"We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by lovingkindness -- make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it." The Buddha

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Two things I do to stay healthy

My son insisted on using my boxing gloves!

For the last month or so, I have resisted talking about the coronavirus crisis because, frankly, I wouldn't be telling you anything you don't already know. What the crisis does highlight, however, is the importance of our health and keeping ourselves healthy.

Today I will be sharing with you two things I do to stay healthy. They are personal to me, so keep that in mind. Yours might vary. The first thing will seem mundane but the second thing might be interesting and different. I'm not a health nut but I do try to stay in shape.

The first thing I do to stay healthy is not drink or smoke. I have never understood the fascination with drinking and smoking. When I was growing up, I was familiar with Vietnamese drinkers and smokers, but never close to them, because I knew none of them could help me advance in my education in America. My goal of higher education was found in places like the library. The library allowed Vietnamese people but it didn't allow alcohol or cigarettes. Hung and Cuong were allowed but not Heineken and Camel.

So as you can see, initially it's not so much because of my health I stayed away from alcohol and cigarettes but because of their lack of usefulness in achieving my academic goals. I still have no problem with other people drinking and smoking. Although personally I think those habits are unhealthy, I don't judge people if they drink or smoke. Throughout my personal and professional life, I simply drank water, even in social and business settings where smoke filled the room and alcoholic drinks flowed freely. Having fun is having the freedom to be ourselves.

Although I never tried smoking, I did try drinking two times. The first was at a wedding where I tried red wine. Disgusting. I felt like I was going to vomit. I couldn't even finish the ounce or so given to me.

In contrast, the second time I tried drinking was a pleasant experience. It was during the reception at my own wedding. I tried a hard liquor my wife's family owned. I can't tell you the brand but it's famous and shipped internationally. Anyway, the moment I tasted it, I liked it a lot. Delicious. One of my wife's uncles poured me another shot. I drank it with ease. This continued on for quite some time where I even lost count of how many shots I had.

All throughout the reception, I felt nothing. I even gave an impromptu speech. No problem. But I did feel the libation's effects afterwards in our evening walk with my wife and mother-in-law (who, by the way, is unquestionably the kindest person I know). I was clearly buzzed and felt my capacity to talk and walk properly was slowly being compromised. Not sure if my wife and my mother-in-law noticed I was inebriated but I certainly felt it. I did my best to act normal but after we finished our walk, I wanted to go straight to bed. The next morning I woke up as normal and I never drank again since. As I mentioned earlier, it's not because I am a judgmental teetotaler or against drinking, but simply I have zero interest in alcohol.

The second thing I do to stay healthy is boxing. More specifically, I enjoy punching the heavy bag.

I have been boxing for eight years. The first time I boxed, I could only punch for two minutes. Then after some time, I was able to do it for 15 minutes. But it took me four full years of consistent practice to be able to punch the bag without stopping for 60 minutes straight. For context, a 12-round boxing match has a total of 36 minutes worth of boxing. I have gone as long as three hours nonstop. A couple of years ago, the Guinness World Records approved my application to attempt to break the world record of 50 hours (which included five-minute breaks each hour). My main concern is being able to stay awake that long, not necessarily the boxing part. Sometime in the future, after much preparation and promotion, I will take on that world's record to raise money for my favorite charity.

For people who have never tried boxing, they might think it is boring to be punching the heavy bag for an hour. But for me, it is by far the only exercise I enjoy doing for an extended amount of time. I think other exercises are boring. I enjoy it so much that whenever my son sees me box, he wants to do it too, hence the photo above. In that photo, he didn't have his own boxing gloves so I gave him mine. They covered both his arms entirely! Not sure if my son will be a fighter some day, but he sure looks like a fighter -- see photo below:

My son on the left, Bruce Lee on the right

And for people who have never tried boxing, they might think it is easy to punch the heavy bag for an hour. It is not. For example, one time a really fit and healthy guy claimed he can do what I do. Normally I ignore such challenges because I don't want to embarrass people. But because he was so cocky, I wanted to witness the inevitable. After ten minutes, I could tell he was exhausted. I've seen this scenario all before. He asked if I wanted to box. I said, "No. Continue." After another minute or so, he left without saying a word and I never saw him again.

The lesson above is clear: ability takes time. It can't be rushed. There have been numerous occasions when I see people's knuckles bloodied because they tried to copy me. They have neither patience nor prudence. Such patience and prudence require years of practice. There is a proper way of breathing that prevents me from getting tired. There is a proper way of striking with quickness and force yet without hurting my hands and wrists, even with repeated strikes for an extended period of time. Also there is proper protective equipment, like good boxing gloves. Many people think boxing gloves are made to protect the face. Not true. Their purpose is to protect the hands, such as the fifth metacarpal bone. After much trial and error, I found I preferred "Winning" brand gloves which fit my hands perfectly. I own multiple pairs so they can air dry between workouts. As a writer, I needed good hand protection.

Nowadays, I only need light hand protection. I can box all out for one solid hour, and afterwards, use my fountain pen to write a letter to a friend. This ability took over six years to gradually develop.

So there you have the two things I do to stay healthy. As you can tell, these two things are individual to me. They might not be right for you. You will need to find out things that you enjoy to keep healthy. You might not find boxing interesting at all. You might like to drink. For instance, Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan, a Vietnamese businessman, is the Guinness World Records holder for having the largest whiskey collection in the world. The collection took him 25 years and $14 million to assemble. Sounds like an unhealthy habit to me!

Regardless of your habits and interests, I hope they promote your health. If they don't, you might want to reconsider and change for the better. I'm not saying that as a Vietnamese father lecturing to you, but as a Vietnamese friend looking out for you. Take care of others during these difficult times, and most of all, take care of yourself by staying healthy so that you can continue taking care of others. ๐Ÿ’›


  1. Re:"Staying Healthy"

    Nice job relating your personal experiences, Sonshi. Brief,interesting, not preachy.

    As a confirmed smoker/drinker for 55 years, I can testify that you chose the correct path.

    I no longer have either habit for some time now, but the years of abuse have had dire health effects. I go into heavy breathing upon the slightest exertion and the alcohol had a likely significant part in my kidney ailments.

    My words will have NO EFFECT on those already trapped, but perhaps they will serve as some guidance forthosse still in a position to a avoid following in my steps.

    1. Thank you Dickie for your taking the time to share your wisdom and experience regarding smoking and drinking. I wish others would listen. Take care.


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"Irrigators channel waters; fletchers straighten arrows; carpenters shape wood; the wise master themselves." The Buddha