Thursday, August 26, 2010

The War Against Machines

Daywalker is a term usually used in vampire movies, which refers to those we can walk outside in the sun while the rest are hiding indoors. Since i left my full time corporate job, i feel like i am a daywalker. I walk around shopping complexes during the day when they are empty (except for a few other daywalkers like myself), drive on the roads when there aren't many people when previously, i could only do all those things at night like a vampire would. Hence like the vampire, most of us only come out at night, due to our full time job. But now, as a day walker, i have so much more free time on my hands. The freedom of time is amazing. You do what you want to do, when you want to do it.

Anyway the reason i am talking about this, is that i am looking for people to join me in this lifestyle and become a daywalker like me and earn lots of money together. If you are guessing what this is all about, i am looking for people who are passionate about health, wellness and fitness and want to live the life of a "daywalker" and at the same time touch and make a difference in other people's lives. If you are interested in this offer or even remotely curious about this, send me an email at and we can discuss further. So get those fingers typing and send me your emails.

OK. Just a little bit of marketing, now down to this weeks post... which is a little late. My apologies for that. I am still adapting to my new daywalker lifestyle. Anyway, this week, i want to talk about using free weights vs machines. Some time ago, i wrote a post on doing squats and mentioned that you should use a power rack instead of a smith machine. There seems to be a growing popularity of people doing squats and bench press on the smith machine these days and sorry to burst your bubble if you are one of them, but these machines are not as effective as free weights and not to mention dangerous as well. Here is why

Smith Machines & other machines in the gym only provide you with a fixed range of motion (ROM) which also means you only train to perform a limited movement. If we were to deviate even slightly from that ROM which you are used to, you will not be able to do the movement or worse, may even get injured. In the real world, muscles work together to accomplish everyday tasks. When you reach down to pick something up, the hamstrings, lower back, glutes, upper back, shoulders, and biceps all work in tandem. There is a symphony of agonist, antagonist, and stabilizers muscles that work together to complete the task.

Muscles must learn their roles as either prime movers or stabilizers. For example, in a free weight bench press, the shoulders and lats “learn” how to stabilize the chest and arms while lift is being executed. In a fixed ROM exercise like the smith machine bench press, none of this happens. As a result, these stabilizers don't get developed along with the prime movers.

When these stabilizing muscles are weak and under developed, or when they haven’t sufficiently learned their roles as stabilizers, the body will not be able to perform real world movements away from the fixed ROM machine. This is why people can leg press 600 pounds but are not able to squat even 100 pounds. I had a friend who routinely used the smith machine for squats in the gym. One day, the smith machine was being used by another gym user, so he opted to use the power rack instead. He loaded up the same amount of weights as he did on the smith machine and he actually fell down when he performed the squat in the power rack. Why? Because the stabilizers are under developed and were unable to compensate and balance him.

You may routinely lift heavy weights on a fixed ROM machines in the gym, then find yourself constantly getting injured at work or at home whenever you try to lift something that’s not nearly as heavy as you are used to in the gym. This is because the stabilizer muscles have remained untrained, and are therefore weak. Hence, machines in the gym which are usually applaud as being able to prevent injury, will actually cause more injury to you.

The same things above applies for the ever popular hammer strength machines available in many gyms these days. These are basically machines with a fixed ROM, except instead of plates and a pin to select your weight, you load up actual weight plates. Just because you are using weight plates, doesn't make it free weights. Now with all that being said, it doesn't mean that machines have absolutely no use at all and should be completely banished from the gym. You just need to ensure that a main portion of your routine should be on free weights and a smaller portion on machines - instead of the other way around. Me personally, I love using machines as finishers to my routine, to squeeze out everything i got at the end. So i do my free weights first and then finish up the routine with some machines. Eg. for my chest, i do bench press, incline bench press and then finish up with the fly machine or cable crossovers. Machines are great for giving you that pump, so i like finishing up with them.

So if you are using the smith machine and / or other machines in the gym, i hope this post will be an eye opener to you. Its never too late to change a routine, so why not start today. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

PS: Any ideas for the next poll? Anything related to fitness that you would like to find out about? If you have any ideas, please let me know. Thanx.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Poll Results - Which one is more difficult to maintain - An Exercise Routine or Diet Plan?

So, it has now come down to my very last week in Allianz. After working for 7 years, it is a little sad to leave, but I know I am moving on to a field that I am passionate about, so I am excited as well. mixed feelings are always weird. Also, now that I will have more free time on my hand, I wonder whether I will still wake up at 5:30am to head to the gym or would I go at more earthly hours. Well initially, I told everyone that I would be sticking to it, but that was before my trip to India. Since then (I took a 9 day break from working out), I am finding it extremely difficult to re-adapt to my routine. But I guess if I keep doing it, it will eventually come back to me. So I am going to stick with it. Will keep you guys updated on how that goes.

OK, so that’s just a little update on my life, now let’s jump into this weeks post. It’s time once again to review our poll results. This time around, we asked everyone which was more difficult to maintain – an exercise routine or a diet plan. No surprise here, 35 of the 49 respondents said it was more difficult to maintain a diet plan well 14 out of 49 said it was harder to maintain an exercise routine.

The fact is, watching your food is extremely hard and tricky and most people fail to see results because they were not able to stick to their diet plan. Living in a country like Malaysia, where food is just available 24/7 and a culture where people socialize / fraternize around food, its no wonder why many people find this harder than a workout routine. Maintaining a workout is easier for me (that’s why I voted for diet being more difficult). If you have a Personal Trainer, then voila, problem solved. But for those who can’t afford to have one, then it can get challenging. So here are some tips to help you stick to your exercise routine as well as your diet plan.

Sticking with an Exercise Routine
Get some gym buddies
– If you can’t afford a personal trainer, get some workout buddies. Workout buddies are an excellent way to stay motivated. For one, you can all motivate each other and keep checking up on each other. Secondly, there is some friendly competition, so that will be a good driver for you to keep working out as you don’t want to be the one slacking off. So go ahead and find some gym buddies.

Set goals – This is true for just about anything in life. If you don’t have a specific goal, you are going to get bored of doing something and eventually you will quit. Imagine driving around in circles with no destination? How long do you think you can do that before you say “screw it”. So set some goals for yourself, and that way you will have a reason to keep working out. The same goes for a diet plan as well. Have some goals and you will have a reason to stick to your diet plan.

Make it a priority – Lots of people tell me they are too busy and that’s why they can’t workout. Have you ever got too busy where you couldn’t take a shower for 3 days? No? Why? Because you make it a priority. Make it a point to set an appointment which cannot be changed. For example, if you decide to workout at 8pm every day, and someone asks you if they can meet up, say NO, you already have another appointment. What I am trying to say is, that people usually choose to trade off their workouts first, before anything else. So just move it up on your list of priorities. I am in bed by 11pm everynight because I want to get up at 5:30am in the morning. So if someone wants to meet me at 10:30pm, I always say, sorry, I can’t meet you that late, I have a very early morning. Most people would oblige, and then sleep at 1am and decide to skip their workout the following morning so that they can make up for loss sleep. So it just comes down to choices.

Sticking with your Diet
Indulgence Plan – I covered this some time back and I have been recommending it lots of people. The fact is, you are going to get bored of eating the same thing everyday and if you don’t have any excape plans, you are in for trouble. Variety is extremely important, so make sure you allow yourself some indulgences. How do you indulge without bursting the buttons in your jeans? Find out more about this and how it can help you stick to your diet plan, by clicking the link below

Moderation is Key – Yes its best to stay away from all the sinful unhealthy food. But every once in awhile, you are going to slip, so its OK. Yes, Roti Canai is bad for you, but hey, every once in a while is OK. Maggi Goreng is also unhealthy, but again, once in awhile is OK. How often do I eat Roti Canai & Mggi Goreng? The last time I ate roti Canai was about 2 months ago. Maggi Goreng – Gosh i can't really remember… maybe 6 or 7 months ago? So if I decided to eat it today, sure, why not. Its OK. Just remember. Do everything in moderation. Sometime ago, I wrote a post on the 90 / 10 philosophy which you can check by clicking the link below.

If you could eat healthily 90% of time and unhealthily 10% of the time, then you will be fine. So don’t fret about being a boy scout about this all the way.

So there you go. Some tips to help you stay on course with your fitness plan and goals. What was your vote for the poll and your reasons for choosing it? Please do share as well as if you have some other tips for others on how to stick with their plan. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trip To India

Before I ramble on on this weeks post, I would like to wish all my Muslim readers and clients “Selamat Berpuasa”. For those who are wondering how to stay fit during the Ramadhan period, do hop over to Kasey Brown’s blog (fellow fitness blogger) as he did an excellent post on keeping fit during the fasting month. You can check it by clicking the link below:

Anyway, I just got back from my 8 day trip to India and boy… am I glad to be back. Do you know how to tell when a holiday sucks? When you can’t wait to come home – and that’s how I felt about this trip. OK, please don’t get me wrong. Its not like the trip was an absolute nightmare where I was sitting in a 1 star hotel with no water and food to eat and a mat for a bed. No, all that was fine. But as a holiday destination? That gets the thumbs down from me. Here are some things that I absolutely hate

Horn Horn Horn – Anyone who has been to India, the first thing you will notice when you step out of the airport is people love their car horns. If your horn doesn’t work, then your car is not fit to be on the road. Whenever you drive, please feel free to horn away at will to tell everyone and anyone – Hey I have a car with a horn. Beep beep. If you want to cut into somebody’s lane, blow your horn first. If somebody is trying to cut into your lane, horn at him. When you are coming to a stop at the traffic light, horn at the traffic light. If you are behind someone (which will be most of the time when you are driving), please horn to tell them you are behind. And even when there is no one else around, please check and re-check your horns every 30 seconds or so… to make sure its still working, so when you do get into any one of the situations above, you are sure your horn works.

Dust & dirt in your lungs – Yes, you read it right. The roads are amazingly dusty, sandy and dirty and the best part is, everyone (ok maybe 99.99% of them) like to drive with their windows down and no A/C – in an effort to save petrol. So any taxi you take will have the windows wound all the way down. I am perfectly fine with windows rolled down except that the air is so dusty and filled with sand particles that I kept breathing in sand and dust all day. I am not joking. The air there is really bad and you are constantly smelling dirt and exhaust fumes all the time. Go to a shopping complex and pick up a shirt wrapped in plastic…guess what, the damn plastic is covered in dust. No wonder they have to plastic wrap everything… even when its in an air conditioned shopping complex. It’s that dusty.

Kiasu-ness – Pooh, you thought Malaysians and Singaporeans are kiasu, try going to India. Everyone is always in a hurry and want to be first they will do anything. Look at the way they drive and you know what I mean. Its like a chaos in perfect symphony. Why? Because they weave in and out of traffic and you are absolutely sure you are going to bang someone or something, but yet you just never do. Its amazing. Driving the way they do takes skill. No pun intended here. I really mean it. They are some really skilled drivers. But people are just kiasu even when walking and queueing up to buy something. Enough times, people just cut my queue when I was lining up to buy stuff.

Here is what my itinerary looked like. I spent 2 nights in Bangalore (now called Bengaluru), 3 nights in Goa and then 2 more nights in Bangalore again before returning to KL. Bangalore is a big city and well known as a destination for shopping. If you do go to Bangalore, make sure you check out Commercial Street. It’s the Petaling Street of Bangalore. Besides that, there really isn’t much else to do in Bangalore. Do also check out their fast food joints like KFC & McDonalds. KFC has both a normal Zinger and a Vege Zinger. McDonalds doesn’t have a Big Mac but a Maharaja Burger, which is similar to the Big Mac, except the patties are made out of chicken. Besides that, I really couldn’t find much else to do around there. Oh yes, they have a Taco Bell in one of their malls. I sure miss that.

When we first arrived, we stayed in this hotel (it does not deserve the title of hotel - they should call it Rumah Tumpangan) called Sabari’s Inn (formerly known as Nilgiri’s Nest. This hotel was on the main road so we could hear all the honking all night long. YES, we didn’t get much sleep on the first night. Oh yah, and hot water in the shower ends by 8pm. If you want hot water after that, give the bell boy a call and 30 minutes later, he will be at your door step with 2 pails of hot water. The floor was so dusty (since it was on the main road) I actually wore my slippers everywhere. Check out the pics below. Doesn't this look like a rumah tumpangan?

Anyway I was totally disgusted with the service of this place, so the next day, me and wifey scouted around for another hotel. We found this small boutique hotel called Raintree and it was a real pleasant welcome. It was tucked away in one of the smaller roads, so no honking sounds in the middle of the night. Hot water 24 / 7 - yeah unlike the previous hotel, hot water here is not entitled to public holidays and nights off…and of course, they had Wi-Fi. For a nation that prides itself with IT, I am surprised how hard it was to find a decent internet connection. But this Hotel was far better and cheaper than our previous hotel. So we moved all our things over there and that became our base in Bangalore.

Goa – Oh Boy… here it comes. As most of you know, I am a huge fan of the beach. Before going on this trip, everyone told me things like:-

Goa is the place to be”, “You are in for a treat”, “It’s really happening man”, “You are absolutely going to love it”

To all my friends who suggested these quotes, sorry to disappoint everyone of you, but I actually thought Goa sucked. OK, sorry to use such harsh words, but the beach was filthy and covered in rubbish and that automatically gets a thumbs down from me. The so called happening bars weren’t that happening at all – I had the picture that it would be like Kuta Beach in Bali, but it was nothing like that all. There really wasn’t much to do. We stayed in Calangute area and we first thought that maybe we are in the wrong area. We checked the local newspaper and there were advertisements for Bars and Restaurants in Baga Beach. Did a quick map check and by road, Baga beach was about 4km a way, but if we walked on the beach, it was just 2.5km. So me and my wifey decided to trek it on foot trhough the beach. OK, sure enough there were many bars and restaurants around, but I dunno, the whole area really lacked the beach feel. It looked and felt like I was walking down Masjid India and not some beach area. Do you know what I mean? So that was a thumbs down too.

Despite the beach being filthy, I just had to dip my head in the water. The waters were really rough and they had life guards available. But we were only allowed to venture in knee deep. But yeah, I tossed and a turned in the water quite a bit but kept getting called back by the life guards who thought I was going in too deep. Oh yeah, one thing I did notice, the sea water in Goa is not as salty as some of the other beaches I have been too. I have no point with this statement, just thought I would mention it. Check out the size of the waves behind me.

One positive point to Goa, was that the hotel was beautiful. Check out the pictures below. The hotels name is Resort Terra Paiso.

So anyway, after Goa, we headed back to Bangalore and spent the last 2 nights there doing some last minute shopping we needed to. By this time I was just counting the hours left before we could head back and like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I am glad to be back home in Malaysia. Home Sweet Home.

All in all, I would not recommend Bangalore / Goa as a Holiday destination, unless you are into:-

1) Shopping for Indian themed items like sarees (other items are cheaper back here)

2) Going on a religious pilgrimage of some sort

3) Fancy breathing in dust and dirt

4) Enjoy analyzing the different types of rubbish that wash onto the beach

If you are not into any of the above, I really don’t think there is much for you to do in Bangalore & Goa. If you want good beaches, go to Bali, Krabi, Tioman. If you want to shop, go to Bangkok… its much cheaper to get there. Overall, this trip was a thumbs down for me. Of course, this is just my opinion, so I am open to hear everybody’s feedback on India even if you disagree with me on any of the points I made above – would love to hear your comments on this. So please share your opinions.

Monday, August 2, 2010

5 Meals a day for Busy People

As we all know, eating 5 meals a day has been proven to be the most effective nutrition intake plan, regardless of whether you are going for weight loss or muscle gain. For weight loss, it works great because it helps to prevent your body from storing fat during long periods of starvation. For muscle gain, 5 meals a day ensures your body has a constant supply of protein so it can continue to be in an anabolic state.

The big question is, if its so good, why isn't everyone doing it? The problem is, most of us have full time jobs and its not convenient to eat 5 times a day. Can you imagine stopping your meeting at 4pm to tell your boss that you need to feed yourself? That is one of the biggest obstacle most people face. Some other concerns i have heard include it takes too much time to prepare something healthy and its just plain expensive to eat 5 times a day.

So how do you eat 5 times a day, while keeping your full time job? Well here is how i do it, and i have divided it into muscle gain days (MG) and weight Loss Days (WL). For those who are unfamiliar with this terms, please refer to my post on zig zagging. So during each period, i will indicate what i eat / drink to give you a better picture.

OK, as most of you know, i wake up at 5:30am to hit the gym in the morning before work. So my time table starts at 5:30am, but you guys can go ahead and tweak it according to your needs

5:30am: One Glass of Soyabean milk & 2 boiled eggs - boiled the night before (MG & WL)

8:30am: Post workout - Protein Shake mixed with V-Soy (MG)
- Tuna Sandwich on wholemeal bread (WL)

One packet of Soya + Tuna Sandwich (MG)
Loose Muesli or Fresh Fruits (WL)

12:30pm: Rice & Curry, Fast Food (MG)
Chapatti & Curry or Sandwich at a restaurant (WL)

4:30pm: Tuna Sandwich on whole meal Bread (MG & WL). On MG days, i eat a bigger portion of the sandwich on WL days, its just half a sandwich. I keep one can of my protein powder in the office. So if i know i have a meeting that day, i mix this up in the pantry before i go into my meeting.

8:00pm: Dinner - This varies based on what i make for dinner. It ranges from Pasta, to some other recipes i have. Will share more in a later post.

I am usually in bed by 11pm, so my dinner is my last last meal.

Now i am sure many will ask why do i have something at 10:30am, when the rule says i should eat for every 3 hours. Yes, ideally we should, but i can't have my lunch at 2:30pm, so i have to manage around it. So don't be too rigid about the 3 hour rule. Try to stick to it as much as you can. Just remember, that the 3 hour starts right after you finish your meal. So if you eat something at 8am, then again at 10am, the your next 3 hour meal is reset and therefore you will only eat again at 1pm and NOT 3 hours from your original 8am. Most people get caught up with trying to follow 3 hours to the dot, and when they can't, get frustrated and quit. Find a way to work around it like i did. In general most of my meals are spaced 3 hours apart, but in some occasions, i intervene based on my lifestyle.

I know there are lots of questions with some of the meals i wrote up there, so here are some tips to help you with it:

Buy some loose muesli and keep it in your office. Great to munch on and healthy for you. Some people even mix this into low fat yogurt. I like eating cereal and muesli dry, so i don't do it, but hey, if it meets your fancy, go for it.
Fresh Fruits - get into the habit of eating more fruits. Pack some apples or bananas with you to work and you can easily consume this at anytime

Protein Powder - yes, i keep one can in my office, one can in house. So this way, when you are in a fix or have to attend a meeting, make one of your meals a protein shake
Muesli Bars - This is another great thing to keep in your office drawer. Rather than keeping a Snickers Bar for the "Rainy Day", why not switch it to a muesli bar. The thing is, we consume what we buy... if you don't buy it and keep it, you can't eat it.
Milk / Soyabean milk- if your pantry has a fridge, keep a carton of milk / soyabean milk. Remember to label it with your name so nobody else accidentally uses it. This is a good alternative if you can't afford protein powder - but of course you have to consume more to get the equivalent amount of protein you would get from a protein shake.

As you can see, eating 5 meals a day isn't that hard to do. With some improvising, you can easily fit this into your schedule. I eat 6 meals a day, but that's based on my needs and my schedule. Remember, eat for every 3 hours that you are awake, and if it comes up to 6 meals, don't fret too much about it. I do it too. What i am sharing here is my routine, but feel free to adjust it to make it fit into your schedule. Easy isn't it. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.