Friday, February 29, 2008

Workout Progress – Feb ‘08

February was a good workout month for me. With each PT sessions that I went through, I was able to see measurable improvements to the amount of loads that I was able to lift. It was not only the lifting of increasing loads that has improved but also the amount of time that I would need to recover from the effort have steadily shorten as weeks passed by. I’ve also found out that I was able to personally accomplish goals that I would never be able to imagine doing a few weeks ago so in terms of the mental aspect of the gymming experience seem to be on the improvement track.

Per my goal last month of attending at least one group class, I did finally managed to overcome my reluctance of working out in a group setting and joined in a spinning (RPM) class. Since the beginners classes were not available during the evenings that I usually spend at the gym, I had to join the intermediate level classes which I initially had reservations for fear that I would not keep up with the rest of the class. Turned out that my fears were unfounded as I was able to keep my own pace with the rest of the group as soon as I was comfortable with the bikes that they use. Having said that, the only thing that I don’t think that I would be comfortable any time soon with the bikes are how hard the seats were.

Diet plan in Feb

Breakfast (8 am)
- 1 sachet of Quaker Oats Flavored instant oatmeal
- 1 serving of low fat yogurt
- 1 serving of protein shake

Brunch (10 am)
- 1/2 serving of plan fried rice with tempeh goreng or greens
- 1 hardboiled egg (alternate working days – 2 whole eggs total per week)
- 1 serving of fruits

Lunch (12 pm)
- 1 Spirulina cereal 3 in 1 mix.

Snacks (4 pm)
- 1 Nature Valley Granola bar (Apple Crisps, Almond and Pecan have lowest calories)
- Japanese Green Tea

Dinner (7 pm)
– non workout days (Tues/Sat)
- 1 serving of protein shake
- buy something roughly less than 300kcal
Workout Days (M/W/Thurs/F: 8:30 – 11:30 pm, Sun: 4 – 8pm)
Pre workout
- 1 serving of protein shake
- buy something roughly less than 300kcal

Post workout
- 1 serving of protein shake

Supplements :
Protein Shake – 3 servings per day
21st Century’s HerbalLipo Tea – 1 serving per week day
GNC MegaMen Dietary Supplement – 1 tablet per day

I think that my current diet plan is currently optimized for my needs that I didn’t need to tweak anything from last month’s plan. I still continue to add protein shakes to my diet plan especially now that I’m savvy enough to know that the GNC near my place sells quite a few close to expiry date or dented tubs of protein shakes at least 30 – 40% off depending on the item. They are still good to use and furthermore a lot kinder to the budget. Of course this being my birthday month, I get 35% off everything in the store for one visit which meant me stocking up on protein shakes that would literally last me for months.

I don’t foresee any major changes to the work out plan or the gymming experience happening in March. I feel that I’m currently entering a phase where I’m totally comfortable with the gym schedule and variety of exercises that I’m currently doing. There might be some changes to the workout routine once I get done with this current program of 4 sets for each exercise but for the moment I don’t know what it would be like. As for the diet plan, I’m fairly certain that I would be able to stick with the same plan in March. There maybe some new supplements that I’m trying out in March which I may put some observations of in the next workout progress report.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 14

Program Day 14 (muscle group: Lower body, Hips, Shoulders, Abs – duration 1.5 hrs)

Warm up
Cross Trainer (20 minutes, 120 kcal target burn)

Lower body
Linear Leg Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 140/230/320/370 lbs)
Seated Leg Extensions (reps 12/10/10/8, weight – 99/121/143/154 lbs)
Prone Leg Curl (reps 12/10/10/10, weight – 80/95/105/105 lbs)

Hip Abduction (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 65/95/125/140 lbs)
Hip Adduction (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 80/85/90/95 lbs)

Shoulder Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 15/25/27.5/30 lbs)
Overhead Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 50/60/65/70 lbs)

Abs Crunch – Hammer Strength (reps – 15/15/15, weight – 55/55/55 lbs)

Cool down – None

I finally was able to tackle trying to push twice my body weight at the leg press machine tonight with was one of the records that I have set for myself. Next record to break for my leg press is 3 times body weight.

Added hips to the routine considering that my lower body seems to be developing nicely according to my PT. Both hip exercises will take a while to get used to not only because it’s a muscle group I hardly work but also the machines puts you in a position that someone like me can be a wee bit self conscious to be seen in. Lets just say that I have not had my legs that wide apart ever in my life.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 13

Program Day 13 (muscle group: Chest, Biceps, Lower Back – duration 1.5 hrs)

Warm up – Cross Trainer (10 minutes - 60 kcal target burn)

Machine Bench Press (reps - 12/10/10/8, weight – 55/66/70/77 lbs)
Machine Incline Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 30/40/50/55 lbs)
Vertical Chest Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 45/50/65/75 lbs)
Chest Fly (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 20/25/30/35 lbs)

Bicep Curl (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 35/40/45/50 lbs)
Preacher Curl (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 35/40/45/50 lbs)
Single Arm Bicep Curl (reps – 12/10/10/8 – each arm, weight – 20/25/30/35 lbs)
Standing E-Z Bar Bicep Curl (3 position – continuous without rest between position change)
- Low to Elbow level (reps – 7/9/11/13, weight – 20/20/20/20 lbs)
- Elbow to Chin level (reps – 7/9/11/13, weight – 20/20/20/20 lbs)
- Full extension from low to chin (reps – 7/9/11/13, weight – 20/20/20/20 lbs)

Lower Back
Back Extensions (reps – 12/10/10/08, weight – 65/80/95/110 lbs)

Cool down – none

Monday, February 25, 2008

Nickxandar at Spinning (RPM)

Today’s entry is a nod to Magus Young whose entries of him trying out the GX classes offered at his gym have long inspired me to try them myself. Of course, me being me it would take months after reading his entries before I did anything towards that goal. But I finally did it at last this past Friday and as promised will be documenting it as a blog entry. The title of this entry by the was is also a nod to Magus’s post on his experiences in the RPM class which you can read here.

Having taken last Friday off from work, I decided to go to the gym much earlier than I usually do. I don’t know why but even after 30 minutes of cardio and 1.5 hrs of weight training with the PT, I still felt that my energy level was quite high. In hindsight, it might be the mushroom fried rice and cendol that I had for lunch before coming to the gym, but at the time I was definitely buzzing on something. As just as I was finishing up with my PT, I saw that they were just setting up for a class at the spinning room and I decided to finally give it a try. Since I wasn’t sure what the experience level requirement for that afternoon’s class was, I had to look for the instructor first to confirm if a newbie such as myself would be able to sit in for the class.

It turned out that the instructor for the spinning class was someone I had noticed at the gym before and he quickly assured me that even it was a intermediate multi-level class, newbies are welcomed to join. We just need to go at our pace and not to try to match the more experienced people in the class. He helped me set up the bike that I was to use that evening which was actually a much less daunting task that I initially feared. There were 3 newbies that afternoon and we were all grouped together in the front of the class so the instructor could keep an eye for us if needed. Once we all were sorted out and the basics were explained to newbies, we started to hit the paddle.

I love exercising on the stationary bike even though I cannot cycle at all even to save my life on a regular bike. Of all the cardio exercise machines in the gym, the stationary bike has always been my favorite since it’s less painful on my knees and ankles. Since I was already going intensity interval rides on for my cardio all this time, spinning came quite naturally for me. I guess that’s why the comment came from the instructors that I seem to already have strong legs for someone who has not done spinning before (*blush*). Of course the main difference now is that I actually have a better soundtrack playing to cycle to instead of the one I keep playing in my head when I’m on the stationary bike.

The song selections that afternoon was decidedly a wee bit retro than I expected considering some of the songs that I heard blasting out of the spinning room before. I don’t know if this was a choice by this particular instructor or if was to cater to the slightly older group in the class that afternoon. I’m not complaining though as I still could get into a cycling rhythm as well as actually knowing the words to the song to mumble under my breath while trying to catch my breath. I wasn’t expecting to hear Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero” at the gym though.

The routine itself was fairly mixed between flat and hilly cycling. I fiddled with the intensity control knob to find a level that I was comfortable with and limited myself to quarter turns in each direction this first time out. I guess once I get more used to sequence, I would be able to raise the level of intensity to challenge myself more. Unlike stationary bikes where you keep your butt parked on the seat, there were more than a few times during the spinning class that we had to stand up and cycle as if we were cycling up hill which honestly I was thankful to have. While you do have to increase the intensity, feel the burn in your quads/glutes and really push yourself when you’re in the standing climb position, it was actually a welcome release from sitting on the hard plastic seat that was threatening to cut off circulation to my family jewels.

By the end of the session, I was sweating buckets but really exhilarated at the great workout. No doubt that I wasn’t pushing myself to my fullest intensity at this first try, I know that I would definitely try to put a few spinning class somewhere in my weekly gym session. I do need to keep cardio in the program so I can balance out the weight training with endurance training for a fuller gym experience and spinning class looks like a good choice for the time being. A great instructor, good tunes and a working in a group vibe really made the experience an enjoyable one and now I am sheepishly ashamed that it took me this long to finally try it.

Now .. if only I can bring myself to try “Body Pump” classes next

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 12

Program Day 12 (muscle group: Back and Triceps – duration 1.5 hrs excluding warm up)

Warm up
Treadmill (20 minutes, 100 kcal target burn)
Cross Trainer (10 minutes, 100 kcal target burn)

Assisted Chin Up (reps - 15/15/15, weight – 25% of body weight)
Lat Pulldown (reps - 12/12/12/12, weight – 55 lbs)
Low Row (reps - 12/10/10/8, weight – 20/27.5/35/42.5 lbs)
Upper Back (reps - 12/10/10/8, weight – 20/25/30/35 lbs)
Iso-Lateral DY Row (reps - 15/12/12/8, weight – 25/35/40/45 lbs)

Triceps Pushdown (reps – 12/10/10, weight – 10/15/15 lbs)
Seated Dips - Bench (reps – 15/15/15, weight – body weight)
Barbell Close Grip (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 20/22.5/25/27.5 lbs)

Cool down
None – went for my first spinning class instead

Thursday, February 21, 2008

InBody Check Progress – Feb '08

First InBody scan after starting the new PT program

Happy to see that total weight continue to fall which seems to be attributed to the loss in total fat mass compared to last month. I guess that it’s a good thing since it means that all the cardio that I’ve been doing is giving me the results that I want.

I guess that it is still too early to see any noticeable improvement on the total lean body mass and muscle mass % given that I have only been on the program for about 11 sessions. Still I take it as a good sign since I’ve stopped losing muscle mass like what I saw towards the end of last year.

Physically, I’m looking better now than I have ever been. Losing the layer of fat that I’ve carried all these years has revealed the beginnings of some muscle definitions that I can develop gradually over time. Even my fingers are thinner now since I had to switch my rings to other fingers since they were too loose on the fingers I usually wear them on. The last time that happened to me was 12 years ago.

Looking forward to March, I’m definitely hoping for more muscle mass development as I continue with the current PT program. Having gone through 11 session to date, I find myself gaining confidence in pushing myself more in terms of both weights and sets. I still have 16 sessions to go which should last me through March before I'm back training on my own again. I guess I should be looking for a workout buddy then so I can continue the program on my own since some of the exercises would require me to have a spotter for safety reasons.

The journey continues.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Measure of Happiness

What does it takes to make me happy?

Not much actually.

A gathering of friends that I regularly meet and those I’m meeting for the first time, sitting together exchanging stories with each other.

An unselfish act of sharing a birthday celebration party when by doing so means that the party will no longer be uniquely theirs anymore.

A selfless sacrifice to organize a such successful and memorable night without even a thought of himself.

Great food both store bought and home made to be savored and appreciated.

The sharing of stories both new and old that gives more insight into the love and lives of the people around you.

Jokes and laughter filling up the room with the sounds of happiness.

A warm hug to tell me how much I am appreciated.

Catching sight of a smile and a lingering look from across the room when no one was looking in hopes that the other person was thinking the same thing you were.

(pic courtesy of Crewcut's FB photo album)

Being able to experience only one of the above would sufficient to make me happy but to have it all in one occasion simply left me overwhelmed by it all. Trying so hard to take it all it, I found it next to impossible to try to convey how meaningful it was all for me that night. It was definitely a night that I will remember and cherish for a long,long time.

Thank you for sacrificing your time to organize the party. Thank you for those who were able to make it to the party, both near and far, and for the wishes for those that would not make it. Thank you for the great food both thoughtfully bought or lovingly made. Thank you for the great time and even better company. Thank you for including me into part of your lives even for just that night and sharing the bounty of joy with me.

Looking around from cloud nine where I’ve been stuck on since Saturday, it’s amazing how wonderful everything is.

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 11

Program Day 11 (muscle group: Lower body, Shoulders, Abs – duration 2 hrs)

Warm up
Stretching (10 minutes)
Cross Trainer (10 minutes, 50 kcal target burn)

Lower body
Linear Leg Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 90/180/270/290 lbs)
Walking Lunges (reps – distance, weight – 2 x 10 lbs plates)
Static Lunges (reps – 15/15/15/15, weight – 10/10/10/10 lbs)
Seated Leg Curl (reps 12/10/10/8, weight – 77/99/110/121 lbs)
Seated Calf Push (reps 12/10/10/8, weight – bodyweight + 35/45/50/55 lbs)
Reverse Calf/Soleus Pull (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 12.5/15/17.5/20 lbs)

Shoulder Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 10/15/20/25 lbs)
Overhead Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 16/20.5/23/25.3 lbs)
Lateral Raise (reps – 12/15/20/25, weight – 15/15/15/15 lbs)

Abs Crunch – Hammer Strength (reps – 15/15/15, weight – 44/55/132 lbs)
Abs Leg Up – (reps 15/15/15, weight - body weight)

Cool down – Jog on treadmill (20 minutes, 120 kcal target burn)

I have to watch out with the linear leg press as I almost bruised my ribs when my knees made contact with them while trying to push 290lbs. Still a bit sore but manageable. Have to limit myself to 270lbs for the next session till my legs are stronger.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine’s Day ... Again

I swore to myself that this year I will not put on “Sleepless in Seattle” on the DVD player and watch it while eating a whole tub of ice cream again. I’ve done that for the past 12 years and it’s time that I change that.

So I plan to go to the gym tonight and go to my first spinning class instead. That would get my mind off Valentine’s Day. Hopefully the gym doesn’t do something corny like couples night or something just because it’s Valentines.

Still .. just to be sure that I don’t turn out to be a grouch about it, here’s a little something that has been stuck in my head for the better part of the week.

Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered – Celine Dion
CD: Mona Lisa Smile OST

I'm wild again, beguiled again,
A simpering, whimpering child again;
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.

Couldn't sleep and wouldn't sleep,
When love came and told me I shouldn't sleep;
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.

Lost my heart, but what of it?
He is cold, I agree.
He can laugh, but I love it,
Although the laugh's on me.

I'll sing to him, each spring to him,
And long for the day when I'll cling to him;
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 10

As promised, I’ve started on a new program cycle starting on Day 10 of my PT program. The focus of the following 9 PT session would be building muscle mass and definition by breaking them down and allowing rest days for them to hopefully add bulk in the recovery phase. Being realistic, I don’t expect to end up with bulging pecs that never end or biceps the size of soccer balls by the end of the cycle (that would be a nightmare if that happened) but I do look forward to fill out my T-shirts a little bit better once I get through it.

For this new cycle, the number of reps have been increased from my previous 3 sets to 4 now for each exercise. While some of the exercises will have a fixed number of reps that I need to complete, others I would have to complete until I could not lift the weights anymore for that set. I think that there is a term for it but for now I just call it the “exhaustion limit” for lack of a more imaginative description. The other thing that has changed is the rest periods between reps. I used to be able to take my own time to recover between sets but now I have to stay strictly within the time limits allowed by my PT. I am now only allowed to rest 30 seconds between sets and 1 minute between exercises which my PT strictly enforced with his stop watch!

Since I would be working the muscles close to their breaking points, I also have to take care of what I eat for the duration of this cycle. I would definitely will have to load up on more protein shakes so that the muscles will have components they need to build up bulk-wise. Good thing that I get an additional discount from GNC for purchases made during my birthday month so stocking up on extra tubs of protein shakes this month wouldn’t damage my wallet too much. A cheaper alternative to go on an egg white eating binge but I can only take so many egg whites in one day before I get sick of it so protein shakes are still the best option for me.

If I could only be more discipline about the hours of sleep that I get a day then I’ll be all set for this program cycle.

Program Day 10 (muscle group: Chest, Biceps, Lower Back – duration 1 hrs)

Warm up – Stationary Cycling (10 minutes, interval – 100 kcal target burn)

Flat Barbell Bench Press (reps - 12/10/10/8, weight – 40/60/70/80 lbs)
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press (reps – 12/12/12/12, weight – 20/20/20/20 lbs)
Incline Barbell Press (reps – 12/6/7/8 – exhaustion limit, weight - 20/20/20/20 lbs)
Vertical Chest Press (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 16/23/30/30 lbs)
Pec Fly (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 35/40/45/50 lbs)

Standing E-Z Bar Bicep Curl
- Full extension from low to chin (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 20/30/40/50 lbs)
Preacher Curl (reps – 15/15/20/21 – exhaustion limit, weight – 20/20/20/20 lbs)
Dumbbell Hammer Curl (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 10/15/20/20 lbs)
Bicep Curl (reps – 12/10/10/8, weight – 25/30/35/40)

Lower Back
Back Extensions (reps – 12/10/10/08, weight – 65/80/95/110 lbs)

Cool down – Stationary Cycling (20 minutes, flat – 120 kcal target burn)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Newly Discovered Gem

Thanks to a friend, I recently discovered a new artist that I have never heard of before and boy am I smitten by her voice. Definitely will be looking out for more of her stuff.

I've Got A Crush On You - Stacey Kent

I've got a crush on you, Sweetie pie.
All the day and night-time, hear me sigh
I never had the least notion
That I could fall with so much emotion

Could you coo?
Could you care
For a cunning cottage we could share?
The world will pardon my mush
'Cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you

How glad the many millions
Of Timothys and Williams
Would be to capture me!
But you had such persistence,
You wore down my resistance
I fell, and it was swell

You're my big and brave and handsome Romeo
How I won you, I will never, never know
It's not that you're attractive
but, oh, my heart grew active
When you came into view.

I've got a crush on you, Sweetie pie.
All the day and night-time, hear me sigh
I never had the least notion
That I could fall with so much emotion

Could you coo?
Could you care
For a cunning cottage we could share?
The world will pardon my mush
'Cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you

Yes, I have got a crush, my baby, on you

Note : The YouTube video is audio only so nothing is wrong with your computer!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reflections on Turning 35

I turned 35 on Thursday, 7th Feb 2008.

I was suppose to write this up earlier but got side tracked by new home improvement projects at home. Instead of the usual gifts that my family would give me on my birthday, I asked them to come to my apartment and help me clean the place up. I am a horrible housekeeper and there are even corners in my apartment that I have not even seen once in the 12 years I have been living in the place! I would need the help of a small army to get my apartment anywhere near presentable of people to drop in. But in the end it was a great birthday gift as most of them came and over the next 2 days helped me rearrange 2 rooms, the living room and the kitchen not to mention help to clean up the product of years of neglect. I still have a few things that I still need to do and to get but I’m pretty happy now to have a place that I don’t feel so embarrassed to have company over.

Part of the condition of my family’s birthday gift for me is that I let them decide what to throw and what to keep. I am by nature a pack rat. I never throw out anything for fear that I would need to use them in the future. I have paper bags that were older than my Primary Year 1 going nephew that I kept since I thought that they might come useful later! As I watched them sort out what I could keep and what I had to let go, it struck me how appropriate it was given the changes that I have been going through this past year. Part of my problem all these years was that I have been accumulating items in my life that is not only weighing me down in one place but also cocooning me in a safety zone that I felt settled in. Reaching this milestone age for me this year meant that I now had a chance to trim down things in and around my life in order for me to move forward.

Turning 35 was something that I both looked forward and dreaded in equal measure. There was a time that I saw myself as being married with children by the time I reach this age. For obvious reasons that vision never came through and I’ve decided to stop emotionally investing on the possibility of having children of my own. I may think about adopting when the time is right but for now I have given up the thought of having my own bloodline continue down the ages. It’s a sad thought for me especially when I have been planning for them for the longest time. I even have a small notebooks of names that I have been revising all these years which I can’t even bear to look at now. Thinking about it even now feels like I am saying good bye to a dear loved one that I know that I will never see again.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I have been on a pruning spree on things around me that I felt was providing me with the comfort zone that I felt so settled and sedated in. In the process, I have broken my share of hearts and dashed many expectations by acting selfish and thinking of myself first for a change. In my defense, I can only say that I’m facing my midlife crisis about 5 years ahead of schedule. I was not feeling happy settling for the next best thing when I never given myself a chance to find out what was best for me. I was too wrecked with the what ifs that I wondered more than a few times if I have made a mistake all this time. I did not want to end up being bitter at other people for the missed opportunities in my life just because I was afraid to try. The only way that I could see to avoid that was to remove my comfort zone which will force me to move on to my next phase of development.

Moving ahead in my 35th year of living, life seems to be exciting again with so many uncertainties ahead of me. Other than my continued work/financial stability, something that I choose to leave as is, everything else is a journey I have yet to undertake. In a way, turning 35 felt like I now had a "do-over" for my life but this time I would not be as afraid as I was before when making my choices. It’s not very often that a person gets a second chance to radically rebuild themselves from the ground up but I’m starting on that journey this year. If last year my motivation to change were of thoughts of revenge on the person who broke my heart with callous comments, this year my motivation will be for self improvement and taking calculated risks that I hope will bring me happiness.

I would be lying if I don’t admit that future prospects scares me now more than ever since I don’t having anything other than myself to fall back to. Being a risk adverse individual, I’m basically operating on a measure of faith from this point onwards. The rewards at the end of this journey may not commensurate the effort I would put in to get there but I would never know unless I give it a try. The old me may never even dream to doing that being content to stay in his protective cocoon shielded from the need to take risks.

This is a new me now. At 35, I’m now taking the road not taken to see where it will lead me.

The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Gong Xi Fa Chai

I would like to wish all my Chinese friends and blog visitor a Happy Chinese New Year and Gong Xi Fa Chai. May the coming year bring you all much luck, fortune and prosperity in yours and your loved one’s lives.

As per standard operating procedure around this time of the year, I would be on standby duty again so that my Chinese colleagues could go on their New Years break in peace. Of course this means that I would need to stay within KL city limits and be able to respond to calls when they come in. Hopefully this year would be the same as pervious years when no calls come in especially instead of just responsible for my own team as I was in pervious years, I have to be responsible for our whole operations in KL for our support account this standby period. This will be big shoes to fill but if I do well then it would surely reflect well when my performance review period comes up in April.

At first I was thinking that I may be spending the holidays at my parents place in Selayang but I guess now I’m keeping that plan open at the moment. I still owe my apartment a sprucing up after months (closed to years for some corners) of neglect. My curtains for example needs to be burned by now! (They’re that bad). I’m thinking of going out idea-shopping at IKEA with my mum tomorrow since I’m also in the market for a new bed to replace the one I currently use.

Any who, do have a great time with the family if you’re attending the reunion dinner with them tonight and have a great celebration with them. For the rest of us who get the 4 day weekend, do enjoy yourselves. Stay safe everyone and make sure if you plan to party, you plan to party responsibly. Don’t be another statistic in the yearly on the road butcher’s bill.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Wonderful Evening Outing

I am a big Sheila Majid fan and have been following her career for years ever since I first heard the songs from her first album.

If there was a local artist that I would say that I’m a fanatic of, Sheila Majid would definitely be the one.

But I have never been to any of her live performances .. ever .. until this past weekend.

For years, I’ve always regretted not being able to watch my favorite local artist performing live. I remember being so close to going to her “Legenda Concert at Stadium Merdeka” back when I was in KPP only to be foiled by a transportation problems getting to the venue. Her last concert was at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall at KLCC sometime back which again I had to miss because I didn’t have anyone to go with. When I was active in my company dinner organizing committee back in the day, I always had her name on the top of my list of entertainers to invite but we could never seem to get her to come to our function. Years have passed and I’ve actually resigned myself to the possibility that I would not get a chance to see my idol performing live.

When I saw a banner at SultanMuzzafar’s blog that said that she would be performing for the Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) Foundation Charity Benefit, I knew that I finally got my chance. I am a loyal supporter of the IJN Foundation who do good work for people needing expensive heart health care which would be out of reach for them if not for the funding/help provided by the foundation. Last year, at around the same time of the year, they organized a benefit staging of the “Puteri Gunung Ledang – The Musical” at Istana Budaya which I attended with my family. This year the whole family was planning to go on a trip to Indonesia at the same time as when the concert was happening which means that they would not be going.

I was crushed! I really wanted to go but again run into the same old problem of not having someone else to go with. I hate going to concerts alone (which I did once when Richard Marx had his concert in KL ages ago) no only because of my transportation situation but also not having someone to share the occasion with would really suck. Fortunately, this was the new me now, the guy who was no longer the hermit crab living in his own world in the middle of nowhere. I quickly made a list of the people I knew would enjoy a Sheila Majid concert as well as enjoy each other’s company to invite to join me for a night out.

It was made easier for me that my mum was able to secure me the cheapest tickets for the concert at RM100 per seat instead of the normal price of RM150. On of the perks of having relatives working at IJN is not only will you get a chance to attend IJN Foundation events but a secured room at IJN should you need to have a heart operation! With that all set, I sent out txt and Facebook messages out to the people on my list and waited to see who would say yes to the offer. There were some people on my invite list that I really wished that they could go as it would really have made the night more interesting. Fortunately some people did which really made my day since I really wanted to go to the show.

On the day of the show, we made plans to meet up at KLCC to have dinner before going to the show which was being held at the nearby KL Convention Center. I was already there since 4 pm as I had another meeting planned earlier before the guys showed up. We had dinner at the Apartments at KLCC which was located where Shrooms was before. Wasn’t particularly impressed by the food they served but the company was more than worth the time spent there. After dinner, we took a short walk using the connecting tunnel between KLCC and the Convention Center to reach the concert hall.

Our tickets were for the nosebleed section on level 3. As we came into the hall I was quite surprised to see how empty that section was given the time that we came in. I had checked the online ticket website to see ticket availability and it did say that they had sold out for the cheapest tickets to the show. I had imagined that the section would be packed by then but instead I found it to be strangely deserted. I found out later that majority of the seats on our level were purchased by the corporate sponsors who would normally distribute it to their own staff. I’m guessing that somewhere along the line, those tickets did not get distributed out leaving just empty seats around us. It’s a pity seeing all the empty seats that night when I think of the other people trying to get tickets online only to be told that they have sold out.

Our 3 seats were originally at the top left side of the room but thanks to much cajoling from the guys with me that night, we decided to move further down the assigned seating to be closer to the edge to see the stage better. Those who know me knows how hard it was to get me to agree to that. I do not have a thick skin, people! The thought of being caught sitting in a seat not assigned in the ticket that I hold actually mortifies me. But being a night of many first, I decided to throw caution to the wind and move down with the rest of the guys. It turned that eventually the event crew requested that everyone to move down to the second level to fill up seats there but we decided to stay where we were since it had a better view of the stage.

The concert started a bit late as to allow for the arrivals of VIPs which included the Prime Minister and wife. They had a short cheque presentation from corporate sponsors who donated graciously to the cause which was received by the PM. Thankfully there were no grand speeches from any of the VIP that night as people were already grumbling around me about the late start. As the starting strains of “Ku Mohon” start playing over the short presentation of her visit to IJN, I was getting more excited about seeing my favorite artist in action. I didn’t have to wait much longer when she appeared on stage launching into the first song of many that night.

The concert itself was a blast. Everyone around us practically knew the words to all of the song she sang that night and we sang along with her. The guys who I came with were so busy with their cameras, either snapping pictures of the singer or making bootleg copies of the concert performance (hahahah), that I had to check in with them to make sure that they at least were enjoying the show for a view other than the camera’s view finder. At certain points of the concert, all of us were up on our feet (including the PM who we could see from our seats) and dancing to the music. I think that the last time I had actually attempted to move my body is any type of rhythmic activity, Clinton was still the President in the US. It was quite liberating actually to be able to let loose a bit and just dance to celebrate the music that was being performed for us.

Of course I also found out that night that a certain someone I was with that night really has the worst sense of rhythm I have ever seen. I never imagine that I would find someone who sucked it at more than me. Good thing that your charming self more than compensated for the lack of coordinated movement.

Sheila went through 3 dress changes throughout the slightly more than 2 hours concert that night. She sang all of her fan favorites from her earlier albums that went down well with the audience who practically grew up listening to her songs. This was also her first concert in 7 years after her last appearance at Petronas Philharmonic Hall which made it more special for the IJN Foundation as she was willing to come back for their cause. It was clear that she loved the crowd and the energy that she was getting from them as we partied the night away. She did only one encore performance that night but it was for a song that all of us were waiting to hear the whole night. Her performance of “Legenda” accompanied by her fans in the auditorium was a wonderful way to end the concert.

We left the concert hall at almost midnight feeling the buzz from a really enjoyable show. Most of us decided to stop at a nearby eating establishment to get some should-be-avoided post midnight nosh before going back to end the day. It was a wonderful evening outing for me which of course left me losing my voice in the following days after the concert but the experience of seeing Sheila Majid live in concert was worth walking around sounding like a trombone for days. I don’t know when I would get the opportuinity to see her in concert again but at least now I can cross one more item from my list of things that I want to do.