Monday, October 13, 2014


Tonight's walk, which also involved a cab ride after I got lost in my old Sookmyung neighborhood, clocked in at almost 31K steps (30,810). According to my pedometer, which I know shortchanges me on distance, I walked 14.6 miles (23.55 km), but I'd easily round that up to 15 miles—maybe even 16. I was out for about seven hours, but sat down to eat dinner at Suji's in Itaewon for the better part of an hour, at the edge of all the damn noise from the Itaewon Global Village Festival. I know, from walking in America, that I walk at a rate of about 3.2 miles per hour. If I walked for more than six hours, then in reality I did closer to 18 miles. Still, I'll grudgingly accept that I may have walked less than that distance, given how much of it was uphill, thus slowing me down.

My weigh-in, post-walk, puts me at 118.5 kilograms (compensating for several bottles of water that I drank along the way), so I'm definitely past the cursèd 119-kilogram barrier. I have a feeling, though, that weight loss from this point on is going to be more difficult: I've dropped 15 kilos since last year, but I feel myself plateauing as my body gets used to its new exercise burden. Two things have to happen now: diet and muscle development. I still need to reduce the amount I eat (sorry, Gary Taubes, but I'm not convinced that the old "calories in, calories out" paradigm is totally mistaken), and I need to begin developing more muscle mass to increase my basal metabolic rate. Even a slight increase will be good, as this will mean more calories burned per hour, just by sitting around and being all muscular.

There are several routes I could take to develop the muscles. One route, which I'm seriously considering, is getting involved in boxing. Boxing training—which doesn't necessarily have to involve sparring—is one of the absolute best ways to improve the physique, as well as to increase energy, agility, and overall alertness (not to mention train one's reflexes). Boxers can summon an impressive amount of power when they throw a punch, and they also train their bodies to take a punch as well—the type of training that a martial art like taekwondo severely lacks. Boxers also have incredible stamina: throwing punches in the ring for minutes on end isn't as easy as it looks.

Another possibility is just joining a local gym and getting right into weight training and cardio (if the gym manager even allows me to run on his treadmills; I once went to a Korean gym where the manager took one look at me and flatly said, "No. You can't run on these treadmills. You can walk."). I'll probably need a personal trainer to guide me along a sensible program that's probably going to involve a major change in diet, too. While not nearly as exciting as boxing, the weight-training route allows for steady, measurable progress, especially if it's done right, and done scientifically.

Before I go either of these routes, though, my financial house needs to be more in order. This month is when I finally start to see some accumulation in the bank account. In the meantime, there's nothing stopping me from doing good old pushups and situps right inside my yeogwan. I've just been lazy about doing it, up to now.

So let's switch gears and talk about what the hell happened tonight. I got lost in my old neighborhood, which is highly embarrassing. I successfully walked down Namsan to Sookmyung's campus, then, just to switch things up, I walked around the back of the campus (its hu-mun, or rear gate) along Hyochangweon Street (Hyochangweollo, 효창원로), intending to hit Samgakji Station and walk past the war memorial to Itaewon. I had forgotten, though, that Hyochangweon Street is a fucking loop, and that going to Samgakji meant taking a left turn to get off the loop.* I walked the entire loop before seeing the same set of restaurants again, at which point I grabbed a cab because I didn't want to waste any more time or distance literally going around in circles. The cabbie explained a bit about the geography of the Sookmyung neighborhood, some of which came back to me, along with a wave of shame, while he was talking. I asked the cabbie to drop me off at Samgakji Station; he did so, and I walked up the hill to Itaewon, stopping inside Suji's, the restaurant that sits on the very edge of the district.

I'm glad I didn't proceed further into Itaewon: as was true yesterday, tonight was the night of the Itaewon Global Village Festival. The cabbie had said that tonight was the second and final night, and that the main street was blocked off (which was another reason why I asked the cabbie to drop me off well before we got to Itaewon). So I went into Suji's, feeling harried because of the noise of a street concert happening barely sixty yards away. While at Suji's I was told that the kitchen would be closing in 45 minutes, so once I got my order in, I probably wouldn't be able to add anything later. It wasn't even 9PM. I sighed and ordered the kimchi Reuben—my very first such Reuben. I was curious to see how it would turn out, and I won't describe it to you in this post, as I took a picture of it and will write a foodblog entry soon. I ate my Reuben while watching the lead singer of a nameless band flail about and screech, ruining a perfectly decent jazz riff by her bass guitarist. Took a few blurry photos of her, though, for what that's worth. Will probably share those on my Kakao Story social-networking service.

The walk back felt quicker than when I did it last time, and when I reached Namsan itself, there was no middle-aged ajeossi waiting to compete with me. I was pretty much the only person, at that time of night, to be ascending that side of the mountain. Before I started up that steep road, though, I stopped at the nearby public restroom and had myself a gratifying dump. The stall was sparkling clean (in shameful contrast with the stalls on my campus, which are often filthy), but there were mosquitoes flying in wait, dive-bombing me while I sat and shat. One mosquito latched on to my meaty left buttock; I bided my time and smacked it dead, turning it into little more than a bloody smear on my ass and fingers. After that, I started up the mountain, and while the slope left me breathing hard, as usual, the ascent felt shorter and easier, for some reason. I bought refreshment at the mountaintop, started down the other side, and wended my way back to my place. By the time I got back, I had done over 30K steps.

My long walk has brought my monthly average back up to over 15K steps per day, which is a sizable improvement over last month's—what—13.66K steps. Megawalks may just become a Sunday thing. It's not as though I have anything else to do except train myself.

*This isn't exactly true. There are several interconnected Hyochangweon Streets, some of which are numbered (i.e., Hyochangweon 36 Street). Essentially, I walked a loop composed of Hyochangweon Streets, completely without realizing what I was doing. That neighborhood will henceforth be known as Seoul's Mirkwood.


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