Getting colder for running, so here’s a test drive for a women’s long sleeve shirt

Test driving Lululemon’s Run: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve

If you’ve not yet heard about Lululemon, they’re a Canadian clothing company focused primarily on yoga, running and branching out in other areas – primarily for women, but also make items for men (worth falling in love with). They also have FREE yoga classes across all their showrooms and stores every weekend, around the world, in addition to lifestyle workshops and what not. They have a very positive, happy vibe, spending as much time on making each person better – happy, healthy, whole as much as selling gear.

The gear they sell is.. pricey, but indeed, it really is top quality product. So it was with a gulp that I handed over £62 (about US$100) for a long sleeve running shirt last week. I’d done my research and knew what I was looking for and bearing the colder weather in mind, especially not being a) a night time runner or b) running in the cold previously –  preferring gyms until last year. I didn’t want to pull out my snowboarding under shirts to go for a run in. I needed a proper running shirt so Lululemon it was. [Men – fear not, here is the equivalent for you.


Test drive 1: As a walk around shirt.

Air vents in all the right places last weeks OM yoga show. I was planning to try out some classes so came prepared. This is comfy. Longsleeve with thumb holes, which you don’t need but do add that extra comfy feeling. The shirt pulls down long enough to cover your behind if you so choose, warm enough to wear without any extra layers indoors.


Test drive 2: Night time 40 min run in 18deg.

Apparently autumn weather hasn’t yet committed in London. I came (over) prepared to run with this shirt feeling slightly warm indoors. However as the night breeze picked up and we got moving, I didn’t feel too warm and despite a challenging run (thanks Amanda from Nike Covent Garden) did not feel sweaty either. Emma, the Richmond Lululemon showroom manager had said that she owns one, and that it never has that post run sweaty scent. She was right. The shirt has what Lululemon calls: “Silverescent® technology, powered by X-STATIC®, inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria on the top.” And yes it doesn’t smell at all.


Test drive 3: Night time 40 min run in 15 deg.

A slightly colder night, and once again, I felt neither cold nor sweaty. The other bonus was when throwing on a coat and heading home, there was none of that ‘cold sweat’ after working out feeling. The shirt is figure hugging, so even though I bought a size up than I regularly wear, it still felt snug, no chafing and the vent panels were in all the right place – under arms, mid torso and on the back.


Test drive 4: Morning 30 min run in 14 deg with slight drizzle followed by yoga.

Coldest run so far but now with the added bonus of drizzle. Just like other runs, I felt warm, didn’t feel sweaty at all, didn’t feel cold after the run, then showed up yoga shortly after with no sweaty swell. Yes really.

Verdict:  Recommended. I’ve already worn this shirt 4 times in a week and the weather isn’t even *that* cold. So it looks like the value for money is going to prove itself quickly. Beyond that any improvements? Perhaps a hidden pocket near collarbone for a key/oyster card etc? Brighter colours would be good for the darker weather running and/ a reflector somewhere although could be tricky as the shirt is so slick, it feels seam free.


Olympic challenge

The winter olympics are here which means an ample dose of ‘stoke.’ Its probably my favourite sporting event because of the personal relationship I have to it – a former athlete, snow/winter crazy and a bonus of after so many years seeing familiar faces as athletes or coaches and of course remembering the days were you were driven not just to excel in your sport, but to have fun. They were good times (more on those stories and adventures during the games).

So, when the olympics and world cup roll around, I seem to have fallen into the habit of putting on my own challenge. Simply, for as many days as you can during the Olympics, do something sporty with a maximum 2 days off per week. The easiest thing is time your gym visits during prime time coverage. Today, I was running on the treadmill watching the mens half pipe. During the world cup, I also try to time my gym times to the games – a player runs an average of 8km during a game, so a 45 min run generating 6-7km is not bad. This is something similar to what my once orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Feldman also used to do – but he would do 1 hour of sport every day – tennis one day, running another and so on. He’s also the team surgeon for the New York Rangers (he also used to  tell me stories of how the spines and rib cages of those hockey players were so twisted from all the hitting, that a 30 year old hockey players spine and ribs looked much older than that). Back to the challenge: who’s with me?

My count so far (to be updated as things continue)
Day 1: Yoga
Day 2: off
Day 3: Spinning
Day 4: Run 4.22km

Day 5: Run 5.35km

And remember, its not about the podium, its about having fun. (Here’s me with my teammates in Doha in December 2013 – the jersey is from the Olympic Oval Women’s High Performance Ice Hockey program in Calgary, Canada ie be a full time hockey player. I was an athlete there from 1995-99. The program generated many olympians and national team players some who are still playing as well as world class coaches. Play hockey weekdays, snowboard on the weekends. What a privilege.)

Excuse me, where are the Arabs?

Should a lack of Arab students at elite British universities raise concerns for future leaders being developed for Arab states?

Earlier this year I returned to London, to the London School of Economics (LSE) to complete my postgraduate degree in Politics and Communication. In between starting and finishing I was at Al Jazeera, with the last year in Doha. Returning to London, I found my eyes searching for Abayas and Thobes, staring at scantily clad and interestingly dressed men and women and of course seeking warmth in a winter that extended snowfall into April. It was quite the reverse culture shock – from the Gulf to the ‘West’, from heat to freeze and from a small city to a global one, and also leaving the world of work to become a student again. One building I spend a lot of my time in is the New Academic Building.

The New Academic building was a £71 million investment which opened in 2008. The building houses a 400 seat theatre, the second largest lecture hall at the LSE and has hosted notable speakers from Gordon Brown to Sheryl Sandberg, from Wael Ghonim to Kofi Annan. The theatre was named for Sheikh Zayed along with a  £2.5 million donation from the Emirates Foundation. As one of the largest and prominent locations on campus, my first observation when returning to the New Academic Building was… where are the Arabs? By that I mean, where are the Arab students?

Sheikh Zayed Theatre. Photo: IGC

If a prominent theatre has been named after a former ruler of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), does this say something about the links between the LSE and UAE, is this part of an investment to raise the stature and mark the influence of wealthy Arab nations? In my classes, Arabs are largely absent. The student population is dominated by Europeans, Americans and Chinese. This concerns me, when there is such tumultuous terrain in the Middle East, this means there is opportunity for investigation and also change. This means change in the media, society as well as political structure. In the context of the US and Europe, with all but a  few economies have untouched by financial woes, should the Arab world, notably the Gulf with all its recent investments in London particularly be somewhere to be paying attention?

I looked at LSE’s latest enrolment statistics (up until the 2011-12 academic year) and what I found was not reassuring. In that year, there were 3 students from Qatar. The UAE fared much better with 40 (the UAE also has a scholarship for Emirati students to study at the LSE whereas the Qatari education ministry will fund Qataris (living expenses included) who secure places at overseas institutions). I cast the net a little wider in the Arab world :

Algeria: 2

Bahrain: 13

Egypt: 20

Iraq: 0

Libya: 1

Palestine: 4

Saudi Arabia: 10

Syria: 2

Some of these countries listed have experienced, or continue to experience conflict. If the LSE is indeed an elite institution drawing the best from all over the world, where are the Arabs?  The lack of Arabs is concerning, as is asking random students whether they know who Sheikh Zayed was, yielding not a single positive response. So who is attending the LSE? From the same year, here are some triple digit representations:

China 814

France 282

Germany 507

Russia 102

USA 962

Any flags going up here? They should be, these numbers still reflect global power realities –  measured by military. It also seems to me that there should be some shifts. The LSE, to me represents a space where leaders can be cultivated, to go out into the world with a different kind of weapon: intellectual ammunition. Considering the transitions and turmoils in the Arab world, it also represents a space where a new generation of Arab leaders could be cultivated, to then return to their countries with the fruit of intellectual tennis and not just that, the contacts of the many bright minds who will indeed go on to do great things all over the world. The LSE does have a reputation of being an elite university producing Nobel Laureates, and many prominent government and policy people. There are some wealthy Arab/Gulf countries investing heavily inside and outside of their countries in education and infrastructure but where are the students? As studying has intensified and exam season is around the corner, I’ve met one girl from Jordan and a Palestinian, but still find myself looking for someone or something just to connect back to a special world that unfortunately many of my London peers know not much about .

Where do you come from?

At 8 years of age in year 3 with Mrs Finlayson, we were taking a lesson on ancestors. She had a copy of the passenger list of the convicts from the First Fleet. This was 11 ships full of largely petty criminals arriving in Botany Bay in 1788 to colonize Australia. All the eager youngsters put up their hand for their teacher to trace their ‘ancestor’ based on last name. I didn’t get picked. Actually I didn’t really fit in. Everyone was blonde haired, blue eyed with easy to pronounce names. James, Amy, Sarah, Grant, Mark. I had dark hair, dark eyes and definitely not white skin. Back in those days kids used to throw dirt at us, call us names during weekly ‘little athletics.’ I don’t remember that but my mum does.

Fast forward to mid teenage years and the only thing I wanted to do was play my sports. I was good at it, no one interfered with me and it was my escape in so many ways. It was a time of discovering self and identity. My mum would remind us “you don’t know what kind of family you’re from” but I didn’t really care. All I wanted to do was listen to the top 40 hits on the radio and be ready to push down ‘record’ on the tape deck, play hockey and be cool.

And then I went on holiday to Turkey by myself in 2004 after everyone around me seemed to be singing praises of this country, and everything changed. My previous memories of Turkey were going to relatives houses, eating a lot of food, wandering at will and having a freedom your parents would never give you at home. But this Turkey I saw was like waking up to the Mediterranean sea on a summers day. Captivating, beautiful, shiny and deep. Shortly after, I bought a one way ticket to Ankara, (I was living in New York at the time) determined to stay just 2 years. That became 6 years and began what some of my friends call an obsession with all things Ottoman. That may not be accurate but that time did lead to finding out who I am and where I come from.

Sultan Murad IV

Sultan Murad IV
Portrait on display at the Military Museum, Istanbul

It turns out our first ancestor, the first “Dogramaci” was treasurer to Sultan Murad IV during the Baghdad campaign in 1638. Dogramaci Kara Mehmet ended up staying in what is now Iraq, or then Ottoman territory. This is why its difficult to answer the question ‘where are you from?’ What do I say? Iraq? I’m not Iraqi. Turkey? But I’m not from the borders of contemporary Turkey. Australia? I was born there but I’m not from there. I still get puzzled looks if I volunteer that answer. If I tell people I’m Ottoman, most won’t understand, some will think you are a snob and very few others give you a reassuring smile and nod.

What is certain is that my family is almost 400 years old. Down the line, the family is known mainly for my great uncle (Ihsan) and aunt (Emel), and their father, Ali who was a Pasha(Governor) during Ottoman rule, then after the end of the empire, a Senator in the Iraqi parliament. History became real and that depth and captivation of famliy started to take meaning. When you discover that you are connected to something far greater than just one or two generations, for me at least it inspired a sense of ownership and preservation. There are enough connections to places, relics as well as conduct transmitted down the line. Everyone speaks multiple languages, puts a premium on education and diplomatic connections are effervescent. So next time I’m chasing dreams and a past in Jerusalem, Bursa, Rhodes or Istanbul, or when I start telling Ottoman stories about palaces, mosques, people and places, you’ll understand why.

On love and art or this is love, this is what it does to you.

If you’ve ever let go of love – you should probably read/watch this.

I’d already posted a link to this video and original source but all the social media buzz of late has been on SXSW. I think this story is too good to miss though.

Art- whether music, poems, paintings, photography..they all express what the heart captures and words fail to say. I don’t have the answers or the formulas, but I will say this: I saw this video, and like all good romantics it brought tears to my eyes, though not because of the reunion and shock factor. No, it was that a two people could love each other so much, with such intensity yet know that separation was the best thing for them. The strength to maintain that separation is profound. Too many people today settle, rather than go through the pain of letting go. Amicable separation means that when you do let go, you will find that there is respect for the reasons of ending but the love and feelings remain, no matter how deeply buried.

I can’t say that I quite understand Marina Abramovic but I do know that this elicits respect. Here is the prelude to the story from Zen Garage:

Marina Abramovic and Ulay started an intense love story in the 70s, performing art out of the van they lived in. When they felt the relationship had run its course, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each from one end, meeting for one last big hug in the middle and never seeing each other again.

At her 2010 MoMa retrospective Marina performed ‘The Artist Is Present’ as part of the show, where she shared a minute of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. Ulay arrived without her knowing and this is what happened.”

To borrow from Jack Kerouac – this is love, this is what it does to you.

Hack your body

If you’re familiar with Tim Ferriss, you know that he’s all about making your life more productive and efficient enough so you can free up time, and resources to do what you really want to do.. usually the domain of afterwork, weekend or holiday time. I just re-read bits and pieces of The Four Hour Body and the same applies to working out/getting fit etc: train smarter not harder. I’d already attempted “How to lose 20 lbs in 30 days with no exercise” a few years ago. I’m vegetarian so it provided an extra set of challenges but even with cheating, I dropped pounds, and achieved target ‘svelteness’ for my sisters wedding. That plan had the unintended happy consequence of creating habits – you need 40 days to make or break a habit, so even with the cheating, it still worked.

The other Tim-tip I tried was swimming. Despite having taken swimming lessons for 10 years (compulsory in Australia) and having a Bronze Medallion – which is one step in lifeguard qualification there, I really didn’t know how to swim. I watched Tims EG talk posted on TED, learnt all I could about total immersion swimming and have gone from swimming 50 metres and hating it to cruising 2km or 45 minutes, whichever I feel like. And I have the vanquisher goggles – thanks for that also Tim.

I used to be a full time athlete. Back then I trained for about 5 hours a day, 6 days a week, 11 months of the year. I was also about 150lbs (70kgs). I dropped all the muscle years ago – I don’t need that bulk anymore and have been 120lbs (55kgs) or less for the past few years. I also studied kinesiology (anatomy, nutrition, biomechanics etc) so I know what I’m doing and I also know my way around a gym very well. For the past five years whenever I use weights, I always superset (moving from one exercise to another without rest) to save time. So about a month or two ago, I decided to put Tim’s findings to the test. His tips are thoroughly tested (usually on himself with hilarious commentary). Guess what? It works. It works even though I cheat with what I’m not supposed to eat every week.


  1. I leave my workouts feeling refreshed, not exhausted which is what Tim has said (except when I go overboard with the kettle bells…because they can get pretty addictive)
  2. I’ve dropped 2kgs in about 2-3 weeks but replaced with muscle and toning exactly where I wanted and needed. This in-spite of not being overweight and weight should not be your key indicator anyway whether or not your body is responding.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Spinning class
  2. Hip flexor stretches (this gets rid of the pot belly look that girls tend to have) (scroll down to hip flexor stretch)
  3. Two arm kettle bell swings (30-45 reps)
  4. Bosu ball sit ups (Movement 1)
  5. Cat vomit exercise (Movement 2 here)
  6. Hip raises

All of this takes one hour. That’s it, one hour. Now when I see people in the gym rushing from one exercise or machine to another, doing all kinds of contorted ab and weight exercises, first I feel sorry for them and then think, they should be reading the book. The other thing I noticed is how few fitness instructors have a clue (which Tim had warned about). Unless they’re up to date on what’s going, you are not going to get any advice to optimize, or hack your body. Read Tim’s how to for the kettlebell swing for instance (linked above), then ask a trainer to explain it to you. They will probably miss how to position your feet, sitting rather than squatting motion and contracting your gluteal (butt) muscles in the movement.

The most important thing I would underline is make sure you get your measurements. Get your body fat tested or get your circumferences (bicep, waist, hip and thigh). This is going to track your progress. I also wish I would have taken the unflattering shots – you know – front, back and side of your body so then you can compare because I know my body is changing, I can feel it and I can see it. The pictures become your trophy and you need them.

Next step: conquer chronic pain and correct body imbalances, all discussed in the book. Learn a language in 3 months and outsourcing are also in the plan. Oh and Tim, if you had any jobs going outside the US, I’d work for you.

10 days and a year ago

10 years and a day ago, an intern for Al Jazeera was persuading me of the merits of jumping on a train to go to Washington that night. She was interning at the UN and Washington was to be the scene of more than a million people congregating to protest America’s planned invasion in Iraq. I had been listening to the Security Council proceedings and statements everyday and was surrounded by foreign (and American press). I had a very good idea of what was going on. The UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei were saying Saddam Hussein was complying and that the inspectors needed more time, whereas the American representatives would say something that could only be described as crafted for prime time broadcast  – statements that were perhaps crafted to provoke and justify military action,  statements completely opposite to those of patience and negotiation called for. Historian Howard Zinn had said, “you can’t be neutral on a moving train” meaning if you don’t speak up against something, you too are complicit in it. So I rushed home after work, packed an overnight bag and within an hour was at Penn station taking a train to D.C.

I had lived in Canada in temperatures averaging -20C in the winters but that day in Washington, despite marching for hours in the sunshine I remember being cold, cold, cold. Our saving grace was the inspiring energy, diversity and the belief which had drawn people from all over the country (and world) to do one thing: stand in opposition to the invasion. I remember looking down on the mall in DC, to the left, to the right and seeing people stretching into the distance. This must have been what a million people looked like, and I wondered if major newspapers would downplay the turnout (they didn’t).

So 10 years on, what has changed? What has remained the same? The cries of weapons of mass destruction, the justifications of invading to bring peace and democracy all failed. Is Iraq a worse off place now that it was more than 10 years ago? That can be debated but the facts remain that over a million people have died, been maimed or uprooted. Suicide bombings have become a bitter mainstay of a post US led invasion of Iraq. Millions marched around the world that day in what was arguably the biggest show of global unity against violence but it failed to derail what those millions foresaw. Now with a Europe in economic crisis, with Arab countries in the throws of social upheavals and changes, with an America also economically hurt, was it all worth it? And if millions of people around the world cannot have their voices not just heard but listened to, what hope is there? Are we really better off today?

Over 800 protests were organised around the world, there must have been a million in DC alone