I’m often told that I’m still young at 25. I’m not disputing that. But even at this age I’ve lost some of what I had when I was 18.
At 18, I could do 70 consecutive push-ups. Right now, I might manage 30 on a good day. That’s just one example, but it gives you an idea of where I am now compared to six or seven years ago.
An ex told me that a co-worker was talking with her and said, “You should’ve seen what Richard used to look like.” She asked me why she couldn’t have “that” version.
It wasn’t the most inspiring conversation.
I’m writing about it because it really sums up what I’m trying to do — I’m trying to get something back. “That” Richard. Physically, I want what I had when I was in the military and grappling five times a day on top of going to the gym.
With that in mind, it was refreshing to finally be at a serious martial arts gym again. Milton Muay Thai — in, ahem, Milton — is about a 15 minute drive away and offers exactly what I’m looking for: traditional-style Muay Thai training. It’s similar in approach to the gym I’ll be at in Bangkok. I’ll be preparing at MMT for about two weeks before I fly out. After a friendly back-and-forth on Facebook Messenger with the manager, Rommel, I decided to start training immediately. The evening class started at 7 p.m. Rommel said I shouldn’t eat or drink anything except water three hours beforehand.
I imagined legions of newbies eating dinner at 6:30 and then puking their guts out in front of their teammates on the clean mats. I don’t want to be that guy, I thought.
I remembered the long, early-morning runs in the army. Maybe half the platoon would drop out at some point in the jaunt, and I’m proud that I never did. What I did a lot instead was dry heave (the morning run was before breakfast). Though this would often earn the praise of my instructors, which is a rare commodity in boot camp, the 10 second pat on the back would be followed by about a minute of derision for having not vomited on the go at seven miles per hour.
For that reason, I have an especially bad relationship with exercise-induced puking. More so than what’s normal.
So when dinner was served at chez Raycraft at 6, I crossed my arms and turned away. That definitely saved me from puking on my first day of training. What I got instead may have been worse than that.
As expected, the people at Milton Muay Thai were friendly, professional, and physically demanding in exactly the way I wanted.
“What they do in Thailand is three, maybe fives times this,” the instructor yelled.
I shuddered between burpees. I can’t say the thought didn’t excite me, though. Am I turning into some sort of self-sadist?
I was happy to see that a lot of my kickboxing hasn’t left me. I can still throw good, crisp combos without letting my hands drop, and my kicks hit the heavy bag with a satisfying thud. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun working out.
“Alright, now we’re going to leg kicks,” the instructor said.
Perfect. I like all the drills, but what I’m really excited for are the techniques exclusive to Thai boxing — leg kicks, knees, elbows.
All of a sudden, the world goes technocolour. I look at my hands and they’re shaking. I feel like I’m on the verge of losing conciousness. Worse, I feel like I’m going to puke violently. I have generalized anxiety disorder, but I don’t get panic attacks. This was something different, something I’ve never experienced.
I tap my partner, tell him he’s going to need to make different plans for the drill. Poor kid.
“Washrooms are right there if you’re going to puke,” the instructor, interrupting his instructions to the class, tells me.
Those washrooms are pretty conveniently located for situations like this. Probably not a coincidence.
I go outside and take deep breaths. I feel better within three or four minutes. Not 100 per cent, but I’m still conscious at least. I do the walk of shame back to the gym.
In spite of my embarrassment, I wandered over to the admin desk to buy a membership, a pair of Muay Thai gloves, and shorts.
It had to be low blood sugar. I hadn’t had a meal in five or six hours, and here I was putting my body through hell with no fuel. That was hella stupid, and definitely wasn’t worth it just to avoid having an upset stomach during class. But I learned my lesson — maybe have something light two hours before class starts.
That’s what I did yesterday. I was worried because I got my vaccinations for Thailand around noon, and that made my arms feel heavy without punching any pads. It turned out to be just a minor nuisance. I ate dinner on a small plate, like I was sitting at the kids table at a family gathering, about an hour-and-a-half before class started.
Tuesday’s class was less brutal, even though I spent the entire time promising sweet Baby Jesus I’d never skip leg day again. I’m not even religious, but that was the level of my thigh-agony.
During the cool-down stretch, we were asked to do splits as far as we could go.
“Wow, that’s impressive,” the instructor said.
“It didn’t win me any points with the ladies in co-ed gym class,” I replied.