SAFRA Dance-a-thon 2014

SAFRA Singapore rocked *SCAPE with its inaugural Dance-a-thon where participants get to shake their bon bons for a good cause. With a slew of grooves ranging from Zumba Fitness to Hip Hop to Jazz and more, the 8-hour dance mania is cure for two-left-feeters and all in the spirit of charity… to raise funds for Society for the Physically Disabled.

Enticed by the opportunity to burn off Chinese New Year calories and do good, I signed up for the Dance-a-thon. Never mind that my eyes-to-limbs coordination is as present as Aston Casey’s ability to be humble.

From 10am – 6pm on 15 Feb 2014, The Ground Theatre at *SCAPE throbbed with hot beats and nimble footwork. Dance-a-thon is a lead up to the annual SAFRA Dance Fiesta where dance enthusiasts pit their moves against each other in a celebration of showmanship, creativity and stamina.

RFID anklets were issued to monitor the dance duration of each participant in a bid to clock a total of 4,000 dance hours.

Fitness and dance instructors from various gyms and studios led the adrenaline sets to raise heart rates and improve cardiovascular health. And memory to string the steps and movements together.

The event reminded me of the very popular afternoon tea dances during the late 1980s where teenagers can club without alcohol. I felt like a daddy figure to all the youngsters on the dancefloor!

So you think you can dance? Or couldn’t. It doesn’t matter. Dance-a-thon was all about having a good time and burning fat the fun way!

My right knee made itself felt after about 2 hours into the dance segments and decided to make room for more dancers as they streamed in throughout the 8-hour session.

Any participant who has clocked at least 1 hour of dancing received one of these commemorative medals. It’s a nice keepsake to complement the pounds sweated out!
To keep in step with SAFRA’s latest happenings and exciting events such as the Dance-a-thon (which will happen again next year), visit to find out the latest activities and promotions for NSmen and your family!


The Rise of Black Rice

Rice has the effect of garlic to vampires for any gym bunny trying to carve a 6-pack or those on a low-carb high protein diet to lose weight. I know, because I’m one of those carb adverse even though I love rice and the floury taste of banmian (板面).

So instead of giving up rice altogether, I’ve found an alternative to make the calories count with every mouthful by carbing on not white rice, but a mixture of grains and herbs to increase the nutritional value of my bowl.

Here’s an herbal rice blend I’ve experimented with that’s packed with more fibre, vitamins, minerals and higher protein content than regular white rice. And the added Chinese herbs have health promoting efficacies as well!

Ingredients for herbal rice : (left to right) Green Lentils (绿扁豆), Wolfberries (枸杞子), Brown Rice (糙米), Red Cargo Rice (红糙米), Black Rice (黑紫米), Dioscorea Opposita (淮山), and Angelica Sinensis (当归). Angelica Sinensis is not pictured here.

The ingredients sound exotic but they can all be found at local supermarkets in Singapore such as NTUC, Cold Storage, Giant and Sheng Siong with the exception of Black Rice which I bought from Mustafa Centre. If you can’t find the herbs at the supermarts, Chinese medicinal halls are bound to have them. The non-white rice varieties cost more than regular white grains with black rice being the most expensive (depending on brand, a 1kg pack of black rice costs around S$8 while white rice of the same weight costs between S$4 to S$6).

How to Cook : Simply wash all the grains and herbs and cook them together in a rice cooker. Cooking duration is approximately 30 minutes.

In terms of quantity, brown rice should form the bulk with red rice at half the amount used for brown and black rice at a quarter that used for brown. That is, if you used 40g of brown, then use 20g of red and 10g of black (use the same amount of lentils as black rice). But this is not cast in stone and you can vary the rice and lentils ratios according to preference.

For the herbs, use about a handful of wolfberries, 4 to 5 medium slices of dioscorea and 3 – 4 slices of angelica. Angelica has a very strong flavor so refrain from using too much or the resulting rice may taste bitter. Cut the dioscorea and angelica slices into tiny pieces to mix in better with the grains.

Once all the ingredients are in the rice cooker, add water. The water level should go slightly above the knuckles when you place your palm on the layer of rice and herbs. The more water you put, the softer the rice when cooked but too much and you will end up with a sticky rice mud.

Delicious and Healthy

The combination of nutty flavours from unpolished rice (brown and red) with the beany musk of lentils and aromatic fragrances of Chinese herbs gives the herbal rice a complex taste with a hint of bittersweetness.

You can Google each of the ingredients to read up on their health benefits but I would like to specially highlight the value of consuming black rice as more clinical research are uncovering the powerful antioxidant activity of this dark grain. Due to its scarcity, black rice was reserved and eaten only by emperors in ancient China, hence it is also known as the “Forbidden Rice”.

My first encounter with black rice was during a trip to the Yaeyama Islands, a group of islets off Okinawa, Japan. Residents on the Okinawan islands consume black rice and small bittergourd on a daily basis and the area has the highest number of centurions in the world. Many other factors definitely contribute to longevity but the Okinawans’ unique diet of black rice may be one of the key contributing ingredients.

Already, some health sites are calling black rice the new super food as it contains more vitamin E than brown rice and has higher anthocyanin content than blueberries, bestowing it with super antioxidant prowess that could potentially guard against a myriad of cardiovascular diseases, cancers and age-related conditions.

So the next time you have a carb crave, go black and don’t go back!

SAFRA Tampines – Recreation Hub in the East for NSmen

The 80s lives on… After the oldest SAFRA clubhouse at Toa Payoh (which was opened in 1975) got rebuilt and reopened in February 2013 and the second oldest at Bukit Merah (built in 1982) was replaced in 2004 by the Mount Faber clubhouse, SAFRA Tampines is the only of five clubhouses that originated from the 80s.

Opened in 1988, SAFRA Tampines is a sports and recreation hub for NSmen living in the eastern estates of Singapore. Today, it continues to be a hive for the active and sporty with upgraded facilities, amenities and a slew of fitness courses.

I used to visit SAFRA Tampines rather often some years back as my office was nearby so it felt familiar coming back again.

The clubhouse hasn’t aged after 25 years.

A suite of sporting facilities provide NSmen and their families numerous choices to build a healthy lifestyle.

Tampines SAFRA has many nooks and crannies to discover. There’s an activity space or sporting room at every corner. This pathway in the photo leads to a hall where exercise courses such as Muay Thai is held.

Tried a session of Muay Thai with trainer Richmond Leong and it was totally kickass! Look out for fitness courses at really affordable rates at

There are 3 squash courts available for booking at prices ranging from S$3.20 to S$5.25 per hour (inclusive of GST).

Indoor badminton courts can be booked by SAFRA members from S$3.20 – S$5.90 per hour (inclusive of GST).

This used to be my playground… SAFRA Tampines EnergyOne gym. With ample treadmills, stationary bikes and steppers, the gym’s cardio zone is a fat furnace.

Window to a more muscular body and better health.

A comprehensive range of free weights stations at the gym let users work every muscle part in the body.

Having worked out with various gym operators, I find that SAFRA gyms have the most number of serious male gymmers that serve as inspiration to train harder once you can get over being intimidated by their bulging biceps and physique.

The pool at every SAFRA clubhouse is an oasis. SAFRA Tampines has an Olympic-sized pool for laps and a smaller pool for kids to splash-play.

Despite not having visited for years, SAFRA Tampines remains to be one of the best sporting centre this side of Singapore to raise the adrenalin or spend a leisurely time to unwind.

Muay Thai – A Fight for Fitness

My fitness journey with SAFRA brought me to its Tampines Clubhouse recently for a Muay Thai trial session and I’m instantly hooked on the raw power of this combative martial art. Unlike boxing or kickboxing which uses just two (fists) or four (fists and feet) body parts, Muay Thai packs a whooping eight points of contact (fists, elbows, knees and shins) which makes it an incredibly effective fat shredder!

Also called the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’ (because of the eight points of contact), Muay Thai engages the whole body in the execution of its five basic moves (punch, elbow, knee, shin kick, and foot kick). It’s not only a great form of aerobic workout but a good bone strengthening exercise as Muay Thai practitioners benefit from cortical remodeling (bone regeneration as a result of coping with constant physical impact). If you don’t believe me, just take look at the Muay Thai fighters. Their body frames are usually very lean yet they have python forearms, calves and shins.

But going beyond the sport as a mere workout routine, Muay Thai is a useful life skill to learn that may one day come in handy during self-defence. It’s an exercise that could literally save your life!

My Muay Thai trial was conducted by Richmond Leong, a veteran at the sport with 11 years of competitive and training experience. The 27-year-old trainer looks like a kid but his punches and kicks are no child’s play.

Representing Singapore at the Muay Thai World Cup in 2004, Richmond placed 4th and went on to win more fights such as the Muay Thai Against Drugs belt (2006) and the prestigious 1 Song Chai S1 championship (2008). The Certified World Kickboxing Federation (Muay Thai) instructor believes that the martial art is not just a sport or weight loss exercise but a lifestyle as the combative nature of Muay Thai inspires practitioners to constantly train and improve their techniques as well as mental agility in their daily lives.

Richmond demonstrating a knee jab that is aimed at driving the kneecap deep into an opponent’s abdominals for some serious damage. Whether it is the knee kick or shin kick, Muay Thai emphasizes the throwing of one’s weight into the motion to deliver maximum impact. As such, the foot of the balancing leg is tip-toed rather than placed flat on the floor and that gives the calves a really good blast. So if you have chicken calves like me, Muay Thai may just be the exercise to fatten them up!

The roundhouse shin kick is an explosive switchblade swing of the leg to an opponent’s trunk to send him keeling. While there are only five basic moves, there are many variations within each move (eg. for kicking, there is the roundhouse kick, straight kick, jump kick, etc). To win a fight, boxers need to combine all these moves with strength and speed into a deadly human weapon.

After watching Tony Jaa take Muay Thai out of the ring and into real combat application (abet staged for Hollywood), I was deeply intrigued by the martial art form and had always wanted to try it because the moves look so cool!

However, having gone through a training session (which consisted of a high intensity circuit of punches, jabs, kicks, push-ups, sit-ups and leg raises) with Richmond, I realised that Muay Thai is not for posers. While the boot-camp like training is fantastic for anyone who wants to lose weight and tone up, trainees can also look forward to turning competitive one day. There are a couple of monthly and quarterly Muay Thai fights in Singapore where practitioners can spar with each other.

Coming from a gymming background where I’m used to having loud music that drowned out all thoughts and over-crowded studios during body combat classes, I found the Muay Thai session at SAFRA Tampines with no music and lots of space to punch and kick really cathartic. There were no distractions so the burn of my muscles spoke louder and felt deeper while not having to worry about hitting another person (unless it is a sparring session) was a relief. The Muay Thai course at SAFRA has a limit of no more than 20 students per class so there is definitely lots of space for everyone to let out the fighter within! And be prepared to sweat. A lot.

To find out when is the next intake for SAFRA’s Muay Thai course, check out (Events & Activities).

Fab by 40 – 3 Moves for Great Lower Abs

When it comes to the engineering of eye-popping abs, top marks go to those who aim low. For anyone who’s paid due diligence with sit-ups and crunches, attaining that 4 packs on the upper abdominal region is just a matter of time.

But for those lower 6th – 8th pecs to show, it takes more than just simple leg raises. According to my personal trainer Roy Chan, who’s an Exercise Specialist with SAFRA EnergyOne, getting the lower abs to show requires eating a high-protein-low-carb diet of natural foods, doing regular cardio exercises, and incorporating a dynamic series of lower abs exercises to keep the muscles from the navel down constantly challenged.

Here are 3 lower abs exercises that can be worked into any fitness routine to activate those deep underbelly muscles.

1. Knee Tuck

The exercise is done by sitting on the ball of your butt and pulling your torso and legs in and then extending them out again. Do as many reps as possible in 40 seconds. Perform 3 sets of this exercise.

When doing the knee tuck, don’t place your hands too far back but on the floor just below the thighs.

2. Scissor Kick

This exercise is the simplest of the 3 but it’s one of those things that has escaped hell. The Scissor Kick, also known as Reverse Flutter Kick, is performed by lying flat on the floor and placing the hands just under your butt (to protect your tail bone). Next, raise your legs and alternate your feet up and down.

Do as many kicks as possible in 40 seconds and perform 3 sets.

Keep the toes pointed when doing the exercise and raise your head slightly to look towards your feet.

3. Cross Mountain Climbers

As the name suggests, this is no walk in the park. The exercise turns my sweat ducts on quicker than my credit card statements.

Here’s how to do this killer workout… assume the push up position. Next, pull the right knee towards the left elbow, return to starting position, and then pull the left knee towards the right elbow.

Again, do as many cross knee-to-elbow reps as possible in 40 seconds and repeat 3 sets.

To get better results, contract and hold in your lower abs while doing the climbers. And keep your butt level with your back. That is, don’t hunch or sink your pelvis too low.

For a complete abs workout, the 3 lower abs exercises here should be combined with exercises to work the obliques and overall abs in the posts listed at the end of the post.

Here’s an example in combining the exercises into an abs workout sequence :

Stability Ball Transfer (40 secs) > Side Plank (40 secs each side) > Knee Tuck (40 secs) > Lying Hip Rotation with Stability Ball (40 secs).

Do 3 sets of this sequence with a minute’s rest in between sets.

I hope this series of posts on abs workouts would help you achieve an awesome mid-section to grate cheese on. All the best!

Related Posts :

Obliterate Your Obliques in 3 Moves

3 Moves for Great Overall Abs

Fab by 40 – Obliterate Your Obliques in 3 Moves

Apart from a third nipple, the other pointless body part to grow is love handles. They made me buy larger pants and made it harder for me to find someone who would want to handle them.

So I sought help from Roy, my SAFRA EnergyOne fitness trainer, to obliterate those stubborn side body fats by incorporating oblique exercises into my core workout routine. Roy taught me a whole bunch of moves, some involving dumbbells and cable systems, but I found that the following 3 exercises work really well and they can be done at home!

1. Russian Twist

Believed to have originated from Russia during the Cold War, the Russian Twist involves twisting the body side-to-side in a seated position either with the legs up or on the floor.

Roy doing the twist with a Medicine Ball. If a Medicine Ball is not available, hold a dumbbell or sack of rice could also work. Else, just reach your hands side to side without any weight but do more reps.

The Russian Twist is executed by twisting the abdomen and tapping the Medicine Ball (or fingers if no weight is available) in a controlled manner on the each side of the floor.

For beginners, place the feet on the floor while twisting (it’s easier) and slowly work towards lifting the feet up when the core gets stronger. Do 3 sets of as many reps as possible in 40 seconds. Do not hunch the back or curve the spine while doing this exercise.

2. Side Plank

This exercise looks like it requires no effort but when done correctly, it’s no sleeping Buddha. I’ve done the Side Plank before and felt that it has got no kick. But after Roy pointed out my mistakes, I felt my obliques burn for the first time!

When doing the side plank, ensure that the elbow is directly below the shoulder and the feet are on top of each other (not one in front of the other on the floor). Maintain a straight line of the body, that is, don’t the hip sink down, and clench your buttocks.

Holding the Side Plank pose can cause a strain on the shoulder so it very important to align the shoulder and elbow to avoid injury. Hold the plank position for 40 seconds on each side of the oblique and do 3 sets.

According to Roy, the Side Plank works the transverse abdominis (a deep layer of muscles beneath the obliques) which contributes significantly to a hourglass or V-waist figure. So for those who love planking photos, try this instead of the face down flat plank and work your obliques at the same time!

3. Lying Hip Rotation with Exercise Ball

Think of yourself as a human pendulum when doing this exercise that swings an Exercise Ball side-to-side.

If you are doing this exercise at the gym, find a spot with lots of space, face your ass towards the wall, and don’t wear loose shorts… unless there’s someone in the gym you want entice with your salty dim sum.

This exercise can be done with or without an Exercise Ball although having something between the feet will activate the inner thigh muscles as well. When holding the ball between the feet, try to straighten the legs as much as possible while rotating side to side.

Like the previous 2 exercises, do 3 sets of the Lying Hip Rotation with as many reps as possible in 40 seconds. Spread your hands out to the side for better balance.

For better results, the oblique exercises should be done with the overall abs workouts I shared earlier. There’s a third part to a total abs blasting workout which I will post later so check back for the complete trinity of abdominal exercises to carve your 6 or 8 packs!

Related Post :

3 Moves for Great Overall Abs

Dark Side of the Spoon : Unicurd’s Black Soybean Goodness

It’s time to join the dark side when it comes to eating clean with Unicurd‘s newly launched Black Soybean Silken Tofu and Black Soybean Tau Kwa. Made with Non-Genetically Modified (Non-GMO) black soybeans that are packed with anthocyanin (a plant-based phytonutrient), the homegrown brand is poised to be the transformer of Singaporeans’ health with these revolutionary soy products!

I got a chance to sample the tofu and tau kwa at an introductory event helmed by Chef John See who signatured six unique recipes using the black soybean products that are the first-of-their-kind in Singapore. With a hand in delighting the palates of celebrities, dignitaries and even the Presidents of State, John also don the toque as chef, contributor and consultant to various publications, non-profit organisations (eg. Red Cross, Cancer Foundation) and the Health Promotion Board to promote healthy diets amongst schoolchildren.

Kitchen God… Chef John See spends most of his time nowadays at The Food Dot (70, Race Course Road), a café cum cooking studio where he conducts classes for busy working adults. With his knack for culinary innovation, Unicurd sussed out Chef John to create dishes using the Black Soybean Silken Tofu and Black Soybean Tau Kwa.

I expected the tau kwa to be all black but they aren’t. Reason? The flesh of black beans are actually yellow and only the outer skin is black. So when the whole bean is used to make Unicurd’s soy products, instead of looking like coal bricks, the tofu and tau kwa appear purplish-grey. The products are all natural with no added colourings and preservatives.

Being a weight-watcher and someone who is perpetually attempting to build more muscles while using less animal protein, my diet include a lot of soy milk, tofu, bean sticks, bean sheets and beancurds. But what got me REALLY excited about he black soybean variety is the anthocyanin content.

Benefits of Anthocyanin :

I first learnt about anthocyanin while researching on supplements made with mangosteen pericarp (rind) extracts some years back. Anthocyanin is a plant nutrient (phytonutrient) known as a flavonoid found mainly in dark red, purple or blue fruits and vegetables. It is a very powerful antioxidant and as the body of in-vitro and in-vivo clinical studies on anthocyanin grew, mainly in favour of the flavonoid’s health benefits, I have been finding ways to get more of it into my body.

However, it is expensive to increase intake of anthocyanin as potent sources such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and purple cabbage cost quite a bit. The mangosteen rind supplement wasn’t budget-friendly either. With Unicurd’s Black Soybean Silken Tofu and Black Soybean Tau Kwa, I finally have a cheaper alternative to add more anthocyanin into my diet. Health benefits of anthocyanin include :

– the potential to protect against age-related vision loss

– may have anti-cancer and anti-tumour properties through cancer cell apoptosis (ie. triggering cancer cell death)

– could help prevent cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and clogging of arteries

– potentially have skin beautification effects by acting as a sunscreen (the deep pigments of leaves and fruits are actually anthocyanin at work as a plant’s defence system against constant sun exposure during photosynthesis)

There are many more health benefits of anthocyanin where ongoing animal and human studies are being conducted which I hope can verify its efficacies soon.

A disclaimer though, the information on anthocyanin’s benefits do not constitute medical advice or treatment and does not represent Unicurd’s position on the health benefits of its products. Those purported benefits of anthocyanin are gathered from research I read online, Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch and James F. Balch, and other leading experts on nutritional therapy.

Tofu Need Not Be Boring

I’m one of those who’ve acquired the taste and appreciation for the bland flavour of beancurd eaten without dressing and seasoning but once in a while, I do like to experiment. And thanks to Chef John, my repertoire of ways to serve tofu at home has been expanded with his Unicurd Black Soybean Silken Tofu and Black Soybean Tau Kwa dishes…

Cold Unicurd Black Soybean Tau Kwa Soba Noodle with Black-Sesame Broth. A nutritious low-fat complete meal with carbs and protein that’s perfect for our eternal summer.

Unicurd Black Soybean Tau Kwa slices with Smoked Duck Salad. As tau kwa is unobtrusive in flavour, it can be added to just about any salad and dish to add volume and nutritional value. The tau kwa has been fried in olive oil till bits of the skin are crispy for this dish. Really fragrant with every bite and a medley of textures from the tau kwa, duck meat, greens, and fried onions.

My personal favourite was this duo of Unicurd Black Soybean Tofu dressed with a paste of salted egg and the other topped with crispy fish skin. Both are sprinkled with chicken floss and spring onions that made my tastebuds sing.

Unicurd Black Soybean Silken Tofu can also be blended with 1 cup of unsweetened soymilk, 1 cup of UHT milk, and 1 cup of water to create a creamy soup. Sprinkle some salt, a tablespoon of oyster sauce and a dash of sugar to taste and add in vegetables, meat or seafood to enjoy hearty bowl of soup…

… or use it as a broth for steamboat! Surprise friends and family with this healthy soup base at your next dinner party!

Rounding up the tasting session, Chef John balled up tiny scoops of Unicurd Black Soybean Silken Tofu to complement a mango-sago dessert given a Peranakan hint with the addition of Gula Melaka. The sweet dessert went really well with my cuppa of neat black Espresso. Sugar rush met caffeine high… Awesome!

From ice cold to hotpot, savoury to sweet, the dishes demonstrated the versatility of this very humble and traditional Asian culinary canvas for one to express creativity in the kitchen. The good news is that Unicurd‘s Black Soybean Silken Tofu (S$1.50) and Black Soybean Tau Kwa (S$2.20) are now available at all leading supermarkets in Singapore.

I went to a NTUC Fairprice supermarket near my house after the session with Chef John to buy the products but only the tofu was available. I was planning to make Black Soybean Tau Kwa salad for dinner. As the products have just been launched, perhaps it will take some time before both are available on the refrigerated shelves. I shall patiently wait.

Because now that I’ve gone black, I will never go back! *burp*

Fab by 40 – 3 Moves for Great Overall Abs

While some guys seem to fruit a half-opened durian on their torso effortlessly, I’ve been trying to hatch a tray of eggs for abs for God knows how long. I did sit-ups until sacral rug burns make me yelp in the showers, tried ridiculously expensive treatments that were unsustainable, and did time with dieting. Nothing got me where I wanted to be with my abs.

Now that the middle-age bulge has set in, it’s even harder to chase that washboard dream. Since starting my personal training (PT) with Roy from SAFRA EnergyOne gym, my fire to sear off the belly fat for a lean torso has been reignited. He assured me that with the right exercises, a low-carb (no yellow noodles at all cost!) high protein diet and consistent training, I can get abs that will be my own envy.

To tease those abs muscles out from my stubborn blubber, we start every PT session with a set of core exercises and I’ll be sharing them in a series of 3 posts. Each post will feature 3 exercises that target a specific abs area  – overall abs, lower abs, and obliques.

The exercises can be combined and mixed to keep each routine fresh and prevent the muscles from getting used to one exercise that’s been repeated all the time. That is, in each session, you can do an overall abs exercise followed by a lower abs exercise, then exercises for the obliques. That’s considered 1 set. Do 3 sets per session.

In this first part of the 3-posts series on abs exercises, we’ll start with 3 moves to work the whole abdominal area. They are not the only exercises to give the general abs a good workout but they are alternatives to the usual sit-up and crunches.

1. Stability Ball Transfer (10 reps)

To make it simpler to understand how an exercise is done, I’ve animated the sequence of movements.

Of all the abs exercises, the Stability Ball Transfer is possible the most ‘showy’ because it involves transferring a huge ball between the feet and the hands.

The animation shows how the Stability Ball Transfer is done. Start with the ball sandwiched between your feet, pull your lower and upper abs upwards to form a ‘V’ and transfer the ball to the hands and then pass the ball back to your feet. That’s considered 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

When doing this exercise, don’t let your feet and hands touch the ground throughout the 10 reps and suck in your gut while doing the exercise for more oomph!

2. Plank (hold for 40 seconds)

The plank looks deceivingly simple but when done correctly, it is no walk in the park. And there are great benefits for turning your body into a bench. This exercise helps to strengthen overall core muscles, trim the tummy and helps in developing a better standing and sitting posture.

When doing the plank, note that your shoulders should be directly above your elbows. My alignment is slightly off in the photo above to show you the incorrect way it is done. Try to maintain a straight line with your back and do not hunch your butt up or sink your pelvis down. Look slightly ahead.

To really get the most out of doing the Plank, HOLD IN YOUR CHOCOLATE STARFISH (ANUS) AND SQUEEZE YOUR BUTT! Hold the position for 40 – 60 seconds.

3. Leg Raise and Crunch

Talk about killing two birds with one stone. This offspring from the marriage of the crunch and leg raise packs double the punch to build core muscles was well as balancing muscles.

The exercise is done by lying on the floor with the feet slightly off the ground and hands behind the ears. Using the abs muscles, pull in the legs and pull up the upper body to form a ‘V’. In the ‘V’ position, straighten the legs, then lower the body. That’s considered 1 rep. Do 10 reps and progressively increase to 20 reps.

After doing one of the 3 overall abs exercises to warm up the core muscles, follow with a lower abs exercise and an obliques exercise. Will share more about those exercises in upcoming posts. So stay tuned!

Pump & Chill at SAFRA Mount Faber EnergyOne

Dumbbells are the clever man’s workout partner as they activate more muscle groups during training than fixed machine weights. Free weights such as dumbbells are great for building overall strength and mass. (To the man in the photo) But sitting there and staring at them dumbfounded is not going to get you pumped! LOL.

One of my favourite places to spend a weekend is pumping iron and chilling at SAFRA Mount Faber EnergyOne gym.

Nesting not far from Singapore’s green corridor known as the Southern Ridges, SAFRA Mount Faber enjoys a serenity that’s brought on by being close to nature. After a good sweat session at the club’s EnergyOne gym, I would usually follow with a leisurely swim and relaxing dip at the eye-candy of a swimming pool.

But my favourite part after all that exercise is settling into a hot outdoor jacuzzi and let the bubbles work their magic. It takes me about an hour to get to SAFRA Mount Faber, but the bliss is worth the journey!

The concise SAFRA EnergyOne gym has all its cardio and weight machines laid out on one level. As with all SAFRA gyms, the equipments are not closely packed together and there is plenty of space to roam.

The swimming pool adjourning SAFRA Mount Faber EnergyOne rivals any beautifully landscaped hotel pool in aesthetics but has the added advantage of being a functioning pool for some serious laps while offering a chillaxing atmosphere to laze by.

But my favourite part of coming to SAFRA Mount Faber is enjoying a soak at the outdoor jacuzzi. Instead of brunch, I caught up with my good friend Eugene (pictured here) for crunch time at the gym before soaking in the bubbling hot jacuzzi. It’s a great way to recharge for the new week!

Fab by 40 – Train Hard, Train Smart

I’ve been gymming for almost 20 years but never had I worked out as hard as I did in the past month. And I felt a difference. Not only do I feel that my stamina is improving, but my clothes are starting to feel tighter. *smile* The muscles are not bulging yet but my biceps do feel firmer and I can trace little humps on my quadriceps. I’ve achieved more growth in a month than the last two decades!

Being too cheap to engage a personal trainer, I’m one of those gymmers who tries every technique and exercise recommended in fitness magazines and bodybuilding websites. Following their advice and recommendations, those paper and digital experts were my trainers. Eventually, I settled into a set of comfortable exercises that I repeat each time I’m at the gym. There was growth for some time but my muscles soon got bored with the routine and fell asleep. Worse yet, I’ve sustained injuries to my lower back, left wrist and knees along the way. I was training hard the foolhardy way.

While there are many self-taught musclenauts who achieved impressive physiques just from following what they read (good genes play a big part too), for someone like me who is a hard gainer and a slow learner, personal training is the prince who delivered that waking kiss to my comatose muscles! But inking a personal training package doesn’t guarantee results. The trainer makes ALL the difference.

In the last 4 weeks, I’ve been training under one of SAFRA EnergyOne‘s most hardworking and dedicated Exercise Specialist, Roy Chan. Yup, his title is not a Personal Trainer or Fitness Instructor but a Specialist! However, I have a nickname for him…

Roy destroyed many myths I held about bodybuilding as well as bad training habits I’ve developed over the years while introducing new concepts and exercises to stimulate muscle growth. He’s a very friendly and jovial guy but when it comes to training, horns grow out of the side of his head.

The destroyer no give chance one. Thanks to his firm adherence to training sequences and rest intervals and encouraging words, I pushed myself harder than I did before. Every so often, I can’t speak after a set because I just don’t have the breath to. With Roy, there’s no compromise on proper form when executing an exercise no matter how much my muscles burned.

Holding a Masters in Sports Science from Edith Cowan University, Perth, Roy is a fitness coach who runs various programmes for schools and organisations while lecturing part-time on the care and prevention of injuries for an overseas institution.

His expertise in fitness and wellness spans across weight loss, strength / muscle building, pre-National Service preparation, and sports specific training (eg. golfing, team sports, etc). With such impressive credentials in academia as well as field experience, there’s a peace of mind training with him. But more than that, this guy really knows what he is doing.

After assessing my fitness level, physical condition and understanding my ultimate goal, he tailored a custom training programme to have me training hard, but training smart. Roy applies that motto for all his clients. He also believes in the adage of “no pain, no gain” but he doesn’t subscribe to going all out just to feel pain. The right kind of pain leads to muscle enlargement. The wrong kind ends you up on a stretcher.

The aftermath of another legs training session with Roy. My butt used to look like roti prata… now I see dim sum being served. *smile*

Having trained with Roy for some time, I would say that he’s probably one of the best around. He follows up with me about training sessions constantly to the point that I feel guilty for cancelling on him due to a trip to Bali and work.

One of the things I appreciate most about this trainer is his commitment and drive to help me achieve my physique goal, no matter how impossible it may seem, through a systematic and safe approach grounded in the efficiency of train hard… and smart.

To rebuild, we need to totally destroy mindsets that are limiting our growth potential and get acquainted with new bodybuilding sciences that will half the gym time but double the results. “Safe speed” to reach my goal is the essence because let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken. I’m in a race against my biological clock to get that ideal bod before everything sags to the floor.

And with Roy as my body sculptor, I believe I will achieve visible breakthroughs (have you seen my butt in the above photo yet? LOL). I have 4 more months of training with Roy and I look forward to the new me at the end of it.

Meanwhile, stay tuned to this blog as I leak training secrets and techniques taught to me by my Destroyer. So join me to welcome pain and gain the hard but smart way!

IPPT Myths Busted

For most Singaporean guys, nothing shrinks the leather marbles faster than these four letters… I.P.P.T.

If you have the visual stamina for the expanded acronym, IPPT stands for “Individual Physical Proficiency Test”, the national standard in determining the fitness level of all able-bodied males in Singapore. Consisting of 6 stations – pull-ups / chin-ups, sit-ups, sit-and-reach, standing broad jump, shuttle run and 2.4km run, the exercises attempt to evaluate upper and lower body strength, core strength, speed, and endurance. Plus your vocabulary of swear words.

I haven’t done the IPPT in quite a while but as a measure of my current state of fitness to determine my baseline when going through a personal training regime with SAFRA EnergyOne, I faced these dreaded stations once again.

My IPPT was invigilated under the watchful eyes of my new EnergyOne trainer, Roy Chan, who provides consultancy services in designing fitness programmes for obese recruits to get them ready for BMT (Basic Military Training). Having attained the Silver Award during my army days, how would I fare almost 18 years later?

While I faced the five test stations with trepidation, I am thankful for one thing… the myths that Roy busted about IPPT. Through his experience in both conducting and preparing guys to excel at the exercises, he shared ways and means to perform better at each station just by a simple shift in perception.

So here are the tips (and some myths busted along the way) I learnt from Roy to do better at IPPT and they really work!

IPPT Test 1 : Pull-Up / Chin-Up

This is my all-time weakest station. At my best, I was able to do 10 solid reps. My score for this test? 3 reps for pull-up and 4 reps for chin-up. It’s a far cry from my fitter days.

Myth : Chin-up (underhand grip as in photo above) is easier than pull-up (overhand grip of the bars).

Busted : I always thought that underhand grip is the wuss version of the chin-up but I learnt from Roy that that’s not the case. Pull-up and chin-up tests the strength of different muscle groups (even though there may be overlaps) so neither is easier than the other. It just depends on which is the stronger muscle group for you.

IPPT Test 2 : Standing Broad Jump

Another station that I suck at, but did surprisingly well this time is the Standing Broad Jump. My leap measured a distance of 225cm. Roy told me that many younger guys can’t even manage a pass (> 212cm) at this station. Phew!

Myth : You should swing your arms and bounce your legs to build momentum in order to jump further.

Busted : Don’t swing and bounce as the leg muscles get stretched and contracted too much before a jump and that tires them out. Instead, look at the distance markings, fix a point, bend your legs and leap towards it. I tried that instead of my usual habit of bouncing and jumped one of my best records at first try.

IPPT Test 3 : Sit-Up

This station is my personal favourite simply because I always ace it. Even with that mid-life belly now, I still managed to clock 48 reps within 1 minute. That’s Grade A under the IPPT point system.

When I do sit-ups, I play an up-tempo track in my head to take my mind off the abdominal burn. My head music during this sit-up test was Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson.

IPPT Test 4 : 4X10m Shuttle Run

Shuttle Run is another station that I do rather well at as I get regular training from sprinting after buses. My timing of 10.2secs is another Grade A for my age category. It’s a relief to know that my chicken legs still pack some torque.

Myth : You should only stop when you reach the touching line.

Busted : Start planning to stop about 3 steps from the touching line so that accumulated velocity during the sprint would not push you beyond the line and lose time to run back. And for the 4th sprint back to the start point, run through and do not stop at the finishing line.

IPPT Test 5 : 2.4km Run

When I was at my physical peak some 20 years ago, my timings for 2.4km has always been in the 9-minutes region. And that was despite the discovery that I’m actually asthmatic by the Army M.O. which resulted in a PES downgrading.

So you can imagine my shock when I completed the run this time round with a timing of 14mins 30secs! Where I used to attain a Grade A or B for the 2.4km Run, I’m now grade F… Fail!

Myth : Always start slow in the beginning of the run so that you’ll have energy to last throughout the whole distance.

Busted : The longer you run, the more tired you’ll get so even if you start out slow, chances are that you’ll be too tired to pick up speed later. So start off at a faster pace and try to maintain it for as long as possible rather than beginning with a slower pace and try to pick up speed later.

In The Long-Run

While I did pretty well for some stations and passed 4 out of 5 tests, my overall IPPT result was still a fail due to my 2.4km Run. Sigh.

Endurance level depreciates at a rate of about 20% every fortnight of not keeping up with cardio workouts. That is, if you are running at a 100% endurance level today, after 2 weeks of no running, your endurance level would drop to 80%. After another 2 weeks, it would drop to 66%.

To maintain your level of endurance, do some cardio activity (eg. jogging, swimming, circuit training) at least once a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. To really rev up endurance and stamina in the long-run, engage in medium to high intensity cardio cum strength training exercises at least 3 times a week.

Although there are 6 stations in the standard list of IPPT tests, we did only 5 to assess my overall level of fitness. My 2 weakest links are pull-up and 2.4km run but I’m not too concern with the run as my goal of personal training at EnergyOne is to bulk up and gain a well-defined body that’s thick with muscle volume and striations.

Of all the exercises, I think pull-ups would be the best benchmark to determine my improvements in upper body strength before and after 5 months of personal training with Roy. But as the whole body work as a complete system where improved endurance will help me to lift harder for longer, I would remain faithful to my cardio routine (jogging at least once a week) as well as yoga (twice a week) to increase my flexibility. Add these to my thrice weekly training sessions with Roy and that pretty much sums up my social life.

Staying healthy and building a muscular body has become a full-time job!

Fab by 40 – Getting the Sexy Back

In a blink, August arrived and heralded the beginning of the second month in my personal training program with SAFRA EnergyOne. Progress has been slow in July with only 5 out of 13 training sessions taking place. I had to forgo 4 sessions due to a cycling trip at Pengerang and vacation in Hua Hin. The rest of the cancelled sessions were so that my personal trainer can nurse his on-and-off flu symptoms that have plagued him for a month. Sure hope his family didn’t catch the superbug from him!

Although the realized training sessions have been scant, there’s something I found invaluable in adding overall strength and popping out the upper body… Back training. In my previous gymming routines, I hardly train my back because it is not a part we see when looking in the mirror. But there’s nothing sexier than a broad, cobra-shaped back flanking the chest and abs for a V-cut that would make Vuitton swoon in his grave.

So here are 4 exercises I was taught that really made me feel stronger and more pumped after doing them.

I have a deadline to improve my physique in 6 months so I’m in a bit of a hurry to get my bod in shape. But of course, when training, each rep should be controlled and never rushed to activate the deep muscle fibers within. This reverse pec-fly is a great exercise to carve out a deep back valley between the shoulder blades. Isn’t this animation that made me look like a dragonfly comical?

To really bulk up the back muscles, the Incline Lever Row is a must-do. I’ve done this before but I learnt that I can place my feet flat on the ground instead of the pedestal for better balance. But I feel that stepping on the pedestal isolates the back muscles more.

For the life of me, I’ve never done Deadlifts in all my years at the gym but after this first attempt, the day-after feeling convinced me it’s a must-have weekly exercise. I was told that the Deadlift stimulates bone marrow production but I thought it’s a bunch of hooey. However, after doing this, I really felt super and energetic the next day! From now on, it’s a mainstay in my gym routine.

The mother of all back exercises is Pull-Up. It is my Achilles heel during IPPTs and continues to be on my most-loathed exercise list. But without a doubt, it is the best exercise to work the upper body.
There are 3 grips – overhand, sidehand and underhand. Pictured here is the sidehand grip that is the easiest. Apparently, Arnold Schwarzenegger does 50 pull-ups as warm up for his gym sessions. If I did 50 pulls, I’m done for the day.

I never used to pay attention to my back other than who’s stabbing it but I found these 4 exercises to be truly muscle-busting for me. There are many more moves to sculpt the upper and lower back which combine to form the largest collection of muscles on our body so what we don’t see is definitely making a huge difference to the overall proportion of our physique.

So the next time you’re at the gym, don’t neglect working your rear to bring back the sexy!

Wearable Muscles

Dropped by Hua Hin, Thailand, for a short escapade last week and although my bod wasn’t beach ready, I found a lifesaver at the local night market…

For 250bht (bargained from 279bht), I became an instant hunk… and hung too in front of Hua Hin Hilton Hotel!

When you cannot make it, fake it… until it becomes real. Heh heh.

What if washboard pecs and abs can happen instantly without sweating buckets in the gym? To me, it is not about wearing a nice bod, having rippling muscles and all but the ultimate reward of a healthier physiological system in earning those solid humps through regular bodybuilding exercises (provided the gains are not drugs-induced).

Oh-la-la… if only my real buns look that good in G-string, I would clap with my butt cheeks instead of hands!

I was in Hua Hin and Bangkok for about a week and vacations usually disrupt an exercise routine. Wandi was supposed to devised a set of strength training exercises for me to do in the hotel room but he was still recovering from a flu and took medical leave so I didn’t get to have a personal training session before I leave.

But instead of relying on somebody else and letting the holiday be an excuse to skive, I worked on my stamina and endurance by jogging on the beach.

It wasn’t easy fighting the drowsiness and sightseeing plans to make time for exercise. It was so much easier to sleep in than wake up to burn at the hotel’s gym or a jog. That’s when the t-shirt became a motivation rather than just a piece of hilarious fashion. I want that bod printed on it. Front and back.

Since I tend to overeat on vacations (I think I’m not the only one), jogging on the beach is a great cardio workout to melt those excess calories. Compared to jogging on a treadmill, stadium or paved trails, running on the beach definitely presented more challenges for the body due to the uneven ground and shifting sand.

Jogging on the beach works the calf, shin and thigh muscles harder than the aforementioned running surfaces and it also strengthens the rotary tendons and tissues around the ankle to tackle challenging terrains.

If you’re training for a marathon such as the Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon, consider incorporating jogging sessions on the beach to build up your leg muscles to run longer and go further during the race!

Fab by 40 – Adding a Little Adventure

As my personal training sessions with SAFRA EnergyOne starts shifting into high gear, I begin to feel the limitations of a stamina deficit. Breath recovery in-between sets lasts an ice age and my fortitude to tahan the lactic burn is in the pits.

As we engage in strenuous exercises, lactic acid builds up in the muscles and causes a burning sensation (known as lactic acidosis). This condition is caused by muscles receiving too little oxygen when being worked and one of the ways to minimize lactic acidosis is to increase oxygen flow to the muscles through regular cardiovascular activities such as jogging, cycling and swimming.

Having a spin at SAFRA Toa Payoh’s EnergyOne gym has the added advantage of looking out to a beautiful pool. For the purpose of strength training, adjust the bicycle’s seat such that it is lower than the handle bar. This way, your legs won’t be extended fully during each downward paddle and that keeps the quadriceps constantly engaged. It also works the lower abs at the same time. Hopefully I can wave goodbye to my chicken legs and get ripped abs soon!

Hence, the better our endurance, the less pain our muscles will feel during workouts; which means we can lift longer and heavier! Being able to lift heavier weights more frequently equates to bigger muscles so don’t neglect the importance of improving endurance while bodybuilding.

So in a bid to spice up my fitness routine and increase my endurance, I went on a long distance cycling trip over the weekend to add a little adventure. The bicycle tour starts from Sungai Rengit (a seaside village in the Johorian township of Pengerang) all the way to Desaru and back. A total distance of about 70km!

I attempted this cycling ‘feat’ earlier in March but failed to reach Desaru (you can read about it here) and I’ve been itching to try it again ever since. So for 2 days, I left the gym behind for the great outdoors and pushed the limits of my endurance and will.

But will I succeed in reaching my intended destination this time round?

After an hour’s bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, we arrived at Pengerang via Tanjong Pengelih Ferry Terminal. I’m ready to conquer the seemingly endless road from Sungai Rengit to Desaru!

Car fuels up with petrol, bicycle fuels up with Red Bull! Love the newly launched reduced sugar Red Bull as it has the same flavor but not so sweet.

The long ride cuts through the countryside lined with acres upon acres of plantations. There’s something meditative about facing the endless road with just my thoughts. That is until I come to an upslope. Then the tranquil frame of mind becomes clogged with swear words. But the tiresome uphill paddles provide a really good workout to pump those legs… It’s a love-hate thing.

Although traffic is sparse, a moment’s carelessness can be fatal. Stationary cycling in a gym doesn’t feel so boring after all.

My ride was entertained by a changing backdrop of the scenic countryside.

One of the rewards on the road trip was close encounters with animals we have to pay money to see back in Singapore.

I was thrilled to come across these two ponies grazing by the road side. This fella even allowed me to pet its snout! I shall name it Seabiscuit! LOL.

Then there was this docile cow at a small fishing village along the coast. It must feel that I’m such a 牛sance following it around with my phone camera. Heh heh.

The great thing with a bicycle tour is that I can stop wherever that catches my eye and whenever I want. Discovered this interesting gallery of rocks at Batu Layar while exploring a trail off the beaten track.

Finally, after almost 5 hours of cycling, I made it to Desaru this time! This beach is in front of Desaru Damai Beach Resort where I spent a night before cycling back to Sungai Rengit the next day. The hotel room cost RM130 a night but it felt ready to fall apart.

Mission accomplished! The cycling duration took much longer than expected and by the end of it, my legs felt like jelly. However, this second attempt didn’t feel as draining as the first. Maybe the gym sessions with Wandi are helping!

Endurance is one of the key indicators of one’s fitness level and cycling is a great way to build it up. Outdoor cycling is not as monotonous as doing laps in a pool and has a lower impact on the knees and ankles compared to running.

If you’re taking part in a marathon such as the upcoming Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon, cycling is a good complement in training for the run. Cycling is low impact so it doesn’t place too much stress on the joints if you haven’t been running for a while. It also helps to strengthen muscles surrounding the knees, which supports  ligaments in that area and minimize injuries during prolonged running.

After conquering 70km, I look forward to go further and perhaps even tour another country on bicycle! That will take quite a bit of research and planning. For now, I’ll train up with my favourite stationary bike at EnergyOne Toa Payoh!

Getting fit need not be boring. With a sense of adventure and making your body work during your next holiday, you just might arrive at your destination stronger than before!

Related Posts :

A Cycling Tour from Sungai Rengit to Desaru (March 2013)

2nd Attempt at Bicycle Tour from Sungai Rengit to Desaru (July 2013)

Fab by 40 – First Personal Training Session

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.

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