I find a moment of mindfulness as I lay shattered on the Thai training mats. The air has started to cool as it is early evening and we have just finished another 2 hour session of Thai kick boxing. I do a mental check of how I am feeling – every muscle burns and I can feel the slight and very welcome breeze drying the sweat on my face (I know I should say a lady glows but that being the case, I would give the sun a run for its money – I am positively melting)

Despite this though, I am filled with a sense of achievement and peace. There is no clutter crowding in, no thoughts of work, no problem solving – for now, I am completely living in the moment: centered!

Where my spirit comes to dance…

I can’t quite put my finger on it but if Africa is my heart then Thailand is where my spirit comes to dance. I don’t often revisit a destination as there is still far too much of the world I have to see and yet, I keep being drawn back.

I have a very demanding job that I love but on occasion it has been known to impinge on healthy eating habits, a good night’s rest, keeping active and giving myself enough time to reflect. What Thailand offers me that is different to the other experiences, is the ability to focus on in all of these aspects in one hit.

A Humble Lifestyle

I stay in a small village called Chalong, about 20 minutes from Phuket, which gets slightly more popular and built up every time I visit but for now, still offers a basic Thai experience without any of the excesses of Bangkok or Phuket. Here the focus is less on nature (all though there is a lot of local wildlife to see or hear and you can take a trip to ride on an elephant or see a tiger close by) and more about health and fitness.

The village has grown around a famous Muay Thai training club called Tiger and the increase in westerners coming to Thailand to train with some of the best fighters in the world. Since its inception, both Tiger and the street it is based on, have continued to diversify and you will find yourself surrounded by a variety of fitness options: Cross fit, Muay Thai, Yoga, Krabi-Krabong, BJJ, MMA , running to name but a few – and all beginners are welcome.

Surround yourself with like-minded people, who are all here to challenge themselves, throw in the home grown produce, from the variety in tropical fruit and vegetables, to the chicken, beef and pork, that is all prepared fresh and comes without genetic alterations, and it is difficult to not feel healthier.

Moments to remember

  • Sun and water – the sun provides much needed doses of vitamin D which is rumoured to prevent the winter blues or depression (plus my sister informs me that tanned cellulite looks better than untanned cellulite), the water provides much needed hydration or if you find yourself swimming, snorkelling or speed boating across the sea, a sense of awe and escapism.
    Added to this, the Thai New Year is celebrated in April with water (and lots of it). Symbolic of new life and prosperity, thousands of Thai people take to the streets to bless each other with water, both young and old. You do have to like getting wet but it is the perfect setting to see a community come together to celebrate without the fear of crime or injury.
  • The natural high that comes with physical exertion – 5 years ago, I could barely do a sit up, now I can do a full 7 hours of training with 400 sit-ups in a day. It has taken a long time to get to this level of fitness but the intensity of training in Thailand always helps me break through a barrier (be it mental or physical) and I see visible body shape change which always motivates me to keep going.
    I also love the complete rush of euphoria I get when I have conquered a mammoth training session, kept going despite an aching and stiff body or managed to do something I could not do before (like press ups which have always been a challenge for me).
  • The space to reconnect – you have to be slightly more disciplined in Thailand as Wi-Fi is freely available and it can be very easy to stay connected but for some reason, whether it is the exertion or the heat, I seem to always find time to reflect and reconnect with who I would like to be from this point forward.
    Whether it is lying on the sofa in your room, under the aircon, completely exhausted, lying by the pool or eating a meal in a family run, fan-filled restaurant, I always seem to have moments of emotional and spiritual revelation that continue to set my course onward – one if my most pointed was in November 13 when I found myself in a role that was not playing to my strengths and I realised that when I got back to London, I was going to have to have some fierce conversations with my senior leadership on what needed to change.

After just over a week in Chalong, I always feel physically and mentally stronger and I always wonder whether more time would build on the feeling – it is always hard leaving this little slice of paradise. Maybe next time I will stay longer…

Nov 12, Apr & Nov 13, Apr 14