Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting Back in the Groove

For those who celebrate Hari Raya, let me take this opprtunity to wish Selamat Hari Raya to you and your family. Hope you had a wonderful celebration. To the rest who don’t celebrate, well I know you enjoyed the long break nonetheless… I know I did.

Anyway, after a long break, good food and just relaxing, getting back into your exercise routine can seem like a daunting task. Just the idea of going back to the gym will make you feel like you have ball chained to your legs. It’s important to remember that whenever you have a break from the gym and your workout, its vital that you start slow. Meaning you can’t just jump back into it and push yourself like you did before you took your break. Before you took your break, you were performing at your peak… but now that you have taken a break, you will have to ease back into that until you reach the peak again.

Normally what I like to do is to give myself 3 weeks before i get back to my peak. That way, I ensure that I have a steady and uniform progression from now until I reach my peak. Eg. If you can bench press 160 pounds, divide it up by 4 (you will be performing at your peak on the 4th week). Hence start out with 40 pounds for the first week, 80 pounds for the 2nd week and so on. By the time you reach your 4th week you will be back to where you left off. Of course you can reduce the time you take to swing back to normal, but personally for me, the best results I have achieved is when I spread it over 4 weeks. This helps to prevent injury and also prepares your body slowly before its thrown back into its peak. Also, since you are doing lighter weights, i make it a point to do more reps... i usually do as many as i can. This way the work out still feels like a workout and not just a waste of time.

For cardio, you want to start out at a lower intensity and lower speed and then work your way up again. Again... allow about 3 weeks and then on the 4th week you can push yourself as usual. If you like to run and usually run for about 1 hour, start by doing 15 minutes and then working your way up. What I like to do for running is to do 15 minutes of running and then walking for 5 minutes, then doing 15 minutes agaain and then walk again and keep the overall time to 1 hour. As time goes by, increase the 15 minutes gradually until eventually on the 4th week, you are back to running for 1 hour.

The other important reason for starting slow is, everytime you feel like you don’t want to go to the gym, just tell yourself “hey, its going to be a light and easy work out”. By telling yourself this, you will be convincing yourself that the work out isn’t going to be that torturous… hence making it easier to go back to the gym. The reason why most of us feel heavy hearted to go back to the gym, is because our last memory of gym and working out was when we were at our peak. However all the days of not working out makes us realize it is difficult to push that hard. Hence listen to your body and start slow. By the time you go through one week, you will be looking forward to the next week and soon you will be looking forward to reaching your peak again. That’s the result you want… where you look forward to going to the gym again.

So starting slow is the correct way to go about re-starting your routine since it helps to prevent injury and also prepares your psychologically to get back into the groove. This technique can be applied any time you take a break, be it festival time or just when you go on a holiday. It really helps to make a big difference. So try it out and see. As usual, I look forward to hearing your comments on this and any suggestions you may have on how you deal with post holiday work outs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

You can eat healthily anywhere - Pizza Hut

Let’s continue with the challenge that was put forth to me, stating that you can’t eat healthily outside. As you know, I am of the opinion that you can eat healthily anywhere, and so let’s continue our journey of other “so-called” unhealthy places and see how we can work around and make it healthy.

Again, my usual disclaimer before I proceed with showing you how to eat healthily here.“If you only eat in this place once in awhile, then I say go ahead and enjoy. But if your visit this place regularly, then you might want to follow these tips carefully to ensure your gym workouts don’t go to complete waste.”

So this week I decided to talk about Pizza Hut. Any Pizza parlour in Malaysia is probably considered one of the worst places to have a meal if you are trying to maintain a fit figure. So how do we go about eating there and still try to keep our hard earned body? Here are some tips.

1) Pizza Hut and most other pizza parlours have a salad bar or salad on the menu. If you can have an order of this and ensure you eat this first before indulging into the pizza. This way you feel yourself about half way with healthy crisp vegetables and then just indulge into a few slices of pizza. No point eating the pizza first, coz chances are you will eat too much and by then be to sick to even the vegetables. So vege’s first, pizza later.

2) For those body builders who are looking for protein, Pizza Hut and other pizza parlours also have Chicken Wings. It may be a little pricey to eat only this, but I guess the decision is in your hand. Spend a little more, get lots of protein or spend less and eat unhealthily. The bottom line is, there are options out there if you want to take them. My usual trick… eat the chicken wings first and then the pizza. Same concept as the veges.

3) If its possible, try to stick to plain old H2O for your drink. That will shave off a good 300 calories… and when you are eating pizza, every calorie you can save from something makes a big difference.

4) Avoid the breadsticks and garlic breads are far as possible. I know Pizza Hut has the set lunch deal where you can get breadsticks and soup. Bad idea. Bread sticks are nothing but carbs topped with some parmesan cheese for taste. Double whammy. The soup is also another killer. Any time you have a soup which is creamy, you know its high in calories as well as fat. That’s how they make it nice and creamy. There is no way that low fat milk will ever make anything that creamy. So if you can, avoid this Lunch Set at all costs. Go for some proper food.

5) When you order their Personal Pan pizza, the actual ingredients / toppings like meat comes in a patheticly small portions. Reason is, they are trying to keep the cost down to make it attractive to you, the user. Because it is so small, most people don’t mind it and think you get so little ingredients because it is small. So eating the Personal Pan is like eating bread, tomato puree, and cheese. Almost 0 nutrition value. You are honestly better of getting a Large Pizza shared by 2 or 3 people. It’s harder for them to cheat on ingredients when the pizza is large.

So there you have it. Some simple tips for you eat healthily at Pizza Hut. This way you can still join your colleagues during lunch and eat there (and not become a social outcast) while maintaining that body which cost you a lot of sweat. Most of the times we end up in these places because everyone wants to go there. With these tips, you don’t have to be left out. Try it out and see. It really isn’t that hard and anyone can eat just about anywhere and still be healthy.

As usual, look forward to hearing your comments and if you have any other healthier suggestions. Also, if you think of a place which you feel is impossible to eat healthily, let me know and I will show you how to go about it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Having Big thighs could save your life?

For those of you who have big thighs, this posting may be of some interest to you. I read this interesting article on Star last Saturday which was talking about a new research which was done in Denmark, and funded by the Danish Medical Research Council. This research found that people with thinner-than-average thighs may have a higher risk of heart problems or an earlier death. So all you women who hate looking at your big thighs, it may actually turn out to be a life saver after all.

This study has looked at around 3,000 adults between the ages of 35 and 65, to see whether the circumference of their thighs, measured just below the bottom, was linked to their risk of getting heart problems or dying in the next 10 or 12 years. Contrary to what you might expect, thinner thighs were linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The average measurement around people's thighs was 55 centimetres (22 inches). Thinner thighs than this were linked to a higher risk of getting heart problems or dying during the study. Having thighs larger than 60cm made no difference to people's risk. People were most at risk if they had a thigh measurement of less than 46.5 centimetres (18 inches). This group had roughly double the chances of getting heart and circulation problems or dying during the study.

How is this possible? Well the simplest possible explanation I can think of is people with smaller thighs might have less muscle mass. This means they may not be able to deal with insulin properly, which could put them at risk of diabetes and therefore heart disease. Or less muscle might be a sign that someone does less exercise. Unfortunately, the researchers didn't measure whether people's thighs were composed of fat or muscle, so we've no way of knowing. However, I am guessing that what they mean is those who have more muscle in their thighs which results in the circumference being above 60cm have a lower chance of heart failure and an early death.

This study also did not take into account other factors such as waist measurement, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and whether or not you smoke. Once they take all this information into account along with the thigh circumference, only then will they be able to substantially state if this really makes a difference.

So what can you do now knowing this information? Well, assuming that the researchers are on to something when they suggest that lack of muscle might be the problem, you could try to build up your thigh muscles with exercise. After all, as we know, any form of exercise is good for the heart, so you know for sure that it won’t be bad for you. Best form of exercise for strengthening and growing the size of your thighs… doing heavy squats at least once a week. Alternatively, you could do some endurance based training such as running – it still works out your legs and your heart as well.

Do you need another reason to work out? As usual, look forward to hearing your comments on this.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Trip to Chiang Mai

I am staying away from our fitness topic for this week and want to talk about my recent trip to Chiang Mai in Thailand. All in all it was a pretty good trip, and probably one of the few non-beach holidays I have done. To be honest, I had more fun than I thought I would.

I stayed in Holiday Inn, which was next to the river… from the description I read on line, it said the hotel offered various river / water activities, which was the reason why I chose that hotel. Problem was the description was very false. Yes, its next to a river, but the river was extremely calm and murky like kopi susu. There was no activity at all around on the river and it was just still water. The other whammy about this hotel, it’s a little far from everything… meaning no restaurants or shops nearby. So we had to depend on the shuttle to shuttle us to and from town.
The hotel itself was very nice… after all it is the Holiday Inn, but just the location could have been better.

What is there to do in Chiang Mai? Well there actually are quite a few things to do. One main thing, is shopping… and traveling with my mom, one of her friends and my wife… you can bet we did a whole lot of shopping. But even then, I still managed to do a few fun things besides just shopping which made the whole trip worth it.

Chiang Mai is the 2nd biggest city in Thailand after Bangkok. It is on higher ground, but unfortunately, it did not feel any much cooler than KL.
Some of the activities you can do there are:-
a) shopping – Famous spots include the Daily Night Bazaar, Sunday Market & the Shopping Complex
b) visiting temples – there 4 to 5 big temples in Chiang Mai. The crown jewel of these temples is on which is located on a hill
c) Factories – Silk Factories, cloth factories, rare stones etc.
d) Animal Shows – Tiger shows (I mean the animal and not the other Tiger show, please see below), Snake, Monkey
e) Waterfall – I think there are 2 huge waterfalls, but as it was raining everyday, even the water of the waterfalls became like coffee
f) Shooting range – I shall talk about this shortly
g) River Cruise – Have dinner on a boat as it cruises down the river
h) Bars – from your standard Irish bar to the Go Go kind, you can find it all here.

There are probably other attractions as well, but these were the main activies.

Anyway after waiting for so long, I finally got my chance to shoot a hand gun. It was a little pricey. RM 170 for 30 bullets, but since you can’t do it here in Malaysia, I thought what the heck. I asked them if I could split the bullets over 2 guns – meaning 15 bullets for the revolver and 15 bullets for the Glock 9mm. It was extremely fun, but shooting is not as easy as your TV shows make it out to be. What you aim at, ain’t necessarily what you will hit once you pull the trigger – due to the kick back. The Glock 9mm was a little easier to shoot, but the revolver had very powerful kick back so my shots flew everywhere. Out of 15 rounds, 12 rounds hit the target (not bullseye unfortunately) while 3 was a miss. Not bad for first time shooting. With the revolver I only managed 6 hits out of 15 rounds. Although I workout heavily, my shoulders still felt sore the next day… so it does take a toll on your arms and shoulders. Like I told everyone…. Feeling the force of the gun, I cannot imagine the pain of actually being on the receiving end of the gun.

We did check out one waterfall and we hiked for about 1km up… but the water was too murky to swim in. So me and wifey just dipped our legs in the water, took some pics and hiked down. It was a pretty good hike as we had to climb over rocks and other obstacles to proceed forward. Check out the pic below… as I was hiking down, I saw this and it looked like a perfect spot to meditate.

We also did the river cruise dinner… food was so so but it was an experience by itself. You have dinner on this wide boat, which tavels at a ridiculous speed of 1 km per hour while the sun sets. Its something different all right, but if i do go back to Chiang Mai again, I might skip this altogether.

We visited the night bazaar almost daily. Just like Petaling Street, there are loads of things to look at and buy in these stalls and yes you can bargain for a cheaper price. I bought a few cool items for myself and it was actually fun to walk around and see what each store had. Cool.

So, all in all, it was a good holiday…but I do miss the beach. So the next holiday I do, has to be a beach one again. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

PS: OK time for a new poll. Similar to the previous one, but this time its about whether its OK for your PT to be overweight / looks out of shape. Cast in your votes and make them count.