Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why the Sony Xperia Z2 is the best running partner.

Sony Xperia Z2
I am always on the lookout for tools that can help improve my running. In fact, my last post on this blog (nearly 2 years back) was about the MOTOACTV GPS running watch. I've stopped using the MOTOACTV device, because Motorola discontinued the product, and the runs recorded on the device can no longer be uploaded for analysis.

Monday, September 3, 2012

MOTOACTV: My new running & cycling partner.

MOTOACTV GPS Sports Watch from Motorola
I am a big fan of the Nike+ running system.. That system is designed with the runner in mind. Since I started using the system more than 2 years ago, I have logged more than 3000 kilometers on the Nike+ website. The system helped me to stay motivated during running, and more importantly, stay in shape.

I initially started using the Nike+ system using just the shoe sensor and an iPod touch. I eventually upgraded that to iPhone 4. The iPhone gave me more flexibility to measure runs indoors as well as outdoors using GPS. In my opinion, the Nike+ system is the perfect companion for a dedicated runner.

Unfortunately, I had to give up my iPhone and move to the Android OS (The Samsung Galaxy Note to be exact). I love the Galaxy Note for my day to day tasks, but as a running companion, it just does not cut it. It is too big to hold in the hand or to keep in the pocket. Strapping it on the arm would make me look like a hipster.

When Nike announced their GPS Sports Watch, I thought it would be a good replacement, but held off the purchase because it does not have a MP3 player. Without a MP3 player, I would need to carry a separate device to play music during my runs.

I was casually searching for "gps sports watch and mp3" and the first result I got was the MOTOACTV GPS sports watch from Motorola. I had heard about this device when it was launched, but given its steep price ($249), it did not  fit my budget. However, it appears that Motorola decided to slash the price of the unit by $100, and suddenly it looked like a very attractive option.

Here are the key features of this device:
1. GPS Sports watch to keep track of your route, distance, calories burned, etc.
2. MP3 player that automatically recommends playlists based on your past history.
3. Accelerometer to track your runs indoors or on a treadmill.
4. Wi-fi enabled to upload your runs without the need for wires or connecting to a computer
5. ANT+ receivers to link heart rate monitors, bike speed and cadence sensors
6. Can be used for running or cycling (unlike Nike+ which is just for running).
7. Small size. You can wear it like a watch, or clip it to your clothing like iPod Nano.
8. Android based device. Can connect to Android phones for reading text messages, missed calls etc.
9. Being Android, the software can be easily updated. Since its release, Motorola has done a number of updates to the software to make it stable, as well as add many new features.

The amount of technology packed into this tiny device is just amazing. It fits all of my requirements and I am anxiously waiting for Amazon to ship my order. Once I get it, I will do a more detailed review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Philips 9140/90 Food Steamer

The Philips 9140/90 Food Steamer
I have recently incorporated grilled chicken and grilled meat into my diet. The grilling is done using the Philips Air-Fryer, which I reviewed here. The Air-Fryer is really a nifty tool, and has become a permanent member on our kitchen table-top.

Any grilled food, of course, goes well with boiled vegetables. Up to now, I used to just boil them in water. The problem with that is:
1. You have to keep monitoring the boiling vegetables, to ensure that they don't overcook and become soft.
2. You lose too many nutrients in the boiling process.

After doing some research, I found that the best solution to second problem would be to steam them. You can read more about that here.

I narrowed my choice down to the following 2 Philips models, which are available locally in Kuwait.
 1. Philips 9140/90 (which I eventually ended up buying)
 2. Philips HD9160.

The 9140/90 is a 900 watt model, while the HD9160 has a whopping 2000 watt power. I figured I don't really need the extra power and couldn't justify paying nearly twice the price.

The steaming itself is a really simple process. You fill water in the base tank, and you can mix and match upto 3 different combinations of bowls for different types of food. You don't need to steam with all 3 pans. You can cook with just 1 pan. You can even remove the middle partitions to effectively make the bowl bigger. For my first trial, I started off with just 1 pan.

Steaming in progress.
The steamer has handy buttons to automate the process of choosing the correct time, depending on the type of food being steamed. You can also manually set the time. I steamed some potatoes and cauliflower - which takes 20 minutes.

I was really amazed at the result. The potatoes turned out perfect. Crispy yet not hard. The cauliflowers turned out a bit soft - but that's because I should probably put them in a separate bowl and reduce the steaming time to around 15 minutes.

Perfectly done Steamed Potatoes.
This gizmo is definitely taking up some prime real estate on my kitchen table-top, right next to the Air-Fryer.

Rating: Highly Recommended.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Visual Food Diary

Daily log of food consumed
2 years ago, when I got serious about healthy life-style, and started this blog, the first article I wrote was about determining our calorie needs. This is very important, because regardless of how much workout we do, it all comes down to what we eat, and more importantly, how much we eat.

The very next article I wrote was about keeping a food journal - and the various resources available online. My favorite resource for tracking calories consumed is My-Calorie-Counter. Initially, I used this resource extensively to figure out what I should be eating, and how much I should be eating in a day.

Both these resources have helped me to reach most of my fitness goals. Of course, keeping track of a food diary is not practical on a daily basis. It is something we should do for 1 or 2 weeks, and then use that knowledge to guide us for the rest of the way. Since we tend to go astray after some time, it's a good idea to come back to the food journal every few months to keep ourselves in check.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Kettlebell Transformation.

My Kettle-bell collection.
Back in June 2011, when I first started getting serious about kettle-bells, I didn't realize just how serious it would get.

Fast forward six months, and the year 2011 is over, and a new year has started. I now do kettle-bell workouts 3 times a week.

And that's it. No gym, No treadmill running, No bench-pressing, no Nike+ running. Just kettle-bells.

Initially, my biggest fear with kettle-bells was the danger of injury. When you are swinging a 16 kilogram round object all around your body, it is very easy to assume that it is a very risky and a very technical workout. I was discussing kettle-bell workouts with my gym trainer, and the first thing he told me was that I would likely get injured, since he had seen many people getting injured while doing kettle-bell workouts.

Well, there is no denying the fact that kettle-bell workouts are highly technical workouts. You can get injured if you don't follow correct form or do not respect the kettle-bell. This means watching YouTube videos and trying to repeat the same at home is a sure-fire way to injury.

I was lucky because I was guided from the very beginning by a RKC certified trainer, and under his guidance, I moved from a kettle-bell newbie to someone who can comfortably do swings with 24 kg kettle-bells and snatches with a 16 kg kettle-bells.

I did not get a single injury with kettle-bells - which is quiet different from the regular injuries I used to suffer, while doing running or resistance workouts.

Last week, our trainer made us do an evaluation to see what we are capable of. When I first started kettle-bells, I could not do a single snatch with the 16 kg kettle-bell. During the evaluation, I did 80 snatches in 5 minutes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Kettlebell Influence.

An edible Kettlebell. Courtesy: My wife.

When I first got interested in Kettlebells (thanks largely to YouTube videos), I had no idea how much involved I would actually get into these type of workouts.

My blog post on Kettlebells got the attention of Suleiman - a certified Kettlebell expert, who is currently settled in Kuwait. Suleiman wrote to me and offered to show me the correct way to do Kettlebell workouts. I jumped at the opportunity of getting expert advice - even though the suggested time was 6 AM.

For the past 1 month, I have religiously woken up at 5:30 in the morning every Saturday - and headed off to our workout place. Under the expert guidance of Suleiman, I have learned the proper technique of executing a Swing, a Turkish Get-up, and a Clean. It was an eye-opening experience to me, because I was made to realize how little I knew of  handling Kettlebells. YouTube videos may be fine to demonstrate basic exercises, but when it comes to complex (and potentially dangerous) exercises such as Kettlebells, it is always a good idea to learn the basic form under expert guidance.

Kettlebell workouts now form a major component of my weekly exercises - while my running has reduced greatly due to my obsession with Kettlebells. I still try to put in a few miles on the treadmill at least once or twice a week, but it is no where near what I used to do few months back.

The influence of Kettlebells in my life can be best described by what happened to me yesterday (which also happened to be my 46th birthday):
   - I got up at 5:00 AM and headed off to our workout place.
   - 90 minutes of solid Kettlebell workout.
   - Returned home to find a birthday cake prepared by my wife and daugher, shaped like a Kettlebell.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Protein Bars on the Cheap.

Home-made protein bars.
I've been looking at protein bars as a snack for in-between meals, but the price is simply outrageous. A single bar retails for anything between KD 1.500 to KD 2.000, depending on the brand.

Last week, I received an email from Lee Haywards, one of the body-builders that I subscribe to on YouTube. The email was a link to his video showing how to make cheap protein bars at home. The video and the recipe is here.

I've previously seen home made protein bars from another one of my favorite body-builder Scooby. However, his bars looked like dog poo, and he even proudly calls them Scooby Poo Bars. You can see the recipe for that here. I was not really that keen on eating bars that resembled poo, so never gave that a second thought.

Lee's recipe looked reasonably edible, so I decided to give it a shot. I picked up all the required ingredients, which are:

  • 8 scoops Whey Protein powder
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup skimmed milk
  • 3 table spoons honey
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • Crushed peanuts (I purchased normal peanuts and crushed them myself)

These are the actual ingredients that I picked up.

Ingredients for Protein Bars
My wife helped me to mix the stuff up and roll them into nice rectangles. Each bar packs a solid 27 grams of protein, and taste good too.

What is interesting, of course, is the cost break-down. Each bar costs approximately 300 fils (1 dollar), which is 5 times cheaper than the cost if purchased in the shop. Lee claims that his bar comes to 49 cents - which makes sense, since protein powder costs half as much in U.S, compared to the price here in Kuwait.

The nutritional values will be the same - and in fact, the home-made bars have an added benefit of not having any additives or preservatives. Now I can comfortably keep my protein intake at the required level thanks to these cheap protein bars.