2 Highly Effective Ab Exercises

Here are two really effective abdominal exercises for spot toning. You can't spot reduce (lose fat in just one area) but you can definitely spot tone.

1. My favorite oblique (love-handle) movement. Not only does it give me a stretch it also helps keep my obliques defined. Tennis players love this one because this helps you stretch and strengthen the muscles you need for an explosive serve. 

Take a weighted bar, not dumbbells, a bar over your head and stretch your hands up. Slowly lean to one side keeping your body as straight as possible. Lean as far as you can with control and slowly come back up. 

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2. Swiss ball abs crunches are intense and target the front six pack. You can do these any way you please. The important thing is to remember to life your chin to the ceiling not your neck. Doing about 100-200 reps define my abs without a doubt. 

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What Filter Do You Choose?

I just read a few insightful articles about India's open obsession with white skin and its effects on the fashion industry and Bollywood. It led me to think about how brown girls are affected by our Indian culture's obsession with white skin and our American culture's obsession with a golden tan. Miss America, Nina Davuluri 2014 is a prime example of this conundrum, so many of us realize that she is too "dark" to ever be Miss India but her beautiful skin tone (along with her talent and personality) has been granted one of American beauty's highest honors. Brown girls living in the US are faced with these seemingly opposite notions of beauty everyday. This leads me to ask, how you filter your selfies on instagram? Do you choose Amaro or Sierra to give your self a 'fair and lovely' lift? Or do you prefer Lo-Fi to highlight the contrast between your deep brown skin at that deep red lipstick your rocking? 

photo cred: motherjones.com 

photo cred: motherjones.com 

An example from my Instagram feed 

An example from my Instagram feed 

I've caught myself choosing an Instagram filter that makes me look fairer. I've even posted a few severely flashed out deer-in-headlights photo where you can barely make out the shape of my nose. I could argue that these filters make my eye pop and make my skin look smoother and flawless, but I'd rather not lie. I choose them because they make me look whiter therefore, more beautiful. I'm disappointed in myself to know that I want to make myself lighter to feel prettier. I know I'm not alone because I've noticed a bunch of my brown skinned girlfriends post similar super lightened photos of themselves on social media. 

What filter do you choose? 

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Top 10 Habits of Healthy People

 1. They don't drink soda. Soda is just plain bad, it weakens bone density, hurts your stomach and it is linked to obesity.

2. They don't go on diets. Healthy people never diet, they eat what they want and because of that are able to maintain their weight. They know that allowing themselves the freedom to eat whatever they want  reduces and often eliminates cravings to binge on the bad stuff.

3. They know their body. Salubrious people know what foods make them bloat, sluggish, tired and energetic. They are aware of how their body feels and what it needs to maintain balance. This could mean, sleep, exercise, relaxation etc.

4. They limit their intake of foods with added sugars. Though not on a diet, healthy people limit the amount of foods they eat with high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Even foods that seem healthy, like flavored yogurt and juice are laden with teaspoons upon teaspoons of sugar.

5. They drink room temperature or warm water. Water at room temperature or above aids in digestions, regulating your metabolism and breaking down fatty acids. Cold water slows down blood circulation and makes it harder for the body to break down fat.

6. They limit processed carbs. Sure healthy people enjoy a plate of pasta or pizza pie guilt free but its not part of their daily diet. You won't find many (if any) processed carbs such as crackers, breads and pasta in their pantry.

7. They get a good sweat at least 4x a week. Healthy people love getting sweaty and flushing out bodily toxins through physical exercise.

8. They enjoy the feeling of their muscles burning. That's right, they love feeling their muscles burning, getting sore the next day and doing it all over again.

9. They find places to work out outside of the gym. Being healthy is a lifestyle and those that are have hobbies and habits that allow them to work out in other places. This may mean they are rock climbing enthusiasts, love hiking, squash players or basketball fanatics. Activity is connected to their hobby.

10. They are slightly narcissistic. Healthy people are proud of their bodies and the way they look. This allows them to take good care of themselves and respect what was given to them.

Indian Men and Gaining Weight

 How do I gain weight? This is a fitness question that I get asked frequently by men, specifically Indian men. A large percentage of desi men have a lot of trouble gaining weight and are often unhappy with their lean (well, honestly skinny) physique. A combination of genetics, fast metabolism, diet and lack of weight lifting/athletic development are generally the cause. What is ironic is that it seems Indian men suffer from only two issues, not being able to gain weight and putting on weight too easily. I'm focused on the former today.

To get straight to the point, in order to gain muscle mass and weight one must eat significantly more then he does now and start a serious lifting or strength building regimen at least three times a week. Scores of fitness gurus will tell you to up the protein and lower your carbohydrates intake with meat, shakes, creatine and other yucky supplements. I disagree. Body building can be done on a mostly vegetarian diet. However, it takes a bit of extra effort and care about what you are exactly eating.

Personally I have gone through the tedious process of shakes, bars, supplements and intense weight lifting to go from a skinny Indian girl to building a body of armor that whipped serves and forehands at speeds of over 120 miles per hour.

Here is the background of a guy, Siddharth (from Bangalore)  who had asked me to help him gain weight and my advice to him.

Hello Neha

I am Siddarth based out of Bangalore India.

My current body details are-

Height- 173 cm (5'6")

Weight- 54 kg (119) 

I am lean and thin, as i have a fast metabolism.

My current diet is as follows

Morning 9:00 am - 3 slices of beard, one omellete.
Morning 10:00 am- one glass of milk of about 200-250ml.

Midday 12:00 pm- One glass of juice mixed fruit.

Afternoon 13:30 pm- Lunch 3 chappatis, one cup of dal, rice curry and rice and Yogurt.

Evening 17:30 pm- Noodles one small bowl with a cup of coffee.

Night- Rice, Sambhar (south indian dish) fish curry and curd.

Occasionally on weekends about once a month

Lunch - Rabbit/Mutton/Chicken/Deer/Duck meat/ with rice, dal, curry.

Or Seafood lunch like crab,fish with curry and rice and yogurt.

Dinner and breakfast would be same as everyday.

Exercise

Currently i do not do any sort of exercise apart from swimming or soccer for about two hours on weekends evenings.

I would like to go to the gym and start working out to get a better body.

My goals are

1.To gain about 5-6 kg

2.To build muscle over my entire body.

3.To get stronger and bigger thighs, and legs, arms chest, abs back and core.

So that is pretty much about my diet and goals

Please help me out with a diet plan and exercise regime.

A bit about myself.

I used to play soccer for college but now i am not into any sport. I have a job in a software company but hobbies and passion are scuba diving, snorkelling, and gymming.

Thanks for time in reading this mail hope it is comprehensive information about myself. 

At first glance, it looks like Sid is eating a ton! His diet is very high in carbohydrates and he severely lacks physical activity. However, he might just have a fast metabolism. A specific and scientific diet plan would be difficult for Sid to follow with his background and habits. Instead of inundating him with a new structured lifestyle, I opted to give him simple guidelines he could follow without too much adjustment. Using his typical daily diet I asked him to make a few minor changes, adding and subtracting some food choices every day. For example, I asked him to reduce is 3 pieces of bread to two and have one more egg instead. His 10 am glass of milk should be supplemented with a handful of unsalted nuts and a banana. During lunch he must replace his rice with 2 cups of daal. His snack is to be replaced by a combination of boiled eggs, nuts, milk and bananas. We slowly increased his calorie intake. He also started doing basic body weight exercises from my YouTube fitness videos: Click here to see my video.

About 3 weeks later:

Hello Neha,

I have been eating on the lines you told me and i have gained about 1.5 kilos .I am also eating meat regularly do you think I need go to gym and seek help from a fitness trainer.

I have been doing the exercises you have showed me on youtube. * I am not a personal trainer nor a dietitian. My advise comes from training to be a pro athlete since age 9 and working with some of the worlds best fitness experts. 

I assured him that meat is not required but a regular weight lifting routine is key. A combination of body weight exercises (pushups, pullups, sit ups, dips, lunges), high endurance sports (basketball, swimming, football, tennis) and weight lifting (chest press, squats, hang cleans, back) is REQUIRED. 

2 months later

Hello Neha,

I have been working out regularly and put on about 3 kilos in the last 3 months. I have made slow progress. My target is to add about 7 kg by the end of this year.

Although it is very hard for me to assess his progress without seeing Sid and what he is actually eating/doing, there have been some results. Discussing his specific weekly gym routine is the next important step  so we can expedite his results.  Gaining pure muscle mass will help put on the weight and build he desires. 

 My friend Kabir Singh Kochhar of Delhi, India. His Workout: Basketball, weight lifting and dancing with me to Hookah Bar :)

 My friend Kabir Singh Kochhar of Delhi, India. His Workout: Basketball, weight lifting and dancing with me to Hookah Bar :)

Do You Think My Muscles Are Sexy?

I was recently having a conversation with a guy I'm talking to about how much muscle toning is sexy in a woman (relax Aunty, we are just talking). I think many women athletes can agree this is always a sensitive topic. As a former pro tennis player I have had my share of body image issues and being Indian hasn't made it any easier (cue petite and super curvy Bollywood actresses gracefully prancing around the TV screen). I feel that society tells us that women with big strong muscular physiques are not sexy. Most men I know find female fitness models unattractive. How much muscle tone is sexy and what point does it become unattractive? 

I have always had an athletic build. As a young teenager, I was lean and very toned from all the hours I spent on the tennis court. I felt fit and very confident. As I got older and started weight lifting, it drastically improved my foot speed and the pace at which I hit the ball. At one point in my career I got a little too big. I had a few extra pounds on me (seriously no more than 5-10 pounds) and had a lot of muscle mass. I loved being able to hit the ball so hard, and to being so strong. I loved being powerful and it gave me so much confidence as a female athlete. But as a young woman I often felt  so self conscious and unsexy, especially in social settings. My friends would make comments. My extended family would straight up tell me I was "fat" and "manly." I walked like a man. Buying jeans that fit my quadriceps and butt was always a unfruitful mission. Indian blouses were a nightmare to try and squeeze my biceps in to. I could never look and act as gracefully as all those other girls. My shoulders were big, my abs were ripped, arms were thick, my hands had ugly callouses and my legs were bulging.  At times I really felt embarrassed. Luckily, I always felt a little more feminine than my sister, Shikha who was constantly reprimanded for "walking like a man." 

Now at 27, I've been off the tour and training regime for 5 years and have naturally lost a lot of muscle mass.  I definitely feel a lot more feminine than I used to but I really miss my strength and power. I like my body but always want to feel more toned.  I drool over Michelle Obama and Serena Williams' arms.It still bothers me when I go to India and friends/family tell me "you lost so much weight, you used to be so fat." Their ignorance to the importance my muscles played in my tennis career is so irritating. Maybe it is their lack of appreciation for the work I put to create that body that bothers me.

In my books female body builders are so unattractive but track and fielders are beautiful. I also find women who are 'skinny fat', that is, thin by nature and lacking any muscle definition what so ever very unappealing.  

A lot of women such as Flo Jo, Serena Williams and Anna Watson have started to change the notion that muscles on a woman are not sexy. But to what extent? And what about men? Is lack of large muscle mass unattractive in a man? 

 What do you think? 

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Meditation Through Sport

I am not fond of meditation. In fact I can tell you that I actually resent it. My Indian upbringing has given me the privilege to learn about the invaluable effects of meditation on the body, mind and spirit. I am sure many of my South Asian peers can relate to being forced, coerced and guilt tripped in to practicing meditation. I am am in my mid twenties now but still have negative knee jerk reaction to it. At this point in my life I can not incorporate it in to my daily practice the way I do working out in the gym or checking emails. 

The deepest spiritual moments I have experienced have come in two forms: the minutes after overcoming a combined physical and mental struggle and competing in the "zone."  Conquering the combined mental and physical challenge of hitting 2 sets of 10 running forehands in a specific 3 foot space gave me that inner calm.  Pushing mind and body out of their comfort zones, I overcame fear and doubt. The moments after achieving this were bliss.

Similarly, competing while absolutely engrossed in the present moment, I experienced state of complete awareness and joy.  Those moments made me feel more connected to life yet so detached at the same time. 

Maybe they were coated with a satisfaction of achievement and contentment. Or was it pure bliss? 

I don't train like that any more and struggle to capture that same mediative peace. Dancing has a transcending effect but the purity is tainted by the awareness of loud pounding music. 

I came across this article my mother shared with me in Yoga International from the Himalayan Institute. It made me think, how else can I meditate? 

How do you heal the split within yourself? 

 

5 Tennis Parenting Tennis Tips from a Former Pro Player

 So you want to push your kid in tennis? You may think you are ‘bringing out the best’ in your child and their athletic performance but be wary of these five inhibiting and dangerous parenting mistakes. By slightly altering your critique, you can avoid conflict and help cultivate your child’s success.

1.     Don’t compare your child to other players.

While you might merely be pointing out positive characteristics you want in your children, comparing them to their peers can start a negative trend of self-loathing and low self-esteem. You can also unknowingly make those your are comparing your children too seem intimidating instead of beatable. As an alternative approach, point out positive traits in athletes that compete in older age groups or in another sport altogether to make your point.

  1. More hours on the court DO NOT equal improvement.

Yes, repetition and hard work is key to success in almost any field. However, if your child is merely putting in the hours without the right technique, mental attitude and intensity, that time has been wasted. Opt for shorter, planned training sessions with higher intensity and focus.

3.    Do not micromanage your child.

If your kid is above the age of twelve, controlling what time he/she sleeps and how he/she spends each waking moment can be lead to burnout. Tell your child the importance of a good night’s sleep and its positive effects on performance. If he/she is unable or unwilling to show self-discipline, at least you know how committed your child is to the sport. You can avoid tensions as well wasting your resources.

4.  Do not tell your child he/she is too fat or too thin.

This can be detrimental to self esteem, body image and healthy eating patters for years to come. Seek a third party to educate your child on how he/she can improve performance by improving the body. At home, find tactful ways to help your child achieve his/her weight goals without criticism. For example, buy less junk food, use less oil when cooking, make smaller portions, buy leaner meat, sit and enjoy the meal together. By making food a non issue, you can avoid serious psychological disorders.

5. Do not equate your child’s tennis results to any other aspect of his/her life.

A loss is an independent event that has no correlation to your child’s academic performance. They are separate events have nothing to do with his/her fortitude. By relating one result to another you are in grave danger of tampering with your child’s identity and self worth.

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South Asian Youth Action

 

Today, I had the opportunity to volunteer at SAYA! (South Asian Youth Action). SAYA! is a secular youth development center for South Asian youth. Through afterschool and summer programs, the organization gives South Asian youth the opportunities to reach their full potential. They run programs at six sites in and around Queens, New York.

When I visited, I was so impressed to see how efficient and dedicated the staff was to serving our youth. There were free SAT classes, dance classes, a library, basketball court and a computer lounge. The organization is truly doing a commendable job and they deserve a lot of praise. Judy and Ailea of SAYA! invited me to teach a fitness class and talk about health to a group of high school girls.

I had a lot of fun and it was so nice to be able to interact with all these bright and friendly girls. It was so nice to hear their goals of being doctors, nurses, lawyers and politicians.  After the fitness session, they had a dance class with Shruthi, a Columbia University student. The girls taught me a few steps of the dance they are rehearsing for SAYA!’s gala in October.

I hope they enjoyed my visit, I most certainly did.  For more information on how to participate visit

www.saya.org

or contact Judy Goberdhan:

judy@saya.org