For today’s article, I wanted to interview longtime Nerd Fitness reader Evan. Why him? Because he’s a normal guy just like you (30-something, works at a computer)…but he’s been practicing Muay Thai boxing for the past year, which is bad-ass. I wanted to show that there are other ways to get in shape other than lifting weights and running on a treadmill. Check it out!
NF: Thanks for taking the time Evan! Let’s kick things off with what do you do for a living.
Evan: I do a wide mix of video production – shooting, editing, graphics – and web development (php/mysql, flash/AS), primarily on a freelance basis. I also run a small startup (localbizblogs.com) with a couple of friends and a competitive film-making team (itdonnedonme.com) when I have free time…which isn’t often.
NF: When did the change come, and what made you change?
Evan: Growing up I ate pretty well and played all kinds of sports; I even surfed and went rock climbing frequently. However, after college when I started working, exercise became less of a priority as I got more and more wrapped up in work. Things happened slowly enough that I never really worried too much about it, but I as my weight crossed the 200 lb. mark I finally had to admit to myself that things were going in the wrong direction. I felt older than I should – knees and joints were giving me problems, I got winded easily, and I was getting heartburn regularly.
A couple years ago I joined the local YMCA and started going daily, spending 45 minutes on the treadmill and doing some free weights. I dropped 15lbs and two pants sizes in a couple of months – but then I got burned out and 6 months later I was right back where I started. Working out for the sake of working out just didn’t interest me so I knew I couldn’t keep it up for too long. I needed to find something that was fun.
NF: How did you get involved with Muay Thai boxing?
Evan: Last year, my blood pressure hit the ‘pre-hypertension’ range and the only really effective way to control it was regular exercise. My wife and I began walking our dog every morning as a way to add some more exercise into our daily routine. One morning I found a postcard on the trail with a picture of Tony Jaa (pictured right) in the middle of a flying knee strike! It was for a local gym that was running Muay Thai ‘boot camps’ – 5 days a week at 6am for 4 weeks. I’d done a couple of years of Karate when I was 10 and had always wanted to give martial arts another try, so I figured the boot camp was a good way to try something – after all if I didn’t like it it was only 4 weeks.
I didn’t finish the first class because I felt dizzy and nauseous. So I sat out the rest of the class and realized how out of shape I was. I left that day feeling miserable but doubly motivated to come back the next day. I did, and by the end of four weeks later I was completely hooked (and in horrible pain) – I immediately signed up for the next session.
NF: What kinds of changes have you noticed?
Evan: I’ve noticed a lot of changes! I’ve lost about 15 pounds of weight, but my total fat loss is much higher as I’ve definitely put on muscle – everything is bigger and better defined now. I’m still 15-20lbs heavier than my ideal weight – as they say you can’t outrun your diet. I’m starting to cut back on eating out now to see if I can cut down to 180 in the next couple of months.
My flexibility is steadily improving, my endurance is significantly better, and recovery time has really improved. Minor knee problems that had irritated me for years have gradually disappeared, I can do squats without pain, my balance has improved, I can do more push ups than I’ve ever been able to, and I’m starting to be able to do pull ups again. I’m basically feeling like I’m getting younger physically and close to being in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life.
Then there’s the confidence aspect of it. When I first tried sparring I mostly ended up covering up and turning away from my opponent; now I can take a punch or kick and come right back with my own attack. You learn that the line from Rocky is absolutely true – “it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” Nothing truly drives the point home quite like actually getting punched in the face! Much better to learn that lesson in the ring than out on the street.
In addition to the fitness aspects I’ve also met a bunch of great people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds but all have this common interest that brings them together – which spills over into life outside the gym as well.
The biggest thing is that I’m still excited to go to the gym every day. It’s changed my attitude about fitness – before, ‘getting in shape’ was a task to be completed, now I look at it as an ongoing process that I’ll still be doing a year from now. It’s gotten easier but never easy. I’m having fun, challenging myself and watching the improvements come steadily – basically, leveling up.
NF: Favorite game to unwind?
Evan: Outside of college (where I played practically everything over the LAN), the SSX series is the only one I’ve really put a lot of time into. I’m both annoyed that they haven’t shipped one for the PS3 yet and relieved because my productivity will drop for weeks as soon as they do. There were a couple of hints in Burnout Paradise that it might be on it’s way soon though, so we’ll see – it’s going to have to fight with Muay Thai for my time now…
NF: Advice for people looking to get started in Mixed Martial Arts?
Evan: The ‘mixed’ aspect of MMA is the best part – it means there’s always something new to learn. Regardless of whether you want to compete or just get in shape I’d say the most important thing is finding the right gym – if you like the instructors & other students you’re far more likely to keep going regularly.
If you’re interested in actually doing it competitively you’ll probably want to start with Muay Thai & Jiu Jitsu as they have emerged as the core styles most fighters use. However, we’re starting to see guys like Lyoto Machida, Georges St. Pierre, and Cung Le show that traditional martial arts styles can be extremely effective as long as you combine them with a wide knowledge of other styles – so I’d say the particular style isn’t as important as long as you find a place that’s going to motivate you to keep at it.
NF: Thanks for your time Evan!
You can check his team’s latest documentary about fire performers here:
The next project is a documentary on a long distance runner who’s participating in a 24-hour endurance race (no set distance – run as far as you can in 24 hours) at the end of October. It’ll be the first in a series called ‘Normal People’ about, well, normal people who are passionate about and do things that other ‘normal people’ might think are crazy.