Category Archives: The Workout Series

Defying the Aging Process

At 50 you’re expected to be close to achieving your life’s professional and personal goals. Time is always crunched and priorities change resulting in stress and related ailments.

Is 50 old or young? Indian psephologists, in their analysis of the 2014 Lok Sabha election results classified 50 plus as old and concluded that the people of India have voted for an “old” Parliament. This is a very generic classification, and I know of many who are young at 60 or even 70. It’s all about how you choose to age.

Ageing starts with birth.  Stress, inter-alia, accelerates the ageing process and a sedentary lifestyle adds to your medical woes. Inactivity slows you down, makes you lose your independence and increases medical expenditure.

So how does one cope with this phenomenon called ageing without having to give up on the quality of your life? Watching what you eat is definitely a good start. “What you eat today… you wear tomorrow” says an expert. Meditate and calm your mind. You have a lot of noise there thanks to the overload on your five sensory organs – tongue, ear, eyes, nose and skin (touch). Enter technology which aims to create a quantum of solace in each of them, while unmindfully creating new types of stress and accelerating the ageing process in you.

Age and Physical Condition notwithstanding, regular exercising carries its rewards.  Exercising delays the ageing process and helps in a multitude of ways. Exercising does not necessarily mean pushing yourself to the limit like athletes do. The goal of an athlete is to win. Speed and Strength are ubiquitous in them.  The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius” which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Our motto is Slower Ageing, Higher Metabolism and Stronger Body & Mind for quality in life.

Well, if you haven’t exercised earlier or have for some reason pressed the pause button on a schedule that you were following earlier, it is a challenge to start. You will be dogged with concerns of injury, illness due to lack of fitness, probably fatigue and even general boredom; from giving it a try.  In fact these are probably the very reasons why you need to incorporate exercise in your daily routine. Exercise is good for your body and mind. It boosts your energy, improves your fitness, sometimes reverses symptoms of ageing and relieves stress.

Once you have earmarked a time that is comfortable for you, make it a non-negotiable part of your daily routine. Wear a comfortable outfit and ensure you have the right footwear. It is recommended that you start with a few stretches before you embark on your routine. Start slow with an easy routine. Walking, Swimming and Yoga are excellent exercises to adopt in your daily routine. You could switch between them, so you don’t get bored with repetition. These are low-impact exercises and therefore have almost no risk of injury due to exercise. Exercising in the presence of a good trainer for each of these is highly recommended. This will mitigate the risk of injury due to wrong execution of the routine or due to an accident. Of course, before you embark on the routine, do consult your family physician.

Exercise boosts mood and self-confidence, improves sleep, and is good for the brain. Get medical clearance, consider health concerns, start slow, commit to an exercise schedule, stay motivated by focusing on short-term goals, recognize problems – stop when it hurts and see your doctor.

So, are you 50 or above? There is no better day than today to start in earnest.

About the Author:

Naresh is a retired senior company executive and now an independent consultant. He is a dedicated  fitness enthusiast and a rowing athlete, who advocates working out at any age.

Photo Credit: Image 1Image 2

Copyright 2014 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

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The Workout Series – Brain Health

A friend’s grandmother is used to meeting her Quiz club every month. Since she turned 80, the family insists that she not drive herself and rather get dropped and picked up on her outings. While, the old lady gracefully accepted the wishes of her family, she still finds it tough as occasionally the non-availability of family, to chauffeur her to her regular meetings, makes her feel depressed. The lady in question is in peak health with her only problem being slightly weakened eyesight and a sensitive stomach. According to this grandmother she feels physically older and mentally less capable, if she misses a few of her Quiz Club meetings.

This is apparently, not a psychological effect. Using her mental faculties actively on a regular basis has probably helped her stay younger than her numerical age. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a well-educated person, who has regular mental stimulus, maybe less likely to be affected by Alzheimer’s than a person who has had a minimum level of education. According to research, keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. “You could even generate new brain cells.”

Once her family understood the benefits of her Quiz sessions on their grandmother’s quality of life, she has never been short of chauffeurs.

Here are a few tips from the Alzheimer’s Association on keeping your brain active everyday: 

  • Stay curious and involved — commit to lifelong learning
  • Read, write, work on crosswords or other puzzles
  • Attend lectures and plays
  • Enroll in courses that interest you
  • Play games
  • Garden
  • Try memory exercises

Another way to improve your mental stamina and concentration is to meditate. If you are new to medication, check out our simple tips here, to help you get started.

So, go on, start that Sudoku challenge that you have been putting off for years. It’s never too late or too early.

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasionally puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Photo Credit: Image 1, Image 2

Copyright 2014 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

15 Minute Workouts – The Pajama Workouts

Sleep late, get-up early, make and pack multiple meals, get to work, work 12 hours, meet friends/do homework with the kids, cook dinner, tidy-up the house, do the laundry and drop exhausted into bed.

Given that most of us have a routine close to this, where do we find the time and most importantly the energy to workout. We know it’s important, we make New Year resolutions, frequently start off on fitness plans, however, within four weeks most of us are back to square one.

Now, how would you like to spend just 15 minutes in your bedroom getting fit. It can even be, or should I say it must be, in your pajamas. Trust me, it is possible and it does give results. This week we’ll start with the all time favourite of children and sportsmen – skipping or jump rope exercises. Here’s what you do:

  • Set the jump rope and comfortable workout shoes, next to your bed, the previous night
  • Wake-up 10 minutes earlier than usual and slip on your footwear
  • Do 2 minutes of stretching exercises
  • Jump rope for about 10 minutes
  • Take a minute to cool down
  • Stretch again for 2 minutes
  • You are done! Now go take a shower

A few points to keep in mind, to make sure you really benefit from this effort:

  • 100 -120 counts a minute should be your target (apparently 10 minutes of this is equal to 30 minutes of mid-paced running)
  • Start with 5 minutes on the first day and build-up
  • Your heart rate should be up for 7 out of the 10 minutes, at a minimum
  • Most important, check with your doctor before starting any new fitness or diet routine

Follow this religiously (maybe even twice a day), along with a simple diet change, and see the results in 90 days. You will be amazed and addicted. The best part – no expensive equipment, clothes or gym membership required.

Our workout series aims to help you figure out the right fitness regime for your body and mind. As part of this series, we previously  covered: cyclingswimmingrowingrunning, a guide to picking the right shoe, a three-week campaign to get you out on the road and how to mentally condition yourself to get going.

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasionally puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2014 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

Cycling Nirvana – The Workout Series

Cycling (any ride that lasts over an hour) is on the up globally, as well as in India, and for good reason. More people are aspiring to get into shape for different reasons and cycling is often preferred over other activities, such as running as there is less impact on the body, particularly the back and legs. That being said, cycling can cause it’s share of problems, if the rider has an incorrect posture or if the saddle (seat) is not at the optimum height and angle.

One of the first things to figure out before starting cycling is the kind of equipment you want and this is where a lot of aspiring cyclists doubt their interest levels. Unlike swimming, where one basically needs a good suit, goggles and cap; cycling can drive you to despair with the choices you have to make. In recent years, the availability of cycles has increased dramatically and a good one can set you back quite a bit, so it’s important to make a good choice.

Most cycles are either made of aluminium, alloy metals and at the higher end, carbon fiber. The weight goes down dramatically with a carbon fiber cycle, which potentially increases riding speed. Here are the broad categories of cycles available today, which are mostly terrain dependent:

  • Road – A road bike or ‘roadie’ can be identified by its handlebars and the thickness of the tyre. Roadies have dropped handlebars which give riders a more aggressive posture. The other identifier is that, road bikes have thin tires usually ranging from 20-25 mm. A thing to note is that the thinner the tire, the faster it is because of reduced rolling resistance, though there are some tests which show that 25 mm tires are faster than 23 mm tires (but that’s a discussion for another day).
  • Hybrid – Hybrids can be identified again by the handlebars and tires. The handlebars of a hybrid are straight, while the tires are fatter than those of roadies and are usually between 28-34 mm. If you are a newbie, it is probably best to pick up a hybrid first before graduating on to a road bike, if ever.
  • MTB ­– Multi-terrain Bikes are the ones with straight handlebars and the rugged looking tires. If you are a newbie to cycling beware of getting this cycle unless you specifically want to do off-roading. Legions of new cyclists have bought MTBs because of the rough-and-tough look but since they are relatively more difficult to ride on roads (fatter tires have higher rolling resistance), they are quickly put in the closet only to make a brief reappearance to fulfil a New Year’s resolution.

It is critical that a prospective cyclist buy the correct cycle size (depends on the rider’s height) because it could have an adverse impact on the body, as well as ride quality. Most cycles in the market are geared though there are a few ungeared bikes for the brave ones. Gear changing is usually specific to cycle brands but the rule of thumb is that the lower gears are for inclines and the higher gears are for straights and descents. The front and rear gears can be used together, but beware of getting your gears crossed (high front gear to low rear gear and vice-versa).  

The Musts

Buying a cycle is only the start and there is a laundry list of critical items to have. The helmet, water bottles, saddle bag, puncture kit, tool kit, spare tire tube, air pump, sunglasses, front and rear lights and, of course, proper cycling apparel are crucial. There are also specialized cycling shoes (used with special pedals) but for a newbie, regular running shoes with regular pedals will do just fine. One should also have degreasers, greasers and other cleaning products to ensure that the cycle, as well as, the drive-train is kept clean. There are other accessories like cycling computers, however, one must watch out since the want list can get very long and very expensive.

Do’s and Dont’s

As you start cycling you will obviously get a better feel what to watch out for, however here are some pointers to start you off:

  • Avoid urban areas – Motorists in India unfortunately rank low on civic sense and do not care for cyclists. You and the cycle are fragile and there is no point to risking your life. Go out of the city and discover how nice it is to cycle in low traffic roads, not to mention less polluted areas.
  • Ride in groups – Riding in a group is just common sense, as it is just safer for you. On a personal note, beyond safety, I have made a number of good friends among the cyclists I ride with.
  • Hydration – Given that India is a hot country, you are more often likely to sweat a lot during your ride. Sweating means your body is losing critical fluids and we need to keep replenishing them. Drink water even if you are not feeling thirsty. The rule of thumb is to drink anywhere from 500 -750 ml of water an hour but that depends on climatic conditions and body weight. Also make sure you drink water (300 – 400 ml) before the start of your ride. One should mix electrolytes with water to replenish minerals being lost; low electrolyte count can lead to cramping. The best electrolytes products are the ones you can get at medical shops; avoid sports drinks because they are essentially sugar water.
  • Carbohydrates – Carbs have become such a dirty word and if you plan to exercise while having a low-carb diet you are done for. Carbs are the primary energy source during exercise and it is critical to ensure that the body has an adequate supply of it. If you are planning to do a ride that is over 3 hours, ensure that you have an elevated carb diet on the previous day. Be sure to carry energy bars during your rides – cycling burns calories real fast and not having an energy source can be debilitating.
  • Start slow – Know your limits. If you are newbie you should be comfortable doing short rides before graduating to longer ones. The effort needed as one rides longer is non-linear.
  • Stretch before riding – Like any exercise, it is paramount to stretch before cycling. A list of useful stretching exercises can be found here.
  • Stay safe – Always wear your helmet while riding – your life depends on it. Be extra defensive while riding your cycle. After all you don’t want to go head-on with a larger vehicle. Watch out for Curious George’s who pull their vehicles close to the cycle to have a look at the cycle.
  • Enjoy yourself – Make this enjoyable, something you’ll want to do for the rest of your life, not another chore to tick off on the weekends.

Our workout series aims to help you figure out the right fitness regime for your body and mind. Now we want you to get your whole family in on it. As part of this series, we previously covered: swimmingrowingrunning, a guide to picking the right shoe, a three-week campaign to get you out on the road and how to mentally condition yourself to get going.

About the Author:

Sunil Rongala is based in Hyderabad and can often be seen tackling the hilly terrain outside the city on the weekends. He loves his life even more since he discovered cycling and plans to continue enjoying this sport for as long as possible.

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

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Family Fitness – Balloon Volleyball Sundays

It’s a well-known fact that it’s easier to teach kids with examples rather than through preaching. The same applies to lifestyle changes. Sitting around munching on a bag of chips and watching our favourite t.v. serial, while telling our little ones to go out and play, isn’t a great idea. They’ll most probably hide themselves away with an electronic gadget till we call them to start their homework or eat their next meal.

A simple way to make fitness a part of your lifestyle as a family and up the fun factor at the same time, is to introduce the concept of family fitness. There are multiple ways to do this and over the next few months we will introduce you to a few simple ideas to kick-start the process.

One game we enjoy as a family is balloon volleyball. I don’t know any children who don’t love balloons, even though many of them are terrified of the sound when one pops. I say balloons make dully dreary adults into children!

That being said, here’s our first activity for the family fitness program. Balloon Volleyball Sundays. Gather the family together, clear some space in a room, or make for the outdoors, and start playing.

Here’s what you’ll need (all available at most general stores):

A long piece of string or ribbon – for the net

Some tape – to secure the string

A pair of scissors – to cut the tape and string

A few balloons (obviously)

I have fond memories of my parents playing with my brother and me. Today it’s us with our little one. Fitness and a mental image of happiness, is as close to picture perfect as it gets.

So, this weekend ditch the afternoon movie and have fun being a child, with your children. Oh! and let us know if you have any family fitness ideas to share.

Our workout series aims to help you figure out the right fitness regime for your body and mind. Now we want you to get your whole family in on it. As part of this series, we previously covered: swimmingrowingrunning, a guide to picking the right shoe, a three-week campaign to get you out on the road and how to mentally condition yourself to get going.

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasionally puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

Summer Recovery – Starting a Workout Routine

The summer’s over, the days are getting a bit cooler thanks to the rain and the mangoes are dwindling away from the markets. Everyone’s enjoyed a break, to some extent, from routine, especially when it comes to food and exercise. Initially, your activity levels may have been higher playing with the neighbourhood children on their summer break or travelling to a new or well-loved location, however, gradually the weight piles on, your skin gets dull and your hair looks lank. You obviously need to get back on track to be ready in time for the festival season. Well, don’t despair we have a simple and effective program to get your health back on track.

This week we start with fitness. Our five step Summer Recovery- Starting the Workout program will help you get started afresh or pick-up where you let off at the beginning of summer.

  • Pick a Realistic Time

The time you choose to workout should be comfortably available for you on a daily basis. Having competing commitments at the same time, will ensure that you drop the new routine within a few weeks or even few days because it’s just too much of a challenge in your already busy day.

  • Enlist a Reliable Friend

Rope in someone who will give you that wake-up call for a morning workout or call you on out on lazing in front of the television, instead of going for your evening run. Even better get a workout partner who you know will push you. When you know you have to report into someone on your effort or performance, you will be a lot more dedicated.

  • Choose an Activity You Enjoy

Your workout time is ‘me’ time, something that you are doing for your mental and physical health. Enjoying it ensures that you’ll look forward to it and want to do it every single day. A sure fire way to stick to your workout plan. Another option is to mix up the activities in your workout to keep it interesting. Enjoy the last bit of warm weather with a host of outdoor activities. Spend weekends going on picnics and playing some cricket or volleyball.

  • Make it a Priority

Your daily workout is as important as brushing your teeth every morning or having your main meal of the day. You need to tell yourself that’s a non-negotiable and essential activity. A good way to do this is to remind yourself about why you’ve chosen to start this regime. Make yourself stick to it for four weeks without a lapse and by the end of the month it’ll be a part of your regular routine.

  • Reward Yourself

While the obvious result of an effective and regular workout routine is a healthy body and mind in the long run, we all need some motivation to keep going. Choose a reward that does not affect your fitness and set it as a reward against the milestone of completing a month of regular workouts.

Use these smart but simple steps to get yourself back to your fittest and healthiest self and you’ll be ready to enjoy the rest of the year.

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasionally puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Photo Credit: Image 1Image 2

Copyright 2013 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

 

Fit @ Fifty: Lean Quality – Lifestyle Management

50 ++? Now that’s the age to be in. Silver streaks that command respect and a sense of accomplishment! Comfortably placed, nice house and grown up kids, a large screen TV with a home theatre, a great place to work and a car for commuting. And holidays with family!

Or is it, numbers all around you and the boss breathing down your neck which is permanently on the block. Excitement and stress combined with a sedentary life, thanks to the air conditioned car, office and home. Driving, pecking at the laptop and blackberry while comfortably couched.

So which is it? Aren’t both part of the middle-aged dream life?

Of course it is. Dream you shall. Only those who dare dream, achieve! You walk this planet but once. So go right ahead.

That said, the road ahead is not always smooth; the road to quality has no end. These are corporate jargons that you are all familiar with. These are true statements. Health Insurance schemes, inter-alia, take care of the road ahead to a large extent. But ‘quality of physiological life’ needs a different approach. A ‘lean quality approach’ maybe? So what is this lean quality process? Lean processes are the latest diet craze in the world of quality control. Lean is a quality control technique you can use to identify and eliminate the flab in your company’s processes. The “flab” is all the dead weight carried by a process without adding any value. The customer doesn’t want to pay for dead weight, so why should you?

Similarly, by adapting a lean process for your own healthcare, you can significantly reduce health related risks and set yourself up for a smooth ride ahead. Lean provides a robust framework that facilitates improving efficiency and effectiveness by focusing on critical customer requirements. Lean is a management system that focuses on delivering value to the end customer by continuously improving value delivery processes.

Value Stream Mapping

People think in images not in words. Look yourself up in the mirror. Reflect on your lifestyle. For most of us who are over 50 our lifestyle dictates that during most part of the day when you are at work or back home, you are sitting behind the wheel driving your car or you are seated travelling, else you are seated behind your desk at work peering into your computer or at some files, or you are in your couch at home watching TV. Imagine the amount of time you spend in this sitting posture. Do you know what happens to your muscles in this posture? Remaining seated for long periods creates a static load on our body resulting in muscle fatigue and restricted blood circulation and will affect our health considerably in the long run. Remaining seated for prolonged periods disrupts metabolic functions that lead to poor vascular health. This is part of the package that comes along with the life that we dreamed of. Now that we have identified the flab, we need to remove it while we continue to enjoy the lifestyle that we have rightfully earned. Women who reach 50 years of age need to prepare themselves to face the additional challenges posed by the onset of menopause. Women tend to gain weight as they age due to decease in muscle mass and accumulation of excess fat and lower resting metabolic rate. Hormonal shifts can cause a range of symptoms and increase overall risk for heart disease and stroke. The absorption of certain nutrients may also decrease because of a loss of stomach acid.

The Lean Integration Principles

 Build quality. Do your stretches before and after your exercise schedule. This is mandatory and so is a consultation with a doctor before you embark on an exercise schedule. Follow through with your doctor periodically. Augment with daily doses of Multivitamins, Calcium, Vitamin C and Vitamin D.

The Lean Integration Principles

  1. Focus on yourself. You are in control of your health. The change begins and ends with you. It is such a simple change. You just need to ensure that the flab that came along with the package disappears. You don’t need it. It’s a waste. Exercise is the elixir that removes waste and gives a new meaning to your well-earned lifestyle. It should be our goal to exercise to have a strong heart and muscles, decreased stiffness and less body fat.
    1. Walking, running, dancing or cycling are good cardio exercises that you can build into your exercise schedule. Walking and Cycling are relatively easier on the knee than running or dancing. They need not be a rigorous. You can walk to the grocery, you can take the stairway to your office or your apartment, and you can cycle to your club or even to your office if you are blessed with a residence that is close by. A good 30-45 minutes of cardio exercises two days a week is recommend.
    2. Two days in a week should be utilized for muscle strengthening. Weight training under supervision is the best way to do this. Invest in a membership in a gym or use the gym in your club to your advantage. The return on investment is considerable. Research shows that by age 65 we end up losing 20% – 30% of our strength and every decade after 65 the rate of loss speeds up. The good news is that this rate can be slowed down by building muscle through weight training. If you have not done weight training at all in your life so far, it does not matter. Start at 50 and set yourself up to be fit at 65 and beyond. That leaves us with 3 more days in a week.  
    3. Chose the sport that you love. Go out and enjoy playing for an hour, two days of the week. It could be badminton, tennis, swimming, volley ball or any other game. Give it your best, both physically and mentally. This will keep you physically fit and mentally sharp. While aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular fitness, strength training can build muscle mass and bone density. Both come in handy when you’re trying to pick up your grandchild or even simply a bag of groceries.  
    4. On the seventh day, whichever day of the week that is – normally a weekend, turn off your alarm clock. Catch up with sleep. Read a book. Work on a crossword to keep you mentally agile. Spend time with family. That’s an hour a day, six days a week, all for you. And imagine, until now someone else was managing your time. Now you are managing it yourself. Not to forget the whole of the seventh day that you will devote to yourself and your family. Isn’t this wonderful. 50++ is not so bad after all!
  2. Once you are set continuous improvements can be introduced. For example as you  progress you could build-in interval training in your cardio exercise schedule – alternating 10 min fast and 10 min slow or any similar time alternates that can be built-in within the total exercise time for better results.
  3. You are empowered to take your decisions. You can decide to walk, dance, cycle or run. Innovate. Try something new. Do not fear failure.
  4. Change is constant. Plan for change. If you had a wonderful place where you could cycle but had to move to a different home from where you cannot access this place, don’t let it be a show stopper. Go for a run, do something else that you enjoy.
  5. Optimize the whole. Adopt a big picture perspective. Introduce a good dietary system into your lifestyle. Clearly, the diet for the 50+ will conform to the goals of maintaining weight, consuming heart-healthy foods and building strength. Research shows that even modest exercise and changes in diet can bring considerable benefits regardless of the age you start. You don’t need to run marathons to shape up after 50, but you do need to get moving.
  6. Automate. While I wouldn’t want to call it rigor, it should become part of your DNA. It should happen by itself.
  7. Build quality. Do your stretches before and after your exercise schedule. This is mandatory and so is a consultation with a doctor before you embark on an exercise schedule. Follow through with your doctor periodically. Augment with daily doses of Multivitamins, Calcium, Vitamin C and Vitamin D.

Lean is not just for quality in the manufacturing or service industries. Lean is for quality in your lifestyle. Health is quality. Exercising and eating right is health. Dream, achieve and build quality into your lifestyle. Enjoy life 50++.

About the author:

Naresh is a fitness enthusiast who enjoys running, rowing and a multitude of outdoor sports. He also works in the healthcare industry and, at close to sixty years, is trying to create awareness of the concept of health through fitness.

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

 

The Workout Series – Mind Over Matter

Most fitness enthusiasts I have meet or worked with, stress on one important factor which the rest of us (who consider our daily workout a necessary evil) miss. That simple but oft neglected factor is this, ‘When it comes to real performance, it’s a case of mind over matter’. Yes, your mental fitness is as important as, or maybe even more than, your physical fitness.

As Naresh, a regular contributor with us, and a fitness enthusiast who has been running and rowing for over 30 years says, “While running or rowing, after a point your muscles get used to the effort and then it’s only  a matter of convincing yourself that you can do it, and at times even fighting boredom or laziness”.

Now we are definitely not saying that to win a marathon, you can be a couch potato who just needs to believe he can run. Physical training is an obvious factor here as it helps us build strength and stamina while preventing injuries. The difference between making it a lifelong activity and a flash in the pan, or between enjoying a 42k marathon and dragging yourself through a 5k run, is in the mind. Mental conditioning is vital for success in any activity so why should it be any different for physical fitness.

So how what does mental conditioning comprise and how do you do it? The ‘what’ is pretty simple to identify and has three ingredients. First, you need to be 100% sure that you really ‘want’ to get fit and perform at a certain level. The reasons for this ‘want’ can be varied and don’t really matter as long as they are strong enough to motivate you. It could start with a desire to look your best at your wedding, or to improve your quality of life while having a stressful career or just another challenge because you are a competitive person by nature.

The second ingredient in mix is convincing yourself that you can do this (whatever your target). This self confidence is, in my limited opinion, the most important aspect, as motivators can change over time but the knowledge that you are capable of achieving a target is non-negotiable for success.

The last item in the pot is a strong filter when negating factors come into the picture, such as, pessimistic influences or easy out options. The former are easy to identify but the latter can slip past your defenses and though this ingredient may have a certain link to the previous two, ‘motivators” and ‘confidence’, it is not the same. Say you are training ardently for a month and it’s taking a bit longer to reach your milestones when you come across an advertisement promising the results, that you are working towards so diligently, in half the time. In such a case you don’t feel you are giving up but just switching to a more efficient plan. This is the reason I used the word filter and not blocker. There is absolutely nothing wrong with exploring options but the common mistakes to filter out are two.

One, switching too often makes you lose focus, which may result in you not completing any plan, however good, in the long run, which means you  have essentially failed to reach your target. Two, not all plans are as good as they sound and it’s important to do some research before spending time, money and effort on any one. The second reason I used the word filter is that we need to be open to factors such as illness or injuries, but not so susceptible that even the mention of one makes us fall of the treadmill. This ability to discriminate, while not giving into paranoia or laziness is definitely an element of mental fitness and is affected by both the motivators and the our confidence levels.

So having identified the ‘what’ factors, we now move on to the ‘how’. While, there is no exhaustive list on ways to build mental strength, there are a few simple, commonly used and effective methods that I’ll share with you in a three step program:

  • Note your Motivation: Make a note (or list, if applicable) of reasons why you want to do this. Read this note (list), maybe even frame it and put it up on your wall.
  • Plan: Plan out how you want to reach your target or hit your goal. The plan can be as detailed or simple as suits your requirement and work style, you may even drill down to the level of planning out days / hours / distance to be covered in a certain period of time. Ensure that the plan is realistic, with respect to timing and type pf activity,  given your personality and current lifestyle.
  • Meditate: I cannot stress the importance of this step enough. I know people who have not done anything else (not even the first two steps above) to strengthen themselves mentally, except meditate, and they are the best at what they do. Meditation will not just build mental strength but will reduce stress and increase your powers of concentration, leading to success in any activity you undertake, be it professional or recreational.

For those of you who are planning to start meditating for the first time, here are three tips:

  • Till you achieve a certain minimum level of concentration, make sure you practice in a quiet place, at a time when you have no immediate demands on your time. I usually spend half an hour before I go to bed, after the whole household has settled down for the night. Others prefer to do it in the morning, before they day starts, when and the world as a whole is still in a state of semi-slumber.
  • Practice everyday without fail. Calming and strengthening the mind is a simple process but one that requires regular effort. In the beginning even missing a day can make you lose your mojo, so don’t give yourself any leeway. Make it a part of your routine and as important as brushing your teeth (please don’t tell me if you don’t consider that important).
  • Enjoy the process, think of it as ‘me’ time. After all it’s supposed to help you relax, not create more stress by adding to your ‘to-do’ list.

So next time you plan to run a marathon or take part in a mixed doubles tennis competition*, remember it’s a case of ‘mind over matter’.

*Always check with your doctor before taking up any new physical activity.

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasional puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Photo Credit: Image 1, Image 2

Copyright 2013 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

The Workout Series – Swimming Zen

We are back with a new sport as part of our our workout series to help you figure out the right fitness regime for your body and mind. We previously covered rowing and running, with a guide to picking the right shoe and a three week campaign to get you out on the road. Now we bring you the lowdown on another outdoor activity to enjoy – swimming. 

Swimming is magical. No I’m serious. How you ask? Well, I’ll tell you exactly how. First when you immerse yourself in the water you are cut off from all outside stimuli, no sounds or sights that might distract you. The constant lapping of the water at your ears almost works as a system of involuntary meditation and your thoughts turn inwards. Second, the water bears the weight of your body, ensuring that even the heaviest of people or those with injuries can comfortably workout or just enjoy the water. Third, the natural resistance created by the water increases the quality of your workout without any extra equipment. All this, and more, with absolutely no conscious effort on your part! Now, tell me, that isn’t magic?

Now that I’ve convinced you about why you should swim, let’s move on to the how. For beginners, or those who have not confident about their technique, the safest way is to be trained by a certified professional in a controlled environment. Take no risks since the dangers of swimming are life-threatening and way more serious when compared to other sports. (This is the only real downside of this sport, in my limited opinion.) On the same lines, never swim if a qualified life-guard is not present and always respect the signals sent by your body, such as a sudden cramping sensation.

Coming back to the mechanics of swimming, the most important aspect is lung capacity and your breathing technique. Once you have mastered the right style of breathing and strengthened your lungs there is nothing stopping you from an Olympic medal except practice. Setting aside our visions of grandeur for now, we can start with the most common strokes:

Free Style: This is the simplest of strokes and the one most suited to beginners.  There are variations of this basic stroke as well, but the most common one is where the arms alternate underwater and overhead and the legs flutter (kick) up and down without bending the knees. This is also known as the survival stroke, as one can keep it up for hours if breathing correctly.

Back stroke: This is a relaxing stroke as you can choose to float more and just use your arms and legs for direction and occasional propulsion. Obviously, if you are actually swimming using the backstroke, the arms move in a backward windmill action and the legs do a flutter kick or deeper synchronized kicks.

Breast stroke: This stroke can be done with your head completely out of water or bobbing in and out for breathe. The calorie burn in this stroke is higher than both the back stroke and freestyle. The arms move in a synchronized in-out motion underwater, while the legs do a powerful frog kick.

There are numerous types of swim styles such as the butterfly stroke (which I have yet to master), which turn swimming into a performance art, however, to start with the three strokes discussed above are the simplest.

The next obvious question would be, ‘who can swim?’. Based on discussions with doctors specialising in sports injuries, athletes who have been swimming for years and my personal experiences over thirty years, it seems like anyone (and I mean that literally) can swim. You can be eighty, have a physical disability, be overweight and still comfortably swim everyday. Swimming is extremely easy on the joints, while building endurance, muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness.

The best part of swimming for a workout is that it brings a sense of freedom and fun into the experience. After all splashing about in water is most children’s favourite activity and who doesn’t want to relive their carefree childhood days? So go rediscover the simple joys of life, while getting fit and maybe spending some time with your family or visiting your zen place.

See you in the deep blue.

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasional puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Photo Credit: Image 1, Image 2

Copyright 2013 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

Back to Fitness: How to Pick a Running Shoe

Congrats on achieving your goal. You have now successfully run 3.5 kms. It’s a great feeling isn’t it.

It’s now time to head to the nearest shoe store and get yourself a new running shoe. You deserve it! Here are a few tips to consider before you make the buying decision. There are many types of running shoes and several popular brands. Follow these steps to make the process of picking the right shoe simple and effective:

Step 1

If you run mostly on paved surfaces like the road or sidewalk,  choose the most common type of running shoe. If you like to run on dirt paths or hiking trails, you may want to choose a trail running shoe.

Step 2

Find your shoe size. Check it more than once. You probably already know your size for casual or dress shoes, but running shoes can be sized slightly differently. Some running shoes have particularly roomy toe boxes, sometimes with more room than necessary. You may need to go a size smaller or larger. You also want to consider whether you have a very narrow or wide foot. Try as many as you want. It is important to feel comfortable during the run.

Step 3

Feet come in three basic shapes: normal, flat and high-arched. A normal foot lands on the outside and rolls slightly inward to absorb shock. If you have normal feet, you do not require a shoe that offers motion control. A flat foot has minimal arch, and usually rolls (pronates) excessively, which can lead to overuse injuries. Flat-footed runners need shoes with motion control. A high-arched foot is just as it sounds and requires more shock absorption and plenty of flexibility.

Step 4

Some of specialized sports shoe stores have the facility of trying out the shoes in a tread mill. I recommend you do that. Pick three or four pairs based on the above. Try running at a comfortable pace and at an increased pace. Don’t try without socks. It’s a good idea to take a pair with you. If this facility is not available, wear them and walk around and chose the one that is most comfortable. Ask for advice. Most sales persons are trained to recommend the right pair.

You are now ready to start on your running schedules. Remember all that we have discussed and enjoy the marathon season ahead.

Greetings of the Season, Merry Christmas and a fit and healthy New year.

About the author:

Naresh is a fitness enthusiast who enjoys running, rowing and a multitude of outdoor sports. He also works in the healthcare industry and, at close to sixty years, is trying to create awareness of the concept of health through fitness.

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2012 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

 

Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle

WebMD Health

Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle