I’d like to achieve, ideas I want to develop and thoughts on how I want the year to pan out.

The only one that I absolutely will make sure I do is the last one:

Get a new apartment where i’m happy and comfortable by march 1 (have already done this one!)

Purchase an awesome bed, sheets and pillows. This is important, seeing as I spend a 3rd of my life there.

Get 7 hours quality sleep each day, preferably 8+

Update bangkokfitness.com at least once every 2 weeks

Continually improve flexibility and mobility

Sit down as little as possible

Move around as much as possible

Do yoga at least once a week

Eat natural real food as often as possible. Keep processed food and sugar to a minimum.

When I eat badly, make sure it tastes damn good

Improve my Thai language

Get out of Bangkok into natural and beautiful surroundings once a month

Spend lots of time in the sun

Spend less time on social networks and more time actually socializing

Call people more (rather than message)

Surround myself with positive, interesting and inspiring people

Be a positive, interesting and inspiring person

Run 100m in sub-12.5

Run 400m in sub 1 minute

Run 5000m in sub 20 minutes

Do all 3 of the above at the same time; don’t achieve one at the expense of another

Try new things

Do a muscle up

Continue to make The LAB a success and a great place to be and train

Stay as close to 80kg as possible and within 10-15% body fat – my optimum composition and weight for peak performance

Only drink water to rehydrate (with maybe some lime)

Limit coffee to 2 cups a day (down to one ideally)

Only drink alcohol to the point of having fun and being able to fully function the next day

Practice intermittent fasting

Do things, don’t talk about doing them

Read through this list once a week