Category Archives: Fitness

Discipline vs Obsession

It’s three days to my first ever CrossFit competition. Am I ready? Honestly, I do not know.

2014 has seen quite a number of significant changes in terms of my fitness journey. I left my CrossFit box because firstly, I felt I wasn’t progressing; I was getting fitter with all the metcons, but not in strength, which go against everything CrossFit stood for. Secondly, I was getting too caught up with trying to beat metcon timings in the box that I became obsessed with trying to get better at CrossFit.

While I took a break from working out in a community for the past six months, I started training alone and followed The Outlaw Way’s Outlaw Power programming while doing some reflecting on my own.

The question that ate at me was: Why do I feel so empty and hollow when I was chasing big numbers in my lifts and aiming to achieve faster timings?

It dawned on me that the purpose of my life had become all about trying to excel at CrossFit. Shouldn’t my life be about trying to please God? I should workout to live and not live to workout.

I had crossed the fine line between being disciplined and being obsessed. I couldn’t go a week without working out and beating myself up about it. To miss a workout, was not okay to me.

Sin City Invitationals 2014 will be a significant milestone for me when I take to the competition ground this Saturday. I have learned to forgive myself when I miss a workout and knowing the difference between being disciplined and being obsessed. I constantly remind myself  that I train to honour God and not because I want to be faster, stronger and fitter than anyone else.

I haven’t trained as much as I would like to in the last few weeks leading up to the competition because of full day coverage at the WTA Finals and Singapore National Games as a journalist, but I choose to have faith in my training for the last six months, have fun and leave the rest up to God.

 

 

 

 

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IPPT: All round fitness test or purely an endurance test?

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Photo: TODAY

Depending on which side of the fence you were on, the recent changes to the Individual Physical Proficiency Test either caused you much anguish or made you celebrate like Mario Gotze after scoring the winning goal for Germany in the World Cup finals.

Looking at my Social Media feed, there were people who were posting about the changes and using words like “Finally!” or “Now I don’t have to do Remedial Training!”  As for the opposing camp, netizens were concerned about how making the test easier is inviting criticisms that soldiers in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are weak and pampered.

When I was still serving the nation more than two years ago, I felt that the IPPT was flawed and needed some tweaking. One of my pet peeves I had was that there was too much emphasis placed on running. I blame this on “the faster you ran, the fitter you are” culture in the SAF. The scoring system of the old IPPT system was proof of that.

For example, if you pass your standing broad jump, shuttle run, pull ups and sit ups stations but fail your 2.4 kilometres run, you fail the whole test. How does that make sense? If I can do 20 pull ups, jump 250 cm, finish my shuttle run in 8.45 seconds, do 50 sit ups but I fail my run because I did it in 15 minutes, does this mean that I’m unfit?

The old system cultivated a habit where soldiers who performed poorly in the 2.4 kilometres run would do the minimum effort required to pass in the rest of the stations in order to save energy for the run. This meant that there were no accurate readings on which soldiers actually has the strength, flexibility, speed and endurance.

Another bug bear I had was that as a combat-fit soldier who went in to the field almost every week in full combat gear, I realised performing well in IPPT doesn’t always translate in to performing well out in the field. Why? Again, because of the emphasis placed on running.

Physical Instructors were so obsessed with training soldiers who failed the 2.4k meters run, that 90% of the training consisted of running. In fact, every opportunity that SAF had, the commanders made the soldiers run. Oh, it’s Battalion Cohesion Day? Let’s go to East Coast Park to run. There’s a new Commanding Officer in the unit? Let’s welcome him by going for a run. You get my drift. There was a run for everything.

Running is beneficial and healthy, yes. But the truth is, endurance alone is not a good training to prepare soldiers for combat. Soldiers needs to have strength training to prepare them for the heavy loads that they will be carrying, flexibility to climb over objects and uphill/downhill, speed to sprint to take cover or attack during fire movements.

So does the new IPPT changes address these issues? Well, Yes and No.

As with everything in Singapore, the changes to the IPPT, which has been reduced to 3 stations (push ups, sit ups and 2.4 kilometres run) is not new or original. It is a watered down version of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Physical Fitness Test (PFT), which consists of pull ups, sit ups and 5km run.

This watered down test is great for Operational Ready NSmen because it addresses the main grouse: It is easier to train for and pass because they are simply too busy with work.

However, this test still does not determine if soldiers in active duty is combat fit and neither does training for the test prepare the soldiers for being in the field.

The USMC has another test, called Combat Fitness Test (CFT), which has a 800 meters run, lifting a 13kg ammo box over their heads as many times as they can in 2 minutes and a 274 meters course where they have to perform 5 various tasks. This test has to be done in boots, camouflaged pants and t-shirt.

Here’s my suggestion: Implement the CFT for soldiers in active duty and use the PFT for NSmen. This will effectively kill three birds with one stone.

Firstly, it will prevent the IPPT from being a purely endurance test and encourage soldiers to train for strength, flexibility, speed and endurance. Secondly, NSmen who don’t train regularly because of work will not have a hard time passing the test. Which is SAF’s main purpose for changing the IPPT system in the first place. Lastly, both tests don’t include the dreaded pull ups anymore.

What do you think of my suggestions? Share with me in the comments section below.

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The story of the Open

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I looked up from where I was, trying to shut out the massive noise around me. Hands on my knees, trying to control my breathing, with saliva dripping out of me. I was ready to throw in the towel. I badly wanted this to be over.

Taking in the scene around me when I looked up, I smiled. Yes, I smiled. There was a Commonwealth Games weightlifting athlete shouting at me to pick up the bar. My buddies were counting down my rest time. They too, were screaming at me to pick up the bar. At that moment, I felt important. This was my performance. To give up was to let them, myself down. 

The smile on my face got wider. I fully embraced the noise, walked back to bar, and continued my performance.

 

This happened  during 14.5. It was probably the most mental Open WOD this year. Fitting end to the Open after 5 weeks. Nobody expected it to be this tough, even though we had an inkling of what was to come after Dave Castro, Director of the CrossFit Games said: “The clock will not save you. You either give up or quit” when he announced the WOD.

I had witnessed an incredible scene before it was my turn to attempt 14.5. One of our members, who was beyond exhausted, pleaded with his judge to stop the time. He wanted to give up. It was too much for him to handle that he even shouted at my coach to “shut up” when the poor guy was trying to encourage him. However, the community rallied behind him and cheered him to the finish line.

This was just one of the many stories that the Open had produced over 5 weeks, with many more stories appearing on my social media news feeds. There were stories of people getting their first muscle-ups, of people like the member in my box who found the marker on his previous limitations and placed it a little further away.

I am happy to share my own story.

2014 is my first year attempting the Open, a year after watching the live announcement of 13.5. I remembered watching Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, Samantha Briggs and Camille Leblanc-Bazinet throwdown, which piqued my curiosity for CrossFit. Registering for the Open this year, I knew I wasn’t going to qualify for Regional, but I knew I was going to learn a lot about myself.

There were painful moments, there were frustrating moments. There were even moments when I questioned my decision to sign up for the Open. But all these were never going to replace the lessons I learnt about myself, about life.

14.1 taught me that anything was possible. No matter how behemoth the task I had before me, the effort to attempt something I thought was impossible was enough to produce results. That’s how I ended up with 60 double-unders in 10 mins, when I was expecting to spend 10 minutes trying to finish 30 double-unders.

I learned how important was it to control my emotions when things don’t go my way in 14.4. It was frustrating to get no-rep after no-rep during the wall balls. At one point I was even punching the ball after a no-rep. When I was stomping around after the WOD, trying to vent my anger, I wondered how different the situation would had been if I had been calm in the face of all those no-reps.

That can be translated in to life too. How you handle your emotions during a WOD is a reflection on how you handle your emotions in your daily life. And yes, this “stomping around, venting my anger” ritual is something I always did when things don’t go my way. It was childish and immature, and after 14.4, I took a deep and long look at myself.

Did the thought of repeating the WODs to get a better score on the leaderboard crossed my mind? Yes, after 14.4. Then I remembered that I went in to the Open with the goal of not repeating any of the WODs because I was going to do my best and giving my all with no regrets. No disrespect to those who repeated the WODs, because we all have different training objectives.

There will probably never be another competition as unique as the CrossFit Open because it allows you to challenge with the best of the best around the world and learn things about yourself you would never have otherwise learned. People like me would have realised that after the Open, the only competition that we have is ourselves. What is better than doing that and having fun at the same time?

This is my story of the CrossFit Open. What is yours?

 

 

 

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What happens when you say, “No”

We have all been there.

You are struggling with pain and soreness in the middle of a hard training session, or in a middle of a tough WOD.

Then, seeing you in anguish, your coach or training partner, asked you “Do you want to give up?”

The moment you heard that question, you started second guessing or doubting your ability to finish strong.

“What do I have to lose if I give up now?”

“I just want this pain to be over”

Sounds familiar?

Try saying “No” the next time you are asked that question, no matter how breathless or sore you are.

I’m not sure about you, but whenever someone asked me that question and I simply replied “No”, a part of my mind toughened up and I find that mental resolve, which up to that point was non-existent, to dig deep and finish that set, that round.

You will be surprise with the wonders a simple “No” can do to your mindset.

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Top 5 Forgotten Bodybuilding Principles

This guest post is written by Lai Wee Kiat, bodybuilder, personal trainer, Mr Kuala Lumpur 2013 overall champion and blogger of Fabodylous. For his personal training service in Singapore, click here

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Protein? Check. Intense weight training? Check. Creatine? Check. These are the essential requirements to build a lean, strong and muscular physique. Who can ever forget them? However, whenever we hit a plateau, more often than not. it is the principles we take for granted that kills our progress. What principles? Here are five of them.

#1 Rest and recovery

Don’t forget, you don’t actually build muscles in the gym, but when you are sleeping. Many trainers, especially beginners push their body so hard and so often in the gym and stay up late at night for a football match or a drink with their friends that they don’t get enough sleep for their body to grow. Get in 8 hours of sleep each night AND if you have been training hard for 2-3 months, give your body a complete week of rest, away from the gym. You’ll be surprised how fresh you will feel after that week.

#2 Intense focus

What are you thinking about when you are performing your set of bench press or squat? Lunch? That hot chick wearing yoga pants? If your mind is not in your muscle, you’re not fully stimulating it. Take a few seconds before each set to forget about the world around you and focus solely on the muscle you’re training. Feel every movement and contract them hard. Control every movement, both concentric and eccentric. Believe me, it’ll make a huge difference.

#3 Putting what you learnt in to practice

A lot of beginners are looking for shortcuts. That’s why they fall for fads and workout programs that promise them loads of result in minimal amount of time. Even as an advanced trainer, I admit that I sometimes fall into this trap. The thing is, if you already know the basics of dieting (protein, carbs, fats and some supplement knowledge) and training (compound vs isolation exercises, rep ranges), you should be able to build a decent body. Knowledge is power and yes, although we should always strive to learn more, we should apply all the knowledge we already know and push hard. Just look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends. I’m willing to bet that in the 70s, they barely knew anything about creatine, but they trained extremely hard with the knowledge available to them back then. And they’re huge!

#4 Customization

You might have heard that different people respond differently to certain training and dieting programs. This claim is legitimate, especially for dieting. Play around with carbs. Some people feel great and burn fat fast on a low carb diet, whereas others will feel weak and lethargic. That is why there are diets out there that recommend plenty of carbs and others recommending as little as zero carbs. Both might have worked for others and are scientifically proven, but you must find what works for YOU and stick to it.

#5 Plateauing

Using the same weight and reps every day when you train? No wonder you look the same! One thing we often forget is that to build muscle, we must challenge ourselves. This doesn’t mean you have to add a huge increase of weight during your next workout. Instead, strive for tiny but consistent improvements in every workout. Add another 2.5kg to the bar or perform one extra rep. Soon enough, these little changes will add up and so will your muscle mass.

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Luke 9:23

Where is your source of strength from?

As I go through this journey of coping with my injury and searching for the light in the midst of darkness, I have been trying to find the answers to what went wrong.

When I saw the question above one day, I stopped and asked myself, where is my source of strength from? What do I turn to, to find my strength? Who am I drawing strength from?

And right there and then, I realised that as a Christian, I was no longer turning to God to seek and find strength. Instead, I was drawing my strength from CrossFit. I’m a guy who is very focused. When I’m doing something, I stay on that track and I’m blind to everything else around me. I was so in love with CrossFit, that I had unknowingly became obsessed with it. God allows things to happen for a reason and getting injured was one of them.

Look, I’m not saying God allowed the injury to happen to “punish” me. What I’m saying is, God is a jealous God. And as his children, when we seek strength or find comfort in things that are not beneficial for us, He gently reminds us that He should be in the number 1 spot in our life.

He’s also not saying that I should give up CrossFit. After all, as a fellow brother-in-christ and CrossFitter told me, it’s not a coincidence that it’s called “Cross-Fit”.

It’s about giving up my love to God and surrendering it all to Him. As much as I want to beat myself up for getting here in the first place, I have come to understand that this is part of my spiritual growth. The “1-step forward, 2-steps back” mentality that I adopt when God teaches me a lesson, needs to go. I can do all I can to prevent a similar situation from happening again in the future, but I know it’s not possible. The fact of the matter is, it is through lessons like these that I’m reminded dying to self is a lifelong process. Therefore, I should be thankful and rejoice that God is teaching me such lessons.

I will end with words from Rich Froning, 2x and reigning CrossFit Games champion:

“God’s word has taught me that the key to truly winning is not to be first. The key to winning is to put God first”

 

 

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“Familia”

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I did my first ever powerlifting competition today! Coming in to this meet, my goals were to have fun, make new friends, soak in the atmosphere and learn. And learn I did. My squats were fine. But when it came to the bench press event, I didn’t score a single point for any of my 3 attempts because I failed to listen to the judges’ instructions.

But what I really took away from this meet was the feeling of “family”. I didn’t expect anyone to come down and support me. But the day before, my coach, Sam, messaged me and told me he was coming down to support me. Even though this didn’t have very much to do with CrossFit, he told me: “family never leave anyone behind”.

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I cannot express how grateful and relieved I was to have Sam with me backstage. His advices and tips to me in his calm, reassuring voice, together with his signature smile really helped me to relax and do my best. From advising me on what weight to go up to and just talking random stuff with me to keep my mind relaxed, I really felt like a son to him. The most significant advice he gave to me was before I gave my final weight for my deadlifts. I did 150kg for my 2nd attempt and I was trying to stay conservative and go for 160kg in my 3rd and final attempt. But Sam told me to go for my PR, 170kg, which is honestly a struggle for me. But his confidence in me spurred me on and I lifted 170kg without a hassle, like the first picture. This lift is for you, Sam.

I am also really thankful for the rest of the community in the box who kept sending me endless encouragement messages . Thankful for Farhan, who came down and support me instead of going home for a rest after finishing a 10km race. Thankful for Melanie, who came down despite being very tired. Thankful for Elaine, who is always a reassuring figure.

These people drive me to do what I love and I’m really really proud to call them my family 🙂

 

 

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