Sharing nuggets of knowledge and ideas accumulated on health, strength and fitness based experiences. While here, feel free to hit the comments section and share your invaluable feedback about the blog's betterment. Have fun.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Universe Is Conspiring Against You

I can't call myself a Shahrukh Khan fan by any chance(Here, I just offended a very big bunch of female friends of mine). However. being a movie buff, I can't deny the Pulsar of emotions which got sent across when he said the following, a la 'Om Shanti Om'

The dialogue that became the fave go to phrase of flirtations across the streets
Loosely translated, it means, that If we set ourselves to attain something with full vigor, the Universe conspires to make it available for us. While an artistic expression well worth its weight in gold, something worth our notice crossed my mind the other day when I heard this phrase being said by my Old Buddy Ranveer to the good looking office mate of hers in hopes to fetch her to a dinner later in the night and maybe for some fun following it.

Now those of us in pursuit of our fitness and physical transformation goals may very well understand how we continuously live in an ecosystem where we keep seeing things, people and their dogs doing things and making us do stuff which goes right into the face of developing a five-star physique. Even those of us in pursuit of a decent level of health and wellness may often find themselves in a deep rut of tasks, duties and responsibilities that might allow us to do anything but consume that meal we had so meticulously planned to consume during the 4:00 PM work-break in office. Sounds familiar? Then possibly the following list of bombs that get dropped on most of us folks on a daily basis might make you jump from your chair and exclaim in agreement:

1. Driving for hours at length through a devastating traffic jam to the office, elevating your stress levels to a point higher than Burj Khalifa, Dubai

2.  Answering multiple phone calls/texts/whatsapp messages en route office.

3. Hitting the Tata Nano ahead of you in traffic while trying to decide whether you're too close or too far from it. Even worse, getting hit from the back by a Land Cruiser who couldn't figure out whether he was too close or too far from you.

4. Finally reaching that dreaded place you have been having nightmares about the entire night, the office, only to find out that you have forgotten your ID card along with the TV remote last night when you jumped right on the couch turning the TV on on entering the house. WTF, now let's just drag ourselves to the security gate and get a pass made: another 15 minutes wasted(which we shall soon see may prove fatal during the later part of the day).

5. A pile of million emails waiting to crush us under their weight and anxiety. Most of them have been someone somewhere in our office team cursing us for that particular block of code we didn't do according to what's stated.

6. By this time you have mentally estimated the time by which you will be free in the evening so that you can hit the gym to lift some heavy stuff. But wait...oh no.. what did you just miss in the list of emails: a meeting invite by 7:00 PM... GOOD HEAVENS... it should at least take an hour to complete. Ok, so the fight just gets tougher today.

7. It's lunch time and you reach the office cafeteria to select the most physique friendly food option(your spouse and you both probably did not have any time left in the morning to prepare the macro-nutrient planned lunch since he/she had a critical client meeting to organize today) only to find a four item menu consisting of some sandwiches, chhole bhature, paranthas, Biryanis and other similar lard-tastic delicacies. So much for your clean eating intentions. You suck it up and order the least destructive looking one out of them.

8. If your office is like mine, the crux of the work accumulates by the afternoon, the time your body's circadian rhythms are asking for that revered afternoon power nap. Work though has different intentions and you are forced to focus at your peak at a time your CNS is feeling the most grilled from the previous training session in the gym. It's a tug of war between your body's recovery abilities and the ever-increasing pile of office deliverables  in which seemingly, office work tends to somehow always win. After all, it's what we deliver in the office that gives us our paycheck; even though we may set records doing the heaviest deadlifts around in our gym, it may fetch us not merit in the eyes of the Boss, whatsoever.

My face when Boss undermines my 400 Pound deadlift and instead calls me to office on a weekend.
9. Oh, and did I just mention all this time you will be seated in continuous lumbar and cervical flexion on your office chair, which may probably stretch to hours on end while you are so fixated to that issue resolution which needs to be delivered before evening. And before we know it, this horse riding on the back of our work has stealthily turned us into a slouched back mess continuously sliding in the trap of dysfunction rendering our immobile joints more and more unready for the strength training session we are so desperately planning to have later.

Prolonged sedentary work tends to place our spines in a compromised position such as the excessive Lumbar flexion shown here

Imagine placing a sheer stress of 100 Kilograms on a spine as deformed as a continuously seated individual's while doing an axially loaded movement such as Barbell Back squats or its likes and you can get an idea how the office lifestyle is making us more and more contraindicated for strength training.

Her squats are relatively easier on her spine since she probably did not spend hours sitting on he office chair

10. It's 9:00 PM and you somehow were able to save your soul from that dreaded meeting where multiple bosses conducted a psychological torture upon you critiquing your hard work(BTW, such practices become inevitable in an office space set up and it get tough to figure out whom to blame for this). Your mind is amidst a constant vendetta where a part of it says you need to rush to the grocery store to buy supplies for the upcoming days and the list of consumables which wify has painstakingly listed and suggested, The other part is still faithful to the idea of hitting the gym. You seem to have become that guy torn between two worlds, only to succumb to the bigger and more important world that you are a part of and will continue to be in for the times to come. Off you rush to the nearest departmental store/mall for doing the remaining chores of the day. Off goes your physique enhancement plans  out of the window. Another day wasted.

What's more frightening is how the effect of missed training and misplaced clean eating days accumulate and turn into an avalanche of consistent unfit lifestyle and before we know it, we end up being slaves to our altered lifestyles and one fine morning wake up to realize how out of shape we have grown all this while. My, what went wrong.. How the hell am I going to reverse all this shit now? All this months of dysfunction?

And by the way, we aren't yet even talking about the amount of travel, flying, documenting, meetings, late night working, inconvenient shifts, prolonged telephone calls, war room dramas, standing in rows to get a lackluster meal, pulling our hair apart during an impossible traffic jam on the way back home and practically almost majority of what we are doing almost on a daiy basis nowadays. Which one of these do you feel looks conducive to helping you improve your lifts and performance in the gym? Where can you possibly fit a single possible activity that helps groove your target of a visible six pack? Did I hear you say...

"My Goodness.. I'm So Scared.. Please tell me there's a way out. Please...."

Okay so fortunately for us all dragging our as**s through office chores everyday and going through lifestyle changes that are so contradictory to our fitness ambitions, there IS a way out. Though this asserts the importance of proactively keeping our fitness pursuit alive in the background during whatever we are really ding throughout the day, the situation dies demand for some active steps to be immediately taken to reverse all teh damage that is being constantly done to our bodies and mind everyday.

Here's a very concise list of what can be done everyday and made a habit:

1. Apply the 20-20 principle I learnt  several moons ago. Every 20 minutes, get up form your chair and stand, walk and elongate your spine for at least 20 seconds. You may even make it even longer by taking a break altogether. Frequent breaks from work have been time and again shown to improve your focus, attention and productivity at the work at hand. Definiely reap its benefits.
2. Plan your weeks' groceries ahead. Weekly planning as compared to daily can make available unbelievable time at your disposal during the work week which can very viably be utilized for a 45 minute gym session. What's more, you can even plan your own designed meal using the ingredients you wish rather than cutting the corners later on in absence of time.
3. Become a morning guy. I was committing the same mistake for several months after starting consulting for my recent firm. The distance of my office from home made me think that training in the evenings in between work or after it might actually be a sane idea. Well, EPIC FAIL ensued as all my plans ultimately ended up sabotaged and I had to get involved in work with multiple teams sitting across different locations. Until one day, one colleague suggested me with these golden words:
"Why don't you start training in the gym in the morning"
And the rest is history. Training in the morning takes it out of the way for the rest of the day and we can fearlessly storm through all the work. A word to the wise though: Morning sessions require more attentive planning and preparation beforehand which may require you to pack your bags and meals before you sleep at night. A small detail though which can help you with a million dollar convenience.

4. Start using the office gym: I am very lucky to be working in an office which has a state of the art gym with access to any amount of iron I can fantasize about. If your office too does have one, wait no further in getting enrolled for it and save the hours of traveling to some other gym. In alternative scenarios, choose the gyms closest to your office so you can still save a good dividend on the driving. You may even end up saving considerable fuel and logistics cost.

5. Start hydrating more and more at work. Don't let the long duration office call dehydrate you. Keep going over to the water cooler and consuming water. Apart from the mobility which results from frequently walking, hydrating more results in tremendous improvements in the quality of your training sessions. Your appearance improves and your health experiences a boatload of wellness benefits. Sound like a great deal to me. Keep reminding yourselves of the water breaks.

Don't miss on this free of cost bounty provided by mom nature.
 6. Start doing work in chunks: Rather than utilizing the all-in-one-go mindset, shift to a installment-based push approach where you dedicate a quota of time to a particular deliverable before switching your attention and resources to the second one, before doing that to their third one, before eventually revisiting the first one.
This modus operandi serves well in cases where a theme arises when you are being swarmed by workload coming from multiple bosses. Such a work scheme may also enable you to re-articulate your mind without getting too hooked on to an activity. While some individuals may have reservations about multitasking, a parallel approach like this will still do justice to multiple tasks which are having an inhuman toll on your management capabilities and may eventually help you end your work day on time, in more ideal conditions. Definitely worth a try this Monday.

7. Keep Hitting the refresh switch. Take mini-sabbaticals whenever possible. That adage that you are not your work should be well adhered to when you find yourselves neck deep in work only to realize that you are in a fatal pedestal in your career where the minds is simply unable to free itself for any kind of decision making. Taking a mini break ranging from a fortnight to a month may help you reset your mind and body and help you do some much needed soul searching about things that my be going wrong with the current set up. Often, such breaks may not even involve you having any form of strenuous physical exercise and may still deliver benefits by the amount of tranquility it may render to your thoughts. You may return invigorated and hit the work hard.

8. Go for a walk around the campus especially when you are required to stay late nights in the office for a particular deployment.. Office spaces might often appear as an altogether different and more calm and enjoyable place during the serene night hours with lesser people and more greens to company you, especially if you work in an office as lush and green in its surroundings as mine:

Dude got a nice office

9. Meditate: Now, you do not need to get transformed into a Buddhist zen when it comes to integrating some meditation time into your schedule. Start simple by practicing easy five minutes resets employing fundamental breathing techniques. Here's a bunch of cool takeaways from Greatist

If The Universe is conspiring, develop your own counter-assault plan and hit it out with full throttle

Eventually, the world keeps changing and even the most dedicated and driven fitness enthusiasts having a job may face serious havoc confronting them and standing between them and their coveted body. While this list isn't complete, it does attempt to draw the reader's attention towards how the world around us is no longer the one which was conducive to help us reach a better state of health and wellness, in fact it might just be the very contrary. The world is turning into a very convenient place which is turning every individual succumbing to the idea into a couch potato or chronically deactivated one. Thankfully the power to reverse these effects lies within our own minds and bodies. The difference lies only in mindfully making a choice and sticking to the cards, no matter what.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Hey Man.. Can you gimme some tips?

I recently moved into a new office, made a bunch of awesome new friends and had a great time high-fiving in between intense bouts of work(or pretending to do so). It's always a great idea to keep adding to the list of people you mutually know, in order to just mi up things a bit and bring some new spice into life whenever in doubt.

Anyway, in between the shenanigans, a repetitive trend kept raising its head again and again. Every now and then, one of the boys over at my team's bay would come up and embed the following question among other things:

"I was wondering if you can give me some ideas about making a good physique/body?"

Now a couple of awkward gestures(and moments of mental self-praises)later, I was faced with the challenge of summarizing everything that can be done to improve one's physical a 30 second conversation. It's a busy office and people generally hardly get time off work to talk. The process is spontaneous. A couple of more folks join in and questions keep raining:

"I just need my Bicep-vein to pop up"

"I only need this pinch of tummy to vanish"

"Oh, this part of my shoulder... just get this big somehow."

Now, to be very honest, I am actually honored to listen to such queries by these well-intentioned colleagues of mine((most of them are pretty rocking dudes I learn from almost daily). Having the people around you question you on improving fitness-based qualities makes you feel how much of a badass you are yourself(at least in the eyes of Teena, the nerdy glassed pretty programmer who sits two cubicles away from you.)

Amidst all these thoughts comes the dilemma of how to justifiably answer the very genuine doubts of people who keep asking me for handy pointers about some of the most pressing yet seemingly minute issues faced in following a physical transformation program almost everyday. Here, thus, i try to bring together some of the ideas from my thought-box about how to very satisfactorily answer the continuous onslaught of questions in a manner conducive to the typical lifestyle of the common man:

*Scratches his head thirty two times and begins writing*

The basics: They are BASIC-ER than what many of us feel

A heavy barbell squat with plates overflowing from both ends, only to move the heavy iron about a Kajillionth of a centimeter(ouch, before my sweet leggies move out of their comfortable couches) can do your leg development way less than what a perfectly executed bodyweight squat can. Or if bodyweight squats are too featherweight for you, let's say, the one legged squat variations.

This is not to say that heavy weight training is not the best way to get strong and in shape fast for both men and women. The point being driven home here is to understand the importance of basic movements(The Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat and Loaded Carries, as Coach Dan John might call it) and start mastering the very primitive, often unloaded movements before moving on to adding any weight to it. The path may be longer than what most of us feel, but very well delivering in terms of the fitness based values it develops in the grand scheme of things.

It isn't so much in the days; It's in the years

I've fallen to that trap too for years. All through my years of beginning in the Iron game, much of my vision(if I did have any) was centered around NOW, compared to years from now. Fast forward today, I can see I wasn't alone in thinking so. As much as the fortnight long gym membership of several members of the commercial gyms lining the country might convey, we have lost touch of the bigger picture with time.

Ironically, it is actually impossible to understand the merit of what years of sustained good(not necessarily hard) training can achieve compared to a few weeks of eventually ending hard training.

It took a very long time, consisting of several thought changing moments to understand that progress may not always be visible from session to session on a daily basis, and that's still a good thing. I remember myself lifting the same amount of weight on my Squat week after week after week, only to finally one day, 'feel it easy' enough to put another Nickel(a cool way of saying, a 5 pound plate) on either side. Now we all do have our rates of progress but sooner or later we all hit across such strength and performance plateaus where a perseverance strategy like this is the only way out. The strategy can be applied to any big movement: Deadlifts (especially), Bench Press, Military Presses, Pull Ups etc. It's a relatively longer process than what many of us believe and the most nagging part is that looking from an external lens, many of us new to lifting may never even be able to realize the amount of time it requires. Pick up an activity and keep performing it, even with sub-optimal progress,for a considerable amount of time. In the long haul, consistency is way more important than intensity.

Gymnasts are known for gaining exceptional physiques merely by years of perfect execution of their sport alone.

 The Design Thinking

Ever wondered how some automobiles appear better than others? This may often have to do with the way the principles of design have been followed and adhered to while drafting a blueprint for the car. Evidently, several artists of the historic ages have been cognizant of the design principles of Balance, Proportion, rhtythm, unity and emphasis while making their masterpieces depicting the human body.

Be it the remarkably beautiful human shapes of Khajuraho or the supremely built statues of Greek Gods, somehow the genius sculptors realized that these epic proportions have prime health and happiness benefits attached to them.

In other words, if you try to follow proportion and balance while developing your body, you may often end up gaining superior health benefits, compared to someone who is biased in developing his or her physical aesthetics. And the number one ignored body part is the one which demands the most amount of mental tolerance and labor: The Legs. Train your legs and you can reap the untapped health and body composition benefits from your training owing to the very high energy requirements of such a taxing workout. Evidences have also proven that training the legs is anabolic in the ways in which it can help put on quality mass on the rest of your body as well. In other words, train your arms, and you may get bigger arms; train your legs and you may get a bigger body.

Hercules definitely knew that a balanced development is a healthy development

Read...But Do Apply

A tonne of reading the cutting edge literature on strength and conditioning may never deliver its benefits to a keyboard warrior never lifting a dumbbell heavier than 7.5 pounds. We all at some point during our training career encounter the tribe of Internet educated, jargon sporting pseudo strongmen overflowing with advices about how to employ an underground exercise they learned which can help bring out the horseshoe of your triceps. Only minutes later, utter humiliation might result when you need to rush to save the poor soul from being crushed under the smith machine bar loaded with ten pounders each side.
Application requires solid effort on our part and many of us may be taken aback sometimes by how much effort following the program we studied last night on the internet requires when actually done following each and every training parameter to the T. This should not mean that reading and staying on top of the latest trends in the science of lifting and strengthening isn't important. While we should all strive towards enriching our knowledge and understanding of the game, learning from the veterans of this sport, applying all the acquired knowledge on the gym floor, the lifting platform or the exercise mat may only enhance our value as a champion and sometimes give us eye-opening lessons and reality checks. Taking a page out of my own experiences with lifting, I must say, I have learned more from the later years where I thrived towards improving my techniques, testing my form and constantly aimed at taking calculated risks in the weights I lifted. The invaluable feedback I collected from my training logs(more on this shortly) was as I discovered the most useful form of education I could ever get towards getting stronger and becoming a better lifter.

Log your successes(and failures)

Following the previous point, writing and maintaining a training journal can be a real tedious task. In between enigmas of sweaty rounds of heavy squatting, the last thing your recovering mind would love to do is to record the amount of weight you just lifted and turn into a mini-philosopher while trying to write down how you felt doing those last two reps.

But like all things requiring an Iron-hard will power, writing training journals too isn't without its share of a lifetime of benefits. For one, it tells you the exact state in which your training was at a particular time of your lifting career. Lifting weights is a progressive endeavor, requiring at all points whether you are progressing in a particular performance area or not. Additionally, writing a log is one of the easiest ways to remember hard to recollect training numbers(try to recollect what weight you lifted on the Romanian Deadlifts on February 17, 2015.. you get it, right?)
Actual Log Entry from a training session I did. Of course I am awarded for the worst hand writing in the world.
Throughout the gyms I have been training in, I am (in)famous as the guy with the diary in his hands. That's what my fellow lifters call me looking at the immaculate logging I do throughout my training sessions. Unfortunately, this also tells how maintaining a journal is not a very widespread practice in the gyms throughout the country. Incorporate this small change in your lifestyle and you may never be dissatisfied by the amount of progress you start making.

Well, pheww.... that was really exhausting, trying to write about the top five improvement areas I would love everyone to include in their training vision. I can only imagine how hard would it have been to explain this to my office buddy in about 3 minutes. The insights behind these ideas spring from countless failures and epic mistakes I have been doing throughout a span of a decade learning about lifting. As always, it's still incomplete without the Golden feedback of yours. So hit the comments section and get your thoughts pouring out on the subject. I will go and get back to work now at my desk.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

That Fit Body: A journey and not a destination!

“Lights, Roll Camera…. ACTION!
And here we roll on with the very first fitness blog post of my life.
Feels like that inauguration moment with all its chills and thrills. Actually, it feels more like this:

Blog material
I finally did it!

Well, having set the stage of freshness here, here’s something I really wanted to cover upon when it came to improving my own self as well as the people I love to help improving on a consistent basis. And I would like to start with a random female friend of mine to materialize how sinister the plot usually gets. Let’s just call her Monica.

Now Monica here has a peculiar pursuit. She has her wedding day planned in about two months from now and she feels she isn’t in the best shape of her life. Actually she wants to reach juuuust there: The RIGHT body when she wears the wedding dress and stands on stage before the camera with the love of her life. Brilliant target I must say. And after a few idea-exchanges, discussions, paper drawings, and the occasional me throwing around some sciency jargon, we actually end up with an exercise program, combined with basic nutrition best practices for the comign months to get Monica to her best fit and svelte form ever.
Fast forward two weeks and she actually DID IT. On the reception day, we see her as the most transformed bride ever and everyone is applauding her intense effort and diligence put in during the two months. Inluding me. We hi-Five each other, have some drinks and food and call it a day.
And here’s where the story actually begins:
Recently, about 8 months from that day, we bump into each other shopping in a mall and I’m somewhat taken aback by looking at her. Monica has not a single ounce of the good changes in her now and has lost the lean and fit appearance she once so champion-ishly fought and won. The so-out-of-place accumulated pounds of fat aside, I also see that wired strong look lost from both her body and face now. But more horrifying from this observation was the fact that Monica seemed pretty casual and satisfied about her having lost all the hard earned fitness. In her words: “Hey dude, I guess you need to take a chill pill on this exercise stuff for now. Listen, it is all for attraction on THAT SPECIAL DAY. When the day’s over, show’s over, and it’s over. We all have those special moments we need to look good at. Well, for me, it was that reception day. And NOW, I want to live my life. Pamper myself. You should learn to pamper yourself too. So get out of your gym-rat shoes and get a life dude!!!!.”
Unhealthy Junk food woman

Those words are to this day resounding in my head. The fact is these aren’t Monica’s words exclusively. She is not alone when it comes to the countless men and women I keep meeting on a regular basis who’s only intention behind joining a gym or following a diet is to just ‘reach there’ and quit.
“I want to lose this rubber like tummy in two weeks.”
“I want slimmer weeks and all I have is one month man.
“I want to get bigger arms in fifteen days before I go meet that pretty selfie girl from Facebook who hasn’t ever seen me in reality.”
Shit. What do I do… What do I do?
I feel it’s time we start looking at our pursuit to stay fit and in shape as a lifetime endeavor, a journey, rather than a few days’ ordeal. It moves me to see people spending a big part of their paychecks on an yearly membership at gyms only to turn up the first few weeks and never again. Of course, we as fitness professionals should devise better strategies to motivate clients to keep showing up and doing some solid work at our facilities but as a lifetime fitness enthusiast myself, I feel the onus for not falling out of a fit condition lies entirely upon me, more than anyone else.
Additionally, let’s look around at all the people we may consider as our mascots or role models in fitness who got us all started on the exercise and clean eating road. Do you really think they got where they are only by following that six week cure to skinny arms or the eight week belly blaster exercise program or turning up at the gym for 21 days and becoming extinct in their usual daily life. Results like these that we all crave for come from a boring level of determination for years and years. More like personal hygiene. Can we expect to have a sparkling white set of teeth with brushing our teeth only about every other week or so? Well it’s exactly the same with keeping fat off that belly or getting huge muscled legs. They all demand a prolonged effort of determination, long enough before these activities become second nature to us and form a part of our lifestyle. It might not be a bad idea to be recognized by these life-long fit acts and habits when people meet us.

Andreia Brazier never became the goddess she is by doing a mere fifteen day gym membership!
Andreia Brazier never became the goddess she is by doing a mere fifteen day gym membership!
At the dawn of this blog-adventure of mine, the point I would love to really drive home today would be how we should realign our thoughts when we look at getting fit. Let’s not only do it to fulfill a promise we gave to our loved ones to get in shape as a new year resolution. Let us instead learn to ‘grow-older-getting-fitter’. Now, please do not get me wrong here. I am all for short term fitness goals if they are a part of the grand plan altogether. But getting hooked up to a small success and forgetting about the bigger picture, a bigger lifetime goal can be a shortcut to sabotaging all the hard work we have ever done during that short period of time.  Good health is a great companion on a lifetime journey and we may not want to let go of it after a short while. After all, it’s those little efforts we do everyday, that deliver the dreams-come-true results we all want, when combined over a very long period of time.
Finally, I do hope Monica is able to pull herself out of her limited mental inertia and get back on her highway to health and hotness!
What are your thoughts? Keep sharing your ideas on the improvement and overall content as well as what you would like to hear from me here. Until then…