Monthly Archives: February 2013

Singaporeans, no longer just keyboard warriors

So over the weekend, Hong Lim Park was transformed in to this:

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Picture taken from Al Jazeera

Picture taken from Al Jazeera

You would have thought that there was a concert being held in Hong Lim Park, since that seems to be the only event that is able to draw so a huge number of Singapore to a location together. But no, this was a protest rally against the  Population White Paper, which suggested that by 2030, Singapore will have a population of 6.9 million, which almost half of the population will be foreigners.

Surprised by the huge number of people, which some estimates put it at almost 5000 coming out to protest? Don’t be. The anger and the unhappiness with the broken system of the Singapore government has been festering since the 2011 General Election. The release of the White Paper was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, which drove so many Singaporeans away from their comfortable position behind the computer’s keyboard to standing in the heavy rain in Hong Lim Park to protest.

I’m so glad we are no longer keyboard warriors or armchair critics, because letting our voices heard is the most important thing. The Singapore Government wants a National Conversation? The people have spoken. Now, its your turn to listen.

Picture taken from The Straits Times

Picture taken from The Straits Times

For further reading:

Rare mass rally over Singapore immigration plans

Singapore seethes over population plan

In Singapore’s Immigration Debate, Sign of Asia’s Slipping Middle Class?

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Filed under National Conversation, Politics, Singapore

My best Valentine’s Day present ever: MetCon

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post

I have always wanted to try MetCon, short for Metabolic Conditioning. I was never the guy with the “bodybuilder mindset’, obsessed with having big muscles but with limited functional movement. No offense to bodybuilders though, huge respect for the sport. For me, fitness is about having a healthy lifestyle and being functional. Which is why MetCon really appealed to me.

Many people confuse MetCon with CrossFit. It is not the same, because MetCon is part of CrossFit, but without all the Olyimpic lifts. MetCon is more of a circuit where it engages the whole body with a succession of workouts with limited rest time. This allows an increase of caloric burn even after the workout is finished. Such a high intensity during the session increases EPOC and leads to a higher resting metabolism for the next few hours.

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that a gym called The Pit offered MetCon classes. For the longest of time I wanted to pay a visit to the gym and try out a class, but I couldn’t find the time. On Thursday, which was Valentine’s Day, I finally managed to find time to head down for a trial class. My friend, Jia, is a regular at The Pit and she kindly joined me for the class.

She had me flipping tires for warmups. It was my first time and I really enjoyed it.

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Then came the actual MetCon class. Honestly, I thought I could handle the class easily since I incorporate High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in to my workouts and I workout 3 times a week. But MetCon is on a whole new level.

The trainer for the day, Andyn, started us off with warm ups. Burpees, Bodyweight squats, Kettlebell clean to squat, Push ups and Mountain Climbers. Once we finished, I thought warm up was over. To my horror, Andyn announced that we had 4 more sets to go. I was like “This is warm up?!”, because I was already panting like crazy.

After we had completed 5 sets, my lower back was starting to ache. But I remembered that we had only just finish warm ups. So I decided to dig deep and hang in there even though I was about to give up.

Next, Andyn asked the class to pair up. While one person was doing medicine ball slams, his/her partner would be doing “around the world” with a weighted plate while in a half squat position. We needed to keep doing till Andyn called time and we would switch. By the 3rd or 4th set, my arms were tired and my lower back was screaming with pain. Andyn could see that I was struggling with the 20kg weighted plate for “around the world”, so he got me a 10kg plate, which I was so thankful for. I was cursing the medicine ball as I slammed it down. Because it didn’t bounce back up, I had to pick it up and slam it down again.

I think we did 5 sets of that. I couldn’t remember because I was so tired. I had to take frequent breaks while doing the slams and the “around the world”. When we were done, Andyn told us to go for a cool down run around the block for 2 rounds. He had Jia lead us. Well, the strong woman was still strong after the whole workout, that the run became a sprint. I couldn’t keep up because my lower back was aching like mad, but I didn’t want to stop, so I jogged.

I came back and looked like this:

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Well, even though the whole experience felt like a torture, I love it! I’m definitely coming back for more. If there’s one thing that I took away from the class was that I had a weak core, so I used my lower back for most of the workouts, hence the aching. So for anyone who thinks that he/she has a good core and think you are fit, try MetCon. I assure you it will be a humbling experience. The Pit is an awesome place to workout. Once you step in, you know it’s not a normal gym, it has the “hardcore atmosphere”, where people come to train their ass out.

But remember, leave your ego at the door!

 

The people who chose to torture themselves on Valentine's Day.

The people who chose to torture themselves on Valentine’s Day.

 

For further reading about MetCon:

Metabolic Conditioning: The Key to Better Performance

 

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Filed under Bodybuilding, Fitness, Gyms, Health, Singapore

The secret to having a good body

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Everybody wants to have a good body. Who doesn’t? But do you know the secret to having a good body? Does having a good body mean going to the gym and spending 3 hours in it doing barbell curls? Or swearing by your protein shake, which you drink religiously after every workout session?

No, having a good body not only requires hard work in the gym, but it also requires proper rest and a good diet. Because after all, 70% of having a good body happens in the kitchen and the other 30% of muscle growth happens in the gym. Shocked and horrified that spending 3 hours in a gym is not making you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger but is in fact hampering your growth process? It’s ok, I’m here to help.

Let me break it down for you.

Training

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is cannot be truer when you are trying to lose fats and gain muscle. Have a goal in mind and work towards it.

To burn more fats, lift heavier weights with lesser reps (3-7). Focus your workouts on compound exercises like squats, bench press and deadlifts. Spend lesser time on isolation exercises like biceps curl, legs extensions and triceps kickback. For the uninitiated, isolation exercises places a lot of stress on a single, isolated muscle. Compound exercises engages several muscle groups at one time to move two or more joints through a range of motion, hence building more muscles.

The reason most people shun compound exercises is because proper form and techniques are needed to carry out these exercises. Lack of proper form and techniques will result in injury, so I cannot stress enough the importance of starting a compound exercise with lighter weights till you get the proper form and technique.

Your rest periods also play an important part in burning fats. Rest no longer than 30 seconds in between sets if you want to speed up the fat burning process. When trying to build muscle, rest up to 3 minutes in between sets.

Last but not least, do your cardio after workouts. I know I know, I hear loud audible groans every time I mention cardio. Nobody likes cardio, but there’s no running away from the fact that cardio burns fats. But not just any cardio. Introducing to you High-Intensive Interval Training or HIIT in short.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of HIIT because I have seen the effects it has on me. The magic about HIIT is that it can be done anywhere in less than 20 minutes or less, as long as you have a stopwatch. If you are in a gym, you can perform it on the treadmill, rowing machine, bikes and elliptical trainers.

A HIIT workout consists of 5 minutes warm up, 30 seconds all out work, 30 seconds rest and 5 minutes cool down. If you have never done HIIT before, start with 6 sets and slowly increase by 1 set every week. Do not perform HIIT for more than 3 times a week.

Diet and supplements

Now I come to the 70% part of having a good body. If you are one of those people who think that just because they workout 3-4 times a week, it gives them a free pass to eat whatever they want. I have news for you: Clean up your diet or your workouts are just a waste of time.

Of course it is not going to be easy to eating chicken breasts, brown rice and broccoli while your friends are eating McDonald’s. But once you start eating clean and it becomes a habit, there is no looking back. The benefits of eating clean and healthy are tremendous, like losing body fats and recovering fast when you are sick.

The simplest way to eat clean is to find your favourite protein, simple and complex carbohydrate sources. This way, the planning and preparation of the meals wouldn’t put you off. After all, simplicity is the key to success.

Good protein sources would be chicken breasts, beef and turkey breasts. Dairy products like cottage cheese, milk and eggs are excellent protein sources too. Don’t shun fats too. Omega 3 fatty acids are important for muscle growth so eat fishes like salmon, tilapa and tuna.

Contrary to popular beliefs, no, carbs are not your worst enemy. In fact, if you are training hard then you should be eating carbs. Base your carbs around before you workout and immediately after you workout. But try to avoid simple carbs like white bread and processed food as they are high in sugar and therefore they store bodyfats. They are best to consume immediately after your workouts because they provide a release of insulin. Complex carbs are slow digesting carbs. Foods like whole-wheat bread and brown rice are prefect complex carbs. Because they are slow digesting, they provide energy and won’t be stored as bodyfats.

Fats and a good diet don’t go hand in hand right? Wrong. Fats are important for muscle building. In addition to the above-mentioned Omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats can be found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Fiber is important too. Get your fiber from vegetables like broccoli and fruits.

Drink water. Lots of it. Water is essential for muscle building. It keeps you full and helps you to stay lean. The easiest way to drink a lot of water is to get a 20oz water bottle. Refill it 5 times a day and you are good. Be warned though, you will see the toilet for most of the day.

Finally, cheat meals. If you have eaten clean for the whole week, allow yourself one or two cheat meals. This is the best time to eat whatever you want and trust me, your body will thank you for it. But remember, it’s a cheat MEAL not a cheat DAY. Do not pig out for the whole day.

Moving on to supplements. Supplements are essential for building muscle, but whey protein powder, creatine and multivitamins are all you need.

Take about 20g of protein powder within 30 minutes before your workout and about 40g immediately after your workout. Take 3g-5g of creatine after your workout. Although creatine is excellent for muscle recovery, be warned that creatine basically adds water to your body. Which means that the results of taking it are only temporary. Take a multivitamin every morning. The micronutrients are important for muscle building.

Mindset

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Training hard and eating clean takes a lot of discipline and hard work. Do not give up if you do not see the changes in your body as fast as you would like to. Persistence and the will to succeed will help you achieve your goals.

You will stumble along the way. It’s ok, just don’t give up.  It took me 6 years to get a healthy body and along the way, I feel like giving up sometimes, but I remind myself that I have already started the journey, why give up now? Keep on going! 🙂

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Filed under Bodybuilding, Fitness, Health