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Why Gyms in Japan don’t actually suck.

 

I wrote previously about Gold’s Gym in Japan, I wrote about the rules and restrictions along with some of the good points that I had experienced.

Since then I have read many articles and forum posts criticising strange rules and regulations that Gyms in Japan impose and how foreigners struggle with them. I have also had the chance to extend my experience of Gyms here. This article is in defence of that criticism and also some points out some things that, in my opinion, Gyms in other parts of the world would benefit from implementing.

Clean

  • Indoor only shoe policy results in the environment being cleaner for everybody this way, how can that be a bad thing? The cleanliness of a Japanese Gym is phenomenal.
  • The staff clean, reset and calibrate the equipment constantly.
  • The close the Gym one day a month (while frustrating) it’s done in order to fully clean the entire venue.

The Staff

  • The trainers and staff are professional and attentive.
  • When they turn up for their shift, they casually walk the gym and greet the customers, it’s just a nice touch.
  • If you need a spot while you bench your body weight + some they are happy to oblige, not only that I have seen them rush to the rescue of overly ambitious lifters.
  • Again, the staff will also walk around the floor and clean the equipment, reset and keep the free weights organised if needed.

The Customers

  • Yes, it’s true you do see some very funny exercises that look like they are training for a new kamasutra position being performed by the odd Japanese patron, but the average local gym goer knows what they are doing.
  • No one is on their phone sitting on the equipment pretending to be ‘resting’ between sets
  • Even the serious Japanese lifter will usually either be in ‘focused’ mode, or more often than not have with smile on their face. The only grim reaper alpha douche bag’s I have encountered in my experience so far I’m sad to say are not locals.
  • Customers nearly always always clean and re-rack / return equipment correctly after use
  • Politeness when waiting for equipment or when moving around the gym. Always a polite nod and patient.
  • Honest, just yesterday I had to remove my sports watch while deadlifting, towards the end of my session I realised it was missing. While it would have been very easy for someone to ‘lift’ it (pun?), of course it was waiting at the front desk after someone had turned it in. Petty crime just isn’t a thing here.

Lastly, the major gripe you read about: No Tattoo Policy

Yes, it’s clear a Gaijin (white person) isn’t going to be a member of Yakuza, but exactly how are they meant to impose the restriction for Japanese people and NOT for Gaijin? Separate rules based on one’s race is clearly not a behaviour we want to encourage, no matter how innocuous the subject may seem.

So there you have it, a few reasons why I think the Gym’s in Japan are great. Of course I’m not saying it’s perfect, but these are things I miss when I’m not here and visiting Gym’s elsewhere that just don’t have the top notch experience that Japan is able to serve up through it’s community first attitude, excellent cleanliness and focus on excellence in customer service.

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Where to ride in Tokyo. Arakawa River.

Tokyo hasn’t been the best for me when it comes to cycling. I had been out to explore around the city looking for a decent long ride but was met with constant stop starting in congested traffic and a little frustrated by the behaviour of ‘commuting’ cyclists weaving between road and footpath haphazardly and even cycling in the wrong direction on the road; generally ignoring all road rules. It’s fair to say that my experience had been less than enjoyable.

And unlike the running culture in Tokyo, where you spot runners on the street and in parks everywhere at all times of the day, I seldomly would spot a serious cyclist on the roads of Tokyo. I was beginning to think that the cycling culture in Japan was only about commuting (which it is massively popular form of transport) and there was not much to offer for serious cycling enthusiasts, that is until I found Arakawa River route this weekend.

It was an absolutely stunning Autumn day and a real delight to get out and enjoy the wide open spaces that this mixed running and cycling path provides.

The track along the river has a few ‘slow down’ gates, it’s not perfectly maintained and also as it was the weekend there were a number of little league baseball games with kids dotted here and there along the way. All this meant  I couldn’t really open up at full speed for the entire route, but nonetheless it was by far the best cycling area I have found so far.  The images following are from the ride along way, I look forwards to exploring the track upriver on my next trip out.

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My arctic experience at -180° with Cryotherapy

 

Stripped down to my boxers, given thin cotton gloves and booties to wear; the single person chamber I was standing in had reached -160° celsius, blood was rushing away my extremities and I felt a deep chill like nothing I have ever felt. Only a minute more and this would be over!

It doesn’t sound like the start of a story that a sane person would volunteer themselves for. While my sanity certainly is debatable, I have been interested in Cryotherapy ever since learning about it from ultra motivator and life coach to the masses Tony Robbins describing his daily routine.  As it is with cognitive biases, I had then consequently kept hearing more about it including that a number of top athletic sports people turning to this therapy as treatment for fatigue, anti inflammatory properties and faster recovery muscle and joint soreness and other maladies.

So when earlier this year, while attending the Tokyo Health and Sports Technology conference SportTec  I chanced upon a Japanese company named Saraya demonstrating their Cryotherapy machines, I took note and contacted them to arrange to try it out for myself. They generously invited me to their office to discuss and try it out and the following photo’s are from my experience.

 

 

The Experience

While I already have a daily routine which involves me finishing my morning shower by turning the temperature to ice cold, I don’t know anyone who had done this and I confess, I was still a little nervous. I took confidence that lot’s of other people had done this before and there was no reason for me to be a chicken about it!

Stepping into the chamber you notice quickly the ice cold temperature dropping rapidly and it was around 1 minute and around -140° that I felt arctic, my elbows were the most noticeably cold feature perhaps because my knees were covered with a thin cotton cover or that my elbows were a bit close to the edges of the unit I’m not sure. Shortly after my legs were starting to chill deeply and then, my whole body started to somewhat pleasantly ‘numb’. Then, it’s around minute two and you know you are in a deep freeze and your brain is telling you something isn’t normal! You are told you can ‘turn’ yourself in the unit if it’s bothering you a lot and I did move around a little but even though I was starting to freeze, I didn’t feel panic and it wasn’t as ‘shocking’ as I had expected. But I’m a guy that does ice plunge after sauna and goes from hot shower to cold shower, so perhaps I’m conditioned for it.

In the third minute of the session I was counting down until I stepped out and the chamber had reached its lowest temperature of just under -180°, but honestly -160° or -180°, at these temperatures it’s all feels just bloody freezing!

As soon as I stepped out into room temperature the sensation of blood returning to my extremities was palpable and would continue to give me a tingling sensation for the following 10 minutes or so but that wasn’t the highlight. The “WOW” experience was how good I felt mentally! I felt refreshed, more alert and clear in my thoughts, these being the exact same reasons I cold shower in the mornings, but this was on another level! For this point alone I will be doing future treatments when I have the chance.

In terms of muscle recovery or joint pain improvements I can’t provide an strong opinion as this was a one off treatment and I don’t have any injury I’m focused on recovering from.  But for the sensation of alertness and freshness alone I would certainly consider to get one of these units installed my apartment, but that’s going to need to wait until I have something a little bigger than my shoebox in Shibuya.

 

Saraya Story

Saraya have only recently started develop of the Cryotherapy units and are the only Japanese business currently manufacturing the devices. They initially intended to bring in imported models from Europe, but given Japan’s engineering and technology excellence it was not at all surprisingly found they could create a superior product with more features at a lower cost for the domestic market. The features they developed were those such as a safety switch emergency stop button, self drying operation and exhaust features to prevent the machine from suffering from moisture buildup.

If you would like to speak to Saraya about acquiring a unit or trying the product for yourself, please contact the very helpful (and English speaking) Deputy General Manager of Saraya, Marlon Amado V. Mamaril

 

 

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The Osaka Marathon

 

I write this post while bound for Tokyo sitting aboard the effortlessly swift ‘Nozomi Super Express’ Shinkansen at 320 kilometers per hour; I’m returning home from a magnificent weekend in Osaka after participating in the Osaka Marathon.

Fortunately for me I gained a lottery placement into the event which took place this weekend on Sunday Oct 25th, 2015, this year celebrating it’s 5th event.  With 30,000 slots this and with over 130,000 hopefuls these numbers are yet another indication of the depth of running culture in Japan. Not as oversubscribed as the Tokyo Marathon, but still a particularly strong interest for a Marathon ran in Japan’s second largest city.

Precisely organised, polite / well-prepared participants, fantastic crowd support and abundantly equipped aid stations. I have observed these elements to be a true hallmark for Japanese events. Osaka Marathon was by no means an exception. Of course I should also mention the entertainment. Japanese cheer squads, native drummers, Hawaiian dancers and quirky costumes both in the race and the crowd that provide a uniquely Japanese edge to the day.

The theme for the year was ‘making a rainbow together’ with a variety of colors you could select at registration, each of which has a unique charity donation (part of registration fee) associated with it. You also had the option to purchase a t-shirt or hat to run the event in and represent your color. As you can see from the photo’s they certainly achieved that goal as the field of runners were bright and vibrant!

The Osaka Marathon course provides runners with an excellent perspective of Osaka city. Starting at Osaka Castle in the cool morning sun, the course coils its way through the heart of Osaka city and in the last 10km or so the route unwinds into wider spaces out into the harbor area of Osaka to the Inpex convention center for the finishing line.

I wasn’t out to make a personal record so I really just focused on relaxing and enjoy the race, which Osaka certainly made easy for me! The bonus with not my pushing hard in the run is it allowed me to snap a number of photos along the way which I share with you here.

Okonomiyaki!Osaka Marathon Route

For post marathon entertainment Osaka has plenty to offer with Karaoke, fine dining or Izakaya, bars and café’s, but as there was an Octoberfest event happening it seemed only natural I’d go to enjoy a beer and bratwurst followed by dinner with a locally famous dish of Okonomiyaki!

I stayed at the Mitsui Garden Premier Osaka  which I highly recommend. While not right in the center of Osaka downtown, the hotel offers a Onsen bathing on the top floor which is exactly why I booked the hotel. A hot Onsen post race does wonders for muscle recovery.

 

Next year the Osaka Marathon is schedule for the 30th of October 2016, why not try your luck to get a spot in the lottery yourself? Ganbatte!

 

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Pictures from a run in beautiful Hakone.

A short post of pictures from my weekend running in beautiful Hakone.

SekishoHakone TownTori Gate, Hakone. Views of lake AshiViews of lake AshiCyclist Enjoying the Path. Winding green trailsBamboo pathwayView of Lake AshiLake AshiHakone OnsenHalf Marathon in Hakone.

With a last minute decision made to join a friend for a weekend in Hakone, I was happy to have discovered a very pleasant half marathon distance run half way around Lake Ashi . The run includes a reasonably steep climb at the halfway point and takes you to a peak of the Hakone Skyline which rewards you with magnificent views of the lake and surrounding mountains. I also rediscovered the sheer bliss of a soothing hot spring Onsen for post run recovery and relaxation!

If you are looking for an energizing weekend away from the buzz of Tokyo city, then I highly recommend Hakone as a destination for you to run free among the trails of the mountainside, to enjoy the cool country air, the relaxation of the hot spring Onsen baths and the to take in the spectacular countryside views.


Tips on Hakone

  • Hakone is a short 1hr trip on the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or around 2hrs by regular rail on the Odakyu line
  • Consider staying in a Ryokan as I have done previously, many of which have their own private Onsen and not to mention the warm local hospitality provided
  • Stay a night or two and improve your chances to catch views of Mt.Fuji. Sadly this trip I did not as it was covered by clouds the whole time.

Tips for Onsen

  • When taking Onsen be sure to scrub yourself silly using the soap and showers provided before hopping into the hot tubs, it’s an important part of the culture to be pristinely clean
  • While they are separated male and female, be prepared for full nudity as swimming wear is not generally acceptable in the Onsen and the little towel provided doesn’t offer you much to cover up with!
  • You may be asked to cover up tattoos if using a public Onsen
  • Enjoy! Nothing beat’s hot Onsen for recovery after a long cool run in the mountains.

Tips for running in Hakone

  • I will be researching and returning to Hakone for more running, so this will become a separate post sometime in the future
  • Take a running backpack with hydration capacity for longer runs as you might want to head off the beaten path and need your own supply of hydration & food
  • Ensure you check the weather forecast and take warm gear as the mountains can get cold and change quickly despite the sun being out
  • It gets dark quickly, plan your timing and ensure you are safely done before night falls

 

Hakone, in Japan’s Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park west of Tokyo, is a mountainous region known for hot springs resorts and Mt. Fuji views. It also encompasses Hakone Jinja, a Shinto shrine with a red “torii” gate; Lake Ashi, which can be toured by boat; and the boiling sulphur springs of Owakudani valley, seen from the Hakone Ropeway cable car.

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Runners Station, Kojimachi.

Front EntranceVariety of clothing and supplements Common AreaGarmin Watches for hire / sale.Shower CapsuleMens Locker Room #1Mens Locker Room #2

Situated 500 meters from the Imperial Palace running track, you quickly get a sense the owners of Runners Station Kojimachi have thoughtfully crafted this environment with a genuine knowledge of what a runner’s needs are and that they share a passion for running as much as you do.

Runners Station Kojimachi offer a variety of services, with the core facility being the use of a locker and a clean shower + towel rental. This is priced at only ¥700.

Other services include the option to store running shoes (via monthly membership) to rent a garmin watch or running shoes and you can also purchase from a variety of running clothing and supplements they have available.

Coffee and Tea facilities are available in the communal area for ¥100 and there is free wifi available too!

They are located directly above Kojimachi Station on the Yurakucho line and easiest to access if you take Exit 4 and follow the stairs to the top.

Although I have yet to encounter an English speaking staff member this really is not a barrier. They have even created a handy PDF map and explanation in English to help us non Japanese enjoy the service and the route.

Runners station is a warm, welcoming and friendly environment that is dedicated to the service of runners wanting to enjoy the ever popular Imperial Palace running track and I recommend you try them out for yourself.


 

Hours of Service
Weekdays (Tue-Fri) 10:00 to 22:30 (21:00 last admission)
※ Monday Closed

Saturday 8:00 to 20:00 (18:30 last admission)
Sunday and holidays 8:00 to 18:00 (16:30 last admission)

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Tokyo Marathon Charity Runner

 

Charity Runner Tokyo Marathon.

During the day of  September 16th the Tokyo Marathon Foundation drip fed its lottery results out to the Marathon hopefuls via email. With 308,810 applications and only 36,500 spaces many folks had to expect to be disappointed (like myself) by receiving the following brutally worded email.


 

 ======================================================

◇◇  Tokyo Marathon 2016 Notification of the Lottery Result  ◇◇

======================================================

Thank you very much for your application for entry.
We regret to inform you that you have lost the lottery to run the Tokyo Marathon 2016.
We look forward to your application for our future events.

 

While not the news I was hoping for, this isn’t the first time I have lost the lottery but my love for this absolutely fantastic event I have in the past ‘purchased’ my way in by using an agency that sells marathon package tours.  The package tour option is a very helpful especially for first timers to Tokyo one as they provide options that include accommodation and support with the race logistics also. But as this will be my fifth time running the event and also now that I’m actually living in Tokyo it was time for a change and I have registered myself as a charity runner

This option is actually mentioned in the email sent for those who missed out, but if you are like me you probably deleted the email right after reading ‘you have lost the lottery’.


 

——————————————————–
■■ TOKYO MARATHON CHARITY ■■
——————————————————–
Charity runners are still being accepted for “Tokyo Marathon 2016 Charity”
Charity runner is to donate 100,000 yen or more and you will be guaranteed to run Tokyo Marathon 2016.
Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis (up to 3,000 runners).

Please visit the following website for more detailed information.
http://www.runwithheart.jp/en/

 

While it’s not a lot cheaper (¥ 100,000 minimum donation) and the price doesn’t include accommodation, what I like about this option is all funds go to one of the 13 charities you can choose from when registering and you are free to plan your itinerary to your own desires.

I will be writing more about the Tokyo Marathon including tips and options for first timers in future blog posts so drop your email below and subscribe to get that and more health and fitness news from Japan.

 

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Kentai Pump Up Pre workout formula.

Kentai Pump Up ingredients listSide of box dialogue Kentai Pump Up Front of box and individual packets display.Pump Up Front of box nitric oxide booster. Whatever that is.

 

As I have just landed back in Tokyo, my regular pre-workout formula is still packed in boxes back in Singapore waiting for shipment pending my visa coming through!

I had decided a break from taking any pre-workout before the gym figuring it would do me good and not having it available meant it should be easy for me to avoid the urge to take it. That cute idea lasted exactly zero days when I found this pre-workout formula product on the shelf at my new local Golds Gym . With all the rational thinking of the supplement junkie/geek  I am, I instantly decided I must try this product. I didn’t look at the price until I was paying for it and I noted it wasn’t overly cheap, coming in at 3700 Yen for only 15 individual sachets.

With my Japanese skills practically non-existent, the only way I could tell it was pre-workout is because the only english text on the box was ‘Pump Up pre-workout formula’. I figured this mystery product might have something to do with pre-workout and getting a pump.

The following is a journal of my experience on the product for 5 days.

Day 1.

Now, I’m not allergic to anything I know about yet, so not being able to read the ingredients or having a clue what I was consuming wasn’t going to stop me. However, that confidence expired rapidly as I attempted to swallow down the contents of this sachet of grapefruit flavoured powder demonic bitter gremlin dandruff.

At first attempt I managed to get a solid dose up my nose and on second attempt it went right to the back of my throat and was so dry I thought I might actually choke. A quick gulp of water and I finally managed to get it all down. It had a texture much like how I imagine flavoured cement mix would, so let’s just say it was a bit of an experience. Following that moment of  mortality I might have decided it was actually the adrenaline of a near death experience that got my pump going through that workout and the sense of focus was my gratitude for not being passed out and died in the gym lobby.

Day 2. 

This time I have figured out how to tear the packet to get the actual contents into my mouth without behaving like an uncoordinated idiot (despite the compelling evidence this is actually what I am) and this time expecting the experience of the foul dry powder I was much better prepared and got it down without issue except perhaps a minor grimace at the unpleasant taste.

Day 3. 

I had taken a couple of days off the gym and caught up with my friend who has been translating the contents, I showed her the whole product box this time (rather than the photo of ingredients I had shared earlier) and we were amused as she read some text stating ‘they have taken great efforts’ to improve the flavor of the product. I’m thanking the gods I didn’t have to endure whatever the original gear tasted like.  So anyway, I was back at the gym and today I decided I would try mix the contents into a small bottle of water as an alternative method of consumption. I will never do this again. It looks as bad as it tasted and having to consume it with water only extended the experience. But despite this, I must say I today I was convinced of this product’s merits. I still enjoyed a sense of clarity and a ‘slow burning’ boost for most of all my 1.5hr workout.

Day 4.

Missing the extra kick I am used to with my regular pre-workout mix I took a double espresso shortly before consuming the packet. By now I’m fluent with getting the contents down with a reasonable level of dignity. I think I almost enjoyed consuming it today. The double espresso before hand helped with the kick I was looking for.

Day 5 + Summary.

Following the same pattern as Day 4 with the double espresso to for an added kick and I’m now convinced of the products focusing ability and stamina boost it gives to your work out.  Oh, and by now I’m almost enjoying the bitter grapefruit flavour.

Now, I will continue to consume this box of product but I will say the retail price point of this product at 3700 Yen is a little on the steep side but buying from Gold’s might not be the cheapest. Despite the price point and product flavour taking some getting used too, I did experience first hand the products impact to my workout. I may cycle this with my regular pre-workout mix if and when I manage to find it here in Tokyo!

What pre-workout do you use? Have you tried this product yourself and what were your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!  Also if you have any questions please ask in the comments below!

 

Package Translation

Pre-work out  pump up supplement

  • Composed with 4,500mg of special peptide (per 1 product)
  • Composed with mineral (Zinc) 4mg (per 1 product)
  • Individual packages
  • Grapefruit flavor

Ingredients Summary

Nutrition facts (per 6.3g product) 
Energy 22kcal Carbohydrate 1.6g
Protein 3.8g Sodium 120mg
Fat 0.03g Zinc 4.2g (60)

*( ) Percentage of Nutrition Labelling Standards (%)

Whey peptide 4,000mg   Egg peptide 500mg

Ingredient Details

Amino acid analysis value (per 6.3g product)   in-company research
Arginine 100mg Alanine 300mg
Lysine 340mg Glycine 80mg
Histidine 80mg Proline 140mg
Phenylalanine 160mg Glutamine acid 490mg
Tyrosine 110mg Serine 200mg
Leucine 590mg Threonine 330mg
Isoleucine 260mg Asparagine acid 360mg
Methionine 180mg Tryptophan 50mg
Valine 310mg Cystine 30mg

 

Kentai are a Japanese sports and health manufacturer who manufacture and supplements exclusively to Japanese domestic market. You can browse this and other products at the Kentai Online Store

 

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Where to run in Tokyo. Yoyogi Park.

 

Located in central Tokyo, Yoyogi Park (代々木公園, Yoyogi Kōen) is a staple destination for runners of Tokyo.

Given it’s central location it is easily accessible by public transport, with train stations ‘Harajuku‘ (Yamanote Line) , Meiji-jingumae and ‘Yoyogi Kōen‘ (Chiyoda Line) all taking you to the parks doorstep.

Yoyogi Park hosts all the facilities you need for an enjoyable run as there are plenty of toilets, water fountains, vending machines throughout the park. The paths are superbly maintained and if you are looking to go for an afternoon or evening trot, the inner loop paths are well lit.

 

One less common known points about running in Yoyogi Park is that it offers not only one, but two running routes; an inner loop and an outer loop.

Yoyogi Park – Inner Loop

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 15.15.32

This one is as simple as following the footpath around the park from any of the main entrances. It is possible to weave around a little as there are a number of foot paths to choose from that are all connected, just stick in one direction (for some reason, counter clockwise is the standard in Japan) and you can easily explore the options. The example pictured below is the very inner loop.

Length: Approx 1.3 km long
Track: 100% Pavement
Good for: Interval training, short jog under 10k, people watching while you jog.

 

 

Yoyogi Park – Outer Loop

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 15.15.56

This is also pretty easy to find as long as you know it’s there! Locate one of the main entrances and look for a worn path that follows the outside of the park. You can traverse the park and see a different perspective of Yoyogi and enjoy a trail run like feeling.  Depending on the weather you might want your trail shoes for this path as it can be muddy in parts if it has been raining. This loop is slightly longer and offers a trail run feel despite being in the center of Tokyo city.

Length: Approx 2.6km long
Track: 20% Pavement / 80% Dirt Trail
Good for: Trail run feeling, longer runs (longer distance means fewer loops)

Tips for running in Yoyogi Park

  • It can get very busy and a congested during weekends and public holidays when the weather is good. If that is the case when you plan to go, head out early to avoid the crowds
  • There are a number of large crows living in the park. Generally they are a bit of a nuisance as they sometimes do like to swoop low as you run past but I haven’t heard of them ever causing any harm
  • Careful to avoid cyclists as there is a cycling route in the park that’s used mostly for parents with young children to enjoy so keep an eye out especially when you are crossing the cycling path
  • Don’t run in the Meiji Shrine area of the park (the right side entrance to the park after exiting Harajuku station) it’s forbidden to do so and there are too many tourists to make it a comfortable location to jog anyway. Stick to the routes above.
  • Take a break from your run by the dog fenced area (you will pass it on the inner loop) and enjoy watching the dogs at play
  • If you would like a locker, a place to shower and change after your run the check out Nohara by Mizuno. This service is especially for runners and as shown in this google map and as you can see it is conveniently located in Harajuku. The service is available to the public for a small fee.

 

 

  • Inner Loop Track

 

 

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Anti-motivation. Three simple ‘mental hacks’ to get you working out.

 

This post documents three simple mental hacks which I put in the category of ‘anti-motivation’. I call them ‘anti-motivation’ hacks not because they will demotivate you, but because they are not intended on getting you ‘pumped up’ for a workout like so many motivational posts you will see on social media.  Rather these anti-motivation hacks are about accepting that sometimes your workout is a grind. They are simple to follow, but don’t confuse that with easy to execute.

Grinding is for the dedicated and disciplined and is something to embrace and learn to love. It’s about looking to the long term results that are given in in exchange for forgoing a short term pleasure such as sleeping in cozily in bed on a Sunday morning or slumping into the couch watching reruns of Law and Order after work.

But even for the most disciplined athlete, there is no denying at times we all struggle to find the motivation to follow our workout schedule and endure the grind. For me during the past week this has been very much the case. I have recently landed back in Japan and have been super busy sorting out my apartment, my visa, buying furniture and a lot of other ‘settling in’ activities; the weather hasn’t been my friend either, with it being an entirely wet and muggy summer week in Tokyo so far.

This morning I woke up at 4:40am after some restless sleep, this was well before the alarm scheduled to sound at 5:30 and through an open window, I could hear the rain outside. As you can imagine, the first thing on my mind was not, “hurray, time to go for my morning cardio session!”. So how did I convince myself to get out of bed and hit the pavement?  Today it was Workout Over Easy, a technique where I gave myself permission to jog ‘just one loop of Yoyogi park’. I didn’t do just one lap, actually I ended up instead clocking a 45m jog.

Allow me to explain this tip, plus two others and how they work for me. I hope they will work for you too.

1. Workout Over Easy

Give yourself permission to just make your workout ‘just a quick one’. The idea here is turn up to the gym or hit the pavement and if you are still not ‘in the mood’ after 20 minutes. You are allowed to go home. It’s that easy! More often than not, I wager you will wrap up the workout completely, without calling it short. Don’t be afraid to call it short if you really are struggling after 20 minutes. If the endorphins have not kicked in by then and you are not enjoying it you are probably better off calling it a day and doing something else.

2. Gone in 60 Seconds

This one is for when you are debating the topic of your workout in your head “Should I go to the gym/ride/swim/cycle/whatever today or skip the session?”. You can loop in this state for a long time and it’s toxic, mentally exhausting and often you do this until looping in the time window of time when you could have been training. Then after not going you end up regretting it and feeling miserable. Screw that. Give yourself 60 seconds to decide. If by the end of 60 seconds you haven’t given yourself a real and credible reason to skip the training, then stop thinking and just GO. Don’t ever question the outcome of the time period, never let the time period exceed 60 seconds. EVER. And ALWAYS GO. ALWAYS! Treat yourself as a failure to yourself and anyone that’s important if you dare let yourself change your mind later or exceed the time limit. I’m being harsh, but you need to take it seriously and this isn’t written for warm and fuzzies, it’s written to help you to get your butt out the door.

3. Zombie Workout

This one is good for early morning workouts. It’s for when you are tired and didn’t get enough sleep, it’s cold outside and you are cozy in bed. Enter ZOMBIE MODE. When the alarm wakes you, the zombie trigger is set. Don’t bother rationalizing or even waking up properly – just sit up, get out of bed and into your morning routine. Put your shoes on in autopilot, have your coffee, do whatever you do. It’s all a blur and you don’t care or even think about it. You find yourself on the street and on your workout in autopilot behaving like a mindless zombie. You will ‘come to’ at some point early in the session and congratulations, you are getting it done. Now enjoy the workout and enjoy rest of your day feeling good about having the zombie grit to get your butt out of bed.  Added bonus is if by chance the world has been overrun by zombies during the night, you will blend right in and if I learned anything from the movies its that zombies don’t attack other zombies, especially ones that have better cardio than them.

So that’s it! My top mental hacks to help you stay on track and stay focused with your training.

So how do you keep your motivation up for training when you are tired, cold or hungry or otherwise unmotivated? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. And as always, if you are headed to Japan don’t hesitate to reach out to me for tips and suggestions to help you navigate your way around the health and fitness scene in Japan.

Ganbatte! 

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Boom. Selfie!

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Where to run in Tokyo. The Imperial Palace.

Where to run in Tokyo. The Imperial Palace.

If you are visiting Japan for the first time and looking for a place to run that’s central in Tokyo then look no further than the Imperial Palace. The track at the Imperial Palace is the quintessential Tokyo City running destination and it might well be the most popular of all running locations in Tokyo for Gaijin and local Japanese alike.

Why is Running at Imperial Palace so Popular?

  • Central access from a number of stations in the area makes getting there by train easy. There are nine train stations (Hanzomon, Sakuradamon, Hibya, Yurakucho, Nijubashimae, Tokyo, Otemachi, Takebashi, Kundanshita) that all either take you right to the route or close enough for a short walk/jog or jog to the track
  • There are no traffic lights or other reasons to stop/start along the way
  • It’s an even 5km loop start to finish, so it’s simple to measure your 5km 10km 15km etc etc distance if you don’t have a sports watch
  • Access to numerous clean public restrooms along the route
  • Water Fountains access for a quick sip or replenishing your water bottle. Especially handy if you are doing multiple loops in the summer time.
  • Community spirit of runners is alive. Rain, hail or shine and regardless of time of day, there seems to be always at least a handful of runners out enjoying the course with you
  • Well lit and safe while Tokyo itself already has an exceptionally low crime rate the Imperial Palace is well lit and guarded by numerous police who are stationed around the palace
Gardens at Imperial Palace
Gardens at Imperial Palace

Helpful Tips

  • Most (maybe all) of the train stations have lockers if you need to store goods while you jog
  • Check out the running services in the nearby area such as Runners Station where you can shower, use a locker, grab supplies – you can even rent running gear from them if you need it. They even have an english text imperial palace running map illustrating the water stations/bathrooms.
  • Run only counter clockwise around the course, it’s simply an etiquette that’s followed by all to keep congestion to a minimum.
  • Much like most of Tokyo, there are no trash cans on the loop so be mindful of this and hold onto any litter until you are home.
  • In contrast to the last point and somewhat out of place for Japan there are no vending machines along the route, if you seek a drink other than water you can simply cross one of the roads at the traffic lights and run for a while. You are bound to come across a vending machine in no time.
  • The route can get congested as some areas of the path narrow and the runners numbers do get high during peak times. The Japanese runners of course are generally highly courteous people, locals will nearly always clear the way when they can ‘sense’ you are wanting to pass. If you are stuck and the person is unaware, simply call out Sumimasen (pronounced soo-mii-mah-sen), which simply means Excuse me!

 

Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace