The topics for this blog will range far and wide but suffice it to say I’ll spend a fair time talking about strength training, politics, culture, the expat life, languages, cooking, wine and anything else that strikes my fancy. For now I’ll do this on a somewhat anonymous basis as I plan to keep it real and I’ve better things to do than deal with legions of Red Bull-guzzling trolls.
Firstly, I suppose, I should introduce myself. I could only probably call myself middle-aged if I believe I’ll live to 100. I am American (born to American parents) but I wasn’t born in the US, spent a decent part of my childhood outside the US and now have spent the majority of my adult life outside North America. The word “expat” often connotes somebody who goes “abroad” for a year or so, interacts to varying degrees with the new culture/language and eventually goes “home”. That is not my situation. If you met me today and we spoke English, I have an undeniable North American accent, albeit a non-regional, neutral one. The way I talk, my mannerisms and many of my cultural references are American. In my experience, you have to live in a country for fairly long time to even begin to understand it. Conversely, not living in country for extended periods of time means that you lose context and a shared cultural history, even in the internet age.
I work in the financial services industry in what, I suppose, could be considered a middle management post. Don’t panic, that will never figure in any blog posts but I mention because it because one of my recent areas of interest is sports and social class. The classic example would golfing. In my experience, if you want to network effectively, golf is unbeatable. Running or training for endurance sports are well-regarded as well and offer many opportunities for professional “bonding” over lunch time runs. Strength training…not as much. The truth is, in certain social circles, if you strength train to the extent it’s obvious to casual observer you’re regarded as a sort of emotionally-stunted freak. I strength train (mostly powerlifting) because I love the mental and athletic challenge. I love the team spirit and atmosphere in a good powerlifting gym as it’s similar to a serious dojo (except for the music cranked to 11 and abundant chalk dust). While increased strength is the ultimate goal, increased muscle mass is indeed a byproduct.
How people react to this “mass” is, I think, fascinating. It’s like a Rorshach test in many ways. Nobody feels free to walk up to visibly gaunt ultra-marathoner at a party and say things like “What you’re doing is so unhealthy and visually unappealing. Furthermore, women really don’t like this look. Do you have a psychological problem that compels you to run distances that I find extreme”? Put on a bit of muscle mass, however, and it’s open season. In my lifetime I’ve been thin to gaunt (running and martial arts), normal (less running and bit more general aimless gym time) and had of period of “few years into your marriage/young kids at home/total lack of exercise” induced pudginess. Not once during those periods was I ever approached by friends, family, acquaintances or total strangers at a party and given what amounts to negative feedback. It’s not all negative, there is plenty of positive (ahem) feedback too. That’s what so interesting – why have a strong reaction either way?
For those of you not familiar with strength sports, powerlifters by and large would never been confused with bodybuilders. While some are pretty jacked, the most common look is what’s known as “fuscular” i.e. there’s s six pack in there some where under that layer of fat. Aesthetics are not a priority. I’m in the latter category. I could be leaner, perhaps, were it not for my diet. That doesn’t mean I eat crap, though. I eat “clean”, cooking most of my food myself from organic sources whenever possible. I also take pains to eat balanced, nutritious meals and take supplements (fish oil, vitamin d3, creatine, maca) judiciously. I don’t take PEDs, but not from a moral standpoint. Rather, my body still produces things like Testosterone in pretty decent quantities. Why introduce exogenous sources for a short-time and risk f**king up my hormonal health long term? No thanks. That being said, I drink wine and beer like they aren’t going to make any more. Yes, yes, I know it’s bad for you. We are dichotomous creatures. Yin and yang is an actual thing.