at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Category: Training (Page 6 of 7)

Finding Ultra – Thoughts on Rich Roll’s Memoir

Sure, we are all humans, we share a common biology and psychology – but personalities are also pretty different and conditions rather unique. So, just as I’d rather not watch TV anymore but live my own life (as much as  TV series may be the myths of the modern world), I’d rather live my own life than learn about other’s. Hence, no biographies. Then again, one can learn from other’s stories.

Finding Ultra banner imageAs for Rich Roll‘s story, as described in Finding Ultra…it truly had me hooked.

His being an Ultraman triathlete with a family and a career sounded good enough, accomplishing what he does on a vegan diet made it all the more interesting – but then, there’s his (earlier) life story of an all-American career.

At college, he may have looked either like one of those athletic types  who are admired and get good-enough grades to boot, or like one of those binge drinking students of many a Spring break horror story. Alcohol was the solution to shyness and social ostracism that had plagued the high school years.

Sports fell aside as the career got started – and the career was one that, again, may have looked good from the outside, but was really just coasting along on as little work as possible, in the legal profession stumbled into because of family background and the desire to not be adrift completely. As good as it may have looked, it was fueled by booze.

Maybe even more telling is the story that’s really the nadir of Roll’s tale: Getting into rehab took long enough, things luckily fell into place both professionally and personally afterwards… and that seems exactly the point, where most people get hung up on how life is as it goes, and goes well: wife, kids, house, job paying enough and even fun, relaxation in front of the TV with junk food, and the bulging belly that just comes naturally with success and normal life.

What fascinates me so much is that this story truly could have gone on just as Rich imagined it, winded just getting up a few stairs: on to a heart attack, maybe or maybe not living to see his daughter’s wedding (Hey, modern medicine is a miracle, right? Right?!?) – and it would just be a prototypical story of a life that was well-enough lived.

Most go for the easy solution: If you get afraid you haven’t done quite enough, let alone meaningful enough, with your life, just get over that midlife crisis the usual way. Get a fancy sports car, or start going to the gym and complaining that there’s neither enough time to get trim, nor enough success to really make it worth the time spent there. There’s still a bigger house to get, greater vacations to go on – or maybe a personal trainer. Or a younger wife or lover.

Even Rich’s transformation to triathlete seems not all that unusual. Many a person manages an active lifestyle from the get-go, or a change to more activity.

In the case of Rich Roll, though, the shift was one to an active lifestyle as well as  to a different food lifestyle, not just more sports making it possible to go on as before when it comes to eating, and life.

He does not escape getting political (but the issue of what we eat is a highly political one), nor somewhat preachy, but he also gets into his own misgivings about the preachy and political character of many a vegan lifestyle . In the process, even as chapter 7 (which is explicitly on his “PlantPowered” diet) reads more like a manifesto and is a rock in the stream of the story’s flow, Rich’s story is not just a captivating read about a life that was meandering between success and drunken stupor, but also a life – and not to forget, a physique – changed by knowing something of his own psychology (going all out or doing nothing, but having become willing to listen to a coach’s advice and to seek it out; needing a goal to stay on track…) and experimenting with diet to find ways of eating that are better for the future that he seeks.

In that change, and with the shift to Ultraman greatness that came with it, his example is a good one to tumble the common perception that you can, once you are invested in a certain life path, never really change things.

As much as one could argue that he had a good foundation in sports from his youth, or even that the fixation on diet and sports is still very self-indulgent, the way he jumped into change and experimented with his lifestyle holds lessons each and every one of us, huffing and puffing along a certain life path, ingesting “food” just as we have been taught to, could very much profit from using ourselves.

Feeling Frail (and a Touch of Finding Ultra)

Off into the Alps again for the last of the mountain races I’m participating in this year (and possibly the last official event since it looks like the Wachau marathon will fall victim to chile pepper-related events yet again).

You’d think that someone who does marathons and longer distances would be fit and feeling strong.

Even as such practices make it necessary to push through pain, however, they also make for a greater awareness of one’s being a body. And so, weaknesses become more noticeable: the cold caught after the mountain marathon around the Traunsee lake (nobody said such events themselves were good for fitness), the dearth of core and strength training in favor of endurance running, the recurring neck pain…

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The Human Pace and the Wide World

Pedestrian. It just means “walking, on foot,” yet the very word evokes images of peasants unable to afford anything but a pair of shoes, people who represent an obstacle to the flow of vehicular traffic, lives and things that are hum-drum, everyday, boring.

Road RunningIt is just these things that are the most normal, usual, that take the most effort to discover – and thus, it is no wonder that it took until the 19th/20th century for the “discovery” (or is that an invention?) of the flaneur, the person who walks just to be seen walking and to enjoy the walk through the city.

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“I’d Run Like That”

On a RunEasy training run recently.

Focusing on keeping the heart rate down.

At kilometer 10 of 12, coming past a guy and a girl at a picnic area just outside of town. Both went there on his motorbike, both are just post-teenage years, both a little heavyset, smokers.

She sits cross-legged on top of the picnic table, looks at me running past, mumbles “I’d run like that, too.”

If only she did, her life and the world might be better for it. EcoHappy-ly.
Except, she wouldn’t, and the quick glance and immediate interpretation of the scene – “wow, he’s slow” – betrays that she, in fact, doesn’t know the first thing about it.

I’ve experienced that sort of reaction quite a bit. The running tights, in particular, are only too good at getting the non-running folk to come out with all their stereotypes against anything and anyone that’s different.

Looking at people who did parkour was a great lesson on that, too. Young people, loitering around, jumping up and down walls… must be dangerous. They are at least going to hurt themselves, trying to emulate the stunts they see on TV (or make that YouTube). Except, often enough, they were some of the most mature and safety-aware “kids,” working to train both their bodies and their minds… but of course, you wouldn’t see that just from the looking.

We are quick to judge, and based on appearances at that – but we won’t know a thing until we’ve, well, run a mile in someone else’s shoes. Or 50 or 100 in our own, with them.

Bean Strudel, Purbach, Austria

Everyday Fitness: Dealing with Diet

There could not possibly have been a time when eating was as “unnatural” a matter as it is today.

Food Just Is

After all, for the longest time, having any food at all was a rather stronger concern than what particular food would be particularly good for you. Therefore, “You’ll eat what’s put on the table” was the usual attitude – and it must have been, since it was, for the vast majority of people, that you either ate what was available to you, or you starved.

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Suunto Ambit

The Ambit of an Exploratory Lifestyle

“I’m not impressed.”

It is easily the ugliest modern attitude that gets expressed by this phrase. As an attempt at coolness and aloofness that does not result in any of the freedom that a certain distance from the humdrum world could provide, it is nothing but proving that you are not really engaged in this world, at home.

Life, and especially in these times, is amazing.

We have modern technology making things possible that people have, for the longest time, hardly even dreamed about. We still have so much diversity on this planet, both natural and cultural. We can do so many things, learn about so much, and so easily.

But then, that may be just the problem.

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Couple at Chinese Uni

Be a Man… Or, What China Taught Me About Gender

They are some of those strange observations the foreigner makes in China:

Guy and girl sit next to each other in the park. They coddle each other, obviously very much in love.
Same people, same place, half an hour later: she has her back turned to him, sullenly plucks on some leaves, obviously irritated. He stands there, dumbfounded, obviously not quite knowing what to do.

Guy and girl walk down the road. She suddenly stops, pouts, “huhn”-s at him; he has to scramble for words to convince her that she’s the best and prettiest, and worth everything and anything, before she even takes another step.

Oftentimes, many such behaviors found widely among East Asian girls, along with a deep-seated fondness for everything cute and girly (not least in clothes and accessories), make their foreign observer incredulous.

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Snow Drifts

Winter Running Impressions

Snow, -10C, ~20 km/h wind, sun.
With the proper clothing and attitude, a lot of fun…. and I’m taking you with me, a bit like on the way around Vienna. Video and images after the fold.

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Stuck in Traffic

Everyday Fitness: Gym Sessions ≠ Active Life

The same way we know we tend to – and maybe should, maybe shouldn’t – separate work and life, we tend to put our everyday activities and our training time into different boxes. We separate when we should integrate.

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