Reboot

I’ll attempt to reintroduce my blog without using any references to Adele’s latest single. (But you just did by mentioning that you won’t use it (and there you go again using brackets to let people know you’re talking to yourself (dude this is too much inception in one blog post))). My first blog post came out towards the tail end of 2012, and I had originally hoped that I would have started back in 2008 to document my first genuine journey towards weight loss. Well be careful what you wish for Mo, because congratulations its 2015 and you’ve gained 20 kilos.

When I started posting back in 2012 I planned to be committed to providing worthy content for fitness and health enthusiasts to read however what I had hoped to be a weekly fitness ‘dramady’ update branched out to becoming BBC’s Sherlock, providing you with three episodes a year, and leaving you with a cliff hanger and a fist at the screen.

As I attempt to pull a Lara-Croft-esque reboot on my blog I will discuss why I stopped writing, why I’m starting again, and what’s different this time around. After all its 2015, and Ms.Croft looks rather dashing. (And we both thought I’d never use the D word).

Why I Stopped Writing?

Honestly speaking, my Chondromalacia flare-ups frightened me to my core. I always felt like I was one move away from being unable to continue pursuing fitness. My worst flare up since surgery took place last September, and left me unable to drive for over a month and a half. The first time I got in the passenger seat mid-October I felt like I just got my license.

I am a firm believer in the ‘no excuses’ way of living, where you do the best you can with the cards you are dealt with, and if you there is something you really want, you focus on it until it becomes a reality (or you learn from the situation, tweak your ideas and keep growing as an individual). Well I spent my time focused on the risk of quieting my stable job and setting up my own business with my wife. My emphasis on my entrepreneurial career sacrificed my ability to push hard at the gym (especially when I have to be twice as careful to avoid knee flare ups, not to mention the extra care it takes to build and maintain the area around my near cartilage-less knee). Now I know what your thinking, balance dude balance! Well as much as I love to think of myself as a fitness machine (or was one previously) my life changed way too much, and I tried to keep injecting fitness sessions here and there but it fell apart, evident by the rapid weight gain. Responsibilities were over the roof as there was hardly any room or budget for delegation as a start up. My previous job was taxing, and including weekend work and traveling, however it never hindered my morning workout routine. However after quitting, and even before officially opening Bossy Kitchen, the task of researching, negotiating, hiring, training, purchasing, budgeting, designing, building, cooking, tasting, pricing, selling, servicing, marketing and hosting made its mark on me. Previously I would have my gym clothes folded and ready before I go to sleep by 9:30pm NO MATTER WHAT. Now I would be lucky if I was home from work before midnight.

I am not promoting weight gain in what I am about to say, but usually you hear people complaining when they stop working out, and the ill effects of being overweight. But its more then just that. I am totally aware of what I did wrong, but other parts of my life flourished due to my dedication at work. Being able to truly communicate with the community on a personal level daily, and working with my very own team made it all worth awhile. I’m not going to tell you its okay to keep gaining weight, especially with my knee condition, but I accepted and understood the situation and plan to move forward. Its been an intimidating year, however I took my drive from tennis and training and applied it in the business world. I now feel that I am ready to put some of my focus into working out and re-balancing my life again. Hence why I feel comfortable towards committing to my blog again.

Why I’m starting again.

With all the weight gain and injuries I do feel like It is a true reboot to my fitness life, and although I am treading on familiar ground, it has been almost eight years since my initial weight loss. My life is different, my body is different, Im still in my twenties but I’ve aged (my knee is probably the same age as Monica Bellucci right now (Hi Monica!)) . – Totally makes you think I’ve recently watched 007:Spectre. Answer is yes. I did.

The inherit need to motivate you lot is still inside me, and I feel it’s the perfect time to showcase my unfiltered fitness journey. Way too much vanity involved in social media, so I would love to input something a bit more realistic. I’m not out to carve serious abs and do handstand push-ups inside the Kitchen*.

*Ministry of Health if you are reading this, I swear no such thing takes place at work**

**if it did, I promise I use gloves.

I’ll be honest about what I do and what I don’t do. If I mess up you’ll see it. If I manage to balance myself and lose weight you’ll see it. I am not a fitness expert, but I’m a fitness enthusiast at heart. It’s changed my life in the past, and I hope I can use it to do so again. I am going to do my best to enjoy my workouts, my food and everything in between. I hope you stay with me during the process, and I’ll do my best to share as much as I can from this experience, and hope to benefit you as well as myself. I will not push a certain ideology (gluten free, crossfit etc.), as I love to experiment. For example although my diet is mostly Pescataerian based, I am not that vocal about it, because its something that works for me but won’t necessarily work for everybody. And just because I have a certain regiment doesn’t mean it is the one and only way. I appreciate and support the amazing abundance of workout varieties and dietary lifestyles and choices people make spanning the globe. If I attempt any, I will be sure to include it in my fitness diary, however that doesn’t mean that I will endorse any form over the other adamantly.

What’s Different?

There’s another reason why I stopped writing *plot twist*. Whenever I write something that I feel truly took a lot out of me in the past to do so, especially when I pour my heart out. Local readership has been somewhat scarce. Now I know I don’t have the best duck face or get my name misspelled at Starbucks to post on my instagram, however my stats show that most of my readers come out of Bahrain (US,UK, shout out to Brazil and Spain too!). In the past this would get me upset and discourage me to keep writing, as I felt that my efforts were not being encouraged. I’ve struggled in a similar way with my business life (attempting to take on business giants in one of the world’s most demanding and punishing industries), so as I close out the first year of being an entrepreneur its left me with greater understanding and thicker skin (I wish it gave me more cartilage though). I feel like I can finally write freely,

 

In     any     form

 

That

 

I

Want.

 

See what I mean? I no longer feel shackled to fit in a box. Some have told me to write shorter posts (something about attention span), however I feel that It won’t get my point across if I did so. I told myself I would do three paragraphes with this article and then just post it, and look at how it ended up all Lord-of-the-Rings on you. (side note: never read the books or watched the movie, please don’t plot my murder Thanks. (oh while we are on the honest train, I havn’t seen most of the Star Wars films or any The God Father). (Nervebullet Boycott in 3… 2….1.)

Now, in case you are still reading (congratulations, most readers have not made it past my Adele joke back in the first paragraph), I really hope to push my writing as much as I do my fitness. I feel in order to do so, I’d also like to write about other things I am passionate about. I wont keep this solely for fitness. I’d love to share my poems, or thoughts on other things like music and video games. Im all about the melodies that touch your soul, and/or shake your spine (from Um Kalthoom, or Tracy Chapman to Bury Tomorrow and Sevendust. Oh and speaking of Video games, it has certainly turned into an interactive art form (I’m big on Tomb Raider, Bioshock and Last of Us.) so expect me throw in discussions about the current video game culture amidst other things!

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Look out for my next post October 2016 (jk jk, see you next week!)

Try to visit my blog like you do Friday family lunch. and Heres hoping you visit your family once a week.

From the ground up,

Mohammed

For daily posts check out my instagram @nervebullet.

Currently (NOT) Listening to: Hello by Adelle

Currently Playing: Need for Speed (2015)

Sevendust Part 1: Discovering the Field of Solitude

Introduction

To celebrate Sevendust’s 10th electric record ‘Kill the Flaw’ (releasing this Friday October 2nd 2015), I am penning a three part blog series, encompassing my discovery of the band back in 2001, my relationship with their music, meeting them through a series of interactions that have spanned 15 years of brutal melody and honest lyrics.

Discovering the Field of Solitude 

Remember those CRT computer monitors. Strong enough to poke your eye out, but you were on it everyday. Back in high school you were on the computer right after school, chatting with your friends on msn or aol, slaving through an essay with only your music to keep you company. During my avid ‘study breaks’ I’d jump online looking for new music to add to my collection. I don’t remember which band I was looking up (or maybe I do but I’m to embarrassed to disclose) and as I was hovering across the ‘similar artist’ section a picture of a pale kid with a green apple on his head catches my attention. The only song you could sample was ‘Trust’ and it was lasted a mere 15 seconds but it was enough to put Lajon’s vocals front and center

“When I hold my head down to the ground and I wish you were here with me”

That was enough. That was all I needed (pun intended if you know the song). I franticly rushed on to Amazon to order Animosity. Back in the day kids, we didn’t have iTunes, and since I live on the tiny island of Bahrain, it was an antagonizing wait for the album to be shipped from the UK or US. The album stayed in my Portable CD Player for the most part until Seasons came out in 2003. Looking back I love each of their albums in their own way, but nothing will ever shake me the way Animosity did.

Every crevice on that record is etched into my mind for various reasons. Live Again was my anthem, Angel’s son was dear to both my sister and me, ever since we lost our grandmother a year later, T.O.A.B. ignited my love for double bass.  The album was so diverse and ahead of its time. If I play it today 14 years later, I still get chills.

Being a fanatic was an understatement. My email ID became sevendust95@hotmail.com (the year they formed), I wouldn’t stop talking about the band until my friends cemented it in the year book in the ’10 years later’ section. It was something about taking them around the world until they became number one. If that wasn’t enough I traversed online stores until I collected every version of every album they’ve released (Japanese, UK Imports you name it.). Seasons had a Japan exclusive track ‘Number One The Ballad’ which to me is also one of their greatest tracks so tracking these down was worth it. Now its click and it’s yours in an instant. Back in the early 2000’s you were waiting for it as bad as Eid or Christmas. There was a record store I would frequent in downtown Manama that imported new CDs (unfortunately its closed now). I remember a bunch of CD’s including Chimaira’s album arriving at the same time as Seasons, but was kept in their wrapping for a while as Seasons ran its course (enough Puns man). I remember sending a CD to DJ Krazy Kevin on our local radio station highlighting the songs with explicits so he wouldn’t play them. On one fine morning he played ‘Broken Down’ on my way to school. When I arrived I heard many kids talking about it, some loving it, but what I remember most was two girls complaining  ‘God they played Sevendust today, it was so loud’. I laughed as it was one of their most melodic singles, if only they heard something off Home!

Listening to them through headphones will always be something I hold dear to me. All of this was about to change after I found out I was going to see them live for the first time.

Animosity_Cover

60 Days of Bossy Kitchen!

Nervebullet: Listen I can explain, please don’t hang up on me.

Blog Reader: Who is she, and why haven’t you been answering (posting) for the past year.

Nervebullet: Listen baby, I can change. First off, she’s my wife, and we were both determined to take Bossy Kitchen from a home based business to a full fledged restaurant, so I needed some time to focus on that. But now its all you I promise. It’s always been you.

Blog Reader: Wait a minute, did you just call me baby? I could be a guy for all you know.

Nervebullet: Um… lets get back to blogging shall we?

I’ll make a post explaining my absence and going through the highlights of the life changing 2014 but for now lets start dust this website off and get back to business eh?

For the next 60 Days I will be eating strictly healthy home cooked meals from Bossy Kitchen. It could be anything from the current menu available to the public, or prototype dishes that could be served in the future. I’ve taken my weight, full body measurements and body fat %age, caliper measurements. They are safely stored in my office drawer and I will compare them with my new results in 60 days.

As I write this I am currently on day 3 and things are going great so far! I will be posting regular updates of my eating habits and workouts on instagram @nervebullet . Also feel free to follow me on my fitness pal were I tag EVERY SINGLE thing that goes into my body and EVERY SINGLE workout for the next 60 days! If I cheat you will see it. I will provide a weekly summery on my blog to share how things are going.

The house rules are listed below:

  • No Dairy
  • No Red meat
  • No Refined carbs
  • No Soda
  • Clean carbs during breakfast and less during lunch
  • No fruits after lunch
  • Dinner: Leans & Greens only
  • Supplements: Fish Oil, Turmeric
  • WATER WATER WATER
  • STRETCH STRETCH STRETCH
  • Workouts + Phsyio NO MATTER WHAT
  • One rest day a week
  • Cheat meal once every 10 days.
  • NO EXCEPTIONS
  • NO EXCUSES
  • NOW OR NEVER!

I want to keep this post brief, so I will go through these rules, alongside insight behind my actions and decisions in form of daily updates on instagram.

Here goes nothing!

Mohammed

PS: Feel free to reach out to me via email, instagram, twitter to the comments box below and let me know which areas you areas interest you more during the 60 days (food, workout, supplements etc.) and share your thoughts and ideas! I need you to communicate with me throughout all this so I can provide you with meaningful feedback and useful posts!

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How To Overcome Fitness Excuses and Pitfalls

Fitness and well-being seems to be a big deal. If it wasn’t this site wouldn’t exist and females wouldn’t be spewing the words Kale and Quinoa like they invented said vegetable and grain. Now before half the world’s gender start spamming the comments and unfollow button I also use those words. If you don’t believe me just check the @bossykitchen account. Plot twist! I write her posts! *Gasp* and you thought my wife was funny.

Ok so with cross fit, protein shakes and eye-sore leggings spreading like the plague, why do many aspiring fitness enthusiasts fall off the proverbial bandwagon? I’ll split these into three categories (Time, Money, Patience) and attempt to tackle them with honesty and applicable solutions. So to all the newbies this is finally your chance to chant Qunioa through to 2015.

ezio1
Ezio doesn’t like it when people tell him they don’t have time to workout

“I don’t have the TIME to workout”

The Problem: Life is all about priorities; just ask these new years revolutionists who are currently hogging the gym floor like it was a black Friday sale (great now I can’t use this metaphor for a future post).Towards New Years Eve we tend to reflect on the fleeting year as if a new line will be crossed on midnight. One of the most common thoughts are ‘Man, I really need to get into better shape’, unless your Ryan Gosling, then you seriously need to eat a Cheese Cake Ryan. If you can feel this strongly about your fitness on New Years Eve then you can work on doing so during the year. I understand life is very demanding (family, work, children who need a diaper change and bosses who need a diaper), but if you keep telling me your busy like the president of an ant farm, then I’ve got 22 CEOS that right here get their workouts before 6AM.

Quick fix: Look at your day as 23 hours long. I am sure you can get your sleep, work and other commitments done within those 23 hours. Cement that 24th hour for your workout and your golden.

The solution: The solution here is applying more time management skills to your routine. Do your best to sleep the same time everyday so you can iron out your daily schedule without erratic changes due to oversleeping or sleep deprivation. Find classes that work with your work timings (either first thing in the morning or after office hours). Instead of ramping up the calories by going out with friends why not make fitness a social activity by teaming up with a partner at a gym or meeting new friends at a fitness class. Working in teams or meeting like minded fitness enthusiasts keeps you committed and more willing to etch these workouts into your schedule.

ezio2
A friend admitting to Ezio regarding his lack of Florians to join the local gymnasium

“I can’t AFFORD to workout”

The Problem: One of  the most common responses I get is that eating healthy is too expensive and that it puts them off. I believe the issue here is that its often very easy to fall into gimmicks and diet myths that may lead you towards products or training sessions that might seem too costly. I must admit it is certainly scary to walk by the segregated ORGANIC section at the local supermarket. Some of those prices are so high that I’m expecting that aisle to be paved with gold soon enough.

The Reader’s perceived solution

Reader: oh great, he is probably going to say something cheese like ‘if you don’t make time for health you will be forced to pay with sickness’

Nervebullet: No not really *double plot twist** (Nervebullet is the M Night Shyamalan of fitness!)

Reader: Hey I’m the reader you can poke fun of yourself but not me!

Nervebullet: I’m sorry here is a picture of some uncooked Quinoa to make up for it.

The Solution: Now I do have quite a few points to cover with this issue however I want to also tie in the matter of perception again but at a different angle. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, since I’m actually quite upset that the guard killed mine in Assassins Creed Brotherhood so no joking about horses. I must point out that I find it ironic that it’s easy for many to claim that eating healthy is expensive however they are more then willing then to shell out a premium for fizzy drinks at any restaurant and do so on a regular basis.

  • If gym membership is too expensive, or too far or maybe you don’t enjoy the gym environment look into working out at home with a dvd. These have developed over the years so you no longer have to worry about staring at Richard Simmons in spandex if that’s not your thing. I’ve tried a variety over the years and my personal favorite is P90X. There won’t be a trainer to check on your form however Tony Horton really breaks down each maneuver to leave no room for mistakes as long as you concentrate and he even has modifications for those with injuries. One of his team members has a prosthetic leg so no excuses! Also the great thing with these workouts is that you don’t need to have expensive equipment for your home gym. Just a few dumbbells, a pull up bar that you can put up on your door or resistance bands, yoga mats and a towel to wipe your sweat. I will be covering the various products currently available in the market at a later post so hang tight! The beauty of these workouts is that they can last from 25 minutes to an hour depending on which product you go with and that time includes stretching and warm up. Some of these are great especially for people that have demanding jobs that require you to travel.
  • The healthy foods section probably requires a dissertation to cover so for now I’ll give you simple tips and will continue to tackle this with upcoming posts. Many of these so called healthy foods are expensive due to importing costs and advertising, and most are deceiving with the exact amount of nutrients that they include, amongst other marketing traps. To keep both you and your wallet healthy I strongly encourage a visit to your local farmers market. The price difference in comparison to store brought may shock you! Once I discovered the vegetable jackpot I hardly spend any money on fresh produce at the supermarket anymore.

Quick Fix: Go for a walk. I know it sounds simple and may seem unintuitive but if you do this six times a week you end the year having walked 9630 minutes. Now other then proving that I still have some math skills intact from high school *minimizes calculator app*, small steps like these will take you a long way, even if you end up just walking around your neighborhood. My awesome mother, whom I gain my inspiration and determination from has insane knee issues but still manages to go for a morning walk even though its indoors so regardless of the weather she is still committed. Little workout is better then none.

My horse before he was killed by the guard. I should have stuck with Barbie Horseriding...
My horse before he was killed by the Borgia guard. I should have stuck with Barbie Horseriding…

“OK so I put down the time and the money, Where is my six pack?!”

The Problem:

  • Your lack of patience
  • Your perception of a healthy body
  • Your understanding towards your dietary requirements and metabolism.

The Solution:

  • Putting on that blubber didn’t happen over night so don’t go feeling up your stomach for abs after one sit up (cc:Rthompson94) and one brown sandwich. When friends with personal fitness goals approach me, many surprise me at how little time they are giving their bodies to change ‘I want to lose 10 kilos by X date’. Their X date happens to be their wedding. And their wedding happens to be next month. You need to give your body time to adapt to the changes both at the gym and on the dinner table. Imagine if you stuck with this since January 1st 2013, how different would you be today?
  • If you commit to your workouts for long enough you begin to realize that it is not just the physical aspects that change. Endorphins and dopamine start whizzing around your body and you didn’t even have to resort to drugs*. Your energy levels spike up, you are more productive at work and you are more attentive in preventing guards from killing your virtual horse.      One of my inspirations is Rick Wyckoff, who runs the instagram account @can_rick . Rick battled extreme overweight issues and although he currently has loose skin, he openly describes the mental and emotional benefits after eliminating the excess weight and acknowledges that his current condition will always triumph what he once was. 

*Nervebullet discourages the use of drugs. Unless said drug is made of Qunioa*

**Nervebullet regains the following of the females that unfollowed him previously for mocking their love for Qunioa

  • Have you ever starved yourself only to eventually binge and gain the weight you lost and then some? Or have you decided to jump on the gluten free fad, only to overeat gluten free substitutes that are high in calorie,sodium and fat? These actions hold your metabolism at gunpoint due to the extremities of either choice. This does not just apply to fitness newbies. There are many bodybuilders (especially those that enter competitions) who destroy their metabolic rate by insanely decreasing their calorie intake and end up suffering in the long run. If you have a variety of fitness accounts on your social feed you will see many former ‘clean eaters’ who struggle with unexpected weight gain during the off season due to a stint in their metabolic rate. Spend more time understanding nutrition and don’t rely on fads or quick fixes on your way to a healthier you. The ideal diet would be the one, which we don’t end up feeling that we are on a diet.

The recurring theme through all of these pitfalls seems to be a matter of perception, and if tackled with more persistence and equipped with greater knowledge of how nutrition affects your body you can raise your fitness and health levels to new heights. It’s a shame that some may never get to see how much their body is truly capable of accomplishing. Learn to enjoy the process, as it is a very telling and humbling journey, one that solidifies the test of the human spirit. Being healthy, fit and happy requires you to remind yourself of your capabilities by accepting yourself as you grow and forgiving yourself when you fall short, and that this lifestyle is not reserved solely for athletes.

Do you have your own fitness pitfalls that you would like to share? If so comment box below, or tweet me on @nervebullet and I will do my best to push you through it! 🙂

Relapse

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 🙂

Fitness Diary #1

Fitness Diary #1

Get to know the ins and outs of my training regiment as I experiment and tweak my workouts and nutrition. Stalkers welcome.

Gluten as charged

On July 31st during a red eye flight from London I enjoyed my last cookie before carrying out my latest experiment. I was to start a Gluten Free diet that will run for about three weeks. I would then go back on Gluten and see if my energy level changes. Probably not the best time to experiment as this runs one week into the fasting period so I might end up confusing the lethargy of fasting with sensitivity to gluten.

Going gluten free never tasted so good :D
Gluten free never tasted THIS good 😀

Spiritual Push ups

During Ramadan I only have a 1-2 hour window after the taraweeh prayers to get my training in, however one cannot deny that the fasting and Ramadan duties take a toll on the body that starts showing up at the tail end of the first week. Therefore I usually use the first week to warm up each muscle set with lighter weights and then spend the rest of the month experimenting with different routines that I want to develop after Ramadan. For example if you are planning on doing p90x after Ramadan I’d recommend throwing in the plyometric work out on once a week to get your body semi-ready for what’s to come.

 

What is my current workout?

I’ve been lifting every other day, and the days between I do plyometric work on and off the tennis court as I am gearing up to return to competition in 2014. I keep the weights low and the rep count higher to cater to my tennis game. My goal is to stay lean, so if you want to gain more mass I suggest upping the weights and lowering the rep count. However I would suggest waiting till after Ramadan to do so. I workout after taraweeh (around 9:30) during Ramadan. Not my preferred time (I’m a morning person) but this is the best time to workout as I’ve had enough time to absorb some of the calories I consumed during futoor time.

Here is a table of this weeks activities:

Date

Workout

Friday 12 July 2013

Chest and Triceps (+ Legs)
Saturday 13 July 2013 Plyometric training
Sunday 14 July 2013 Back and Biceps (+legs)
Monday 15 July 2013 Cardio drills
Tuesday 16 July 2013 Chest and Triceps (+legs)
Wednesday 17 July 2013 Rest
Thursday 18 July 2013

Tennis training + (Back and Biceps)

My lifting exercises 

Chest & Triceps

Jump Squat I start off with an explosive move* 3 sets of 10 reps
Workout Set 1 (weight x rep) Set 2 Set 3 Set 4
Bench Press Bar x 12 10×12 15×12 20×12
Incline Press Bar x 12 10 x 12 15 x 12 20×12
Dumbell flyes 4 x 12 6 x 12 8 x 12
Tricep Pushdown 7.5 x 12 10x 12
Front Raises 12 x (4R/4L)
Push ups 15 15 15
Abductors 15×20 20×20 25×25
Knee Press 20×20 30×20 40×20
Calf Raises 20×20 30×20 40×20
Pull ups (assisted) 30×12 30×12

 

Biceps & Back

Warm up 5 minute jog
Workout Set 1 (weight x rep) Set 2 Set 3
Reverse grip chin up 35 x 12 30 x 12
Lat Pull down 15 x 12 20 x 12 25 x 12
Hammer Curl 6 x 12 6 x 12 8 x 12
Preacher Curl Bar x 12 5 x 12 10 x 12
Bar Curl Bar x 12 5 x 12 10 x 12
Back Raises 12 12 12
Abductors 15×20 20×20 25×20
Knee Press 20×12 30×12 40×12
Calf Raises 20×12 30×12 40×12

As for my plyometric exercises: They include a variety of jump squats, Airborne Heinsmen, Swing kicks and jump knee tucks etc. Plyometrics is important for me as it improves my ability to run faster, jump higher, and maneuver in multidirectional sports (tennis). Its also great to strengthen my knee after going through surgery and keep me safe on the court. I’ll be running my own plyometrics course real soon however its almost filled up so email nervebullet@gmail.com before its too late!

My tennis drills are a secret for now 😉

Weeeeeeee!
Weeeeeeee!

What are you eating?

Surprisingly my appetite never really shoots up in Ramadan. I’m usually satisfied with keeping my meals light during futoor as I have prayers and training coming up so I want to be able to move around without showing everyone what I ate, across the floor. Futoor consists of starting with a lot of water (30% raise in metabolic rate), some soup and dates. Chicken and a bit of rice. I eat twice at night, once after my workout (full meal including vegetables and fruits) and my suhoor at 3AM includes Water and Protein Shake (Whey protein + Berries + Vetal Laban) + Banana.

My workouts will be more dynamic as I experiment with workouts I want to carry out in full force after Ramadan.

Do you have any questions regarding any of my workouts/nutrition? Maybe you have questions regarding your own regiments and you are curious about tweaking your set up? If so you are more than welcome to email,tweet,kik,Instagram comment or pigeon mail me if thats your thing.

So much goodness!
So much goodness!

Whats coming?

I thank you for the questions everyone is sending forward which I answered in my protein article. I’ll continue to tackle areas that matter to YOU. Some of the topic of interest include questions on working out in ramadan, futooring the right way, information about fat, gaining muscles (using mass-gainers) and combating plateau at the gym. This week I’ll be answering more of your questions and tackle workouts in ramadan and eating the right way, amongst other fun and motivational events that have occurred during my adventures and life experiences across the globe.

Till then here is a recap of this weeks articles!

Start Here just starting your fitness journey. Start on the right track with this article

Behind the Baseline my article covering my history on the tennis courts from my first final in the United States and my battle with Chondromalacia. This was also featured on the JC’s Academy website

The Protein Article  ALL your questions about protein answered and how it can help you achieve your fitness goals

Suhoor Tips How to eat the right way to keep you charged up and ready to tackle the day with the fast ahead.

With Love,

Mohammed

photo-5

The Protein Article

Protein Shakes. With some of the questions I’m getting one would start to think of it as ashes spawned from a mythical creature buried deep within ancient wreckage in the ocean. I’ll answer your questions in more detail but I will start of this. Its protein powder, so relax.

Before you run off to any of the following…

  • Parents
  • Concerned wife
  • Insert someone else concerned about you engulfing white substances

…Lets start with understanding what protein actually is and why it’s so vital.

What is Protein?

Every cell, tissue and organ in your body right now contains protein that is constantly being broken down and replaced.  The protein in our food (chicken, meat, fish, eggs, milk, evil white dust etc.) is digested into fun stuff called amino acids1 that are used to replace the protein in our bodies.

1Amino Acids: Building blocks that join together to make different types of protein. Our body cannot make some of these amino acids so we need to get them from our food. Since these dudes are all fancy we call them ‘Essential Amino Acids’.

So about them Protein Shakes?

Whey Protein is no longer exclusive to body builders. Athletes and everyone else that enjoys any level of exercise has begun to incorporate this powdered goodness. There are other kinds of protein shakes (such as Casein) and I will go over the differences towards the end of the article however I will talk about Whey because it is the most commonly used.

What is Whey?

Whey protein is *drum roll* a liquid byproduct of cheese production. Doesn’t sound so bad now does it? Half the questions I got made me think I was dealing with anthrax. Whey is a complete protein source. Which means it contains ALL of the essential amino acids previously discussed.

Lets get Whey-sted!

Benefits of Whey Protein include

–       Decreased recovery time from training (prevents fatigue and promotes healing)

–       Increases endurance, energy levels and improves mental performance

–       The glutamine in the Whey boosts immune system function, maintains muscle mass and prevents muscle breakdown

–       Enhances glycogen storage (this is a form of energy muscles use)

–       Arginine increases your GHL (growth hormone levels), improves poor circulation, lowers blood pressure.

–       Helps suppress appetite

–       Instant ‘like a boss’ feeling when consumed in a locker room

–       Fat Free

–       Low Cholesterol (make sure you read the label from the brand you choose)

–       High in Calcium

–       Absorbs fast

Other Questions

Q ‘Mohammed, I want to take protein shakes but I don’t want to bulk up, I’m a lady.

Um okay good luck with that! Bulking up is one of the most difficult things to do. Mass takes time to develop so don’t worry, it isn’t going to happen by gulping down some protein.

Q ‘Mohammed, I want to start taking protein shakes but I’m so afraid of the side effects.

 Side effects? Its protein POWDER!! Some of the risks that I will outline actually have nothing to do with the whey itself but additives (depending on which brand you choose) and your tolerance to Lactose and the health of your kidneys.

Lactose Intolerance: However any issues that may arise from protein shakes would be due to digestive issues. This is due to the Lactose or sweeteners used in some Whey Proteins rather then the Whey itself.

Kidneys: If you are diagnosed with Kidney diseases, a high protein diet in general may exacerbate preexisting conditions.

Q Why can’t I just get all my protein from chicken or other foods?

You can, however after murder on the gym floor your body is begging to be replenished. Especially if you drink Whey mixed with water it absorbs much quicker in your system then the piece of chicken your going to have later on. I mean look at the list of benefits I outlined above. فن لا؟

Q If I stop taking protein will I lose all my muscle?

Simply put, if you keep working out with sufficient intensity to break down muscle tissue and not eat enough protein to repair then yes you will lose some muscle mass. At the end of the day you need to give yourself the suggested amount of protein intake (ill cover in the next question) and if you don’t hit that target, your not giving enough for your muscle to work with, regardless of it being from Whey or not.

Q How Much Protein do I need to take?

As this article is focusing on Whey Protein ill answer this briefly but will continue to write more articles on protein, as I know more questions may arise and other areas need to be covered also.  This depends on many factors. Age, size and activity level play a role in this (e.g. athletes obviously need more). The general recommended Protein intake set by nutritionists is the following

Your body weight (kgs)  = grams of protein you need.

Side note: A serving from the Whey protein I am currently taking gives me 25g

Types of Protein

–       Whey Protein Concentrate: This is the Jayid Jidan جيد جداً of Protein shakes. Don’t get me wrong it has low lactose that is tolerable by those that are sensitive to it and is more affordable but if you can for Isolate, do it!

–       Whey Protein Isolate (What I’m taking): Virtually fat free, lactose-free and totally awesome.

–       Casein: Takes longer to digest. Much better for drinking at night before sleep. Some are even using it during Ramadan to keep you full longer.

NB Recommends

Currently I am using ‘About Time’ Whey Protein Isolate. It not the best tasting Protein out there to be honest, however it doesn’t have added artificial sweeteners etc. Just look at that label (picture below) doesn’t make a dominant health freak parent just want to shed a cheer from joy? I think even Aliya will say OK to her kids for this stuff.

About Time Whey Protein Isolate
About Time Whey Protein Isolate

Unfortunately this is unavailable in Bahrain so I recommend the following.

Isopure Whey Protein Isolate
Isopure Whey Protein Isolate

Isopure tastes great with water or milk and I’ve used it for many years prior to switching to about time. It is available in Bahrain at GNC for about 35BD for 3lbs. I’ve tried Vanilla, Fruit Punch and Choloate. All good. Stay away from the cookies and cream one (bleh)!

ON Gold Standard Protein is available at Olympia for about BD26 if you are looking for something cheaper. I never used ON’s products so cannot comment on their quality.

Shake this!

 Try the following with your next protein shake: Vetal Milk + 1/2 cup of blueberries 1/2 banana + some of your whey protein (vanilla goes good with this) + 6 ice cubes and blend it up!

I hope I have cleared some of the misconceptions and given a greater understanding to why we use Whey to help more then just our muscles but the rest of our body. I will write more about Protein including a detailed food diary of my daily intake of Protein and how you can reach your daily goal. With that being said, don’t be afraid, its totally fine to get Whey-sted 🙂

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