Weights, Dates, and Protein Shakes in Melaka, Malaysia

Just kidding! No dates. Just weights.

Keeping up with my fitness can sometimes be a challenge on the road. I do well when settled and I know where the gyms are, but when you get to a new place, it’s sometimes hit or miss.
When I got to Kuala Lumpur, I only wanted to stay for a full two days. While there are plenty of gyms in the city, I decided to spend my time being a tourist. I did a lot of walking and didn’t even focus on doing my PT, but the hostel where I stayed wasn’t conducive to physical activity of any sort and what little I did left me sweating bullets.
It’s hot here, over 90 degrees F everyday and over 85% humidity. You sweat pretty much doing nothing and the heat index is typically over 100 F. It doesn’t really make you want to run to the gym, but when I got to Melaka, I found a few. It was difficult to get a feel for what was available on line. I found one that had a picture on their FB page with a one time use fee of 5 Ringgit, so about $1.25, but the Uber to get there was $2.50 (and then back), so it wasn’t the cheapest trip, but doable. “X-Factor Fitness” does have a Facebook page and they open at 3:00 in the afternoon.

Not a huge variety, but you can make do.

It’s not the biggest gym, nor is it air conditioned, but I made do with what was available. It’s ok to be creative as long as you have good form and best of all, there were some stationary bikes. For the first time since my injury, I was able to properly pedal, and not only did it NOT hurt, but it felt good. My quad stretched and responded to the activity. I think it released some tension that was stuck in the muscle. When I finished up my workout, the owner mixed me a chocolate Optimum Nutrition protein shake. For 5 Ringgit, I was pretty satisfied! So, if you need to get in a quick workout, this gym would suffice, but luckily, I found something closer.

My face when I’m riding the stationary bike apparently.

Datuk Wira Gan Boon Leong is a local politician who once possessed the title of ‘Mr. Universe’, ‘Mr. Asia’, and ‘Mr. Malaysia’ in body building. There are statues in Melaka that portray him during his glory days and they are hard to miss! The Gan Boon Leong Gym, named after this prized local, is on the other end of Jonker Walk from the Dutch Square. It was hard to find any details on this gym (except the history), and their Facebook page isn’t well managed. No hours are posted (not even by the door) nor entry/membership fees stated. When I asked about that, I was told the gym is quite popular, so they don’t really promote it so it won’t get too busy. ? Don’t businesses want to be busy? There’s hardly anyone there anyway. In any case, I wanted to share what little bit of info I got in case anybody is ever in Melaka and they want to go to this gym. And for the record, you should go. It’s like a museum for old gym equipment.

I don’t know why this old stuff is so funny to me!

Some of the equipment is so old it looks like medieval torture devices and the dust, well I think some of it arrived via the Portuguese Galleons back in the 1500s. Haha, but you can still lift weights that are old and dusty, prolly look like a badass doing it too! ?

These aren’t that dusty!

The man I spoke with said they are open Monday through Friday 9-9. Saturday is a “half day,” and Sunday they are open for apparently just three hours: 10:00 to 1:00.
The gym is big. It’s on the second floor of the building and the door way is at the other end from Jonker Walk. There are a few noteworthy statues outside that made for some good photo ops, again, worth the visit. It’s also not air conditioned, so bring lots of water. There are a a variety of machines and some free weights, however, many are broken so you may have to forgo some exercises or modify based on what’s available. I can easily spend hours there, especially because I incorporate my physical therapy exercises at the start and throughout my routine. I need to walk without a limp! Almost there….

Good photo ops all around!

So yeah, the gym is interesting and will definitely stand out as one of the more unique fitness experiences I’ve had here in Asia and at 5 Ringgit per visit, I’ll take it!

Food and Physical Fun in Kuala Lumpur

It has been my goal to not only keep up my blog posts, but to also focus on food and fitness while I travel. Today, I’m going to try to do just that while I share my day spent in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Every time I go somewhere new, it takes a bit to adjust. You have get accustomed to a new currency, new language, new customs, and new foods. That last one is always a struggle, the curious foodie in me wants to try everything, but the RD and injured Fitness minded person tries to hold off. I was in Thailand for over four months, so the desire to try everything lessened and I often cooked my own food or had my go-to decent meals and snacks. So far, I’m learning what I like here in Malaysia, as well. Thankfully, there are plenty of options and I can choose meals without rice and noodles. I’ve also seen a variety of juice and smoothie shops, and one even offered a whey protein add in. Cool drinks on hot days are quite refreshing, so happy they are an option.
It rained this morning and I was beyond disappointed. I don’t like rain. It just depresses me and has since I’ve been traveling. I ate breakfast in Chinatown and ordered grilled chicken with a side of sautĂ©ed cabbage and a fried egg.

Chinese food for breakfast!

I sat and mulled over how I’d plan my day considering the rain. Everything I wanted to see required me to mostly be outside. I had my iPad and notebook, so off to McDonald’s I went. They always have a reliable bathroom, cheap coffee, and I had to catch up on some work. I spent two hours (over one coffee) there and luckily, when I was ready to go, the rain stopped.
I’d wanted to hit up a gym while here, but the one that gives a free pass is quite far and may have cost me in transportation so I decided to add my own physical activity to the day and paid a visit to Bantu Caves. I saw them on the map and a google search proved they’d be quite an adventure, and a workout, with over 300 steps to reach the top. And as it turned out, there was another cave in the vicinity, so I did quite a bit of stairs.

The stairs go all the way to the top.

Thankfully, I fueled up with a banana smoothie made with plain yogurt and “chocolate powder” before I set off on the 11 km train ride out of the city.

Yep, I did all of that and more!

I felt so accomplished when I finished, not only did I make it up and down all the stairs, but I avoided the Indian sweet snacks and did my best to stay fully hydrated during the day. It’s hot here and humidity is a whopping 85%. I was feeling pretty ripe on that train ride back, but at least the AC was on!

You have no idea how much I love this stuff, but I had to pass! Gulab jamun!

When I got back to the city, the rain hadn’t started back up and I really wanted to go to the Petronas Towers. I scoped out the area and decided to leave the rest for tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll go up to the top and walk through the park.

This is my new pose- it shows I can now stand on one leg again!

By the time I left, my knee was getting sore so I sat and had some grilled chicken for a snack and made my way back to the hostel. It’s time to do some PT, but I’m tired of sweating! I did a lot today, walked over 6 miles, climbed a load of stairs, and managed to get some decent food in me.
I’ve found delicious chicken is available most places and chicken satay is a common meal, complete with a fairly decent sized serving of spicy peanut sauce. Cashew chicken was my go to in Thailand and here, it’s going to be chicken with peanut sauce. ?

Indonesian style dinner: Chicken, veggies, spicy peanut sauce, and a piece of delicious tempeh!

Knowing your healthy options is important. I tell this to my clients in the states as well. If you do not have time to prepare meals, or can’t, like me now because I’m bouncing around Asia and don’t have a kitchen available, it’s good to have some “go-to” meals that won’t break your calorie bank for the day. Although I’m a budget traveler, there are times I’ll spend an extra bit of money for a healthy meal. In Bangkok, I’d spend upwards of $6.00 for a salad at Gourmet Market. Having healthy meals actually makes me happy, so that’s one area where I’ll sometimes spend the money.
So, what about you? Do you want to try everything when you travel? What are your go-to meals and snacks and how do you incorporate physical activity on the road?

Chillies Around the World

This is an article I wrote for something else, but it was really interesting to write about so I wanted to share. I’ve modified it here so I’m not plagiarising my own work!

Do you like spice?  I sure do and some of my favorite foods incorporate a lot of it.  Ethiopian, Indian, Thai, and Mexican foods are some of my favorite cuisines and they all use chillies of some sort. When I was in the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan I was surprised to learn that this country, situated about 27 degrees north of the equator, uses a lot of chillies in many of their dishes as well. My eyes were watering, nose running, and lips burning from all the heat.  Yet, I enjoyed the pain and ordered traditional Bhutanese foods at every meal. Why do we do enjoy spicy foods that cause us pain? As it turns out, the heat in chillies is from a compound called capsaicin, which is the part of the pepper that attaches the seeds to the fruit. When we eat it, endorphins are released and we feel a “rush,” that’s why we keep eating them. Interesting, right? In addition to their heat and endorphin raising qualities, chillies provide a host of health benefits and have an interesting history.

Thai Cashew Chicken. One of many versions, but this one had a LOT of chillies in it.

Chillies are a popular spice and vegetable the world over, but their origins are in Central and South America. Over time, they landed in other parts of the world and are typically used in cuisines found within 20 degrees of the equator, so the tropics. Capsaicin has anti-microbial properties and plays a role in food preservation, so it makes sense for it to be used in warm climates, where food can go bad quickly. It repels microbes in humans and can kill or inhibit nearly 75% of the pathogens that lead to food spoilage. The chilli pepper has made it’s mark within many cultures and has become quite popular in the United States.

Recent studies show there are many benefits to eating this pain inducing food. Chillies contain antioxidants, vitamins C and A, can help with weight loss, may be protective against cardiovascular disease and diabetes, have been used to treat chronic pain and osteoarthritis, and when applied topically, can be effective in pain reduction. A study conducted in China showed regular chilli consumers (1-2 times per week) had a 10% lower mortality rate than people who ate spicy foods less frequently, and those who ate spicy food daily had an even lower risk of death. (I didn’t change any of this paragraph). 

Chillies play a role in satiety so they can help with weight loss. Our stomach receptors enable us to recognize when we are full when eating a spicy meal, so we eat less. Furthermore, some studies show increased metabolic activity in mice, leading to more overall calories burned. The compounds in chillies may break down LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, leaving HDL, or the “good” cholesterol intact, one of the mechanisms decreasing the risk for heart disease.  Chilli peppers can provide up to 40% of our Vitamin C needs per day. This is important because it helps synthesize collagen, carnitine, hormones, and amino acids, and it also has antioxidants.  

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons to incorporate chillies into your diet, you just have to decide how hot you want your meals to be! The heat given off by chillies is based upon Scoville units. This scale is based on human perception, but the American Spice Trade Association has created a universal scale based on ppm of capsaicinoids- the compounds in peppers that make the heat. For our purposes, let’s compare some of the common chillies we know in the United States using Scoville units:

Pure Capsaicin 16,000,000

Police Grade Pepper Spray 5,300,000

Chili de Arbol 15,000-30,000

Serrano Pepper 6,000-23,000

Jalapeño 2,500-5,000

Original Tabasco Sauce 2,500-5,000

Bell Pepper 0

Sometimes people say they don’t  eat bell peppers because they are too hot, but that’s not true! What about the ghost chili? It’s so hot it’s not even allowed in the United States: 1,000,000 Scoville units!

In addition to adding some zest to your meal, chillies are healthy, so turn up the heat! But like all things, consume in moderation. Take it from me, too many too fast can lead to temporary stomach upset. Watch the sodium content when using different hot sauces, as many of them often contain an unexpected amount of salt. 

Freedom On The Road

Wow! I’ve definitely learned I need to stop making plans! They always change. If you know me at all, I can be so detailed when it comes to doing things and traveling, but given I have more time on this journey, I’ve become a little more laid back in that department. In fact, sometimes it’s so much so my cousin and I have arrived to new places not having a place to stay or a way to get to our next destination!

I had everything mapped out. Then it changed. I remapped, then it changed. But it’s all good! The last few weeks have been awesome. Making connections on the road is great, but as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, at some point, everyone goes their separate ways and it’s kind of disappointing feeling you won’t see people again. Being in Bangkok for 7 weeks allowed me time to meet and connect with new people and I can and will see them again. Those “reconnections” are becoming more and more important because they provide some “normalcy” to this transient lifestyle. Additionally, my cousin came for a visit, so for the first time ever, I’m traveling with a family member and we have been getting along well. We met up with a girl I met while staying at Hom and we all spent a few days together in Malaysia and next week, my cousin and I will go back to Bangkok. I planned on staying a few days, but one of my friends wants to travel with me, so I’ll wait until she has time off from her work. And when I get back from that next “trip,” yet someone else I know from the states wants to come to Thailand, so back to the islands for me! ?

Ko Lipe, Thailand.

Yes, I travel with this small bear. I get some giggles and comments and I don’t mind at all. He’s replaced my prayer flags given to me by the Bhutanese monk I met in Nepal now that I’m not carrying my big pack. He was a Valentine’s Day gift and represents the importance of that human connection, especially those that continue on, even if only temporarily!

There’s no real “constant” on this type of journey, and while I do enjoy being a nomad, it’s nice having some stability and a reason to smile when you return to a city, even more, one you planned on avoiding!

My cousin and I in langkawi, Malaysia.

So many plans in the works with so many people!! Let’s see what the future holds and where my travels take me! For now, I’m excited to be in the islands and then to go back “Hom” to Bangkok!