work­ing it out

Crossfit Amatak head coach Minna Ajo shares her tips and tricks on staying in shape in Ph­nom Penh’s ur­ban sprawl

Southeast Asia Globe - - Health - IN­TER­VIEW BY PAUL MIL­LAR

What are some of the main chal­lenges to staying healthy in Ph­nom Penh?

Water in­take is num­ber one – it's freak­ing hot. You will sud­denly no­tice how lit­tle you ac­tu­ally drink water – it comes in headaches, you feel drowsy, and the sec­ond your water in­take is up, you feel better about it. So that's num­ber one. And then comes food. As much as you love fried food, you should keep away from it.

When I first moved in, I ate at the noo­dle bar, Mex­i­can, piz­zas, burg­ers, be­cause the lifestyle of an ex­pat is fairly easy, right? Then you end up eat­ing that too much, and you're like, hold up, where did my money go? Sure, it's kind of cheap, but when you do it all the time, it be­comes expensive. So I started or­der­ing my meals here [at Crossfit Amatak's café], and then I shop at Russian Mar­ket for veg­eta­bles and food, and then I go to Dan Meat for, well, meat. And it's re­ally easy to cook at home. It's just the con­ve­nience that we nor­mally fall into.

What are some of the ways you can keep fit with­out a gym mem­ber­ship?

Run, swim, bike – Ph­nom Penh is not that up and down, there's not many hills. Get your­self a good road bike and a fan­tas­tic hel­met, and then bike down south of Tuol Tom Puong, go all the way south down Na­tional Road 2, do a big loop. There are a lot of places where you can swim – Ph­nom Penh Sports Club is not too far away. That's ac­tu­ally some­thing I rec­om­mend for our ath­letes and mem­bers to do on a day off in­stead of al­ways be­ing here. These are the easy things – it's just find­ing the fa­cil­ity for it and do­ing that kind of in­vest­ment if you want to go bik­ing. There are things to do; it's just how much you want to put the ef­fort in. That's how I see it.

What are some of the com­mon mis­takes peo­ple make when it comes to staying in shape?

Set­ting up un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions of them­selves is where ev­ery­one, even me some­times, falls over. And what we try to teach here is that it's about build­ing char­ac­ter first: un­der­stand­ing why do I come here, how can I sup­port my ef­forts in the gym? In­stead of just work­ing for 45 min­utes to an hour, you have to think about what you do through­out the day. So if you think nar­row-mind­edly that these 45 min­utes are go­ing to save my day, are go­ing to make me su­per fit, you're wrong. Seek other in­for­ma­tion, like how can I make these 45 min­utes even more ef­fi­cient? How do I eat, how do I sleep, do I drink water or beer? Lit­tle things like that. There's such a vast amount of in­for­ma­tion out there, and try­ing to find the right way to go is hard.

Head coach Minna Ajo train­ing in the Crossfit Amatak gym in Ph­nom Penh's trendy Tuol Tom Puong dis­trict

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