Fighting Fit For The Over Fifties

This is a guest post from a former colleague and good friend Paul Pasquale. He addresses a serious issue – possibly a life-ordeath issue for some of us.

The story starts in January 2019 when Paul was 51 and was written eight months later in August 2019.

Hope it inspires you.

Good Luck
The Barefoot Bohemian.

“I was overweight, unfit, lethargic and rapidly becoming a middle-aged, physical car crash.

Around 15 years ago, I was badly injured whilst on assignment in Iraq (seems like yesterday). Without going into detail, I struggled to maintain a grip on my physical, and some might also argue, mental well being.

I think I knew it, but I didn’t really consider it a problem. 

I was happy living at the bottom of Hagen Dass ice cream tubs, often more than three a week, beer, pizza and anything with enough sugar to kill a horse was my staple diet.

During this long period of self-neglect, I managed to stack on 2.5 to 3 stone in weight and, more worryingly, increased my body fat percentage to over 33%, I also had an appalling resting heart rate.

Of course, I was deep in denial, but trying to tie my waist belt using the same hole I had for 15 years, was now proving impossible.

There were my mini lectures to my guardian son Max, (he is 11 years old) explaining to him the importance of self-respect, the benefits of determination, hard work and discipline. But then I would catch a glimpse of my pot belly in the mirror after a shower or getting dressed for a night out, and I would feel like an absolute hypocrite.

It was just too easy to put this physical deterioration down to age and a hectic, sometimes stressful lifestyle. 

After all, I was in my 50’s, and in my mind I was virtually an old man, I should just accept that I’m way past my best and it’s impossible to turn it around and get back what I once had. 

0430 on a day in December 2018, I found myself rushing into A and E coughing up a small amount of blood.

My stomach had started producing way too much acid, and after various internal examinations and “probing” inspections of one kind or the another, the doc put me on 40mg a day of Omeprazole, and explained it was common for men in their 50’s.

So there it was.  My first lifetime prescription drug.

It finally dawned on me if I didn’t do something about my physical well being immediately, I was sure my life would spiral down much faster than it should and the doc would soon be prescribing a statin drug , then maybe insulin etc and before I knew it I’d be getting measured up for a wooden box.

The prospect of joining a gym and taking on a diet seemed like a nightmare, and the absolute last thing I really wanted to do, besides, I’d completely lost touch with how to exercise the right way, I had no clue where to start or how.

Now here’s where it all turned around.

Everyday, I walk  past a fitness centre called Pure Gym. Only one cold, rainy day in January I didn’t walk past. I was literally in a dream like state when my body walked me in despite my mind pleading with me not to.

Right away I was teamed up a PG PT expert and gym manager called Sam St Barbe (ex rugby player), and I found myself confessing to Sam my fears about training in a public gym, my injuries and declining health. 

Sam got straight to the point.

My age had nothing to do with my attitude, and that my first port of call before anything, was the kitchen. There was no way I could move forward without ditching the tubs of ice cream.

I needed to get my finger out, face my fears head on, drop the self doubt and get on with it.

70% kitchen and 30% hard work in the gym.

The right exercises were key, cardio and weights, do not ignore either.

The effort needs to be 100% and consistency was king.

Do not make excuses. Injuries, work, kids etc… None of those count as excuses. ALWAYS FIND THE TIME.

Work hard in the gym, have a goal in sight, and have a laugh! It can be fun! Don’t fear the small bumps on the road to well being. 


The first 3 – 4 weeks I won’t lie, were a bitch. But the physical changes were damn fast.

I restricted myself to 1600-1800 calories a day (down from around 2700).

My partner Karolina got right on board with the changes, she immediately emptied the fridge and cupboards of all the junk food. 

She helped make sure that I ate good food, heaps of quality protein through free-range low-fat meats, a daily low-calorie protein shake and limited carbs to home cooked fresh veggies, pastas and oats.

People, if you want to do this, then your partner absolutely needs to have your back, no dangling french fries and packets of crisps in front of them!


I now train 5 days a week, around 70 mins per session (initially this included 2 days a week with Sam – now down to just the 1)

I always start with a 15 mins HIIT training session and good heavy weights to round off.

In 7/8 months I shed over 2 stone of pure fat, and now at 52 years old, I’m down to 10 stone 10lbs with under 14% body fat (aiming for a level and consistent 10%-14%) and have a resting BPM of 44-47.

I’m now almost off the Omeprazole, from 40mg a day down to 20mg every 4 days, sometimes I even skip this dose. By the time you read this I’ll probably have no need for it at all.

So, now YOU’RE in your 50’s –

Empty your fridge of all that crap you know is slowly killing you.

And get to work on yourself for yourself. IT IS NOT TOO LATE!

Oh, and by the way, I don’t have a restrictive diet, I still enjoy a little alcohol, some sweet treats and a late liein. But I acknowledge these treats, importantly recognize they are “treats” and take the extra effort to make up for them.

So why the photos?

Because these photographs were my goal.

I made a promise to myself I would take these photos at the end of August and make them public.

This way I would have no choice but to work as hard as I could to achieve an image of me that I was happy for people to see and prove to myself and others in their midlife, that age should never be an excuse not to be fit and healthy.

Good luck fellow 50’s and book a gym today, tomorrow is too late!


PS Additional things that really helped me:

Find a great personal trainer and a 24/7 gym! (If it’s 24/7, there’s NO EXCUSE not to go!)

MyFitnessPal a calorie counting app, amazingly simple to use, scans bar codes and keeps you on track. USE THIS NOW! You’ll be astounded at how many calories you consume.

Blue Tooth Weight Scales* that measure body composition. (Some arguments surround the accuracy of these, but I found them excellent to help maintain a downward curve, allowing for a constant baseline measurement.)

AthleanX a YouTuber that guides through exercises, nutrition and focusing. The best YouTuber out there by far.

A good playlist and some decent headphones essential!”


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Fancy A Flutter On Las Vegas?

Have you ever wondered if a trip to Las Vegas is for you?

Isn’t it just an Adult Disney full of Americans Behaving Badly in some sort of modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah?

The Palazzo Hotel

Well, it can’t be denied that the place is dominated by gambling and drinking, with prostitution, drug taking and organised crime not far below the surface.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a place to be avoided – unless you are planning to take children. If so, think again. Not because of the activities listed above but because it’s simply not aimed at children. Apart from a splash in the hotel pool you’ll struggle to find things to occupy them.

But as an open minded adult it’s a load of fun and a paradise for ‘people watching‘. Pretty much anything goes and even the most bizarre behaviour can be explained by “It’s Vegas!”

It’s not cheap. Hotels on the strip start about $200 a night (although there is cheaper accommodation away from the strip) and run to thousands per night for a suite. (See Video of a suite in the Palazzo Hotel).

But the strip is the place to be with activity night and day and each hotel is bigger than the last, all with their own casinos and one – The Venetian – with its own gondolas on canals on its second floor. (Watch a video of the strip).

St Mark’s Square inside the Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas

If you are going to gamble take plenty of money. Tables on the strip have a $10 minimum stake and can go to $100,000 minimum in the high roller areas.

It’s a little more affordable in downtown Las Vegas – home of the original mob-controlled strip.

Fremont Street has tables with a $5 minimum bet and some slot machines with smaller stakes.

It also has a zip wire which runs the entire length of the covered street, and a burger joint called Heart Attack Grill.

If you weigh more than 350lbs (25 stones) you eat for free. Once inside you don a hospital gown and browse the high cholesterol-laden menu ranging from Single to Octuple Bypass Burgers. (Watch video of Fremont Street).

But if you fancy a break from the strip, Las Vegas is also well situated to explore other well-known attractions.

The Hoover Dam.

The Hoover Dam (Watch video) and Grand Canyon (Watch video) are a good day trip in one direction and Death Valley is a day trip in the other direction.

The Grand Canyon

So all in all, I’d say it’s definitely worth a punt. What could possibly go wrong?

Cocktail Time

Good Luck
The Barefoot Bohemian.

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Balkan Bonanza

I have to start with a confession. I have allowed work to get in the way of my intention to travel and to do the things I want to do. What’s worse I haven’t always enjoyed the work I have been doing, so that’s all got to change if I’m to keep faith with the intentions of this site.
Anyway, with that out of the way, I have finally got round to working towards my goal of 100 countries see the list here, with numbers 80 and 81 on one trip, and number 82 the following week.
My choices this time are probably not in many people’s Top Ten of places to visit but I was pleasantly surprised – in parts!


Skopje in the evening

The first stop was Skopje, capital of Macedonia, with a Wizz Air flight out of Luton and a £2.50 (180 MKD) bus ride into the city centre. As with previous trips, I booked accommodation through Airbnb, this time a city centre apartment just off Alexander Square, which was the perfect location to explore the city.

Turkish quarter.

Turkish quarter.

It was close to restaurants, bars, shops and the main attractions, including the Turkish Bazaar, which is worth a wander. It’s a relatively small city so it’s easy to see most things in a couple of days. If you’ve done all the usual European weekend locations and are looking for somewhere more unusual, then Skopje is only a couple of hours from the UK and worth a look.
Then I travelled to a probably even lesser known place, Prishtina, in Kosovo. I checked out trains and buses from Skopje to make the trip. There was only one train a day but regular buses, so that made the decision easy. The process was simple. I turned up at the bus station, bought a ticket for 350 MKD (about £5), and boarded a bus which left 5 minutes later. It was a 20 seater minibus, rather than a coach, but given the road winds through the mountains, that was probably a good thing.
About 35 minutes out of Skopje, we reached the border. It was a relatively painless experience which we might have to get used to depending on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations but highlighted how we should appreciate the current free movement within Europe. Passports were collected as we left Macedonia, taken away, inspected and handed back. Then we drove 30 yards and repeated the process for the Kosovo border police. This time the passport was stamped. All in all, we were on our way after about 35 minutes, but it’s a lot of faffing about in the name of sovereignty, control of borders etc. After that, it was about a two-hour drive on winding mountainous roads to Prishtina. The bus station is quite a way from the centre so a £5 taxi fare is a good idea. I managed to share with two others who’d been on the bus with me, which I imagine is quite common.
Again I’d booked Airbnb and lucked out once more – although how many great, cheap, comfortable apartments do you have to book in different countries before it’s not regarded as lucky? I have never had a bad place and never paid very much for an apartment. Perhaps the company should consider a name change though because I have never used it to find a B&B or to share a house with a host family. There are loads of great apartments you can have to yourself at very reasonable prices. (Advert over – Airbnb can contact me via this website to reward me for the free recommendation).



A £15 taxi ride took me back to the airport, which is a good 20 minutes out of the centre, and WizzAir flew me back into Luton.
A few days later, another WizzAir flight took me back to the Balkans (I broke the journey for personal reasons rather than work my way around the cities which was my original plan). This time the trip was to the capital of Albania, Tirana.
The airport shuttle bus into the city centre was 250 Lek (about £1.75) and took about 30-40 minutes. Again an Airbnb apartment in the centre meant everything was walking distance away. This makes it much easier to see a city in a short time. And there is a fair amount of things to see with some good bars and restaurants.

Tirana Opera House

Tirana Opera House

A word of warning. Tirana Airport does not yet support boarding passes downloaded to mobiles. This is a problem because you can only check in for Wizz Air flights two days before and are charged extra at the airport if you haven’t already done so. Therefore I had to find a place to print off the downloaded pdf – not a simple process as printing from mobiles is not always straightforward. For me, it involved taking a screenshot of the boarding pass, sending it via WhatsApp to the woman in the shop who printed it from her desktop computer. I guess that’s a downside of not staying in a hotel where that palaver could have been done with someone on reception, but Wizz Air could make the process simpler until all airports catch up. Still, the main cost was time, because the whole process cost me the princely sum of 10 Lek (7p).
So in summary, Skopje is worth a look, Tirana was interesting but more of a working city and less touristy, with Prishtina really only for those with a reason to go there.

Good Luck
The Barefoot Bohemian

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Vientiane, Chiang Mai and Yangon.

In contrast to my last couple of posts which were ostensibly about away-days, this is about a much meatier trip.  Although having said that, the manner in which it was planned and executed is still very much in the spirit of the Barefoot Bohemian.  I will also focus on the mechanics of the trip rather than on producing yet another tour guide, although a video of each location can be viewed at The Barefoot Bohemian channel on YouTube if you want a flavour on them. View the video here

Yangon street scene

Yangon street scene

Having found myself with a couple of free weeks and deciding that I really needed to tick off some things from my bucket list (see the list here), I wanted to get the biggest bang for my buck, so it was either completing the missing Asian countries on my list or tackling a couple in Latin America.  Asia won – as so often happens with me.

The big Asian gaps were Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma), and as I’d never been to Chiang Mai in Thailand and it is conveniently situated between the other two, that went into the itinerary as well.

I have built up a number of air miles with BA (Avíos points as they are now called) so I looked at flights to and from Bangkok. There were flights out but no air mile flights back to London in March or April.  So I booked a £200 flight to Bangkok (with some air miles) and a £20 (yes that does not have a 0 missing) return flight from Hong Kong 11 days later. Then I set about linking them up.  It involved lots of post it notes and numerous permutations but I eventually settled on an additional seven flights to complete the trip ( total cost about £350 which was less than half of the cost I was quoted by a popular flight company who wanted £750 for the same interconnecting trip). And ironically the cheapest way to fly was not west to east as you might expect, but east to west and then east again which shows the value of being flexible and checking all the options.

So the trip became London Heathrow to Bangkok.  Switch airports in Bangkok and fly from Bangkok Don Mueang airport to Vientiane in Laos.  Three nights in Vientiane.  Fly Vientiane to Luang Prabang in Laos and then on to Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Two nights in Chiang Mai.  Fly Chiang Mai to Bangkok then on to Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in Myanmar.  Four nights in Yangon.  Fly Yangon to Bangkok and Bangkok to Hong Kong before returning to London Heathrow.  Nine flights in eleven days with a total price of about £600 including air miles.

Room beside the Mekong in Vientiane

Room beside the Mekong in Vientiane

Next – accommodation.  Having experimented with Airbnb in Krakow, I thought it should be tested a little further in a couple of more remote locations.  It did not disappoint. I got a large spacious room with balcony on the banks of the Mekong in Vientiane, a similar sized and well-appointed room in the old city of Chiang Mai, and a reasonable but not as impressive double room – with breakfast – in Yangon (total cost for the nine nights – about £200).

Room in the old walled city of Chiang Mai

Room in the old walled city of Chiang Mai

A couple of other things to consider – transfers and visas.  Currencies, restaurants, and bars are no longer much of a consideration when travelling, given the proliferation of ATM machines and apps like Trip Advisor to help you find places to go when you arrive in a foreign country.  Airbnb hosts are remarkably helpful with information about their city and can advise the best way to transfer from the airport to the accommodation – with approximate costs so you don’t experience that ‘am I being ripped off’ feeling, actually you very rarely are but of course it can happen.  Visas for a U.K. passport holder are not required for Thailand, can be obtained on arrival in Laos and you can either get a visa for less than £20 for Myanmar, or if, like me, you are putting a trip together at the last minute and can’t wait the couple of weeks for your passport to be returned, then for an extra £15 or so, you can get an e-visa which was approved within hours and worked just fine.

Once the flights, visa and accommodation were booked, I could only foresee three tiny pinch-points. The first was I intended to do the trip without checked-in baggage. This became a little more tricky when I received an email from one of my chosen airlines informing me I was allowed two cabin bags – as long at their total weight did not exceed 7kg.  My challenge just got a little trickier.

Chiang Mai restaurant

Chiang Mai restaurant

The second was my arrival into Bangkok Suvarnbhumi Airport was scheduled for 0930 and my flight to Vientiane left Bangkok Don Mueang airport at 1255, giving me 3 hours 25 minutes between flights. Immigration at Bangkok can be a slow process (about an hour), taxi queues lengthy (30 minutes) Monday morning traffic a nightmare (more than one hour journey) and Air Asia are quite strict on enforcing their policy of checking in at least 1 hour prior to the flight (potentially 3 hours 30 minutes).

The third was the Myanmar eVisa required an address in Yangon and stressed that it must be a hotel or a licensed guest house, not a residential address, so my Airbnb accommodation might be an issue.  I resolved this by finding a cheap hotel with a memorable name in the same area as my accommodation and used its name and address.  If it became an issue I could always double book there.

In the end, none of the pinch-points became issues.  I got my bag weight down to 7.5kg and for the first couple of check-ins I wore my headphones, carried my iPad and was prepared to load the heavier items into my pockets.  However, despite numerous signs and warning announcements about their weight policy, no one ever checked the weight or size of my bag, so my achievement of getting the weight down became only a matter of pride in knowing I can do it.  The transfer in Bangkok was simple. Immigration was the quickest I’d ever experienced in Bangkok meaning I was outside in time to catch the free airport transport bus at 1000.  This takes 60-90 minutes and saved me a taxi fare.  And – the visa address? I don’t think the immigration officials in Yangon even read my visa letter.

But a final reminder if you’re thinking of making a similar trip – because I forgot!  Make sure you change back your unused Laotian and Burmese currency because even neighbouring Thailand won’t touch it with a bargepole.  Still, if you forget you’ll already have some cash for your next trip.

Good Luck
The Barefoot Bohemian.

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More Than A Day Trip

Charming Cafe in The Jewish Quarter

Charming Cafe in The Jewish Quarter

Following on from my last post about day trips, Kraków might seem like another location which would be a possible location for a quick visit. It’s a small enough city to see most things in a day, flights are frequent and cheap with early morning and late evening departures and it’s fairly inexpensive once you get there. (A train from the airport into the city centre takes 20 minutes and costs less than £2 each way).

But, for me, the thing which takes it off the day trip list is its proximity to Auschwitz and Birkenau, the former Nazi death camps. I can well understand a visit to these reminders of man’s inhumanity to man which happened only 70 years ago, may not be for everyone. They are undoubtedly a sobering and harrowing experience as you attempt to comprehend the systematic and highly organised extermination of those deemed expendable by the Nazis. However, for me, it would be a massive missed opportunity not to visit when you are only an hour’s drive away.

The gate at Auschwitz

The gate at Auschwitz

There are numerous ways to visit the camps, from public transport on bus or train, to coach tours or private hire minibuses for small groups. Entrance to the camps is free, although you pay about £10 each to join a guided group which is well worth it as the guides impart their extensive knowledge efficiently and with great dignity. I believe it would lose a great deal without their commentary.

Videos of Kraków and of Auschwitz/Birkenau are available on the Barefoot Bohemian YouTube channel at

Good Luck
The Barefoot Bohemian.

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