Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fitness Article – Designing your Workout Part I

Gym

Gyms - Not the end-all in fitness

Most people when faced with the problem of losing weight and keeping fit adopt a very lacklustre attitude (let me get a trainer – or a gym membership and get it handled kinda way). But considering if you were to buy a car, laptop or even furniture for your house, you would do tons of research, compare prices, read feedback, check out if you can get it directly from suppliers or consider buying during sales – Why should a makeover for your body be any different ? At any rate, you should even put in more and work because your body is important to you as is your health, you wouldn’t want it to get mishandled and you would be the best person to design your own workout (it’s your body after all).

It’s ironic that we should believe that gym classes or personal trainers are essential (other than the fact that they provide the motivation for going to exercise), the understanding and designing of the type of workout that you need is YOUR domain. Let’s get started on things you should know. So before you start choosing a gym and start spending because your relatives said you gained weight over the festive season or want to hit the ground running with this year’s new year resolution. I would highly advise you to know your purpose . Please read the link on purpose , after that lets get down to basics.

Gender and Body-Type differences.

Having trained a multitude of males and females. I find that different workouts appeal to different genders. It’s not pure fact but rather anecdotal (maybe just my biased view based on years in a gym) that men prefer hitting the gym and women prefer more group-exercise like classes (Body Combat, Body Jazz, ect). Though theres an equal number of men and women who enjoy a good jog or sports with friends.

Men – Preferences aside, men usually would benefit more from a gym workout due to their propensity to pack on more muscle mass than women and Women typically have 60-80% less muscle mass than men, and considering that muscle is the furnace for calories (and fat) it means it makes sense that men pack it on if they intend to lose weight as shown in this article. Also flexibility is an important issue to men (yes, we tend to get muscle bound, literally) not applicable to those who are gluttons for punishment and injury, flexibility is necessary. In fact a study showed that for the same sport, women who are more flexible had a 60% lesser chance of injury than men. For all the muscle heads that think stretching is for girls, it is proven in another study that stretching helps in muscle growth and recovery which helps in strength and consequently mass increases. And lastly a proper cardio plan should be put in place for fitness as well as obvious health reasons (preventing heart disease is a good incentive).

Women – On the other hand would benefit from a sensible cardio plan (Not forgetting to incorporate weight training to maintain bone density and basic strength levels). Bulking up is greatly exaggerated unless the woman is strongly mesomorphic (more propensity to put on muscle mass) most women shouldnt be too concerned about muscle mass distorting their figures. In fact muscles in combination to a sensible cardio exercise plan would lead to a more toned body and consequently a more desirable hip to waist ratio and toned arms (which of all body parts are the most visible) and shoulders (probably the second). Flexibility should not be an issue but should not be ignored either.

Body Type Differences

Basically, there’s different types of bodies. In brief these are the Ectomorph – Tall and skinny kinds, Mesomorph – Muscular kinds and Endomorph – tend to pack on more fat. The good news is that your body type can change if you change your lifestyle and the bad thing is that it requires quite a bit of effort and planning in doing so. So lets get down to the basics – A more detailed and qualified analysis of body type can be found here. ( You can do the test for fun but chances are that you would already know what type you are by now (unless mirrors are banned where you are).

So now that you have the basic idea. Here is a good place to gain more knowledge about the details of working out for your bodytype. Heres a summary of the things i personally feel is suitable for each body type.

Endomorph Basically all of us fall into that category (we always think we can do with less fat and more definition, ever feel like screaming at the waif like model who says shes fat ?). But seriously Endomorphs put on fat very easily and usually have a larger bone structure (not an excuse).

If your Harley strains under your weight, its time to eat less and start walking

Training must be intense, endomorphs can and should run on the fuel which makes up a larger proportion of their body (Euphemistically put). The exercises would most likely include cardio as well as weight bearing exercises. But great caution must be taken with weight bearing exercises (jogging is one of them) because of their higher non-muscle weight, the impact on the joints is higher, so no jumps, long runs and stairs (Do remember that you are carrying additional weight already). Swimming and brisk walking is ideal for starting out, so use these for the main cardio program. Weight training exercises should be moderate (remember you need higher frequency and longer duration of exercise , so its better to work out moderately for 3-5 days rather than 2 days of intense exercise). Cardio should always accompany the weight training exercises with the latter done first so that you have sufficient “fuel” (glycogen) in your muscles to have a significant “muscle growing” (hypertrophy) effect. Emphasis should always be on the cardio (low impact pls), with the weight training to maintain and improve muscle mass.

Diet – Yes please. Dieting is very important for a Endomorph. It is highly advisable to aim for low glycemic index foods (slow sugar release), which would not spike up your insulin levels (which would make you fat). Your caloric intake should be in excess for you to reach an Endomorphic state, so its good to cut down if your weight is in excess of a BMI of 25 ( unless your BMI is 20 and below, which means you are delusional and should read the Ectomorphic workout session).

Counting calories is useful but don’t be obsessive (unless you are an accountant), a guideline is that you should consume less calories than you are right now and aim for a minimal that you can survive on. ( I am not a detective but for you to reach an increasing weight or endomorphic state, its a hunch that you are probably exceeding you caloric requirements and you should eat at a more reasonable rate). The first four are guidelines based on gender, while the bottom four are guidelines based on activity level, use the lower of either and not both (otherwise you would end up massively obese). So a 21 year old 180 pound sedentary male would be either need 2400kcal or 2340kcal (Choose the lower) and reduce accordingly. Try not to go too low below the recommended guidelines. Use a calculator online it helps. But a word of caution, dont get carried away with calorie counting, it NEVER works, you need a lifestyle change that is permanent and healthy and not someone to tell you what to restrict and what to do.

BMI Calculator

Calorie Burn Calculator (Per Activity)

Food Calorie Calculator

Guidelines Kcals Required
Woman (Btwn 19 and 30) 2000 – 2400
Woman (Btwn 31 and 50) 1800 – 2200
Man (Btwn 19 and 30) 2400 – 3000
Man (Btwn 31 and 50) 2200 -2800
Obese 10 per pound
Sedentary 13 per pound
Moderately Atheletic 15 per pound
Athlethic 18 per pound

Dieting guidelines should be easy to find, but a rule of thumb is that you should aim for at least 1-2kg of weight loss per month gradually (lose too much of it and its probably muscle as well and you are over training and it also means you are losing weight too fast and should look out for excess sagging skinfold). Theory wise, you need to to cut on 550 Kcal a week to lose 1 kg per week, but thats just theory. If you lower even by 100 Kcal, or cut the creamer from your coffee, you should start seeing sensible weight loss a month. So lose weight in a healthy range, and not aim for crash diets (they wont last anyway, can you imagine eating a powder diet for the rest of your life, a sensible diet with a sensible plan should be ok). Diets should always be sensible , and two questions you should ask yourself is “Is this healthy for me?”and “Can I eat this long term and fit it into my lifestyle?”. Train and eat healthy for yourself and not to fit into the stereotypical skinny waif-like model’s jeans. Train to love yourself and your body will reflect that accordingly.

More on Body Type Training on Design Your Workout Part II

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Mind Article – Willpower Part III

motivation-001

A Note to Self would help

Environmental MotivationThis doesn’t involve Greenpeace , but it’s an essential part of motivation. We have talked about motivation from two sources one is using the source within you and the other is using help from other people around you. The third would be using things around you to help motivate the change.

Ever wondered why the greatest athletes admit that when they were young they used to have an idol or a poster to look at every day?  That’s expert motivation using the things around them, directly linking long term goals to the short term by having an objective (a very tangible one that they can see and identify). It’s a daily reminder of what they want to achieve, it’s something that they look at everyday while paddling that extra mile, forcing in that extra repetition and bringing their bodies to new (and often uncomfortable) zones.

We can always make structural change to the things around us to better help us achieve our goals (even though we are not elite athletes). Making a gym more accessible in your daily walk home helps, or making a healthy breakfast in advance for next morning and planning your meals helps in a weight loss goal. (Conversely, it is also true that putting an ice cream shop at the end route of a jog isn’t a very good idea). Adding small changes to our environment could help our behavior, imagine the incremental compounded effect of everyday constant reminders, these have a surprising effect on our choices and the things we do. Repeat something often enough and the brain would think its possible.

Reminders tell us two things, one is to FOCUS and two is that it’s POSSIBLE. It’s very easy to make that small change in our environment, posters, buying lots of workout wear, even bringing a gym bag to work act as an environmental reminder to keep to your goals. Changes like parking a few blocks away from work and forcing yourself to walk, or having just enough money to take the bus a few stops short of your home would make sure that you don’t skive on the everyday calorie burn and keep to your goals. Adding motivational quotes or having a role model or reminding yourself of stories of people who achieved fitness greatness or just plain greatness would help redraw your boundaries of what you think is possible.

Verdict – When the kids were put in an environment which extols the virtues of self control by having a lot of poster reminders, (about not eating the marshmallows and that they would get more when they resisted for 15 mins ) ALL the kids were able ward off the candy demons of temptations more effectively.

Very often our mind is forgetful, we might intellectually know what to do, but if we do not have constant reminders to make it difficult for us to change, we will often revert back to our old habits (cause we will start finding excuses like blaming our willpower). Make it such that it would be difficult to not change, if you are a chain smoker throw away all your cigarettes and install smoke detectors in your house WITH carpets. If you eat too much, have only enough money in your wallet for your salad and a bus ticket or car ride that stops short of your destination by a mile or two. If you drink too much, ask your friends for friendly photo reminders of yourself while you were drunk and dressed in your Tinkerbelle costume with shaving cream all over your face to put at your desk.

Conclusion – The Three Drivers

Change is a hard task, if it took you many years to get to the state you are now at, it will take a greater effort to change it. Many times we fall to the “willpower fallacy”. That when we fail we attribute it to low willpower and if we manage to succeed we attribute it to kickass willpower. But it’s far from the truth and a huge fallacy.

We succeed in many things because we are motivated and unknown to us, we actually employ the above three principles in play more often than not. Imagine something you are really good at, you didn’t get good at it just by chance, probably there’s someone in your life who taught you and encouraged you (social aspect), then you got better and you develop competency to continue getting better (personal aspect) you start adjusting your lifestyle and the buy things around you that complement (posters, equipment, ect) your competency or even go for courses (structural aspect).

To focus on willpower is to divert your attention from the drivers that are essential to success (personal, social and structural).  We need to give credit to these drivers more because intelligently employing them would make sure that we succeed, while attributing things to willpower (and lack thereof), robs us of our ability to control these drivers. Attributing things due to lack of willpower creates a haven for excuses (i am not good or my willpower is not strong enough).

Unlike willpower, these drivers are completely within our control (locus of control). To succeed in change, all we have to do is decide, and then use these drivers to make sure that our change is sustained. Change isn’t difficult , but sustained change is, and to make a change for life, we need to recognize the drivers and make them stronger. The thing is that we need to be intelligent and we need to work hard to bring all these driver together (personal , social and structural) to help us.

You wouldn’t lift a heavy stone far just by yourself, instead its most effective if you get more people in the job and work together. Likewise drivers would bring us further by working in unison, we could always start a gym program by getting the right personal motivation, get friends to join in and get work things into our life that facilitate this change like dedicating lunch hour solely to gym and a sandwich. All these are doable, it’s just our approach and belief that we can do it that needs tweaking. Stop using weak willpower as an excuse to achieve your goals, it only robs you of your potential, and gives you a perfect excuse for remaining as you are. Throw away the crutch of weak willpower and embrace the fact that you are in charge and that you are in the drivers seat controlling these three powerful drivers that you can use to your advantage just by changing your approach and making efforts to make each work for you instead of against you. Know that a man is great not because of who he is but what he can make himself to be.

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Mind Article – Willpower Part II


"Life is going to knock you down, fromtime to time, just like a good boxer. The difference in success and failure in life is whether or not you get up or stay down and it's a choice. Choose to get up and fight on."

My point is that it’s a fallacy to misunderstand that nature has endowed some with more willpower than others, and by virtue of their willpower (or Grit, Tenacity, Heart or anything you might call it), they succeed in life because of it. Those who withstood temptation and worked harder showed innately more strength of character and therefore more Willpower. We tend to give credit or take blame for the mystifying attribute of Willpower, when we fall to temptation or get into bad habits and fail to make a change in life, and when we suceed, we credit this as “willpower” (ohmmmm).

But what exactly is willpower ? We heard of it, we admire it, but we dont really know what it is or how quantify or measure it in people. Like how we can resist temptations of one kind but not another (We can have great willpower in resisting ice cream but fall prey to chocolates), so does that mean we have greater willpower or lesser willpower overall ?

Marshmallows

A resistance to marshmallows determine your future ?

Five decades ago, a psychologist (who became legendary due to his findings) demonstrated that kids (who loved marshmallows alot) who could sit down with a marshmallow in front of them and not eat it for a full fifteen minutes (and were rewarded with another few marshmallows) did better in almost every area of life than the more impulsive kids who ate the marshmallow in the blink of an eye right away – in spite of the fact that they were all instructed to wait. As Walter followed his test subjects for the next 20 years, he learnt that children who learned how to delay gratification (and exercise willpower) scored better in school , earned more, were promoted more, had better relationships and were happier. This showed that the ability to delay gratification (willpower) is a big deal.

So what conclusion can you come up with the study? Definitely that marshmallow-munchers who showed willpower succeeded more and they were endowed with the magic dust that allows them to be great, that’s all. (Of course not !). But it does seem to point to the conclusion that some people are innately stronger (You can’t blame your mum for that).

But it isn’t so. Another study tried to replicate this. This time it had more variables, and the test was held in a similar way, this time it had more a couple of skills they learnt (from distraction techniques, to having positive peer influence). And the end result was that all of the kids were able to resist eating the choclate for 15 minutes. “Willpower” as i said was not a mystifying attribute, its a mix of motivation as well as technique. Its learnable and with the right approach we can apply the same principles to anything in life, we just have to identify the drivers.  And heres a summary of whats useful we could all take away.

Personal Motivation – That’s a no brainer, if you can connect with your goal at crucial moments (when you really want to eat the marshmallow, you think of few which you can get later). You will tend to put things in focus and do the right thing. The thing is crucial moments, and that this has to be a strong motivation, and not just a “you should not eat the marshmallow, try not to eat ok ?”. Same thing with your workout goals, if you can imagine how you would feel in front of an aspirator thinking you have 5 days to live, you would jog and throw away that cigarette. If you can imagine how a loved one saw your pasty white whale of a body and retched, you would also probably realize that you do need to exercise (like now!).  These motivations don’t hit out at you all the time, but you do need something to battle the crucial moments when you just want to snooze and sit back in front of the TV with a nice cool drink. The keywords (lets revise… ) are “crucial” moments and “powerful” motivations.

Verdict : Our junior sweet eaters were able to ward off temptation more easily by reminding themselves of things they could do until the fifteen minutes are up. With a magazine or a toy, they could easily distract themselves. While others were taught to draw in their mind the fulfilment of eating more marshmallows instead of one every time they get a twinge. As a result 100% of the kids were able to ward off eating the marshmallows. Its not a display of willpower but a refining of thought processes, our mind thinks short term so in a sense we have to bring the long term goal closer to us by keeping it in sight, or we could find a distraction that would allow us to avoid the crucial moments of temptation. Temptation isn’t an endless barrage of waves, but rather a single a quickly occurring feeling, so once we develop a plan to negate that feeling, we obtain mastery over the temptation over that crucial moment. (That is the power therein) to submit temptation with a good game-plan at the right moment when it strikes.

Social Motivation Its cliché, bird of a feather flock together, but do you also know that if you want to be of a certain feather you should also flock with birds whose feathers you want (Mind boggling). But yup, social motivation is what drives alot of our actions, ever heard of the proverb, the apple never falls far from the apple tree? To a certain extent, the people we are with and the people around us show us what’s possible. In psychology its what’s called social proof, when we are faced with uncertain environments or situations, it’s common to do what the people around us do.

It may not be as blatant as outright copying but we are subconsciously affected by what’s possible. If we mix around with people who overeat and idea of an active weekend is out at buffets, it’s that circle that defines our preferences, likewise when we decide to change, the become the weights that tie us down. Imagine being part of a club of overeaters and sit at the TV watching re-runs kind guys, then you decide to go for a jog every day. They would then say “Why do it? It’s hard to lose that amount of weight, be happy with your own body, just look at us, we are happy with who we are. aren’t you. Are you saying that we shouldn’t be comfortable in our own skin ? Come on have a bag of chips and throw away those jogging shoes, they look ridiculous on you.”

This is also known as resistance. All change is met with resistance, the people that we are with might have the best interest for us, and they don’t want us to get disappointed or do something very different from them so that you are out of the group. Likewise, if we find that we need change, we need to turn accomplices into friends, changing deeply entrenched habits required help, information and real support from others.

Verdict : The study shown that if the kids were together with another kid who dint flinch and grab at the marshmallow straight away, the kids had a much higher chance of resisting the immediate satisfaction of munching the marshmallow in the first available instance. Changing deeply entrenched habits require help, information and real support from others (for those who believe in toughing it out, many psychology journals time and time again state that peer pressure has much stronger impact than we think, sorry lone rangers). Fail to make it to the gym , make an appointment with a trainer or friend. Its important to use social support, its not being dependent, its being smart because collectively we have more resources and more ways to motivate than in isolation, besides ,no man is a mountain. So gang up against your problems, rightfully you need leverage against something as sinister as temptation and what better ways than having a solid support group.

One more, in Willpower Part III

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Mind Article – Willpower Part I

Imagine having a sound workout plan, a personal trainer and a great diet plan. Everything is going fine for you. And you eat your veggies and run your miles without a hitch. Then one day work gets tougher, you catch the flu, a friend visits from overseas, your second kid comes along (insert epic event here) and an hour to the gym or out running seems impossible to fit in. Gradually the weight you lose gets piled on plus more, you think its a hard uphill struggle and start getting lazy and getting back on track seems quite tough and less important that urgent things that are pressing on you. So eventually you give up, and you think that probably you didn’t have the willpower to work out or that its not your thing.

 Sounds familiar ? This is the thing that everyone faces, and it’s called giving up. We all have big dreams and aspirations when we set out in life and on fitness programs, but as we face huge obstacles and things that prevent is from achieving them, we somehow crash and burn and drop out, sometimes never trying again. Sometimes, we look down and curse at our willpower and weakness of the flesh, and at times wish we were made of tougher stuff and had more mettle in us.  This is the biggest MISTAKE.

We see willpower as an attribute, that some are born with and some do not have enough. And that it comes in finite amounts, unchangeable. That if we fail once, we would probably fail again cause we would give up again due to lack of willpower. They usually see willpower as a godly attribute, out of their reach when they do not succeed and in their grasp when they do. People with willpower tough it through tough times and temptation and those that don’t do not have enough willpower. That’s further from the truth, so far that its actually a LIE.

Let’s make a few distinctions here, willpower is not something a greater man has (though they would like to believe so as to give their ego an artificial boost) , a person isn’t more successful than you because he has greater willpower. It’s a great lie propagated by the fact that I would like to tell myself that I have more control over my desires and wishes and willpower and therefore i am greater. We attribute it to this mystifying attribute that is an admirable trait, sometimes people use it blatantly like when we say “I have more willpower than most people, therefore I am better”.

But what is willpower ? We use it alot, but do we understand it ? We seem to think that the greater man has willpower to accomplish anything and bend it to their will. However, it is scientifically proven (I will highlight more in Part II) that there’s no such thing as willpower, and that the feats of willpower that people perform are actually accomplished by correct motivation as well as a proper plan to do things.

“Mediocrity is self-inflicted. Genius is self-bestowed.” Walter Russell

Willpower is a combination of technique and motivation both of which can be learnt. Willpower is not a inborn trait that either we have and do not have, and it’s a EXCUSE to say that we fail because we do not have enough willpower. We fail because we never motivated ourselves enough and didnt have a proper plan to execute. Its easy to blame something that’s not within our reach like when we wish we were taller/better looking/ect and attribute it to genetics and something but we cant change. But alot of things can be changed and “willpower” is one of them.

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Fitness Article – Pick and Mix

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It gets too easy – There are tons of articles on the right workout and if it were only that simple to just buy a wonder machine and with eight minutes a day create and sculpt the kind of body that you see in infomercials. But the sad fact is that all of these don’t work, not in the long term and not with the kind of results that we would like. Maybe we would get leaner wallets but definitely not better physiques.

One-size-fits-all There’s no one size fits all training, yet there’s a ton of noise about which workout is superior and which form of exercise is best. You see the bodybuilders saying that they have great bodies and are comparable to Greek gods with bronze and sculpted muscles, while then you have the marathon runner making snide remarks at the bodybuilders who huff and puff after walking off the treadmill set at walking speed. And the Yoga practitioner that advocates supple and flexible muscles that wont cramp up and get injured from overuse and running. So who is right ?

A fitness buffet – It comes down to the concept of a buffet, albeit a fitness buffet. In a buffet, we all have limited stomach capacities, yet there’s a ton of food that we would like to eat and keep eating. And we would no sooner want to put as much of those in our stomach as possible. But if you keep eating the same stuff it doesnt benefit you that much, i mean theres only so much sashimi you can eat before going green right? So we should be sensible in our approach to fitness as well, to be able to pick and mix from the best of each camp for a beneficial and effective training. So what are the camps ?

Bodybuilders – This is mainly for those who seek physical shape and strength. This is mainly caricaturized as the hulking bodybuilder that’s posing at the mirror any time the opportunity presents itself.

But muscular mass is important, not just in day to day activities like refilling the water cooler but maintaining muscle tone to prevent ostearthritis and maintain bone density as well as burn fat. At rest a person with more muscles burns more calories per hour than a someone with less muscles and that is quite an important fact to remember when losing weight.

However, when we talk about muscles and alot of women get turned off as they imagine a female bodybuilder with rippling muscles (and probably a husky voice). But that’s far from the truth, women do not put on muscles easily but they do get the benefits of strength gain as well as stronger bones (losing alot of calcium compared to men at age 35). As mentioned they also burn more calories even when sedentary and the increased muscle tone helps greatly in appearance. (more so than shoulder pads).

Marathoners – Often known as the Energizer bunny. Marathoners are capable of sustained low intensity physical activity for very very long period of time. The effects of the cardiovascular exercise are obvious.

One would be an improved resting heart rate (bragging rights), which would mean that you can do alot more activities without getting tired, and remember that muscle is metabolic in nature, meaning that it burns calories just to exist. If you make someone that carries alot of muscle run, you would probably get a huge caloric expenditure and the heart working overtime to pump the blood around the huge network of muscles which would cause instant fatigue. So Cardiovascular activity is an important aspect of fitness , not just in getting to look better in a shirt but to feel better and go about day to day activities efficiently without feeling tired or winded.

Studies have also shown that long sustained physical activity are also good for people who seek to burn fat. As the body would switch to burning glucose in the blood to fat after a long period (after the 30 minute mark).

The Yoga Practitioner – Flexibility is also another very important aspect in fitness. Mainly due to the fact that flexible muscles are less likely to get injured. The benefits of flexibility are important, as flexible muscles could go through a greater range of motion and would aid greatly in posture as well.

Injury prevention is important in the long run if you would like a decent fitness lifestyle, it also makes sure that when you get up you don’t have the “can’t turn my neck” syndrome when you wake up in the mornings or sore backs, injured knees as well as injured shoulder. The joints are as strong as the muscles that bind them, and when the muscles are tight and unforgiving, the joints would eventually take most of the pounding from exercise and eventually rebel and start disintegrating and usually when we get older we tend to lose that flexibility , so its very important to maintain this to prevent injury as well as improve performance in ay to day activities be it lifting weights or running a marathon, supple joints are key.

Basically, a sensible fitness program would incorporate all three of these camps. And even though it might seem intuitive that we do all three, oftentimes, we do not and tend to favor jogging or lifting weights or even stretching as our preferred exercise. A sensible approach would be to pick and mix any of these and allocate a sizeable amount of time to them. Very often, people rush into a gym run and do a quick 1 minute stretch and neglect proper stretching or resistance training. Also some people might neglect stretching altogether because it doesn’t have any immediate after effect like the runner high or the feeling of having pumped muscles after a weight lifting session. Also people who tend to favor stretching feel that lifting weights would affect their flexibility and develop “unsightly muscles” but strength and flexibility make a great couple and their union would prevent injury for a long time to come. So while there is no one size fits all workout, we do need to incorporate all three of these into a sensible workout plan and that missing either one would sorely deprive us of the full benefits of having a fitter body. I would go into details on how to best approach each camp, as well as tips and tricks to better manage our time at the gym so that we can allocate a sensible amount of time for each.

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Mind Article – Purpose (What’s yours?)

A child comes up to his father and says

“Daddy, I know what I want for my birthday,”
“What do you want?” the Dad asks
“I want a briefcase,” She said, jumping up and down.
“Really?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s what I really, really, really want!”
“Why do you want a briefcase?” The Dad look puzzled
“I want to do something important with my life,” She said.
“What do you want to do?” He asked
“I don’t know yet,but having a briefcase will be a big help.”

Briefcase photo taken from EnWikipedia

Pandora's box or Purpose ? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of your would chuckle at this innocent conversation but the lesson behind this is that, we really do not know what we want in life. Basically we start and do things just because and really never give real thought or weight to it. This is not to say that we are frivolous with our choices, but that oftentimes we neglect to see the motivation behind our decision and our true purpose.

“But I do know my purpose !”, yet many times we often wonder why we do the things we do. Why we put up with certain things yet have very low tolerance for others? How could we at times tolerate the worst of behaviors from our bosses and yet have very poor tolerance for our family and close ones. If we really were at one with purpose I think living would be much simpler and we would subconsciously do what is right. I heard once of a very apt metaphor describing purpose (or conscience) as the thought in our head that has a very small but firm voice, but if oftentimes drowned by the loud expectations we have and false beliefs that we think other people think we think (complicated right). It’s this very small voice that gets drowned out in the hum drum of life so much so that when everything clears (which might be in a long while), it might be too late.

So why am i getting philosophical here ? Like many things in life, fitness needs a purpose. If you come to the gym with a goal to lose weight because you ate festively and gained festive weight over Christmas and the New Year (Solar and Lunar), its just going to be a goal, you might reach it or you might not, but you would definitely not stick with it, at some point of time, something important would have turned up and swept you up, and when you look back at your gym membership or your plan to exercise it might be gathering dust and you just give up.

Likewise its always a good approach to examine your purposes in getting fit, because if you dont have strong enough reasons, it would be a real waste of effort. It might be good being complimented for losing that first 5 kg but then you might put in back on as work gets hectic and as you get bored or tired or certain things require your attention that cant be put down. As in we have to evaluate, “What does being fit mean to me, how strong is the reason to being fit, compel me to wake up at 6 am in the morning and run, or drag myself after work to work out. Because when you try to wake up at 6am to run, there will be voices telling you not to, and every time they win, and every step back you take, it’s when your purpose can’t defend your actions – you WILL end up giving in. Each time a voice whispers, “Hey its too early to run, lets sleep in, we can do it the day after the next day after, when we feel up to it”.  A purpose gives you an answer to all these, and like one of my cynical literature teachers once said, “A purpose is what makes me get up in the morning and get to work, I may not like it but it gets me up”.

So what’s the purpose of being fit ? What’s your reason for getting up ? Is it just to look good and feel good or is it something deeper. It should be something deeper because once we lend meaning to it, we lend weight to it. Some women train for weddings, to look good in a gown, some guys train to look buff for that bit of admiration for a beach body. But if we look at it that way, fitness would just be like a Kleenex, once used and easily disposable.

But it’s NOT, fitness is a lifestyle, meaning it’s something sustained. It’s a habit, there’s this old proverb “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action; reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character reap a destiny”. Imagine , if somehow you could sow a thought of having a fit and healthy body, being motivated and moved to action, finally making it a habit, and building discipline and strength of character and confidence from there, which would open up to many possibilities in your life. Now that’s a compelling purpose, compared to “I just want to lose weights so my hips look smaller to fit into my jeans”.

So what’s your purpose of being fit ? Purpose is always personal, but always strong enough to sustain you so that it becomes a lifestyle. Examples of purposes include ones that stem from pain like a story I heard about a person who got stuck in a slide at a water amusement park and had to be extracted when the workers had to physically dismantle the length of tube he was in to extract him out, the pain of knowing he was obscenely overweight (it only struck him at that time – we do have great powers of self denial at times) was so stark for him that he lost 100 pounds and remained fit ever since.  Or one that stems from inspiration like someone finding meaning in his sport despite disability aptly described by the quote by Alexander De Seversky “I discovered early that the hardest thing to overcome is not a physical disability but the mental condition which it induces. The world, I found, has a way of taking a man pretty much at his own rating. If he permits his loss to make him embarrassed and apologetic, he will draw embarrassment from others. But if he gains his own respect, the respect of those around him comes easily.”

Be it for any reason , from pain, self respect, discovery, your purpose has to be personal and spell a compelling future one with better health and vitality and confidence, one which makes you wake up in the morning and one which will see you through to your goals despite of yourself because an man is always greater than he can know of himself.

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Mind Being Fit – What Do You Want to Do with Your Life?

The sign says it all


There’s a start to every phase in life i guess. And like many things we do ask ourselves the question “What do we want to do with our lives ?” Mine initially was far from writing and setting up this website as a forefront to an exploration of an idea. But I guess over time this kind of changes like the way many things does.

Likewise I worked for a large corporation and still was a square peg which couldn’t quite fit in, and it intimidated me that I had to spend long hours crunching numbers and be satisfied with a “compensation” at the end of each month and graded for “performance” each year which is supposed to motivate us (Yipee). But then money could only make you that happy (Just that tiny bit), and if you could survive normally with your pay and have a bit left, you would then start to wonder about what else to do with your life, instead of pledging it to MS Office and huge corporations in which no matter which level your were at your always seemed like a cog, maybe a bigger or smaller one variably.

I went on to become a personal trainer, which for two years was really satisfying and never looked back. I liked training people, I liked seeing them make that change in their life, being fitter better and greater than before, usually the people I see are motivated enough to spend quite a fair bit on their body and on personal trainers so they could achieve their goals, but they usually crash and burn and drop out after some time, it wasn’t that they can’t do it, it’s that they somehow lost the motivation to. I have seen a 150kg guy who was advised by his doctor to exercise or die before he could reach 40, drop out of a training program, and his trainer had to call , reschedule and basically chase him like a brat just to get him in the gym so that he could save his own life (how ironic is that), the last I checked he began training more sporadically and stopped for a long period of time.

Yes, the belt buckles and buttons are suffering
(Though they wont tell you so)

We all have very strong reasons to exercise and get fit, and everyone knows it’s a good thing and it increases the quality of your life and it makes you mentally stronger, more alert and basically a better person. But a lot of people cant do it, the gym I worked at which is one of the largest gyms globally tabulated and found that on average about 60% of members would stop coming after six to nine months, even though they signed up to train for a year and continued paying fees / suffer early termination costs. Alot of people dont finish their fitness programs and alot of people dont set out to achieve that most common goal that at the end of every News Years Eve, of being fitter and looking better.

There had to be something wrong. There were people with alot of reasons to get fitter and better at what they do but they are not doing it. And I realize that even though these people had great motivation. And this would be the main reason I am writing this to explore and give techniques and reasons to best achieve the body that we always wanted.

Basically the idea is this. To achieve something the body that you want – you need two things ,

  1. The right mindset  – Albert Einsteinonce said “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” The thoughts that you created to get you into that level of unfitness requires a certain mindset. And its this mindset that has to change, we all have a reason to get fit and the motivation to start a program, but how many can finish and sustain a program through life ? Fitness it not just going to the gym , its a lifestyle. To create a lifestyle we need a mindset. What would you expect from a person who tries to workout because he thinks it will make him look better and less guilty from the last buffet versus someone who sees his temple as a body and exercise as a source of energy and achievement.  We all know intellectually that we need to be fit, but its only when we own the idea emotionally that we begin to really suceed in doing it.
  1. The right program – There is no magic program like the makers of equipment fads, and owners of gyms would like you to believe. There’s tons of fitness equipment out there promising you a fantastic body if you get the ab roller, or that fad diet that will make you a slim Jim, or that fantastic diet pill or that great muscle powder. But a good fitness program is one that you can stick with and one which you like – you dont need a fancy machine and the top of the line trainer if you are unfit, you just need someone to stand behind you and shout “ONE MORE”  and make sure you turn up for the program while not getting injured. Also, there is no ONE routine that we can use, rather a variety of exercise mixed and matched in such a way that we never do the same thing over and over again. If you ask me whats the best program – There is none, its anything you enjoy and benefits you without injuring you and gets you to your goal.

I would like to write about two main things, the right mindset and the right program. Ie , Blueprint and Procedure, the Blueprint would be articles that would condition your mind to enable yourself to make fitness a lifestyle and not just a goal. And the procedure, which would look at ways to best achieve that goal, by understanding the exercises and alternatives that we all have. The gym is not the only place to go to get fit, there a million and one alternatives , but the ones that are important are ones we can enjoy and are beneficial to us, which i would also describe in future articles.

Finally, life is not a tour and it’s the journey rather than destination that  matters I guess. And being fit is just one part of the journey faceted by many aspects of life though its one part which will help other aspects of your life by providing that confidence and energy boost as well as determination to pull through tougher times. And let the journey begin …..

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