Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The South Beach Run.

Map view of run from Mobor Beach to Benaulim Bach.

It seems ironic that my first blog post in Goa is on my fitness blog instead of my photography blog. I had promised myself that I would focus mostly on photography during my vacation and give my running legs a rest but I guess even if you take the running legs away from the treadmill, you cannot take the running from the legs of a dedicated runner.

My plan was basically run on the beach as far as I could and then figure out how to return back home. I was hoping that I could run as far as the Colva beach (I estimated this to be about 12 kilometers from where I live, which is the Mobor beach). The last time I tried running here was back in May, when I has come down for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. At that time, I could do only about 8 km. But since my running has improved a lot since then, I thought 12 km should be achievable.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Technical Shirt

Reebok PlayDry Shirt
In one of my previous articles "Dressed to Run", I highlighted the importance of wearing the right clothes (especially the shirt) while running.

These shirts are also known as "Technical Shirts". Basically, they are made from a special micro-fiber that pulls the sweat away from your skin and dries it quickly - keeping your warm and comfortable.

I have some good running shirts, but none of them are the real deal. At the end of the run, my shirt would be soaking in sweat and I would be desperate to hit the shower. The reason that I avoided buying technical shirts is that I just couldn't justify paying around KD 20/- for a T-shirt that is used primarily for running.

Yesterday, I was passing through a shopping mall in Kuwait City (Al-Muthana Complex) and noticed that one of the sports shop had a sale going on. I thought I'll check out to see if there is anything interesting. I hit the mother-load when I saw the Reebok technical shirts on sale for KD 8/-. I quickly picked up 2.

The "PlayDry Compression Shirts" are designed to move moisture from your skin. It accelerates evaporation, increases ventilation and reduces chaffing. And it doesn’t trap the heat inside. PlayDry. Because dryer is cooler. - Source.

As can be seen from the photo, these shirts are like body gloves and cling to your body. You don't even feel that you are wearing anything. Obviously, you need to be in pretty good shape to carry it off. If you happen to have a pot belly or love handles, you will look awkward wearing something like this.

I tried my first run with the shirt. I now regret not having invested in a technical shirt before. The difference is amazing. The sweating is still there. However, because the shirt is clinging to your body, it is the equivalent of running without clothes. This running without clothes is emphasized by the fact that the shirt almost turns "see-through". As I said before, if you are not fit, you will be VERY uncomfortable wearing this shirt while running thinking that everyone is looking and laughing at you.

However, once you start running in a technical shirt, there's no going back to normal shirts. I need to go back to that shop and pick up a few more before the sale runs out!!!.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monitoring your body fat index at home.

Omron BF400
Whenever I need to check my body fat index, I normally visit one of the local pharmacies and take my measurements using the machine that they keep there for such purpose. I've done this a few times before and posted it on this blog.

I had heard about these Omron home-use devices that use Bio-electrical impedance to measure your body fat percentage and thought I'll pick up one just for convenience. My wife is also interested in keeping track of her BF% but doesn't like visiting the pharmacy.

The Omron BF400 allows me to store up to 4 profiles and quickly measures the Body Fat Index once you select the profile and step on the device. It also doubles as a weighing scale.

A preliminary check shows my BF as 20% but I this may not be accurate as I had just had lunch before taking the reading. I will do this again tomorrow morning to get a more accurate reading.

The BF400 is available in X-Cite Electronics for KD 19.500 (after the normal 20% discount).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Trying to be Fahad.


Fahad Al-Yehya (well, his resemblance).
"Trying to be Fahad" is a health & fitness blog by Fahad Al-Yehya. Fahad is the owner of Core Fitness, a fitness gym that focuses on short 20 minute sessions that people can easily incorporate into their busy life - while ensuring that they stay active and healthy at the same time.

I have personally not met Fahad, but I bet he bears an uncanny resemblance to his avatar posted on his blog. In other words, I wouldn't want to mess with him or piss him off.

Besides being a fitness guru, Fahad is also a certified nutritionist - which means that when he tells you to eat something, you eat it. No questions asked.

Fahad writes with a light and entertaining style, which makes his blog a nice addition to anyone who is interested in fitness and health.

Fahad is very helpful and answers all of the queries posted on the blog, including detailed advice on diet and nutrition. For example, I recently asked him to review my diet and he gave me a complete diet plan - which I plan to incorporate immediate.

The good news? The advice is completely free!!.

This is my new diet plan - as written by Fahad. Note: The Vetal milk Fahad refers to is a brand of low-fat milk fortified with proteins.

Cajie: I would like to make a few changes if you don’t mind (since I’m more familiar with your daily routine and preference in activity)

Breakfast –
2 boiled eggs, 1/2 cup old fashioned oats in 125ml Vetal Milk w/ raisins
1 slice of whole wheat bread w/ 2 slices of non-fat cheese

*Sip on 1 teabag of Organic White Tea 60 minutes after breakfast*

Lunch – (4-5 hours after breakfast)
6 oz of Chicken or Turkey Salad (1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 tbsps vinegar, salt and lemon if needed)
1-cup of non-fat Yogurt

*Sip on 1 teabag of Organic White Tea 60 minutes after lunch*

Pre-Workout – (4-5 Hours after Lunch)
125ml of Vetal Milk + 1 non-heaping tablespoon of Raw Honey (I posted about this, it has a milky texture)
Add in a tablespoon of instant freeze-dried coffee for a further boost in energy

Post-Workout – (Skip your shake and jump straight into dinner, which should be 4 hours after your pre-workout mixture)
1-cup of Indian Basmati white rice (long grain)
1-cup of non-fat curry (no potatoes, only spices and non-starchy veggies)
8 oz. of Chicken or Fish (you may mix these in with your curry)

Notes:
- If you noticed, you’re eating less frequently. I’ve combined the snack with lunch, and your pre-workout sandwich and post-workout shake are too heavy for your cardio workout, since they’re designed to feed your body after a hard weight-lifting workout (which is why I asked you if you lift weights prior to my diet inquiry)

- You’ll feel a lot more satiated when eating your meals, but hunger will strike in after the 3-4 hour mark. This is perfectly fine and serves as a great precursor to fat-burning. Your body will be running on body fat once you feel the hunger, but the food’s actually still in your system for a good 6-8 hours. Embrace the hunger and enjoy the ride

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dieting vs Sugar: Sugar Always Wins.

A delicious calorie-rich cake.

Ever since man created sugar, humanity has been struggling with obesity. As each generation passes by, the war on obesity becomes more bitter as sugar keeps gaining the upper hand. This is despite all the knowledge and research that we have gathered and synthesized over the years. Humanity has conquered every known frontier - why is obesity so difficult to overcome?

I watched a very interesting episode on BBC called "10 things you need to know about weight loss". One of those 10 things focused on why skipping meals (or extreme dieting) is a bad idea. To prove this theory, a volunteer was subjected to a MRI scan on 2 different days. On the first day, the volunteer arrived at the test facility after he had a full breakfast. On the second day, the volunteer arrived at the facility completely hungry. On both days, the volunteer was put insider the MRI chamber and subjected to a series of images of food, and his reaction (as determined by the brain movement) was recorded.

The result? When the volunteer was not hungry (i.e. on the first day), there was no significant difference in brain movement when he was shown low-calorie foods such as salads or calorie-dense foods such as donuts, or cakes. The MRI showed a totally different picture on the second day (when the volunteer was very hungry). The brain did not register much activity when shown low-calorie foods, but it lighted up when shown high-calorie sugary foods.

The researchers determined that when we are hungry, our brain is programmed to seek out high-calorie food. It is something we do unconsciously and no amount of self-control seems to be able to overcome this barrier. I know it happens to me and I am sure it happens to each one of us. It looks like we are genetically predisposed to overcompensate with extra calories when we are hungry. We essentially end up undoing all the hard work we put during our diet and end up worse off than what we were - before the start of the diet.

And that's why we are losing the battle against obesity. It's not our fault. It's our brain that is making us seek out these calorie-dense sugary goodness. It is our brain that is urging us to stuff our face with cakes and donuts and cheesecakes.

If you are obese, now you can at least feel better about yourself - knowing you never had a chance!!

Do we have any hope? The only way to fight obesity and to stay healthy is to look at health as a life long project and not worry about losing weight for the next big event. Most of the time, we obsess about losing a certain amount of weight to fit into a dress for an event or an occasion. Once we cross the milestone, we are lost and return back to our usual habits and end up gaining more weight than we lost.

Once we stop obsessing on short-term gains and and focus on long-term goals, things will start falling into place. Long term goals focus on a balanced diet that includes everything (including calorie dense foods in moderation) and a healthy lifestyle that incorporates at least 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous workouts 3 to 4 times a week.

As of now, everything else is a myth.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Push-Up Challenge.

Back in September, I started incorporating push-ups into my regular workout schedule. At that time, I was struggling to do 50 push-ups and decided to keep pushing myself till I could do 66.

Why 66 you may ask? According to U.S. military guidelines, doing 66 push-ups would give me the maximum score of 100 for my age group (42 to 46). I figured that if I keep pushing myself, I should be able to reach this goal in about 2 months.

Well, it is 2 months since I started the challenge and I have not been able to reach the target. I have slowly managed to increase the number of push-ups but I end up hitting the wall at round 58 or 59. Today, I decided to record my workout hoping to hit at least 60.

I managed to do 61. Still 5 push-ups less than my goal. According to U.S. military guidelines, this would have given me a score of 94%. Pretty good but not good enough.

The quest continues...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kuwait's First Half-Marathon Event.


Now that I have successfully completed my first 10K outdoor run, I am looking for the next big challenge. The first half-marathon event in Kuwait is planned by Kuwait Charity Run along with Bayt Abdullah Children’s Hospice. The event is scheduled to take place on January 28th 2011.

Not much details are available at the moment. They had a stand at the RunQ8 event where they collected registration details of people interested in running this longer distance. The form mentions 10 KD registration fee but I noticed that it includes a timing chip. A timing chip allows for more accurate results of all the participants.

I submitted my registration - though I did not pay any registration fees. They mentioned that they will contact us with further details.

A basic website has been put up for the event. You can visit it by clicking here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The RunQ8 Event.

Participants of the RunQ8 Event.
Today, I ran my first official 10K race after more than 20 years. The race was organized by Fawzia Rehabilitation Center.

I had been practicing for this race for the past 3 weeks - even going so far as to run on the exact same route of the race twice. The first time I did it, my time was 57:50. I improved upon this time during my second trial run and came up with 53:05.

Based on this, my expectation was that I should be able to complete the circuit in less than 50 minutes (assuming that I did not get affected by the heat which was an unknown quantity for me). I asked my wife to modify a cap that would be suitable for running. She did an excellent job by attaching an elastic band to a normal cap so that it won't fly off.

We got up early and headed off to the starting point (Kuwait Scientific Center). The mood was festive and the turnout was great (official estimates are more than 500 participants). After a warm-up session, the race started at 9:00 AM and all the runners were off.

I stuck to my planned pace of around 5 minutes per kilometer so that I could finish it in under 50 minutes. After the initial jostling and bumping, the field thinned out and I could see the top runners racing ahead and I settled down somewhere in the middle and continued running.

The weather was excellent for running. The cap helped me immensely. I was also wearing polarized sunglasses which helped me to focus on the road without worrying about the sun. I felt I could have gone a bit faster but since this was my first race, I decided to stick to my plan and not overdo it.

I finished the race in an official time of 44 minutes 30 seconds. My official position in the race is 30. I have just one word for that. WOW!!!.

Just one year, I could not run for more than 10 minutes without gasping for breath. Today, I finished a 10K road race in a time that can only be considered great for someone my age.

This is me - about to finish the race.

The cap looks dorky, but worked well for me.
I hope they update the top runners list on their official website.

Friday, October 29, 2010

When Running, It's mind over matter.

When I first started running, I had to overcome the physical limitations of my body. i.e. I was overweight with excess fat, My muscles had wasted away and were unable to push my body, and my weak heart was unable to deliver the required oxygen to continue running.

However, once that was sorted out, I found that any gains that I made in running (whether it was to run longer or to run faster) was more to do with mental preparation rather than physical preparation.

Let me explain.

Before I hit the gym, I make a mental note of how long and how fast I will run (this is based on my current abilities). For example, I may decide that I will run for 1 hour at 12kph. When I start running, I find myself getting comfortable in the beginning of the run. As I start approaching the 1 hour mark, I find that my body starts shutting down. If I try to run more than the planned 1 hour, it becomes extremely difficult. On the other hand, if I plan that I will run at the same speed for 2 hours, I find that I am running at a comfortable pace even after I cross the 1 hour mark. My body starts shutting down only once I start approaching the 2 hour mark.

In both the above examples, the speed was the same but the time was very different. Even though my body is capable of running for 2 hours, it becomes very difficult to actually run that long unless you mentally prepare to run for that duration.

Of course, this does not mean that I can mentally challenge myself to run for 4 hours and just go and start running. Any increase in distance or speed should be gradual. If your current running speed is 12 kph, don't expect to run 14 kph for the same amount of time. Similarly, if the longest you have run is 1 hour, don't expect to jump to 2 hours the very next day. You might do it, but you can easily injure yourself by pushing too hard. Let your body adapt slowly to longer distances or faster speed.

When it comes to running, slow & steady wins the race.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting ready for the RunQ8 event.


Last week, I mentioned about the 10K run event on November 6th 2010. I registered for the run and got my t-shirt and race card.

The race will start at 9:00 AM, and the course will be from Kuwait Scientific Center to the Corniche Club and back. I decided to get ready for the run by trying out the course before hand. I did my first run last week and clocked 57 minutes and 50 seconds. Since I used the Nike+ GPS application to track the run, you can see the replay of the run by clicking here.

I was not very happy with the time - since I wanted to finish in around 50 minutes. Yesterday, I decided to try the same route one more time. The only difference was that I went well-prepared (I had only done light jogging the previous day). I was determined to finish it in less than 55 minutes so I increased my pace a bit and stuck to this pace. At the 2 kilometer mark, I knew I could finish it in a little over 50 minutes.

The final time was 53 minutes and 5 seconds. Much better. You can see the replay of this run by clicking here.

I now firmly believe that I can run the race in under 50 minutes. Here's why.

1. The actual race will be run on the proper road and all traffic will be closed. This means no going up and down the footpath - or stopping to looking behind you when crossing the road.
2. The actual course will be a bit shorter than the one I ran. Since I used the GPS chip, it took me exactly to the 5K mark before turning around. However, the actual turning point appears to be around 400 meters less.
3. Since there will be other (better) runners around, I can try and follow in their pace.
4. The adrenalin of running with a group should give me that extra boost to run a little bit faster.
5. I won't be carrying a bottle in my hand - since drinks stations will be available to keep us hydrated.

My only concern (so far) is the heat. I have never run in the heat before and I wonder what effect that is going to have on the run. My son recommended that I wear a cap & shades - which is an excellent idea. The only problem is that I have never run with cap or shades before, so I am not sure how that will influence my running.

At the end of the day, this is a fun race. There won't be individual timings. The whole objective is to complete the race - which (as one of my friend said), should be a walk in the park for me.

I made a YouTube video of run animation, which shows the exact route that I ran.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Personal Coach: Alberto Salazar

Alberto Salazar.
Having a legend like Alberto Salazar as a personal coach would be pretty awesome.

Alberto Salazar is a winner of 3 consecutive New York City Marathons from 1980 to 1982, and also the winner of Boston Marathon in 1982. He currently works with Nike as a coach to train Olympic-caliber athletes. More information on Alberto can be found on this Wikipedia page.

So why do I consider him as my personal coach? Alberto Salazar has produced a number of running music mixes as part of the Nike+ program. These music mixes are designed to improve your stamina and speed and focus on high-intensity interval running. A directory of all the mixes is available here and can be downloaded using iTunes.

When I start my run, my playlist is always set to Alberto Salazar. He is very passionate about running and this is very evident when he eggs you on with an impassioned appeal to keep running. It's the closest thing to having a personal coach who keeps you on your toes.

Yes. It would be pretty awesome to have Alberto Salazar as my personal coach. For the time being, I will settle for him being my Virtual personal coach.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What about the Six-Pack?

October 2010
When I first started this blog in June 2010, the objective was very simple. Get a Six-Pack by dropping most of the fat through running (since that's what I love to do). It's been 4 months since I started the blog and I have been running ever since.

I also combined my running with a fair bit of resistance training - since resistance training is crucial for building muscle.

And Finally, all these exercises were combined with a sensible diet that combines a good mix of the essential macro-nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats).

In these 4 months, I have learned a lot of things. However, the most important thing I have learned is that I am on the right path. The progress is not dramatic but it is there. Every day, I find that I can run a little bit longer, or a little bit faster, or that I can push weights that are a little bit heavier than what I pushed last week. And ever so slowly, the definition of the abs begins to take shape.

I really don't know how long it will take me to reach my target. Perhaps a year based on my current progress. That's just fine by me. I never had any abs in my life so it is all the more difficult, because the fat that I accumulated over the many years has become ingrained in various organs of my body. Getting rid of all that stubborn fat is not going to be an easy task. But I knew this when I started this challenge.

If someone had asked me 2 years back for my ideal body shape, I would have happily settled for the body that I have today. But that was 2 years back - when I did not know what my body is actually capable of. Now that I have the knowledge, the quest for the perfect body will go on.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10K race in Kuwait on November 6th.


A friend on Facebook alerted me of this 10K race organized by FSRI (Fawzia Sultan Rehabilitation Institute). on November 6 2010.

From the looks of it, it appears to be a fun race for charity with a registration fee of KD 5/-.

According to their wesbite, the race day schedule is as follows:

7:30am: Registration at the grounds of the Scientific Center in Salmiya.
8:30am: Warm-up lead by various trainers from the Fawzia Sultan Rehabilitation Institute and Al Corniche Club
9:00am: 10K Run/Walk will start on the Gulf Road outside the Scientific Center, will continue to the Al Corniche Club and loop back to the Scientific Center.

Childrens activities will be provided for the duration of the race on the grounds of the Scientific Center by Fit4Fun.
Runners will not be individually timed but there will be 5 pacemakers running the race at various speeds. Runners will be able to follow them for timing.

Since it is on a Saturday morning (which is my normal day for long distance running), I am looking forward to join this group of runners to make this a successful event and bring more awareness to their cause.

Source: RunQ8 Website.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meet The Healthiest Member in our Family.

Erika trying skating.
I would like to think that I am the healthiest member in our family - considering all the running and regular workouts that I do - combined with a balanced diet that I follow religiously.

But I have to grudgingly hand over the "Healthiest Member" crown to my 6-year old daughter Erika.

Does this mean that Erika eats only healthy food? Far from it. She enjoys eating Chicken Nuggets and French Fries from McDonalds and she drinks thick milk-shakes.

What about exercises?  Well, she doesn't run any Marathon distances.

So what keeps her healthy? I've been noting down all the things that Erika does, trying to understand what keeps her healthy and I thought I'll list them down so that we can try to incorporate some of her better habits in our day-to-day life.

1. She Sleeps...a Lot. Sleep is the most important thing for Erika. Once she goes to sleep, it is impossible to wake her up until she completes the full sleep cycle. This ensures that her body is well rested and she is full of energy when she gets up.

2. She eats variety of foods. Erika loves to eat different foods. She may love to eat McNuggets, but she eats strawberries and cucumbers with equal relish. This experimentation with different foods automatically results in a sort of a balanced diet plan for her.

3. She is always on her feet. It's very rare to see Erika sitting in one place. Even when she is watching TV, she is usually walking around or dancing or singing along with the characters. This means she is constantly burning calories - and staying fit.

4. She was born healthy. Ok, this is really an unfair advantage that she has over most of us and something we have no control over. When she was born, the first call that I got from my wife was to inform me that Erika just popped out without any trouble - and the very first thing she did was grab her and start sucking away. She came from the hospital the very next day and only visits the hospitals on very rare occasions. When she gets sick, we avoid taking her to the clinic unless it is necessary - because she can usually fight off most diseases on her own.

That's about it. Except for the last part, the key elements of staying healthy remain the same.

- Take plenty of rest.
- Eat variety of foods
- And workout regularly.

There really are no shortcuts in life. You want to stay healthy, you need to work for it.

Our job as parents is to ensure that Erika continues on this path and stays healthy as she grows from a young girl to a teenager (oh man, I am dreading that period), and then to a healthy adult.

After that, she is on her own!.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My First Marathon Run.

My first Marathon Run. What an amazing experience!.
I achieved something today that I was very sure was beyond my capabilities. I ran a full Marathon distance (42.2 kilometers) and I did it without stopping or changing my pace and I completed it in less than 4 hours (considered to be very good).

The thought of running such a brutal distance came to my mind about 2 days back. Due to some problem or the other, I was not able to do any running for 4 days. This meant that my legs were fresh. Since I normally run a half-marathon distance every Saturday (21.1 Km), I thought this would be a good opportunity to push myself from the normal routine and see how far I could go. Could I go for 3 hours? (around 30 kilometers) or could I continue running the full Marathon distance?

I have never run for more than 2 hours straight (which is the time it takes me to complete a half-marathon). So a full Marathon would theoretically take me somewhere in the range of 4 hours. To prepare myself, I did a couple of things:

1. Informed my family that I plan to run for very long so that they would not get worried.
2. Carried a 1-liter bottle of Gatorade (I calculated that this will last me for 4 hours).
3. Paid attention to my previous posts and ensured that I was properly dressed.
4. Ensured that I had a good night sleep.
5. Ate a breakfast full of carbs and protein (cornflakes mixed with low-fat milk) to fuel  the run and drank plenty of water before hitting the gym.
6. Weighed myself on the weighing machine at the gym (I wanted to see how much weight I would lose by running continuously for 4 hours).

I normally run the half-marathon at 11 kph so I decided to set the pace a bit slower at 10.5 kph. This pace is normally slow for me - but it is still enough to complete the Marathon distance in under 4 hours.

I completed the first 2 hours as expected and I was relatively tired. Everything after this was unknown territory for me - even the music. At one point, a fast tempo number which goes something like "I got a blue pill...Viagra..I am going to pump you UP and DOWN, UP and DOWN" started blasting from my playlist. I continued running.

At the 3:00 hour mark (about 31Km), I was very tired. I have heard of many runners hitting "The Wall" - which is another way of saying that you hit a mental block and can go no further. I did not hit such a wall - but my legs were definitely getting heavy.

It is at this stage that I realized that my Gatorade bottle was almost empty and there was no way that I could continue running for another 1 hour unless I replenish the drink. Luckily for me, one of the gym waiters was passing by and he got me a fresh (and refreshingly cold) bottle of Gatorade so I decided to continue running.

At the 3:30 hour mark, my legs were feeling like pieces of wood. I knew that if I stopped now, I won't be able to continue running. I was hoping nobody calls me on the phone because if I stop to answer the phone, my run would be essentially over. Again, luckily for me, nobody called me.

At the 3:45 mark, my legs were turning from wood to lead and each step was proving to be more and more difficult, but I continued at the same pace. The end seemed so near.

The playlist was getting pretty weird by this time. I suddenly got one of the gospel songs called "Victory to our King" and the lyrics go something like "Oh glory unto you...This battle cry we sing...That victory belongs to him...Victory to our king". Normally, I would have quickly hit the "Next" button since it's very difficult to run to gospel songs, but something about the lyrics struck a chord and I got goosebumps all over my body as the lyrics seemed very fitting at this stage. I think the song is what actually rejuvenated me to complete the remaining 15 minutes.

I finally completed the distance in 3 hours 56 minutes and 46 seconds (more than 3 minutes ahead of my goal). I was exhausted and could hardly walk, but I knew that I had to stretch and cool-down to avoid any injuries.

Finally, I checked my weight on the same weighing machine. I had dropped 3.5 Kilos of weight!!. I understand that most of the weight-loss is water loss but keep in mind that I was drinking continuously during the run (I finished 1.6 liters of Gatorade), so there was definitely a significant loss of body fat (and perhaps some muscle loss too).

When I uploaded my run to the Nike website, I was immediately directed to a video by Marathoner Paula Radcliffe, congratulating me on being the 0.1% of the world population that has completed a Marathon distance. You can watch the video by clicking on this link.

I am tired..but happy of this achievement.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hot or Cold Bath for Post-Workout Recovery?

Jacuzzi
The gym that I go to has a nice jacuzzi room. After a hard workout, I used to go in the jacuzzi and relax for 5-10 minutes - enjoying the hot jets of water massaging and soothing my sore muscles. I would feel pretty refreshed after I came out of the jacuzzi.

I would have probably continued doing this as a post-workout recovery method. But luckily, while researching on post-workout recovery, I discovered that I was not doing my body any favors by jumping into a hot-water jacuzzi.

Here's why it's not a good idea.

After a long run or any tough workout, your joints and muscles are inflamed. If you put heat on them, the blood flow to those areas will increase, which can make them even more inflamed. In addition, you may already be slightly dehydrated post-run, and the heat from the hot tub may dehydrate you even more. - Source.

Your body is basically in overdrive after a hard work-out. What you need to do is shut it down - similar to how you shut off the engine of your car after a long drive. The best way to do this is to have an ice bath which will shut off (or at least slow down) your metabolism and allow your body to recover. 

Since our gym doesn't have ice baths, I guess I will have to go for the next best thing. A cold shower.

But what about that lovely jacuzzi? Perhaps on my non-workout days.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How often should you weigh yourself?

Regular checking of your weight is very important.
Keeping track of your weight is very important for a healthy life-style as it acts as a warning indicator in case you  suddenly start gaining weight (or losing weight for that matter). All you need to do this is a cheap bathroom scale that you find in any super-market.

But how often should you weigh yourself? My recommendation would be to weigh yourself at least once a week (If you can do it daily, then that would be ideal).

By weighing yourself frequently, you will notice if the weight is going up and you can then determine the root cause of the weight-gain - and hopefully, take corrective action to reverse the process.

Keep in mind that your body weight fluctuates during the day by at least 1 to 2 kilos so it is very important that you weigh yourself at similar times. For example, if you noted your weight immediately after getting up, make sure that the next time you compare your weight, you do it at the same time.

Keeping track of your weight itself is of not much use - unless you have a target goal in mind.  Calculate your target weight by using a BMI calculator, and then plan your course of action (exercise, diet or both) to achieve your ideal weight. Keep track of your progress by noting the weight on a notebook. Analyze your progress and adjust your diet/workout accordingly.

  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Anatomy of a half-marathon.

My half-marathon run on 2nd Oct. 2010.
Few months back, I started doing half-marathon runs (21.09 km) once a week. I usually reserve this run for Saturday morning (which is a non-working day) and I make sure that I don't do any workouts on Friday to ensure that my legs are well rested in preparation for the run.

The half-marathon run is a very interesting run. It is very challenging and requires lots of physical and mental preparation to complete the grueling distance. But at the same time, it is not as energy sapping as the full-marathon. 

When I initially started running the half-marathon distance in March 2010, I would be totally drained of all energy and would need at least 2 days to recover. When I compare that to todays run, I realize just how far I have progressed in my running. After I finished the run today, I did 5 minute stretching and relaxed in the jacuzzi for 15 minutes to unwind, and I was back to my normal self. It is amazing just how much our body (and mind) is capable of doing. We are very good at under-estimating our capabilities, and usually need a good kick in the butt to make us realize our potential.

There are no short-cuts in fitness. Your fitness level is directly proportionate to the amount of effort you put in your daily workouts and your nutrition. If you are not willing to work for your fitness, you will be unfit and suffer from health-related problems. On the other hand, if you work extremely hard, you can be sure of extreme success in fitness. For most people, the balance should be somewhere in the middle.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Coping with Injuries.

Illustration purpose only. I don't walk
around half-naked like this.
Once we start working out (especially heavy resistance workouts), injuries are expected. We try out best to minimize the injuries with:

1. Proper warm-up and cool-down.
2. Proper form.
3. Gradual increase in weights or intensity.

Even when we do all of the above, injuries will still happen. This is because we all have our breaking point - and by increasing the weights or intensity, we are essentially testing our body "breaking point". At one point or the other, you will find the breaking point. Result is Injury.

My resistance workouts (especially the upper body workouts) have come to a complete standstill for the past 2 weeks after I suffered a minor elbow injury. The injury may be minor, but it essentially prevents me from lifting any weights.

Fitness theory suggests that I should work "around" my injury - giving my elbow enough time to recover, while focusing on other parts of the body (legs, abdomen etc.).

That is exactly what I have been doing so far. I've focused more on running (I run almost every day now for an average of around 60 kilometers per week). I also do some ab-workouts. This should help me to reduce some more body fat (hopefully without any muscle-loss).

Once the elbow heals, I will have to start the whole process of slowly training my upper body once again and then increasing the weights till I reach my breaking point.

And the cycle will continue.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Power of Perseverance

There are tons of body transformation videos on YouTube. But I think this particular video says in 5 minutes everything I have written on this whole blog - and whatever I will write in future on this blog.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Move It!!

The PlayStation Move.

I've always been fascinated by the concept of active video gaming. It all started off with the revolutionary Nintendo Wii. Not only was I one of the first adopters of the console, I also convinced  all my friends with kids to buy the Wii instead of the PS3 or XBOX gaming consoles. When Nintendo released the Wii-Fit, I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon and paid a heck lot of money to ship the big box all the way to Kuwait.

One of the reasons I like active video gaming is that generally games tend to be more sporty in nature - so I don't feel guilty letting my children play such games. On one hand they are enjoying gaming like all kids, and on the other hand, they are staying active moving around. It's a win-win situation.

The main problem so far has been the lack of interesting titles on the Nintendo Wii. The other problem being the rather sluggish and imprecise controls of the WiiMote. The MotionPlus accessory made this a little better, but still left a lot to be desired.

This is all set to change - now that both Sony and Microsoft have come up with their version of active gaming. I just picked up my copy of the Playstation Move sold at a very aggressive price of KD 19 in Kuwait (compared to nearly KD 30 on Amazon).

The Move device is built solid like any Sony accessory and the controls are very precise. The starter bundles contains a bunch of min-games (including Tiger Woods Golf). The mini-games show the promise of what the Move device is going to deliver once game developers start incorporating this into their future games.

I also plan to pick up the Kinect accessory for the XBOX, which is a completely device independent method of playing games. The system uses advanced facial recognition and movement in 3D space to determine what the player wants to do. This is (in my opinion), the future of video gaming.

Play games and stay fit?. It doesn't get any better than this.

Game on!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Nike+ App gets Wireless Sync.

Nike+ application.
Nike currently has 2 applications available for the iPhone.

1. Nike+ : This is part of the iPhone and you get it automatically when you purchase the iPhone (or iPod Touch). This app works with the Nike+ sensor (that you slot in your shoe) to provide accurate information of distance run. This app is ideal for running indoors on a treadmill, though it can also be used while running outdoors.

2. Nike+ GPS: This is a new paid app that was recently released. This works using the built-in GPS to track distance run. This is ideal for running outdoors where the GPS satellites can track your movement. My review of this app is here.

I mostly use the first application (Nike+) because I primarily run in the gym on treadmill. Up until now, I had to wait till I connect the iPhone to the computer and synchronize my runs to the Nike website using iTunes. The newer app (Nike+ GPS), on the other hand, has built-in sync that allows it to connect to the Nike server and upload the run data directly over a 3G or Wi-fi connection.

Login to Nike server from the iPhone
Few days back, I noticed a red dot on the "History" tab of the Nike+ application. Out of curiosity, I clicked on it and was surprised to see a new option available "Send to Nike+". I have no idea when this was updated (probably with iOS4). I clicked on it and Voila!. My run was magically transmitted to the Nike server.

I entered my login credentials and I could see my run data and other statistics on the Nike server without ever going to the computer.

My iPhone is becoming better and better with each update.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Status Update: Body Fat Percentage.

Comparative Body Fat Index Results


Back in July, I stated keeping track of my Body Fat (BF) Index. Today, I did a new measurement and the results are a sort of mixed bag.

I gained 1.3Kg weight, which is actually not a bad thing since almost most of that weight gain (1.2Kg) is pure lean muscle. My fat free mass went up from 56.5Kg to 57.7Kg.

The problem that I see so far is that I am unable to get rid of my body fat. It has remained nearly constant. This is really surprising (and disappointing) for me considering the level of cardio workout and strict diet regimen that I follow.

I can only conclude that the remaining fat is the one that I gained over a long period of time and is most likely ingrained in my organs (visceral fat), and getting the Body Fat percentage down is going to be a lot harder than I originally thought. Running half-marathons every week has no effect on my body fat? Come on!!!

If the BF% does not go below 20% within the next 2 months, I will need to start looking seriously at fat burners to kick-start the fat loss process. For the time being, I will stick to safe fat-burners (coffee and green tea) which contain caffeine and assist in the fat burning process.

I will see after 2 months.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

iPhone App Review: iFitness

iFitness Application Home Screen
I was browsing through the featured apps on iTunes, when this app caught my attention. iFitness is a product developed by Medical Production Inc. So far, their website seems to be quiet sparse and the only available link on their main page is for the iFitness application.

At its heart, iFitness is a database of over 230 exercises, conveniently grouped by muscle group (abdominal, shoulder, chest, arms etc.) or body part (you click on different parts of the body and the app shows you all exercises related to that body area).

So it is worth to pay $1.99 for information that you can basically get on internet for free? As an example, this page from bodybuilding.com is a comprehensive list of all known exercises with description, pictures, and detailed video demonstrations. If you just want to know about exercises and the correct way to perform them, then the bodybuilding site wins hands down - plus it's free to boot.

The value proposition offered by iFitness is that it is exercise data "on the go". When you are in the gym, you don't have a laptop next to you to check bodybuilding.com. When you want to see how to do a particular exercise, just take your phone out, tap a few keys and check the exercise. Each exercise comes with a detailed description, pictures showing the correct form for performing the exercise and (for some exercises) a video demonstration.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chilled Water on the Go.

When running over long period of time, it is extremely essential to remain hydrated with either Water or sports drinks like Gatorade. It is also recommended that the liquid be chilled because:

1. Chilled water or sports drinks passes through our body faster and hence reaches the destination faster.
2. It tastes better.

The problem for me usually comes when I am running my Saturday morning half-marathon distance. Running for 2 hours means the chilled water bottle becomes distinctly tepid or near room-temperature by the time I cross the 1 hour mark. This means that my second hour of running is fueled by Gatorade that tastes very yucky. It is at times like these that I wish they had a small refrigerated compartment in the treadmill.

I saw this interesting gizmo at a local sports shop and thought I'll give it a try. It is essentially a water bottle with a long attachment with some liquid trapped inside. You keep the attachment in the freezer so that the liquid inside freezes up.  When it's time for your run, just pour cold Gatorade or water in the bottle and close it with the frozen attachment.

I tried it out today and I can say that it definitely works. The Gatorade was chilled even when I took my last sip.

The bottle is available in Naser Sports Center and costs KD 2.250. Highly recommended for long distance running.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Burpee Pull-Ups

This is a very intense strength+cardio exercise that can shoot your heart rate through the roof and leave you panting for dear life. I came up with this exercise on my own by combining a "burpee" and a "pull-up" but later on came to learn that this is common exercise performed by the CrossFit community. Incorporate this exercise in your daily routine to take your strength building to the next level.

The "Burpee Pull-Up" is a compound exercise that targets your chest, triceps, legs, and back with an explosive jump that works on your heart. Practically speaking, it is really a combination of a Push-Up (the King of upper-body exercise), the Squat (the King of lower-body exercise), the Pull-Up (one of the toughest exercises) with a fluid and explosive movement between these 3 exercises.

WARNING: You should only attempt this exercise if you are comfortable doing all the 3 exercises that this particular exercise incorporates (i.e. you are comfortable doing push-ups, squats and pull-ups).

WHAT YOU NEED: A Pull-Up Bar that is placed relatively high so that you need to really jump up to grab the bar, and a clear space under the bar to perform the push-up/squats.

HOW TO PERFORM THE EXERCISE: Stand under the pull-up bar and jump down and do a single push-up. Then quickly stand in a squat position and jump up and grab the pull-up bar and perform a single pull-up. Drop down from the pull-up bar and repeat the exercise for as many repetitions as you can.

I was planning on doing a video but conveniently found one on youtube that demonstrates the Burpee Pull-Up. Enjoy the pain.



Here's another video on YouTube of a guy who did 100 Burpee Pull-Ups in 19 minutes and 35 seconds.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCPUS5hYGc4&NR=1

And a funny comment on the video.
"I tried this the other day and halfway through decided I'd rather die by drowning... This s**t is hard as hell!"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Impression: Nike+ GPS for iPhone

Fig 1: The main screen of the App.
If I was asked to give my review of the new "Nike+ GPS app for iPhone" in just one word, my review would look like this:

"JUST WOW!!!!!"

I realize that is actually two words and I also realize that a single exclamation mark is sufficient to convey amazement but I added 5 exclamation marks just to be on the safe side.

INTRODUCTION
The "Nike+ GPS App" is a new application that is designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It works with iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4. It also works with the iPod Touch but since the Touch does not have a GPS (Global Positioning System) chip, the mapping functionality does not work. So for all purposes of this review, I will only focus on the functionality of the app as it relates to the iPhone and the GPS. The functionality as it relates to the built-in accelerometer for the iPod Touch (or the iPhone when running indoors) is not reviewed here.

A 3G data connection is recommended on the iPhone to get the full benefit of the application.

WHAT IT DOES
The app works with the built-in GPS chip of the iPhone to track your outdoor runs. This means you don't need the Nike+ sensor (that you put in your shoe) to track your run. Just click on the start button, wait for the device to acquire the GPS signal and start running. Since the chip tracks your GPS coordinates, it works only when running outdoors where you can lock into the GPS satellites. If you are running on a treadmill, then the app will not work properly so you would still need the Nike+ sensor for such cases.

This is not the first application for the iPhone to make use of the GPS chip to track your outdoor runs. Runkeeper does the same thing. But Runkeeper can only track your outdoor runs and does not work for treadmills. Since I mostly do treadmill running (with an occasional outdoor run), the Nike+ system that works both on a treadmill (using the sensor) and outdoors (using GPS) works much better for me.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Assess your upper body strength.

Erika doing the push-up
When it comes to upper body strength, the push-up exercise is most likely the king of strength training exercise. It is no wonder then, that the U.S. army uses it to assess the physical fitness of its personnel.

Push-up is a compound exercise that works multiple muscles in your body. The exercise primarily targets your chest and triceps. In addition, it also works your shoulders and back. 

The U.S. Army fitness standards require all its personnel to do this exercise during the physical fitness test and points are awarded based on how many push-ups the person can do in a single stretch - without any rest, except for the authorized rest position. For example, to get the maximum 100 points, one has to do a specific number of push-ups (based on age) as per the following table:

Age Range # of Push-ups for 100 points
17-21 71
22-26 75
27-31 77
32-36 75
37-41 73
42-46 66
47-51 59
52-56 56

The full points table is available here.

This got me thinking. I am reasonably fit with my running and resistance workouts but how many push-ups can I currently do? And most importantly, how many push-ups could I really do if I train for it?

After a few days of preparations, I tried my first push-up test. I struggled to do 50 non-stop push-ups. According to the U.S. Army table, this would get me 82 points out of 100. That's pretty discouraging as I hate getting anything less than 100%.

The good news for me is that this number 50 can easily be improved. That is because push-ups, like any resistance workouts, requires training to become good - and I have never trained in push-ups. So I immediately started a push-up training program to see how far I can improve in 8 weeks. Since push-ups is a resistance workout, it is important that we treat this exercise like any other muscle-workout. This means:

    1. Train to failure (i.e. do as many as you can do till your muscles can take it no more).
    2. Give at least 48 hours rest to your muscles before exercising the same muscle again.
    3. Take enough proteins to allow your muscles to grow.

If you are a beginner to push-ups, you can follow this 8-week U.S. Army training plan to improve your push-up capabilities. You can also try this push-up improvement exercises.



I will report back in 6-8 weeks about my progress. I am fairly confident that I should be able to do 66, if not more.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Low-Fat Activia Laban.

Low-fat version of the popular pro-biotic drink.
I've been drinking Activia Laban drink on a regular basis - partly because I have incorporated yogurt into my daily diet and partly because I believe it "helps" my digestion.

So far, my only problem was the lack of low-fat version of the drink - which meant that the calories would creep up and I had to keep my limit to 1 glass a day.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this low-fat version in the milk section of Sultan Center. There were only 2 bottles which I quickly grabbed.

I have yet to see the drink available at the local bakala - but I hope that Danone makes it widely available as I would love to get my pro-biotic kick with low-fat option (39 calories per 100ml, instead of the 63 calories from the regular version).

Nutrition data Source.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's not a stretch to stretch.

Stretching after a hard workout.
Failure to do proper warm-up or cool-down is the main cause of many exercise related injuries. Sometimes we are so eager to get into the action, that we tend to just jump into our exercise routine without giving our muscles proper time to warm-up. This causes the muscles (that were inactive and cold) to experience a sudden stretch - causing them to break and tear. Result: painful muscle injuries.

Similar injuries can happen if you don't do a proper cool-down after an intensive workout. Your expanded muscles need to slowly cool-down. If you immediately go from exercising to complete rest, you will end up with muscle cramps.

Follow these guidelines for warm-up and cool-down to ensure that you enjoy your exercises and remain injury-free.

1. FOR CARDIOVASCULAR WORKOUTS

If you are doing cardiovascular workouts such as running, cross-trainer, elliptical etc. the warm-up and cool-down will be slightly different compared to resistance workouts.

1.1. WARM-UP FOR CARDIO: Generally speaking, you don't need to do specific warm-up exercises when doing cardio workouts. For example, if you are going to do running, than your warm-up portion could be a brisk walk and/or a light jog for around 5 minutes to ensure that your muscles are warmed-up before you start your run. No specific stretching exercises are required. However, if you want to do some stretching exercises, there is no harm is doing some - provided you do them after a brisk walk or a jog. 

You can do these 5 lunge workouts before your run to get all your leg muscles nice and warm. REMEMBER: If you choose to do them, do so only after a 5-minute brisk walk or a jog.



1.2. COOL-DOWN FOR CARDIO: Stretching after a hard run is very important!!. Do not go from running to a complete rest, otherwise you will end up with muscle cramps. Your cool-down should be a light jog or a brisk walk for 5 minutes followed by some stretching exercises that target your quads and your tendons.

This is an excellent video demonstrating cool-down exercises that are ideal after a hard run.




2. FOR RESISTANCE WORKOUTS

Warm-up and cool-down is different for resistance workouts, and will depend on the type of resistance workout that you plan to do. For example, some people may focus on just 1 or 2 muscle groups during their entire workout while others may do a full-body resistance workout. My general rule of thumb for warm-up and cool-down when doing resistance workout is as follows:

2.1. WARM-UP FOR RESISTANCE WORK: Do a 10-minute cardio-workout, usually jogging or on an elliptical machine. The elliptical is ideal for warm-up because it works both the upper and lower body. I prefer to do jogging - simply because I love jogging.

In addition to the cardio, I do specific warm-up for each resistance workout. For example, if I am doing a 120 pound bench-press (currently my max limit), I do a warm-up set of 6 reps with 60 pounds (50% of my max capacity) before going for the maximum weight of 120 pounds.

2.2. COOL-DOWN FOR RESISTANCE WORK: My cool down after a resistance workout session is to do stretches and a 5-minute jog or a brisk walk.

The following exercises can also be used for both warm-up and cool-down when doing resistance workouts.



That's all for now.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Best Exercises in Life are Free.

If you thought that getting in shape meant joining a gym, then you would be dead wrong. In fact, some of the best  exercises for our body do not require any fancy gym equipment. Our body is all that we need.

As I progress towards increasingly more difficult exercises, I find that the best and the toughest exercises are the ones where you use your body for generating explosive power & strength.

Here are some of my favorite exercises that do not require any fancy equipment.

1. Walk/Jog/Run: All you need is a pair of good shoes and you are good to go. It does not matter where you run or what time you run. As long as you   can make the time to do it, it can be done.

Make it Harder: Incorporate Interval running into your workout. Interval running is a great way to boost your metabolism and finish your workout in a shorter time.

2. Push-Ups: The push-up, is most likely, the single most comprehensive workout for your upper body. The push-up works the chest muscles, the back, and the triceps. It is no wonder, that the U.S. Army uses it as a key indicator of physical fitness of its personnel.

Here's a video demonstrating the correct way to do a push-up.

Make it Harder: Mix it up with these different versions of the push-up
   1. Walk-Out Push-Ups.
   2. Medicine Ball Push-Ups.
   3. One Arm Push-Ups.
   4. Clapping Push-Ups.

3. Squats: If the Push-Up is the king of the upper body exercise, then the Squat has to be the king of the lower-body exercise. Squats can be done in any place where you can stand.

Here's a video demonstrating the correct way to do squats.

Make it Harder: Just like the push-ups, you can do squats in a variety of ways.
   1. Frog Squats.
   2. Weighted Squats.
   3. One-Legged Squats (The most difficult).

4. Sit-ups: The Sit-ups take care of the mid-section of your body. The Abs. Sit-ups is probably one of the most misunderstood exercise. Many people think that by doing a lot of sit-ups, they will get ripped abs in a few weeks. Nothing could be further from the truth. You build abs by losing the fat around your mid-section through diet and cardio workouts. Sit-ups will only assist in the process of getting ripped abs by building muscles around the core. But sit-ups on their own cannot give you ripped abs.

The Sit-ups is the second exercise of the U.S. Army physical fitness test (the first being the push-up and the third being the 2 mile run).

Here's a video demonstrating how to do the full military Sit-up.

Make it Harder: Just like the previous 2 exercises, you can do the sit-up in a variety of ways.

1. 8-Minute Abs: This 8-minute abs workout shows 9 different variations of the sit-ups. If you can do the full 8-minute workout, you are in great shape.

5. Jump Rope: Skipping rope is a great way to burn massive amount of calories in a short amount of time. Most people will have a hard time doing 1 minute of continuous jump rope.

Here's a video demonstrating jump ropes.

Make it Harder: You can mix up jump ropes with intervals and double-unders.

1. Interval Jump Ropes: Do this 10-minute workout that changes from walking in place to jumping ropes for every 30 seconds.
2. Double-Unders: This exercise features heavily in the Crossfit Workout. I think I have a long way to go before I can do a double-under.

6. Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups: Both are very similar exercises and all you need to do this exercise is a pull-up bar. You can find pull-up bars in any sports shops that you can easily attach to a door-way. Chin-ups target your biceps, while the pull-ups target your back and triceps.

Here's a video demonstrating how to do pull-ups.
This video demonstrates correct chin-ups.

Make it Harder: You really can't make the pull-ups any harder as they are already very hard to do. There is a variation of one-hand pull-up but if you can do that, you don't really need to read this blog.

Incorporate these exercises in your daily routine and you won't have any excuse for not staying in shape.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Avoiding Common Running Injuries.

Running is a high-impact activity, so it is inevitable that we will suffer from some form of injury during or after running. Since injuries cannot be completely avoided, all we can do is understand what is in store for us when we start running seriously - and take precautions to lower the risk of injuries.

Not all injuries are bad though. For example, every time we run, our bones suffer micro-injuries due to the impact of our body hitting the hard ground (similar to how our muscles get micro-injuries when we lift heavy weights).

But these micro-injuries are good for us because it causes our body to counter the effect of the injuries by healing the bones and making them stronger. This results in higher bone density and eventually helps us overcome the effect of Osteoporosis.

What we should try to avoid is major injuries that can cause disruptions in our daily activities. The following are some of the injuries that I have gone through - and something that I could have easily avoided if I had read this article first.

1. Blisters: Blisters can be painful and will force you to take a break from running.

How to avoid Blisters? Blisters can be avoided by wearing proper footwear. The usual cause of blisters is wearing shoes that are too tight or too loose. Shoe is the most important item in your running inventory so make sure you choose the right footwear. You also need to break-in new shoes till your feet are adjusted to the new shoe. If you buy new shoes, don't wear them for your next long-distance run. Instead, wear them for walks or short runs till the shoe becomes comfortable.

2. Muscle Cramps: If you start running for the first time, or re-start your running activities after a long break, this is something you are bound to encounter in the early stages of your running. It is your body protesting against the sudden onslaught.


How to avoid Muscle Cramps? Muscle cramps can be avoided by doing proper warm-up and cool-down. Warm-up should be brisk walk or light jogging while cool-down should be stretching exercises.

3. Knee Joint Injuries:  Knee joint injuries happen due to over-training. Each of us have a injury threshold. Once you reach the threshold, joint injuries are inevitable. Trick is to find your threshold and make sure you don't cross it.


How to avoid Knee joint injuries? Don't be the Hare. Be the Tortoise. You need to take it easy in the beginning and increase the distance and pace very very slowly till your body gets adjusted to running. Going overboard is the usual reason for knee joint injuries. When I first re-started my running, I was so excited that I could run 5K, I would try and see if I could push myself to 10K. That was not the correct approach (and something I learned the hard and painful way). We need to increase our distance in small increments. Also, listen to your body. When you feel tired or feel any pain, don't run through the pain. Stop and rest. We are not competing for the Olympics. The objective is to get into shape. Of course, if you are actually competing for Olympics, this blog is not for you.


4. Black Toenail: Black toenail injury is related to long-distance running (more than 10K) and usually happens if you increase your running distance unexpectedly. For example, if you are used to running 5K and suddenly decide to run half-marathon, you have an excellent chance of getting a black toenail.

How to avoid the Black Toenail? The solution is similar to the knee joint injury. Increase your distance gradually. This excellent article describes the black-toenail injury in detail and recommends solutions in case you do end up with one.

5. Nipple Chafing: Yeah. When I first read about nipple chafing, I did not believe it either till it happened to me. Nipple chafing usually does not happen to women since they use sports bras. However, for men, it can happen - especially during long distance runs. The constant movement of the shirt (especially if the shirt is loose) against the nipple results in chafing and is very painful. The problem is that you don't realize the injury until the next day, when it is too late to do anything about it except to nurse the injury.

How to avoid nipple chafing? Wearing proper running shirt (preferably the newer "technical" shirts) will solve the problem. Whenever I plan my half-marathon runs, I take a much simpler preventive route and put band-aids over both my nipples (don't laugh). You can also get specialized nipple guards, but I don't think they are available here in Kuwait.

So there you have it. Run sensibly and avoid these injuries.