The below article has been contributed by my friend and Thai-boxing training buddy CR.
I asked him to share his personal approach, training and dietary strategies to stay lean and strong. Enjoy the read!
Let me start by admitting that I have an easier time staying lean than most people: I’m an ectomorph and both my parents are lean. So even if I eat like a pig and don’t exercise, I don’t get fat – I just get a bit soft and round near my middle. However, I’ve recently become leaner than I’ve been since my teenage years – I’d even call myself cut – and I’m happy to report that it hasn’t been particularly difficult. Indeed, at the age of 46, I’d say I’m much leaner than most people in their teens or twenties.
The catalyst for this came when I moved to Bangkok from Japan about a year ago. Here in Bangkok, I live in an apartment with an excellent 25-meter pool and a good gym. Also, in hot climates I find that I have less of an appetite, so I naturally eat less. Now, I work out six days a week and skip lunch almost every day. This simple combination has yielded remarkable results. Indeed, when I recently returned home, old friends kept commenting that I had lost a lot of weight and asked if I was okay. More than okay, I feel great and have more energy than I’ve had in a long time.
The basics of my diet and exercise routine are simple. I start my day with a workout. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, I swim in the pool, usually about one kilometer. I’m a former competitive swimmer, so this is my natural and preferred workout. On Mondays, I usually swim two easy 500s, combining freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke. On Wednesdays, I swim about 1 kilometer of continuous individual medleys of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Needless to say, the butterfly is the killer here. On Fridays, I’ll usually swim a set of five 200s of freestyle, which is also a killer workout, both aerobically, and for the arm, chest and shoulder muscles. Despite having been a swimmer for most of my life, this set really leaves me panting, especially if I push it.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I do a workout in the gym. I normally do about eight minutes on the treadmill, with a few incline sprints at speed, interspersed with a slower pace. Then, I’ll switch to the stationary bike for about five minutes of pedaling, again, alternating fast bursts and slower rest periods. Then, I’ll do about 50 sit-ups on the incline board, about 50 pushups, broken into five sets, and a variety of low-weight/high-rep exercises on the machines. I avoid weight training like the plague and don’t like machines much, but I do a bit of work on the machines in hopes of building strength for swimming. But basically my time in the gym is to work on my legs, since swimming doesn’t do much for the legs.
After either swimming or working out in the gym, I jump in the sauna for 10 minutes and sweat it out. I find that this relaxes my muscles and I think it’s good to keep cycling a lot of water through the system.
On Saturday afternoons, I do a muay Thai workout in Lumpini Park with Thomas, which is a killer workout, both aerobically and anaerobically. I find that the sets of high kicks bring me to my aerobic max, and I think this has a huge effect in terms of burning fat. Also, the kicks and punches work core muscles that are missed in my other workouts.
On Sundays and a few other days of the week, I do a short five-minute routine of stretches, which is basically the same stretching routine I learned when I ran track in high school. Staying flexible is essential for preventing injury and I believe it also keeps one from becoming brittle, a condition that is very common in middle aged and elderly people.
My morning workout usually leaves me in a very good mental state. I then return to my apartment, shower, and then eat breakfast. I eat a simple breakfast of muesli with pieces of a banana on top of it. I drink orange juice cut at least 50% with water (I find that most commercially available juices are so thick and sweet that they may as well by syrup). I also have a cup of tea. After breakfast, I tend to drink several glasses of water as well, to replace fluids lost during the workout and in the sauna. In Bangkok, I find that I have to drink almost continuously just to “break even.”
I then go to work, usually at a coffee shop with wifi (I’m a freelance writer and editor). I’ll drink a café latte or two while I work. I don’t worry about the calories in the sugar or milk. But, I don’t eat lunch and I don’t find that hunger is an issue. If I do get hungry, I might eat some crackers or nuts when I get home in the afternoon. I find that if I do eat lunch, I almost always have to take a siesta and the afternoon is basically a write-off.
My wife, who is Japanese, usually cooks dinner and this means that my main starch is usually rice, which suits me just fine. I find that a rice-based diet is far superior to most Western diets, because rice does not contain fat and is prepared without the addition of fat. Also, the Japanese diet tends to contain a lot of fish and vegetables, both of which are healthy and delicious. We end the meal with some fresh fruit, of which Thailand has the world’s greatest selection. In the evening, I snack if I feel like it, usually crackers or nuts, but occasionally potato chips, which I eat without feeling any guilt whatsoever.
In closing, I’d like to emphasize how easy this routine is: I exercise six days a week and I find every workout enjoyable. The workouts set the tone for a positive and constructive day. I never feel hungry and I don’t spend much time thinking about what I eat. The two keys are simple and easy for anyone to adopt: merely get one workout in a day, skip lunch, and eat a rice-based diet. Not only will you get lean, you’ll feel better and be more productive.
Monday: Swim 2 x 500m medleys (minus butterfly)
Tuesday: Workout in gym, focusing on legs and cardio (bike and treadmill)
Wednesday: Swim 10 x 100m medleys (including butterfly)
Thursday: Workout in gym, focusing on legs and cardio (bike and treadmill)
Friday: Swim 5 x 200m freestyle
Saturday: Muay Thai workout