Tales From The Treadmill: My Fitness Diary #2

This diary entry covers week 2 & 3 from my February  Challange (February 8-21).

If you’ve kept up to date with my blog or instagram/facebook fitness feed you’ll know I strained my shoulder towards the end of the first week whilst doing ‘Seated Decline Chest Press’. The machine I was using doesn’t have a release leaver to push the handles forward, so even before doing the manuver my entire shoulder is already under akward and uncesssaery strain. Mr.Ironman himself, Ahmed Jamsheer told me later on that in the absence of a release lever we should push the handles out before sitting down to do the press. I was over ambitious with my rep count for this program, and at this time swallowed my pride and dropped the exercise when I felt what my gut telling m as a ‘bad kind of burn’. Lucky for me the next two days were Active rest so I only had to do Cardio. I figured my shoulder would chillax during that time and I’d be back for more gym murder on Monday right? WRONG! My shoulder felt worse with time, and panic coarsed its way across my entire body. 

“I just got back into the groove of trainint and now THIS?”

“What if my body is fragile due to my premature birth and now my shoulder cartlidge has the same fate as my knee?”

To make matters worse, my Physiotherapist was out of Bahrain (funny enough at shoulder surgery in Paris, probably enjoying croissants afterwards).  

I didn’t let this stop me. I continued with Cardio for the second week and after seeing Dr.Malhota for my final Knee shot, he confirmed a strain and told me to only do bicep workouts for now. I decided to skip weights for the whole week (including biceps) to prevent any risk of further injury.

Week 3 saw me upping Cardio, and slowly introducing weights (Biceps) mid week. During the weekend I targeted each muscle to warm up my entire body back into lifting, in hopes of permently reintroducing weights into my training by week 4 (at the time of writing this I’m lifting again so YAY!) < dude!! Spoiler alert! 

Here are highlights from my eating habits, best moments and cravings during Week 2 & 3

Clean Cheats (technically not supposed to have these, but did to keep my sanity).

  • 1 x Pad Thai: kind of let it pass because it was rice noodles
  • 1 x Coke Zero: I had it once, only steep to this soda when Im super stressed. It also has to be in a plastic bottle for some reason. (Weirdo).
  • 2x Popcorn: End of week reward, put some sodium free herbs on it for flavour and shared my portions. This felt like such a treat
  • 1x Chicken Tikka: This is bad because its takeout so added oil for sure. I was starving after work on Thursday and the Protien shake wasnt enough! Bonus points for eating it plain with greens and no bread (oh Gluten how I miss thee)

Cravings (kept as cravings havn’t had them yet)

  • Bread
  • Bread
  • Burgers (No Cheese)
  • Baked White Potato Fries
  • Strawberry Shortcake/Vanilla Bean Ice cream with crushed Grahm Crackers. 
  • Chocolate, any chocolate (Kinder maybe?)

Weight Update 

During the 2nd week I feel as though I gained 1kg due to eating some carbs later on the day (and I stopped counting the grams although portions were small). During the 3rd week I killed the cardio sessions and regained momentum losing the Kilo I gained and then some! 

Total Weight Lost: 7.8kg

Highlight Moment 

I was emotinally affected during week 2 and skipped some cardio sessions, however I really enjoyed the feeling of regaining momentum in Week 3 with successful cardio sessions and hitting the weights again. My knee feels like its on my side for once! 

Changes?

Yes. Due to a pressing work schedule I can no longer split cardio into AM and PM sessions, so I’ve changed my cardio to a longer AM session instead. 

From the Ground up…

Nervebullet 

PS: want to join my weightloss journey? Contact me through my social media feeds or email nervebullet@gmail.com

Thank you as always for supporting my humble little fitness feed. I hope I motivate you as much as you motivate me. 

  

You are the Preworkout

You are the Pre workout: finding your resilience when betrayed by the comforting lie of instant-gratification.

When faced with a calamity, its natural for negating words to ricochet across the vessel of our thoughts. This is evident when scaling trying business environments through testing relationships, fighting medical ailments or dietary trauma arraying from obesity to anorexia.

Regardless of the degree of how vocal we may be towards our own coming of age, sooner or later we all look inwards and are forced to critique ourselves, be it against society’s measuring stick or our own (Unless your a Disney pop star gone rouge, Miley whats good?). Nobody is immune to this, and evidently so it becomes more and more difficult to duck away from the gunfire of doubt. Our beloved parents might try to clothe us with bullet proof vests in our young age, however with time, the material will eventually allow something through.

The evolution of communication and social media has shifted the provision of content from air-mail and telegraphs, to same day shipping and instant snapchats of where and what anybody is doing at a given second. We now expect and demand instant gratification when our business is tanking or when we suddenly realize we are carrying more weight than we should, either from witnessing the diminishing of our selves or through the glorification of business moguls and six pack abs, maybe both at the same time.

There is nothing wrong with the ‘instant’ processes. Many situations require immediate attention. However we have become so accustomed to this that we expect it to be relevant towards every whim as soon as it flickers on our mind.

When Im working on getting applications approved for work, the new e-government facilities have spoiled me. 80% of the process can be completed from the comfort of my office. It’s all groovy until a bored inspector rejects it 8 times (even though your no stranger to the process and understand the process), however that’s besides the point. Viewing my work through this lens is enough to make me walk around with a silver spoon towards any situation, expecting things like my weight to drop just as fast.

The process of opening Bossy Kitchen was completely new to both my wife and myself. We both had business and financial backgrounds, and a cumulative eight-year corporate experience, however the approval process from the ministry of health to municipality to civil defense departments let alone constructing the facility from scratch took us a grueling night months. No degree, work experience or feasibility study would ever be enough armor for our entrepreneurial ascendency.

The process tested our mettle and humbled us along the way. The same rang true for my Genu Valgum (Bone Deformity). I realized how fragile my own mind and body can be (good luck getting a Leo to admit such thing). I am extremely fortunate to grow up in a household that loves me and supported my academic career above and beyond what I can imagine. However I was not babied around or patted on the back for any jobs well done (don’t confuse this to be lack of emotional support, I received plenty, and its vital in my opinion). After any shattering achievement (in my eyes), my beloved father would always say to me “Whats next?”. His own athleticism and unrelenting work ethic has kept him healthy and hungry to this day. While I pursued rigorous training from running my own boot-camps, to 6am tennis court drills that justified my 6-month shoe insole warranty, my father would swim come rain, shine or freezing weather and fish during season (all before getting dressed and arriving at his office by 6:30am). My mother nurtured me from premature birth and remained beside me to pick up the pieces whenever I fell apart. My own sister coached me towards eventually securing two championships and a 7-month win streak until my surgery. My wife took a broken man both emotionally and physically and inspired me to amplify my life and dreams when my previous work environment and physical health took me to the brink of self-disbelief and crippling doubt. There is no way I would be where I am without my family and friends who show up at my humble matches, and support my initiatives time and time again.

Slogans such as “Get a beach body by summer” or “Own the car or your dreams Today!” can take advantage of our vulnerable situation and mind set. Heck after all my research in fitness I still do a double take at the counter when I see “Green Tea Weight Loss” or the “Hey look I’m Gluten Free, Vegan and loaded with Protein” bar. The FDA laws require that ingredients be written starting with the greatest quantity. Both of the above products have Sugar as #1. The Green Tea and other miracle components hide behind the protected “proprietary blend” writing, so you could be getting 0.000001 green tea and the rest is just sugar! – Dr.Jim Stoppani’s supplements shook the fitness world when he listed the exact quantity of each ingredient instead of hiding behind the proprietary blend label and exposing filler ingredients others use. – For this I completely commend the guy.

Way too often many put unbelievable dependency on supplements and max out their credit card on supplies even before setting foot in the gym. The Amino acids your ingesting aren’t going to lift the weights for you or justify the 300 BD investment you threw away at the gym, only to visit it once a month. Oh well Mohammed, the protein sure tastes good here on the sofa.

A support system is necessary; don’t give me this lone wolf facade. This by no mean negates the hard work you need to put in using your own two hands. Supplements are not compulsory. The effort you put in is the basis of your results. Nothing you drink or take will bring you towards your greatness. During your career, within your relationships or in training, you are – and will remain to be mother-natures pre workout. Whether you don’t say it or believe it. You are resilient, and have resilience within you. It is within our humanity to be resilient. You can’t learn it, and it may not be apparent. A given situation may appear to break you, however if you look within yourself you will experience your breakthrough and find your own resilience. No lack of knee cartilage or rejected applications should never stop you. From the ground up…

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This is probably one of the hardest articles I’ve had to sit down and write, one that required immense reflection and complete honesty.

Weight loss is a battle and health will always be something that you fight for, be it trying to fend off the unnecessary cravings or pushing yourself trough a new routine especially when the rest lure you in with the sentence “Come on Mo, its just one bite!”. Looking at the earlier stages of my weight loss journey, one would think that the struggle would be trying to eliminate 25 kilos. However I’ve discovered with career threatening injuries and to some extent disability, its no longer just a battle against lethargy, but trying to prevent weight gain and reclaim your physique against the limitations stopping you from sweating it off.

My journey began in 2007 during my sophomore year of college. I still remember my first semester where I used to have Chinese food for lunch from the university hall and pizza for dinner. Although I was in an English school for most of my life, I still had trouble adjusting being on the other end of the world, away from my parents and my sister (my best friend). I remember driving home every evening and after finishing my studies I’d engulf an entire pizza while watching an episode of friends. I think I reached the 6th season towards the end of the semester before meeting locals who today are my closest friends in the world. No spoilers please I still don’t know if Phoebe ends up with Joey.

During the second semester I enrolled in the local gym however didn’t really know what I was doing. It was a process of trial and error as I began to tweak my food and seek assistance with the types of exercises that would help me attain my goal. During spring I remember driving past ‘Bike Line’ after class and called up my friend Semo saying, “Bro, we should get mountain bikes!”. This paired up with a tennis racket and I was on the road to newfound strength and unearthing undiscovered passions.Fitness became a staple of my life so much that I built everything around it. I researched every nutrient possible and delved into as many training techniques possible from gyms to boot camps, from muddy terrain to tennis courts.

My dedication to fitness was tested in 2012 when I suffered a serious injury that threatened my tennis career and the ability to pursue a healthy life style. Experiencing people pass you by at normal speed as you try to maneuver in a wheelchair seemed spirit breaking at first, however ended up being a lesson in humility. I remember holding on to my physiotherapists shoulder, fixing my gauge and learning how to walk again. The injuries piled up as I forced other parts of my body to compensate for the damaged areas. My wrist and elbow flare up especially during the winter months. I began to doubt the ability to reclaim my place in the tennis circuit and fitness world.

I fought hard and made it back for a short stint on the tennis tour this past winter, however my body paid the price. I suffered a shoulder tear during an epic three-hour battle at the semi finals. My training was again limited to swimming however a recent large cut in my feet meant that I couldn’t swim. Bit by bit I watched doctors eliminate activates from my list and the winter just made it more inviting to wrap myself up in a blanket and eat anything that was in front of me.

Since my surgery my weight fluctuated however I managed to reduce it back down in September just before tennis season. I struggled from the first round, and with the clear bulls eye aimed at my knee, opponents had no trouble in aggravating it with drop shots forcing me to move back and forth from the baseline and net. Since then I’ve gained 6 kilos, each equal to 4kg of added pressure on my fragile knees.

For the first time in five years I returned to emotional eating, ordering pizza frequently. I became everything I spent years fighting against. I am writing this because I want those who seek a healthy lifestyle to see all forms of struggle with trying to get in shape be it weight, injury, disability or whatever the case may be. I share my physical, mental and emotional state because I am discouraged by the fitness accounts that show you nothing but six packs and one-liners that lack advice and serve nothing but ego boosting. I am by no means playing a victim, and I assure you that I am not clumsy with the injuries that befall me (although I’ll take credit for the drum stool falling my foot, I could have been more careful with that). My goal is to show you BOTH the up’s and down’s of the pursuit of fitness. I remain candid in my accounts and although the terrain has changed for me this year, I hold on to the spirit that has been building since my journey began in 2008. The cut in my foot has healed meaning that I can get in the water, and I am just waiting for the fibers in my shoulder to hug it out, and although I have missing cartilage and deformed bones I’ll keep the pursuit alive.  Raw energy from the ground up, I’m taking you with me.

An exaggerated reenactment of my relapse
An exaggerated reenactment of my relapse

Court Calamity Part 2: the super & human

Note: The following article is a continuation from last week’s ‘Court Calamity’. It infuses the events from Rafael Nadal’s summer, alongside my return to the humble courts of Bahrain. In it I also discuss the heavy expectation, criticism and judgment of professional athletes. If you want to read part one click here

When we look at professional athletes we tend to attribute them with unparalleled strength. We see them as the titans of the sports that we follow, and rightfully so, they have twisted and turned their bodies daily to achieve these heights. On the other hand their constant victories open the floodgates to the critics and naysayers to parade all over their accomplishments at the first scent of blood before it even hits the floor, be it a loss or an injury. God forbid they begin to flinch on court and we start to question their herculean integrity. “What!? Federer lost in the Semi Finals? He’s done.” How dare he not reach a final, how dare he become human again? Rafael Nadal was injured last year and he did lose early at Wimbledon. Indeed according to fashion it was easy to get on the he’s done parade, surely his knees cannot handle the hard court swing of the season? I know these critics were writing about him, but I couldn’t help as see each piece as a reflection of my issues.  My chondromalacia isn’t going anywhere so am I also done?

The summer of hard courts has come and gone, and the sun has settled over Flushing Meadows as the final grand slam of the year reached its epic conclusion. We all know what happened, but once we take a closer look at the statistics we begin to see the feat that Nadal has accomplished, especially after coming back from an injury. His current track record is 65 wins, 3 loses this year, capturing 2 grand slam titles and winning the Emirates Airline US Open Series Bonus Challenge being awarded $3.4 million, the highest one day payout in tennis history. Here is another Stat for the beloved critics, as I write this Nadal ousted Thomas Berdych in the semi finals of the China Open, attaining the #1 ranking and get this, he hasn’t lost a single hard court match this year. Pretty good for a guy with bad knees ay?

Again, again and Again Nadal with his Cincinnati,Montreal and US Open Trophies
Again, again and Again Nadal with his Cincinnati,Montreal and US Open Trophies

I’ve only been back on the courts quietly training for about two weeks, and even those sessions left me reeling at night. The pain was an unwelcome after taste that remains disguised, leaving me to wonder the fine line between soreness and chronic.

I gently place my water bottles beside my bench and begin to jump and kick my legs behind me. The gate creeks open and in walks Wael Ghalayini my friend and first opponent since July 2012. I remember comfortably beating him in the quarterfinals last year at the same tournament but my injury and absence has branded me the connotation of a broken athlete. I knew I would become a different player and I was about to find out how.

I remember breaking his serve and feeling the rush of energy fill me up again. The absence left me not only hungry but fueled with aggression. I wasn’t taking uncalculated shots, but I was playing brave. Whatever time I had left as a tennis player I wanted to go out on court and be a fighter. I went for my shots and was able to close out the set 6-3.  My wife, my sister ‘agent/coach’, alongside my physiotherapist and best friends were all there cheering me on, and I felt invincible.

Although I was nourished by the high of competition, I let the relief of being one set up linger too long and soon enough I was engulfed by fear. I remember approaching the net and volleying the ball long and causing me to drop 2-4. My serve was broken and it was the first moment where my invincibility was replaced with the realization that I could in fact lose this match. I felt vulnerable and needed to shake of the mental rust and fight off the fatigue setting in. The critic this time wasn’t a reporter or an online article but my own doubts clouding my head as I walk back towards the baseline to start the next game. I try to ease my mind as the ever-present concoction of adrenaline and heart palpitations symphonize within me.

On course, I lost the second set 3-6. Our fate was to be decided in a tiebreak. Here I turned on the calculated aggression and was the first to secure ten points and with it the match. With each win I found confidence in my second life on court and cherished each point, blistering through the next two rounds in straight sets. I refused to let anything get in the way of my resurgence and the cramped scheduling and falling on my ankle during the quarters wasn’t enough to keep me away from securing a place in the semi finals.

Me during my first round match against Wael. 6-3 3-6 10-3
Me during my first round match against Wael. 6-3 3-6 10-3

PBS’ Charlie Rose’s interview with Nadal was laced with questions regarding his absence and mental preparation required for such an epic comeback in which he responded ‘When you are coming after a low moment you know that you are stronger’. Although injury might weaken a specific part of your body, the rest of it does indeed strengthen. Throughout the swing this summer Nadal was evidently more aggressive and focused, and some might even begin to question the injuries. I remember leaving my opponent puzzled during the second round after tenaciously returning his shots, refusing to let a single ball wiz past me.

During the interview Nadal was also asked about regaining the number one position for which Nadal answered “The number one was never a goal for me, I’ve always felt you are number one or you are not, you cannot try to be number one. I go day by day and do my best and if I have a chance to be number one at the end of the season then that’s great.” Here we see a display of his humility and an indication of where Nadal’s focus is, not the ranking but his game. Those three loses that he endured this year could have been enough to place seeds of doubt and send any athlete through a downward spiral, however he refused to entertain the concept and instead he battled on. Rafael Nadal didn’t let the three loses define him and get in the way of his 65 victories one of them ending like this…

Nadal collapses after championship point at the US Open 2013 Final
Nadal collapses after championship point at the US Open 2013 Final

He can finally let go. Collapsing in an incontrollable heap on the floor his tears blend with his sweat as his chest shakes from the gushing sense of relief and emotion. Just like Murray’s triumphant Wimbledon capture, the superhuman and human side of the athlete collide to bring forth a brilliant display of athleticism and desire. When Rose asked Nadal what ingredient was necessary for all this to happen he simply replied with one word

”passion”.

My semi-finals was a repeat of last year where I beat Mo Gaith to reach the final and become JC’s Academy’s first champion, however this time my run would end there. Again we can look at matches based on loses “Oh what Mo lost in the semi’s he’s done.” Or we can see the dynamics within that match. I did come back from 4-1 down to tie 4-4, I remember being at the net where I smashed the ball away from my opponent to the roar of the crowd. When Nadal was facing calamity during the US Open Final (end of 2nd set) the momentum was shifting towards Djokovic he commented on this point “I needed to resist that moment, Djokovic has the best back hand on tour, and I needed to create confusion”. This is a very honest and loaded statement by Nadal that speaks volumes of the dynamics of battle, proving just how focused and willing he was to dismiss the inner critic and not let the ‘most dangerous backhand’ or playing opposite the then #1 ranked player to regain the momentum and bring home the US Open trophy.

Nadal's post US Open interview with PBS' Charlie Rose
Nadal’s post US Open interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose

That night although I lost, the crowd gave me a magical moment, celebrating my birthday and my warm return to court. The pain was lingering in my knees and tears swelled in my eyes during my post match interview. I whole-heartedly wished that I could have won for them after giving me their time and energy. I remember looking up at the heavens during match point and saying ‘Sorry Maryam’ to my sister who was away, and hoping that I could win for the late Dr. Khalifa Bindayna who lost the battle to cancer 48 hours before, having dedicated his life to saving his patients. But in the end I already felt that I had won by gaining their love and support.

With my beloved team (top) and below from my opening match with Wael (left) and finalist Mo Gaith during practice (bottom right)
With my beloved team (top) and below from my opening match with Wael (left) and finalist Mo Gaith during practice (bottom right)

Although I remain separated from Nadal by zeros in our paychecks and far from the sports lenses, my circumference reaching hundreds rather then millions of people. I admit that I do not come equipped with the most consistent backhand in the country, but my heart is on full display during every match, so I guess there is something that unites me with Nadal after all…

Passion.

A world apart, united by passion.
A world apart, united by passion.

Thank you for taking the time to read the conclusion to my two part post. I hope that you have enjoyed the blog so far. I hope to keep sharing my energy and love for fitness and motivate people to find their inner strength and attain their personal success stories. I value you your interaction and feedback, after all this is written for YOU *awww feel special* Let me know your thoughts, your feelings on this piece, share your struggles and injuries, questions on fitness and anything else that crosses your mind. Leave a comment below, email me or send me a tweet. Would really love to hear what YOU have to say. With Love, Mohammed

Court Calamity Part 1 : The future of Rafa Nadal

A year ago Nadal was not only absent from the US Open, but was missing from Sport channel lenses since his second round loss at Wimbledon. During his seven-month privation I was due for Surgery midway. Before boarding my flight to the United States I picked up his autobiography hoping to gain insight on his injuries, rigorous training lifestyle and how he managed to overcome adversity and achieve such acrolithic heights. Unfortunately the book ends with his triumphant 2010 US Open capture. His current knee condition and the future of his career were kept under wraps and shrewd in mystery. Although digging up his past encouraged me to adapt a warrior mentality, his current position made the path ahead ambiguous. It didn’t help that the doctor’s diagnosis that my humble career has reached its end just as I was starting to breakthrough.

Rafael Nadal and myself back during Wimbledon 2012. The woman behind me must really think that he is yummy...
Rafael Nadal and myself back during Wimbledon 2012. I’d like to believe that the woman behind me was checking me out (not Nadal)

During my three months of consistent rehabilitation I found it hard to turn on the TV and watch a professional match. Every time I tried to do so, the slow motion replay of players constant sprinting and sudden stops was enough to make me cringe as the cameras zoomed on their leg. Like nails to a blackboard, I felt my knee strain without even being on the court. The doctors were eager to see how my knee would respond after surgery and rehab and I was put on court in early January. Unfortunately my knee-braced appearance encouraged my opponent to deviously exploit my weakness. Almost every return was a dropshot* and thirty minutes later I was wiped off the court, and the knee reeling in complete agony

*dropshot: is when a ball is sliced to fall closer to the net forcing the player to run from the baseline to retrieve that ball. Constantly doing this only aggravated my knee in the process*

My physiotherapy sessions at the Allentown Surgery Center (October 2012)
My physiotherapy sessions at the Allentown Surgery Center (October 2012)

I spent months absent from the gym floor and my ears deprived from the sound of my soles screeching against Bahrain’s finest hard courts. My early morning high-octane drive was curbed; instead of pushing my athleticism and fitness to new limits my physiotherapy routine only made me feel more broken. I had to give antagonizing description of the position and level of pain and endure consistent stretching and pressuring the knee to cooperate rebuild, hopefully to at least reach a point where I don’t have to feel like a button was automatically pressed to ignite pain every time I woke up. My physiotherapist and close friend Rashid is amazing at what he does, and it was never sufficient enough to just tell him ‘ouch it hurts’, there’s more to rehab than just that, and as it turns out there was more to my issue then just surgery and missing cartilage.

Sometimes I had to aggravate the knee further for me to reach any beneficiary result, alongside the fact that every knee responds differently, I was again a human experiment.

With Rashed during physiotherapy. A great friend who has always believed in me and pushes me through all of this.
With Rashed during physiotherapy. A great friend who has always believed in me and pushes me through all of this.

Before his return, everybody questioned Nadal’s integrity, and the King of Clay’s future had a big question mark on it. I cannot deny how amazed I was when he won the French Open earlier this year. The finals took place during my trek across Cappadocia. I enjoyed my recuperation with some Turkish tea as Nadal battled it out on the red dirt. His arsenal was still fully equipped, however what will happen to his tennis once we add hard courts to the equation. Unfortunately for Nadal, we did not have to wait for that. I remember walking up towards the players lounge at this years Wimbledon during lunch, and I noticed that the entire world around me stood still. The media rooms and player rest area was silent and everybody’s eyes were darted towards the nearest monitor. Nadal was a point away from being eliminated from the first round of Wimbledon against #135 Steve Darcis.

And it happened… in straight sets.

I saw the shock amongst the players, the technical team and officials behind the scene. They couldn’t believe what just occurred. It’s not going to get easier, the hard court season was just around the corner. What now for the Spaniard?

Rafael Nadal during his first round to Darcis (Wimbledon 2013)
Rafael Nadal during his first round to Darcis (Wimbledon 2013)

During the Holy month of Ramadan, JC’s tennis academy was holding agility training sessions at night and I was encouraged to lace up my tennis shoes and hit the court. After months of rehab and skepticism I walked across the baseline for the very first time to greet everybody at the benches. Although I got the green light from both my doctor and physiotherapist, the final approval I was waiting for was from my knee. Talking to my tennis inspiration James Blake during his training at Wimbledon is probably what pushed me to try harder to make it back to the courts, himself having knee surgery and telling me to keep going with no regrets. Its funny how my year of constantly searching for answers and examples, ended with just a few sentences from Blake.

That night, I was slow and sluggish on the court, and it wasn’t the fasting or the gluten test I was on..

my knee wasn’t cooperating.

I eventually warmed up and started to return my shots with the fierceness that spent the last year in hibernation. My on court movement issues were only the beginning. My time on court aggravated the knee to the point where I had to unearth post-surgery Vicodin pills to help me go to sleep. I remember this point clearly. I cried myself to sleep, and after seeing my opponents overpower me during a mere practice season, I pronounced my tennis days over.

Two weeks from that date, both Nadal and myself began our hard court seasons. Although we are two different tennis players, in different stages of our career and playing on different spectrums almost a world apart, we remain united in uncertainty and doubt. Two weeks later we proved the world wrong in very different ways.

Rafael Nadal with his French Open Trophy 2013
Rafael Nadal with his French Open Trophy 2013

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. I really hope you have enjoyed it. I did leave some parts of my injury and other aspects ambiguous as I would like to tackle them in future articles. However Part 2 will cover the events that took place two weeks later and will be released Sunday October 6th 2013 and is now available to read by clicking here!

I would love to read your comments on what i’ve written. What has amazed you about Nadal’s fight to comeback? Has it encouraged you to push through with your own injuries or tribulations? Even if you do not play tennis, what does this article leave you with? Sound of in the comments box below 🙂

Behind the Baseline

There are moments once captured by your mind, engulf your thoughts repeatedly. Vivid images creep up on me whilst I’m training in the gym or driving on the road. Championship point; a cross-court forehand smacked right into the net. The forehand belonged to me, and the match was now his.Taciturn in sound the soft thud as the net absorbs the vital yellow fuzz has now determined my fate, forever echoing in my memory.

You leave the court sore and disappointed, questioning why you put yourself through such agony. I awake the next day sore in places I’ve never felt pain before, I decide to shake the regret that has sunk its claws deep into my back still trying to hang on. The gear is on and I’m at the courts before 6 am practicing my serves getting ready for the next battle. How did I get here and why am I so hungry to win one? Did it really just take an Olympic match featuring James Blake and a read through his autobiography and miraculous comeback? Now it’s a life of break points, heart palpitations, cracked pavements, higher seeds, left-handers and floodlights. Ahhh That’s life within a 36×78 feet box.

Back in high school I studied hard to attain the best grades possible, however when it came to P.E. I was well below the mark. It wasn’t easy moving my 42’ waist around any field without feeling like my lungs were going to eject every organ out of my chest. Losing weight wasn’t easy, so why would winning a championship be? I based my life around training. My sleep, food and fitness schedule was all set up to get me in the best possible shape to reach another final, and this time come out swinging. All this never stopped the visions of the final point from haunting me. Years later I’ve reached finals and lost but none stung me like the first one. I was never really able to forgive myself until I reached the JCs Final in 2012.

Although haunted by my past, I realized through experience on the court that it wasn’t just physical stamina and shot making that leads you to the big win. You need to flex your mental muscle, something that doesn’t grow with the number of push-ups, but by envisioning a way forward, moving past the sinking feeling of regret, doubt and fear. Tennis is not a team sport. Your coach is not on the sideline giving you advice during the match. You are left alone in the middle of the court with nothing but a racket and heart in your hand as a hundred eyes feast on your every move; your every breathe and heartbeat almost audible as you go for a serve.

Today I look on Blake’s story through a different lens. I am now a champion who is trying to overcome injury and surgery while still motivating others to develop a healthy and active lifestyle. Some doctors have questioned my ability to return to the sport that has once breathed new life into me. Chondromalacia, I’ll give you a game and even a set, but this match is far from over.

Tennis = Flying
Tennis = Flying

Open Letter : Dear Chondromalacia,

Dear Friends,

January has been a beautiful start of the year. I was very excited to finally launch an official blog to share my energy and experiences. I am overwhelmed by the warm reception of my post Last Flight Home and my musical debut Earthshaker.

After an almost 7 month absence I couldn’t be more eager to get back on court. My last official match was back in June when I won my first JC League Championships. January 26th marked my hopeful return to the tennis circuit.

Pacing aimlessly,

With my mind in unrest

Unsure of what may come.

What have I done to bring this down on me?

Helpless to make this undone*

I had many plans to compete in the US and Dubai over Fall/Winter however due to the injury and surgery I withdrew from the tour.  My knee showed signs of improvement since coming back home however it was not back to the level required to be able to handle the rigors of Bahrain’s hard courts.

warning: medical jargon ahead proceed with caution (preferably in a form of  a cup of coffee or Rose Tea)

I suffered a relapse last week and am now forced to confront the reality of the situation. During my medical examination I was diagnosed with two issues.

  1. Chondromalacia in both my medial patellar (Grade 3) and lateral tibial plateau, and
  2. Plica Syndrome.

Although I wish Chondromalacia was a superpower or the ability to pull off wearing bright green shoes in public, in reality it simply means that my knee cartilage is degenerating and Plica Syndrome is an irritation most likely due to my premature (6 month*) birth causing it to be underdeveloped. During the surgery the entire Plica was shaved off. *I was born three months early because I stopped paying womb rental (Thanks Mom.)

I previously aimed for the start of 2013 to be my return to the tennis circuit and also a new session of music recording. Due to the escalating circumstances I need to focus on healing first. In December and January I was training to get back on the tennis court, right now I’m training just to be able to walk straight again.

Checklist

  • Cane
  • Nike Sneakers
  • Limp
  • American Accent

Now all I need is to be sarcastic and rude and I’m officially the Bahraini Version of House M.D.

OK now that I’ve injected the post with humor (pun intended) I ask you to kindly play some sappy emo music or anything with classical undertones and read the following. If you can’t find anything click here 

This is a very difficult decision to make however I have decided to take an undetermined hiatus from tennis, the sport that breathed new life and helped define the person I am today (there is a crude joke in here somewhere). I will also be unable to track drums right now so part of the musical process will have to be on hold.I hope to get back into music production in April however no date is set for tennis.

I am taking each day as it comes and have to be very patient to rebuild and strengthen the muscles around the damaged area. As I write this the burning sensation courses underneath my knee cap making it impossible to ignore or downplay. Any sudden movements causes me to wake up at night and I’m just hoping that I wouldn’t have to go with an HCL needle in two weeks time if it refuses to calm down. I’m worried, scared and long for a normal day where I can walk,sit or lay down without the constant pain.

I am aware that many of you have been waiting for my new posts (many have hounded me about the Nokia 920 feature!) and I promise some inspiring and fun pieces are coming your way.

In February I am hoping to write a 3 part series briefly highlighting my weight loss, journey to the championships and also my humor-induced adventures during my surgery.

What I need from you are areas/topics you would like me to write about. There are many things that you experience during your daily lives and I would love to connect with my readers on a mutual level. Remember this blog is about the both of us!  Sound off on my twitter @nervebullet or in the comment box below.

Im in the 5th set. (7-6) (7-6) (6-7) (6-7) 0-5 0-40 down on championship point. The odds are against me. Will I overcome?     

Sincerely,

Mohammed

All that we suffer through leads to determination.

The trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on.

Something within us burns, desire feeds the will to live.

A reason to believe I will see redemption.*

*Kilswitch Engage – In Due Time

Looking like Nadal minus the paycheck
Looking like Rafa Nadal minus the paycheck

This picture was taken during the post surgery physiotherapy session. I look like Rafa Nadal minus the paycheck. Hey maybe I can end up writing a break up song and call it ‘Chondromalacia’ after all?

Last Flight Home

Wednesday 5th December 2012 8:58PM

Apart from the engine noise and growling stomach, the plane was silent. I welcomed the empty cabin, a polar opposite to the fully loaded flight from JFK.  They offered me legroom for my healing knee in exchange for blistering Dolby Digital surround sound. Unfortunately the soundtrack wasn’t what I expected and much worse then the instrumental version of ‘call me maybe’ during my 50-minute unanswered phone hold with Finish Line.  My row had 4 babies, two on each side, and 1 right behind me. My noise canceling headphones were chilling in the cargo below probably shielding my packed t-shirts from the cries above.

The baby to my right was an adorable 3-month-old girl named Hadiya, a beautiful name meaning Gift. Her mother asked to borrow my phone to call her husband. What was promised to be a short call took her over 7 minutes but I didn’t mind. I was occupied with the other infant dragging my shirtsleeve. I think he was admiring the quality of the material. If any of you meet a designer named Darren 20 years from now, called it!. The three other babies were going crazy. I never thought babies could sound like murder. I kept checking to see if the sound was actually referring to the dozen ‘dead baby’ jokes out there. Headache aside the experience was enjoyable and is a musical masterpiece in comparison to Justin Bieber*

*Someone should run him over with a bus. It would be ironic if it was a Bieber** bus. Now before you tell me I’m being harsh, his music does the similar thing to my ears so the bus driver would be doing me a favor. Does anyone have Emily Thorne’s number?

** Im Serious, This company exists http://www.biebertourways.com ***

 

*** See I told you so! Seats were comfy last time I was on 🙂

Just over a month ago I had to be escorted out of the airplane on a wheelchair. Equipped with clashing diagnoses I was plagued with the questions; what exactly is wrong with my knees? Is my tennis career over? How am I going to run around the park with my children in the future? My bootcamps, p90x, Zumba?.. okay maybe not Zumba.

I spent the Doha-Bahrain flight flickering between ‘Open’ the Agassi biography and deep thought about the journey I’m about to return from.

The surgery and therapy may have addressed the physical aliments, however I derived the mental and emotional strength through amazing support of my family and friends.

Semo, Meerz, James, Sarim, Nawaf K, Omar H, Imran & Zaynab, Ahmed,Khalifa,Mohammed, Abdullah, Reem,Sasperella, Bukhalid, Khalid, Hussain, Mazin, Haytham,DJ Outlaw, Fatima, Maya,Nayla,Polar Bear,Rashid,Salman, Atty, Ali, Shk. Khalid Al Khalifa, Sam & Mai.

Special thank you to bintalkuwait, bossykitchen and rthompson for spending every waking moment with me during the surgery and recovery period.

So there you have it. A list of people that mean the world to me. If you want to pull some Liam Niesen-isque “Taken” hostage situation then you know who to go for. Once I heal in about 6 months ill come after you. Until then please make sure my beloved hostage gets showered and offer them optimum nutrition. If you are planning on capturing my mother then make sure she gets Glucosamine for her knee and access to twitter.

My soul wakes up each day craving the adrenaline rush, the solitude, the people and the lessons. I humbly ask you to join me on this awesome trip, because I learn and grow from you. Everything I am and will ever be is through your sincere human interaction.

I end this year with gratitude and welcome the challenge and the energy required for the road ahead. I massage the part of my knee where the missing cartilage is and know things may not be the same. The cabin doors open and I could feel the gentle winter breeze welcoming me home.  I’ve longed for the people waiting at the arrival area, to return to this beautiful island I call home. I leave the empty cabin behind and join the rest of the passengers.

This blog is dedicated to you.

Brandon Boyd and I
Bumped into Brandon Boyd (Lead singer of Incubus) before boarding my flight at JFK. Very friendly and enjoyed the quick chat. Great way to end the trip with such an inspirational musician!