Injury strikes early

Before coming to Thailand, my main concern was always to get injured. I remember it well from my preparations to climb Mt. Lhotse last year. Back then it was typically running related. Sadly, injury didn’t wait long here as I fractured my big toe during sparring. 3w off the doctor recommended though I still do light training here and there with focus on the upper body. Aside from that the last week was also quite eventful.

 

Monday we went to Koh Samui to extend my visa beyond the 30d initial period (pretty painless I have to say). While I didn’t get to see the beach there, it seems the island is much busier than here (probably due to the airport). Koh Phangan seems more relaxed. Good times together with Jason (also injured after he fell badly on his back during sparring) and Elisa as well as her friend (both from Finland).

 

I also went back to see the Chinese temple given  my camera didnt work the first time round and got to chat a bit to fellow boxer Mercedes from Spain whi hadn’t done much sightseeing during her stay (its easy to get stuck in a train – eat – sleep routine here).

 

Koh Phangan’s fruit shakes … tasty!

The fruit shakes on the island are outstanding and at c1USD pretty cheap. If you need some inspiration … there should be plenty on the menu of my favorite shop right on Koh Phangan’s food market.

 

And then it was fight night with Holly and two trainers representing Diamond Muay Thai gym. 2 victories and one defeat – not bad. Admittedly, its a fairly brutal sport. Out of 6 fights, three fighters had plenty of blood in their face and four fights didn’t go the full, five round distance.

The weekend showed the island a bit more from its party side as we headed out Friday to celebrate a few Danish birthdays and Saturday the beachside house of Elisa’s friend. Nice spot and some great times altogether … be it a little exhausting at times.

 

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Hello Thailand & Koh Phangan: Muay Thai training begins

Pretty eventful the time in Thailand so far. Looking forward to spending another month here and improve fitness and my Muay Thai skills. 

NYE in Bangkok: Given the late arrival from Bahrain (9pm) things had to work out should I want to make it to my NYE party. They did, with immigration and luggage picked up swiftly as well as a speedy new SIM card (still can’t believe that BT mobile is allowed to charge clients GBP5/MB roaming … thieves!). My hotel was in the area Sukhumvit, as recommended by friend & DJ of the night Tim. By 11pm and freshly showered (what a pleasure after this long journey) I made it to ‘Mango Tree on the river’ restaurant on which rooftop we would meet the new year.

It didn’t take long for me meet up with Jan & his friends. I met Jan briefly in London some years back, but we had our last night out many years ago in HK. Facebook helped to discover that we are both in BKK for NYE. Much to talk about! The party was good and the location offered some great views over Bangkok and its rivers though I understand last year there was more fireworks visible. Once we had all greeted 2018, Jan’s girlfriend left … giving us the time to go out for a walk and talk on the way. It didn’t take long until we stumbled into a Buddhist celebration, enjoyed a ride on the Tuk-Tuk and a last beer before Jan called it quits. I continued to explore the city for a while after though was surprised that just few bars (other than the infamous go-go bars) were open late on NYE. 

Not having slept in a proper bed since my last night in London meant that I didn’t see much of the daylight on new years day, but finally made it into the buzzing streets of Bangkok in the afternoon. I stayed mainly in the Sukhumvit area (expat dominated & expensive) and enjoyed some good banter with a few lads outside an Irish pub (the toilet of which boast with really funny scriptures, see below). There was Al (a 51y resident of Bangkok, originally from the US, brought mass mailings to Thailand) and there was John (working in BKK for 6mth, also US) and a bit later was a Scottish guy (professional caddy as it was). Al was the funniest of them all. He could not only do the Michael Jackson dance, but also perform the Superman (happy to show to anyone as & when we meet ;o). Over a few beers we discussed quite a range of things from running styles to (very strange) sexual preferences of Japanese girls as reported by our Scottish caddy. Proper boys round I guess. Later at night we hit the Nana area with plenty of bars and life music. Needless to say … it got pretty late again. On the way home I even managed to enjoy some Thai strreetfood with one of the many ladyboys … 

Getting to Koh Phangan: Initially I wanted to go to the island by night train to Surat Thani and then a ferry. However, tickets were sold out and hence I got myself a late flight into Surat Thani. The night in the airport hostel was lets say practicable be it not overly nice and very disorganised. Thai people can take a lot of time to do their things. Early morning back to the airport and onto a bus for 90mins after which a speed ferry takes you to Koh Samui (2h) and then Koh Phangan (30min). All in for 500THB, not bad. 

May Thai Training begins: At the pier it was pretty busy, as many partygoers returned from the monthly full moon party (for which the island is known). The Diamond Muay Thai gym and camp is only a 10-15min walk away from the pier. I skipped the taxi option and carried my stuff the short way … which under the blazing sun turned into my first training session I guess. At the camp some private training was in progress and the check in to my bungalow very straightforward. My new home for four weeks. Basic as can be without toilet, shower or A/C (and with a funky, pink moquito net ;o). Next to the camp is the kitchen with its fruit bar and laundry service.

Muay Thai sessions are held twice a day (except Sundays) at 8-10am & 4-6pm and you can opt for additional yoga and fitness classes each day (if you can manage). I joined the afternoon session and despite my preparation in Colombia it was a tough one, but so rewarding once you are done. Fitness will come through step by step over the coming weeks. Altogether I managed to squeeze in 5 sessions this week (and one yoga) before taking Saturday and Sunday off nursing some smaller injuries on both feet and my knee.

New friends & training partners: There loads of people coming and going here all the time. Many stay for a month and so time will overlap for a bit longer. So far I had some deeper conversations with Stefan (Germany) & Jason (AUS) – both conspiracy guys as well as with Frits from Holland who joined me on my Sunday temple tour. In general you find many German, Dutch, Russian, Swedish, Australian and British folks in our camp. I really enjoy the positive atmosphere – be it during training or over post training meals. 

Exploring the island: Last week I managed to see a few places. Having a scooter really helps and is good fun to take a ride around. First up Mae Haad beach with its land bridge to Ko Ma island, then a temple tour with Frits on Sunday (Chinese temple, Wat Phu Khao Noi, Wat Pho) and the Phaeng waterfall. Many places offer great views over the island. I also visited the food market several times (there are actually a few, but one is more permanent in the centre and offers great food at low prices). On Saturday Stefan had a go at the insects offered at the food market near the pier. I tried some sort of bug – not that bad, but nothing to get too excited about either. We rounded up the week with a visit to one of the sunset bars – Top Rock bar – on Sunday. Great vibes, great views, great time.

How to prepare for a climb into the ‘death zone’ (8,000m+)? (I)

First of all – you have to watch this video (link) for some amazing footage of Everest (and Lhotse) and Ama Dablam in a helicopter flight from Kathmandu. Maybe the madness grabs you too!

Many people ask how one prepares for a climb above 8,000m. I don’t claim to be an expert, but let me share my training regime and some thoughts around it. Starting point for my considerations was that I live in London and have limited time to train elsewhere (at least initially). I planned my training around two main blocks: fitness + endurance and outdoor, environment + equipment. Today I will focus on the fitness aspects only, which apart from helping you hike also help to keep fit (sick on the mountain often means expedition end).

Fitness & Endurance training: My starting point wasn’t too bad, but not grerat either. I had quit smoking about a year earlier and had spent my three month gardening leave in summer 2015 walking some 1,400km in Ireland, Spain & Italy. However, all that fitness disappeared pretty quickly as I settled back into office life resulting in my first ever belly. I felt fat for the first time in my life (where i enjoyed a mostly asparagus like shape). While I was still working full time, I spent around 7-10hours per week training and around 25-30hours since January. My preference is to mix workouts (better for body & mind) and not to forgot the fun aspect. Injuries, unfortunately, became a regular companion (hamstring, pulled muscles, inflammation, …) and Ibuprofen a necessary ‘dessert’ all too often.

Sample trainings plan (full time)

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Sample trainings plan (while working)

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  • Run & cycle outdoor: While still working I ran some 10km to / from work (right through Hyde Park & along the Thames). Get a Strava account and see how you improve your times on key sections (great challenge for commuter runs). Since the injuries I prefer the Boris/Santander bike to reduce the impact. Key positive: Its real, you can slot it in anytime and its free. Key negative: Running caused me injury (calves/hamstring) all too often and so I had to switch to the treadmill (have now decided to take up running school as I have poor technique on top of an ageing body).

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  • Barry’s bootcamp: Being generally sceptical of gym based workout this was not my own idea, but suggested by Chanel. A typical work out involve 50/50 interval training on the treads and floor workout to condition body & core. Cost is GBP20 for a single session, but with a multi session package and company discount this drops to about GBP15 or thereabout. Key positives: Interval training conditions your cardio well and group pressure / push from trainer (moderates the session through mic) push’s your limits. Early sessions start at 6am and slot in nicely before work (you wouldn’t believe how popular they are!). Key negative: Little scope to work on endurance (running intervals are usually 4-5mins before you switch back to the floor) and clearly not at all reflecting outdoor conditions.

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  • The Altitude Centre: Based near Bank station in the city it was a perfect match. You can run/cycle/row in a hypoxic chamber simulating 2,700m altitude (15% oxygen level) and there is an altitude pod that simulates up to 6,000m (very popular with hikers headed to Kilimanjaro). Won’t help you to acclimatise for the ‘death zone (8,000+)’, but at least your oxygen saturation is adjusted to about 3,000m. Key positives: Train at almost 3,000m altitude during your lunch break! Good selection of solo and moderated interval training sessions to push your limits. Key negatives: The three month event prep package at GBP175/month isn’t exactly cheap.

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  • Trube: My good friend Tibo suggested this app to me sometime late summer last year. Currently only available in London, you can order trainers to come to your home (or any other place). They offer personal training, boxing, kickboxing, pilates, yoga etc. About GBp35 per session for an 8 session per month package. I often used the app to fill early morning slots (isn’t it nice to wake 5.30am for a boxing session in your living room ;o). Key positives: Super flexible and efficient. Motivates you to get out of bed when you have a 5.30am appointment before work. Very affordable for 1:1 training even after recent price hikes. Key negative: You need to have the space and its not as effective as working out in the gym.

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  • Muay Thai & regular boxing: Boxing conditioning is great for your cardio. I got into it through Trube and then switched to gym based training. Muay Thai I now train mainly in ‘Fightzone London’ in Bethnal Green under Jose Varela (European champion 2014, World champion 2015, interview video) and with my Trube coach ‘Super’ Shane Campbell (active MMA fighter, video). Boxing I do mainly in the old fashioned, but great, gym ‘All Star Boxing’ on Harrow Road and sometimes with my other Trube coach, Shahid from Morocco. Usually 1.5h – 2h conditioning, bag, shadow boxing and sparing sessions. Killer – they are called KO circuits for a good reason! Key positives: Usually gyms offer midday, evening and weekend sessions. Nice to train with people (you don’t get this in a gym like Barry’s) and its not too expensive. Really good all round conditioning that makes a difference. All Star charges GBp8-10 / session and Fightzone’s GBp60 monthly membership works out to GBp7.50 too. Key negatives: Prepare to get hit. Prepare to get told off (and listen or you face push-ups).

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‘Super’ Shane Campbell

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‘Gym’ chez Rocket’s living room

  • Indoor & ice climbing: Cedric, who I spent most with talking about the trip and who joined me on my ‘interview’ with my Lhotse guide Tim up in Lake district back in October, got me into climbing being the keenest sportsman alive! We went to Westway, which has some very good indoor climbing facilities. Some proper hot shots train here including the UK national team. Beyond the traditional indoor climbing I also booked a few ice climbing sessions at Vertical Chill based in Ellis Brigham’s outdoor shop in Covent Garden. Again, not really required but its great to ‘be able t dance on you crampons’. Who knows when it will come handy … and I love it anyway. Key positives: Gets you into some basic rope techniques, securing yourself, belaying others, abseiling and lead climbing etc. So you get some technical skills should you need them either for rock or ice. Very good also to improve core strength! Climbing drains your arms in no time if your technique is off (against common thought you are meant to climb mainly with your legs). Key negatives: Helps your strength, but will unlikely be required on Lhotse and doesn’t do much for endurance.

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Westway climbing wall

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Vertical Chill

  • Tennis: The initial drive for that was to have a joint sport with my (now ex) girlfriend. I liked it and had quite a few 1-1 training sessions with John at close by Paddington Rec. Gets your heart-rate up and hitting this little yellow ball is just a great feeling. Key positives: Good for cardio and different to just working out. Key negatives: 1-1 training not cheap at GBp45/hour, otherwise you’ll need to time your session with a partner, and good luck finding a free court after Wimbledon was on TV!
  • Working out at home: Working out at home is certainly a cheap option and with a few accessories (I use weights, matts, abs roll, finger board) you can easily put together an hour of work out. Key positives: Cheap & super flexible. Key negatives: Needs a lot of determination … certainly in the early hours.