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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The 30-Day Diet.

Healthy Veggies.
I have maintained a very good diet for the past 1 year - ever since I got serious about my fitness. This, in turn, has translated into a fit and trim body. There is still a bit of fat in the mid-section that I am sure will disappear in the coming months - as long as I stick to my current diet and exercise.

However, I have lately started feeling that the gains (in terms of muscle-building and/or fat-loss) have ground to a halt. Since my workouts are pretty intense, I believe the lack of gains is due to the food. Even though I am careful in what I eat, I do tend to indulge now and then, but since I don't keep track of these "indulgences", I believe the calories are creeping in unchecked.

That's why I came up with this idea of a 30-day strict diet regimen. During the next 30 days, there will be no more indulgences, no more cheat meals. This is what my daily diet is going to be:

Breakfast: An omelet made of 4 Egg whites plus 1 glass of low-fat milk.
Mid-Morning Snack: 1 fruit.
Lunch: Green Leafy salad with grilled chicken.
Pre-Workout: A serving of nuts
Post-Workout: Smoothie with Whey Protein + 1 glass low-fat milk.
Dinner: Green leafy salad with grilled fish.
Plus Multi-Vitamins to keep things in check and plenty of water.

The workouts will remain more or less the same. If I see any results after 30 days, I will know the result is due to the food. I can accordingly set my future goals based on this experiment.

I just finished day 1 and already I am craving for fat and greasy food. Not sure I can keep this up for another 29 days.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kettlebells for intense workouts.

Kettle bells

I am a big fan of CrossFit training. One of the key component of any CrossFit exercise is a set of Kettle bells. Up till now, I had been unable to locate Kettle bells in local sports shops. Even my well-equipped gym does not have any Kettle bells.

Last week, I was at Muthana Complex in downtown Kuwait and passed by Orient Sports shop. I was pleasantly surprised to find a range of Kettle bells. I picked up 2 medium-sized ones to try them out, and incorporate into my daily workout.

Kettle bells provide several benefits over traditional weights. Due to the explosive range of motions used in Kettle bell workouts, they provide a full body workout and combine both cardio and resistance into a single workout, targeting multiple muscle groups at the same time.

To learn more about the benefits of working out with Kettle bells, read this article.

I've started working with Kettle bells on alternate days, and so far, I am enjoying the hard workouts. I am using this "300" workout as a starting point. As of now, I am unable to complete the full workout with my puny 7 Kg Kettle bell. The guy in the video is doing it with a 24 Kg monster!!.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Color Purple

I started running with the Nike+ System for a little over a year now. In that period, I saw my metamorphosis from being an average guy with a pot-belly to running my first official half-marathon.

Just this morning, I finished my weekly workout. A nice 2 hour run at the gym. When I went to the changing room, a fellow gym-member walked up to me and asked me what is the secret of my running? How is it possible for someone at my age to run for 2 hours? I told him the same thing I tell everyone. There is no secret. You just have to commit to it mentally and keep running - making sure that you challenge yourself by increasing the distance or the speed slowly every week. That is exactly what I did and that's why I can run for 2 hours.

The workout itself catapulted me to my next Nike+ Level. The Color Purple. This color is assigned to those who complete 2,500 kilometers. This means that I have run an average of 200 kilometers every month or about 6.5 kilometers every day for 30 days in a month. Any way you look at it, that's a lot of running.

When I uploaded the run, I was immediately greeted with a video from Nike+ congratulating me on achieving the Color Purple.

Last June, when I reached 1,000 K, I had predicted I would reached the Color Purple in February 2011. I missed the target due to the 1 month vacation that I took in December, and also the slowing down of my running recently, in order to focus on the half-marathon.

Now the only challenge left is the final color code. The Color Black. This is like the black belt of running and is assigned to those who complete 5000 K of running.

At my current pace, I should achieve this in May 2012. Well, if the world doesn't end before that, of course.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My First Half-Marathon.

Yesterday, I ran my first official half-marathon race. Today, I can't walk.

As my wife massages my sore muscles with Iodex, I have to ask myself. What is the difference between running 21K every Saturday morning on a treadmill without any pain, and running the same distance on the road and having my body in complete ruins?.

I think I know the answer: Heat.

It was a nice and sunny day, as I headed out with the family to the Marina Mall - where the race was scheduled to begin. I had not run for the last 6 days to ensure that my legs were well rested, and I had plenty of sleep the night before. I was feeling good.

I collected my timing chip, and mingled around as runners started turning up. It was a very good turnout. Nearly 200 runners for the half-marathon and a similar number for the 10K run. The race was scheduled to start at 8:00 AM.

Everything was really well organized, and the race started at the scheduled time.

The start of the half-marathon. Photo by bloggermathai.
I started off really well. My Nike+ GPS app alerted me that I had completed my first KM in 5 minutes. If I could maintain that pace, I was pretty sure I would get a nice place. However, it soon became apparent to me that I would not be able to maintain the same pace because I started feeling the heat. Heat is something that I am not accustomed to when working out on the treadmill. I had earlier participated in a 10K race in November - but during that time, the weather was very nice and I never felt the heat. But this time it was different. The heat was hard and direct - and even my patented silly hat was no match for the heat.

As I continued running, I started noticing a second problem. The drinks. We had been briefed that there would be drink stations along the route serving water, Pepsi, and Gatorade. The problem was picking up the right drink. I would have preferred to sip Gatorade throughout the run - in order to maintain salts in the body and avoid cramps, but it was not apparent which glass contained what (unless you stopped by to inspect). Most of the time, I ended up with a glass of water. This was not a good sign.

By the time we reached the half-way point, I was really tired, and my pace dropped considerably. It was now 6 minutes for every kilometer. On my return trip, I tried to be more choosy on the drinks - even stopping by twice to make sure that I got Gatorade.

The heat was really intense and maintaining pace was now a struggle. I felt I should stop, but I carried on. At the 17km mark, I suddenly got a cramp in the calf and stopped in sudden pain. After drinking some more water, I started again - this time being very mindful of the cramps developing.

I was determined to finish the race under the 2 hour mark and I am proud to say that I did it. I completed the race in 1 hour and 55 minutes, and my official position was 60th out of 150 runners who completed the event.

The only strange thing I found was that my GPS shows that I completed only 19.7Kms, while the distance markers showed that I ran 21K. I don't know which is correct.

All in all, it was a well-organized event. I hope the organizers make this an annual event for Kuwait.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fry foods without oil?

The Philips Air-Fryer.
I first heard about the Philips Air-Fryer when a local business posted a Facebook contest. The contest was very simple. Write a comment about the Air-Fryer and you could get a chance to win the Fryer.

Of course, I never win anything. But that did not stop me from posting a random comment. Also, as a marketing gimmick, it worked. My first thought was: "What the heck is an Air-Fryer?". Philips claims that you can cook tasty fries with 80% less fat than a conventional fryer.

80% less fat? That's very impressive. My heath antennae immediately went into overdrive. My kids regularly eat fried food so cutting the fat percentage by 80% would make me feel a little bit less guilty. Reviews suggested that this is the real deal. Even though the price is a bit on the steep side (KD 75/- or around $260), I thought the health benefits will make the device pay for itself so I went and bought it the very next day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pushing Hard

Less than 2 weeks after I started doing push-ups on a regular basis (using the awesome Push-Up wars app), I managed to make it to the Top 100 in the Global rank.

My 63 push-ups that I did today catapulted me to #89 on the Global leader board.

Of course, this does not mean that I am #89 in the world. My ranking is purely between the list of participants:

a. Who own an iPhone.
b. And heard about the Push-Up Wars app.
c. Then decided to pony up the $1.99 required to purchase the app.
d. And don't mind posting their videos to the games' website.

Whatever the case may be, it's nice to be on the Top 100 list and now I am determined to aim for 100 push-ups.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kuwait's First Half-Marathon Update

Back in November, I wrote about Kuwait's first half-marathon event. The event was originally planned for January 28th, but got postponed. I think that was a smart move from the organizers, as January would have been too cold to run.

The event is now scheduled for March 19th. Registration is now open and you can register for the run by visiting either the C-Club or Extreme Sports shop. Details of the registration can be found here.

I did my registration last week. The registration fees are KD 10/- and you need to put a deposit of another KD 10/- for the timing chip. The deposit will be returned back to you after the end of the race - when you hand over the timing chip back to the organizers. You can (and should) also give a donation for the charity.

I love the idea of running with a timing chip as I will have a clear idea of the exact time that I will take to complete the race. I am currently training 5 days a week and hope to complete the race in the top 30 or 40.

There is also a 10K run on the same day for those who find running 21K too daunting. Participants of the 10K race will not get the timing chip.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Push-Up Wars

This is a fun little app for iPhone, that I found on iTunes. I use the word "fun" loosely here, because doing push-ups may not exactly be fun to most people.

The idea of this app (or is it a game?) is to record video of your push-ups using the app. This ensures that the video is straight from the app - and not edited or enhanced in any way. That's a subtle way of saying that no cheating was involved. The video is uploaded to the website, where it can be viewed by other members, and flagged for any discrepancy.

The application also features direct integration to Facebook, where you can brag (or in my case.. lament) your achievements.

The application features Global Leaderboard (I am not going to be featured on that list - at least in this lifetime), and a ranking system that promotes you based on the number of push-ups completed. It is even integrated to the Game Center for achievements.

For $0.99 that's an amazing deal for any fitness addict. Just as Nike+ improved my running, this should help me build a strong upper body.

Anyone care to challenge me?