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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12 places to play tennis in Bangkok

Paradon, or ‘bon’, was the first Asian player to hit the top 10

Tennis in Thailand has seen a big rise in popularity since Paradorn Srichiphan hit the ATP world top 10 about 10 years ago. There are now plenty of tennis courts and tennis clubs in Bangkok and the sport is popular amongst Thais and Bangkok’s expatriate community.

Many of Bangkok’s tennis courts are outdoors which makes it pretty tough to play in the heat and humidity, but it does mean that the courts are usually free in the daytime, if you can brave the heat!

Tennis equipment is widely available in Bangkok’s sports shops and there are some tennis specific shops in Bangkok too, one being situated near the entrance to Sukhumvit soi 38, where there are also 2 tennis clubs.

Here’s a list of 12 places to play tennis in Bangkok. I have included Google map links and the nearest BTS Skytrain station where I can.

Sports Conditioning

BASE next to Thonglor BTS on Sukhumvit soi 36 offers sports conditioning and has trained a number of amateur and professional athletes. You can check out their group class schedule and personal training package details.

Santisook Bangkok Tennis Club   Sukhumvit Soi 38  Thong Lor BTS

Located on Soi Saeng Chai off Sukhumvit soi 38, this Bangkok tennis club consists of 5 outdoor courts and 3 indoor, roofed courts. Prices are cheap and if you’re feeling lazy you can even hire a ball boy for 25 baht an hour! The courts are not in fantastic condition but very playable.

Spin n Slice   Sukhumvit Soi 38   Thong Lor BTS

Also a Bangkok tennis academy, Spin n Slice is based just across the road from Santisook in the Sunshine Court apartments. Run by German ex-tennis pro Timo, Spin n Slice has a great quality court that can be rented by the hour. The tennis court has floodlights but to play after dark is more expensive, at around 300 baht an hour.

Chulalongkorn University / Bangkok National Stadium   National Stadium BTS

Behind National Stadium are many tennis courts that can be rented. They have outdoor and indoor tennis courts that are cheap, as well as a range of other sporting facilities here.

Surasak Tennis Club   Soi Si Wiang   Surasak BTS

Just around the corner from Surasak BTS are 6 open air tennis courts. They often get busy during peak hours so it’s best to book ahead or play off-peak. A good option for Sathorn or Silom based expats.

Soi Klang Racquet Club   Sukhumvit Soi 49   Thong Lor BTS

This tennis and racquet club is one of Bangkok’s most well-known sports venues. It has tennis, squash and badminton courts, as well as a well-equipped gym. Check the website link for more details.

AUA Rajdamri Language Centre    Soi Ratchadamri   Ratchadamri BTS

Well located on Ratchadamri road near the skytrain, this language centre has tennis courts that are great for meeting new players. The location of this venue makes it good for any Silom or Sukhumvit based expats that want a game of tennis.

Ari Tennis   Sukhumvit Soi 26   Phrom Phong BTS

Ari Tennis Club is based at no.98 on Sukhumvit soi 26. It’s quite a Thai tennis club with more locals than expats. Courts are about 250 baht an hour and they have decent tennis players and coaches based here.

The 50 Tennis Club   Sukhumvit Soi 50   On Nut BTS

Unfortunately their website does not have an English language option, but this tennis club has top quality PlaxiPave courts that are available to rent for 260 baht an hour in the evenings. Equipment can also be rented and it’s open until 10pm.

Sivalai Clubhouse   Isaraphab soi 3, Bangkok Yai

This tennis club is quite far from the centre of Bangkok in Bangkok-Yai, but it may be useful for some suburban expats. Only 3 courts so book ahead. Prices are good at about 170 baht an hour.

Lot Fai Tennis Courts in Sirikit Park   Morchit BTS

A great range of sporting facilities, this park has already been mentioned in our basketball post. These tennis courts in North Bangkok are just 35 baht an hour, so great value. No tennis equipment for hire so make sure you bring your own.

Sun Tennis Courts    Sukhumvit Soi 40   Thong Lor BTS

Another option for Sukhumvit based tennis players, these courts are open until midnight. Based on Soi Samarnchunt off Sukhumvit Soi 4, they are floodlit and open until midnight.

Any top hotel or university!

Any top hotel in Bangkok will have tennis courts although this is an expensive option. Most Bangkok universities also have facilities, so if you find the above venues hard to get to try asking around.

There are many options here for Bangkok’s tennis playing expats. Let me know if there are any good courts I’ve missed and have fun!

List of basketball courts and leagues in Bangkok

Temple basketball

Basketball has never been hugely popular in Bangkok or Thailand, but nevertheless there are a fair amount of options for ballers and most schools here have a court or a hoop.

Thai and Asian players often make handy guards due to their explosive speed and power, but their general lack of size means that westerners will usually have a big size and height advantage. That hasn’t stopped the Filipinos from making basketball their national sport though.

The courts here tend to be mostly Thai with some westerners and Filipinos thrown in too. As usual, the Thais are a friendly bunch and will usually incorporate you into the game if you ask nicely. However, in some of the busy courts it can be hard to squeeze in so it’s best to make a team of 5 and then assert yourself onto the court when given an opportunity.

Thais don’t like sunlight, so you’ll find that these courts are usually quiet in the daytime, busy in the evening when it gets cooler and darker.

Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of basketball courts in Bangkok and what they’re like to play at. Click on the link for a Google map of how to get there. Nearest Skytrain and MRT stations are noted. Please let me know if there are any I’ve missed out.

These courts and other points of interest can be viewed on our Bangkok Fitness Map

Benjasiri Park  Phrom Phong BTS, Sukhumvit MRT

Probably the best located public court in Bangkok, this court is situated in the park right next to Emporium shopping centre (Phrom Phong BTS). The surface is not perfect but playable and the rings are good. It gets busy in the evenings so try and get there nice and early to establish yourself.

Lot Fai Park (Train Park) Morchit BTS, Phahon Yothin MRT

One of my favourite courts in Bangkok. It’s a little out the way from the centre but easy to get to by MRT and BTS. There are two high standard courts that have games that go on into the evening. Courts are floodlit and there are also futsal and tennis courts in this great all-round area for sport.

Lumphini Park  Saladaeng BTS, LumphiniMRT

This is an indoor court that’s near the Lumphini MRT station. I haven’t played here much but they have games every evening and on the weekend too. A good quality court and I’ve been told a good standard of play.

Red Bull X-Park in Bangkok

Red Bull X-Park Saladaeng BTS, Lumphini MRT

Sadly I’ve never been here but I’ve been told that it has one of the best basketball courts in Bangkok. Built by Red Bull (which is co-owned by a Thai), Red Bull X-Park is situated in the middle of Bangkok’s business district. This sports facility has two floodlit basketball courts that are open until late and a high standard of play.

NIST International School  Asoke BTS, Sukhumvit MRT

The New International School of Thailand on Sukhumvit soi 15 has some of the best sports facilities in Bangkok. Their huge gymnasium is available for rent but the only pick up session that I know of is the long-running ‘NIST Hoops’ crew. Almost exclusively expat, this Tuesday night run out starts at 7.00pm and runs for 1-2 hours. It’s usually pretty lively and a great place to meet people. Contact at: nist_hoops@yahoogroups.com

Chulalongkorn University  National Stadium BTS, San Yan MRT

This university complex near the well-known MBK shopping centre has many sports facilities including an indoor basketball court. I haven’t played midweek but Saturday mornings is a good time to go and find a game. There is a minimal entrance fee (30 baht, I think) and the players are mostly young Thais. Walking from MBK it is on your right hand side. It’s a little tricky to find

Huamark Stadium and ABAC

Bangkok Top Flight League

A little tricky to get too as there are no MRT or BTS stops nearby. There are 4 outdoor courts at the front of Huamark Stadium with welcoming Thais playing friendly games, and there’s a better court at ABAC university about 5 minutes walk away. There is also an indoor court inside Huamark Stadium but it’s not always available.

Romaaneenart Park

This park in the Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok has a public basketball court. I’ve not played here so I can’t comment on the standard.

Suan Luang Park

This park is miles away from the centre, but if you live in the Prawet area of Bangkok or nearby, this might be good for you.

Kasetsart University

Kaset University in North Bangkok has some good basketball courts and the students and players here are happy to accommodate new players.

Sathorn Pier

I’ve not played at this court but I’ve been told that it’s located under a bridge on the Thonburi side of Sathorn pier, where the skytrain crosses the river. It is located directly left of the ferry station and is under a bridge so it’s good to play there all day. There are basketball or Takraw courts. If anyone has any more infomation about this one I’d love to hear it.

Muang Thong Thani

Thailand’s biggest arena/concert venue has a lot of sports facilities nearby that include basketball courts. Again, a little out the way for most expats but if you’re in North Bangkok it might work for you.

Any University!

Almost all schools have a basketball court but they may not be cool with people just strolling in and shooting some hoops. Universities, on the other hand, should generally bit more welcome. Just get chatting to some sporty looking students.

Top Flight Men’s Basketball League

An ex-NBA basketball player who now runs a basketball academy at many of Bangkok’s international schools has set up the city’s first true expat basketball league, the only one previous was a Filipino league that didn’t have many foreigners.

Top Flight Basketball Men’s League

Ike Nwanko has set up the league of 8 teams and they’ve had a very successful first season which will provide a good foundation for the league to grow. With this expansion they’re keen on growing the number of teams and players so if you want to get involved contact him at his site:

Top Flight Basketball

The league is played at NIST on Sukhumvit 15 on Sundays and follows an NBA-style league then playoff format. There are some very competitive players in the league but it’s good-natured overall. Their new season should be starting soon so get in touch!

When I first moved here it took me ages to find a game, so I hope this guide to basketball in Bangkok helps you get a game in the city.

Let me know if there are any great courts I’ve missed out on!

If you’d like to improve your sports conditioning, check out our range of group classes at BASE.