Day 22: Mindful Exercise

Yesterdays food mindfulness example showed how mindfulness can become part of daily life. Importantly, mindfulness can also be incorporated into very active activities – in fact, it can really enhance both the experience of them as well as the performance. Today, therefore, we briefly touch on how to integrate exercise and mindfulness.

Yoga, walking, running or even machine-based weight exercises are potential partners for mindfulness. As long as the exercise doesn’t necessarily require you to pay too much attention to unexpected movements from others (for example during competitive sports), mindfulness can normally be integrated. Exercises where you are free to pay attention to breathing are especially ideal.

How you integrate mindfulness will, of course, depend somewhat on the exercise. But the basic function is easily explained using the example of running.

For mindful running, start to bring your attention to your breathing during your run. Please don’t use any music devices – and only do this on tracks where you can completely focus on the breathing (don’t do it, for example, while crossing streets or on uneven surfaces!).
Align your running with your breath: for example, three steps during breathing in. Two steps during breathing out (adjust this to whatever feels right for you). Repeat this pattern. Focus on your breath while doing this, acknowledging any other feelings or emotions, including any bodily sensations, such as your feet touching the ground, the wind on your skin etc. Regard them, acknowledge them, but focus on your breathing to keep you in the moment.
Most people find aligning breathing and steps as quite challenging, in fact unnatural in the beginning. This is perfectly normal. We are not trained to do this. If you find it very challenging, try and run on a straight stretch for just a short while – somewhere where you are not disturbed – to train the breathing and step synchronisation. After a few attempts it will be easier to do this. You can then try and practice it for longer runs.

For other exercises, follow the example above: align your activity with your breath. For example, inhale for one step. Exhale for the next while walking slowly.

With some practice, this will start to feel much more natural than in the beginning. You’ll probably notice how your mind quiets down when you use the technique: you can observe yourself doing the exercises, feeling more present.

Have you tried mindful exercising? Do you have some tips for when doing it? Share your experiences below. Tomorrow we will be moving on to more adult themes: starting with body acceptance before moving on to discussing how mindfulness can not just help living a much happier and healthier life… but can also make your sex life much more enjoyable!

Day 1: Welcome

First a big welcome! It is great that you’re joining me on this month long bootcamp! Over the next weeks, you’ll get a daily bootcamp activity, helping you focus on the most important person in the world: you! Less stress, better sex, more fitness… and even a completely new life are all on offer. All it will take is a small activity each day – to focus on you, yourself and your life.
But you don’t need to have big goals to take part: the program will still help you to enjoy your life more, get more out of the life you have and develop strategies and ideas to live a purposeful and happy life, now and in future.

The bootcamp uses truly powerful methods to empower you and your life: mindfulness, meditation and tantra. Each one has the potential to change your life  – together they are amazing, that’s why I’ll bring them all in over the next few weeks.
Why not focus on a single method like so many other methods? Simple answer: because the programme should be flexible enough to allow you to experience it all – and then pick what you like best – and what works for you.

The bootcamp is divided into four weeks, with daily doses of activities to complete or information to read:
For the first two weeks, we will focus on two powerful methods to focus and transform your mind: mindfulness and meditation. During these two weeks the bootcamps showcases different uses for the two methods – and the two methods in action, both in conventional as well as unconventional ways: So we will explore mindful awareness of the moment as well as mindfulness while performing sports, meditation in a traditional way to discover yourself, transform your mind – as well as a source of sexual energy.

The second part of the bootcamp then uses these methods to focus on living your life more purposefully in general and focusing on love, relationships and exploring and expanding your sex life. In the last part, I’ll additionally introduce some elements of tantra into the mix, to complement meditation and mindfulness. If you now think this means a lot of touching, strange positions and no orgasm, I have good news for you. Don’t worry… this isn’t going to be a classical tantra course. Far from it … as part of the bootcamp you’ll explore all the options of sexuality, from wild to sensual.

In fact, the bootcamp is designed in such a way that you don’t to have to sign up to a specific philosophical (or religious) world view before you embark on the programme (or ever after!). It is great if you have one, it’s great if you have none. You don’t have to become vegan or start every morning with a half hour meditation. Unless you want to. It’s really up to you. The bootcamp won’t ask you to do that. The most important for the bootcamp is that you have fun, discover some new things, learn some new tricks and maybe discover a few things about yourself. There are some principles, but I think you’ll agree they are easy to follow.

Finally… let me say what is required from you. Luckily, the requirement is quite simple. Simply complete the activity of the day as good as you can. There is a simple rule in this bootcamp: you can’t fail, unless you give up. Some activities may be more fun than others for you. Some will be amazing, some may not be something you would normally do. Go with it. Try it and see. I promise you, at the end you will have developed a toolbox of great activities which you enjoy and which will really help you get more out of live, love and sex.

The main point is that we are going on a journey. Together. Please share your experiences and become part of the urbangay community. Let’s make this a great journey, and the begin of a long journey together.

Just before we start, check in tomorrow, as  I’ll go over some of the terms I have quite loosely used here – and how they are different (but also why they are so great in combination!).

What’s the bootcamp?

I’m really excited: you probably have seen the stuff about the “bootcamp” around the blog. The bootcamp is something I have been working on – and I hope you’ll join when it starts in March. In this post, I’ll explain a bit about the bootcamp – and in the next post I’ll say a bit more how it came about.

In a nutshell, the bootcamp is a month long “program” that brings together bits of mindfulness, meditation and tantra specifically for gay men (although you don’t have to be gay, of course!). I’m a bit hesitant to use the word program, as it isn’t really a big thing “change all aspects of your life” sort of thing and it doesn’t require you to commit to a lot of time every day.

In fact, it is a small, daily doses kick-starter program: similar to a fitness bootcamp, just less work and more results. It brings together some activities that I have found to be really good to get more out of life: a collection of things that I have picked up upon or used over the years. Now I assembled all of it into a “meaningful package”.

The idea is that, for a month, you try out something different or think about a particular point every day. All of the points together, at the end of the month, give you a pretty good overview over your life, things you are happy with, identify things you want to change, and things you want to explore more.

I think the result is a fun month of daily, small activities, which make you think, change the way you look at life, make you appreciate life more, that are sexy and  enjoyable.

The bootcamp has two parts: the first part is learning techniques, basically giving you some activities to help you better control your mind to be present, and to do what you want it to do (you’ll see, that is not as easy as it sounds!). The second part, is applying this to life, sex and relationships.

In the first part, the bootcamp starts with mindfulness. Simply training the mind to be present in the present moment. If you are a bit skeptical about it… I totally see your point: I remember when I first heard about the technique, I thought it was really stupid. And simple. But after giving it a try a few times (and I needed a few times to get it right, because it wasn’t really that simple at all!), I realised what a difference it can make make to many situations.

The bootcamp continues from there: the next step is meditation. Not in a dogmatic way, but in a fun way! While the first part gives you activities to focus your mind on the now and present, this part trains the mind to focus on specific issues with a purpose. Meditation and mindfulness are then the techniques used for the second part of the boot camp, where it is all about applying them to enjoy life more.

The second part focuses on the application: first on life overall – and then quite specifically to sex and relationships. This is the real fun part, a you get to ask all the big questions, and use the techniques from before on them.

Careful though, this part is not your typical meditate on life and hope for the best outcome sort of program: it is a really focused way of crafting your individual life and sexual “strategy”. Totally NSFW … From food to masturbation, exercise to kink, from using sex toys to going nude – it will all come in the second part.  And you’ll see how the techniques from the first part of the bootcamp help you enjoy all of it much more then before.

And just like a fitness bootcamp, the plan is trying to get you out of your normal life a bit – explore around the edges of your comfort zone… and have a lot of fun along the way.

Find out more about how the urbangay approach and the idea for the bootcamp developed in the next post. And: don’t forget: if you sign up to the VIP list newsletter you won’t miss out on any bootcamp posts!

Running routes in Lisbon

Lisbon is famously hilly… which is great news if you are into hill training. Unfortunately, for runners favouring a more gentle run, running in Lisbon can be a bit of a challenge. But there are some great running routes – so don’t despair! Here is a summary of my favourites:

Riverside: Baixa/Cais do Sodré to Belém
This is probably the most popular route for anyone visiting Lisbon: Running along the river Tejo/Tagus. It is completely flat, and the route is easy to follow much Praça do Comércio all the way to Belém and beyond. Most of the street works in the area are completed, which makes this route easy to follow – and you’ll be rewarded with some of the most amazing sights: From the breathtaking start in Praça do Comércio, along the port and reclaimed docks and passing April 25th Bridge, MAAT and finishing in Belém.
The full route to Torre de Belém is a little over 7 km – so a neat 15 km run for the weekend if you run around the Praça once or twice. For a shorter run, an alternative is to take public transport out to Belém – and return one way.

Riverside: Parque das Nações and Vasco da Gama Bridge
This is a much more modern scenery around the riverside on the other side of Lisbon: You can get to Oriente station, and run along the riverside (again, flat) to Vasco da Gama Bridge, then back up, and run to the other end of Parque das Nações – and back again to Oriente. The run is a bit shorter than the one to Belém: around 6km one way, 12 km by the time you return to Oriente.
The main attraction here: Modern Lisbon at it’s very best.

Town running: São Sebastião to Praça de Comércio
This is a pretty nice route for a relaxed run: Take public transport to São Sebastião (El Corte Ingles). You need to get up the hill at the start (to the oversized Portuguese flag) – but from there on it is an easy run almost straight down to Praça de Comércio along Avenida and Baixa. Amazing architecture, grand buildings and regular stops at intersections make this a perfect run for an easy start.
One way is 3.5 km.

This is far more hilly … but the rewards are great views over Lisbon. If you are serious about training up hill – this is probably for you. You can make up different routes as you go along. Overall, you could spend a long time running around here – or just run across the mountain: one way is around 5 km.
The highlight: The derelict old restaurant with the most spectacular view over Lisbon.

Serious running:
If you want to run (nearly) a marathon, the easiest way is to run from the Vasco da Gama Bridge all the way to Algés – and back. A less ambitious version: Take the metro to Moscavide and then run along the riverside one way, taking the train back from Algés. The full run is roughly 20km – and you get to see all of the stunning riverside of Lisbon (and a few more “up and coming places”) on the way.

Happy running… For more ideas about runs and different routes (although some going up steep hills), you can also check out the Nike Run LX facebook page. They post maps of their forever changing runs mostly starting at the Nike store in Chiado (Sadly only in Portuguese).
Have you got a favourite run in Lisbon? Please share your favourite running locations below!


The 2017 Fitness Challenge

Are you ready to get fit in 2017? If so… then here is the 2017 Fitness Challenge for you! OK… it is a small challenge with a gentle start. The basic premise is to build up to running the Lisbon Half Marathon in March, although you obviously don’t have to run the actual race in Lisbon to be part of the challenge (although it is a pretty neat ‘excuse’ to visit Lisbon, in case you need an excuse!).

The challenge is a simple three days a week running – and twice fitness to take care of the rest. Two rest days: For me the rest days are Sunday and Monday. Running days are for short runs: Tuesdays, Thursdays – long(er) runs on Saturday. Of course, being flexible is a good idea when it comes to days – but sticking to three runs and two gym sessions is the key here.

My start day will be the 27 December (Tuesday)… just after the Christmas feasts, which will hopefully result in enough motivation!

The actual training plan with all runs/gym/restdays looks like this:

1 26/12/16 Restday 5 Gym 5 Gym 10 Restday
2 02/01/17 Restday 5 Gym 5 Gym 10 Restday
3 09/01/17 Restday 5 Gym 5 Gym 10 Restday
4 16/01/17 Restday 5 Gym 5 Gym 10 Restday
5 23/01/17 Restday 5 Gym 5 Gym 10 Restday
6 30/01/17 Restday 6 Gym 6 Gym 12 Restday
7 06/02/17 Restday 7 Gym 7 Gym 14 Restday
8 13/02/17 Restday 8 Gym 8 Gym 16 Restday
9 20/02/17 Restday 9 Gym 9 Gym 18 Restday
10 27/02/17 Restday 10 Gym 10 Gym 20 Restday
11 06/03/17 Restday 6 Gym 6 Gym 12 Restday
12 13/03/17 Restday 6 Gym 6 Gym 3 Lisbon Half

All the above runs are in kilometers – not at least because I’m a slow and gentle runner 😉 …

If you don’t want to be training alone, but fancy a virtual training buddy … please remember to add me on Runkeeper – if we get a few virtual training buddies together, we can create a virtual running group there. My Runkeeper profile can be found here. Don’t forget to connect by sending me a tweet and say hello here: @urbangay  or follow/DM on instagram. And if you are running the Lisbon half… let’s make sure to say hi!

Benefits of exercise for more and better sex…

Of course, most people know that sex can be a good form of exercise (in case you want brush up on why, have a look here)… however, while sex can be a good workout, a few good workouts can also mean better sex: so here are the good reasons not to skip the workout.

Sex can be a good workout, but a few good workouts mean better sex - here is why! Click To Tweet
  1. Exercise increases energy
    If you exercise regularly, you are more likely to have higher energy levels than someone who prefers to slouch on the couch (and yes, probably also someone whose only exercise happens in bed!). Of course, most people won’t feel highly energetic after completing a marathon,… so, for a more fun sex life – some moderate exercise is the key.
  2. Exercise improves your mood
    Exercise is a pretty good anti-depressant,  by increasing endorphins in the body, which are a natural form of happy-pill cum painkiller – free of side-effects. The good news: you don’t have to be feeling down to feel their effect either – they will make your mood better anyhow. And if you feel good, that generally leads to better sex.
  3. Exercise enhances stress response
    Cortisol is the culprit here: the stress hormone kills sex drive (if you have ever worked a 60 hour week, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about!). Regular exercise reduces the effect of cortisol – so effectively reducing the damage stress does to your sex drive (sorry, it does not reduce your stress at work though!). However, with a better defense against the libido-zapper hormone, stress can take less of a tole on a fantastically destressing activity…
  4. Exercise improves the body
    This should really go without saying that exercise improves how you look – it tones your body. Of course, great sex isn’t all about having a great body, but it is all about feeling good. And most people feel pretty good in a toned body… and if you feel good, why not share it?
  5. Exercise increases testosterone
    Moderate exercise increases testosterone – at least for a short while. Especially good are muscle building exercises, but all exercise seems to have a positive effect. Again, don’t overdo it, but maybe have a warm-up in the gym or along the river front, and a grand(er) finale between the sheets afterwards.

Of course, you don’t have to trust me on this: way back in 1990, this academic study looked at sex and exercise. Particularly the effect of moderate exercise on men… the result: Guys had more sex, better sexual function and found their orgasms more satisfactory.

So… next Sunday morning, maybe don’t just put off your workout in favour of being with your partner. Rather: get some exercise together – and reap the rewards afterwards!

LGBT Sports in Lisbon

In this recent post I lamented (or maybe just ignorantly assumed) that the list of LGBT+ sports clubs in Lisbon is “short”. Well… let me come clean: I was wrong, there are a few. So trying to bring them together, here are the ones I have found out about so far.

Basically from what I could find out, there are two main “groups” offering sports: BJWHF (Boys Just Wanna Have Fun) and ILGA. Each of these offer a variety of different sports options … so here is a handy list, listed by day, sports type and link to further information/address.

Day Sport Organiser Address
Monday Volleyball BJWHF
Football BJWHF
Tuesday Rugby BJWHF
Dance (Tango) BJWHF
Wednesday Running BJWHF
Swimming BJWHF
Yoga (Lunch time) ILGA
Thursday Football BJWHF
Dance (Kizomba) ILGA
Running ILGA
Friday Rugby BJWHF
Volleyball BJWHF
Saturday Running ILGA
Swimming ILGA
Sunday Tennis ILGA
Football ILGA
Swimming BJWHF


As always: If you know of any other sports clubs/meetings… please share it below! Many thanks!
P.S. Thanks to @BJWHF for reaching out and updating some of the dates in the earlier version!


Lisbon by Half

What is better than one half? Three halfs! Or at least that is how many half marathons I could find for the next year taking place in Lisbon… All seem to have quite a different flavour – and routes, so it shouldn’t be boring going for all three…. Here is a quick overview:

Lisbon by half (marathons)

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I’m missing it.

running that is. Because of an injury, together with being insanely busy and the injury being a convenient excuse not to get off my bum and run, I haven’t really stuck to any running routine at all so far this year. While, luckily, that hasn’t resulted in a major increase of my waistline (although a little bit more is there, I think) I really have to take this up again – and stop making excuses about why I can’t.

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Last weekend I went with my ex (BF1) to cheer him on while he ran another Half. Yes, while he has always been quite hit and miss with regards to running during the week (largely Continue reading “I’m missing it.”