It’s December again. Time for year-end reviews and next year’s projections, in business and life. I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but I did start 2017 with a plan to get fitter. I wasn’t entirely out of shape; I could walk for hours, which served me well while traveling, or snorkeling without life vest on. My problem was hiking, where my legs would just turn to jellies and my breath would be out in minutes.
So in early January I signed up for a kickboxing/muaythai class at a martial art gym in Kebayoran Baru. I almost died in the first hour, a cross-fit of cardio and weight training warm-up before the actual kickboxing, and only survived two kickboxing rounds later. But I kept returning, undeterred, pushing myself for more pushups and longer runs. Except when I travel, I typically train thrice a week. 11 months to that first day now I can do three cross-fit sets for warm-up and five kickboxing rounds. I’ve met twentysomething men who could only do half of my regimen before throwing up.
The first test came in July, at the height of Southern hemisphere wintertime, when I trekked up New Zealand’s Franz Josef Glaciers. Aside from an ego bruise from getting my derriere stuck in a particularly narrow trail, I survived—hiking, thin air, subzero temperature and all.
The real test was this past weekend when I tagged along a group of girls, who’d hiked mountains before, to Ijen Crater in Banyuwangi, because I just had to witness the world-famed sulfuric blue fire. I openly told our guide I’d need assistance throughout the ascent. The guide, a seasoned mountaineer, smiled wistfully and said he’d be right behind me. When we started ascending I was so focused in stepping forward I forgot about the guide after a while. I occasionally stopped to catch breath or sip water, and about 1.5 hours later I found myself summited (estimated height 2,400 m). I actually had to wait for our guide, who was with the other girls behind, for the gas mask, before descending on the 70-degree slope to the spot of blue fire, then further down to the crater lake.
All by myself, with only a couple of trekking poles, willpower and a bit of pride. I got so tired, but I didn’t feel like I was going to die. The pre-kickboxing me couldn’t have done this last December.
So the hell to people who say after thirty everything is down the hill. It’s not always the case. Though I’m admittedly no fitter than me at 27, when I worked out five times a week, I’m definitely fitter than me at 30, when I was busy chasing corporate career I barely had time for once weekly Pilates. There are a handful of people around me, including a breast cancer survivor mind you, who got to run in their 40s and now regularly do marathons.
The same spirit was apparent a couple of weeks ago when, thanks to my friend Layla, I got to watch a cross-fit competition. Named Jakarta WOD-Off, which WOD I believe stands for work-out of the day, the 2-day competition held by Jakarta’s most popular cross-fit gym attracted local and foreign cross-fit diehards, men and women alike. Some were accomplished athletes in the region– one had been crowned Asia Fittest Male Age 35-40 I learned– but many were just dedicated gym rats. There were twentysomethings competing, but mostly were in their thirties or older with admirable physical fitness.
One challenge consisted of lifting dumbbells followed by pull-ups, while another challenge was a series of lifting serious iron—70 kg for male, 40 kg for female. Heck, whenever my trainer made me lift just an ounce more than 10 kg I’d either whine or issue him a death threat, yet here at the competition girls not much bigger than me were lifting almost ¾ of my body-weight. Respect, girls, to the moon and back.
I chatted up a few participants, most of whom said they weren’t always this fit. Some didn’t pick up exercising until recent years, some sheepishly admitted to still savoring junk food, yet all of them committed now to continuous training.
Arm-chair psychologists may chalk it up to middle-age syndrome, but I think it’s more of a conscious decision than that. Urban life expectancy continues to get longer while medical costs get higher, it will be stupid to “let go” of oneself because you feel you’ve got hitched and borne a kid or two. With now possibly 30-40 years ahead on your life, would you spend it nursing a weakening frame or whipping up a healthier physique? God forbid your medical check-up stats start to get red flags but you’re too frail to sweat out the toxins.
I myself have a long way to go. I’ve subscribed to healthy diet for over two years now, but I still indulge in sinful meals over weekends. Layla my friend has long sworn off sugar including carbs, I’d still enjoy occasional Oreo and martabak. Yet, just as the Jakarta WOD-Off participants I talked to, we’re both committing to maintain our healthier life.
In fact, if any of you could get me passes to overbooked glacier treks worldwide, I promise I’d cut down on sugar and starch. Race you to Norway fjords in 2018!
As published: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/12/09/urban-chat-race-you-to-be-fitter-and-stronger.htmlTweet