To ring in the new year I went out to the city with my sister and a few of her friends to watch the fireworks. I was still anti-social at the time so I reluctantly tagged along for the ride. It was a night to remember for good and bad reasons. While it was a fun night and the fireworks were spectacular, putting up with drunken crowds from beginning to end, all the way to the train ride home and not getting to bed until a couple of hours until dawn was not my idea of a good time. In my mind, having to put up with so many people in one night reinforced the reason why I put these walls around me in the first place. To hell with the world, solitude is where it’s at!
Oh well, at least we could say that we experienced it. Been there, done that.
Anyway, at this point life was pretty good. The bad taste from 2005 had all but dissipated and I continued to thrive at work and in my university course. And of course, I was still in great physical condition. Having continued those ‘boxing training’ sessions my body was completely ripped and rippling and my stamina was on point. I was looking and feeling pretty darn good!
But there was one little hiccup, as pointed out by my mother and sister one particular day.
You see, I had been going crazy with my training over the past couple of years that I didn’t notice how it was affecting my weight and I had consciously been cutting back a little with my food intake, believing that it was better to burn more calories than I was consuming in order to keep my body fat levels low. Sure, it gave me that coveted six-pack but I was also becoming too thin. At first, I dismissed their concerns but one look at the bathroom mirror one day while getting ready for work proved them right.
Much to my surprise, my head seemed bigger than my shoulders were wide and I saw some ribs protruding slightly. While I aspired to be lean and athletic I didn’t sign up to ending up rail-thin and have my clothes become baggy on me. I guess my days of eating like a normal human being – in which I would eat a decent-sized breakfast, lunch and dinner and barely have any snacks in between – were over. If I was going to train hard like a beast I had to eat like one, too, in order to maintain my size and shape. That meant increasing my food intake to a few small meals a day. I went with the three main meals plus a snack times in between meal lunch and dinner, usually something protein packed like a meat and cheese sandwich or a handful of nuts plus a piece of fruit like an apple or orange just so I wouldn’t shrink.
Oh yeah, a little note about my eating habits over the past couple of years……..because I was working the afternoon shift I was able to sit down to a decent-sized breakfast and lunch. Now, I tried to ‘eat clean’ most of the time, avoiding the obvious ‘junk food’ like candy, potato chips, cookies etc and loading up more on lean meat, eggs, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, but as a young man I also had my share of ‘cravings’. It wasn’t unusual for me to pack the odd chocolate biscuit or cake to work, and I wasn’t above having a slice or two of pizza for breakfast if there were some in the fridge! And I always, ALWAYS had to have a meat pie as part of my lunch. Kinda felt like an incomplete meal without if for some reason.
Yet despite all of that my physique didn’t suffer and I remained lean, ripped and athletic. Yay me! I guess the workouts and my youth allowed me to get away with being ‘naughty’ from time to time with my diet. I will admit that I kinda smirked as I watched others eat themselves to weight gain and guilt while I was able to eat and eat and eat as much as I wanted without putting on any unwanted pounds. It’s an insensitive thought but mind you, I was still in my early twenties and so immaturity and ego were still wreaking havoc in my brain. But I never expressed such haughty thoughts openly. I kept them all to myself.
Workout-wise, I kept up the same routine as I did the previous year, shadowboxing training for a good hour followed by half an hour with the weights set. Having been boxing (and following boxing) for almost two years now I refined some of my rough edges. I guess watching all those fights and highlights on youtube left their mark because I found myself imitating some of the movements of the great fighters I was watching. I was no Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather but I was no longer moving like an off-balance, wild-swinging amateur anymore either.
I tried mixing up my punching combinations while shadowboxing (or working with my invisible punching bag or the punch pads held by my imaginary trainer) rather than always following the same old jab-right cross-left hook and right cross-left hook-right cross combos followed by a duck or two. Taking a cue from Mike Tyson and Roy Jones jr I lead with my left hook from time to time rather than always leading with the jab, for example left hook-right cross-left hook or left hook-right cross-left uppercut, followed by a defensive maneuver like a couple of ducks or slips. Or I would lead with a defensive move and then follow that up with a combination, as though I was counter-punching an opponent’s attack. Forcing myself to try new moves further challenged my coordination and stamina, and even my brain and cognitive ability as I forced myself to think fast on my feet and improvise with maneuvers that muscle memory hadn’t quite picked up yet.
And you know what? It was A LOT of fun! I even imagined some grizzled old trainer that resembled Mickey Goldmill from the Rocky series hurling insults at me whenever I made a wrong move! Now I really felt like a true fighter.
Outside of work, study and training there was another holiday on the cards for this year. We took a family trip to Europe as part of my sister’s birthday, one week in Berlin followed by a week in Paris. Having just been to Berlin the previous year we explored our old haunts, pleasantly surprised to find that not much had changed after one year save for the lack of FIFA World Cup banners and themes all around the place! And Paris was a joy, our hotel was based in an area with PLENTY of good restaurants and food stalls so you better believe that my discipline and will-power were tested!
Nevertheless I passed with flying colors, although I did allow myself a few treats since I was in holiday mode and all. Aside from walking, I continued to work out even while on holiday. Sure, I couldn’t do my full routine as I was away from my usual environment, but I still found a way. I was still able to shadowbox (with the limited space I had to play with) and strength training mainly involved push ups, squats and various abdominal exercises and the odd backpack exercises that I had mastered in my senior high years.
No, those workouts did not compare to my usual routine back home but I was still proud of the fact that I was able to squeeze in a bit of training time rather than miss out altogether. Better to train a little than not be able to train at all and I’ve carried that mindset with me ever since. See, if you are truly committed to something you must find the time for it. It won’t always be readily available to you but if it is truly important to you, you will find a way to make it happen.
Keep on keepin’ on!