- Exercise power -

6th August '17

I've said for years that it does you good to get away from life sometimes, and to look back at it from a distance.

I hadn't left Bangkok since February. Meaning that for February, March, April, May, June and July, I slept in the same bed every night, I woke up looking at the same walls every morning, I ate dinner watching the same TV every day, I looked at myself in the same mirror...

It's pretty easy to see how you can fall into some habits/routines, that when you look back at them with some perspective, seem a little nonsensical.

I come home every year now. In fact, I wouldn't even phrase it like that. It's more like I have two homes... two lives even.

I have my Bangkok life for eleven twelfths of the year, but then for that final month, I have my London life, in which everything is different.

From the climate of each city, to the building I live in, to the diet I eat, to the exercise I do. They're two lives I live every year, yet are both polar opposites of each other.

And it may sound rich to claim that I still 'live' in London per se, but I say so because there are certain sort-of... twitch reactions that I've had my whole life, that return the second I step foot off the plane.

For example, in my house in London there's one step on the staircase that I instinctively skip over when going either up or downstairs, because it used to creek whenever I stood on it as a kid.

Does it still creek today?

Don't know, I haven't stood on it for twenty years.

Another is that I still duck my head when I walk into my bedroom, because for a short time in my teenage years, I had a chin-up bar in the doorway.

I walked into it enough times, banging my head, that from now, perhaps until the end of time, I'll instinctively duck me head whenever I walk into my room.

There's a million little quirks like that, developed by spending my formative years in this house, and one more is that I put a dumbbell behind my bedroom door when I sleep.

Fifteen to twenty years ago, I used to have one of those racks that hangs clothes onto the back of your bedroom door. I used to hang all of my shirts on it and... well I had rather a lot of shirts. So many in fact that the sheer weight of them is the reason that the latch on my bedroom door doesn't align correctly with the receiver.

It means that you can't close the door properly, and even when shut, a simple gust of wind will blow it open.

With this being one of those weird countries that doesn't have AC in homes, I tend to sleep with a window a little bit open. And from being woken-up enough times in the middle of the night by my bedroom door swinging open when I was younger, it's still instinctive for me to sleep with a dumbbell behind the door, to make sure it stays closed.

I use the same pair of dumbbells that I got when I was about fifteen, and on my first night back, I did what instinctively came to me, and picked-up one of these dumbells, to put it behind my bedroom door before going to sleep.

Of course it's scientifically impossible to pick-up a dumbbell without trying to curl it, just like it's scientifically impossible to see a 'wet paint' sign without touching the wall. And... were these dumbbells always this heavy?

I'm sure that they were much lighter when I was fifteen.

I woke-up at 3:30am on that first night. That would be my normal getting-up time in Bangkok, taking into consideration the time difference, so despite only sleeping four or five hours, I was up. Great.

That was all it took though. I was only about eight hours from getting off the plane, and I'd been unconscious for most of it. But lying in bed at 3:30 in the morning, my mind started churning and thinking 'You need to change this in Bangkok. You should do something about that. You need to start doing this in Bangkok...'

All it took was half a day away, and I could already see all these things that were wrong with my life.

Now don't get me wrong, I love doing bodyweight exercises, and I think I'll always have a place for them in my exercise routine. But still, I woke-up at 3:30am thinking 'damn... I need to buy some dumbbells.'

I struggle to make space for even the smallest things in my tiny apartment though, so then I was like... well there's a Fitness First between my apartment and Lumphini Park, why not start going there?

During my first spell living in Bangkok, I missed having a gym so much that I pledged if I was ever to return, I'd make sure to find an apartment with one nearby.

That desire got squashed however, because during my visit to London in 2014, whilst I was living in China, I joined a gym here, which ironically alerted me to the benefits of bodyweight training, and I've never lifted a weight or been to a gym since.

I've also always reneged on joining the gym near my apartment in Bangkok, because my attitude is that there is no bad way to exercise, as long as you have variety. As long as you're not comfortable.

Just like trying to learn or improve at anything, if you only do activties that are familiar to you, then how can you expect to change yourself? Change comes from a necessity to adapt.

So my attitude is that I should be exercising as diversely as possible, in order to keep myself uncomfortable.

Bodyweight exercises: Good. Weight-training: Good. Running: Good. Swimming: Good. Yoga: Good.

The more diversity in the ways that you can physically stress your body, the better.

And well, at the cost I'd pay to join this gym (roughly £60 per month), I'd feel obligated to do all of my exercise there, at the sacrifice of doing bodyweight exercises in my apartment, and of running in Lumphini Park, and of swimming at my condo.

The rent on my apartment is far higher than it otherwise would be, just to be near Lumphini Park so that I can go running. So if I was to join this gym, it would have to be on the promise to myself, that I will continue to exercise the other ways that I do as well.

But that was all it took: Four to five hours sleeping in another bed, and at 3:30am on my first morning back, I was looking up the class times and opening hours of this gym. It wouldn't have even crossed my mind had I been sleeping in my bed in Bangkok.

I even looked-up if I've had any of my Facebook friends 'check-in' there because... well I don't want to accidentally go to the same gym as someone I know.

Those four hours of sleep also led me to the realisation of... ok, you've fallen into a bit of a stupor.

In Bangkok, you do the same things everyday. You do the same exercise, you fill-up your free time on your PS4. Time to get another hobby; time to do something that involves leaving your apartment, and actual, real people. Not just people halfway around the world that you shoot in Battlefield.

Joining a gym was my first idea, but was perhaps more a byproduct of the realisation that... you need to get a new hobby.

My first run back in London was one of expected disappointment, running the same 10.8km route that I've been running for years, although noticeably slower than at this time last year.

That wasn't unexpected because I'm well aware that I'm not as fit as I was at this time last year.

In March I ran 10km in 43 minutes at midday in Bangkok. Partly due to my work, partly due to my PS4, and partly due to apathy, I couldn't hope to run that quickly today, regardless of climate.

But none-the-less, I was two days off the plane, and I was already going out running. Which was important because only one month per year do I get such pleasant running temperatures.

The next day I did bodyweight exercises, then the day after I went running again, cutting two minutes off my time of two days earlier.

Having been limited by my job to three times per week last term, suddenly I started getting the drive to exercise regularly again. And having eight weeks with no work, it would only be laziness that would prevent me from exercising almost everyday.

I look forward to these two months off, because it's eight consecutive weeks, every year, that I can live without the shackles of a job. And I try to live as if I'll never go back to work again. By doing dumb things like joining a gym for £60 per month, that I might not have time for once work starts.

Will I actually do that?

I don't know, but the more I got back into exercising, the more I was determined that I would.

It's perhaps dangerous to build something into a near-certainty in my head, when in reality it might not actually happen.

The girl from my work who started at the same time as me, and who left last term, used to go to that gym. And she got a very favourable rate by sweet-talking them into giving her the corporate rate.

Knowing what she paid, my pride wouldn't allow me to pay any more, so me joining this gym is more or less contingent on them matching for me, what they offered to her. Which might not happen.

Next I used the dumbbells in my bedroom to do the first weight-training I've done since 2014.

Then I ran 19km, which I was kind of happy with, because only a couple of runs earlier, I'd struggled with 10km.

My motivation to join this gym was perhaps spurned by a feeling of betrayal by Sony, in that the PS Store suffers from a bug, which Sony won't even acknowledge, although as the Internet attests, affects thousands of people, whereby they're blocked from buying any games.

Hopelessly trying to fix it caused me no end of stress over my final days in Bangkok, and my first few days back here, seeing as there were three games I've been waiting to buy, all on sale half-price.

I eventually gave-up, angrily of the knowledge that I may never be able to buy games from the PS Store again thanks to a fault on Sony's part, and left with the conundrum of 'if I can't buy PS4 games anymore, then what will I do with my time?'

I know, I'll join a gym.

I'm unwilling to pay the commission charge to buy PS Store credit in a shop in Thailand, and physical discs, even second-hand, cost a lot more than special offer downloaded games in Thailand, so I seemed to be at an impasse. But then I rediscovered eBay.

eBay had emailed me a few months ago threatening to close my account due to inactivity. I logged-in to keep it open, so I have the same account as I always have; one that I opened in 2004.

I teach students who are only two years older than my eBay account. Do you know how old that makes me feel?

But a weird quirk that I've learned through necessity, is that for some reason, downloading games is far cheaper in Thailand than the UK, but physical games (discs) are far cheaper in the UK than in Thailand. If you're willing to scour the auctions of eBay anyway. In fact second-hand discs on eBay are significantly cheaper than the best historical price of most downloadable games in Thailand. Do you know what that means?

I can buy a PS4 game on eBay in the UK, and I can sell it at a profit just by taking it back to Thailand with me.

I'm not inclined to do so just to make money, but it did more or less give me a free-reign to buy all of the games from eBay that I wanted, knowing that as soon as I'm finished with them, I can sell them at a profit in Bangkok.

Getting a good price on eBay is a time-consuming thing. Luckily I have nothing to do whilst I'm back, so sitting on eBay waiting for my wish list of games to be available at a price I'd be willing to pay, suddenly became my new thing to do.

In fact, detemined not to let Sony get one over on me, it was more than just that. I looked up the historical lowest price that each of these games has been offered on the Thai PS Store. Then I converted that amount into pounds, and that was the highest price I was willing to pay for any of them.

Some of them are likely going to have to wait until next year, because being released in the past few months, the price is unlikely to get so low that I'm willing to pay it. But for other games, and this is the great thing about buying my console more than three years after it was released, there are hundreds of unwanted second-hand discs floating around. And knowing that I can sell all of them at a profit in Bangkok once I'm finished with them... let the bidding begin.

Suddenly I was back on the eBay train again.

The next exercise I did was weight-training again. Then I ran another 19km. Then over this weekend, yesterday I did bodyweight exercises, then today I did another weights workout.

Why?

Because the morons come out on weekends, and it's impossible to go running surrounded by people so unaware of their surroundings.

That, and I want to see if I can run 25km tomorrow, so I wanted to rest my legs.

I never managed to run much more than 25km last summer, so if I could match or even beat it this summer, albeit a lot slower, it would be something to cling onto. Something to tell myself that old-age isn't catching-up to me just yet.

I'm aware that it will one day. And although I've always promised myself that I'm going to age gracefully; I won't dye my hair if it turns grey, or use anti-ageing cosmetics, or pretend I'm not going bald. Although I've always promised myself that, it doesn't mean that I'm going to let ageing take my fitness from me without a fight. So little victories that I can hold onto, like being able to run further this year than I could last year, they're... nice.

Speaking of getting old and dying, it certainly appears that the status quo will remain in my life for the next twelve months.

Once I get back to Bangkok, I'm going to sign a 12-month extension on my condo. I'm about to get a new 12-month working visa, and sign a new 12-month contract with my job, for what that's worth. And if I get my way, I'll be signing-up to the gym for twelve months.

It would take a lot to pull me away from all of that in the next year. After that though...

Well I have unfortunately come of age, where I think about stupid things like "the future." And it's not lost on me that, at almost 32, I have no pension, no investments, I own no property, and no car.

I'm perfectly self-sufficient in my day-to-day life. If I ever retired or stopped working for any reason though, what do I have to fall-back on?

Exactly.

And the most obvious thing is to invest in a house or an apartment, except... oh yeah, I only have temporary residency in the country that I live in.

Foreigners can't actually buy houses in Thailand. I remember reading a law a while ago about how foreigners can't own land. They can however, buy condos, because their share of ownership of the land would be sufficiently small to keep everyone happy. Something like that anyway. So to the best of my knowledge, I can technically buy a condo in Thailand.

Unfortunately, that's a scary thing seeing as I'm only on a temporary visa that could, on the whim of the government, get taken-away for any reason, leaving me barred from the country in which I own a condo.

That's why I've never seriously considered buying one in Thailand before.

On the other hand, it's not lost on me that the rent I've paid for my condo over the last two years, is roughly 10% of what I'd have had to pay to buy it.

10% isn't very much, but if I'm still living there in another two years, or three years, or four years, it starts to add-up. That money I'm paying in rent, could have gone on buying my own place. So at what point do I say that I'm living in Thailand permanently enough, that I'm willing to invest in my own property?

I don't know, but I'm certainly aware that the rent I pay every month is being invested in nothing.

I've got a lot of research to do:

Can I even get a mortgage in Thailand? What happens if I own a condo but get banned from the country? Can I get a more permanent visa?

And then, do I even want to be tied-down like that? Because right now I can up and leave Bangkok on a whim. But how long do I have to stay in Bangkok for, before I say to myself "... ok. I live here?"

My last two years of rent could have paid for 20% of a condo cheaper than my current one, although not one any smaller or any worse to live in. Just one a little outside of the city centre and away from Lumphini Park.

It's something to think about. The status quo is more than likely to remain for the next twelve months, but how long after that can I continue to view Bangkok as a temporary home, and live with absolutely no investment in my future?

Except for some PlayStation games from eBay that I can sell for a profit in Bangkok.