For most part of my childhood years, I grew up with the nickname “Miao Che Kia” (Hokkien for “Mouse Boy”) because I was so skinny, my head looked huge in comparison to my body and my face was pointy from the lack of meat. Adults decided I resembled Jerry Mouse.
Photo circa 1980 (age 6). Because of my big head, small body and protruding face, I was nicknamed “Mouse Boy”. My parents even thought it funny to give me a stuffed Jerry Mouse as a joke. I don’t really look like a mouse, do I?
The curse of the chopsticks followed me from my boyhood through to my teenage years. But my skeletal frame wasn’t the worse of my fate. I was also a geek with a displaced fashion sense.
Photo circa 1990 (age 16). If you’re done laughing at my super sexy pose, may I interest you that I weighed a studly 47kg then. No matter how much I ate, I hardly gained any weight.
Photo circa 1993 (age 19). Fed up with always being a scrawny geek, I picked up my first dumbbell and embarked on every teenage boy’s dream to be a jock or hunk.
Photo circa 2004 (age 30). I started gymming with SAFRA gyms during my army days and for the next 12 years, I tried hard to macho up. But I didn’t go very far with no proper guidance in training. This photo was taken in the changing room of SAFRA Toa Payoh. I managed to pack on some flesh, but my bod was still far from my ideal.
Photo taken in July 2008 (age 34). Frustrated with not getting anywhere near my ideal physique, which is to be popping with muscles, I trained with a gym buddy for a while and saw some improvements in muscle tone and size. My weight ballooned to 65kg but my arms continued to be the hardest to bulk.
Photo taken on 4 July 2013 (age 39) during my weigh-in before I begin personal training with SAFRA EnergyOne. Starting at age 19 to 39, almost 20 years at the gym but I never reached where I wanted to be with my physique. And time is running out. With age, my metabolism is slower, vitality lower and I’m at the brink of giving up the dream of ever owning my dream bod.
It used to be that it is hard for me to gain weight. Now, it is hard for me to lose it. I used to eat 3 bowls of rice at every meal and still barely pack on an ounce. Now, I smell food only I put on weight.
Looking at all these photos of myself through the years, I can’t help but feel I’ve lost the best years of my life to achieve the body I have in my head because I didn’t have professional guidance and someone to train me correctly.
So as to not waste any more time, I’ve embarked on a 6-month personal training engagement with SAFRA EnergyOne to reignite my dwindling enthusiasm in getting the best bod of my life!
But I’ve never had personal training before. Can my bag of old bones survive the ‘torture’?
Lesson 1 – What Matters is Quality, Not Quantity
After the weigh-in and establishing my baseline measurements, I had my first personal training at SAFRA Jurong. Although it was opened in 2009, I’ve never been to the clubhouse since it is a long way from home (it took me almost 1.5 hours to get here).
Silvan-inspired, SAFRA Jurong clubhouse sits amongst lush greenery right next to a park (to the left of this photo) that seem to attract some rather unusual birds. Saw what looked like a Chinese Egret grazing a small field and the blue of a Common Kingfisher darting into a tree.
The façade with leaf-vein fracture patterns broke the boring norm of floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
A funhouse for the kids at the entrance of SAFRA Jurong extends a cheerful welcome into the club.
Lots of climbing green, water features and a stretch of sail-like shelters provided my senses with the chance for an escapade.
As I was rushing to be on time for my training session with Wandi, I didn’t explore much of SAFRA Jurong except for a quick browse of the pool.
It must be so tough being a lifeguard staring at the glistening water all-day and cannot take a dip. Then again, we don’t want a lifeguard to be swimming because that means someone is in trouble!
The EnergyOne gym at SAFRA Jurong is located at level 2. I thought I walked into an Olympics arena with the coloured rings on the ceiling.
1st floor of the gym is where all the action is while the upper level has a line up of treadmills for IPPT.
View of the reception cubicle with a collection of treadmills, stationary bikes and machine weights from the upper deck.
The cardio cum machine weights section is very spacious but the free weights area felt rather cramp.
I couldn’t wait to start breaking my first sweat with personal training, but Wandi reined in my eagerness. “You need to warm up the body to the training,” Wandi said. But I’m not a novice gymmer, I’ve been picking up weights since I was 19!
Wandi gave me an assuring smile and reminded me that when I was 19, I didn’t suffer from neck and lower back pain as well as a whole lot of other physical ailments that come with aging. So instead of lifting the metal plates straightaway, his started me off with bodyweight training. If you’re new to weight training, start exercising with your bodyweight first to condition your muscles. Exercises that utilizes bodyweight include push-ups, pull-ups, dips, free squats, and sit-ups.
The first exercise was 6 sets of 5 parallel hand pull-ups. Pull-up is my most loathed exercise of all. To make me feel better, Wandi matched me for the total of 30 reps. If not for him helping me, I don’t think I can pull pass 2 reps.
The pull-ups almost killed me but this next station is something I’m no stranger to… dips. We did 6 sets of 5 reps as well. Doing the dips wasn’t too much of a challenge but the Wandi way is to control the muscles and do the reps slowly. I felt more of my muscles working in the few reps than the 20 or 30 reps at one go that I’ve been doing previously.
Our last exercise was overhead shoulder press because my shoulder muscles are under developed. We did 6 sets of 5 reps too with an empty bar to get the body system going and Wandi showed me the proper technique to lift the bar without not aggravating my neck condition.
I was prepared for torture but I didn’t break a sweat during our first training. “If this is personal training, it’s chicken feed,” I thought to myself. I’ve had much harder workouts training on my own.
But the next day, my back and biceps ached like crazy! Now I realized that it is not how long or heavy we train, but how much the muscles are engaged in every rep that matters. It is the quality of each rep that is done without cheating and in good form that yields the most results.
The pain felt good. And I want more.