Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Alternate push-up styles to return from a gym break

This year, December has been surprisingly heavy work-wise.  For some reason, all of our clients and prospects have asked for a million deliverables before they go on leave.  Thanks to whirlwind of activity at work and a personal trip out of town, I wasn't able to hit the gym for almost 10 full days.

When I got back to the gym this Monday (my usual chest day), I decided to try something different.  Instead of using the bench press to hit the chest in isolation, I opted to do a series of push-up variations so that I'd hit more body parts than just the chest.  Here's how my workout turned out to be:
  • 2 sets of regular pushups: This is more like a warm-up
  • 2 sets of spiderman push ups ( The unevenness of the weight distribution hits the obliques in addition to the chest.
  • 2 sets of scorpion push ups ( 0:34 to 0:47): This one does a fantastic job of hitting your core and stretching out your quads.  And the raised leg makes for greater stress on your chest.
  • 2 sets of dumbbell push ups ( One needs to do this using round dumbbells and not hexagonal ones.  Since the round dumbbells tend to roll, one has to make use of shoulder muscles just to stabilize the dumbbells, thus making this exercise double up as a shoulder workout.  A precaution: this workout can strain the wrists.  It helps if this is the last workout so that the wrists don't get strained any further.
So, I did each of these sets with 12 repetitions. So that makes a total of 8 x 12 = 96 push ups.  With all the rest breaks, I was wrapped up in a matter of 20-25 minutes.

I think that made for an effective workout, especially since I was getting back from a break :)

Monday, 26 November 2012

What does not kill you...

... makes you stronger

And this is especially true for a fitness routine, provided:
  • You are giving yourself adequate rest between your workouts
  • Your nutrition is aiding the strengthening process
  • Your workout program is holistic, i.e. you're not injuring one body part for the sake of strengthening another.  Examples of not following this principle include workout routines that cause RSI
  • You are pushing yourself to the maximum each time you work out.  This is the principle of progressive overload.  There are exceptions though: one shouldn't train to failure when hitting the tendons (e.g. with pull-ups, chin-ups)
Yes, there are prerequisites to every fancy rule.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Stupid pigeon

A window was open, but no one in the house had realised it. Insomniac that I am, I couldn't help notice (at 3AM) the flutter of wings coming from the room with the open window. When I walked into the room, I could count at least three pigeons, with more in the queue to come in to the room through the open window. I attempted to block the window to stop the onslaught of new pigeons, and simultaneously (in hindsight, attempting this simultaneously was a mistake) shoo away the ones already in.

Sometime during the ruckus that emerged with me and the pigeons, one of the pigeons managed to flutter around me and peck at my neck a million times.  It must've been a gruesome sight to see me fend myself from the pigeon.

Fast forward to the next day: I'm at the clinic, and the doctor (pretty young thing, by the way) is describing how pigeons carry all sorts of dreaded germs, and that I need to take a bunch of antibiotic and antiviral injections as a precaution.  I took all this with the same calmness with which I fended off the pigeon the previous night. And then she started administering the first shot - perhaps it was an anti-rabies thing.

So there I was in my dream, getting a shot from a doctor, and simultaneously in real-life, my heart starts pounding away at 160 beats per minute.  And here I am now, well before 9 AM, blogging about how a stupid imaginary pigeon managed to wake me up this early on a Sunday.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Avoiding the "side-effect" syndrome of fitness goals

A comprehensive fitness program should produce results in the following three parameters:
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility
Any results outside these three parameters are mere side effects.  Let me repeat: any results outside these three parameters are mere side effects.  And I am not implying any negative connotation when I use the term side effect.  Some of these side effects include changes to posture, immunity levels, body fat level, weight, sleeping patterns, appetite, etc.  As one can see, the list of these side effects can be really long.  And classifying these side effects as a positive or negative depends on the individual and their context.  E.g. weight loss may be a good thing if you're just coming off a holiday season during which you've binged a lot.  But it is probably not a good thing if you're already in the underweight zone on the BMI scale (or any other metric that you're following).

Now, it's quite common to see ourselves setting goals focussed exclusively on these side effects: in fact, it's usually one of the reason people start to hit the gym, isn't it?  Typical comments one gets to hear from newcomers is, "I need to lose at least five kilos before my cousin's wedding."  This is short-term mentality at its best.

If you are following a fitness program that is focussed on any of these side effects while compromising on the three fitness parameters listed above (strength, endurance, flexibility), you're doing yourself more harm than good.  In fact, even if you are focusing on one of those three parameters while compromising on the other two, you are doing your body a disservice in the long run. So, please set yourself holistic fitness goals, and follow a program that does not compromise on these three parameters. 

Comments welcome.

[Update: Retitled this post]

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Pocket: Online Reading List Manager

Found this handy tool to manage my online reading:
This is a rather neat app that allows the user to manage your online reading lists across your multiple devices: computer, phone, iPod / tablet – they have a reasonably good app for iPod, I’m yet to check out the Android version.

I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate this into my GTD workflow, but here's what I'm thinking:
  • Link to page received (from Google Reader, Google News, or links shared by email, IM, etc.)
  • If can’t read within 2 mins, add to pocket
  • Look through Pocket list of “reading material” – read top priority
  • For items to be saved/shared: bookmark them | save with notes to Evernote | share with contacts.  Else mark as read, and be done with.
By the way, I had used the previous avatar of this tool (ReadItLater), but I'm realizing the benefit of this tool now since I started using iOS and Android.

[Update - 22 Oct 2012]
Found this nice read on Pocket:

Monday, 24 September 2012

Too busy to work out?

If you are, check this athlete out:

More about Rohan Murphy is available on wikipedia.  One snippet that caught my eye was that he won bronze at 2006 IPC World Powerlifting by lifting 127.5 kgs, and he's all of 56 kilos!

I'll probably never gain that kind of upper body strength, but may I be damned if I don't even put in the effort to get fitter.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

On Fitness Goals

People (usually the overweight ones hitting the gym for the first time) often set themselves a goal that goes like,
I need to lose 5 kilos in the next month.

Instead, how about setting a goal such as:
I am going to hit the gym 20 times in the next month.

Isn't setting an effort-based-goal (the number of times to hit the gym) better than an end-result-goal (the targeted weight loss)?  I think so, and here's why:
  • Control: Your achievement of the goal is pretty much under your control.  You know what you need to do in order to hit the gym 5 times this week (reduce the time you spend at office, cancel that dinner, etc.), but you can never really control all the variables it takes to hit your weight loss target, which for all you know, may be completely unrealistic. 
  • Testing your commitment: We've all heard stories of  people who take up a fitness program only to give up within a few short weeks (months if they're lucky) simply because they were unable to meet their "target".  The usual suspect for such a discontinuation is their lack of commitment to their fitness program.  Setting a goal around the effort one is willing to put in helps you test how committed you really are.
  • Course-Correction: You'll know early enough if you're taking any short-cuts and can take corrective action. If you find that all of your gym sessions are lasting less than 15 mins, you know you're not being true to your objective. But with the weight loss goal, it gets more complicated.  Just because you lose 1kg in one week does not mean you're on-track to meeting your weight loss objective.
  • Sustainability: The goals around effort are more sustainable.  It's realistic and sustainable (but probably not easy) to extend the goal to say, I'll hit the gym 20 times per month for the next 12 months.  Try doing that with the weight loss goal.  
  • Fine-tuning: It's also easier to fine-tune the goal statement around your effort:
    I will hit the gym 20 times in the next month to have 15 weight training and 5 cardio sessions.
    But it's almost funny to hear someone say,
    I will lose 5 kgs, of which 4 kgs should be body fat, 0.5 kg water, and 0.5 kg lean muscle.
    Perhaps expert body builders can set themselves goal statements like this, but then the keyword is "expert".
I believe that the goals around weight loss / fat loss / body tone should be set up after one has set up a sustainable fitness program.  So before you set yourself goals around end-results, do set up realistic goals that will help you enjoy and stay committed to your fitness program.  Without that, achieving your end-results will simply not feel rewarding enough, and definitely not fun! 

Would love to hear what others have to say.