Category Archives: Running/Walking

Back on the Exercise Wagon

2006-2014v2
Some of you may not know this but I used to be a very keen runner. At one point, I would run 5km twice daily (before and after work) but various injuries in 2012 derailed me. I picked up running again in 2013 as I was living very near to KLCC . The running track in the park is so nice and beautiful. So for about 6 solid months, I ran very consistently every morning before I go to work.

However, once I started with Firefly and moved back to Subang Jaya, I stopped exercising almost completely — it started with a sprained knee at the start 2014 so I switched to swimming but then inexplicably, I just went lazy and did nothing and put on a lot of weight which continued all the way up to about 3 weeks ago. Can you see how round my face is in the 2014 pic?

I had coffee with Carrie just before I started working at the new place; she was so horrified when she saw me that she loaned me her physical trainer (PT) and forced me to go to her gym so that she could whip my ass into shape.

Due to my prolonged knee injury, lots of the exercise that I do for the last 3 weeks  focuses on knee rehab to strengthen muscles followed by yoga stretches and this week, we will be introducing free weights and a 1-mile Walk Challenge to build up my fitness.

It will be a long hard road to get back to my June 2013 form (age is a factor and I eat cake a lot now that I live next door to Empire!), but I am quite sick of being sick and tired all the time so I am posting this pic here as inspiration to get me back on the treadmill. Let’s see if by the end of the year I am able to shed some weight and get a little fitter than I am today that I can (finally) take the 3-mile Walk Challenge and finish it below 45 minutes.

Wish me luck!

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My Running Thing: Wk1/2014 Starting All Over Again (Part 5)

There are 2 reasons why I decided to move from the heart of the city to this modern little suburb at the corner of Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam. One, I wanted to be closer to work; and two, I wanted to be able to run again.

I don’t want to do a recap of 2013. Suffice to say, if I could, I would wipe out 2012 & 2013 from my running diary and forget they ever existed. My right knee is still wobbly – I know I need to get it checked; there is this hardened and bruised spot on my body which is worrying me coz it doesn’t seem to go away – I know I need to get this checked too; and there is the ever-present problem of sleep that I don’t seem to get a grip on.

But, one week at a time.

For Wk 1/2014 I did: conditioning routine 7 3 2 at max speed 6km/hr to get the right knee in rhythm as I don’t want to overstress and injure it further, followed by a little yoga post-run. I am keeping this conditioning routine for Wk 2 as well, and if I can manage it, free weights 2x a week on rest days. Though the running speed is dissatisfying, to say the least, I would like to take slow as my BP has been erratic.

(p/s: I have young onset hypertension and have been advised to limit myself to non-vigorous activities, out of the sun, where possible. If you have any medical condition, please check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine. This is important.)

As always, photo evidence to track my progress.

Wk 1/2014

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Starting and Restarting All Over Again

IA from 2008 - Jul 2013

IA from 2008 – Jul 2013

I am one of those people who find it difficult to maintain an exercise routine. My body wants it; I can look at a photo of kids playing in the park and I’d be overcome by this overwhelming desire to put on my trainers and go for a run. But this desire is no match for my inertia. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. That’s me, in a sentence.

While I am careful enough not to let myself slide to my pre-2009 (deliriously oblivious) fat years, today I am far from the fighting-fit shape of 2010-2011.

There is no excuses really. Saying I have no time is bullsh!t. Back then I was probably even busier than I am now. Things were complicated not just at work, but at home too. Yet there was no such thing as “no time”. I’d wake up a little earlier, or suit up immediately after maghrib. If I was too tired, I’d walk. If it was raining, I’d pound the treadmill. If it was a long day, I’d yoga in front of the telly.

Just so you know, I am actually 3 kg heavier now than I was in 2008. How come I looked so much bigger then? Because muscle is heavier than fat. I am a lot fitter today than I was 5 years ago, but I am definitely not in the best shape that I could be. I didn’t lose a single ounce this Ramadhan because I didn’t exercise even once. A “long vacation” like this makes you lose definition and your “youthfulness”; it is immediately visible as you can see from the pics. I am not youth-obsessed. But I am unhappy with my sedentary lifestyle and I am unhappy with feeling tired and un-fit. I want to be and to stay healthy and strong.

To re-purpose a quote: the best time to start was 20 years ago. The next best time to start is now.

For inspiration, this was how I looked like in 2011. This was merely 24 months ago. I know I can get there again. The body is designed to bounce back and get better if you put in the effort. I should know, I have been there.

Here’s hoping. Amin.

IA, June 2011, right before the StandChart KL Marathon that year.

IA, June 2011, right before the StandChart KL Marathon that year.

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Well Hello There, KLCC Park.

Soon, this will be my main running route. KGSAAS has been great and a lot of fun, but it’s KLCC Park’s turn to bat.

I am super chuffed!

Image

 

Photo (c) KLCC Convention Centre

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Running Retrospective 2010-2012

Running2010-2012

I started running in earnest in June 2010 after a health scare that made me reliant on drugs for a while. Back then the aim was to bring down my blood pressure and tire me out so that I could have some decent sleep at night. My doctor told me I could either try to get healthier, or stay on drugs for the rest of my life. When faced with such choices, it was an easy decision to make.

I chose running because it was the easiest thing I could start with. I didn’t need any fancy equipment and I could start at whatever level I was comfortable with. I knew I was a solitary runner from the very beginning; though I enjoy running with friends, solo runs are particularly cathartic as I get to talk to myself and sort things out in my head. On days when I didn’t feel like sifting through my problems, I just listened to music and let my mind wandered off on its own.

The fact that I HAD TO run made me very disciplined about it – I did it every day, starting with running nonstop 7mins at a time at very slow speed til I was able to run for an hour at 12km/h consistently.

Back then I ticked all the boxes for beginner runner injuries – black toes, blisters, cramps, exhaustion and worst of all, excessive carb cravings that made me ate 12 cupcakes at a time.  I invented a lot of rules for myself like no dessert or coffee unless someone else is buying, no canned or frozen foods, no reading or playing video games or working in bed.

It was hard but the physical results were immediate. My blood pressure normalized and became steady, I sleep better at night, and after 3 months my doctor decided I have shown enough improvement that I could be off the pills. (side note: I still see my GP once every quarter for tune-ups. If like me, you too have a medical condition, please consult your GP before starting any exercise or diet routine).

2011 was a good year, I was running consistently, logging at least 25km a week. I learned to temper my pace so that it was more sustainable, joined running clubs and ran in races; and I developed a cereal/oatmeal obsession that got me down 2 dress sizes. But around September, after I moved in with family, laziness set in with a vengeance, so did excessive carb intake that saw me put on 12kg in the span of 3 months!

In January 2012, I’ve accumulated enough guilt and started to run again. Unfortunately, the body was not what it used to be – I sprained my right knee 3 times within weeks of each other and rendered me useless for months after that and I started baking lot, which meant I ate a lot of cakes too.

It was only in end-August ie right after Hari Raya that I was able to start exercising again, walking this time, as running was out of the question. It was frustrating and time consuming with very little result to show for, but after week 4 I began to enjoy it more and more. Since then I have been alternating walking and running rather consistently, though I did have a 1-month relapse in Nov due to heavy travelling.

Though 2 years is a short span of time, the physical difference is enormous. Age does catch up on you. I notice that my body  recovers slower and it is a lot less resilient than before. It takes longer to bounce back into form after every relapse too, so it can be frustrating to see the same number popping up on the weight scale despite months of exercise and portion control. I could do it longer and take on a more rigorous routine, but “things” seems to fall apart – knees crumble, joints stiffen, excess weight remains unmoved – almost everything seems harder and requires more effort just so that I can get back to my baseline (for me that would be running 5km nonstop under 40mins).

I know for a fact that for me exercising is a daily struggle. Food is another battle, sleep the third one. I still carry about 3-4kg excess weight that I need to get rid of, and the knee still hurts when I overdo it. But I hope in 2013 my relapses will become fewer and shorter. It will take a lot of work and threats and persuasion, but I have been doing this for 2 years now and I think it is about time I buck up and get rid of all my tired, old excuses.

So my resolutions for 2013 will be the same as the one I had in 2012 and 2011: I wish to get fitter and healthier, and I hope to work on my attitude and behaviours so that I can become a nicer person too (no grumpy old lady tag for me, thank you).

Happy 2013 everyone. Live, love, learn, LEAP!

p/s: In case you think running is no big deal, below is my before and after pic. The left one was taken in 2005 when I was starting to pile on the pounds; this wasn’t even me at my heaviest! The right one was taken 2 weeks ago; apart from correcting the hue and saturation of the pic, I did not doctor it in any other way. This is not me at my optimum weight either, I still have about 4kg to go before I am comfortably in the good BMI range. But the whole point of this composite is that running works to help improve my health, and I got the pictures to prove it :)

before_and_after_2005vs2012

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Working Out During Ramadhan

I have written about working out or exercising during Ramadhan before (see here). This blogpost is a rehash of the original one; since then I have discovered HIIT and injured my knee so I can no longer run.

IMPORTANT: The content of this blogpost is my own opinion gleaned from research and personal experience. It is for information purposes only. Please consult your doctor before starting any exercise, diet or nutritional supplement program.

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Running (c) http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Karl92

FIVE MAJOR QUESTIONS ABOUT WORKING OUT OR EXERCISING DURING RAMADHAN (FASTING MONTH)

1. WHAT IS THE BEST EXERCISE DURING RAMADHAN?

  • It should be anything light and moderate and one that can be maintained consistently and safely. Walking, riding a bike or using the treadmill at a moderate speed (4-5km/h if you are at novice level) 30mins each time x 3 times a week is sufficient to maintain fitness level. If your goal is to lose weight, you should combine exercise with portion control – meaning, you need to watch your calories. I do not cover calorie counting in this article but you can find good resources on the internet, let google do the walking.
  • Invest in a pedometer, a basic one from Daiso costs a mere RM5 (battery included). A half hour walk up and down a shopping mall while window shopping will easily net you 5,000 steps (it is recommended to take 10,000 steps/day). A pedometer helps take the guessing out of the equation.
  • If HIIT is your poison (it is mine), the best option is to dial down the intensity, or decrease the duration. HIIT is high intensity and tires you right out, but the good thing about HIIT is that it can be as little as 4min or as long as 40mins each time.
  • You can follow the TABATA protocol (Tabata is basically a HIIT protocol condensed neatly into a 4min burst): 4min TABATA = (20secs intense + 10secs rest) x 8 rounds.

Here are some TABATA ideas (SourceThe 4-minute Miracle Workout):

  • ON THE BIKE: Sprint with high resistance for 20 seconds, then recover with leg speed as slow as possible for 10 seconds. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • ON THE TREADMILL: Sprint as fast as possible for 20 seconds, then recover by walking or standing still for 20 seconds. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • WITHOUT EQUIPMENT: “All-out” efforts of jumping jacks, jumping rope, high-knee jogging in place—any activity that gets your heart rate up will work for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of total rest. You can stick to four full minutes of one move OR alternative between a few. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing—as long as you are pushing yourself to your highest possible intensity. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • OUTDOORS: Run or sprint (on a flat or up a hill) for 20 seconds, then recover by coming to a complete stop. Repeat for a total of four minutes.

Our body goes through recalibration and rehabilitation process as we fast; so exercise every other day – meaning, give yourself a day’s rest each time to help your body recover.

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2. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO EXERCISE?

Technically the best time to exercise is when your body temperature is at its warmest i.e. between 4-6pm. During Ramadhan, this can be a challenge especially if you do not re-hydrate yourself sufficiently the night before. But exercise can be done at any time really, what you need to do is to try a few different ones and then choose the one that works for you best.

The choices are:

(i) BEFORE SAHUR – 4-5am

  • Sahur ends when the call to Subuh (dawn) prayer is made; if you are in Malaysia you can check the daily time at e-solat. To avoid confusion: Imsak is the “reminder time”, typically allotted for 10mins before Subuh which serves as a reminder that Subuh is approaching and one should finish eating as soon as possible. If you are still eating during Imsak, but stop as soon as the call to Subuh prayer is made, your fast is still valid.
  • If you can wake up at 4.30am and exercise for 30mins, rest for a bit and then have your Sahur after that, then this is your best option. You can go back to sleep after Subuh prayers – though I believe this is not recommended as you’ve just had a meal so the sleep could undo all the hard work you’ve put in the hour before.
  • For the last 10 years, I prefer to sleep through Sahur as I have to get up really early to go to work. If I do wake up, it is usually just to get a drink or two.  But as I am on flexi-time this year, I want to try to do my workout before Sahur and see if it is a better option for me than the evening session. I would schedule all my HIITs at this time.

(ii) WITHIN 2-HOURS BEFORE BREAKING FAST – 5pm-7pm

  • There are conflicting views on this: some say that you risk dehydration and muscle damage, others say that with the lack of glycogen the body will start to burn stored fat thus you are actually hydrated during the duration of the exercise and you burn fat faster (provided you keep the exercise light and within the aerobics zone i.e. 50 to 65 percent VO2 max).
  • My personal rule of thumb is: if I re-hydrate enough the night before (by drinking a min of 2L of fluids), I am not afraid of risking a little exercise between 6.30-7.15pm. My routine would be a light warm-up, followed by 20-25mins brisk walking and ended with yoga stretches. You can minimize thirst by working out indoors and wear light, loose clothing. I walk regularly in the morning and I don’t find myself panting for water afterwards so I believe I should not have any problems doing so before breaking fast either.

(iii) 2-HOURS AFTER THE BREAKING OF FAST – 9.30pm-10.30pm

  • If you are a gym junkie/bunny, this is the best time to hit it. Allow yourself 30mins – 2 hours  after you have your meal to avoid cramps or indigestion or any of those unpleasant side effects. The bigger the meal, the longer you should wait.
  • I would suggest you break your fast with a light meal like soup, whole-grains (hello cereal and oatmeal), fruits and nuts; and easily-digested protein like eggs, fish, soy-based food, milk (incl. soy milk) and yogurt. This way you only need to wait about half hour before you can commence exercising. Leave the heavy stuff like rice with rendang and murtabak ayam  post-exercise. I know it is easier said than done so I am going to leave it at that.
  • If going to the gym is out of the question since your gym closes at 9pm and you do not have any equipment at home, perhaps you can invest in getting a jump rope or an aerobics DVD (or be a cheapie like me and just download videos from youtube). A set of dumbbells or kettle bell is also a good investment; you can check various videos on youtube on how you can achieve gym-level satisfaction at home without any of the standard equipment. Additionally, if you like HIIT, this should be the time my friend.
  • Without meaning to be religious or anything, Tarawih prayers are actually a great form of exercise. Praying movements are similar to gentle yoga poses (if you didn’t know that already) and the repetitions, be it 8, 12 or 20 raka’h means you will break into a little sweat.

Anyway, the golden rule is you should choose whatever that works best and can be maintained consistently.

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Ramadhan Spread (c) http://discoverlemeridien.com

3. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO BREAK THE FAST?

  • Break it gradually; meaning, don’t wolf everything down at one seating. Start with drinks and fruits, followed by soup and easily-digested proteins (see above). Then, take a a 10min break (good time to perform Maghrib prayers and catch a little TV) before you go on to the main meal. This method will allow the body to “wake up” and help to curb any over-eating tendencies.
  • There are conflicting views over whether you should or should not drink right after or while you are eating. If we go by the science, there is sufficient research data that suggests drinking during or right after meal does not affect or dilute your digestive enzymes (Source: Mayo Clinic). However, some people may experience better digestion by abstaining from drinking while having their meals.
  • Personally I am the kind who drinks as I eat and I drink about 2 glasses each time. It helps with satiety so I don’t overeat; plus I just really really like drinking water.
  • If you have doubts and still want to go with no-drinks-with-meals rule, go ahead. I believe in moderation rather than totally abstaining i.e. during the meal, take small sips and if you can, choose plain water over sugared drinks.
  • No matter which way you swing, aim to drink 2L of water/fluid every day. Break that down into a glass of water every half hour – so by the time you go to bed at midnight you would have been sufficiently hydrated.

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4. HOW DO I LOSE WEIGHT DURING RAMADHAN?

  • The basics of losing weight is the same for all months, for all body types,   for all ages: eat balanced meals, manage portions, manage stress and get enough sleep, and burn more calories that you consume (i.e. exercise). The biggest challenge for Ramadhan is not the fasting part but the binge eating that happens during breaking of the fast. I, too, am guilty of this.
  • A safe weight loss target is -500g a week. You can achieve that by cutting out about 500 Calories from your daily diet, combined with exercise. You can use the Calorie Calculator here to see how much you need to eat and how much you need to cut out to reach your ideal weight loss target each week. For  my weight and height, I need to eat 2000 calories a day; and to lose -500g a week I need to cut out 500 Calories from my diet. Here are some articles with tips on how to do it:
  • Do note that eating less than 1200 calories a day may be detrimental to your optimum health; and anything with less than 1000 calories a day is dangerous without doctor’s supervision.
  • I don’t cover diet and nutritional supplement extensively in this post, so I would like to recommend the following resources for you to check out:
    1. Dailyspark
    2. Women’s Health
    3. Fitday (an online diet and weight loss journal)

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5. HOW MUCH EXERCISE IS ENOUGH?

  • It is enough when your body tells you it is enough. Apart from minimizing risk of injury, knowing your limits help you set new fitness goals as you get stronger and more flexible. The recommended time i.e 30mins is merely a recommendation. If at any time you are at a point of exhaustion, stop.
  • The rule of the thumb is to pay attention to your body: if your breathing becomes fast and erratic, you are seeing spots or your sight becomes blurry, you are feeling dizzy or lightheaded, you are vomitting or feel like doing so – STOP IMMEDIATELY. Sit down, put your head between your knees; or lie flat on the ground with feet elevated. Then, if it is possible, re-hydrate with sugared or sports drinks. If this happens while you are fasting, then continue resting til you feel strong enough to get up. Do not attempt to resume exercise. I always find a cool shower can quickly wash away any fatigue and exhaustion – after that just chill out on the sofa and wait for the breaking of fast to arrive.

My goal this Ramadhan is to maintain form and fitness level. Admittedly I have been skipping exercise frequently in the past month and I welcome the coming of Ramadhan to start to a new exercise cycle. In the next few days leading up to Ramadhan I intend to test myself to establish a base of my limits so that I know what would be a safe place and intensity to start.

Selamat Menyambut Ramadhan Al-Mubarak to all!

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My Running Thing Cycle 4-II Week 6: To The Gym We Go!

Yes, we did it! We joined Kilos Fitness Centre. the gym in Concorde Hotel. Shah Alam. More about it in the Exercise section below.

There isn’t much difference between Week 5 and 6. I walked a lot in lieu of running, and I considerably toned down the body weight exercises because my right knee could not handle the strain. I struggled to do even the simplest stretching exercises so walking is the only thing that I dare to risk. Once I am a bit familiar with the machines in Kilos, I intend to lift weights instead. We’ll see how it goes.

Updates for Week 6:

GEAR

  • Gym Bags Galore. We went to Tangs, Empire Shopping Gallery today and went buck-shit crazy buying bags as they were in sale. The total damage:
    • 3 Crocodile gym bags in varying sizes
    • 2 Alain Delon knapsacks
    • 1 Arrows messenger bag (which we returned coz we didn’t really need it)
  • As everything was discounted between 50-70%. the total damage was only RM210.
  • New on my wishlist are:
    •  A windbreaker to ward off the cold for my 6.30am walks. I have one that is about 5 years old, it will reach its maximum usefulness soon as I wash it every couple of days. I also use it to warm up at the gym, I am one of those people who could not stand the cold or air-conditioning.
    • A heart rate monitor cum digital wristwatch. I don’t really need it now that I go to the gym, but it is a nice-to-have.
  • We’ve managed to sell the Treo Treadmill so that is good. I’ve also put the Daiso hanging earphones to the test a couple of times. The verdict – the sound quality is nothing to be excited about (it’s RM5, so I am not complaining) but yes it stays in place even when I am sweating buckets so I am very happy with that.
  • I have decided against getting a separate MP3 player, at least at the time being. It is much easier to just carry around one gadget, in this case it’s my Sony Ericsson TxtPro phone and use it as a phone, camera, stopwatch and music player. While its memory bank is small and I can only save about 10-12 songs in it, it is adequate for an hour’s worth of workout so all is good.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

  • Cutting Down Carbs Pt II. My sister bought 4 of those small Japanese-style bowls that they use to serve miso soup. I find these bowls to be excellent measurement device to control the rice portion that I eat. As I eat a lot of rice (twice a day on most days),  the temptation to have seconds is great especially since I am one of those who hate seeing leftovers in my plate or in the wok/pot.  Now I scoop only enough to fill one bowl and that’s it. No more seconds. I put the rice cooker in perpetual warm mode so that my leftover rice will be warm and fluffy for dinnertime or the next day. I have also cut out bread from my diet. I love having a grilled cheese sandwich as a snack and I use white bread for it. The solution is pretty simple – we just don’t buy bread or cheese anymore so I can’t make grilled cheese sandwiches even if I wanted to.
  • Sugar-Free Zone. A few posts ago, I wrote about wanting to cut out table sugar from my diet. I am happy to report that I have managed to cut down most of my table sugars – I do allow myself the occasional sugared  drinks like teh o’ ais and fruit juices or a sip or two of soda drinks when we eat out. I don’t use sugar substitutes either, mostly I just stick to water or coffee. I can’t give up milk though. I love my coffee strong, but I love it with milk. I do make it a point to buy low-fat milk and to ask for the skinny version when I buy my coffee at coffee bars but I am not religious about it. It’s fine, milk is a source if protein and calcium; even if I consume whole milk all the time I don’t think it affect my weight all that much.
  • I have also given up kicap (catsup or light soy sauce), not totally though coz I still use it in lieu of salt but I don’t take kicap as much as I used to. Maybe someday my tastebuds will adjust and will accept complete absence of salt or kicap in my food, but not today. Small steps.

EXERCISE

  • Elliptical, go! At the gym, my torture of choice is the elliptical (cross-trainers). I use it to do my basic HIIT: 10secs intense x 50secs regular x 20 reps. Once my body can take more punishment, I will do the 30secs intense x 270secs x 12 reps. I cooldown using the step, followed by  a little freeweights and then stretches to finish things up. It takes about 45 minutes to complete the routine. I don’t remember seeing yoga mats at the aerobics studio so will bring my own so that I can do my yoga stretches too. The weight machines look very tempting, I am going to give myself a few weeks at the gym before I get the trainers to assist me in using them.
  • Walking is the new Running. We intend to go to the gym 3x a week. On days that we don’t go, I wake up early to go for a walk. I use the same route that I use for running, it is about 3.2km in distance. I guess you can’t call it power or brisk walking as I vary my pace depending on the state of my knee. It is a bit faster than regular walking but definitely not challenging enough for the heart as I was able to sing as I do so. The solution is to walk faster or longer or use a different route that leads to the National Library as the slope there is steeper. I miss running but being able to use the elliptical machine makes up for it. I find walking more of a relaxation exercise, quite enjoyable especially early in the morning. My area is lined with trees – in the morning you can hear crickets, birds chirping etc. But the walk back is torturous as the roads will be full with cars (people getting to work) – exhaust fumes everywhere. But you can’t win them all.

Photo comparison between Week 5 and Week 6 below. I don’t think I will see much physical difference from now til about Week 12 or so but I’ll keep on taking pictures anyway as a matter of record.

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