Sunday, November 20, 2016

Road Runner

Starting something new seem very intimidating because of the unknowns that goes with that endeavor, but it would've had been regretful had I not tried out running back in the summer of 2012 when I prepared for a running event that I eventually joined last May of the same year. It was sponsored by Medicare, one of the leading medical insurance providers in the country and since it was my first running event - I literally prepared for it for 2 months, as I ran around the village as much as I could and have gotten the feel of how demanding the sport could be on my lungs, heart, feet and legs.

Two months of preparation is not enough of course, but it's a lot better than no preparation at all. I was at least able to know when to pace myself and when to speed up as well as gauge my stride and determine what gait I had or adjustments needed to make my run and form more efficient and proper. I researched heavily on the sport and read several articles related to it as well as the blogs of some experienced runners that I could scour from the net.

Long story short, I joined my first 3K race and placed 13th at 17:19.98. It was very fulfilling of course and at first - I was determined to improve my PR, but eventually - I ran not because I needed to reach the finish line faster - but because I enjoyed the sport and I reached the finish line regardless of how fast or slow I was. I also realized that running is not about competing with other runners, but it's overcoming your own weaknesses and becoming better in the process. Just like with weight-training, discipline, relentless focus, determination and iron will are necessary ingredients to success.



I was instantly hooked afterwards and in a nutshell, I joined one running event after another for a year or so and progressed to joining 5k events. Every run was literally different, not only in terms of the route, weather conditions and purpose of the event (some were charitable events, e.g. "World Vision Run" & "Scholarun")- but there were times that I felt very strong and times when I felt weak, nevertheless - I made it a point to finish strong regardless of how I felt before and during the race.

There was even one run (Recycle. Feed. Run, 2012) when I woke up quite late and arrived at the site right after gun start, so I didn't have time to warm-up and just jumped into the race, but I managed to still finish strong (photo below- courtesy of Pinoy Fitness.com - thanks, Jeff).



One unique and memorable race was the most challenging because of the obstacle course that was part of the run. The last part of the race required for the runners to crawl on all fours through a muddy and rough field leading to the finish line. Needless to say, it was quite difficult as the muddy field was full of sharp stones and grazed my knees and hands. Then again, it was all part of the race and I still wanted to finish the race regardless.



I actually crawled very slow as it was very awkward and I had to avoid the sharp stones and rocks along the way, which was quite impossible. Some of the runners didn't actually crawl, which I thought was unfair (like the guy behind me on the picture above with his knees not in contact with the ground) - but I guess the race marshals didn't notice. Still, I didn't mind that as I just wanted to finish the race.


Since it took me quite a while to crawl all the way to the finish line, two Kenyans caught up with me but didn't manage to pass by me and just tailed me until the end line. While a lot of Filipino runners hated their guts because they almost always dominate every running event around the metro and win tons of prizes and receive not only medals but also freebies, I actually have deep respect for them and instead of hating them - why not learn from them?



They're actually very friendly and warm, it's just a matter of talking to them and getting to know them more.They're also very enthusiastic talking about their favorite sport and wouldn't mind sharing tips and experiences that they have had.

When I finally reached the finish line, there was a water truck next to the finish line where every finisher can have a well-deserved cold shower after receiving a cool stainless finisher's medal. Needless to say, it was difficult, it was painful and it was literally hot and humid at that time, but it was one of the most fulfilling races and therefore, memorable.




I was literally joining races every other month and sometimes 2-3 races in one month. That was on top of the fact that I was still a freelance personal trainer in a local gym in Quezon City and also working from home as an Online English Tutor, but I was able to manage and finish one race after the other - some with finisher's medals and some without. Nevertheless, it was the same elated, endorphin-releasing experience every after each race.













Another memorable run was held at night and was known as, "Color Manila Nite Run" where we were given night sticks that could be worn on any part of the body and runners literally blinked neon red, green and yellow lights as they ran. This run was particularly fun, because it was very festive and well, it wasn't that hot. It's one of those runs where you could just relax and even walk the whole way if you chose to. But of course, it wouldn't be a run if I didn't run at all. 




The last race I joined was "SunPiology 2013" sponsored by another insurance company, Sunlife, Philippines and was graced by their endorser, popular actor - Mr. Piolo Pascual. I decided to make this my last race because the registrations to such races are becoming too pricey and I thought that I've already ran as much as I could and enjoyed every event to the fullest. It was then that I decided to go back to weight-training which was my first passion. 



Overall, I've collected several finisher's medals, shirts and freebies - but it's the whole experience of it that can never be bought by any amount and the memories that will stay with me for the rest of my fitness-driven life. 

Who knows? I would probably try out another sport or fitness regimen like Crossfit or get into boxing that I have been wanting to experience for the longest time. Whatever I get into - it will always be the experience and the memories that will always count. 


Kettlebell

It may sound like some sort of a musical instrument or even that bell used by cows around their necks, but it's actually a fitness tool used by Russians for quite a long time now and just like any other fitness fad, regimen or innovative equipment, some guy had a "light bulb" moment and made this portable and unassuming apparatus part of Russian weightlifting, physical conditioning and sport.

16kg Kettlebell (image courtesy of Philippine Kettlebell Club)

Based on what my trainer shared (Coach Paolo of PKC) and on my research, kettlebells ("Girya" in Russian) were used by Russian farmers before for weighing crops and now, it is primarily used in holistic exercises for conditioning and endurance like in "Crossfit" programs that focus primarily on explosive movements targeting multiple muscles for strength, endurance and even flexibility. 

I have had the opportunity to join a 10-session Kettlebell classes in the open grounds of the University of the Philippines campus last January 2012 and since it was my first time to try it out, it literally left me breathless. It was quite a challenge to do swings even for just 2 mins, but as most experienced fitness enthusiasts and trainers say - start at the bottom, the lowest intensity that your body can handle and progress from there. 

Based on how my body responded, it targeted my core (abdominals and lower back), legs, shoulders, triceps (particularly when lifting the bell overhead), but primarily - my forearms as you have to grip the kettlebell for the duration of the time that you have to finish one workout set. 

It was also an opportunity to meet the founder of the Philippine Kettlebell Club, Nico D' Haenen and of course my trainer, Coach Paolo - both of whom are certified Kettlebell trainers by IKFF (International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation) and were very professional and gracious enough to share their knowledge in Kettlebell workouts. There were also other fitness enthusiasts, like a power lifter and martial artist whom I met and who were also interested in kettlebell exercises. 

Overall, it was quite a fulfilling learning experience both from my trainer and co-trainees and it was indeed an honor to be surrounded by people who share the same passion for health and fitness as I do. I would probably be shifting again to Kettlebells once my usual weight-training sessions become stale, as of the moment however - I'm still really into weight-training and it has become so much of a lifestyle that it's virtually impossible to stop. 

I do recommend Kettlebell workouts either on its own or in conjunction with your weight-training or other types of workouts as it combines both cardio and strength conditioning. It simply means that you will burn more calories and it will target your heart and major muscles of your body than if you just do weight-training on its own. If however, this is the first time for you to use a Kettlebell, it's better to start at the lowest intensity to avoid injury or fainting. Give your body enough time to adjust to this new fitness tool and progress accordingly. Always remember to properly warm-up your whole body by doing simple calisthenics for at least 15-20 minutes. 

Better yet, enroll in one of PKC's Kettlebell classes and learn proper form, breathing and execution from their certified trainers.

And of course, don't forget to enjoy every workout and do help those who are struggling with their health and fitness goals once you become proficient with Kettlebells.




Friday, November 18, 2016

Squats

As most fitness enthusiasts and hard-core gym-freaks like me would attest to the fact, leg-workouts can be torturous or downright detestable. However, we cannot also discount the fact that it is imperative and essential to have balanced development of strength and endurance of all major and minor muscles of the body - particularly the legs, regardless if it will leave you breathless, make you see stars or vomit at the end of your gut-wrenching workout (literally - most of the time).

These videos are one of those heavy leg workouts I had, literally leaving me weak in the knees after a an hour. I've already done heavy leg presses, extensions and curls, so I was just able to manage doing partial squats as this was my last workout set

I apologize for the pixelized texture though, as it was just taken via a low-tech camera phone:







Anyhow, it was definitely a fulfilling leg workout and my legs were sore until the next 48 hours :)



Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Freak of Nature"

Atypical, an aberration, weird, quirky, strange - "Freak!" These are the usual words blurted out by "normal" people and those who couldn't get out of the mold or of social norms. I actually don't have anything against these people as I pity them for their fear or ignorance due to their lack of understanding of unique individuals who don't conform - aka, being "unique".

Sadly, these harsh labels are brought about by their very nature of being defensive as a protective mechanism for something or someone they don't understand and I guess they will never ever do. It is also because people like these will never comprehend beyond what they perceive with their own two eyes.


Of course, people have standards and we are somehow bound by social norms and cultural or traditional expectations - but does it mean that breaking out of the mold and not simply being "black & white" or believing and defending your own convictions of being unique gives other people the right to label us with these seemingly ignorant and repugnant adjectives? 

Not being judgmental or anything, but these are the very same people who self-righteously disagree with bullying of any form and those who wouldn't want to be judged or labeled as well. Double-standards, right? As our very own unique" president always say, "Men judge best when they condemn".

I myself, am not being self-righteous nor am I excluding myself from the natural instincts and tendencies of being human, but I have developed the habit of not judging people regardless of how bad, how strange or "different" they are from my natural biases that I grew up with. It is also because I can very much relate to be in the receiving end of such character attacks and because nobody possesses a perfectly pristine character. My actions and statements therefore are merely reactions of how people treat me. 

You leave me be, I leave you be. You attack me and challenge me, I attack you and challenge you head on. You treat me amiably well, I give you a "red-carpet" treatment. Befriend me sincerely and get close to me and I'll be a loyal friend for life in return. I respect everyone's uniqueness and I do not (in every way humanly possible) judge you for who or what you are. It's just right that I deserve the same kind of respect and treatment - even if we hate each other's guts. We can respect each other as human beings regardless of our past, achievements, beliefs, gender, professions, religious convictions or race. After all, these are all temporary and death comes to us all that is considered the great "equalizer" - and by the way, I do not fear death like most people do - which also means that I do not fear anything or anyone.

My seemingly silent, cold, nonchalant and aloof look doesn't necessarily mean that I have something to boast about nor does it mean that I'm anti-social. As an introvert, it is part of my nature to value solitude and silence. 




We all have a choice to make on how we should live our lives and no one has the right to even dictate on someone how he/she should live theirs. We all have the right to express our opinions about others and how they live their lives as part of the democratic process, but it's different when we express our opinions to intentionally malign another, even if it's just a joke. I think we should learn to make the choice of not giving in to our usual human tendencies of being prejudicial out of some norm, standard or bias, mostly because of peer pressure or because we would like to gain the approval of many on Facebook or Twitter- also because we don't want others to do the same to us. We can always rise above our natural instincts and tendencies and be more intellectually-driven, instead of blatantly, indiscriminately or indirectly lambasting other people that only reflects intellectual incapacity, breeds animosity and simply put - how competent ignorant morons we can sometimes be.

Before pointing a finger at someone, labeling or judging them and assuming too much - try to look at your own selves in the mirror and count your own flaws and human imperfections. Once you have done so, think again before labeling anyone- because no one in this world is faultless. 

Am I a freak of nature? Yes, I am and I'm proud of it. I see the world differently, I think differently, I interpret things differently - in short, I'm unique and expressing such is the very essence of individuality. Being an introvert and a non-conformist does not make me a mentally-deranged person, but it's just that my inner world of  is much more colorful than my external one. No one has to understand, accept or like it as I don't demand or expect anything from anyone and no one should even demand or expect anything from me as well. So, just live your lives the way you think is right for yourselves the way I have always done so with mine. To each his own and keep your dysfunctional, idiotic comments to yourselves. 

It's high time that as educated and civilized individuals, especially those who have the inclination for erudition to overcome and go beyond the natural, but flawed human tendency of prejudicial thinking borne out of fear or ignorance - especially the common Filipino trait of "crab-mentality". 

Better yet, focus on intellectual pursuits and work on your own flaws and imperfections  rather than focusing on another's. Living in a democratic country does not give us the right or even the privilege to look down on another, besides our idiosyncrasies do not and should not define us since it only makes up a fraction of who we really are underneath.  

nuff said.