My Personal Fitness Objectives and Key Results

When I mentioned that I use the Objectives & Key Results (OKR) system to achieve my personal fitness goals, some of my friends asked if I’d share my personal fitness OKRs with them. I decided I’d share the document here on my blog so it may benefit anyone interested in adapting them for their own personal fitness goals.

Here are my personal fitness objectives & key results on a Google Doc.

I currently maintain a log of my daily workouts using a custom database I created in a product called Airtable.

I welcome your feedback.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Book Review)

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Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time. It is a book about adventures, travels, cultures, customs, ancient wisdom, evolution, anatomy, biology, footwear, anthropology, friendships and human nature. It is also a book about long distance running.

Through the stories of his warm characters, Christopher McDougall teaches that long distance running is more about cooperation, camaraderie and caring than about competition. It reminded me of my favorite quote: Victory is winning others, not defeating others.

My rating of this book: 5/5 stars.

Vivo Barefoot Shoes by Terra Plana (Product Review)

We spend most of our waking hours outside home wearing shoes. So it is important that the shoes be comfortable and promote good health of our feet and legs.

I’ve been regularly wearing a few different models of Vivo Barefoot shoes by Terra Plana for a few months now. They have become my footwear of choice.

I find them extremely comfortable and I feel that my feet and legs have become healthier as a result of wearing them. Compared to Vibram Five Fingers shoes, the Vivo Barefoot shoes have the look of regular shoes and can be worn in most social and formal occasions. The Vivo Barefoot shoes come in dozens of fashionable designs. My wife suggested the models I bought.

The Terra Plana Web page lists some benefits of barefoot shoes that I agree with:

  1. Strengthens the muscles in your feet.
  2. Realigns your natural posture.
  3. Feeling the ground, stimulates sensory perception.
  4. Flexes your feet as nature designed.

The�casual shoes I wear on evenings and weekends�are�Vivo Barefoot (Oak Black Oil Suede and Oak Dk Brown Oil Suede)�and so are the dress “formal” shoes I wear to work with a suit (Dharma Black Veg Tanned Leather). While Terra Plana does not currently make Vivo Barefoot�formal dress shoes, I find that their black and brown leather shoes are fine to wear with a suit and tie to work. The comfort and health benefits provided by these shoes make up for the fact that they are not fully formal looking dress shoes. I find that they provide better grip on the ground than dress shoes and are thus great for my walking commute to work in Midtown Manhattan.

For outdoor sports like hiking and running, I wear Vibram Five Fingers shoes, but for social occasions and for work I wear Vivo Barefoot shoes. I find that the Vivo Barefoot shoes and the Vibram Five Fingers shoes complement each other well. Walking in Vivo Barefoot shoes most of the time keeps my feet in healthy and fit condition for when I hike, run, or otherwise exercise in Vibram Five Fingers.

For further reading, I suggest a recent article in the New York Times that discusses Vivo Barefoot and Vibram Five Fingers.

One drawback is that these shoes are expensive (about $150 for a pair) but I was fortunate to be able to get mine much cheaper. I had gone to the Manhattan store wearing my Vibram Five Fingers shoes. That led to a conversation about barefoot shoes with the store salespeople who were friendly and they realized I was seriously interested in such shoes. I politely and respectfully requested the store sales agent for a discount. She seemed agreeable. I then offered to buy two pairs if she’d give me a good price. She kindly agreed and suggested that if I buy the previous models which had been replaced by the new models, she could give me an even better discount. I agreed. By this time the salespeople and I had a good rapport. Before she started the paperwork for the sale, I further asked I bought three pairs if she could give me an even better deal.�She agreed. So I purchased three pairs and got them pair much cheaper than the list price. In work and in personal life, negotiations should result in win/win for both sides and this was another negotiation that left both parties happy. (Note: I haven’t posted my purchase price here since that wouldn’t be fair. After negotiating a good deal it is not a good idea to publicize the terms.�Market conditions and other circumstances vary and I don’t want to mislead anyone about what price they could get. )

I highly recommend these shoes.

My rating of these shoes: 5/5 stars.

Vibram Five Fingers Shoes For Hiking and Water Sports (Product Review)

Sometimes simplicity and minimalism provide wonderful experiences. The Vibram Five Fingers shoes are excellent for outdoor activities and for working out at the gym. The natural feeling that comes with being outdoors with these shoes enables the wearer to feel one with nature. Walking while wearing these shoes is a sensory experience that allows you to notice and feel the Earth.

Time Magazine named Vibram Five Fingers shoes among the best inventions of 2007 along with other products like the Apple iPhone.

Besides Vibram, some other companies also market shoes that provide a barefoot-like experience. Nike sells the Nike Free line of shoes, though the Vibram Five Fingers experience is much closer to being barefoot. A company called Terra Plana makes their Vivo Barefoot shoes. These shoes do provide a good level of protection and safety compared to walking truly barefoot. Personally, I would not be barefoot while hiking in the mountains or walking the streets of New York City, so these shoes provide me with an excellent balance of safety, comfort, good exercise and the thrill of a natural feeling.

According to Vibram, Nike and Terra Plana‘s separate marketing materials and others’ independent research, the barefoot-like experience provided by such shoes is good for the health of your feet and legs on the long term, since they allow your muscles and bones to get proper exercise that other shoes inhibit.

Since these shoes do not offer the cushioning via a thick sole of protection regular shoes do, you do need to be cautious while wearing them, especially while you are getting used to them. If you go hiking with these, consider taking along a pair of regular shoes as backup. I plan to go hiking wearing these and they will likely become my hiking shoes of choice, a position currently held by my Nike Free 3.0 shoes. I’ve hiked in the Georgia mountains wearing Nike Free 5.0 shoes and on a part of the Appalachian trail in New Jersey wearing the even thinner soled Nike Free 3.0 shoes. Those hikes included treading on sharp rocks and river crossings. Walking through water over the riverbed wearing barefoot-like shoes is such a soothing experience. I kept a pair of regular hiking shoes in my backpack as backup, but was able to complete the hikes without needing to resort to the backup shoes. Hiking wearing the Nike Free shoes that felt close to being barefoot was a wonderful zen like experience.


One drawback: Since the Vibram Five Fingers shoes look too unconventional, they are not suitable for wearing to many social events. A suggestion for Vibram: To some models, add a thin cloth or rubber film/layer on top that makes them look more like regular shoes from above while preserving the independent fingers movement on the bottom sole. Such a thin layer of film would be for looks only. Beneath it, the toes would still be independent. With that, people would be able to wear these shoes in many social situations.

I love Vibram Five Fingers shoes and highly recommend them. I wish that Vibram decides to make other versions of these shoes that will provide all the benefits these shoes do, but also look more like conventional shoes from top. If Vibram does so, they would become the shoes of my choice for all casual wear. It would be even more awesome if Vibram one day designs Five Fingers shoes that look like formal dress shoes from aboce. If they do that, various models of Five Fingers shoes would become my favorite shoes for almost all walks of life.

My rating of these shoes: 4/5 stars.

Gym Memberships: Tips for Getting a Good Deal

Treadmill at Gym at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
Touch Screen Display of Treadmill at Gym at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

My fiancee and I joined a Bally‘s gym and swimming pool near our apartment in Manhattan recently. I recommend joining a gym to everyone who is able to. A gym is a great environment for working out. Going to a gym is a community activity, where you are inspired by other people exercising. It is good for both mental and physical health.

Given the current economy and market conditions, here are some tips on getting a good deal at a gym:

  • Research. Go online and view the Gym’s Web site if they have one. They sometimes offer online specials: low month-to-month contracts with no long-term commitments and zero or almost-zero enrollment fees. Read the gym’s reviews at other sites and research their lowest fees.
  • Negotiate. In this economy, do not agree to pay the gym’s advertised list prices, nor simply accept the discounts they are offering. Gyms are always offering discounts. The sales person wants you to sign up the same day to lock in their commission, so don’t fall for any “today only” discounts. I prefer the name your price approach to negotiating. Before you go to the gym, determine how much would you be willing and able to pay. Determine a number that is a fair and would be a win/win for both parties. Take into account what value you would be getting from the service and the market conditions. In our case, we determined that for two people a total of $80/month for unlimited access to the gym and pool would be fair for us and the gym. Negotiate respectfully and nicely. Be courteous and kind to the other party. Let the sales agent know you are serious about joining and that you will join but only if you get the deal you are asking for. You are more likely to get a happy outcome if you behave as a good human being and try to make it a win/win for both. If they don’t give you a fair deal that you are willing and able to accept, don’t take their offer. Go to another gym or set up a system to work out at home or elsewhere.
  • Only sign up for a month-to-month membership, where you can cancel anytime without any penalty. Do not sign a long term contract, no matter how hard the gym sales agent try to sell you. I respectfully, nicely and firmly told them upfront that I was only interested in a month-to-month membership that I could cancel anytime for no penalty.
  • Do not prepay for a year in advance. It may seem to you like that they are giving you a lower rate, but you are better off having the money in your bank account or investments where it is earning you interest, not the gym. Especially in this economy, when some gyms have filed for bankruptcy, you should not give them your money in advance. They tried to sell me this option, which I politely declined.
  • Ask the sales agent to show you the prices for their lowest monthly rates. They will not show you these prices unless you ask them. The agent told me that since I asked to see the lowest prices, she was obligated to show them.
  • Do not fall into the trap of buying one of those unlimited access to all their gyms in the city plan. Going to a gym should be part of your routine and discipline. Choose one gym location that is convenient to you. Ask the sales agent specifically for a membership to that one gym location only. It makes no sense to pay every month for access to other gym locations you are not going to use. They told me that for just a little more per month, I’d have access to all their gyms in the New York and New Jersey area. I politely explained that that was of no value to us and that instead, we would prefer to save money.
  • If you plan to only work out three days a week, ask the gym to show you their limited weekly access plans. These plans are cheaper and if you can maintain the discipline of sticking to a schedule, such a plan will save you money. we evaluated, but did not opt for this since we prefer the flexibility of being able to use the gym all days of the week. Our goal was to get the best value for our money.
  • Ask the sales agent to explain all the payments, including initiation fees, card fees, etc. to ensure you uncover all hidden costs and know the total amount of money you will need to pay. Then ask them to reduce those prices unless they are already reasonably low. They offered me a “discounted” $99 one-time initiation fee, which upon negotiation, they dropped to $49. For the second person (in a couple membership), they waived the initiation fee. They also charged a one-time $10/person membership card fee. All this for two people totaled to ~ $70 one-time joining fees, which was acceptable to us.

By using these tips, we were able to get a month-to-month, no long-term commitment membership to the gym and swimming pool for two people at $79/month, which is what some of my friends in Manhattan pay for one person per month and they are on one or three year contracts.

For those looking for even better money savings, the not-for-profit New York City Department of Parks & Recreation offers memberships to their recreation center gyms for $50/year ($75/year for recreation centers with a gym and swimming pool). Yes, you read that correct: Their annual fee is less than what most for-profit gyms charge for one month. They have 22 recreation centers across New York City. If you live away from New York City, search if similar organizations exist in your area. We explored this option before joining Bally’s. The location of their nearest recreation center was not convenient for us.

Omega Wall Clock at Gym, Taj Majal Hotel, New Delhi
Omega Wall Clock at Gym, Taj Majal Hotel, New Delhi

Gym at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
Gym at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

Last but not least, our most important advice to you is: Use the gym on a regular basis, on at least 2 days a week, preferably more.

Photos: The Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, India has a excellent gym with a courteous and helpful staff. We worked out there in the mornings during our recent vacation to India.