Witness the fitness

Nol Allapach is committed to helping people reach peak physical condition

As a young man in his early twenties, Nol "Mickey" Allapach keeps his calorie intake under control and dedicates at least 90 minutes each day to resistance training and a high-intensity cardio workout.

His friends think of him as a "gymaholic", but Mickey says that he's committed to leading a healthy lifestyle for the rest of his days.

His enthusiasm is coupled with an academic background in exercise sports science from Oregon State University. Majoring in fitness and nutrition, he chose an internship in Thailand where he has gained hands-on experience at Bangkok Hospital's Bangkok Academy of Sports & Exercise Medicine (BASEM) and the Sports Authority of Thailand. The medical centre provides an international standard of care to athletes, and Mickey was assigned to work with the Thailand International Women's Volleyball Team, who recently won the Asian Women's Volleyball Championship.

Peak athletic performance comes under the supervision of a strength coach, which is what Mickey wants to become. This is what is driving him to pursue a master's degree in strength and conditioning at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, in February next year.

What first got you interested in sports?

My family all participated in some kind of sport. My dad was a former rugby player and coach of the Thai international team. In his eighties, my grandfather still plays tennis.

I love playing tennis like him too, and I'm crazy about soccer. I actually wanted to become a professional soccer player, but as I got older I realised that it wasn't happening.

Still I wanted to work and be around athletes, and I groomed myself by studying exercise sports science. Now that I have graduated and my dad is back coaching again, I will be helping him with the Thai international women's rugby team training.

What was the most difficult subject to learn?

The most difficult subjects, I would say, are the most important. And for me they were the basic sciences: biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. It's important to learn how the body works, and the deeper you know, the better.

What I benefit most from majoring in nutrition and fitness is the knowledge keeps me, as well as people around me, healthy. I share what I have learned with my family, such as suggesting to my grandparents how they should exercise at their age, so that they can be with me for a long time.

It's important to have good health. If you have wealth but bad health, it's pointless.

So you want to become a strength coach, even though it doesn't make much money?

In the US, you can build a good career from being a strength and conditioning coach because professional sports are at a more advanced level than in Thailand. Athletes are already in a good shape and the strength coach's job is to improve them by making them stronger and faster to push them to peak performance through a well-designed training programme.

Effective coaching requires knowledge, skills, techniques, experience and expertise. So there's a lot to learn in order to prepare me for professional certifications in fitness and conditioning such as those from the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. I want to work here in Thailand, probably starting at club level first in order to gain experience, before coaching an international team.

What should non-athletes focus more on to keep fit?

From my own experience, I regret that I didn't start weight training at an earlier age. If I did, I would probably have a better physique. In the US, weight training has become a standard exercise for both men and women. Most people there start at a young age.

Here in Thailand, there is a still a myth among women that it gives them bulky muscles and so they fear doing it. A form of resistance exercise, weight training becomes even more important with ageing in order to add more muscle mass to help with balance.

But it's never too late to start picking up a dumbbell, and starting with professional instruction you can work on the major muscle groups and do compound movement exercises to increase lean muscle mass and build up strength.

How did you design your fitness routine?

It's about trying everything and finding what works best for you. We are made differently and the workout programme should be tailor-made for each individual. There is no one perfect programme that will work for everybody.

I've tried all kinds of workout programmes and exercises by mixing and matching along with what I've learned. Currently, I begin with resistance training and finish off with either cardio or core and abs exercises, altogether taking no more than 90 minutes.

Spending longer in the gym may come from talking to others and I avoid socialising and focus on my goals.

Do you ever get bored?

Sometimes, but I think I've come too far to quit. So every time I feel like quitting, I always ask myself why I started.

Many people make an excuse that they don't have the time to exercise. But if my job requires me to go to work at 8am, I would wake up at 5am in order to exercise. That would get me started for the new day.

I feel like if you want something bad enough you will make time for it. If I don't get my morning workout, I feel something is missing.

Are you as disciplined and picky about what you eat?

I tend to make healthy choices when it comes down to what I put in my body, and luckily I'm not a big fan of desserts and sweets.

My nutrition background makes me read product labels, calculate calories and track my macro-nutrient consumption.

I don't think I'm on a diet, but eating healthy is a lifestyle for me. Some people say that I'm too crazy with my healthy lifestyle, but I call it dedication.

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