Keeping fit with technology for #bigloser (written for DNA)

I’m re-posting this just for my #bigloser team 🙂

So you’re trying to shape up, shed the pounds and get fit? Here is a list of all things tech that can aid your fitness regime and help you stay the course.

Most people blame their fitness woes on the sedentary lifestyles we all lead these days, thanks to technology. For a change, let’s use technology to get an active lifestyle! How? Read on!

Video games that get you off that couch:

Everybody complains that kids don’t play physical games anymore but simply slouch on the couch with their joysticks. But Nintendo’s Wii comes with a remote control that senses motion in three dimensions. What this means is that you can actually play games as opposed to clicking buttons and watching the virtual character play!

Four years after Wii changed the concept of gaming, Microsoft launched the Xbox Kinect, a controller-free gaming and entertainment experience. It abolished the need for a remote control by using a webcam-like add-on to the Xbox 360 gaming console. With games like Dance Central, burning calories becomes a whole lot of fun, thinks Mihika Singh, 30, HR professional. "I hate the gym and after a tiring day at work, the Kinect helps me unwind and burn some calories!"

For those taking their workouts rather more seriously there are games that monitor your body type and your body movements to get you to work out in the right way. So whoever told you video games would make you fat didn’t get a good look at the Kinect.

PS: I personally use the Kinect. On days that I’m bored, I play Kinect Sports or Dance Central and some days I play Your Shape Fitness Evolved which gives me personal training, cardio and kickboxing classes. It saves me the 25 minutes that I’d spend on commuting to and from the gym. The gym is in my living room!

Fitness in your palm:

While an Xbox may not be within everyone’s reach, a smart phone certainly is. Using the GPS tracker in the phone, a number of apps track the distance that you have covered to give you feedback about your outdoor cardio workout. The most popular GPS-based apps for most of the smart-phone platforms seem to be SportyPal and Runkeeper. Both these apps use the basic information to tell you the pace, intensity and calorie output of your workout.

"These apps not only offer me tangible numbers about my workout, but also allow me to share my workouts across social networks. This helps me connect with my friends and get the motivation I need to stay my course," says Rakesh Rao, an IT professional based in the US who motivates, and gets motivated by, friends across the globe using Runkeeper on social networks. And you thought your smart phone made you lazier?

PS: I use Runkeeper to track my outdoor runs. It allows me to share my workout details over social networks and the likes and the comments I get are a huge encouragement to be regular with my runs, like Rakesh said. And Runkeeper Pro is now free on the Android app market! Go get it!

Fitness gizmos:

If you know what sort of a workout you would like to pursue sincerely, it might be a good idea to invest in a gadget that gives you accurate stats. Sure, kinetic video games and mobile apps aide the fitness regime, but imagine a watch that tracks your speed, calorie output and heart-rate.

Brands like Adidas, Nike and Garmin have been developing gadgets that can provide excellent workout feedback. While Nike’s Nike+ goes into your shoe and synchronises with your iPod Touch to motivate you through your run, Adidas miCoach offers you gear that you can use on the internet, your mobile phone, or the Adidas gadget itself.

But currently the most coveted workout gizmos are Garmin’s Forerunner series of watches. "With a chip in your shoe, the watch uses GPS to track your distance, speed and intensity of the run. Moreover it’s got a USB port to sync it with my computer, so I can store my past workout stats to track my progress over a longer period," says Hardik Shah, 26, IT professional, who is hoping to get back to his running routine with this cool $350 gizmo.

Work-out apps:

"Nike+ and all these apps are great if you’re into outdoor cardio workouts, but for me, weight training is equally important," says Aneesh Bhasin, 25, fitness enthusiast and photographer. Aneesh uses his iPhone as his personal health trainer with apps like Gymtechnik and Gym Fanatic that offer you various workouts, store your workouts, and allow you to share them across social networks. While most apps are free, the paid apps cost a little over fifty rupees. A small price to pay for a fit body, don’t you think?

Nutrition trackers and apps:

Fitness isn’t just about getting some physical activity; it is all about watching what you eat. For Rakesh Rao, both the activity and nutrition tracking happens through his smart phone. He uses LiveStrong’s nutrition tracker to keep a count of calories that go in and then compares it against the calories that he burns. Usually American nutrition apps lack Indian meals in their databases, but Livestrong is an exception. It lists most Indian food items with an approximate calorie count.

PS: I am a foodie (you already know that :P) and often eat out. Livestrong helps me track my calorie intake. This helps me in adjusting my calorie intake by reducing portion sizes for other meals of the day.

Motivation:

In case you need a social network to back you up and give you inspirational stories and motivation, do what Tanu Anand did. She started sharing her fitness goals on Twitter. With the feedback and info she received, Tanu got closer to her goal and stuck to her resolution. "It gave me an insight into my lifestyle. I almost had a lifestyle overhaul of sorts!" she says.

Not a big fan of the regular social networks? No problemo. There is a fitness network that focuses on sharing, motivating and enhancing physical activity. Dailymile, like any social network, allows you to create your own profile where you can share your workout, your mood, the quality of the workout, and more. You can also send motivation to your friends and read inspiring fitness stories shared by others.

Now isn’t that neat? Workouts, calorie counts all taken care of with these apps and gadgets. All you need to do is get cracking and set out to achieve your goal! And in case you find yourself faltering, remember, motivation is just a click away!

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How to feel good in under 5 minutes

The mirror always lies. It shows you what you want to see. Some days you’re beautiful. Some days, you are intense. Some days you have a good hair day and some days its just bad.

Some days you congratulate yourself for all the weight you’ve lost. Some days you chide yourself for the weight you’ve gained. Some days your curves make you smile. Some days your curves depress you beyond control.

But if the mirror is lying, who do you trust to show you how you look? Who will tell you if you look pretty or obnoxious or pretty obnoxious?

Friends? Family? Lovers? Children?

Why do we need someone else to tell us what we look like? Its all in the head. At the cost of sounding like a beauty pageant contestant, i’d say if you feel good you look good.

Its foolproof. I have tried and tested it. On days that I feel miserable and days that I look gorgeous, nothing much changes. My facial features are the same, the hair isn’t drastically different and most often the clothes are also the same. What changes, is the way I’m feeling.

And while I cannot feel good about myself every single day, I realise that I can do one thing every single day that could make me feel good. The list is long, but it works for me. Try it?

1. Roll-up the windows, play your favorite song, sing and dance while you drive: There’s something liberating about exercising your vocal chords in public without giving a damn! My song list: soak up the sun, lemon tree, dancing queen, radio GaGa and almost any Disney, Michael Jackson or Beatles song.

1. Eat something sinful: this is a tricky one. When on a diet, this could boomerang very badly. So make sure you don’t overdo it. Get that pastry, cookie or whatever it is that you’ve been avoiding. Look at it for a full minute. Yes, one full minute. Close your eyes and take in the smell. Feel the aroma. Now, take a bite. Feel your teeth sink in, let your tongue roll, let the flavours dance a merry salsa in your mouth. And then swallow. Rinse, repeat. The joy of eating can fix anything. Trust me!

1. Give a compliment: Making someone smile is highly underrated. If you’ve walked in NYC, you’d notice random strangers come up and compliment you. Notice how you feel? Elated! And in that happiness you send happy thoughts to the compliment-giver. Be generous. Tell someone you love their earrings or tell your cubicle mate how you love their new bag. But make sure you give a genuine compliment. I guarantee you, You will smile!

1. Call up an old friend: in the world of BBM, Facebook, twitter and whatsapp, its nice to call and talk just like that. Pick the friends wisely though. I always tinker up my special girls for a few minutes on a bad day. They don’t even know it, but talking randomly to them lifts my spirits three flights up!

1. Play with a puppy or a kitten: if you like animals, This is the.best.thing.ever. and no, I’m not even explaining why!

1. Dream: yeah, sit at your desk and daydream. You can dream about your dream vacation, your dream home, your dream boy/girl, dream dessert. But don’t do it all at the same time. You don’t want to get fired, do you? For 5 minutes dream, imagine and you’ll be in your happy place. Naturally, you will smile!

So those would be my favourite things to chase away the blues, feel good and therefore look great! What are your feel-good actions. Share na?

Lavasa- La fun

Last month for an article regarding World Cancer Day, I had to go through loads of information on the deadly disease. Everything you eat, breathe and drink is giving you cancer, my research told me. *depression* But then the silver lining is that if the cancer is detected early, it is possible to kick its ass. So yeah, I am pretty enthu about promoting awareness and kicking cancer’s ass with early diagnosis.

Obviously, like most times I was too late to register for Lavasa Womens Drive. Imagine my delight when two days before the event, I was invited to be a part of a blogger’s delegation (yeah, I’m calling it that because it sounds fancy!)

So at 6 am on a Sunday morning, Mom drove me to reclamation grounds (with Bono sulking in the back seat because he wasn’t getting to go with me!) Yawning my way through the long queue of cars, I made it into the grounds and the adrenaline got pumping. The cars were all dolled up with ribbons, balloons, stickers and what not. Some cars were so creatively decorated, that you couldn’t help but cheer for them!  Although the rally was all about overtaking breast cancer, women stood up for women’s rights, education for girls, nature conservation and the works. At the start line, I was introduced to the Nisha, Anuradha, Sakshi and Pushpa— all of them well known in the blogosphere. As the cars started getting flagged off, I spotted eye candy! Arjun Rampal in all his grunginess looked so damn hot. Of course, he screwed it all up by opening his mouth… bleh! Why do good looking men always sound so duh? (I wish I had a picture!)

By the time a 100 cars had been flagged off, our throats ran dry and our energy levels dipped. But there was no downtime as far as conversations were concerned and why would there be?  I was meeting the lovely Monika and Kiran for the first time (after exchanging many many tweets) Making a quick refueling stop at the snack counter, we ventured towards our cars. Our cars weren’t pretty and decorated like those in the rally, but then we all weren’t as decorated and dressy as the participants either! There were a ton of conversations as I reconnected with Ramya (I met her after a year or so!)
Finally, we started towards Lavasa. Chattering away with Ramya about some very special people we know in common, made me realise how small the world is. And get this, later over lunch, Bish told us that he knew those people too!

Before we knew it, we reached the food mall on expressway. Warning: the sit-in restaurant at this mall is terrible — pathetic service (rude waiters who act like they are doing you a massive favour), passable but unhygienic food, and totally unacceptable coffee. Kiran actually got sick after eating there and had to get a massive injection.
The ride ahead wasn’t very eventful as we passed out and woke up in the middle of a traffic jam. Finally, we took a turn on to a long and winding road that offered a picturesque view of the valley. And when we came to the dam, we had to stop for a while and click some pics.


I was told that Lavasa has been training farmers around the area to use modern farming techniques and use of healthy fertilisers. Of course the journalist in me was pretty perked up about this. In the midst of all the controversies, one does wonder if this is just a PR gimmick or is the company actually being socially responsible, but that’s for another post!

The road to Lavasa is long and really stressful to drive on, what with its hair-pin bends and steep climbs, your tummy churns! I am told that the blogging contingent got the worst of the road on their way back from Lavasa!

As the big gates of Lavasa welcomed us, I almost reached for my passport. The place is very unlike India (I am not proud to say this but if they can, so can we! Again, this is a whole different post!) We drove down to the The Waterfront Shaw, where the rest of the gang was going to stay and we made our way towards screaming, hooting women. Dude! I didn’t even drive and I was pooped. Where were these women getting their energy from? Turns out, there was a boy-band singing for them and there were pedicures and manicures on offer.

Me being me, I decided to focus the gastronomic pursuit!
Lavasa has some sleek, sexy options when it comes to wining and dining. There’s a full-fledged American diner complete with bright resin booths and bar chairs, there’s a proper Irish pub, there is a Subway (my heart did a cartwheel when I saw it), there’s a coffee place, there’s a pizza place, there’s a Lebanese counter. Ok, I am tired! I won’t vouch for its authenticity, but the promenade at Lavasa is a food world tour of sorts.

We chose to raid the Oriental Octopus which is brightly lit with lots of natural light and seems like a comfortable zone. We started ordering right away (when a girl’s gotta eat, she’s gotta eat!) The service was just about okay until the waitress blew my fuse while taking the order. She snapped at me! (Details are hilarious and are posted on Ramya’s blog)
It all went downhill from there. Half of our main course arrived, was demolished when the other incomplete half arrived. I won’t go into details but the service at this restaurant just made me want to pull my hair out. But to their credit, the pan fried Basa was delicious and the dumplings were nice. While most of the contingent stayed back. I had to start my journey back to Mumbai within two hours of my arrival at Lavasa.

It’s a shame, because the rooms looked cosy and the beds demanded that I take a nap in them. What’s more, The Waterfront Shaw is pet-friendly. That’s right! Next time I head out to Lavasa, which I will, Bono won’t have to sulk because he can go with me.

Reasons why I’d go back:
-It seems like a nice, short escape where you don’t have tons of sightseeing to do and you can just laze around.
-It isn’t very far. It takes about 5 hours from Mumbai which is decent.
-It has something for everyone. Adventure sports, rafting, lazying around etc etc
-Its pet-friendly!
Reasons why the trip back may not happen:
-The drive is tiring
I cannot think of any other reason why I wouldn’t go…

PS: I wish I had stayed the night and bonded with the other bloggers 🙂 perhaps, next time.

‘Stray’ into my heart

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I grew up with a strong desire to bring a dog home. My dad, a dog-lover, always put his foot down and said no. It always broke my heart. He did get home our lovely cat. But he always refused to keep a dog.
We had three dogs guarding my uncle’s home -two Dobermans and a stray desi dog that dad had randomly adopted.

While the Dobermans were lovely, the loyalty of ‘Namu’ was something else. He would sense my dad’s arrival even when our car was more than a few kilometers away.

Namu died. So did the Dobermans We built a small shrine in their memory.

A puppy was lost near my building. I fed him a few biscuits and milk. He had distinctive spots on his body. Two months later, the puppy was all grown up and had made a home in the neighbouring park. He would recognise me. And walk with me whenever I passed by the park. A few biscuits were enough to make him my friend for life.

These two dogs and many more, convinced me that the so-called mongrels in this city are actually sharper than most pedigree dogs. One day, I told myself, I will adopt one of them.

And that day did come. I found Bono. He’s the apple of my eye. And when people ask me what breed he is, I proudly say he is a stray. Yes, people love expressing shock that I chose a stray over a lab or a pug, but the truth is, Bono chose me.

When people talk about stray dogs being a nuisance, I often find myself defending the four-legged ‘rasta’farians. If they are cared for, and if they are vaccinated, they add value to the community. Five gardens has strays that are regularly fed and vaccinated and they guard the neighbourhood. They don’t bark or chase regular walkers but if they think someone is dubious, they warn people with barks and howls.

This year, Twestival is supporting the NGO Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD). The organisation works towards vaccinating, sterlising and helping the dogs of Mumbai. You can read about their work at http://www.wsdindia.org

Check out http://WWW.Mumbai.twestival.com for more info. They need volunteers, donations and more. Do your bit. My dog and his relatives would be extremely grateful to you.

For You, Munchan

You made a mother out of me. You loved holding my finger in your mouth and biting it lightly as the vet gave you your vaccine shot. You loved coming out of a corner randomly to scratch me playfully and you loved scratching my hands so much that people almost thought I had an abusive boyfriend. True, these scratches caused pain, but they made me smile. Sitting on the second last bench during a Sanskrit class, I’d break into giggles thinking of you jumping up and chasing me around.


Taking you to the vet was an event. And yes, the vet said that no matter who hurt you, you just had to punish one and only one person- me. I remember being dejected. I remember thinking ‘my cat hates me’. Until one day the vet said that every cat has this unique relationship with one person. It is a love-hate relationship but by hurting you like this, they depict how they love you and take you for granted.

After that, every scratch became so damn important to me. You remember the first time I ever tried to get your fur shaved? I do. There’s a faint milky white line that runs on my wrist to remind me of that time. You got violent (no need to explain all the violence was targeted at me) and we sedated you. When you woke up, you just wanted to cuddle in my arms, pushing your wet nose into the eye of my elbow, to hide from the doctor.

I lost you. It was probably my fault. Only God knows what you were trying to do that Tuesday afternoon when you took that nasty fall. I can’t believe that you, the most agile thing of all, fell down 3 floors. I rushed to you, and like a mother knows her child’s pain, I knew you had broken something. As you tried to move, the pain got unbearable and you bit into my hand, the fiercest that you ever bit anybody in your whole life. That bite made me realise the magnitude of pain that you were bearing. I am proud of you. You didn’t give up. You, a 15-year-old Persian cat who could have succumbed to the shock, held on tight and tried your very best to live. The last six days of your life were immensely painful, but your 15 years with us were fulfilling, I’d like to believe. I tell myself that I don’t have to mourn your death. You lived a full, happy life. I mean, you ate fish flown down all the way from Malvan, cooked in a special recipe. You made sure that anyone coming back from an overseas trip brought back at least 5 kilos of the gourmet cat food they make there. You had a strong hold over every single person’s heart in the house, family and even extended family.

Dad brought you in our life to teach Nani and me a thing or two about love, responsibility and care. And in turn, you taught us how to live in your own way. Even in your death you taught me why one shouldn’t give up on the ones they love. And you made sure that I knew. I woke up that morning and I knew that this was it. As I held you in my arms for your visit to the vet, you let out that long sigh and I knew. Even as the vet fought to revive you and support your heart, I knew. But I couldn’t let go. I still can’t. I look ever so often in a corner of the room and think you’d be there enjoying the cool air-conditioned air (I loved how you forced us to leave the a/c on with that purr). I sometimes stare at the basket and think you might be napping there. I won’t let mom rewire the cane chair that you rightfully claimed as your scratching board. I can’t get myself to wash your hair brush off the few tufts of gray fur that stick on it. Yes, I hold on to every dear memory of yours. I know you’re gone, but I hold on to these tiny things. My heart holds onto you.

This morning, the last of that bite mark you gave me on my right hand disappeared. With it, I probably let go of another bit of you. All I have now is the light scar on my wrist from the time you made a mother out of me.
I agree I wasn’t the most responsible mother. I did put off visits to the vet and I chickened out of grooming you for the fear of your angry scratches. I wish I had braved them. Maybe I’d have more scars to treasure. Maybe… But for now, this scar I shall treasure. Rest in peace dear Munchan aka Mulayam aka Munnu aka Munya. And thank you for bringing so much love into our lives…

Never had the heart to post this. Today, a year after we lost her, I post this to remember her. We have two pets now who have a hold on our hearts but Mulayam is still missed and the void she left in our lives remains…