⏦ 005 — Interview with Adam Katz Sinding on his cycling & running pursuits
Sunsets as a fix for self-care ruts & interview with Adam Katz Sinding
|Arj Selvam||Sep 1, 2019|
A little late here with this week’s dispatch (Sunday evening where I am) but I’m hoping you’re enjoying the end to your weekend. This week I made a short trip down south to relax a little and, importantly, get away from the hot weather that’s still lingering around. I’ve mostly spent time by the lakes, went shopping for a durable and reusable water bottle (the Swiss make high quality bottles, just like their water. I got this 0.6L one) and as usual enjoyed my iced Americanos.
Also, one last small-ish tidbit before the formal part to this. Each week I ask readers how I can improve or add to these mini publications, and luckily, I receive a lot of good (sometimes constructive) feedback which I try to implement the following week. So, if we haven’t conversed before, I’d love to hear from you. Secondly, why not help me get in front of more people (hello new subscribers!) by sharing any of my dispatches? It helps me plan and work on deeper (and better) pieces — like this week’s interview. Just forward this email, tweet about it (my twitter is @arjselvam) or send them here.
Thanking you and until next week-end,
→ Sunsets as a fix for self-care ruts
Sometimes you just gotta break up a good habit. It might seem contradicting to feel exhausted or bored of a healthy ritual or practice that you’ve built up over years, even if it’s very intention brings: calm, clarity, or enlightenment (if spiritual lineage is your goal). My mindfulness practice over the past four-ish years, has been refined down to three tools: apps, podcasts and walking. This past week, however, I just didn’t feel like listening to anything through my earphones, nor was I looking for the guidance you come to find with many meditation servings.
Similar to physical exercise, meditation and practicing mindfulness brings about better results when part of an established routine. Forget to take your brain vitamins one day, and watch your mind race from thought to thought at any idle opportunity. I’m sure you know what it feels like when you do something good in a very regimented way (like eating salad for lunch daily or running the same route), it weirdly begins to lose that profound joy or appeal you may have felt when you started, you know, like that mental high.
To shake off my funk, this week I decided to do away with two of those tools which consistently serve me: apps (Headspace or Insight Timer) and podcasts (Tara Brach). But, instead of trialing a new tool or attend an in-person meditation session, just getting back to basics and spending time outside, amongst nature, was what I was after. Sure it’s not meditation per-se, but instead, I kind wanted my mind to bounce from tangent to tangent to see where it would take me.
In a way, this week has felt more like an unscrambling of any mental clarity and calm I’ve built up through mindfulness thus far, in order to rewire my mind and crave that routine and system again.
With my day-to-day as per normal, I found I was taking my mental respites around the time the sun was setting (between 19h and 20h) each day. Some of my walks and sittings were longer than others, some were amongst crowds, and one was just by myself as I found I had walked, perhaps, too far.
The detachment from my norm this week has been most welcome, but, also very much needed. Whether it’s been walking without a destination in mind, sitting by the lake or appreciating the indistinct chatter around me, these moments have provided their own version of calm for me. The highlight, though, has been timing my gazes at the sun as it slips between trees or noticing people’s shadows get long and skinny.
I know I’m breaking all the rules of ancient (and modern) rituals like finding a quiet space, reciting mantras, or using the breath as an anchor, but I’m hoping that this break might return me to a beginner’s mind. And, if it does, I might make these mini mental sabbaticals a permanent thing.
I chose the park and to be near water, but you don’t have to do that. Just go outside by nature: garden, courtyard, balcony, or even a rooftop. If you get sidetracked or your mind runs wild — embrace it. Let me know if you’ve felt the same before, or have come up with other methods — like anti-practices — to counteract any meditative rut you may have experienced.
→ Interview with Adam Katz Sinding
In a first for The Considered dispatches, I’m going to be doing a series of interviews with people (over time) who I believe embody a considered lifestyle, as well as inspire me. I’ve written a list of the names of people I’d love to interview because I think both you and I might enjoy it, but I’m also open to reader suggestions.
For this first ever interview, I chat with an old friend, Adam Katz Sinding, a talented photographer and equally great runner and cyclist. I chat to him about his latest work (two great books which you should consider), how he got into each sport, his favorite running loops around the world and other self-care routines he practices. I met up with Adam a couple weeks ago in Copenhagen (where he lives now), just as he was getting ready to fly to Alabama. (Gentle cautionary: some strong language)
Arj Selvam (@arj.s)
Adam Katz Sinding (@aks)
Adam, good to see you. It’s been a few years, how are you and where are we today?
You’re on the road again soon I understand?
I leave Thursday morning to go to Alabama (Billy Reid Shindig), come back for one day, then off to Oslo, Kiev, New York, London, Milan, and Paris for fashion weeks.
How many miles have you done this year?
I’ve done 136,967 kilometers this year (reads off ‘App In The Air’ on phone), which is 192 hours on planes this year.
Last year was crazier because I did the book tour and went to 28 countries for just that.
O.k., let’s just quickly define what you do. Perhaps it’s evolved over the years?
I’m a photographer first and foremost, I go to all the fashion weeks and take photos of people on the street. I also do backstages, some campaigns and I’ve made two books — obviously comprised of photography.
Cool, let’s talk about your book (“This Is Not A F*cking Street Style Book”) then. How did the project come about?
I did this interview thing, I can’t remember what for, and mentioned it. A week later a Dutch publisher (Mendo) contacted me and said “If you’re ever in the Netherlands, let’s meet”.
I was like “Oh, I live here, I can be there in fifteen minutes”.
They were like “O.k., calm down”.
But, when we met, it took more than a year to actually do.
Just coming up with a concept. If you think about what I do, it’s street-style photography which is quite boring. All I do is take photos of people walking into this door and walking out of that door.
It’s pretty cool you had Virgil Abloh write the Forward?
Yes, he wrote the Forward and that was right before he got the Creative Director role at Louis Vuitton.
How did you make that happen?
Virgil is a really nice dude, now of course extremely famous, but he still says “what's up to you” backstage. I had to chase him to get it done, but we were both in Stockholm, and we did it on the phone and transcribed it. I was nervous, thinking he might answer each question with one word. I mean I know the guy, but I just really figured he couldn't be fucked right? But, it was so good.
Errolson Hugh (Cofounder, Acronym) did the Forward for my second book (“Live From F*cking Everywhere”) which I'm also extremely happy about. He also signed my book and I signed his. It was cool man. I was really proud of those moments and felt quite accomplished.
O.k., let's talk about your extracurricular activities and pursuits — running and cycling. I want to guess, you’ve been doing both for a while right?
I was pretty slow and kind of fat as a kid, so I joined my school cross-country team as the slowest on the team. I also worked at a local cycling shop in Tacoma building snowboard bindings.
I hated running and wasn't really good at cycling either, but I still did it.
In college I bought a full suspension mountain bike to commute 12 kilometers each way to work downtown. I had always wanted a mountain bike because I thought they were just so cool, even though my buddy had just bought a road bike. I thought he was so dumb, and such a loser when he brought it home!
Did he convert you to road bikes?
I remember Eddie asking if I had ever ridden a road bike and I was like “No, why the fuck would I do that!”. He said “just ride it down the alley”, so I got on it, barefoot, and was like “fuck, this is so fast!”. I traded my mountain bike that day and got the same bike as him.
So ever since then you’ve been riding daily?
I'm very black-and-white and I don't do any grey area. I'm either going to ride or run every single day or not at all. When I started running, I just ran 10km a day, everyday.
Wow. When was this?
This was 2010.
A girl at work who I was complaining about running to, said just run 6 days in a row and you'll see results. So, I tried it and started to lose weight quite quickly. Every day I had this residual runner's high. So I was like “Fuck, I'll just run the same 10km loop for a year”. But when I moved to New York City on the 366th day, there was a meter of snow on the ground, it was -17 degrees (celsius), and I said “I’ll run tomorrow.”. So I just bought six beers and a pack of Oreos instead, and before I knew it, I gained a ton of weight and stopped running.
But you’re back doing it today and quite good at it now?
Now I am, which is weird, because I shouldn't be since I still have a lot of body-fat. I'm also getting a little faster with cycling, but I'm definitely not good yet.
So what's the goal, is it a performance one?
Mental clarity and losing weight.
I always feel good just getting on the bike. Yeah, the bike especially, because with running you can have your phone and check it at every red-light, but with cycling it’s in your back pocket. Besides, you're doing 32km/h, you're flying, and it feels amazing.
When was your last ride?
Yesterday. I rode halfway up this island, around a lake, and back through a forest whilst it was torrentially pouring. The rain sucked, but the ride was amazing.
I was by myself, and I just sat there and worked shit out. You hurt but you can't complain to anybody right? It's awesome.
Image courtesy of Paul Jeong
Do you prefer solo runs and rides?
Not really. I procrastinate a lot. I go out with other people because it gets me out the door, but I still don’t mind doing it on my own when I can.
So group riding brings you accountability?
Yeah. I also use the Strava app, it’s basically social media for athletes.
For example, yesterday was a great. I was like “Fuck I'm going to go out and ride because no one else is going to, since it looks like it might rain”. And it fucking rained. Like hard. So I thought I was going to be the only one in Copenhagen to go out on this loop, but when I got home and checked Strava, you see everybody road today! That’s cool, but I'm just glad I went.
Do you prefer one over the other?
Cycling, but you can’t travel with a bike. I hate running, but I'm good at it and it takes only thirty seconds to get ready. You can do it right from your door.
The problem is, both are detrimental to each other muscle-wise. If I run all of next month I'll lose a lot of weight, but I'll also lose my cycling base and feel like shit when I get back on the bike even though cycling is more fun. But you have to switch it up.
Do you meditate?
It takes a lot for me to get motivated to meditate. I have to be either really depressed or have high anxiety.
So meditation is more reactionary for you?
Yes, which is dumb.
For example, if I go a week without doing push-ups I feel gross. So I’ll do them, and wonder how the fuck I forgot three sets of 50 pushups each day. Like how do you forget that? It's the same with meditation, if everything's going o.k., I just forget about it.
How do you meditate? Do you use apps?
So you’ve used Headspace but not as much as you’d like then?
I’ve done it about thirty times. I should do it more, but I'd just rather get on my bike or go for a run. I don't listen to music either, I just listen to my breathing, count my steps, yeah that sort of thing.
But is there a genre of music that could get you into a meditative zone?
I don’t know. I just listened to that fucking James Blake album pretty much on repeat (laughing).
I'm going to get a juice real quick, do you want something?
Sure, I'll get the greenest juice they have.
Yeah they have this celery and lemon one, it’s quite good.
Image courtesy of Paul Jeong
Tell me about your gear and tools for running and cycling. I think you’re quite particular about the function, but also the design?
Is that what you’re wearing now?
(Laughs) Oh yeah!
It's very psychological for me.
Like with my bike, it has to look fast to get me motivated. Same with my running shoes. I know it’s stupid, but I have to get motivated to get outside and run. I can't be the dude who runs in heather-grey sweatpants, a t-shirt he got when he was 18, and a terry (fabric) headband. He might be a better runner than me, but I feel like I need to look the part.
I wear Satisfy because I think they look the best and get me the most excited about running. Nike obviously sponsor the fucking fastest people in the world, but I'm never going to be a marathoner or sprinter. I'm just a dude who runs after a fashion show in Paris, then goes and gets a beer with his friends. Satisfy is a little more that vibe.
For cycling, I wear Pas Normal Studios because they’re based in Copenhagen.
Just for reference, I pay full-retail for mostly everything. Satisfy once gave me a pair of shoes but I ran through them so I bought another pair because I liked them. Nike and Pas Normal Studios have occasionally gifted me shoes or a musette bag, but ultimately I would prefer to buy things that I like.
So, where do you...
(Interrupting) Also, hold up, for running the only socks you should wear are these Falke, spelled F-A-L-K-E. They recently did a collaboration with District Vision and I ran in them. I haven’t got a blister since, they're so fucking good.
(Laughs) Socks are underrated. O.k., where are your favorite places to cycle or run around the world?
Running in Sydney. I stay in Woolloomooloo, it’s not my favorite location, but as far as getting a really fucking, fulfilling, beautiful, sunrise run, when you're jet-lagged, you just can’t beat that loop.
What’s your loop there?
O.k., this run is exactly 10km:
Yeah, I've done that run! Any others?
Seoul, because you can run along this awesome old canal amongst a huge metropolis, and Paris because it's just so fucking beautiful.
What about running back in your hometown of Seattle?
Oof! I go trail running now with my cousin, it's insane, but the problem is you might get eaten by a mountain lion!
But, back home Point Defiance is my favorite, and it's only 5km from my home. It's a nature reserve with a rainforest — it's amazing.
Image courtesy of Joe Harper
What about here in Copenhagen?
I do like running here but it's a bit flat and boring, I have to say.
There’s some beautiful places around here to run but it's not terribly interesting. There’s just no wilderness here in Denmark. There’s beautiful pastoral fields and deciduous forests with smooth floors but it's perfect, it's just too perfect.
You need a challenge?
Yeah. I like the fact that you could slip on a fucking tree root or get eaten by a mountain lion.
Thanks for the chat Adam. What’s on for the rest of the day?
Going back home to meet contractors for my apartment remodel, before going on a ride at 5:30pm.