Keeping Fit During The Movement Control Order

I had gotten into something resembling a fitness routine prior to this Movement Control Order (MCO). I don’t have a car in Oxford, so I just cycled everywhere I needed to go. 80% of the time, this is fine—enjoyable even—given how nice some of the cycle paths are over there. The other 20% of the time, I’m huffing and puffing uphill trying to get to the John Radcliffe Hospital, or gripping my handlebars like a madman trying to prevent myself from being blown over while cycling in strong winds.

In addition to cycling, I also went to the gym 2-3 times a week. For me, this was a pleasant outcome from reading the book ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. For those of you who’ve never come across the book, it’s basically about how small changes make a big difference in the long run. With my gym routine, I started off doing simple cardio once a week. Truth be told, at that point that was all my body could cope with, I was pretty badly out of shape! But slowly I started to vary the routine, in addition to increasing the frequency of my gym visits. Lo and behold, after a few months, I had gone from 0 visits to the gym to going there every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday almost without fail. I even cycled to the gym during Storm Ciara, although this sounds braver (or more foolhardy) than it really was, seeing as in Oxford it was basically just stronger winds than usual.

I flew back to Malaysia around the time of the first MCO in mid-March to be with my family while continuing my DPhil work remotely. One thing I’ve found challenging is the inability to go anywhere to exercise. This has forced me to change my routine slightly. I’m doing less cardio (which may be a good thing?) and more body weight type of exercises.

I tried running around the porch. Given that one round takes me about 20m, it took me almost 250 rounds to get to 5km. To avoid wearing out only one knee, I ran clockwise for 500m before going anti-clockwise for another 500m, alternating between the two until I got to 5km. Overall, not a very fun experience! Also, my pace of 9’51″/km was very slow as I was unable to get a clear stretch of road to build up any kind of speed. I mean, I’m a pretty slow runner at the best of times, but I’m not THAT slow usually.

Calories from 5km run

So I switched to doing more body weight exercises, and that seems to be more promising. At the moment, I’m trying a new routine whereby I start off with some jumping jacks and then switch between leg, chest, shoulder, and back exercises. The whole routine takes about 10 minutes and includes things like:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Air squat
  • Prisoner squat
  • Mountain climber
  • Step in
  • Bird dog
  • Superman
  • Push up
  • Shoulder tap
  • Bridge
  • Straight arm plank
  • Elbow plank

I try to do 2 rounds each session, although towards the end I tend to get a bit wobbly from exhaustion! Haha…

One interesting thing I’ve discovered is that performing the ‘Taraweeh’ prayers burns up a respectable amount of calories (see below). I’m trying to figure out if changing the type of exercise from ‘Mind & Body’ to ‘Yoga’ or ‘Fitness Gaming’ changes how it counts those calories, but I don’t have enough data to come to any conclusions just yet.

Calories from Taraweeh prayers

So yes, ladies and gentlemen, do not neglect your prayers!



Location: Oxford, UK

Just some of the books that I managed to read last year. I particularly enjoyed ‘The World As It Is’ by Ben Rhodes.

Learning How To Learn

I wrote a short post on Facebook yesterday that garnered some attention (by my own measly standards), so I thought I’d expand on the post here.

First of all, let me just say that I’m always wary of giving parenting advice such as this. Why? Because to a certain extent, it implies that I’ve got it all sorted out when the reality is quite the opposite. Being a parent is a bit like building a plane while flying it, or flying a plane while building it, whichever order you prefer. Most of the time I struggle to get my kids to stop playing ‘Frogger in Toy Town’ or ‘Cricket Through the Ages’. Heck, I often end up joining them…that cricket game is hilarious!

Cricket Through the Ages

Secondly, I’m aware of how lucky I am to have the luxury of staying at home to look after my kids without having to worry too much about where the next meal is going to come from, how to pay the bills etc. Being in lockdown is clearly a lousy situation, it really sucks. For some people, it’s an inconvenience; for others, it’s an unmitigated disaster. I don’t want to downplay the negative aspects of a lockdown, merely to share with you some of the methods I’ve tried to make the best of this unfortunate situation.

So to re-cap, the Facebook post was about giving my kids a topic to research and present. Basically I choose a topic at random, they get half a day or so to read about it online, and then they have to prepare a short presentation about said topic.

My reason for doing this is not so much to get them to learn things, but to learn how to learn.

Kids these days are faced with a daunting challenge i.e. how to make sense of things in a world overwhelmed with information. That’s why I think one of the most important skills to acquire at an early age is how to sift through the pile of information available, in order to get to the bit of knowledge that you need. This is a lot harder than it sounds, and unless you train them to do it, it’s not going to get any easier as they grow up.

I’m being relatively flexible about how my kids research their topics. In fact, I’m kind of hoping that they make mistakes along the way because I think it’s valuable to know how you ended up making a mistake in the first place.

Because they’re new to this, my kids often end up copying down whatever is in the very first website they encounter. Often, this is Wikipedia, so in that sense, they’re not that different from many university students! Eventually, I hope to nudge them away from just using Wikipedia, but for now, I just want them to develop a sense of excitement towards independent learning…so Wikipedia it is!

One tweak I’ve made is to get them to alternate between presenting their findings in English one day ,and Bahasa Melayu on the next day. I really want to include Arabic and Mandarin in this list, but I’m not fluent in either language. Oh well, something for the dad to learn I guess! I don’t know how long they’ll be able to stick to this routine, but hopefully they will pick up some useful habits while doing it.

And now, back to ‘Cricket Through the Ages’…



Location: The National Gallery, London

I can’t be the only person to appreciate the amount of love and care that went into painting this ship.

Adab Perbahasan

Saya mula berkecimpung dalam arena bahas Bahasa Melayu semasa di Tingkatan 1. Hasrat asal untuk menjadi pemain ragbi tidak kesampaian kerana ibu tidak benarkan, jadi saya pun memilih untuk menyertai pasukan bahas. Alhamdulillah, rezeki saya banyak di situ, dapat jugalah mewakili sekolah lebih kurang 50 kali dalam pertandingan bahas. Penglibatan saya biasa sahaja, hanya di peringkat sekolah menengah, tidak lebih daripada itu. Mahu ke hadapan lagi pun tidak boleh kerana universiti tempat saya belajar tidak ada kelab bahas Bahasa Melayu (jangan kecam ya ‘netizen’!).

Tujuan saya menceritakan kisah sebagai pembahas adalah untuk berkongsi pengalaman paling penting yang saya pelajari sepanjang tempoh 4-5 tahun bergiat aktif dalam bidang tersebut.

Saya namakan prinsip ini ‘adaT perbahasan’, tetapi mungkin lebih elok kalau dibaca sebagai ‘adaB perbahasan’.

Saya bersyukur kerana telah dapat berkongsi arena bahas dengan ramai individu yang benar-benar hebat. Antara ‘musuh-musuh ketat’ saya dahulu adalah para pembahas daripada SEMESTI, SAINA, TKC, STAR, dan SMAP Kajang. Yang menariknya, ramai daripada mereka ini akhirnya menjadi sahabat baik saya. Ada yang sudah menjadi doktor pakar, ahli politik, jurutera, peguam, ahli perniagaan, tokoh korporat, selebriti Facebook dan sebagainya. Walaupun menjadi ‘musuh ketat’ dalam dewan bahas, tetapi hakikatnya saya tidak pernah membenci atau berdendam dengan mereka. Malah saya amat kagum dan gembira melihat masing-masing kini berjaya!

Dewasa ini saya bimbang melihat kecenderungan masyarakat untuk berlebih-lebihan apabila ada perbezaan pendapat. Sesiapa sahaja yang tidak sehaluan, secara automatik dilabel sebagai pengkhianat, berniat jahat, ‘macai’, kurang cerdik dan sebagainya. Seharusnya kita berhujah berlandaskan ilmu dan dengan penuh adab. Malangnya kita lebih gemar sindir-menyindir, atau memarahi, berbanding cuba memahami. Saya sendiri tidak terkecuali daripada berbuat sedemikian. Malah, kalau melihat komen-komen lama saya di Facebook atau Twitter, malu juga memikirkan ketidakmatangan diri ini. Tetapi saya tidak padam komen-komen tersebut, supaya menjadi peringatan buat diri sendiri bahawa saya juga tidak sempurna dan perlu berubah ke arah yang lebih baik.

Bagaimana untuk membuat anjakan paradigma ke arah yang lebih baik? Nasihat saya, sebagai permulaan, kurangkanlah penglibatan kita semua dalam persatuan ‘Bawang Rangers’. Fikir dahulu sebelum bercakap. Berikan komen dengan cara yang sopan. Tegas pada prinsip, tetapi berhujah dengan penuh hormat. Bersangka baik terhadap orang yang berbeza pendapat. Buang ego ketika berbahas. InshaAllah, kita semua tidak rugi apa-apa dengan berbuat sedemikian.

Oleh kerana masa mencemburui saya (ayat lazim ketika berbahas), izinkan saya mengakhiri hujah dengan mendoakan agar kita semua istiqamah dalam berpesan-pesan dengan kebenaran dan kesabaran.

Wallahu a’lam. Salam Jumaat buat semua.