from chin-ups to chilli

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about health and fitness goals in which I said I wanted to teach myself to do chin-ups. As we’re approaching the halfway mark for the year, I’m glad to announce that I’ve now managed to do five consecutive, unassisted chin-ups. I’m actually surprised at this because my “training” was getting pretty irregular, and by the day that I actually achieved it, I probably hadn’t practised in weeks.

I suppose it’s like a lot of other things in the sense that practising a number of other things (in this case, push-ups, weights, etc) can help achieve the thing that you think you should be doing all the time (i.e. chin-ups).

Full disclaimer: It’s probably more accurate to call them half-chin-ups, since I didn’t extend my arms to their full length before pulling up into the next rep. Is that cheating? Like people who do push-ups on their knees? Not the same?

Well, it doesn’t matter, anyway. I’ve decided that this is a satisfactory enough outcome, and I’m ready to cross this off the list, and move on to other things. I think I’ll still go and practise sometimes, but it’s no longer a priority, and there’s no longer any pressure associated with it.

The next/replacement goal, however, is not really fitness-related. Well, “not really” isn’t true — it’s not related at all. My current focus is on improving my chilli tolerance.

I can’t handle spicy food very well, but almost everyone in my family likes chilli, particularly anyone on my dad’s side of the family. A lot of my friends also like spicy food, but the split is probably more like 50/50 between people who either can’t handle spice or can only manage very mild chilli, and those who really love chilli. 

So I suppose part of the reason I want to improve my chilli tolerance is so that I can “fit in” with friends and family. Nothing worse than going to a family gathering and not being able to eat half the food there…

The other reason I’m doing this is because there have been so many times when I’m eating out, and the dish that I want to order — the dish that sounds most appealing and/or interesting — has the small catch that it’s got chilli. Sure, some restaurants will accomodate and make a dish less spicy, but I don’t like asking people to alter dishes because that’s not how it was intended to be served. More often than not, I’ll just choose another dish.

But not anymore!

I mean, I’m still very much just in the early stages of working on this, but I don’t avoid chilli anymore. I’ve probably had more spicy food in the last few weeks than I’ve had all year. People have told me before that I can improve my chilli tolerance by eating more chilli. What no one ever mentioned was that I need to do this on a regular basis.

Now and then, I’d eat something mildly spicy, but those dishes were few and far between. I suppose I never really challenged myself, and the inconsistency of exposure meant that hardly any progress was ever really made. I started questioning whether “building chilli tolerance” was actually a real thing or, if it was, whether it was something I could achieve.

The epiphany came one day at work when a colleague, who had been eating the same/similar soup for lunch for weeks, said she thought it was getting quite bland despite having so much cayenne pepper and other spices in it. I realised then that it must be because she was eating it every day that she was practically immune to the heat in it. That’s when I realised I needed to get rid of the fear, embrace chilli, and make it a part of my regular meals.

And so it began.

It’s convenient, actually, because it’s winter right now, which seems like the best time for spicy food. Originally, I was going to try to eat something with chilli every day, but, after watching me suffer through a rather spicy Brazillian pie, my friend thought I should try every second day instead.

I’d made the pie myself, using cayenne pepper, but since I’ve never cooked with chilli before, and had no idea how spicy cayenne pepper was, I probably put too much in it. Still, I survived, and I’ve eaten (and enjoyed!) other spicy food besides.

On that note, I think it’s time for lunch! Another piece of pie perhaps…

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