Project Medium Fish Status

Following the success of Project Small Fish, I feel now more ready than ever to start another project. This project is an extension of Project Small Fish, and I thus dubbed it “Project Medium Fish”.

Project Medium Fish, like its predecessor, is a mental and physical fitness project. To me, this project is deeply foundational. It’s a challenge to grow myself mentally and physically. It’s a statement. It’s a statement that I am in control, and in my control I shall be disciplined and I shall thrive. My mind is now much stronger than a few months ago, and I believe that I now have the mind to take this project to completion and many others to come.

Deadline: June 8th, 2018 July 1st
Current Progress:


Update [7/10/2018]: Quite a bit after the deadline, but Medium Fish is now finally complete!

Project Medium Fish Now Complete!

I can finally announce, after nearly six and half months, that Project Medium Fish has come to an end!

Like Small Fish, Medium Fish is also a fitness project with the goal of getting both physically and mentally stronger. Unlike Small Fish though, it was by no means a smooth sail. I had to pivot again and again and again until I landed on a workout regimen that was aligned with my mental and physical needs.

Unlike Small Fish, my goals this time weren't as precise - I wasn't aiming to do a specific number of pull-ups or something along those lines. I instead wanted to work up my strength and empirically evaluate how much I've improved.

Here's a before and after shot. The "before" shot was taken December 31st, 2017 and the after shot was taken on July 10th, 2018.

Medium Fish: Before & After

I look really angry in both of these pictures, and I have no idea why 😛 Blame it on the un-photogenic me.

Arms and chest look stronger and larger - not strikingly larger, but visibly larger. My stomach seems to have gotten slightly more fatty, but not by much.

Looking over my exercise log from the past few months, here are some observations I can make:

  1. Plank: This is one of the areas that I have improved in the most. I started feeling strong, and finished feeling stronger. In week 1, I did four sets of plank, 75 seconds each. By the end, I was able to three sets of 120 seconds. It's painful, but I got used to it enough that my brain is wired to endure longer sessions of it.
  2. Pull-ups: The program I was on focused a lot on technique rather than volume. A pull-up, within the context of this program, should be done in a slow and controlled motion that takes around 4 seconds. Given that technique, I started by being able to do 6-7 pullups max per set to being able to do 10-11 max per set.
  3. Hanging Leg Raises: I was very reluctant on doing hanging leg raises in the beginning. I just didn't enjoy it. I opted to do leg raises on the ground most of the time. However, in the last four weeks of this program, I pushed myself to do it, and focus on quality and not care at all about quantity, and started to see progress towards the end.
  4. Multiple sprints were brutal torture for me. Having said that, it always felt good afterwards, and my best is 200m in 31 seconds. Hoping to get to below 30 seconds soon!

I must add, the last few weeks of working out I wasn't as consistent, and I assume this is because the project was dragging on for so long and my constant travels, and not always having access to high-quality equipment (pull-up and parallel bars). Hopefully I can work around those better in future projects.

For this project, I ended up working out in Sidi Kaouki, San Francisco, Berlin, Krakow, and Cairo. A lot of time was invested it, but certainly worth it. More to come!

Project Medium Fish V3

Project Medium Fish has been in a bit of a chaos this month. Earlier this month I decided that my original plan isn't the best to pursue and updated the goals of the project to a new plan. The new plan was a plan I made myself based on my own readings and stuck with it for about 10 days.

I realized that the new plan has its deficiencies:

  1. It doesn't emphasize warming up or mobility, which is something I am much in need of.
  2. Some of the exercises are still far from my level, like the L-Sit. I searched for intermediate exercises that can help me along the way, but I didn't feel happy about my research or structure.

Following the motto of "ادي العيش لخبّازه" I decided to find the best calisthenics workout routine I could find. I ended up settling with Calisthenics Movement, which was recommended to me by someone I met in Dahab. They have several levels and have fantastic focus on both strength and flexibility.

I opted to do their level 2 workout program. I could've went with level 3, but decided to go slow and work on perfecting my technique. Technique is something that is highly emphasized in this new plan. I like that for almost all exercises you have to do it slower than usual and focus on doing it right. Pullups, for example, should be in four seconds: 1 second up, 1 second hold, and 2 seconds down.

This program will be 15 weeks, but I'll reserve 16 weeks to give myself some slack. This pushes out the deadline to June 8th, 2018.

In Small Fish I used to blog following every exercise, but that's a bit cumbersome I think. Instead, I'll be logging all my exercises on a daily basis here and will post a weekly update to the blog instead.

Project Medium Fish – Updated!

My progress on Medium Fish has to some extent stalled over the past 8 days or so. I didn't stop working out, but it was "chaos" workouts where I was choosing a random workout to do as opposed to working towards an end goal in a structured manner.

The reason I initially stalled is because the workout routine that I was following, "The System" by Bar Brothers, was progressing a lot faster than myself. I thought of just repeating the exercises of whatever week I was on until I am capable and move on, but it's a bit more complicated than that because a single week doesn't cover all the different types of workouts in their program, and I have been feeling that the quality of my workouts have been degrading gradually as I strived to hit the rep quota they suggest.

Another big reason for me as well to reconsider the program is that I felt that the end goal was a bit too complicated. If you look at my original goals you'll see about 12 goals that are a bit scattered.

A few days ago I decided to regroup and correct course on this project so that 1) the goals are much simpler and more focused and 2) workouts focus more on quality than quantity.

After hours of reading and extensive research I found this great reference: Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low*. After reading many parts of it, along with my old copy of Convict Conditioning, I decided on the following three goals for Medium Fish:

  1. Free handstand for 30 seconds. It would be OK if I initially needed a wall to get into position.
  2. 20 second L-sit
  3. 3 sets of 5 L-pullups in perfect form.

Deadline: April 15th (unchanged)

Based on the goals above I constructed the following workout that I'll be doing three times a week:

  • Warmup
  • Skill work (handstand + L-sit)
  • 3x5 sets working towards L-pullups
  • 3x5-10 sets working towards 1-hand pushup
  • 3x5-10 sets working towards 1-legged squat

Note that the sets towards 1-hand pushups and 1-legged squats aren't actually necessary for the goals I'm setting for myself for this project, but I wanted the workout to be full body and working towards them now will set the foundation for future fitness projects.

* Because there is no digital copy of the book and I can't get the book shipped to me, I had to pirate the book. I am so sorry, Steve! I promise I'll buy the digital copy as soon as it comes out!

Week 4

I have been particularly lazy in reporting my progress this week. Shame on me! Here's the report of the all days I didn't yet report this week.

When I was doing the last workout, day 6, I started realizing that this workout plan is progressing faster than how I'm progressing. They're becoming overly difficult and I'm starting to see myself either rest for much longer than the required rest time, or slightly compromise the quality of my reps.

I want to reemphasize my belief here that "slow is smooth, and smooth is fast". I don't want to rush this at the expense of quality, even if it means pushing my deadline for this project by a bit.

I'll be doing a reassessment this evening to see what modifications need to be done to the plan. In the meantime, here's a report of my past workouts:

Day 2: I did this workout in the desert while we were camping there. Four rounds of:

  • 30 second high knees
  • 8 burpees
  • 30 second mountain climbers
  • 2 minute run (on sand)

Day 3: Worked out of Eldorado in Dahab. The scheduled workout was four rounds of:

  • 18 regular pushups
  • 10 dips
  • 12 wide pullups

Pushups and dips weren't a problem, but the pullups I had to split each round into two sets. By the end of it though I still only did 45 wide pullups, as opposed to the 12 x 4 = 48 I was set out to do. Also took a lot more breaks than suggested in the workout.

Day 4: This day was meant to be a lower body workout. I played soccer, which I think compensates for it.

Day 5: Reported in my last post

Day 6: I was delayed by one day in doing this workout, as I was completely exhausted due to all the Dahab activities (freediving, swimming, etc.) Again, this isn't something that I take lightly, so I don't expect this to be a regular occurrence. I did four rounds of:

  • 20 incline pushups
  • 15 decline pushups
  • 10 regular clap pushups
  • 5 second down up pushups


Week 4 – Day 5

As you can probably tell, I have continued procrastinating in reporting the progress of my workouts. It's a late night here in Dahab, and I just finished my workout for the day. I begin a free diving class tomorrow morning so I'll keep this short. I'll mention today's workout, then I'll document past days' workout tomorrow.

Today's workout was supposed to be on abs the bars, but I didn't have access to a pullup bar so I swapped today with the workout of Week 5 - Day 3. I did four rounds of the following:

  • 20 alternating side heel touch
  • 20 alternating situps
  • 30 second side plank (each side)
  • 20 situps

Similar to the last abs workout, I didn't need as much rest as was suggested, but I think my situp techniques can be improves (rely on less momentum).

Week 3: Day 5 and Day 6

Today I deliberately chose to rest because my body has been aching. I guess the workouts in addition to all the activities I’ve been doing in Dahab are taking a toll on my body.
Yesterday was a chest day. I did 4.5 rounds of the following:
  • 10 inner pushups
  • 12 spider pushups
  • 8 pseudo pushups
  • 15 wide pushups
I say 4.5 rounds because I couldn’t go through the fifth round fully - I only did the first two sets there. I lowered the recommended reps in each set by a couple of reps to make it more manageable for me. I’d rather focus on quality than quantity.
The day before I did lower body. I was already sore so that workout burnt!
Four rounds of:
  • 20 squats
  • 20 lunges
  • 15 jump squats
  • 15 jump lunges
Tomorrow we’ll be in the desert camping so I don’t think I’ll be able to do pull-ups. I’ll swap it with one of workouts from next week’s.

Week 3: Day 1, 3, and 4

The workout on day 1 was at the Lagona beach. It was a cardio workout, and it was very demanding. My heart was pounding hard for many parts of it.

Four rounds of:

  • 100 jump rope
  • 30 bunny hops
  • 10 burpees

I also did an acroyoga session with Salma that day - a great thigh workout.

Day 3's workout was at Eldorado. I used more rest time than was suggested, but managed to finish all the sets required. Chin-up sets I had to split into two, but other than that it was smooth.

Four rounds of:

  • 12 Dips
  • 12 Chinups
  • 15 Regular Pushups
  • 10 Knee Raises

Today's workout was abs. It was very smooth and I was able to complete all of it while following the suggested rest times.

Five rounds of:

  • 30 second crunches
  • 30 second laying down knee rolls
  • 1 minute plank
  • 6 inches scissor kicks

Week 2: Day 5, 6 & 7

I have done a poor job in documenting my workout the past few days. Shame on me!

Today I worked out from Eldorado in Dahab. It was very windy, but that didn't stop me 🙂

I did four rounds of the following:

  • 10 Pike Pushups
  • 15 seconds Quarter Dip Bounce Hold
  • 10 Hindu Pushups
  • 15 second Handstand Wall Hold

The exercise today was quite shoulder intensive, and fortunately my injured shoulder has been keeping up well.

The two workouts prior were in Egypt. One day was focused on the back, and that was a very difficult day. In rounds 3 and 4 of that day I divided all sets into two and took a lot more rest than was recommended. Here was the exercise:

Three rounds of:

  • 10 Wide Grip Pullups
  • 8 Close Grip Pullups
  • 5 Slow pullup releases (5 seconds)
  • 8 Pullup Hold Side to Side

Finally, the third workout was lower body and that's easy. Mido, my nephew, joined me on this workout. He coped through the entire exercise!

The exercise was four rounds of:

  • 5 Down and up Squats (5sec down)
  • 1 Leg Wall Sit (30 seconds)
  • 10 Jump Squats on Platform
  • 12 One Leg Raises on Platform

Here's a picture I took with my nephew at the end of that workout. It is admittedly a horrible picture, but that's not going to stop me from posting it 🙂

Week 2 – Day 3 & 5

I'll write about both days since I missed documenting the workout from day 3. Day 3 was focused on core. I did four sets of the following:

  • Knee Raises (20 seconds)
  • 90 Degree Flutter Kicks (20 seconds)
  • Parallel Bar Knee Raises (25 seconds)
  • 90 Degree Core Hold (10 seconds)

In the last two rounds, I couldn't hold 90 degree with my core in flutter kicks or L-hangs, so I did them with my knees bent.

Today was focused on back - lots of pullups. I did three rounds of the following:

  • 10 wide grip pullups
  • 8 close grip pullups
  • 5sec Down Pullup Release
  • 8 Pullup Hold Side to Side

I had to break down some of the sets into two as it was difficult to do this many. I also rested a lot longer than the suggested rest period.

This workout program is quite tough. If I am continuously not hitting the expected performance I may have to modify my plans a bit.