My heart is fine, my mind is an asshole!

Heart Rate

The title of this blog post was what I said to myself this evening as I was just finishing up a short sprint. This evening I started running again after a gap of more than 2 months and it didn’t go too well. After 3 Kms my calves started cramping up and I called it quits for the day. What I really want to talk about is your heart rate.

It’s tough to know exactly how fast your heart is beating when you’re doing a cardio exercise or doing something strenuous. So last year I had invested in a Geonaute Heart Rate Monitor that I bought from Decathlon in Salmiya. Once I started monitoring my BPM during a run I realized that my mind was playing tricks on me into thinking that I was overexerting myself and that I need to slow down. Even during my heart stress test last year I double checked with the doctor who assured me that everything was alright with my circulatory system and that I didn’t have to worry about overexerting myself while running.

Every age group has a Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) that is calculated by the simple formula (MHR = 220 – Age). So in my case my MHR would be 186. Now, according to some sources, for Moderate physical activity your target should be around 50-70% of your MHR and for Intense physical activity your target would be to get your heart pumping around the 70-85% mark. According to this handy tool this is my target rate and that’s roughly what my heart was beating at throughout the run. 
Heart Rate ToolSo in conclusion if you want to know your limits and have a fruitful workout its highly recommended to get a heart rate monitor. I’m glad I got one coz its telling me that my heart is ok, its just my lazy mind that’s pulling me back.

Assessing My Physical Condition

Recently a colleague of mine got a full physical checkup at a hospital while on vacation in Kerala and was explaining the procedure to me. I’ve never had any major tests done on me except for the blood group test so I thought it would be nice to see if everything was in proper working condition.

I found out that most hospitals have health check packages that you can choose from based on your requirements so I opted for something that would give me an overall understanding of where I stood health wise. The package was called the ‘Master Health Check’ and consisted of the following;

I was relieved to find out that all tests came back with optimum results except for maybe my lung capacity test (which could be attributed to the fact that I used to smoke occasionally before I quit in 2006) which I hope to improve by running and swimming more in the coming months.

My heart and circulatory system are in perfect shape and I even got good results on the stress tests. I’m thankful that I decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle and based on the two consultations I had with the physicians, I’m just an average guy with a slight weight problem that can be solved by moderation in caloric intake and increasing physical activity.

Since I enjoy my alcohol I also decided to get detailed information about my liver functions. Based on the tests performed I learned that my liver is just as good as the next guy and with that information in hand I hopped into the nearest bar on the way back home for a celebratory drink.

The Master Health Check package cost Rs. 4500 and takes about 4 hours to complete all tests. If you go early in the morning you can be out of the hospital before lunch time.

Couch (Potato) to 5K

Now that the weather is getting bearable enough to go running, I’ve resumed my Couch to 5 K running plan. Since I’ve been out of the game for a while I’ve noticed that my average pace has taken a beating and so has my endurance. Running 3 kilometers at an even pace builds up a lot of lactic acid in my legs and they start to burn with fatigue. Then I walk another 1 kilometer to cool off before I get back to the car.

I’m using the Endomondo app on my mobile phone to keep track of the time and distance. My immediate goal would be to run 4 K in less than 30 minutes at an average pace of 7.5 mins/Km and I’ll be a happy camper.

Read more about the couch to 5K plan [here]

Idee Sunglasses – Longterm Review

This product review probably has the longest test period ever. I’ve been using my current sunglasses since 2007 on a daily basis and is on my face at least 4 hours a day. They’re from a Indian brand called Idee, which to be honest I’d never heard about till I actually bought them. Long story short, I was at Chemmanur Opticals in Trivandrum changing my prescription glasses and had selected a Fastrack frame for my lenses. Unfortunately they didn’t fit my lens thickness and the salesman suggested I try their new brand, Idee.

I was a little apprehensive about this unheard brand so I selected a medium range model (approx Rs 1500 I think) thinking that I’ll change the following year with a Ray Ban frame. This was in 2007 and now 5 years later these shades are still with me, which speaks volumes about the quality of the materials used in the frame, hinges and springs. Over the years I’ve accidentally sat on it, dropped it, been kicked around and recently my little daughter has taken a liking to stretching out both the legs till its almost to the breaking point.

The model I have is S1151 C2and its been fitted with prescription lenses since I’m short sighted and I’m really satisfied with the durability and the quality of these shades. I haven’t seen this brand in Kuwait but if you’re ever in India and want a pair of reasonably priced, high quality sunglasses then check out Idee. My actual shades are the ones above and will go into retirement later this week as I’m getting a new model, not because its broken but because I wanted a different look. I’ll still have them with me as a backup.

Idee [website]
Idee [Facebook]

The Natureland Store

On a recent visit to the Fish Market in Souk Sharq I discovered that Natureland has a dedicated store inside the souk. I regularly buy Flax seeds from Natureland but its usually from City Center or TSC. They have a wide variety of whole grain cereals and pastas at the store and I bought a couple of packets of Spelt pasta to try out.

The store is located in the area just outside the fish mongers. Check out their website [link]
The website also has a complete list of all places that sell Natureland products. [link]

Endomondo – Android App

Recently a friend of mine introduced me to Endomondo to help track my progress while running and it made quite an impression on me. Now unfortunately I used it only twice as I was down with a bad flu for a week. Endomondo is purpose built for sports and has a really good options list that accommodates almost any kind of outdoor sport you might want to track.

The best part I like is that it also shows you a graph with the speed over each section and you’ll get an idea of how your session went thru. I’m trying to gain some stamina and have adopted the interval technique so hopefully this graph will let me know if I’m slacking off or sticking to the plan. The one below is from a run I did around Riggae park and it looks fairly consistent. Now the only trouble would be maintaining that consistency over a larger distance and longer time periods.

Download Endomondo [link]

Cheat meals…whats the point?

Kerala Style Beef FrySome of my friends and family members have asked me why I diet all week long and then have a giant meal on Friday or Saturday. They’d like to know why I deprive myself of tasty food all week long and then eat a bloody huge meal once a week. Isn’t that counterproductive? The answer is no… provided you don’t go out of control.

This meal is called a ‘Cheat meal’ in fitness circles and basically its more of a psychological or emotional release than a dietary one. Think of it like a guy in a maximum security prison getting a conjugal visit every weekend :D.   Of course there are articles that discuss incorporating a cheat meal a week can boost your metabolism but we’re not discussing that now.

A cheat meal can break up your weekly monotony. For example 6 days a week these are what my meals look like;

Yeah, exactly!  A  person would go mad eating the same thing day in and day out for weeks on end…unless he gets a chance to pig out once in a while. Now when I first started getting serious about my calorie intake I wasn’t too strict with my cheat days and it usually turned into a cheat weekend or a full-on Caligula-style orgy. Now, however, I realized that to get to the next level in my weight loss I have to be REALLY careful about what I eat during the cheat meal so no more cheat days or weekends.

Benefits: My goal is within 1500 calories per day and I’m staying within those limits so far but its the weekends that I’m afraid of. So the only option would be to pre-pack my meals like I do during the week and stick to them only. Since I know that I can have ONE meal of whatever I want on the weekend it makes it that much easier to stick to my daily diet plan.

Glitches: You usually run into a couple of roadblocks on the road to fitness and sometimes they’re even your own family. Sometimes an innocent little “c’mon have another spoon of rice and curry” or “how bout another Porotta” can really mess up things for you so the best thing is to compensate during the remaining days or lets say you have to attend a social gathering (with food and drink) during the week you can count THAT as your cheat meal and ditch the weekend plans to eat like a maniac.

Another problem is letting your cheat meal get out of control like having seconds or thirds and then a huge dessert and then in the evening you feel the drop from the elevated sugar levels so once again you indulge in some more fatty and sugary goodness to keep your mood up. I’ve personally experienced this many times and you feel guilty as hell the next morning.

. Keep a stock of 0 Trans-fat microwave popcorn in your pantry. They’re low calorie and do a good job of making you feel satisfied when you have the munchies at night.
. Water is your best friend when you’re trying to stave off those pangs. Drinking juices or diet cola is not gonna help just plain ice cold water is the key.
. Maintain a log of what you eat during the day or add it to an excel sheet. I used to do this in the beginning and its quite an eye-opener when you realize how much stuff you unknowingly eat during the day.
. Pack your meals beforehand, this helps a huge deal in portion control. I’m gonna do that same during the weekends from now on so that I don’t get the urge for a second helping.

Additional Material:
How to have a cheat meal [link]
5 tips on cheat meals [link]
Cheat meals for people trying to lose weight [link]
Should you cheat? [link]
And finally a video from dear old Scooby [link]

The first picture is from my Taj Bar post [link]

Mishref park

Been going to this place the past couple of weeks. Its got a nice running track and there are some exercise spots placed at certain intervals. This photograph below reminds me of the area in Bangalore where I used to live 5 years ago.

A fat guy’s guide to running

After some motivation from my friend Cajie, who’s an avid runner, a couple of weekends ago I finally decided to graduate from speed walking to running.  The most important thing is taking the first step, half of the battle is won if you have the determination, and the other half? well by the time you get into your groove you won’t think of your workout as a battle but more of a challenge . As I write this post my front calves and quadriceps are killing me but it felt really great to actually run.

Although I’ve been walking long distances (10Km approx) for quite a while this was my first combo-run-jog-speedwalk outing and I’ve got some tips for the guys out there if you want to give it a try.  No technical and medical stuff here, just my personal tips and opinions.  Here’s a previous post of mine about fitness

1. Running playlist: this was one of the things that I goofed up on. I didn’t have a dedicated playslist for running on my mp3 player and so every now and then just as I was in the zone listening to Iron Maiden or Metallica the next track would go to George Michael’s Jesus to a child and mess up the pace completely. Next time I’m gonna select some hardcore tracks just for running.

2. Dress like a runner: I’ve seen too many guys wearing jeans and (ugh) cargo pants while exercising. You need a good pair of shorts or track suits if you want to run properly and the fabric should allow your skin to breathe when you sweat. Also note that the fabric should be flame retardant coz when you gather speed your tighs will be rubbing together so fast you’ll start a ‘bush’ fire if you’re not careful.

3. Time and place: Now that its summer the best time to go out would be around 5 AM or after 5 PM, any time in between and you’ll be burnt to a crisp. Location is pretty important too. If you’re running along the sidewalk in a residential area or in the city you’ll be exposed to exhaust fumes from passing cars and  in many places dust and broken glass and garbage. The best place IMO is the pathway from Scientific center all the way to Sharq, you’ll have plenty of fresh air and the sea breeze should hopefully lessen your exposure to vehicle emmisions.

4. Stretching and warmup: I cannot stress this enough, always spend a good 5 or 10 minutes stretching and warming up your leg muscles and body before any physical activity. I injured a tendon in my heel during the NBK walkathon 2010 because I didn’t stretch properly. This injury took more than 6 months to heal and now I’m very careful about stretching.

5. Shoes and socks: Running shoes or cross trainers are a must! no compromises there and its wise to have a pair just for exercising. When it comes to socks be sure to buy the best quality cotton sports socks coz if you’re planning on running/walking for more than an hour your feet will undergoe a lot of rubbing and physical stress along the edges of the shoe, this can cause blisters and bleeding if there’s not enough cushioning for your feet.

6. Hydration: Long distance running requires you keep yourself hydrated and be sure to carry along an ice cold bottle of your favorite energy drink. One of the things I do is dilute my Gatorade with water in a 50:50 ratio since I find that just Gatorade leaves my mouth feeling dry in a few minutes.

7. Pace: If you’re not accustomed to physical activity you can’t expect to run non-stop at a constant pace for any distance. What I used was a cyclic technique where I’d run for 3 minutes the slow down to a jog  for 3 minutes and then a speed walk for another 5 or 10 minutes and back to running again. I kept repeating this cycle till I felt my lungs were on fire and my feet were made of lead. I guess you can actually feel the lactic acid rushing through your muscles when you’re doing something like this. Once you’ve grown accustomed to this pace you can go up a notch and run for more time with lesser walks/jogs in between.

Now I’m not an expert runner nor in the best of shape but this is just what I observed and plan to work on in the future and I hope its useful for the couch potatoes reading this now.

My Tracks – Android app

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a long walk so this weekend I made some free time for myself and went out for a couple of hours. Now before I set off I checked for any tracking apps or GPS tracker apps and came across My Tracks. Its a very small application that records your every position as you go your way. Tracking is done via GPS satellites and therefore its sure to be accurate down to a couple of meters.

You can set markers along the way and each way-point is tagged with the time and GPS coordinates, you can also add a small description or comment. I just took a long route and then took an alternate route back home. Along the way I made a couple of stops at the supermarket and Alghanim Xcite and that’s why the total time taken is longer than usual. Now for my next walk I’m going to look for an app that will calculate the calories as well.

Once you’ve reached your destination or completed your walk you can upload the path to Google Maps and this can be sent to your friends or saved for future reference.

My Tracks [link]


View 2011-05-06 19:50 in a larger map