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

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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

Suhoor tips (pre-fast meal)

So you had your first suhoor eh? Did you

a) Stay up late and take your time eating like a boss or

b) sprintlikeheckdownthestairsandeatsomethingrealquick

I’ll admit I did catch some shuteye and ended up waking minutes before the Athan (call to prayer) this morning so was forced to reenact the chase scene from one of my favorite action movies.  Unfortunately I’m not blessed with silky hair donned by Tom Cruise, and my beard does cause for poor aerodynamics. All this including the groggy look, I give myself a B-action flick at most. With no minutes to spare I mixed up the following concoction.

Vital Laban + Whey Protein + Berries

I also downed 0% Fat Greek Yogurt, Banana and some Water just before the call to prayer sounded.

You have about 16 hours of daily fasting this time round so you really need to start on the right track. Many have the misconception that you need to fill yourself up to the brim before the fasting starts but that is extremely counterproductive! Your hunger mechanism kicks in every 3 hours regardless of how much you’ve eaten. This is one of the main reasons why athletes eat often to keep their metabolism revved up.

For Suhoor don’t go for foods covered in salt like Fish(Ghabga people I’m looking at you). The sodium is going to end up making you even MORE thirsty during the day.

The Greek Yogurt/and Laban I had last night are excellent sources of protein and both are low in fat. If you add the berries into the mix (great source of fiber) I still feel satisfied and its an hour before we get to break the fast right now.

Go for:

  • Yogurt (Greek Yogurt is my favorite)
  • Laban (Go for Vital as it has added benefits)
  • Oatmeal
  • Fool (Fava beans)
  • Chickpeas

Stay away from:

  • Fried foods
  • Salted Fish
  • Ilgaimat (I saw you sneak some out of the ghabga to take home for your ‘mom/kids/puppy/self’. Who the HELL EATS ILGAIMAT AT 3 OCLOCK IN THE MORNING?!
photo-3
Both of these are creamy without the fat. Highly recommended!

If you want something light and soothing go for more of the yogurt based options I’ve outlined, but If you wanna shut that grumbly belly up then make sure you hit the oatmeal and fool/chickpea combo up

Remember you are gearing up for the day ahead. Make sure your tummy is well equipped to suppress the ‘grumpy-at-work-itus’

Happy Suhooring!

<<النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: <<تَسَحَّرُوا فَإِنَّ فِي السُّحُورِ بَرَكَةً

Start Here

We have all been there, that first day in Ramadan where we are set on making it a beneficial month and convinced that this time around you will finally lose weight, that is until you are 12 hours down and Mommy dearest shows up with dripping machboos*1 and sugar loaded Vimto, all of a sudden all your plans go to hell. Does this version of your new moon resolution sound about right?

*1Machboos: Extreme portion of oil*2 on a dish enhanced with spoons of rice specifically designed to induce the phenomenon known as Balloon Belly.

*2size proportionate to create a swimming pool, that is if you like swimming in corn oil. I’m sure there is a new concept for tanning lotion in there somewhere.

This article will outline simple tips for starting out your weight loss process on the right track while helping you avoid the common pitfalls faced during this challenge.

Your tools

  • Dedication:

Getting in shape can’t be just a whim after seeing a shirtless dude run around in one of your favorite TV shows. You need to evaluate your reasons for getting yourself into this. The first thing I ask anybody is why they are doing this, and I make sure that they are aware of it, because this may be the only factor that will keep you going so make it a good one.

  • Good Support Team:

You are changing the very fabric of your being, or at least the blubber surrounding your beautiful aura. Therefore you need to get your closest friends involved so they can cheer you on to the finish line. So go on call your gardener and tell him your plans. If you don’t have a garden then go talk to the dude at the cold store I’m sure he will be more than happy to stop selling you Coke and Twix.

  • Do Your homework!:

Some of the diets I’ve heard of really make me laugh as they are nothing but torture and yield zero results. Someone (I won’t tell them its you Aunty) once actually told me that their breakfast was a bunch of dates and a cup of coffee. Excellent, you’ve gained absolutely nothing by doing this. You might as well have dressed up in pink fuzz and plastered ‘energizer’ on you on your way to work, but it’s a shame you will only be that way for about 10 minutes. Some of these myths are absolutely ridiculous!

Mistakes

  • Peer-pressure:

There is no way you will get effective results if you keep listening to your peers who insist that you should have ‘just one bite’ of something they are trying. That’s why the good support team highlighted above is required. These little cheats add up, and alter your insulin levels, metabolism and everything you’ve ever worked on. Working out to pig out on junk simply doesn’t work. This is a new you, and those around you need to understand that and accept your seriousness in adapting this new lifestyle.

  • Giving up too quickly:

You are going to be doing things you normally haven’t done before, so of course your body is going to rebel at first. Excuse me if the healthy sandwich you just had didn’t trim your waistline but your going to have to do this more than once if you want to see changes. It irks me when people tell me “Jee Mo, I tried going to the gym in the morning once before work but I just can’t do it”. Results don’t happen overnight folks, so you need to be aware of this and once you start, charge forward and ignore the signals that are telling you that this isn’t for you.

  • Setting the Bar too high:

 Easy there tiger. Just because the ‘steroid man’ sitting on the bench beside you is benching the weight of your bosses ego doesn’t mean that its okay for you to lift that much just yet (or ever, depending on your goals). This links to the crazy diets I mentioned above. Starving yourself is counter intuitive and only induced your body to go into catabolic state (bad for your muscles, metabolism and ends up dumping all your efforts in the trash can. Progression is key if you want to keep the weight off safely and forever (wedding vows much?)

Final thought:

Sometimes your gardener just isn’t around to cheer you through the last set. This is when you need to say “Hey (say your name here minus the explicative) get off your butt and do this!”. It is a human instinct to desire self-improvement*3, and two things usually happen when we want to make a change in our lives. We start with the highly inspired feeling when the resolution is first made, however when pressed against the wall, we begin to look nervously at the future and begin to doubt if we can actually attain our goals. It is at this moment that you need to be self-motivated as ever and keep moving forward. This is a journey where you need to distinguish the difference between excuses and results because you can’t have both.

*3grown men living in their mother’s basement*4 playing warcraft do not apply to this rule

*4 do we even have basements in Bahrain?

start-line-3

SEVENDUST: BLACK OUT THE SUN

What is Sevendust?

When it comes to bringing the noise nobody does it as efficient and consistent as the boys from Atlanta. They have mastered the art of bringing forth a crushing assault infused with soothing melodies. In other words they are going to kick your teeth in but still make you feel good about it.

Once you listen to Sevendust you really cannot look at music the same way again. It’s not background music that gets you through the morning traffic, or the power song that gets you through the final reps. When you discover this band and understand what they are really about, you crave the ‘every other year’ moment when they churn out a dozen new tracks.

Anthology

In search of new music all the way back in 2001 I stumbled upon a track named ‘Trust’ on AOL’s listening Party. The attention demanding “DU-DUN-NA” start felt like a hammer just dropped out of my speakers. What followed changed my interpretation of music forever. The opening verse “When I hold my head down to the ground…” remains to this day one of the most soothingly executed lines recorded. I have fond memories throughout the sevendust lifespan. I remember

  • Racing to the music store at Bab Al Bahrain to pick up ‘Seasons’
  • How happy I was that ‘South Side’ double wide came in a huge box with guitar picks and other goodies
  • Watching them play live for the first time during the ‘Seasons’ tour.
  • Leaving Best Buy with 10 copies of ‘Next’ to pass around to my friends
  • Getting ‘Alpha’ from Target just so I could get the hilarious ‘The Rim’ b-side track
  • Laughing my butt off at Pete the A&R guy
  • Hearing a recording during the making of that never ended up on the album, but turned out to be ‘Abuse Me’ finally released during ‘Retrospective 2
  • And many more, but for now I offer a story driven review of my experience with ‘Black out the Sun. ’

Blackout the Sun

As I pass the UOB main campus the sun begins to set on a Bahrain Thursday prompting the car interiors to ignite in Orange. Coincidently the dashboard accompanied by the brown interiors mirrored the cover art of ‘Blackout The Sun’.

The acoustics of ‘Memory’ have already begun as I leave the city behind me. I have specifically chosen this southward route as the desert landscape and minimal cars will allow me to take in what is about to come. The music builds up as I drive across my personal field of solitude. As if the intro wasn’t enough to induce every possible human emotion (joy, sorrow, rage, relief, hope, fear) ‘Faithless’ kicks in and my heart begins to race. Signature Sevendust sound. Within 10 Seconds of the song tears begin to stream down my face. The listener is greeted with the signature distortion shortly followed by Lajon Witherspoon’s calm vocalization taking center stage. From then on each instrument ramps up giving your adrenaline the few seconds it needs to galvanize before they completely let loose.

Don’t expect a breather as the pummeling continues with ‘Till Death’. If you haven’t seen the live footage of them preforming this song on their current tour or listened to the track analysis by Clint Lowery on their page this track will still speak volumes to you. By now I’ve already reached Sikheer, home of Bahrain’s monumental Formula 1 track as the opening Snare shot of ‘Mountain’ ignites into three minutes of bluesy-infused melody. The bouncy sing-song grooves  allow me to relax and have the first conversation with my sister sitting beside me. The anticipation of what the next track may contain was mutual. The electro-infused opening of ‘Cold As War’ needs only two seconds to let you know that this was going to be an emotionally charged sing-a-long chorus.

“I see the violent rage and make the great escape into the space that gives me closure, we live the life we make until the seasons over”.

 It is one thing to read these words, but when you actually listen to Lajon’s execution you can feel the emotion as if it was your own and apply it to your own experiences.

I remember during one of the interviews they mentioned that Joey Belladonna of Anathrax had a tear in his eyes when listening to one of the lines. I am assuming it’s this one.

Blackout the Sun” the title track arrives driven by an epic chorus accompanied by guitar work reminiscent of Call Me No One. I decided to make a U-turn on the now empty street and take in the entire view of the Bahrain International Circuit in all its glory as ‘Nobody wants it’ starts playing. The upbeat tempo is a sudden change from the rest of the album’s darker riffs as I look at my sister Maryam with a certain expectation. They are confirmed once the chorus kicks in and we couldn’t help laugh in amazement of how this band is able to bring the aggression and make you sing your hearts out. If backstreet boys went metal this song would be it!

“Dead Roses” is fast and energetic and one of the most memorable experiences of this drive. At 1:42 I remember the studio footage during October with Clint nailing this specific part as the hairs stand up on my forearms.

But wait!

I know what’s coming! The drums sound familiar.

It’s the part Morgan showed off on Youtube. I start screaming to my sister “Wait till you hear this part wait till you hear this!!” and Morgan’s screams infused with the double bass drives me into hysterics. “It’s nice to see you fan girl over something for once Mohammed” Maryam laughs.

“Decay” classic dust and I’m sure all the fans have already upped this into the ‘25 most played songs’ on their itunes since January.  This was a perfect choice for a single in my opinion. The energy throughout this song was definitely a statement before the album drops and enticed me for what was to come.

I make my way back to Riffa as I pass by a gunmetal painted sculpture inspired by the Awal Era, aptly suited for the industrialized “Dark AM”. The riffs gave me shocking Nostalgia to Korn’s ‘Life is Peachy’ days. Mid-song’s atmospheric vibe brought back memories from Alpha’s ‘Aggression’.

  ‘Picture Perfect’  both the name of the next track and now darkened desert-scape making way for the stars to shine as the album nears its end. High Octane and matches the rest of the album in the way each song builds up, reaching an emotional peak vocally and emotionally before concluding. The boys from Atlanta break out the acoustics with ‘Got a Feeling’. An even more down-tempo, southern induced and very ripened effort in comparison to the likes of ‘Angel’s Son’ and ‘Skeleton Song’.

I reach the final stretch of my journey. ‘Murder Bar’ is a name given to one of the locations around the recording of the new album. If you put all the jokes aside during the video footage from the studio, You would expect this to be the trilogy to ‘Face to Face’ and ‘Alpha’. I remember screaming ‘No No!! this album cant be over now, not like this!’.  Although Lajon’s vocals was more mellowed out then the rest of the album the guitars were still brutal. Each instrument had its own shining moment in this song. Surprising closer, with subtle industrial sounds fading into silence, enough seconds to leave you alone with your feelings and what you have just witnessed.

Till death…

With each album I rediscover my love for the band, and to watch them endure life on the road and being away from their loved ones while still providing us with unforgettable tunes. As a fan we have grown with Lajon,Morgan,Vinny,Clint and John. We mourn their loses, rejoice at their achievements. We have seen their love for their family and their children grow. They have treated us as an extended family. It is more then just music ‘Sevendust’ is an experience. If you have been fortunate to see them live or meet the boys you will know exactly what I am talking about. I honestly can’t be luckier to receive an album such as this, and to be able to appreciate the effort behind this work and the love from the band, I could never ask for more. Music has become so commercial over the years and to see a band like this hold their own since the early 90’s is unheard of. Overall I want to say that this album was as a mix of Projected & Call me No One (Just kidding, couldn’t help but jokingly throw this in). I’ll admit the rapid completion of this album and the quick interviews stating that this was just a regular Sevendust album with dark vibes had me worried. In conclusion each track gets 10/10, and all worries were thrown out the window upon hearing the final product.

With each release I am always amazed, however this one took it to another level. I have been waiting my whole life to hear something like this. The uniqueness of this album lays in its ability to blend each track to the next while each song can comfortably hold its own through its subtle flare.  If I had to gripe about something, Id wish that the songs were longer but the current length allows me to appreciate each moment put in to the three minutes. I would gladly compare this as a fusion of their past efforts however the product itself has a life of its own, and no instrument and vocal combination has ever worked this well. Sevendust this is your EPIC.

10/10

Sevendust-Black-Out-the-Sun-

Tracklist:

  1. Memory
  2. Faithless
  3. Till death
  4. Mountain
  5. Cold as War
  6. Blackout the sun
  7. Nobody wants it
  8. Dead Roses
  9. Dark AM
  10. 10. Decay
  11. 11. Picture perfect
  12. 12. Got a feeling
  13. 13. Murder bar

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!