Stupid things people do in a midlife crisis…the workout insanity version…

For ages the pre-requisite for a full-blown midlife crisis was the ownership of either a very fancy and shiny new sports car or a Harley Davidson; however, in recent years, I’ve noticed many of my friends pursuing the other path towards retaining some semblance of youth — the nutty workouts. Perhaps most notably, the marathon. And surprisingly, most of my friends that made the decision to do the marathon had succeeded.

I’m not that stupid (sorry). I know my joints won’t hold up, and I don’t need to have a massive coronary on the 25th mile either. I know my limitations. Those who can, great. Those who can’t — like me — will do something else. Maybe I am that stupid…

For the past year, I have been spending loads of time in the gym downstairs, as well as in the many hotel gyms I end up around the world. I have been pushed towards Crossfit by some, but my downstairs gym just doesn’t have the facilities, and I find driving to the gym at 1am (my usual workout time) pretty awkward. So I have my own regimen, and I punish myself pretty hard on weights and cardio.

However, tonight, in the spirit of the Olympics, I found a new way to torture myself and that fist-sized muscle in my chest. I can’t (and won’t) do a marathon, which kind of rules out the triathlon — even the Olympics version. And at 1am it is rather dangerous to do anything outside, from dodging potholes and dog crap to drunk drivers and drug dealers (this is, after all, still Norwalk). So I have conceived of an ill-conceived regimen to test…the indoor wannabe triathlon…

Yeah, that’s right. The Olympics’ version of the triathlon involves a 1.5km (0.93 mile) swim, a 40km (25 mile) bike ride and a 10km (6.2 miles) run. Of course I had to convert it a little… Pool is closed at 1am and it’s not exactly a good pool to do that kind of thing, so I substituted the same distance on an Arc Trainer, which involves full-body effort in a ski-like motion. That’s the closest equipment I can imagine. Then the cycling on a stationary at a low-to-moderate resistance. Then finally a long tread run, although I may switch to using an elliptical just to take the strain off my feet (which doesn’t like the pounding).

So I did it tonight for the first time, and I am utterly drained… Perhaps hitting the weights beforehand was a stupid idea, and having beach volleyball on the TV was not that inspiring for this type of activity… The hardest thing was to treat this as a cardio session, which means managing my heart rate rather than pushing at maximum speed. Plus I put the resistance up. And when Conway Twitty accidentally comes on the MP3 player (thank you shuffle), it really drains your momentum…

I think, writing this after a tall glass of milk, that I am a total moron for doing this. I am not gonna be able to wind down to go to sleep until at least 5am at this stage… I need to switch to waking up at 3am to do this first thing…but that forces me to go to bed by 10pm, and I am a night owl. Oh, dilemma…

Yeah, this is a midlife crisis. I do and will keep doing stupid things because I am stupid, and my brain is going through slow atrophy. The day the crazy workouts end and I close each and every night with a scotch is the day my midlife crisis ends and I am on the slippery slope down towards l’Inferno.

What I eat and what I dread…

Those not familiar with me and my crazy tastes, I am a devotee of food that is rooted in the ingredient. I prefer ingredient over technique any day, and am a huge sceptic of molecular. I prefer local Sicilian or Galician cuisine than any Parisian sauce overdose, no matter how many M-stars or accolades the chef has. I hate pretentious cooking and those that have no respect for animals.

I have a deep love for mushrooms — the wilder the better — as well as game meats (not game birds, mind).

As someone who deeply respects animals, I believe whole-heartedly in nose-to-tail eating. If we’re going to eat an animal, we should have the basic decency to enjoy all of it. As a former hunter and current advocate for hunting, I find hunting for trophies utterly odious if the main point is not using the animal for food. A grilled 3rd stomach at Hakata Yamaya in Torrance (CA), some crispy pigs ears as beer snack at Karja Kelder in Tallinn (Estonia), aromatic sisig with lots of snout at Maharlika in New York City, or a big bowl of flaczki at Folk Gospoda in Warsaw, beats 99% of dishes.

I really despise ‘trendy’ restaurants and those that live on PR and nothing more…and too many such places exist, especially in big cities like New York and London. I don’t want to list them, but I think you know which ones I mean. It’s a shameful industry sometimes. It kills many small but innovative places, as well as classic old-school but awesome institutions. There’s little better day in NYC than going from a classic but wonderful dish of caracoles (snails in garlic sauce) at old-school El Pote to an innovative “buffalo” sweetbread at Recette.

My 3 favourite restaurants in North America reflect those values: Hakata Tonton (NYC), Il Grano (LA), Joe Beef (Montreal). Don’t even ask me about bad meals I’ve had at ‘top’ restaurants like Marea (NYC) and Girl & the Goat (Chicago). Then as you travel the continent you find gems like Canoe (Toronto), Circa (Memphis), Craigie on Main (Boston), Incanto (SF), Lacroix (Philadelphia), L’Etoile (Madison), Longman & Eagle (Chicago), and so forth…

I can’t even list my faves in London… Spanish we have the hake’s head of Pizarro to presa of El Pirata to oxtail of Cambio de Tercio. British cooking at its best with Hereford Road, Chinese we have amazing stuff from Royal China Club to Pearl Liang to China City. Japanese we have varied from amazing dishes at Umu to Yashin Sushi. Then there’s the mackerel at Locanda Locatelli, awesome steak at Hawksmoor, and even the humbled mixed tandoori at Kishmish… Too many good things…

So I hope you enjoy my food adventures with me…if you can’t feast like that, then eat vicariously thru me!

Starting up again…a multi-faceted blog focused on food and international affairs…

Yeah, that’s a bloody mouthfull…but that’s me in a nutshell. I used to blog on dining exclusively (as the un-missed “Lone Diner in NYC”) and write professionally on international affairs (especially on Estonia and the Baltic region), but that’s before my midlife crisis hit…

Yeah, yeah, it’s a cliché but it does happen when you are approaching an age you don’t quite like. However, I am determined to eat and pontificate through it all…

Those of you looking to punish yourself can read all my posts, but I will categorise the items very clearly so you can directly link and not bother with my rants about what’s happening in Tallinn or how much a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant sucked.

But please make this interactive, I look forward to doing this again as I blog about this nutty part of life.

I am single, I work for myself, and I am directionless except to eat and yell. Yep, I am in a midlife crisis. Terviseks.