About Diabetes

“On the occasion of World Health Day 2016, WHO issues a call for action on diabetes, drawing attention to the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease. “

http://www.who.int/diabetes/global-report/en/

Diabetes is a serious, chronic (long-term) disease that occurs either when the pancreas (an organ in your body) does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar, or glucose), or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Insulin is used by the body to help move sugar from the blood into the cells of the body, where the sugar is converted into energy. So when insulin is not there or is not well used, the level of sugar in the blood gets high.

There are three types of diabetes – Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational.

Type 1

This occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The pancreas therefore is unable to make insulin. Someone with Type 1 diabetes therefore has to regularly inject insulin into their body.

Type 2

The pancreas does make insulin, but the insulin is either not enough, or the body does not use it well. Type 2 diabetes is developed largely as a result of having excess body weight (being overweight) and lack of physical activity.

Gestational

This is when some (between about 2% and 10%) pregnant women have high levels of sugar in the blood. This is caused by hormones produced during pregnancy that cause the cells of the body to be resistant to insulin, and therefore the insulin does not work as effectively as before.
Usually, blood sugar levels return to normal within six weeks of childbirth. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Overweight

Overweight

The Bad News

This isn’t really news but here we go:

  • The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown. It is not known what causes the immune system to attack the cells in the pancreas.
  • Diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, leg amputation, vision loss (blindness) and nerve damage.

The Good News

This isn’t news either, but here it is:

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults (before the age of 20), so if you have passed those stages, you’re probably safe from Type 1.
  • Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through physical activity and a healthy diet.
  • Most people who have diabetes have (the preventable) Type 2 diabetes.
  • Even if you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is possible to prevent or reduce or delay the effects of diabetes.

What To Do

“To help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications, people should:

  • achieve and maintain healthy body weight;

  • be physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days. More activity is required for weight control;

  • eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugar and saturated fats intake; and

  • avoid tobacco use – smoking increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”

Source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, talk to your doctor about a suitable treatment and management plan, and follow it! You don’t want the complications listed above, so take steps to prevent them. The plan will probably involve decisions about what you eat and engaging in physical activity on a regular basis.

You can read your country profile by WHO with regards to diabetes here.

Sources

http://www.who.int/diabetes/global-report/en/

http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/default.htm

http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/diabetes-basics

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Diabetes/Pages/Diabetes.aspx

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/basics/causes/con-20033091

 

Renewed Goal of Twenty Pullups

I have decided to again go after my goal of 20 pullups. I intend to achieve this goal by the end of December 2015. I think the reason I did not succeed the last time was simply that I did not have sufficient motivation. This time, I have two things motivating me:

One is the realisation that time is passing by and I should not keep on putting off my goals, or else I will one day realise that the window of opportunity has closed or narrowed considerably. (This realisation seems to dawn on many people when they turn 40, like I did in 2014).

The second thing motivating me is that I’d like to blog more on pullups and I think actually getting to do 20 pullups myself will give credibility to what I say.

 

So I have been doing pullups, following my favourite program, the Recon Ron Pullup Program. Counting backwards from the last week of December 2015, I saw that I would need to start at Week 7 of the program, so I did. That was the week of 21st September.

Today, I was able to do the sets for week 7 as specified (10, 8, 6, 6,6). I’m supposed to be on Week 9, but I was still quite pleased.

 

Consistency Is Key

Consistency is key for any lasting progress regarding fitness and fat loss. Actually, consistency is key for progress in almost any field. You can see this in almost anything that you have learned in the past: You learnt (or learned) to walk as a child by practising a little (or a lot) every day. You learnt to talk in a similar manner. You went to school every day during the school term, with weekends and vacations off. But it was all consistent.
Yet, when it comes to fat loss and fitness, many people are looking for quick results – lose x pounds of fat in 30 days. Gain 5 pounds of muscle in two months. Well, sometimes it can be done, but with extraordinary effort.
Let’s look on the flip side and ask: how do people become overweight? By consistently making bad food choices, a little at a time, but consistently. Weight is usually gained slowly over time. Similarly, weight loss can be achieved through consistent proper eating and consistent exercise. Of these two, proper eating is more important (for weight loss).

Consistent Proper Eating
Many diet plans you will find will include what is called a cheat day. This is usually one day in the week when you can eat whatever you want. A cheat day allows you to enjoy the foods you are used to and satisfy your cravings. This helps you avoid abandoning the diet plan altogether. Don’t be afraid of having ONE cheat day in a week. One day of ‘bad’ eating will not make you gain weight, just as one day of ‘good’ eating will not make you lose weight. The important thing is that you consistently eat properly during the other days of the week.

Consistent Exercise
A good training plan will have exercises that are challenging but do-able, and that get a little harder over time (as your ability increases). For example, a beginner running plan that I followed a while back starts with walking for 6 minutes then jogging for 1 minute, then repeating this. I did this 3 days a week. The next week, the plan stated I walk for 5 minutes, then jog for 2 minutes, then the week after that was 3 minutes walk and 4 minutes jog and so on. A little more at a time. It seemed difficult at various points, but with consistency, I was eventually be able to jog for 30 minutes non-stop.

Whatever plan you decide to follow, follow it consistently, be patient, and the results will come.

20 Pullups Progress Update

After deciding to prepare to do 20 pullups straight on my birthday, I have not been consistent in my pull-ups. (Yeah, what’s new?). Today I decided to do some, before things get too far out of hand. I thought I had reached Week 13 on the Recon Ron Program. When I counted backwards on the calendar from the week of my birthday (Sep 11th), I realised that I am supposed to be on Week 15.

However, I did the Week 13 pullups as specified (14-10-8-8-8) without breaking any set, so I was happy about that. I think on Wednesday I will jump to Week 14 and hopefully on Friday I will be able to take on Week 15. So this week or next week I should be back on track to doing 20 pullups straight on my 40th birthday.

A US Marine Doing Pull-ups.

A US Marine Doing Pull-ups. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keep working out!

 

Two Steps To Losing Weight

This is is quick guide to losing weight (or losing body fat, to be exact), for those who are saying “Just tell me what to do!”
These steps are not easy, but they are straight-forward and if you put in the effort, you will see results. How fast you see results will depend on how much you stick to the plan, but these steps work.

Eat Less Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide energy. However, if you eat more carbohydrates than your body uses, then the extra will be converted to fat and stored. If you eat less carbohydrates than your body uses, then your body will start to use up your stored body fat for energy.

So, the first step in losing weight is to eat less carbohydrates. Cut the quantities that you currently eat of the following foods in half, or if you can, skip them altogether

  • wheat products such as breads, cakes and pastries (whether white or brown or whole meal),
  • rice,
  • pasta,
  • cereal,
  • sugar,
  • sugary drinks such as juice or soda. It is better to skip drinks such as soda altogether. They have no real nutritional value. Eat actual fruits instead, if you must have something sweet.

To be full and for proper nutrition, eat more green vegetables and proteins such as meat, eggs and some beans.

steak and salad

Exercise, or Exercise Intensely
Generally, any exercise will use up energy. However, if you want faster results, you need to challenge your body more. Low or moderate intensity exercise takes lots of time per session and gives results slowly. High intensity training takes generally less time per session and gives results sooner. Intense exercise burns up calories for longer.
So, do some sprinting instead of jogging. Hill sprints are even better. Do stair runs. Do squat jumps.  Give your exercise sessions all you can.

Because of the greater intensity of your workout, you can keep the workout session short. (You may have heard of the 7 minute workout or the 4-minute Tabata Protocol). Do this at least twice a week.

Of course you do not have to suddenly start intense exercise, especially if you have not been exercising, but you can build up towards high intensity exercise.
Please check with your doctor before you begin any exercise plan.

Many team sports involve short intense bursts of activity

Many team sports involve short intense bursts of activity

That’s it! Two steps: eat less carbohydrates and exercise more intensely.

With consistency, you should start seeing some results within four weeks or less.

Links:
Many Paths to Successful Weight Loss
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/weight-loss-study/index.html

Low Carb or Low Fat Diet
http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/low_carb_fat_diet_plan

Exercise and Weight Control
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/staying-active/exercise-weight-loss/

High Intensity Interval Training Benefits
http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/conditioning/a/aa112701a.htm

Study Suggests Less Is More for Exercise and Weight Loss
http://www.wired.com/playbook/2012/08/less-is-more-for-exercise-and-weight-loss/

http://www.mensfitness.com/training/lose-weight/how-to-get-lean-25-ways-to-lose-fat-faster?page=2

My First Half Marathon

A friend if mine, George, put up a picture on Facebook, showing the race number assigned to him for the Nairobi Marathon. From what I could gather from his statements elsewhere, he had not been practicing much. I decided to sign up for the half marathon as well, though I had not been practising as such. I signed up for three reasons:
One, I wanted to take on the challenge of covering 21km
Two, I wanted to evaluate how I would perform, seeing that sprint sessions are supposed to result in greater fitness than lower intensity, longer workouts.
Three, I wanted to (see if I could) beat my friend George.
I signed up on the last day of registration, and instead of the adult sized t-shirt that others got, I was given a green children’s t-shirt.

The run was set for Sunday. It was raining on Saturday night as I went to bed. I woke up at some point during the night and heard the rain. I thought of maybe just skipping the run.
I set my alarm for 5:40 a.m. I did not quite fall asleep. After a while, I thought surely 5:40 has passed. I got up and it was around 5:56. The phone was still on the Alarms screen, so I guess that is why the alarm did not go off.

Anyway, my wife woke up, made me breakfast, and we set off. She dropped me as near the stadium as she could and went to look for parking. There were quite a number of people walking about in and around the stadium compound. I made my way to a tent where they were giving out pins for pinning our race numbers to our t-shirts. I noticed that the vast majority of the runners had white t-shirts, meaning that my green one would stand out. It was also rather fitting, having been meant for a child. So I kept my jacket zipped for a while.

I kept trying to call George but his phone was unreachable or off. I also called another friend, Eve, who I knew was taking part in the run, and we tried to meet.

After a number of phone calls between my wife and myself, I found my wife, who had apparently crossed to an area meant for those running and officials. We took photos, together with my cousin, Tom. Tom said he hoped to complete the 21km in two hours.

The race started at 7:30a.m. I ran a while at a slow pace. The street was rather crowded. As I neared Uhuru Park, I called Eve, she said she was already in the Park. I said she should not let me slow her down.

The run was interesting. I was surprised that I could not run for very long at a time. So I alternated between walking and running briefly. I naturally looked around as I walked or jogged. I saw a lady who looked familiar. My mind took a few moments to place her. It was one of the ladies from Slimpossible. There were some people on wheelchairs. At least one had the sort of three-wheeled wheelchair that you operate by using your hands to rotate some sort of pedals that are similar to those of a bicycle. These are part of a mechanism that rotates the front wheel. I thought it was unfair to have these compete against those who propelled themselves by turning the actual wheels of their wheelchair using their hands, without any intervening mechanism. It was later that I realised that the race organisers made a distinction between tricycles and wheelchairs.

There were various water points along the way. I thought they were a bit far apart, but not too bad. Not quite surprisingly, many people simply threw their used plastic bottles on the ground, despite there being bins provided for this very purpose. That meant that the areas around the water points were like mini obstacle courses. There were people whose work was to pick up these bottles.

I saw a tall white guy and another guy running barefoot. My wife later told me there were a number of barefoot runners.

Some motorbikes and vehicles came from behind us. We were told to make way. The elite runners doing the full marathon were passing. Their route required repeating a section of the route, which is why they were passing us. They were running much faster than most of us. It was interesting to note that most of them were wearing vests and small shorts, as opposed to the more casual runners who were wearing more. One would get the impression that the more serious a runner you were, the less you wore. That may be true, considering that I was wearing a jacket.

There was also a bit of advertising going on. One runner had a vest written Team Kanu. (KANU is the oldest political party in Kenya). Others had matching t-shirts advertising this organisation or another. I remembered reading an article that said something like a group people were either barred from entering a stadium or thrown out, during the Olympics or maybe World Cup, because they had t-shirts that were advertising something. Sorry I can’t remember the details. (See related article here). Evidently, no such restrictions applied here.

I found my wife at Nyayo Stadium as she had said she would be. She was literally at the roundabout, having been assumed to be an official or part of the press. She took photos, and told me that a friend of hours, Sydney, had passed some minutes before. Passing opposite our church, I saw a guy I knew by face. I was walking at the time. Run, he urged, so I started running again. There were some boys in the Highway Secondary School compound cheering guys, cracking jokes and generally making noise. I went on. Tom called out to me from the side of the road that was heading to town. It was around 9:22a.m, so there was no way he was going to meet his 2-hour goal.

When I reached the turning point, I was told there were 5km to go. I felt hope rising. I could complete this race in under 3 hours. I saw the lady from Slimpossible still heading towards the turn. Passing our church again, I again saw the familiar guy, he again urged us to run. When I reached the Nyayo Stadium roundabout, I was a bit taken aback to realise that the route first led us a bit away from the stadium, to a roundabout then back to the stadium. That meant more minutes. I kept going. When I reached the final turn, there were many people walking. Some had finished their run, and others were walking to the finish. Franklin, I saw Sydney. I urged him to run with me but he did not. I left him behind. I decided that the final stretch may actually make a difference, so I decided to run as much as I could. Nearing the actual stadium entrance, I saw a car with a huge timer, saying 2:47. I was delighted. I was going to manage less than 3 hours. I ran on. I reached a guy who was walking and urged him to run. He did. On the last bend, I saw my wife next to the track! (How did she get there?) She took pictures. The guy I had asked to run asked me to photograph him with his camera. I ran ahead, turned at snapped him. I had finished!

21km is actually tough. But I did it. It would probably have been significantly easier if I had trained for it. Now I understand why people get addicted to running. I want to do better next time.

My official time was 2:50:07. I beat George by about 4 minutes. Eve and Tom took about 2hrs 34 minutes.

Progress Update

I am still on Week 15 of the Recon Ron Pull-Up program. I am not too pleased with my progress. I am unable to complete most of the sets as required. I hope this improves soon.

I am also on Week 5 of the Max Capacity Training Program. It is intense, as usual. Today I decided to do the modified Indian Lifts (on a table, rather than on the ground) because doing them on the ground was a bit too difficult for me.

Meanwhile, I signed up for the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon! The marathon takes place this Sunday. I have not trained for it! I signed up  partly due to perceived peer pressure, and partly because I did not want to wait until next year to take part. Let us see how it goes.

The Hill Wins!

I mentioned before that we moved to a new area. Soon after, I went on an exploratory run, to see where I could be doing my sprints. I was glad to find that there were plenty of hilly stretches. Some had a few more cars than I would like. I then found one that had a reasonably steep hill, and relatively low traffic (at least on Sunday mornings). Excellent.

(Hill sprints are great for fat loss, so I was glad to have an opportunity to include them in my regular workouts).

I have had some sprint sessions on that hill. They have been tough! So far, I have been unable to run up the entire ascent of the hill (Maybe I did yesterday on my first run up, but I am not sure). My form simply breaks down towards the top. Looking at Google Maps, I think the distance I cover while still running is about 95 metres.

Image courtesy of mapichai/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday was Sunday. I got up early and prepared to go take on the hill. I had skipped my sprints the Sunday before and I did not want to do that again. So away I went, with my recently installed cell phone timer ticking away.

I did my first hill sprint and it seemed okay. Rest. Another sprint, rest, then another. Tough, but not unusual. Then I decided to start heading back home, and complete the remaining sprints as I go. I normally do eight sprints per session. I had done seven (or maybe six).

Walking home, I felt weak. I sat down. I wanted to throw up. I had read articles about exercising until you feel like throwing up, but I had not experienced it. I rested a bit, then got up and tried to walk on home. I still felt weak. I sat down again.

I sat there for a few minutes, feeling sick. But I recovered, since there really was nothing wrong with me, just that either I had been lazy with the sprints over time, or I had pushed a bit too hard this time. I suspect that the timer I was using had made be more strict with my work and rest timings, and consequently I was working harder.

So this time the hill won. I did not do my eighth sprint. I walked a while, jogged a while, walked some more and got home safely. I will try again on Sunday.

Life Intervenes

This past week, my exercising has been inconsistent. I have not been at home consistently, and I have sometimes got home late and tired and not too keen on exercising. This is one reason to exercise first thing in the morning, if you can. That way you get it done before life interferes with your plans 🙂

This week I intend to get back on track.

In related developments, I will be moving to a place that has some hills. I hope to get back to doing hill sprints 🙂 The only concern I currently have is that the path along which one can run is a bit too close to the road. Maybe I will find a safer route.

How To Start Exercising

How To Start Exercising

Exercise protects you from disease. Exercise makes you stronger. Exercise helps you do things more easily – lift luggage, walk up stairs to an office, run after your child. Exercise relieves stress. There are many good reasons to exercise. So, knowing all this, why do you not exercise? You may say that you cannot afford gym membership or afford the equipment you think you need for exercise. Or you may say that you do not have the time to exercise. Or you may say that exercise is difficult.
Let us address these concerns one by one:
1) Cost: Well, the truth is, you can exercise without expensive equipment or without joining a gym or aerobics class. You can perform bodyweight exercises or use minimal equipment like a skipping rope, items found in your house or running shoes. That means that as long as you are able-bodied, you can start exercising at low or no cost. Today.

2) Time: We all make time for the things we consider important, or things that we find pleasant. We tend to put off things we find difficult, or unpleasant or unnecessary. The same applies to exercise. We may agree that it is important, but we think it is difficult or too demanding, and hence unpleasant. The good news is, you can spare as little as 30 minutes or less a day, 3 days a week and get reasonable exercise, right in the convenience of your home. Chances are, you will later want to increase this time all by yourself, because you will find that exercise can actually be fun. That *you* can actually enjoy it.

3) Difficulty: We may think exercise is difficult, because we think of doing too much or doing things that are currently too far beyond our ability. So we may start, strain for a short while and lose momentum or give up. Again, the good news is that you need not do anything that is very difficult. Start where you are, and grow in exercise. Just like anything we learn properly, we start where we are, and we increase our ability slowly over time. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

Start Now
Please get medical clearance from your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have not been exercising for a while and/or you are over 30 years of age.
If you are not getting regular exercise, then you need to start now. One problem with delay is, the longer you stay without exercising and while not taking care of your nutrition, the bigger the problem gets. It will take more effort or time to undo the effects of such a lifestyle, than if you start making changes sooner. So the sooner you start, the better.

What are some exercises you can do? There are all sorts of exercise out there. Pick one that you will enjoy. A simple Internet search will give you more than you need, and several videos exist showing how to do the exercises properly. Examples are walking, jogging, skipping, stair running, star-jumps (also known as jumping jacks), press-ups, squats, and so on. All these require little or no equipment. Many of them can be done in or around your home. I emphasize, pick one that you will enjoy.

So how do we start?
Set a written, easy, specific, measurable goal and write or find a plan to achieve it. Remember to start slowly.
For example, you could set a goal that a month from now, you will be walking a total of 1 hour a week. (Remember we are starting with something easy).
You could then break down that goal to walking 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week.
You could then start with 5 minutes a day for the first week, then 10 minutes a day, the next week, then 15 minutes a day, then finally 20 minutes a day.
Just like that, you will have a goal and a plan to reach it.

A written plan simplifies your work. You simply need to read what to do each day and do it.
A written plan helps you monitor and see the progress you are making.
A written plan motivates you to exercise, even if just so that you can mark off one day as done.

Start with something that you can actually do and enjoy. For example, if you want to take up running and you have not been running at all, you can start with a walk/run plan, where you walk a number of minutes, then jog for a short time, then walk some more. Don’t plan to start jogging 30 minutes straight when your body and mind are simply not prepared for it. You will get to your 30 minute goal if you work towards it properly. It also needs to be something that you enjoy otherwise you may son stop exercising. The plan that I followed when I started running was this one from About.com.

The plan should be specific. e.g. walk for 5 minutes, then jog for one minute. Or skip 200 times. Or walk up 3 floors and back to ground floor, 2 times.
Similarly, it should be measurable. You should be able to know whether you did as planned or not. Did you skip 200 times or 180? Did you jog 1 minute or 45 seconds?

The plan should also include rest days, to allow you to, well, rest, so that your body has time to recover. Rest is important and should not be neglected. Rest days also cater for times when realities of life prevent you from exercising.

Record progress. This can be done by simply ticking against your written programme above or writing the date, the activity, and the number of repetitions done, such as “Skipped 500 times.” Seeing your progress will help motivate you to keep going.

You may want to share your plan with others who can keep you accountable and encourage you to maintain the habit. Better still, if you can find someone to join you in the exercising, that would help. A partner can help you stick to your exercise appointments.

Get Moving
The most important step is to actually start doing it. Go to Day 1 of your plan and do what it says. The best plan in the world and the best sports gear will not help you if you do not actually get moving. So get up and do it. And enjoy yourself while at it.

All the best in your fitness journey. Remember, if you have not yet started, then start today.

Links
http://exercise.about.com
http://zenhabits.net/4-simple-steps-to-start-the-exercise-habit/