Well, for a change, let me take my mind off weightier topics and move towards what could be a rather mundane affair.
What could be more ordinary than shopping for a pair of shoes?
I did not realize that it could be rather tough to select a pair of hiking shoes. It may be easy in the U.S. to identify a brand based on feedback from friends or reviews from other users, and then drive down towards an outlet mall and pick up the shoes. Probably at a price which is not too different from the online price, but surely at a good discount from the mall prices.
How about Singapore? It is not that easy, based on my own experience.
First, let me come to the identification of personal needs. Since I am kind of hiking almost every weekend in one of the nature parks around the city-state, I felt that my regular walking shoes need to be replaced with a waterproof, tough-looking pair of shoes with strong grip, as it rains in Singapore often and the ground can be wet with slippery leaves lying all over. Further, the gravel on the hiking path is always a bit dangerous, with my own experience of slipping down in wet conditions, and able to upset my balance even in dry conditions. These set of needs is not very different from those of the average hiker in Singapore. Nothing special, and nothing out of the ordinary, though I use special feet inserts in my shoes for better cushioning and balance.
Then came the determination of the brands of hiking shoes based on an internet search of the best ones with user reviews to go by in the selection process. It was not easy to make the list, and so I also consulted with couple of colleagues in the office who are known to be walkers or hikers. I got a couple of brands that way. At the end of this process, I had four brands listed out for me to go and try out:
First, I tried the famous mecca of hiking shoe shoppers in Singapore – the Queenstown Shopping Centre, which resembles (in a minor way) the Sim Lim Tower which is famous for electronics. I went around a few floors, and visited some 8 shops or so. There is a lot to be learnt from the sales techniques (both positive and abnoxiously negative) of the salesmen in shoe shopping stores. In one shop which had almost all the brands (though small in size), I was looking around and then asked for Vasque shoes (I knew it was at the upper end of the price range). The salesman looked at me for a second, and asked me what is my budget. I told him that I would like to get a good pair of waterproof hiking shoes at SGD 150 maximum (INR 6,800, or USD 110 approximately). He smiled and said that Vasque will not suit my budget, neither will Columbia or Salomon. He suggested that I stick with Merrell since it is a mid-range brand with prices some 30% lower than these other brands. He waved me off, quickly determining that I was not going to buy anything, and then moved on to the next customer. He did not offer the Merrell shoes (which he had on display) and convince me to buy one of the same – I was inclined to do so. When I walked out of that store, I told my wife that this was the way shops lose business from a potential customer, who had an urgent need to be fulfilled and the shop did have a suitable range of products, but the salesman put me off. And, we were shopping for two pairs – one for me and another for my wife!
In another shop, which had a similar selection (except for Vasque), I had a positive experience. The salesman attended to my needs, by asking relevant questions and did not focus on my budget or specific brand prices. He pulled out couple of Merrell shoes on display and showed the same to me. He answered my queries patiently. He even offered to bring my size from another shop as he did not have my size available. I liked the guy, and was seriously contemplating concluding the purchase with that salesman. However, I did not as I decided that my evaluation of shoes so far did not prepare me adequately for a “technical” conversation on the characteristics of the shoes which mapped appropriately to my own personal needs.
So, I went back and did more study. I decided to go for Merrell shoes with Vibram sole and Gore-tex waterproof seal, and ankle protection. I also liked one particular pattern of the sole which I felt will provide solid grasp while hiking, and decided to get it.
Someone told me that Mustafa Shopping Centre has Merrell brand and so I went, but did not get my choice or my size. Though I should admit that their prices were some 10% cheaper than those offered at the Queenstown Shopping Centre.
Today, I went to Vivo City and looked up a number of stores. Finally, I chanced upon Royal Sporting House show room which had an exclusive Merrell show case (no other shoe store seems to be having a similar one, though World Of Sports had some limited Merrell choices). Both my wife and I bought Merrell shoes and the shopping experience was very pleasant. There was total focus from two salesmen on meeting our needs, and they were prepared to bring out a series of shoes of various sizes to fit our feet. They were patient and courteous. Further, there was a 25% discount if you bought two pairs, so it turned out to be a good deal with net prices being lower than that of Queenstown Shopping Centre and even Mustafa. And, I was within my stated budget per pair!
We are gong to try these new pairs of Merrell hiking shoes at the Upper Seletar Reservoir tomorrow (which is a Sunday), and I will share my experience of using these shoes in hiking conditions.
Overall, my buying experience proved that it might be better to purchase these kind of shoes and hiking or sports accessories in the U.S., not just because of lower prices (which will be the case), but also because of the quick access anywhere (Merrell is an American brand) and the variety of brands available at one go. In smaller countries, the experiences are limited.
Enjoy your walking, running and hiking.
1st April 2017
I have been walking almost every day even before Fitbit arrived a couple of years ago. I probably walked some 8,000 steps or so every morning without counting the steps, always wanting to measure and walk for atleast 2.5 KMs every early morning.
This had been going on for a long time.
But then, Fitbit arrived. And, many other copy cats also arrived. The Apple Health app arrived recently (may be some six months ago, cannot recall). More advanced measuring devices in the form of watches arrived in the market, but Fitbit retained its first mover hold on the market. That is what I think even today, though I am tempted by few other devices which I will talk about soon.
I started using Fitbit only very recently – from October 2016 onwards. I became a very loyal follower of the Fitbit revolution. I set a target of 8,500 steps for a typical day but then I was doing somewhere around 14,000 steps per day, the intent being to reach close to 100,000 steps for a typical week. Then, I marginally increased the weekly target to 105,000 steps which translated to an average of 15,000 steps per day. I thought this will be a good goal to achieve every day and every week, and it was going on for several weeks in this fashion. When I fall behind during a particular day, I always made up the very next day, and in the worst case, during the ensuing weekend, so that the total could always reach the weekly target. I found it difficult to reach the daily target especially when I travelled, as I do not like going to hotel gyms and running on the treadmill due to potential knee problems, so I was forced to walk within my hotel room and the hotel corridors, and sometimes on the road in front of the hotel, all the time looking at my smartphone to ensure that there was a reasonable “performance”. Ha Ha Ha !!!
I formed a group of like-minded folks on the Fitbit community (some 12 guys in the group, which I am trying to expand now), and loved when the app allowed me to “cheer”, “taunt” or message any specific guy. While things were progressing well, one of my colleagues talked to me about “setting” a new weekly target. I thought, may be 125,000 steps will be good, but then he suggested 150,000 steps which translated to more than 21,000 steps per day which was a 40% increase over what I was then doing every day!
I accepted the new goal, and then achieved the figure every day and for every week I achieved the total of 150,000 steps. Please note that the weekly figure is a cumulative figure for the past 7 days, which means you have to perform well every day – no excuse. This has been going on for the past few weeks, but then my colleague said he wanted to increase the target to 190,000 steps.
I said “no” to that new target, I told him it would be unreasonable and taxing on the body. He went ahead anyway, I have not seen him achieve that new figure on any day yet (for the previous 7 days as a cumulative total), but then he did achieve cumulative figures like 175,000 steps for a couple of days. He always maintained his total well above 160,000 steps – almost 23,000 steps a day!
But then, I reasoned that consistency and body comfort are more important in this exercise. Consistency means the ability to achieve the figure of around 21,000 steps a day every day, and then a cumulative total of 150,000 steps every day for the past 7 days, in an orderly fashion without negative deviation. I achieved the figures every day for the past 3 weeks or so in a consistent fashion.
“Body Comfort” means an assessment of whether one’s body, especially the legs, calves, ankles, thigh muscles, etc., are able to perform without any discernible pain. Though I did not have any pain for 9 out of 10 days, I did have occasional muscle pain just above the knees and I was able to address the same by resorting to “pain relieving patch” from Hisamitsu Pharma of Japan (the brand is “SALONPAS 30 HOT”, which was very effective). I do not need it anymore, as I have no pain for the past 10 days or so, but I keep this stuff at home, just in case……..
So, on both counts – “performance consistency” and “body comfort” aspects – I decided that my own best performance would not exceed the above figures, irrespective of other Fitbit group users’ performance. I also devised a mechanism of achieving the daily figures in an easy manner – before 8 AM every day, I would reach 10,000 steps; before 2 PM, I would do another 5,000 steps by doing several things – like doing most of my phone calls by walking around a conference room, walking a fairly decent distance to reach the lunch place and walking back, etc., The balance of 6,000 steps I would do anytime between 6 and 10 PM, probably around home area. In the back of my mind, the Fitbit challenge always exists every day, that I need to drive myself to achieve my targets for the day – a daily stepping figure of 21,000 steps and a daily cumulative total of 150,000 steps for the previous 7 days.
I also noticed that I was averaging between 14 and 15 KMs of walking everyday, that translated to a weekly total of close to 100 KMs and a monthly total of 400 KMs. Imagine, I could achieve somewhere in the region of 4,500 KMs in a typical year just by walking around!!!
Amazing, isn’t it? But more work is required in terms of developing strong muscles, and I will write about the same in a subsequent post.
In the meanwhile, “keep walking” with a performance target that you could consistently achieve while enjoying body comfort.
8th January 2017
This time I was really scared.
My son persuaded me to at least take a look at the ride video on YouTube. Take a look for yourself:
Well, my son and I went to the Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi last week, and I can tell you that the real experience of riding on the Formula Rossa was not any less scarier than the videos that you just saw. The website of Ferrari World is at Formula Rossa at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Formula Rossa is currently rated as the fastest roller coaster in the world with a top speed of 239 KMPH which is achieved in less than 5 seconds of extremely fast acceleration using a technique used on aircraft carriers to launch jet planes on a very short runway. For the initial run, I chose to sit on the very back row of the Formula Rossa – though my son objected. I told him that I need to get a “hang” of it! Even while sitting on the back row, the ride was instantly terrifying with a speed which I have never experienced in my life. My heart beat increased and my heart was pounding when we finished the ride. The air pressure on the face and body was immense. The cork screw turn from the very top was scary to say the least. But the best part was the initial acceleration and the steep climb up.
For the second time experience, my son insisted on sitting in the very first row (like sitting on the very edge of the nose of a fast speeding bullet). I asked for time to think and so went around on other rides and eventually came back to Formula Rossa ride. I agreed to sit with my son on the first row of the ride. And, it was the most terrifying ride I have ever undertaken in a theme park ride. I could not even move my hand, the air pressure was too much not allowing any movement (I wanted to hold the plastic spectacle wrapper which was holding my spectacle glasses). While I managed to keep my eyes open for the initial 4 to 5 seconds, I could not do so once the roller coaster climbed up on to its steep ascent of over 50 metres and then accelerated with heavy momentum on the cork screw. I tried to open for a sneak view but decided to keep it shut as the tracks were speeding towards us at enormous speed (!!!). I only opened my eyes towards the last 5 or 6 seconds of the ride, but came out smiling as the thrill gene in my body seems to have grabbed its rightful sync with the Formula Rossa!
This is a fantastic ride, and I would strongly encourage you to take the first row, if not in the first attempt. It is a great feeling to almost feel what a Formula 1 race driver would experience on the race track (and more). It is overall a fabulous experience and very much worth the visit to Ferrari World (which is located at Abu Dhabi, some 75 minutes car ride from Dubai).
Hold tight and enjoy the speed, acceleration and momentum of the Formula Rossa – the world’s fastest roller coaster as on date.
3rd December 2016
I was fortunate to attend the F1 pre-qualifying races yesterday in the Singapore Grand Prix, which is in its 9th year of operation. It is the only night F1 race performed on city streets, unlike the very expensive race tracks built in other countries.
I read in the local newspapers that the Singapore economy benefits to an extent of SGD 150M in terms of travel, transportation, food, accommodation, shopping, etc., for the three days (Friday to Sunday) during which the F1 event is held in Singapore. Hence it is economically an important event for Singapore as well, apart from its sports value and the innovation of being the only night time F1.
The atmosphere was electric. The only thing I did not like was the long walk from the Ritz Carlton to the Paddock and back in the night (the walk back in the night was longer, almost close to 2 KMs or so). Otherwise, it was a great thing which I have not experienced before in my life.
I also had the chance to photograph myself with Max Verstappen, one of the racers. He also signed my entry ticket. I did the garage tour of Red Bull Racing, and also the long pit walk around the grandstand. I was hosted in a nice club by one of our corporate sponsors, so food and drinks were not a problem. There was special treatment for the Paddock Club attendees (and am sure, for the other VIP attendees), we could walk around and get food, coffee, pastries and drinks in famous outlets. There were more crowds in these outlets than were sitting on the grandstand, except when the final race began at 9:00 PM.
I saw the Red Bull cars getting tuned and prepared, and the IT/Networking systems connecting the sensors from Singapore back to the U.K. where the Red Bull factory is located. These sports cars attain a speed of 300 KMPH (around 200 MPH), and so appear in your camera for just a fleeting second. I tried hard to capture the cars on my iPhone Video, and did manage to do so eventually.
Any position on the Grandstand or the Paddock Club only affords a narrow view of the race due to the manner in which the race tracks is designed. Further, the race uses the normal streets without any modification. Hence, to get a full view of what is happening on the entire race circuit, the best way was to view the TV feed. I was told that there were many cameras along the race circuit, and further there was camera shots/video taken from the overflying helicopters. This is a disadvantage in the Singapore F1 as the tracks are rather narrow and short in length before the view disappears via a turn, etc., In any case, the roaring thunder of the cars, their slightly reducing speeds when they are negotiating the curves, and the fire sparks emanating from their tyres from their receding views were thrilling to say the least. I was not able to figure out who is in which car, unless I saw the large TV displays.
It was a wonderful experience overall, notwithstanding the steep cost to attend. I saw that generally people were enjoying themselves in the midst of all the noise. They were eating and drinking for most part, however they looked happy. For many of them, it could have been their first experience of attending the F1 race.
It all finished around 10 PM, and I was told that there was a party afterwards. But I chose to skip that one, and return home. The funny thing was that public taxis from Ritz Carlton to any part of Singapore were priced at SGD 55 at around 10:30 PM Saturday evening, which I thought was atrocious. I decided to walk to the Pan Pacific hotel and to my surprise, there were many taxis waiting and absolutely no passengers! It was normal fare (adjusted for late evening excess), so it was good.
Overall, an amazing and captivating experience. I will see the F1 Finals today (Sunday) on the TV ! Hopefully Red Bull wins the No. 1 spot or at least the second spot and gets to the Podium !
18th September 2016
India is a country of some 1.25 billion people.
And yet, we barely managed to get two medals in the Rio Olympics (so far). And one is a silver (PV Sindhu in Women’s Badminton Finals) and one is a bronze (Sakshi Malik in Women’s Freestyle Wrestling 58 KG). Is it not a shameful lack of performance?
Where is even one single gold medal for the world’s second most populous country and the fastest growing large economy?
And, where are the many silvers and bronzes that India deserves?
But whose shame is it? Think through carefully. It is not the sportspeople.
I have a feeling I have written about this topic in the past (without bothering to search my own blog!), but I am dismayed that Politics destroys everything that India rightfully deserves. The Indian politicians and sports officials take care of themselves very well (they fly first or business class to Rio), while the athletes who bring the medals flew economy class for over 30 hours to Rio. The Indian politicians and even the Sports Minister go and disturb the games (please read up on what the Sports Minister of India did), while Indian Government simply does not have the focus on providing facilities to its hard working sports people. India spends very little money on sports – we just have to look at China which is at the very top of the medal tally in the Rio Olympics with huge government investment and solid commitment. No wonder the poor sportspeople from India could not make it in most international sports events. The money seems to be swallowed on the way to them. In any case the money is simply and grossly inadequate.
Plus, the politics in every single sports association in the country de-energizes the sports community.
This is a terrible state of affairs in the country.
It is high time that government re-examines its funding and role in sports. India has very capable athletes and sportsmen/women all over the country. There has to be a systematic program of discovering the hidden talent via a public-private initiative. May be the government just invests 50% of the money required and the top 10 corporations in the country (whether in public or private sectors) fund the balance. Probably, India would need an accelerated investment of the order of USD 5B between now and the next Olympics in 2020. This is not a huge amount, considering what China has invested in sports over the past 3 decades. China has produced world class athletes in almost every sport. And, that is not an accident.
The U.S. is a different case – comparison should not be made to the U.S. which does not even have a sports ministry. Americans are self-driven and receive huge endorsements from corporate sponsors, and this has been going on for many decades. Our focus in India should not be to match someone else’s record, but achieve a simple thing – 5 Golds, 5 Silvers and 5 Bronzes in the next Olympics.
Sports has to be run like a corporate initiative with tight management and world-class training. We need to import trainers and coaches from the best sporting nations of the world and invest heavily. It is not impossible to find corporate sponsors who would be willing to match Rupee for Rupee from the Indian Government. What is needed? A singular corporate vision for sports development with quantitative objectives. Only a joint venture amongst the government (should not be overbearing), top 10 corporates, and select list of Indian sports personalities can do the job – and that venture needs to have a global advisory panel comprised of excellent coaches for select sports in which India wishes to excel.
Without such thinking and execution, I do not believe India will become a sporting nation. Rooftop shouting is not going to change the medal tally. Boasting and cheering are not enough. Investment is required, commitment is required, support is required. All that is missing currently, irrespective of what someone from the government or from somewhere else says.
India to rethink its sporting strategy for international competitions and the Olympics. Let us discover sporting jewels from 1.25B people – there must be many if only we care to look and nurture talent.
21st August 2016
It is difficult to convince people close to you to go for a walk every day, especially if you push them to walk early in the day. Folks are tired, want to get up late, or just do not feel like having the energy to get up and go for a walk.
I keep emphasizing the huge health benefits of going for a walk consistently every day, even if it is just for 30 minutes every morning. The best time to go for a walk is during the early hours of the day – say even before 5 AM. Keep doing this regularly – may be take off for just a day from the schedule in between – and you will get to know why doctors and health professionals keep insisting on the benefits of walking. This means you go for a 30-minutes walk at least for 5 out of 7 days of the week, preferably on all days if possible.
You can sense the positivity and general feeling of good sense that encompasses you when you do this day and day out. You are energetic, you are focused, you are positive – these are the characteristics that you need for success in whichever endeavour that you undertake in life.
I go for a walk very early in the morning (this means I go for my night sleep early as well) – there is no gain without some kind of sacrifice ! Consistently and steadfastly following the same schedule helps a lot – it drives discipline and commitment. I never felt lazy getting up early, except when it is raining – I usually tend to thank the rains and catch up another 30 minutes of sleep ! But on most other days, I do kick myself out of the bed and go for my usual walk.
During weekends, I do at least one hour of walking. The brisk walking makes me sweat, sometimes profusely as the weather in Singapore is humid even at 6 AM. I try to get back by 7 AM, it helps to unwind and have a cup of steaming hot coffee while looking at the news. After an hour of cooling down, I go for the shower and feel very refreshed to tackle the challenges of the day. Rarely do I go to the gym, except for some weightlifting. I no longer run on the treadmill, after having read about the injuries it can cause.
I would suggest to all my friends and my blog readers to go for regular, daily walk (or running) every day of the week, and then go for longer walks during the weekends. This would help resolve most of the health problems that one faes. Especially during old age, it becomes an issue – no one to help if something happens during your walk, your inability to cope with knee pain or ankle pain, the strain that you feels after a few hundred metres of breathless walk, and so on and so forth.
However, if one attends to the problem of old age issues by walking rigorously during the thirties and forties, he or she will find that life after sixties becomes far easier to contend with. Of course, one has to drink warm water – lots of it. And, not cold water. People differ on this aspect. Just half hour before going to sleep, drink one cup of warm water – see the magic after a few weeks. You will feel fresh right throught the day.
In a nutshell, walking is the best exercise a man can do. More brisk walking will help. But it is not necessary to go for a very long walk. Just 30 minutes of walk will help a lot. Just be consistent. Try not to change your routine. Follow your heart here, not the brain only.
Enjoy your walk, every day ! You will see the results very soon !!
I rarely watch any game, including cricket. People generally expect that if you are an Indian, you must be hooked on to cricket. Any other behavioral tendencies such as walking away from a TV showing the latest cricket match or not knowing the latest cricket statistics, are considered a sin.
I do occasionally (but rarely) view a 5-minute snippet of cricket or tennis, recommended by my son. Or, my family pulls me in for a tennis match going on in the TV, and urges me to stay put and watch.
Yesterday was one such occasion. I joined my family for a live viewing of the Wimbledon Women’s Finals between Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza. The crowd at Wimbledon was rooting for Garbine but was not partial when Serena did some wonderful footwork. It was a great match when the No. 20 player in the world challenged the No.1 player.
Garbine is an excellent player. She played some wonderful tennis yesterday, and initially even Serena would have been surprised when she lost two games to nil in the first set. Apparently, Serena’s experience played to her advantage, and her ability to serve in almost a blinding fashion would have unnerved even the best player in the world. Garbine, however, fought back valiantly in the second set. It was clear that she would not go down meekly when she converted the score of 5:1 in favour of Serena to 5:4.
However, Serena staved off the challenge, and got an easy win in two sets. Her mental and physical strength were on full play though she made several double faults and unforced errors. But her superiority was based on her unmatched ability to climb back all the way up, not giving an inch to the opponent all the time. She is a well-rehearsed fighter, with mighty serves and an intense focus to win.
It was a very good match, and I enjoyed it. Garbine wept once she lost the match, but recovered and gave a nice speech. Serena recognized Garbine’s well played game in her closing remarks, and said she expects to see Garbine with the Wimbledon crown very soon.
At many times, I felt that it was a game between almost equal players, and that is how a Finals match should be.
12th July 2015