Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Favourite books

They say you are what you eat and what you read.

Reading List
A Dog's Purpose (Bruce Cameron)
A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Housseini)
All The Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
and more on this list...

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Malala)
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption The Boys in the Boat (Laura Hillenbrand)
Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Daniel Brown)
and more on this list...

My favourite books.

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir (Frank McCourt)
The Alchemist (Paulo Coehlo)
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
State of Fear (Michael Crichton)
The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
The Bone Collector (Jeffrey Deaver)
Art of Racing In The Rain (Garth Stein)
Marley & Me (John Grogan)
Sycamore Row (John Grisham)

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (Jared Diamond)
The State of Africa (Martin Meredith)
From Third World to First (Lee Kuan Yew)
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Levitt, Dubner)
Think Like A Freak (Levitt)
Microtrends (Penn)
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Malcolm Gladwell)
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Dan Ariely)

“It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” ― Oscar Wilde

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Growing up with knowledge

Today on the way back to Houston April and I listened to a few top 20 TED talks and were interested in talks by Sir Ken Robinson on the decay of today's education. I am so grateful to have someone who enjoys discussing nerd stuff even if it is unrelated to our field of expertise - geosciences. It was also an eye opening lecture so I highly recommend it.

Right now, I am not ready to fall asleep yet so I feel the urge to reflect on my biographical history of what cultivated my habit craving for the most random "knowledge"!

Reading has always been a favourite past time except for a few phases of life where time didn't allow me to prioritize them. Here I am laying in bed on a Sunday night being happy on receiving new non-fictions to read - Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Woodard.

At the same time, I am feeling a bit sad on a lot of my good books that are sitting in boxes in Bristol and also those rotting away from humidity in Malaysia.

The most memorable birthday present my parents ever gotten me was a children's illustrated encyclopedia when I was 7, and my love for encyclopedias, and now its user-reviewed electronic counterpart Wikipedia, never stopped.

I remember my favourite cd-rom when I was in elementary school being ADAM Interactive Anatomy online. This was on top of playing games that taught me some of the world history - Age of Empire, Rise of the Nations and Time Commando. 

From then I always ask for more encyclopedias and books on human body. I believe I learn best with visuals.

In some evenings during school holidays, I would go to public libraries to read on more non-fiction/reference books which I can never afford, and this habit never stopped when I went to the UK.

After my A-Levels (pre-university), I realize my lack of knowledge in the major part of the world is not Science and thought to myself "What actually makes the world go round and work the way they work today?". So I asked my best friend Vanessa if she could lend me her textbooks on Business studies and Economics. I have not returned them to her yet! Hee.

I did an evening course on Accountings while I was working and then took up a semester on Marine Science in my local university to feed my side interest on marine biology and diving. I also chose to do Creative Writing and Drama as a minor to feed that small part of the English Literature geek which I once had back in high school. I scored really well in them and my creative writing was highly praised that I still kept a hard copy of it back home.

So what exactly did I read? If I rewind the reel of the tape to the past. By 12 I remember reading Astronomy from being in a state quiz competition for it. By 14 I remember reading my first Psychology and Social Psychology college textbooks because of my curiousity on human behaviour. By 16 I remember being quite engrossed in the Merck Veterinary Manual because I was curious on the medical side of canines and wanted to be a veterinarian! Around 16 I remember uncle Benny lending me Daniel Coleman's Emotional Intelligence which made me realize the power of EQ over IQ. By 18 I was inspired by Eckhart Tolle's books and I also remember going back to the homosapiens medicine and carrying around Merck Manual Home Health Handbook to read on the basic systems of our body function when my family and I go out for dinners. I can never forget reading the entire Freakonomics on my Nokia E71 phone by then! How geeky can one be?

I had my fair share of fiction books as a young child which was mostly detective themes. I used to love the idea of solving mysteries and imagining myself being a part of it that me and three other friends created a Detective Club to help our classmates when I was 8! I started with Famous Five, Hardy Boys, and a Malay series of Siri Lima Penyiasat. As I got into fourth grade I started reading Sherlock Holmes and Japanese detective stories in a form of graphic novels (aka manga) such as Hajime Kindaichi series and Detective Conan. Apocalyptic sci-fi like Herbert's Dune and works of Arthur C Clarke also help fuels my crazy imaginations.

In middle school and high school, I wasn't reading as much and if I were it was mostly non-fiction which I mentioned above. After high-school I got interested in legal stories and crime thriller like Jeffrey Deaver and John Grisham. I remember Elaine introducing me to Jeffrey Archer and she got me hooked with political writings and complex plots. 
I got into inspirational/spiritual fiction in my undergraduate by Paulo Coehlo and can never forget how moved I was by The Alchemist.

The last book that I read Sycamore Row by John Grisham which was a serious page turner!

University life and then on
My reading frequency on fiction and on paperbacks got lesser when Wikipedia invented. It had made me more interested in even broader themes like world history, politics, social psychology, finance and behavioral economics.

During my PhD, I learnt a lot more about politics and social studies thanks to my flat mate Terri who has finished her phd in politics recently. I was reading a mixture of behavioral economics (Malcolm Gladwell's, Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Daniel Kahneman's, etc), and also a highly recommended From Third World To The First by Lee Kuan Yew. 

I wish I have the time to just read, research, think, discuss and write. I am very thankful to have April who is more than happy to carry intellectual discussions in these broad issues. What more can I ask for someone whom I want to grow old with??

As of today, the topics I seem to be interested in is quite limitless. However, the question that continues to linger in my head is, how does the world really work, from the broadest point of view? From the most transdisciplinary holistic point of view?

My strategy is to hopefully conclude "life and its worldly cog of machines that runs it" before I leave the face of the Earth. In which, for the last couple of years I have been carefully selective in well-reviewed (preferably scholarly) reads that are worthy of the already limited time that I have. Let's hope that thirst for knowledge continues for the longest of my time.

Scientia Potentia Est (Knowledge is Power).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

WODs of Nov/Dec 2015

I realize that I could put so much time and dedication into working out and badminton because I was bored, alone and needed to kill time in Bristol when I am not doing my phd. Now I feel neither of those - I have April, Gomez and a nice house with that backyard to commit my time to.

And....., when you have your partner who workouts with you and understands your need for sports - now isn't that great? :)

14th Nov Sat
Leg and abs day

16th Nov Mon

17th Nov Tue
Upper posterior chain day

18th Nov Wed
Lower posterior chain day

19th Nov Mon

2nd Dec Wed
Leg day

5th Dec Sat
Leg day

6th Dec Sun
2h Badminton

10th Dec Wed
5 mile walk around Bayou

11th Dec Thur
Bosu day - Legs and abs
n/b: April taught me the usefulness of Bosu to add complexity to normal workout. Quite neat.

Couples Who Sweat Together,
Stay Together

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Getting back to the gym

Things have settled slightly for me so it's back to getting back that 10 physical fitness skills. I have substantially dumb down so far after I came here. No more 3 times weekly of badminton and once a week tennis at Clifton College, that yoga class with Ann and pilates with Andrea on Thursdays and Sundays at Nuffield, and my weightlifting in between and a morning run to Ashton Park once a week. All that is gone.

So how do I rate myself so far in terms of the 10 physical skills?
( ) denotes previous rating from April 2015.

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance: (2.5) 3/10 
  2. Stamina: (5) 3.5/10 
  3. Strength: (4) 3.5/10 
  4. Flexibility: (5) 4/10 
  5. Power: (3) 4/10
  6. Speed: (5) 5/10 
  7. Coordination: (5) 4/10
  8. Agility: (4.5) 4.5/10 
  9. Balance: (4) 3.5/10 
  10. Accuracy: (6) 7/10

It is mostly a slight drop especially on stamina. A lot of the agility, coordination, speed and balance has got to do with lack of racket sports.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Drum log 2015

I bought a proper drum kit (a trap set, not congas!) as a post-internship gift to myself. An instrument I've always wanted to learn (on top of many other instruments like a saxophone and a banjo!).

Background-wise, I am by default a rhythmic guitarist (both electric and acoustic), a self-critical vocalist, a rusty pianist and can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on a violin and on the erhu. I learnt piano from Mrs Janet who is now a director of the music school back home, self taught myself acoustic guitar, electric guitar.

Experience-wise, I started drums using Guitar Hero/Rock Band (don't laugh it works) for about a year and only play the drums, and that is where I learned how to coordinate my limbs.

So to self teach myself drums, I will log songs I attempt to learn and note its progress and my challenges in each song. If I get distracted from writing my PhD, don't be surprised by me analysing my progress on an Excel Spreadsheet like how I do it with my fitness (which I have kind of abandoned the last month due to crazy hectic life events and decisions!) 

...and logging is perfect for this airhead!

Format of log:
[Artist]'s [Song] - [Song coverage], [Difficulty and Stamina Requirement], [Simplification, Challenges]

Collective Soul - All That I Know - Full song, Easy, 100%
The Offspring's Come Out And Play - Full song, Moderate, , 
The Offspring's The Kids Aren't Alright - Full song, Challenging, Main challenge is song tempo
The Killers' Mr Brightside - Full song, Partly challenging unless simplified, Main challenge is getting the hi-hat dynamics/add-ons and maintaining the groove while doing that.

Muse songs

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

WODs log July

July 3rd - 4th
Hiking at Big Bend - Emory Peak, Window Trail, Boquillas Canyon, Hot Springs

July 7th Tuesday
HIIT 45m
Toe tap on medicine ball
Wall tap with air squat
Bear crawl
Sandbell squat shuffle
Prone to V abs with side toe tap

July 8th Wed
Rock climbing 2hours

July 9th Thurs
Run 4 miles

July 11th Saturday
Warm up;
High pulls 20kg x10
Jerk press 20kg x10
Shrugs 30kg x15
Front squat 30kg 35kg x8
Lifting - Olympic clean and jerk 20 25 30kg practice
2 reps pf
KB overhead swing 16kg x21
Single unders x100
Thrusters 20lg x15
GHD sit-up x15

n/b: First time on GHD = abs very sore
First time trying 'explosivity' in clean = traps are super sore

July 16th Thursday
Deadlift day to failure
95lbs 125lbs 135lbs 145lbs x10
155lbs 160lbs 162.5lbs x 8
165lbs x5 (75kg) = 5RM

July 20 Monday
2 mile walk

July 21 Tuesday
Tennis 1h30m

July 22 Thursday
5 minutes AMRAP for each WOD
Thrusters 45 lbs (20kg)
Dead-hang knees to elbow
Clean 25kg (55 lbs)
Lunged battle rope side slams
Russian twist 12 lbs (6kg)
Single skip x150 (and attempt double unders in between)
Bench press 20kg (45 lbs)
Finished with 1 mile run

July 25 Saturday
Dip (asst)
Triceps pulldown
Decline sit-ups
Sun salutations
N/B: was feeling ill so didn't get a good work-out

July 29 Wednesday
5 rounds of:
Front squat x10
Clean x10
Strict Press (until failure then switch to Push Press) x10
Bent-over row x10

Deadlift 95 lbs (43kg) 2x10 115lbs (52kg) 2x10
Roman Chair (or Captain's Chair) Straight Leg Raise 3x10
Cool down with abs obliques slider, dead hangs and wall-handstand holds

My warm-up is your workout.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

WODs log June

June 4th Thurs
Jog at Buff Bayou

June 5th Fri

June 6th
5km run
Two-stepping and dancing

June 7th Sun

June 8th Mom
Rock climbing 3hours Grade 5.8+ to 5.9 for flat vertical and a few negative slope. Completed one Grade 5.10A flat vertical

June 9th Tues
HIIT express 30m
HIIT 50m
Badminton and basketball 30m

June 10th Wednesday
Recovery warm-ups;
Backsquat 20kg 29kg 34kg x8 42.5kg 2x6
Overhead squat 2x8
High pulls 20kg x8
Clean 20kg 2x8
Clean 29kg x6
Front jab x20 each side
Deadlift 42.5kg 51.5kg x10 60.5kg x8

June 13th Saturday
Tennis 1h

June 14th Sunday
Tennis 1h

June 15th

June 17th Wednesday
Rock Climbing 2h

June 18th
Barre Fit

June 20th Saturday
Tennis 1h

June 23
1km run
3 sets of alternate Frontsquat - Push Press - BentOverRow x10 each subset

June 24th Wednesday
Tennis 1.5h

June 30
WOD 5 set of strength (w sandbell) - cardio - abs (weighted)
Push up with sandbell flip - shuffle run 40m - crunches
Clean & jerk (light) - shuffle 40m - V ups
Squat - run 40m - side plank 
Bent over row - side shuffle run 40m - Russian twist
Burpees with sandbell flip - hopping run 40m - Weighted plank

Friday, May 1, 2015

WODs log May

May 1 Friday
2 hrs Badminton

May 2 Saturday
AM: 20 SU, 20 PU, 100SKP (nope not double unders unfortunately lol)

PM: 1 km run
CTW-HS 10" 60s x3
Dead hang from bar 23s x3
Turkish Get-up 12kg Right hand x5 8kg Left hand x5
Front squat 20kg 10x3
Clean and jerk with splits 20kg 10x2
WOD of TABATA 1 set of alternate
KB swings  32
Thrusters 20kg 27
N/B: Body felt weak today, as I only had instant noodle the last 8 hours! Silly >.<

May 3 Sunday
Bodypump 1hr
Body Balance 1hr

May 5 Tuesday
Was travelling for a day to San Diego so did a low intensity hour of double sets of 10 reps to get the body kicking:
Sun salutations, CTW-HS, dumbbell rows, dumbbell deadlifts, box jumps, push-ups, sit-ups, bench, lunges etc

May 6 Wednesday
Crossfit at Invictus San Diego
WOD of
Every 5 min for 30, 6 rounds of;
400m run
20 Russian KB swings 16kg
40 double unders

2 sets of; 
Hawaiian squat 90s/side
Prone plank hold 60s

May 7 Thursday
Local league baseball/Softball co-ed adult tournament. I got dragged into a game (an inning) to replace someone thanks to my partner. I was given the catcher position and had to learn on the go! And also the terminologies. I helped score 3 points and the final score was 14-21. Partner was an amazing support who (also) constantly embarrassed me with "You can do it! Don't forget that one time batting cage practice!"
Quote of the day by le partner: "I learnt more off the field than you did on the field!"

May 10 Sunday
Fast Flow Yoga 1h

May 14 Thursday
Barre-Fit 1h with some shoulders with barbell after

Mayu 16 Saturday
Yoga 1h

May 17 Sunday

May 18 Monday
20m WOD:
2 rounds of
Asst 20kg pull-ups x10
Abs w swiss ball x10 each leg
Shoulders I,T,Y 5lbs to 3lbs x10
Alternate leg hop and squat with bosu ball
2 rounds of
Swiss ball pass x15
Ring Rows x10
5lbs Bicep curls with active hold on other hand x10
Side step with hard resistance bands x10

May 19 Tuesday

May 20 Wednesday
Body Sculpt / Body Pump 1h

May 21 Thursday
Badminton 30mins
Yoga 90mins

May 23 Saturday
Yoga 1h

May 24 Sunday
30mins casual cycling

May 26 Tuesday
HIIT 1h with Sandbell (SB) 15lbs = 7kg
50 thruster + 200m run + 30 weighted sit up
50 overhead slam  + 200m weighted lunge
40 snatches + 200m run + 45 seconds side plank (with upper leg lift) each side
50 alternate body row and Y lift + 200m run + lunge partner toss
50 push-up with SB flipover  +  1 minute weighted plank

Basketball 20min

Weightlifting 30min;
Backsquat 20kg (44lbs)x10; 29kg (64lbs)x8; 43kg (96lbs)x6
Biceps curl 10lbs (4.5kg) 10x2
Triceps two-arm-extension 15lbs (6.8kg) 10x2
Shoulders lateral raise 7.5lbs (3.4kg) 10x2

May 27 Wednesday

May 28
Barre Fit

May 29

Train like a beast, look like a beauty

Thursday, April 23, 2015

WODs log April 4.2

E*numbers in bold means reps completed
*read here to (first) understand my WOD logging and its genesis better

April 19 - Sunday
8.30am for 5 sets TABATA* of
KB swing 12kg 58
Thrusters 20kg 28
Russian twist 3kg 145
Hanging Knees-to-elbow 27
Deadlift 40kg 30
*AMRAP 8 rounds of 20s (10s rest)

10:00 EMOM Backsquat 35kg x5 50
10:00 EMOM Bench 27.5kg x5 (failed to complete at final minute) 47
n/b: inner right knee felt off when walking with speed when bending and straightening

April 20 - Monday 
[Recovery and shoulders]
8kg Turkish get-up x3 on each side (learning for technique)
Chest-to-wall 10" handstand (CTW-HS) hold 60s x4
Strict Press 20kg 8x4
Barbell High Pull 20kg 8x4

April 21 - Tuesday
AM for Clean 20kg 8x3 25kg 8x3 30kg x3 (to fail)
Deadlift 50kg x8 60kg x8 70kg 5x3 75kg x3 (to fail)
Hang from bar 15secs x3 for lower back stretch (or fancy name being"spine decompression") post-deadlift
n/b: grip strength is my main challenge for deadlift - should i spoil my hands with a lifting strap?
PM Backsquat 30kg x5 (warm up) 40kg x8 45kg x8 50kg x5 55kg 3RM (PB)

April 22 - Wednesday
AM 5.5km run
PM monkeying in the park with dip bars, monkey bars and chin up bars

April 23 - Thursday
90mins yoga

April 25 - Saturday (Post-deadline Frenzy!)
Inversions and shoulders: CTW-HS 10" 60s x3; Wall pike to wall plank 5x3
Abs: 6kg Russian Twist 2x50; Toe touches 3x25; Sit-ups 15x3
KB swing 81
Thrusters 20kg 30
Jab and cross (w boxing gloves, sandbag) ~24/round
Roundhouse kick ~12/round
WOD2 of 10:00 EMOM 30kg Frontsquat
3 hours of badminton (60% doubles 40% singles)

April 26 - Sunday
Top rope climbing at RPC
10 routes of 12m grade 4 to 5 and two routes of grade 6a 90% completion (PB)
Note: I feel like after doing weightlifting and compound/functional workouts that my climbs are more coherent and balanced for both upper and lower body which made me feel good, confident and allowed me to climb more.

April 27 - Monday
CXWorx 30mins

April 28 Tuesday
Spinning 45mins
Dead hang 10s x3
Strict press 20kg 8x3
Clean 25kg 30kg x8
Clean and jerk 30kg x8
Deadlift 50 60 70kg x8

April 29 Wednesday
10:00 EMOM Bench 25kg 5x10
10:00 EMOM Asst 19kg Dip 5x10
Snatch 20kg x8 25kg x8
Overhead squat 20kg 10x3
Dead hang 20s x3

April 30 Thursday 
90m yoga
1h badminton

Better sore than sorry.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Personal Trainer - to be or not to be.

Fitness is a recession-resilient industry that doesn’t seem to be affected by the current economic climate. With an increase awareness of eating 'clean' (non-processed food) and getting fit and fab, this booming industry is certainly here to stay for a very long time. This will also be an ideal career path for a lot of young people when everyone is evaluating the worth of being burdened by daunting university tuition fees and not being able to find the degree-worthy jobs the moment their mortarboards kiss the ground.

Last year when the oil prices dropped, I was paranoid and had a faint idea that I need something to fall back on if my job security fails on me. At the same time, it has to be something I enjoy doing. So far, I've always enjoyed and am keen on;
1. reading about the human body since young which nursed my ambition to be a doctor for a good decade of my life!
2. learning about fitness and workouts that I am doing to further understand in detail of why I am doing what I am doing.
3. helping friends with their workouts, getting to know their goals and what they should do to get there and giving biochemistry, physiology, body morphology and musculoskeletal-focus advice (or babbles!).

These thought processes made me contemplate on doing a personal trainer diploma as part time, with hopes to specialize in somewhere along the line of wellbeing, nutrition fitness, strength and conditioning and functional training. If time was on my side, ideally it would be nice to work on the proper fundamentals of coaching, and be certified as a weightlifting coach level 1 (£350) and also in crossfit level 1 along the way. The latter is because I need to fight my lesser preference for metcon and HIIT workouts as compared to strength, at the same time stress more the importance of injury-free forms into crossfit! I am still not sure which one I should start first, but I do know I would love to learn!

But in the meantime, I have a long way to go within the realms of functional fitness and workouts. So I will take a year or two to garner more experience in practicing more and more and more before doing this. That would mean, in specificity, to advance my weightlifting, yoga, pilates and calisthenics, build a balanced overall physically fit physique, while at the same time learning from others and myself. I will be open to be exposed to as many different sports/workout as I can to understand its pros and cons, its provenance and monitor current trend - les mills, crossfit, muay thai/kickboxing etc. Now that will have to be true discipline and diligence on my part.

Today I spoke to Hannah, who is new to the gym I frequent, is a newly qualified personal trainer. She has the same physique as me (but leaner and stronger of course!) and was at the squat rack - so I couldn't resist asking her more about squats. We talked about fitness in general for a while, and is glad to have found someone as passionate in learning as me! Then she recommended me to consider doing the course part-time when I am into the writing stage of my PhD or after I finish them.

In January I inquired City of Bristol College for the course but the fact that I have an international status on my forehead means I have to pay nearly three times more than locals did put me off a lot. Money is still quite tight for me so that is the major setback at the moment. It would be great to save some from my internship for this little project of mine! *notes down*

I am not sure about other cities/countries - but I do know for the fact that within 1 mile of where I live, these are the costs it takes for doing it here;
(I remember checking this a while back and it is slightly cheaper in Singapore and the US)

Fitness Instructing (CYQ Level 2 Intermediate)
City of Bristol College @College Green £360 for 10 weeks (Part time 3 days/week)
but ~£1000 for me (damn that international status!)
Lifetime Training @Clifton Heights £800

Personal Training (CYQ Level 3 Advanced)
City of Bristol College £1420 for 12 weeks
Lifetime Training £2400 for 10 week

Advanced Diploma in Personal Training £3000
Lifetime PTA Global Maxima 3-in-1 (PT Level 3, Advanced and Bridging) £3000

That's all from me for the day.

- D

I am what I learnt

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Metabolism, weight lost and fasting workouts.

    Hamburgers are nice [Five Guys, London]
Expensive workout/fitness programs and fancy diets have led people to believe that they are the best in increasing your metabolic rate, and thus, lose weight. This subsequently convince people to blame any weight gain simply on their 'slow' metabolic rate. So are these all true?

First, let's talk about definitions.

Metabolism is a a simple but important biochemical processes that require energy to keep your organs functioning and your body alive. The minimum amount of energy (aka calories) it requires to carry out these processes is called Resting Metabolic Rate or Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Calories, are simply energy required to maintain the temperature of our body of about ~37°C relative to our surrounding environment. Our body requires that exact temperature to function normally, if the environment the body is exposed to is hotter than itself it will try its best to (equilibrate, and) release heat (via sweat) and vice versa for colder temperatures. And contrary to the popular belief, your metabolism will increase in both colder and warmer weathers to maintain that equilibrium. (I'd go on about the myth of gaining weight during the winter and the exaggerated benefits of "hot yoga" but I will leave that to another post)

So what determines you BMR?
  1. Age: The older you get, the more muscles you lose and the more fat you gain.
  2. Gender: Men generally has higher muscle to fat ratio than women (no matter how hard we try!). Men also has higher bone density which accounts for their greater need of daily calorie intake. Muscles require more energy to sustain itself as compared to fats.
  3. Weight: The heavier you are, the higher your BMR needed to sustain your living body system! Which is the contrary of what people tend to believe that heavier people have slower metabolism. NOT TRUE.
  4. Body types: Leaner bodies have higher BMR than the less leaner ones. Muscular bodies have higher BMR to maintain the muscle masses (and the increased bone density that is needed to carry the weight!), as compared to the less leaner ones. Hence, the need to emphasize on strength training, but I will get to that later.
  5. Certain medical conditions: Cushing's sydrome and hypothyroidism.
  6. Genes: The blame game never gets old when it comes to hereditary traits. It's a minor factor, but still a factor. This area is unfortunately not well studied so we will move on!

It is always easy to blame metabolism on weight gain, but metabolism is our body's natural process and it relies on many mechanisms that regulate it to meet your individual's needs.

The mathematics for metabolism is simple, do not consume more than what your body needs, but at the same time do not under-consume as well. And how do we get an idea of this?

For starters, using the Harris-Benedict equation BMR calculator, I have a BMR of ~1350kcal/day ± 30 (as my weight fluctuates to minus and plus 1 kg). That means if I just sleep all day, I am already burning that much kcalories. Take note that this does not mean I must only eat 1350kcal a day! Take account that our BMR is about 40-70% of my body's daily energy requirements for it to function optimally. The large range of ± 30% depends again on our age and lifestyle. To get a rough gauge, I will multiply accordingly to my current activity levels per week to get my total daily calorie needs. So for my case, 1.70 (very active; 5-7 exercises/sports per week), my total daily calorie (TDC) needs are 2300kcal/day!

For weeks which I totally neglect being active, usually due to travels or deadlines, that computer-screen-staring lifestyle will bring my TDC needs to 1600kcal/day! But of course sitting all day in front of computers does mean I have a higher tendency to snack and stir the inner carnivore in me leading to more likelihood of spoiling myself with it's-so-bad-it's-so-good food (think hamburgers, lamb chops, steaks, kebab! omnomnomnom) =P

a Triple Big King XXL burger I had [Norway]

If you have been sedentary for the week, simply multiply it by 1.2! It's just simple math. Now I know it (while I research and write) and now you know it too!

Lastly, you might think that 'Okay I ate so much yesterday, so today I will hit the gym and skip food altogether to even out the calories I've taken.'! WRONG. Never ever force your body to go on a deficit fuel, especially before exercising. If you want to make up for your cheat days, simple downscale your food intake the next day just the slightest but do it over the next couple of days. But never skip a good breakfast to kickstart your day. You do know that your brain only uses glucose (sugar/simple carbs) to function, right?

You may not want carbs, but your brain NEEDS it, like this delish 'wan ton' noodles! 

Anyway. I digress... Fasting exercises is not for most people, and why is that?

1. Bringing your body down to glycogen-depletion will make it to burn glycogen (carbs) slower, at the same time your body is forced to not just burn fats for fuel - which is your initial intention, but it will also torch your muscle-building blocks, aka protein.

2. Fasting will decrease your BMR , so your calories are being burnt slower as a response of your body's defensive (or I'd call, retaliation) mechanism against not being given fuel. This is not ideal to the people whose intention to fast is to lose weight, right?

3. Fasting will also make your workout tougher to power through. This is not fun. Why suffer through exercises when we really should be fueled and happy to do them. When you're happy exercising you're not just burning more calories but are happy to do more. Think of endorphins vs cortisol hormones!

So how does one lose weight? Reduce carbs and fat simultaneously but only 10-15% off your daily calorie maintenance. Do not cut more than 500 calories off per day as you will force your body into starvation mode means it will lower your metabolism rate ("survival mode").

Last point to note; Be careful of losing weight with fancy diets as what you will also lose is muscle! When you lose weight, you lose not just fats, but also muscles which is meant to keep your BMR high (and also the strength you need on a daily functional basis!).

Hover over linked phrases on this article and click them away

Eat Pasta, Run Fasta!

Friday, April 17, 2015

WODs v0.1

[Oppose climbing]
7 Reverse crunch
7 Bench 27.5kg
7 Overhead squat 20kg
7 Flutter kicks
7 Hanging knees to chest
7 Dips
Reverse Tabletop Plank 30s
3/4 rounds

Next WOD in mind;
Thoracic expansion and wrist mobility focus? Front squat?

Shoulder mobility focus - forward rolls, pike walk to inverted stand, wall plank, CTW-HS 10"
5" 5x30secs -ve pullups, diamond pushups, supine row, asst dip, bulgarian split squat, susp pushup, pike pushup, Locust to bow pose to end.

CFT for strength? Total kg for squat, press, deadlift.
Standards: Untrained 74kg Novice 128kg Intermediate 151kg

For abs;
25 V-ups
50 Rotated Bicycles
25 Sit-ups
50 Flutter kicks
25 Toe Touches
50 Mountain Climber
4 rounds for time

WODs as proposed by my bestie V:
7 Pendlay rows
7 Cleans
7 Front squats
7 Push press
7 Thrusters
7 Rounds for time
*gave her the stare as she texted me this!*

WODs poposed by my bestie V:

Power clean 44kg
Box jumps
Push jerks 44kg

2 Handstand Push-ups (HSPU)
4 Pull-ups
6 Dips
8 Ring Rows
10 rounds for time

2 KB Snatch 16kg
4 KB Clean & Jerk (C&J) 16
6 Pistols 12kg
8 Sumo Deadlift High Pull (SDHP)
5 Rounds for time

Friday, April 10, 2015

WODs log April 4.1

*numbers in bold indicate reps completed 
*read here to understand my WOD logging better

Apr 1
[Weightlifting, Metcon]
Learned to Clean. 

WOD of 
Clean 20kg
Supine Row bodyweight
Decline Sit-ups
10 rounds of 10-to-1;
each round followed by 10 BW squats (total 100) for time.
Apr 3
[Weightlifting, Strength]
Learned Thrusters by warming up front squat and push press.
WOD of
Front squat 20kg 5x3
Push press 20kg 10x3
Thrusters 20kg 5x3
Backsquat 30kg 10x3
+ some "shoulders Day" w dumbbells

Apr 4
Badminton 2h. Two games of doubles (one forced into rubber set). Four games of singles.

Apr 9

[Strength, Calisthenics and Stretch]
Yoga 1h30m
WOD for shoulders mobility day;
Chest-to-wall handstand 10" 60s x3
High Pulls 2x8; Press 20kg 2x8
Toes-(almost)-to-bar 3 sets to failure
10" inclined push-ups 2 sets to failure.

Apr 10

[Metcon, Strength]
WOD of
20 ring rows + Plank (the time taken to do 20 ring rows)
20 burpees + KB swing 16kg (the time taken to do 20 burpees)
Row 300m + Forward hold 8kg (the time taken to sprint/row)
2 rounds for time 20:15
10:00 EMOM of backsquat 30kg 5 reps

April 11

April 12
Learned basics to Snatch and Turkish get-up (and avoiding these mistakes!) 30mins; Yoga 1h. 

April 13
[Strength, Metcon]
1km run (warm-up)
Overhead squat 20kg 8x3 (to build up stability)
Snatch 20kg 5x3 (stopped due to left shoulder immobility).
Clean 20kg 8x3 (warm up)
Clean and jerk 20kg x8 25kg x8 30kg x5 (PB)
WOD of;
4 Knees-to-elbow
6 Box jumps
8 Air wall ball 5kg
10 Burpees
5 rounds for time 15:56

April 14
AM: Cycle 35mins
PM: Run 6km

April 15
Badminton 2hours and 4km run.

April 16
Badminton 1 hour and 1h30m yoga

Beast mode on

My mind is my gym

If I am at the gym, I like to spice things up a little. I avoid isolation workout machines and treadmills almost entirely (unless to warm up or during winter). I mostly try to incorporate compound movements or complex stability exercises - or functional fitness as one would call it. Time is short and my body parts needs to learn how to make use of each other with a bit more agility and explosivity!

I love spontaneity and quite dislike strict programs. I find designing my workouts on-the-go quite exciting because it keeps me on my toes of wanting to conquer the crap out it. I make sure I listen to my body on the day to decide what I want to focus.

Some days when I am tired from work and it's late at night, I focus on certain muscle groups (legs, core stability, shoulders, back). If I feel like I am well fed I will do some rowing to warm up and then learn/polish a weightlifting move. Sometimes I throw in some calisthenics now and again (hang from a bar, wall planks etc). And there are days when I've had a good badminton or tennis game - I'd usually just do my own yoga to stretch those aches, OR just be a hermit in the steam room!

If I am feeling hyper, I'd come up with WODs combining all the core muscle groups! The set of modalities will be done via;
Countdown 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (my favourite because I don't compromise form from fatigue!)
10:00 EMOM [each minute on the minute]
10:00 AMRAP [as many reps as possible]
4:00 TABATA -my least favourite!

p/s: i still cannot do a pull-up, toes-to-bar and a boat pose! #justranting

Singularity of purpose, 
everything else is immaterial...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My body morphology

Two months ago - I spent some evenings to understand my body's musculoskeletal system better - learning to be my own "physiotherapist" without breaking the bank. So I came up with these notes for my own perusal.

Weight 54.5kg to 56.0kg ~120lbs to 123.5lbs
Height 162cm 5"3.5
Body fat ~25% 
Wingspan reach 165cm (+3) Ape Index 1.025 [Female ave +1 Male ave +5]
Good for swimming, rowing, badminton, yoga and muay thai
Not so good for olympic lifts and bench press
Protein intake - Need average 65g a day (Recreational athlete)
Chicken breast (20g) Fish (20g) Milk (8g) One scoop 25g 

My Posture
1) Sitting: Slouching on chair - weak core muscle
Bad news: Lower back strain, Hunched back

2) Standing: Slightly rounded shoulders - tight chest and weak upper back (upper cross syndrome)
Flat back and belly stoop forward - tightness in core and hamstring, weakness in quads, lower back and glutes
Bad news: Causes neck and upper back strain.
Advice: Strengthen core, glutes, neck, rear shoulder muscles and back extension

Elbow Structure
Upper extremity with significant valgus angle.
Forearm hangs distinctly away from body - Leads to prevalence of rotator cuff dislocation from racket sports.
Must break excessively at the wrist when performing a curl with a straight bar (which is painful). Use E-Z bar?
Badminton helped break right wrist abandoning the mobility of left wrist (affecting my front squat and inversion poses)

Torso : Limb ratio 1:1 (short limbed)
  • Good for squats - Torso only tilts a little so limit stress on lower back and hamstring, movement more secure and focus completely on quads
  • Bad for deadlift - Forced to flex legs so femurs lower to horizontal, this parallel position of femur means initiating deadlift movement requires enormous amount of energy from the thighs

Anterior Hip Flexors
Sartorius and Rectus Femoris quite limited. Tested by the Thomas method. Due to frequency of sitting and tendency to sit with buddha pose.

Ankle Flexibility High
Good for squats - Allow forward tilt of tibia hence anterior movement of knees, and allow flexion of the legs.

Types of knee
Slight degree of both conditions, more common in women:
1. Genu Valgum (knock knees) - greater risk of pathology with training
Advice: Be aware of knees falling inwards and activate quads at all times
2. Genu Recurvatum (hyperextended knees) - acute risk of meniscal pinching.
Advice: Never completely lock knees at the end of extension during squats and leg press

Bench Press Morphology
Small rib cage, long'ish forearm - excursion of bar increased.  humerus go lower than bench, pectoralis major overstretched and strength development limited.
Advice: Narrow grip to reduce injury to pecs BUT work on biceps is more intense
Elbows apart - more work on pecs ; Elbows closer - more work on deltoids (shoulders)

Avoid Vertebral Flexion
Never round the back.
As soon as heavy weights are involved - create a block
1. Expand chest and hold deep breath fill the lungs (to support rib cage and prevents chest from collapsing forward)
2. Contract abs to support core and increase intra-ab pressure (prevents torso from collapsing forward)
3. Arch lower back by contracting lumbar muscles (positions spinal column in extension)
After heavy weights - hang from chin bar and focus on relaxing body to rebalance pressures inside the intervertebral discs

Strength Training Anatomy

The best project you'll ever work on is YOU

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

2015/2016 Half Marathons of interest

Spent the last hour researching on how to fit more half marathons into my already tight calendar. I am hoping to do at least one more this year and three next year! So here are the lists of good/popular half marathon of interests.

R&R Chicago Half (19th July)

R&R Virginia Beach (6th Sept)

Chicago Half (27th Sept)

R&R San Jose Half, CA (27th Sept)

Cardiff Half (4th Oct)

Oxford Half (11th Oct)

Grand Pier Half, Weston Super Mare (1st Nov)

Brighton Half (Feb)

Paris Half Marathon (6th March)

North London Half (March)

Prague Half, Czech Republic (March)

Warsaw Half, Poland (end March)

Riga Half, Latvia (May)

Helsinki Half, Finland (May)

Göteborgsvarvet Half, Sweden (May) - Largest in the world. Registration opens July 2015

Bucharest Half, Romania (May)

Morrisons Great North Run - Second largest in the world. Ballot opens January 2016 (Sept)

Bristol Half, UK - If I miss out on the Great North Run and Royal Parks! (Sept)

Budapest Half - Time limit 2h30m! (Sept)

Royal Parks Foundation - One of the largest in the world. Ballot opens January 2016 (October)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Workout Of the Day logging, explained...

I will start writing my WODs (Workout Of the Day) down rather than just doing it and allowing my goldfish memory to engulf them entirely. This habit will also allow me to not just monitor that I am not overdoing one part and neglecting the parts I don't like, but better design them based on questions like what I have done, what I have yet to do, what "are my maxes again?", "have I stretched today?" questions! My WODs are catered to noobies (beginners!) as I just started learning weightlifting March this year and properly doing yoga February this year. 

So a bit of background of my "athleticism" - I play mostly racket sports and will play or pick up any sport I want to. I am restless that way. 

My strongest sport is/was in order of okay'ness: badminton, basketball, netball, table tennis, shotput, table tennis.
(yes you got that right, I am that smallest Asian girl who can throw a metal ball up to division level!)

I have also played district-level hockey, tennis and javelin back in high school.

My relatively stronger part of my musculoskeletal is my back, and my relatively weakest is my core. My relatively greatest flexibility part of my joints is my hip and my least flexible is my hamstring (surprise!)

So that aside, here is my boring solo sport logged because becoming an adult means finding it hard to set a time with other adults to play team sports with!
Square brackets [ ] will indicate what type of workouts I have generally punished my body with!

Mar 25 
[Weightlifting, Strength, Stretch]
Deadlift 60 65 70kg x5
Bench 20kg 3x10; Bent-over Row 20kg 3x10
Rowing 1km 5mins
Backsquat 20 30 40kg x8
Military Press 8kg 3x8
Bicep curl 6+6kg 2x8; Yoga 1h
Mar 31

[Weightlifting, Strength, Stretch, Cardio]
Deadlift 60 70 75kg x5

Bench 20kgx10 25kgx8 27.5kgx6
High Pulls 20kg 3x10
Front Squat 30 40kg 3x8
Backsquat 40kg 3x5; Yoga 10m, Run 2.4km/15m

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My goals, and the 10 physical skills.

When you hit the free weights section, put on your running shoes or/and take your bag of rackets and leave your doorstep, you need to think about your goals. Goals give your workout a deeper meaning. This applies to your daily job, your life and everything you choose to do now, especially when time is precious (you'll come to realize it with age, like me *cough cough*),

It was the new year's day of 2015 - and I had some time to sit down with my laptop and brainstorm my short term and long term goals dividing them to sections of personal, relationships, finance, self-improvement, spiritual, social/community, health and fitness. So here is it copied and pasted for your leisure read;

Long term goals: 
Reduce prevalence of joints injury and counteract muscle atrophy that naturally comes with age and with my bad genes, i.e. to not break my hips from a small fall when I am hitting 50s! (yes I am thinking very far ahead)
Solution to this?
- To include more functional and compound workouts. 
- To be well-balanced in all aspects of physical skills - cardio endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. 
Mid term goals 
To master the foundation of calisthenics, weightlifting AND yoga, because in my opinion they are the best synergy of workout that can bring balance to the symmetry of my body (left vs right limbs, hamstring vs quads, adductors vs abductors, abs vs back, internal vs external rotator cuff)

SHORT TERM GOALS: To improve on...
1) Core strength (to reduce lower back overcompensation of load for the lack of it!) 
2) Postural balance (to balance sedentary lifestyle - hamstring tightness, upper cross syndrome, rounded shoulders etc) 
3) Left upper body strength and flexibility (no thanks racket sports dominance since young!) 
4) Anterior chain flexibility (thoracic and abdominal extension, hip flexor extension) 
5) Posterior chain strength (degree of importance and priority: shoulders > glutes > upper and middle back > hamstring)

My deadlift PR for a first timer: 70kg (120% my bodyweight)! :D
So being the geek I am, here are analyses on my physical strengths, what defines them, and each are rated according to where I think I am vs how far do I need to go to be where I feel/think I need to be;
  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance: The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen. 2.5/10 
  2. Stamina: The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy. 5/10 
  3. Strength: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force. 2.5/10 
  4. Flexibility: the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint 5/10 
  5. Power: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time (i like to call this muscle explosivity!) 3/10
  6. Speed: The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement. 3/10 
  7. Coordination: The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement. 5/10
  8. Agility: The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another. 4.5/10 
  9. Balance: The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base. 4/10 
  10. Accuracy: The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity. 7/10

Proof of poor stamina after singles in badminton! :p

Learning on the court, in the gym, in the studio and off them, over the last two months has made me more aware (and also excited) of my body's strengths and weaknesses. I was going to mention something about health but I realize my ravenous and carnivorous eating habits prohibit me from being anywhere close to even have the intention to discuss about 'health'.

And that wraps up my rant of the day!

"What makes you unique?" 
I am a powerful challenger.

Read more

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bath half marathon and Resting Metabolic Rate

So I stumbled upon a new documentary by BBC regarding diet and upon doing the quiz, discovered that I am a 80% feaster, 20% constant craver and 0% emotional eater.

But what's more interesting is that I discovered that just by resting (and not doing anything the whole day) - I am easily burning 1500kcal per day. You can try it out on this website to see what's your resting metabolic rate which takes account your gender, age, weight and height.

Since I came back from my sedentary lifestyle of working and eating (a lot) in Sg and MAS - I went back on a workout routine to prepare myself for another half marathon at Bath, which I accomplished today within 2:30, my new PB considering how my knees are always the main deterrent.

I actually dislike running (it is too lonely and boring!) - the only run I did since the last half marathon (Bristol in Sept 2014) up to the Bath Half was a 5.6km run around the Downs. That single one.

I had only the month of February to train for my Bath Half and it was tricky. So I found an excuse to experiment on myself - minimal running and cardio training but build a routine to focus on my strength and flexibility. (or really just another excuse to skip running!)

So my rough plan for each week was;
  • Weightlifting 1 hour
  • Yoga 1 hour
  • Pilates 1 hour
  • Tennis 2 hours
  • Badminton 2-4 hours
  • Circuits or swimming (if there is no badminton or tennis)

[Most of this was done in Nuffield Fitness & Wellbeing, and the racket sports at Clifton College]

The fitness bug hit me last year in April when I was taught of how much need there is to be aware of my body as everybody has a different morphology and that training should cater to these differences! Thanks to Andrea Spencer (pilates), Ann See Yeoh (yoga) for getting me so immersed into this the first place!

So I started reading the Strength Training Anatomy and Scientific Key Poses of Yoga in my free evenings because I realize that the foundation I should be building is to understand the musculoskeletal system, specific to functional movements and functional workout.

Jack my fitness mentor developed a training plan for me after I told him my short term fitness goals;
  1. Develop core stability and strength 
  2. Left arm and shoulder strength 
  3. Posterior chain strength
So he developed this for me to do it on the weekly basis after checking out my form;
  1. Back squat 40kg 8x3
  2. Walking lunges 20kg 20x3 for both legs
  3. Supine Row BW 8x3
  4. Single Arm Row 10/12kg 8x3
  5. Straight walkouts to Pike 3x3
  6. Plank rotations 8x3
  7. Plank to press 10x3
  8. Side plank rotation 10x3

Okay okay I DIGRESS, now back to my little half marathon experiment discussion.

So I had a few hypotheses that while my cardio endurance sucked (as I had duly neglected it out of laziness);
  1. My strides will be bigger assuming the increased in hamstring flexibility. 
  2. My thigh muscles are stronger which leads to slower fatigue
  3. Also being more aware of my form, I will be running to land on a mid-foot strike (if not forefoot since I have been a heel striker) to minimize knee injury from my shorter/tight IT band which externally rotates my knee when running.
...all of these will therefore lead to similar running time as my last half marathon race.

So, importantly how did the half marathon turn out? 2:34, one minute faster than my last best.

My first three miles: Hardest wall to overcome ever as my mental prowess was taking a beating due to lack of any running at all! 
10km mark: My left knee started to hurt, which made me realized that I have been running on the left hand side of the road. We have to remember that the amazing roads of the UK have drainage gradient to channel/drain excess rain water. So I have been running with an extended left leg to make up for the slope. So it's time to switch to the right side of the road for the last 11km. And I did it - I saved it from hurting further 
Last three miles: I realized that my timing may be a bit slower than my previous half marathon, I sped up that my running pace 9-10 mins per mile! Lol.

Secondly, what were the major aches from the day after the half marathon? Quads and a bit on the lower back

This means I am still a quad-dominant runner, which isn't good as I am using more knees that I should be. Lower back aches mean I am not using my core to stabilise my form, so that needs improving.

So to wrap this all up, what I have learnt -

1) Strength and flexibility is as important as cardio for half maras.
2) that half marathons are actually quite fun when you include 'people-watching' as your past time. That killed time and distracted me from the aches and niggles! :-)

So there you go, my first rant of the month!

I run how I crawl, how I sit, how I walk.