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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.