2023 Review: Turning 40, Feeling Good & Plans For 2024

A tourist crouches down in front of Chichen Itza, one of the most famous landmarks in Mexico
I celebrated my 40th birthday by visiting the final 7 of the New World Wonders!

Last year was the first time in 5 years that I did not write my annual review and in all honesty, I feel like it had quite a negative effect on my following year in some respects.

Even though I am very grateful for the more positive chapters of 2023, which I will be discussing in this blog post, I feel like the old “winging it” plan doesn’t work for me anymore and I tend to do much better in all walks of life when I have a solid plan to follow.

My year in review also acts like a personal diary, which is a cathartic process that helps me to organise my extremely busy mind and it’s also nice to look back on years later.

So it’s time to get back on track by setting out an action plan to get my teeth into for 2024 and as always, reflect on the year that has passed.

I Turned 40: The World Didn’t End 

So I made it to the 4-0 club.

There was that one time in Argentina, and another in Belize and some sketchy moments in West Papua, Germany and the UK that I haven’t spoken about before on here when the Grim Reaper was coming after me, but I outran him every time and now I’m 40 years old.

40 trips around the sun. The way that some people talk about turning 40 – I thought I was getting ready for a fate was worse than death.

Yet here it is and it feels FANTASTIC.

Where is this post-apocalyptic event that all these whiny folk love to bemoan upon leaving the 30s?

I cringe badly when I hear other men talk about being 40, or being in their 40s as if it is some sort of negative milestone.

My granddad used to say; “as long you wake up in the morning and you’re on the right side of the earth then you’re off to a good start “

Well, I’m with Stanley on that one.

I also believe that way too many people use ageing milestones as an excuse to just give up on life, so many people have spiritually castrated themselves.

I have lost count of how many times older men who make poor lifestyle choices have told me: “Wait until you’re 40” (insert doom and gloom part here).

Being 40 isn’t the problem here, giving up on life and yourself is the real elephant in the room.

That goes for 50 and 60 too. 

50 and 60-year-olds are climbing high-altitude mountains and running ultramarathons all the time (I got an email from one of them last week who reads my running articles).

Email about an ultramarathon
Shout out to Brent who sent me this email after completing an ultra at 55 years old… made my day!

Aging is a thing of course and it can sometimes make life harder in some ways as the body and mind tackle the wear and tear of the past.

My hangovers are more brutal nowadays and quality sleep is vital for me to recover from a hard workout, but 40 is not old at all if your internal biological age is young, which is something I constantly work on.

Physical Achievements 7.5/10

Man looks at himself shirtless in the mirror

This is a tricky one as I didn’t write a review last year so there were no solid plans to reflect on, but let me tell you something – this year was the most physically active I have been since I was 19!

I’m naturally a very skinny person, which I very much do not like. 

I’ve always hated it, when I was a teenager I never wore shorts or short-sleeved tops in the summer (even during heatwaves) because I was so painfully self-conscious.

But seeing so I’m a solution-focused kind of guy nowadays, with my 40th approaching I said ok let’s do it, Anthony; no excuses, let’s get HENCH! (British word for “buff.”)

I ate 3000 calories and 200 grams of protein every day and strength-trained like a possessed madman. 

It was about the 6 months point when other people started noticing physical improvements in my body and voicing it, which helped stroke my vulnerable vanity.

Compliments from other men seem to land better lately than those coming from the opposite sex. 

I don’t know what all that’s about, but it’s an observation. Especially if it’s a nod of approval from another physically fit man.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love compliments from the female of the species too. 

There was one particularly hilarious moment at a hot spring that I often hang out at when my female friend didn’t recognise me and she admitted she had been checking me out upon entering the premises – until she noticed it was me… the confession being admitted right in front of my girlfriend!


However, it sadly didn’t go the way I wanted it to go.

For the first time in my life, I liked how I looked and felt. 

My shirts hugged my back, chest and arms tighter and I was getting objectively stronger – which is a great bonus for a highly dopamine-driven individual like myself who likes to record progress. 

I’m very sad to say that a ghost of gym injuries past paid a visit and one day I felt a familiar excruciating pain in my left shoulder during a military press.

I was heartbroken and I had to stop lifting.

On a more positive note, I didn’t do my usual tradition when I got injured by cascading into multiple nights of Malbec-induced self-pity: I simply got my trainers on and started running instead of lifting.

So yes, I got skinny again but I bloody love running and I feel like it’s a long-term love that has always been there for me, but I’ve always often taken it for granted because of my fear of getting too thin or losing any hard-earned gains.

I am Pam and running is my Jim. 

It has been waiting patiently in the wings all these years to show me the love that I did not know I deserved or wanted.

Any kind of physical activity is better than none and I’m proud of myself for dropping my ego and just going after it, running miles every day and enjoying the process.

Another small victory is that during my 148 days of travelling, I worked out (weights and/or running) 101 times on the road. This doesn’t include my 3 Peaks UK challenge victory; where I successfully summited the tallest mountain in England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours.

I travelled with gymnastic rings and resistance bands. I was almost arrested at an airport hotel in Paris for using their scaffolding in the rear car park for the rings – God the French can be so uptight (but I’ll forgive them because of the nice wine and sexy accent).

My favourite exercise experience was with a legend of a guy named Gordon in Suriname. 

If you ever find yourself in the capital, Paramaribo, then work out with this guy at his gym and you’ll leave with your head held higher and your shoulders pulled back.

Other than the UK 3 Peaks Challenge I didn’t achieve anything in 2023 in particular like a specific running time or named MVC challenge, but I did well with my environment and setbacks.

So yeah – I’m giving myself a 7.5 for a decent effort this year for physical achievements.

I’m a movie nerd who rates every film that I  watch on my IMDb profile and it always annoys me that you can’t rate with a decibel, but I play by my own rules on my blog!

Related Post: Can You Bring Protein Powder on a Plane?

Finances: 3/10

In 2023 my online business generated USD 92,640 and while I appreciate that some people would kill a man with their bare hands for that; all of that money didn’t go back into my pocket – a lot of it goes to business costs and I heavily reinvested and I didn’t get any joy back.

That’s just business for you. Sometimes you lay golden eggs that hatch and make you more money and other times you’re left staring at the ceiling at 3 am most nights wondering how or why you fucked up so badly.

I also massively underestimated how expensive my big trip would be and I’m licking the fiscal wounds right now.

I’m also currently in the process of selling my apartment, which is very stressful. 

I am high on the spectrum of sentimentality and it will hurt me if I sell it (it was the first place I bought; the first cut it the deepest and all that) but I crave more space, need the cash from the property and the thought of having a personal gym in a  spacious house gets me going.

That being said, I am not too excited about starting to pay rent again when business isn’t exactly booming.

There is unsurprisingly a direct correlation between not doing financially well when I am travelling.

Travel is what people think it is; chaotic, informative, wild, liberating and fun.

The problem is, thanks to social media not mentioning it (and I am probably guilty of this myself) that there is another side to travel where you can not control integral parts of your life like health, money and personal relationships with the optimal level that you’d be able to if you weren’t travelling and based in one place.

For me, it’s mostly the finances that are the hardest thing to get on top of when travelling and it’s no surprise to me that managing and making money sucked for me in 2023.

My net worth did not increase by a penny and my monthly income went down.

Mental Health: 8/10

Coming back to the age war cry from earlier on; as a 40-year-old man, I can honestly say that I know more than ever what I want, what I don’t want and I am happier and more confident than I’ve ever been in my life.

I’m delighted to say that this year is the highest score for mental health that I’ve ever put in an annual review.

The major needle-movers for me were:

  • Daily exercise
  • Prioritising sleep
  • Meditating daily 
  • Taking full responsibility for my feelings and working on any unhelpful thought patterns
  • Dialling in my nutrition 
  • Trying to be less Individualistic

The first 5 are pretty self-explanatory and have been backed by science for aeons for improving mental health.

However, the 5th one seems a bit mysterious. 

As much as I don’t want to go down the narcissistic path (because everyone is a special label of something nowadays) even though I’m often a chatty and seemingly gregarious man, I have discovered that I am genuinely an introvert at heart.

The first time this concept ever came into my psyche was when I was dating a lovely Polish lady who directly told me I was one.

I thought she was INSANE for suggesting this. I was even oddly defensive about it.

But after a bit of self-reflection over the years I have come to realise that she was right. 

I get my batteries recharged when I am alone and I LOVE being alone, during lockdown I did a lot better than the average person and I was only in my company myself for several months.

But coming back to the label thing; I do worry that the Western world has become a society of faux-stargazers who like to smell their farts and use labels to gloss over any shitty or destructive behaviour.

If you’re a dick to someone and you minimise it with; “Oh, I’m such a Gemini” then maybe the more accurate label you should be putting on yourself is “twat.”

It works both ways of course and you should respect someone’s boundaries and personal preferences if you love them and care about their wellbeing and try your best to understand others more.

However, I worked out it’s so much easier for me to say “Oh I’m an introvert” and make less of an effort with people in my life than it is to power through being uncomfortable sometimes and hanging out more often, making calls and sending texts to show that I care.

The reward is always worth the effort when it’s with the right people.

A lot of us have become comfortable with being comfortable and shying away from anything that is mentally demanding.

I don’t want to be like that and I chose not to be, and it made me happier. I would say happiness is one of the highest metrics of success in life,

My Relationship With Booze

friends in mexico

I’ve touched upon my relationship a few times on Man Vs Clock.

The biggest one was when I first left the UK and I went 9 months without booze (with the plan being 6 months) and built a life-changing 6-figure online business in the process.

Since then I’ve alluded to the reality that there have been many many periods in my life when I have turned to the bottle to hide/numb my feelings and run away from problems.

There have been other times when I have objectively just drunk way too much too often, which took its toll on my mental and physical health and made me very unproductive in all walks of life.

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been concerning my relationship with alcohol. 

I track it on a Google Sheet with 3 other accountability partners and we have rules in there that we abide by, which makes us drink less.

I’m still not an angel but my God, it’s so much better now than it was at its worst.

I’ve noticed an emerging anti-alcohol movement/collective consciousness and to be honest I think it’s fantastic; I wish the best for anyone who has chosen to go down that path. 

The logical follow-up question to that would be if I believe this – then why don’t I quit drinking altogether?

I’ll write a more detailed article about this in the future, but the short answer is I find it fun (especially since my volume is lower) and I think it’s fine to have vices now and then so long as they’re not controlling you.

I quit eating meat about 8 years ago and that was hard, I don’t want to add booze to the naughty list just yet! 

Goals Achieved in 2023

3 men smiling after completing the UK 3 Peaks challenge
Wet and windy and low on sleep, but in full spirits after completing the 24-hour UK 3 Peaks Challenge!

These next 2 sections aren’t going to be as comprehensive as they usually are because I don’t have a previous yearly review written down to compare and see how I got on.

This is exactly what I mean about my life being negatively affected by not writing these annual posts.

If I lack direction it’s like pissing in the wind.

From the top of my head, I successfully achieved these goals in 2023:

  • I started a new blog 
  • I meditated most days
  • I reclaimed my fitness
  • I completed the UK 3 Peaks Challenge
  • I wrote more on Man vs Clock
  • I made more time friends
  • I went for a morning walk as soon as I woke up 
  • I picked up my Spanish 
  • Visit every country in South America

Even though I’m happy about these, it feels awfully wishy-washy to list them like this.

I like DETAIL when it comes to goals. Hence my disappointment in missing my yearly review last year.

They’re all pretty self-explanatory. I can’t be arsed to talk about the new blog right now, as for the Spanish; I travelled throughout Latin America and was best man to my best mate at his wedding in Mexico.

Was my Spanish amazing? Hell no, but considering I’d been out of the game for a good 5 years I felt happy with the effort I made.

It is simply not realistic to expect me to be quoting Gabriel García Márquez or banging out a Ted Talk on quantum physics in español with such little Spanish practice for so long.

So I managed my expectations, tried my best and wasn’t unnecessarily hard on myself.

I got around Spanish-speaking countries without any issue at all with communication and I conversed with locals to a decent level.

Now let’s move on to the sad part of 2023 when I overpromised and underdelivered.

Failed Goals in 2023

Socotra Island motorbike beach

Again, these will be lacking in detail but here’s what I failed at in 2023. Some of it will be repeat content from earlier on:

  • Increasing my net worth 
  • Increasing my monthly income 
  • Selling my apartment 
  • Getting to 80kg 
  • Working on flexibility/mobility
  • Make a monthly newsletter for Man Vs Clock
  • Update more on social media 

The money part I have already discussed and as for my apartment – there’s not much more I can do other than play the waiting game and see if it sells.

As for the weight – when I first left England 12 years ago I was a very skinny 68 kilograms. During my party and hardcore travel days, I was a very unhealthy, skinny-fat 72kg.

I made it up to 79 last year, looking stronger and bigger with a bit of extra padding. This “bulking” thing is not all it’s cracked up to be though and I didn’t like my cardio being relegated to the quest for more muscle mass but I guess my shoulder injury took care of that quandary!

My mobility and flexibility are horrendous and this is a troubling indicator of mortality that isn’t often discussed in the health and fitness industry.

You may think I am exaggerating and so have multiple specialists thought I was before I had a session with them (yoga teachers, knowledgeable physios, personal trainers etc) only for them to be left feeling sorry for me by the end of it.

When I lived in Bangkok I hired a strength training coach to train me *only* on deadlifts and barbell squat techniques.

By the end of it, I think I unintentionally broke his spirit.

I always try my best, but my best at the time was frustrating for the two of us and certain parts of my body would just refuse to bend/hinge in the way they were supposed to.

But here’s the thing; I live in Chiang Mai, one of the yoga capitals of the world. You can throw a stone with your eyes closed anywhere in town and hit a yoga studio.

There are no excuses for me not going but I’ll be honest about why I don’t go and it’s the same reason most people don’t do hard things that are good for them; fear.

I find group yoga classes very intimidating and I hate being the shittest person in the room at something. 

So there is the real fear of failure haunting me when I think about yoga, which I can easily rationalise while writing this article as silly because the only way to get better at something is to do it more often.

Alas, walking the walk is always harder than talking it.

About my lack of monthly newsletters; there’s a perfectly good reason for this.

You see, for a long time, I have felt that manvsclock.com has been suffering somewhat of an identity crisis over the years.

The inception started with me, a starry-eyed boy throwing caution to the wind and taking a gamble on myself.

It worked out and I completely changed my life for the better.

Financial freedom has also been a theme here but once I discovered my love for travel and how lucrative the industry can be; I gravitated more to writing about travel, then more of an adventure travel angle.

In between that and more recently, I rediscovered my love for health and fitness, sometimes considering the guidance of weight loss professionals during my conquests via large mountains and obnoxiously long ultramarathons.

Do you see the problem here?

Let’s say you signed up for my newsletter because you liked my post about travelling in Bolivia. Next month you get a newsletter about “how to train for a 100 miles ultramarathon” and you’re thinking what the hell is he talking about? I didn’t sign up to this!

Or flip it on its head; you like my running articles so you choose to sign up for my newsletter expecting fitness advice and a month later you have an email from me banging on about travelling in Papua New Guinea; you’d unsubscribe quicker than you could say “Squirrel’s Nut Butter.”

I need a fix to this problem, I am sure there is one out there.

I don’t want to stop writing about either travel or fitness and nowadays blogs do much better they’re about a more focused niche, but if I have to sacrifice some money on here for the sake of keeping things more pure and aligned to my values then I can make peace with that.

Travel: My Favourite New Country of 2023

A man in sunglasses smiles while standing on the Iron Ore Train in Mauritania

I visited 12 countries in 2023, in the following0 chronological order (and I will put a star next to the countries that were first-time visits for me)

  • Thailand
  • Taiwan
  • UK
  • French Guiana*
  • Suriname*
  • Guyana*
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela*
  • Mexico
  • Turkmenistan*
  • Mauritania*
  • Tunisia*

Taiwan is so fun! I loved my second visit and I am sure there will be a third.

I live in Thailand and my UK stopover was for the mountains challenge. I also decided to see more of “my” country and very much appreciated the lovely cities of Bath and Bristol.

French Guiana is technically not a country, it is down as France on paper and the people very much identify as being French. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there; visiting the International Space Centre and the Prison Islands inspired by the famous novel “Papillon.”

Travelling overland via water to Suriname and Guyana felt like the proper travel that I had truly missed during my extended time out and catching up with friends in my old home of Colombia and Mexico was better late than never. I celebrated turning 40 by finishing my final item of the 7 New World Wonders of The World; Chichen Itza in Mexico!

Venezuala’s capital city, Caracas was a bit sketchy and Angel Falls was very much worth the hype. I have now visited every country in South America (also every country in Central America and North America, but plenty left to see in The Caribbean).

Turkmenistan was fantastic and maybe the weirdest country that I have been to, but my favourite by a country mile was Mauritania, where my good friend Johnny guided a tour that included the iconic Iron Ore Train – the longest train ride in the world!

Tunisia was me and my lady hanging out to decompress while I tried my best to break the human record of hummus and harissa intake in one week.

Financial Goals For 2024

Ughhhh, my least favourite and most boring part of the annual review to write about… and every bit as important as the other chapters.

So let’s go!

  • Sell my apartment
  • Increase my net worth by USD 25,000
  • Get my monthly generated income to USD 20,000
  • Track my daily spends
  • Have my first financial product on Man Vs Clock
  • Publish a monthly newsletter on Man Vs Clock

The apartment is out of my hands unless I lower the asking price of course.

I have fallen very short of net worth plans in the past, maybe because I aimed too high and didn’t put in the right input. Last year it was a big fat 0, so 25 would be a manageable improvement this year. I will of course try to smash that number but this is the official goal.

My monthly income has been up and down like a Crypto Bro’s weekly predictions. I hit USD 10,000 on 3 occasions last year and the rest of the year was around 5-7. I have an action plan and I feel confident and ready to work hard to attain this number (and beyond).

Tracking my daily spending is boring as f**k. However, I seem to enjoy tracking my daily calories and protein intake. There isn’t much of a difference; it’s a numbers game that is assessed by a goal and a restricted budget. I need to just get over it and get it done!

It’s criminal that I don’t have a product to sell after 12 years of blogging. This ties in with the aforementioned identity crisis that comes with marketing a blog with many different messages and also travel uses up a lot of mental bandwidth in terms of content creation.

Also, it’s nice to give readers a high-quality free product before having a paid product for sale. So I will have to sort that out beforehand.

About publishing a monthly newsletter on Man Vs Clock; this will start on the 29th of February and will continue to go out for the last day of every month. I will be sharing new articles or articles of interest (based on the emails I receive) and I will openly share every penny that I make and spend in business and life.

I did this right at the inception of Man Vs Clock when I was trying to beat the timer and personal debt. I didn’t find it fun however it was very helpful for me and I think it will help others too with a candid financial report every month.

Anyone interested can add their details to the newsletter signup below:

Physical Achievement Goals For 2024

Two men exercising in the desert of Mauritania
Me and Johnny getting in a workout while camping in the Mauritanian Desert!

So I have already mentioned my love for running while bemoaning me not having the best genetics for building muscle mass. The recent boom of hybrid athlete training has very much piqued my curiosity.

For those not in the know; hybrid athletes focus on juggling 2 different types of training – and going the hardest you can at both of them with a structured plan. The 2 sports that you choose can be anything you desire, but the most popular options are lifting weights and running long distances.

Ignoring the largest elephant ever in any room that has ever existed that most influencers of this ilk are on anabolic steroids while under the shifty guise of; “just buy my creatine BRAH,” I have been very seduced by the lifestyle and my 2024 goals reflect that as I dip my toes into this world.

  • Do a Body Recomposition
  • Count calories and macros every day
  • Run 5 kilometres in under 20 minutes
  • Do yoga once a week
  • 10 Minutes Morning Mobility

A body recomposition refers to the process of changing your body’s makeup, specifically by losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. It’s like reshaping your body, not just focusing on losing weight or numbers on the scales. The scales are needed but they are often an overrated tool; strength, performance and body fat are what I want to focus on the most.

I think I fell prey to a lot of old-school, outdated bro advice over the years. Contrary to popular advice you can lose weight and build muscle at the same time. It’s just harder as you have to be more methodical with your planning in both exercise and eating habits.

As I don’t plan to travel too much this year I am more than happy to give this my best shot.

The counting calories and macros goal supports this goal. For the first 5 months of the year I will be focusing on this meticulously, many people despise doing this but I genuinely find it very fun and it also helps me learn more about micronutrients, which are essential for optimal health. I use Cronometer.com – it’s great and although I pay for the premium version the free one is also high value for those getting started.

The second half of the year will see me entering the hybrid lifestyle where I will be continuing to lift weights while focusing on a focused running time. I have decided to go for running 5 kilometres in 20 minutes. I was considering a faster time, which was said to put people in the top 1% of 5k runners in the world, but I can’t find a confirmed source for this.

For many keen runners like myself who aren’t particularly gifted or running at a higher level a sub-20 5K is a noble and possible feat with the right kind of training. It will be interesting to see if I manage this while pumping iron at the same time.

For a point of reference, I ran my first ever ParkRun 5K in Durham recently and I ranked 35 out of 307, but my time fell way short of this number at 23:11.

Yoga. Once a week. Whether that is in a studio with a group, a one-on-one or a 30-minute to 1-hour YouTube session. No excuses. It’s finally time to fix these woefully weak hip flexors.

Morning mobility is to share the same goal that yoga will give me; to make my body more mobile, which will help my performance with running and weights and will also improve my posture. I was doing my hybrid of this Mike Mahler mobility routine every morning for the first half of last year, I felt fantastic but for some reason, I got comfortable skipping it and stopped doing the routine.

Mental Health Goals For 2024

Last year was a good one for mental health and I feel like I handle stress better than I have for a long time. Here are my goals for 2024 to keep it that way:

  • Go for a walk every morning
  • Walk 10,000 steps per day
  • Meditate 20 minutes per day
  • Priorities sleep
  • Drink less booze
  • Daily journalling
  • Attend Toastmasters

The 10,000 steps and the morning walks could maybe go toward the physical goals section but I’d say the mental health benefits are really where it’s at with these two activities.

I love walking and tend to do it without headphones, it’s a meditative experience for me and I solve a lot of problems when I do so.

The morning walk routine was a suggestion from Andrew Huberman, a famous American neuroscientist whom I have followed for a long time before it was cool to. This and other suggestions by him helped me to sleep the best that I ever had in my life in 2023.

Travel wrecked my sleep in 2024 but I’ll be stationed here in Thailand for the most part and my sleep will be a top priority for me.

I meditated 10 minutes a day last year and the thing it helped me with the most was my bruxism. I will look to double it this year with my preferred method being focusing on breathing and the breathing exercise in the above video from Wim Hof.

I will do Dry January and at some point during the year I’ll do another 100 days of no alcohol, a ritual I have been experimenting with for the last 4 years.

As for the journalling, I experimented a few years ago with journalling when I was feeling negative emotions.

This practice allows you to express your emotions and thoughts in a private, unfiltered way. It’s a form of catharsis, by writing down what’s bothering you, you’re able to externalise it, examine it, and understand it better.

There have been times when I have looked back on a journal the day after I thought something was a massive deal and literally laughed out loud at how absurd and irrational I was at the time of writing it. I think daily journalling even for 5 or 10 minutes will be beneficial for my mental health and expressive freewriting also helps with the skill of writing in the long term.

I also plan to finally attend Toastmasters after years of saying I’m going to but not actually doing so!


So that’s a wrap for another year. Here’s to a year of making more money, leading by example for other men in their 40s in mind, body and spirit while making more time for loved ones and maybe seeing a new country or two towards the end of it.

Talk is cheap, enough has been done here; time to go after it!

Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
Ultra runner walking in desert

Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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