riyada in arabic means "training" or "discipline". It was used by the arabs in relation to horse taming. Sufis refer to their discipline as "riyadat an-nafs": disciplining the soul / training the ego. Today, the word riyada has come to mean "sports". There is an Arabic proverb that says: "The purpose of sports (riyada) is not to win cups, but to discipline the soul". This blog is here to help me discipline my soul and train my body.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pushing Cars

I drove around with my friend "G" tonight looking for an empty street somewhere in the neighborhood where I can push the car around freely. Pushing cars is one of the greatest exercises: it's a whole-body exercise, recruiting every muscle in your body. I had done this exercise once before with a friend in Cairo, on an old volvo, which is quite heavy- it's older than i am! Well, this time it was a 96 Jeep Cherokee. Apparently it's much heavier than the volvo! I mean I was able to push the volvo up a (very small) incline, but with the jeep it was impossible. I would keep shouting at G, "ARE YOU SURE YOU LET GO OF THE BRAKES?!?!?!" So we had to keep looking for a street that was perfectly flat, at which point I could push it. And if it got easy I would ask him to press on the brakes slightly to increase resistance.

Not only is this a great whole-body exercise -and whole-body exercises are great at releasing growth hormone for 24-28 hours after exercise, depending on how hard you trained- but it's one of the most functional exercises. It gives you strength applicable in the real world, whereas most exercises you see being done in the gym do not look like anything you do outside the gym.

It's also a very versatile exercise. I can put my arms against the car, and push with my legs, working my whole lower body, with emphasis on the front quads. Or, I can push off not from the whole foot, but only the toes, at which point you're blasting the calves. Alternatively, you can push with your back to car, which puts more focus on the inner leg muscles and the posterior chain (hamstrings, etc). Finally, you can stand in place, legs secure, and push only with your upper body, working back, chest, shoulders, arms, pretty much the entire upper body.

But while all these body parts certainly burned during the workout, the one body part that hurt all the way home was the abs. The abs have the function of stabilizing your body. For example, you're pushing with your upper body, while the car would naturally be rolling back or standing still. All this pressure on your upper body might break your body in half if not for the powerful abdominal muscles keeping it in place and stabilizing the whole thing. And damn did my abs hurt for a long time after the workout.

Tip: a street with bumps is more fun. Try getting pushing a jeep cherokee over a bump! Another tip: make sure you have a lot of Deep Heat (or any other muscle pain cream) ready after the workout.

In the end, this was an amazing workout, and hopefully I'll do it again next week. Obviously you need a partner to steer the car (while the gear is on neutral), to stop the car when needed, to step on the breaks (gently) if it gets too easy, and to hopefully stop the car from rolling back at you should you fail to push it on an incline or over a big bump.

Speaking of strength training, one thing I'm striving for is increased muscle mass. but not for aesthetic reasons. Well, if you consider not having a soft body or a belly an aesthetic reason, ok.. but its definitly not for vanity. It's mostly for increased strength and a raised metabolism and some other stuff. Anyway, I do notice myself looking at the mirror and flexing a lot lately, and this worries me. I'm trying to discipline my ego and keep it in check, and yet this seems like something that would increase my ego. I think its dangerous territory to be fighting against your ego and building muscle, but right now I think its not a problem and I'm pretty sure i'm ok. Yeah i do find myself looking at the mirror more before going into the shower, and even flexing, but that's also because im happy about the results of my hard work and dedication and the progress.

Now the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, liked to give names to what little things he possessed. Sometimes these were humerous, like calling his mule Duldul (swaying back and forth), sarcastic, like calling his pair of scissors Jaami' (uniter), and sometimes more serious. The name that the Messenger of God gave his small mirror is Mudilla (the one that leads astray). That is something I should keep in mind everytime i catch myself looking at the mirror.



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