Monday, November 28, 2005

Losing Too Much Weight?

This is probably a controversial topic right after Thanksgiving, but being controversial is pretty much ingrained in me, and this is something that has been playing in my mind, so I will just forge ahead. :) Quite a few people I have met recently have been concerned that I am looking much thinner – “are you working too hard?”, “stressed with the kids?”, “are you eating enough?”, etc. Even after I explain that I am exercising more now and doing triathlons the response is usually something like “Don’t over-do it.” or “Eat more!”, or a kinder “don’t lose any more weight”.

Let me first say that I am not one of those people who can eat what they want and not gain weight – that would be my slim sister. I have always been the sibling who seems to put on weight just smelling what my sister eats. But somehow, since starting Sprint Triathlons and now working towards a Olympic Distance triathlon, I have been getting thinner steadily. Not a bad thing at all, but the weird thing is, I am not losing much weight, it’s just all my clothes are getting loose – I think I actually need a whole new wardrobe now (not funny when you consider the extra costs). I remarked the same to a couple of my athletic friends and their answer was that I must be gaining muscle mass. Well, I look into the mirror daily and I sure don’t see much muscle mass so where is everything going?

I must confess that it is pretty annoying to be told that I am losing weight too fast (when technically, I am not - not according to the weighing scale anyway), and especially when I am feeling out of place in clothes that look a couple sizes too big, and at the same time wondering how to find time to train just that little bit more… I know everyone is doing it out of love and concern for me, but it is really starting to make me wonder if there is anything wrong with me? Is what I am going though healthy/normal?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Super Hero Syndrome

I am afraid I have the Super Hero Syndrome - you know, that "me against the world", "I've got the weight of the world upon my shoulders", "I need to solve all my problems, do more, acheive more..." feeling?

So what do I do? I worry. I worry about
  • My ministry - What can I do to bring the Care Group closer together and closer to the Lord?
  • My lil one, who was finally diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his finger after a second consultation with the doctors. Was I too callous? What should I do now?
  • My work - New role (Praise God!), new challenges, can I manage? Will I rise up like a hero to save the day or fall flat on my face? How do I impress my bosses, and my colleagues?
  • My career - How do I rise up from the miry clay of middle management to the "enlightened" world of senior management? What do I do to accelerate the process? Why are my managers getting younger?!?!
  • Olympic Triathlon - can I really do this? Can I complete it in a "respectable" timing when I can't even complete one of the swim or run events today?!?! Do I do intervals, strength training, drills (you may be surprised that I currently don't do any of these - don't know how and haven't got the time) or do I just keep plodding on with my boring old swims, bike trips, and runs?!?!

Noticed how many times "I" appeared above? Fourteen! Okay, must admit that was a bit of a set up, but the point is that the good Lord reminded me that when I do that (worry), I am actually telling Him that while I trust him for spiritual salvation, but I don't trust Him on His many promises to prosper us.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

This is one of my favourite illustrations of how God works and I hope it encourages you as much as it continues to encourage me. Recall the time when the Israelites finally left slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses, but the Pharoah changes his mind about losing His biggest labour pool and sends his army after them. The army caught up with the Israelites right at the bank of the Red Sea (this is just before the famous parting of the Red Sea, or some say the Sea of Reeds). At the height of this calamity, what did Moses tell the Israelites to do? Surprisingly, he did not say "HURRY! Get up and escape!", neither did he say "Get up and fight against this army of opressers!". Instead, he said

"The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14

WOW, how much faith does it take to "be still" in the face of calamity? When every instinct is shouting either "GET UP AND RUN!" or "GET UP AND FIGHT!"? I believe being "still" here does not mean sitting down and not doing anything (the Israelites did get up and cross the Red Sea, remember?). :) Instead I think it means not to panic or worry, to have the peace of God in your heart, to KNOW that God is in charge - which allows you to go ahead and do the right thing(s) in faith. To borrow the words of one of the fathers in the New Testament (whose son was finally healed by Jesus),

"... I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reflections & Resolutions

Been reflecting on the year (almost) past and the year to come. 2005 has been a blur – committing to Intentional Discipleship and Sprint Triathlons were both totally new, and it is questionable how much I achieved in the year.
Must admit that there were times when this picture seems to reflect the situation for me both in the area of Intentional Discipleship and Triathlons. :)

Well, perhaps not so much as regrets (don’t believe in them), but here’s a confession of the areas where I have asked God to come rescue me from myself:

  • Intentional Discipleship

    o Care Group – Sigh... Really, REALLY need His help here. I was worried about being asked to be the leader at the beginning of the year as I am the youngest (in terms of my faith, not age), and it seems my fears have come full circle. Attendance is at an all time low (hovering around 50%), and the group seems to be growing apart - partly due to couples becoming parents this year, extensive traveling of those with regional jobs, and heavy work schedules of the rest. This is a tough stage for my group, where young children and career ambitions come at their strongest to distract us from meeting together regularly, but I believe if people see value in coming together they will. So I am praying that the Lord will help me overcome my immaturity, travel schedules, and most importantly help us add value to the group so we will keep coming together.

    o Toddlers’ Playgroup – A few of us started the Toddlers’ Playgroup ministry in church this year with the main objectives of (1) teaching/sharing the love of God with the lil ones (kids under three) and (2) freeing up the young parents to be more involved in church. The ministry did take off (Praise God!), but it never got to the well-oiled child care service that I envisioned it to be (a vision that probably few shared anyway). Still, it is always a joy to see the lil ones sing and dance for God. :)
    ”From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
    because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2

    o Quiet Time – Has been off and on. Took a bit of time, but I think I am finally in the groove of doing my QT (almost) daily. Yay!

  • Triathlons
    – Old Nitrox is no ironman. :) I did two Sprint Triathlons in 2005, which is one more than I thought I would be able to do when I got off the couch back in April. The challenge I have here is more like what Tri-mama alluded to in her comments about “being in but not of [the world of triathlons]” – in short, making sure that God takes prime position in my heart, mind and soul.

With the grace of God, I hope to focus on the following in 2006:

  • Intentional Discipleship

    o Care Group – Will move to a rotating leadership model (everyone takes turns to be the leader). Hopefully it will address the leadership/participation issues we have had in 2005. I am also thinking of moving back to meeting weekly (changed that to bi-weekly sometime this year), hopefully that will draw us closer together as a group.

    o Toddlers’ Playgroup – Have decided with the wife that I will quit this ministry and spend the two hours before Sunday School with my boys. My prayer is that the Lord will bring “new blood” to this ministry to take it to where He intended it to be (because it feels like I sure didn’t). :(

    o Quiet Time – Maintaining consistency is the key for me in 2006. Bottomline: I will not do any training nor blogging until I have either done my QT or “reserved” an immovable timeslot in the day to do so.

  • Triathlons
    – Once again, old Nitrox is no ironman (if I say it often enough, one day I will remember that). :) My main limitation is time. I am very clear in my mind that my priorities are my faith, family, work and then if there is time left over, triathlons. This effectively means that I will probably never do more than an Olympic distance triathlon, so I might as well enjoy what I have time for. :) I hope to be able to complete a Olympic distance Triathlon in 2006, and I stress COMPLETE, not compete. This might seem a whimpy goal to you iron men and women out there, but even a O.D. is a big deal for old Nitrox, given that I have only done Sprint Triathlons and O.D. is double the distances! Time is gonna be a real challenge as doubling the distances (from a Sprint Triathlon) probably means I have to double my training time, and I am not sure if I have the time for this… So to the three readers of this blog - stay tuned! ;)

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Indignities of Business Travel

I'll admit things looked pretty glum at first. I had just travelled for 20 hours to find that I have somehow misplaced my return tickets - 1st time in many years of extensive traveling. This led to a few hours of anxious wrangling with the Luftansa, SAS and Singapore Airlines counter staff at the airport and even long distance to the call centre in Singapore.

The short of it is that if you lose your tickets in a city where Singapore Airlines flies to but does not have a ticketing office, there is pretty much nothing they can do for you. I eventually found my way to the local representative office for Singapore Airlines and the lone staff (thank you Hanna-Leena) there was kind enough to offer to help me sort it all out.
And so it was, more than 24 hours after I left home, I found myself in a European style hotel - see the small and bare amenities - not the most inviting place in the world at my (then) state of mind. This is one of the rare moments when I regret being spoilt by the luxrious and relatively cheap hotels in Asia. "The silence is opressive!" I remember myself thinking once I closed the door to the small room and decided to head out for some fresh air. The surroundings were pretty enough (the pictures here don't do it enough justice), but all I wanted was to take a hot shower, have a hot drink/scoff, hit the sack and head to the gym for a run the next morning.

Strike one - there is no kettle in the room, no room service and no dinner for quite a few hours yet. "Okay, might as well check out the gym" I thought.

Strike two - there is a gym, but I can't figure out the treadmill - spent a few minutes fussing with it and decided to give up. Looks like my training plans this week is down the toilet - it's 5 degrees celsius outside and I did not bring my cold weather trainers (in fact, I am not sure if I even still have them after so many years in sunny Singapore).

Strike three - called home and head that my lil one had a bad fall and may have fractured his finger.

That was quite a low point for me. Must admit I kinda suspected that the devil would pull one on me after all the posts about being happy, but he still took me by surprise when he did. :) Funny thing is, once I opened up the Bible for my Quiet Time, it started to occur to me that I have so much to be thankful for - (1) I have been chosen to attend this management workshop in Europe, in a beautiful country where many in Asia may never have a chance to visit; (2) Praise God that He was watching over my son - that he did not hurt himself in a worse way or bump his head; (3) I will take this week without the means to train as a "retreat" for my personal development and for spending quality time with the Lord.

As it turns out, I had a terrific workshop - learnt loads and made some important friends in the global organisation. We also had great evening programs (dinners and team building) which took up just about all the time, so I didn't really miss the gym at all. And the missing return tickets? Not only were they re-issued on time, I even managed to get on the earlier (totally full) flight as I was back in Singapore one whole day earlier than planned!

I guess this is indeed a case in point of living what I preach - to choose to be happy regardless of how the situation looks, simply because we trust our God to His word...

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

The beauty in our Lord's kingdom is not that there will never be trouble, but that His grace is more than sufficient for us to bear up, and even to triumph over whatever life brings us. Praise God!

The Splint

Yep, this is what awaited me when I returned from my week-long trip to Europe - my younger boy (2, coming to 3) fell and the doctors suspected a hair line crack.

Not the best situation to come home to, and not the best business trip that I have had either (but more on that later).

Well.. Praise God that He answers our prayers! The doctors just called to confirm that there is no fracture at all. Just a bad sprain, so as soon as the swelling goes down, off comes the splint.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Rejoicing in the Lord!

Sigh, kids are sick so kept them from church today lest they spread the flu bug to the other kids. Well, the bright side to this is I have some free time now, so I thought I will blog for a bit... since I found this Sunday's sermon to be particularly relevant, and probably a good continuation on my posts on daring to be happy and God's 911.

The message today was on "Celebration", and it started with the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. A familiar story - a father has two sons. One asks for his inheritance and spends it foolishly, then returns home broke and repentent, and is received with a celebration. The other son, who doggedly stayed by his father's side got a bit upset that so much fuss was being made over his brother, and his father explains
"... we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Luke 15:32

The word "celebrate" above is actually more like "rejoice" when translated from Greek - it indicates happiness and joy. Too often we are so occupied with the stresses/worries/issues/ambitions/desires of life that we simply forget to be happy. When we laspe into that, we are effectively allowing the devil to steal our peace, joy and happiness - the very blessings for which our God paid a terrible price.

So why do we celebrate/rejoice daily?

  1. We celebrate liberation - God's kingdom is here! Jesus has come and proclaimed the Lord's favour upon us all.
    "The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
    "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."" (Luke 4:17-20)
  2. We celebrate salvation/forgivess for ourselves and for each new soul added to the Kingdom of God. Jesus says
    "... there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10)
    If even the angels rejoice over our salvation/forgiveness, how much more should we rejoice here on earth!
  3. We celebrate restoration. God's kingdom is alredy here (see pt 1 above), and His will is established on earth (remember The Lord's Prayer?). His will is to restore us to the place He wants us to be. As a continuation of pt 1 - the time of the Lord's favour is already upon us,
    "This is what the LORD says:
    "In the time of my favor I will answer you,
    and in the day of salvation I will help you;
    I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people,
    to restore the land
    and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
    to say to the captives, 'Come out,'
    and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'
    "They will feed beside the roads
    and find pasture on every barren hill.
    They will neither hunger nor thirst,
    nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them.
    He who has compassion on them will guide them
    and lead them beside springs of water. "" (Isaiah 49:8-10)
    The subject of restoration probably deserves a whole new post, but I believe that Jesus came not only to save us, but to RESTORE us to where God wants us to be, and we know from the Bible that He wants us to RESTORE us to good health (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically - has Jesus ever turned even one sick person away when He was here on earth?), peace/joy, and all the good things we ask from Him (Matthew 7:9-11).
  4. Lastly, we celebrate and rejoice out of the love that God has put in our hearts, that we may be a witness and a testimony to the world of His goodness and grace. Exuberance for the Lord can only be passed through action and not through words, so start celebrating today!

So, do you trust Him enough to choose to be happy?
"... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15 )

Friday, November 04, 2005

Minor Gains...

So how much is this "minor improvement" in my Corporate Triathlon timing over my OSIM Sprint Triathlon attempt? Being the geek that I am, I actually did up a small spreadsheet which says:

3% Improvement - Marginal, I thot it would be more than that since I front crawled the whole distance. I did feel a lot more comfortable both during and after the swim compared to OSIM (no cramps and sense of vomiting after swim this time), but I am pretty disappointed with the minor improvement here. Boy do I need those swimming lessons! :(

11% Improvement - Whoa! This is pretty huge considering that I did not ride much at all (a total of 8 rides in almost 4 months!). It was also a technically slower distance (they halved the course and doubled the number of laps from OSIM). So I gotta attribute it to the Scott CR1. Probably also helped that I eased up a bit on the swim so this time I did not have to slow down because of cramps, etc...

7% Improvement - Minor improvement, so the treadmill sessions while I was travelling paid off, I guess. Still trying to get below 30mins for the 1km run in a Tri/Brick though...

8% Improvement - Like I said, minor improvement, which is probably in line with the training level that I put in.

Tri on!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More Pictures from the Corporate Triathlon...

Click on the thumbnails above to see a larger picture. Don't you just love the professional cameramen? They can make anyone look like a pro! :)

The prints are really expensive though, so I will just have to make do with these low resolution shots...