Saturday, November 22, 2014

Comfortably dumb

I am a consultant by profession. I am not really an expert on anything but know enough (or at least pretend to know) to help my clients. I float around from one client to another and one place to another. The job requires me to change or reset my life frequently. I have not been allowed to get comfortable although I want to. In the last 2.5 years, I have lived in Seattle, California, Chennai (home) and am now in Amsterdam. It does suck - I have missed having some sort of stability in location. By the time I settle down somewhere, make friends and get into a routine, it’s time to move. My biggest gripe is that as long as I don’t finalize a long term location or at least a continent, I cannot have dogs in my life again!

On the plus side, I have learnt to adapt to new places, cultures and people quickly. I have learnt to work with people in India, the United States and now Europe. I know how to set myself up quickly in a new place. I have a nice checklist to find an apartment anywhere.

I was talking to a client who is leaving his organization having spent 11 years building his career there. That organization, the people and the place are all he knows and he has built quite a bit of goodwill there. Everybody loved him and I envied the guy. So why was he leaving? Interestingly, he told me that he envies my job! He is worried that he is getting too comfortable and that is a risk for him personally and professionally. What if the company or industry runs into some kind of financial crisis? He is worried that he has not seen enough of the world outside to survive. He thinks he has been influenced into thinking a certain way which may or may not be the only way. He wants to be able to work in a place like India or China and be successful.

It got me thinking – I complain about work a lot. But to be honest, it has allowed me to learn and experience so many new things and meet so many people. Right now, I am in Europe with my living expenses covered and I get to travel over the weekends. I should be thankful. But I want what the other guy has – the stability, the comfort, the relationships and all the good stuff that comes with it. I guess there is no right or wrong – the grass is always greener on the other side.

In fitness and training, there are people who specialize in something like strength/endurance/mobility/sport and there are others who prescribe training for life – for long term health and wellness. Personally, I love lifting heavy stuff and don’t quite enjoy anything that requires me to move for longer than a minute. I focused on lifting heavy for about a year and at that time, I probably needed it to build a solid foundation. Now, I need to get better at the other stuff if I want to remain healthy in the long term. I need to move better, faster and last longer. If not, it is a risk for my health. I need to diversify my fitness portfolio and not get comfortable at one form of training. I need to get better at everything to have a stable and healthy life in the long term.

I have been training with barbells after a good 6 month break and I am loving it. However, I know I love it only because I am comfortable doing it. I still hate running – maybe if I train enough and run better or more efficiently I will start to like running. Maybe even love it. I appreciate the importance and effectiveness of kettlebell training but I still don’t like it – it’s probably because my squat with the kettlebell is so much more wobbly and lighter than my squat with the barbell. I have learnt that I have to try different things and get better at everything. I need to be prepared to be fit anywhere. What if I have to travel to someplace which has absolutely no training facilities and the only available resistance is bodyweight. What if the place has only bread to eat and no meat? I still have to be fit and strong and need to adapt.

I do want to find a sweet spot and not keep experimenting all the time. But, just as with professional life, I think it will take time. I will try and fail in the next few years. But I will learn. Some people are lucky and find that sweet spot pretty early in life. Most of us will spend the majority of our lives looking for it. I am one of the lucky ones who has started looking for it reasonably young and also has the freedom to look for it.

When I do find that sweet spot, I know I am fit for life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Feet on the Ground

I am embarrassed to post on my blog after months of inactivity. No excuses. I was just lazy and confused. Going forward, goal is to post on this blog at least once a month to begin with.

I have spent the last four months back in my hometown of Chennai, India after spending 2 years in the United States. It’s crazy and sometimes scary when I think back at how the thoughts in my head have evolved over the last few months.

When I got here in May, I was a little spoilt with the standards of living, working, training and coaching I was lucky enough to experience in the US. My best friend says I am a ‘snob’ at times. I was pretty sure I cannot live in Chennai and India again – it was funny because I spent 29 years living in the country before I left and suddenly after 2 years away, I was too good for the place. A big reason for the way I felt was also the fact that I was in ‘limbo’ professionally. I had plans and options but things and people were moving at their own slow pace which left me super frustrated.

Over the last two year, I worked hard to get to where I am with respect to strength and fitness. I made big changes to my daily routine and it took a lot of self-discipline and sacrifice. However, the key to my growth was the access to a bunch of ‘enablers’ to health, fitness and nutrition. I had access to awesome training equipment and coaching. I could get myself cage free eggs/chicken, grass fed beef, organic produce, high quality nuts, supplements, etc. It was easy to go to a restaurant and choose to eat the right stuff. I could take walks without worrying about dehydration or getting hit by traffic.

Back home, things are different. There are a very few gyms with barbells – even if they do have barbells, there are very few trainers who can coach correct technique. There are no weightlifting platforms or bumper plates. I just about manage to afford some decent quality chicken everyday – if I had a family or other financial commitments, this would be a luxury I cannot afford. Organic milk and produce is extremely expensive. Eating out and eating healthy is very difficult. Temperatures are consistently at around 35 degrees celcius (a little less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and it is super humid which makes it difficult to do any kind of activity out in the open without sweating profusely.

On the plus side, I have started eating a lot more vegetables and because we have so many different and tasty ways to cook vegetables, I actually like the veggies J

The biggest positive has been my training – specifically, the changes to my mindset and attitude to training. The last two years were great – CrossFit in Seattle introduced me to a bunch of movements and gave me my foundation in strength. Weightlifting in California was just fun. Period.

However, my outlook to training at both these places was short term – focused on strength gains in the short term and in the process I probably overtrained and abused my already unfit and dysfunctional body.

Then, I was asking myself questions like –

·         How much should my back squat increase by in the next 12 weeks?
·         Why did I train less this week?
·         How can I eat 3000 + calories everyday?
·         Damn it, why did my bodyweight drop by 2 lbs this week?

Now, I am asking myself questions like –

·         How do I stay fit and eat right with all the challenges in a place like Chennai?
·         How can I stay away from injury?
·         How can I squat like my 2 year old Goddaughter?
·         How can I live my 30+ life without health problems?

My thinking has changed or rather evolved for the better. At some point in the near future, I am sure I will need to focus on short term gains. I am hoping that I will have the knowledge and experience to ensure I don’t lose sight of the bigger picture and my long term goals in the journey to health and fitness.

The best part about being at home in Chennai is that I have my own support system here that is helping me. I have family and friends and they more than make up for whatever I miss from the US. This does not mean that I am staying here forever – All this support from friends and family might make be lazy J It just means that I have discovered or rediscovered the way to live my current life health and happy.

My goal over the next two years is to set an example for every other person trying to achieve their own fitness and health goals in a place like India. It may be ambitious but I am trying to prove to myself and to others that it is possible if you put your mind to it. Oh and also, I want to be less of a ‘snob’ and stay grounded. Most of the time.