Category Archives: Singapore

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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“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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Stop letting your fingers do the talking

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Chris giving out masks to a resident of a block we decided to give out masks to

Singapore has been shrouded by haze the past week, with the Pollution Standard Index (PSI), hitting above 400. Any number above 300 is considered “hazardous”.

Understandably, many people are very unhappy that the Government is not doing enough to protect Singaporeans. While I understand where they are coming from, complaining online every single hour is not going to change anything. Why not go out and help those in need and suffering in this weather conditions?

My coach decided to close the box and cancel training as the haze situation worsened. As dedicated CrossFitters, all of us were very eager to train. But we understood and respected his decisions. So we allowed ourselves to be depressed for awhile before deciding we had to do something about this haze.

Why did we decide to take action? Firstly, we have scumbags going around, stocking up on masks and then reselling them to those who were in desperate need of them at a higher price. Secondly, there was a shortage of masks because  of panic buying.

We drew inspiration from one of our members, Ford. This guy has no salary even though he’s a sponsored athlete because it’s not a paid sponsorship. But he was so “disturbed” by the sight of the some elderly folks not wearing masks because they couldn’t afford it, that he went to the nearest clinic to try his luck to buy masks. The clinic happened to have a few boxes lying around and he bought all of it. The next day, he went around Chinatown giving away the masks for free. Remember, this guy doesn’t draw a salary.

It’s stories like Ford that made me decide that the time had come for me to contribute. So when my Coach set up a “free masks giveaway taskforce”, I immediately signed up for it.

Met up with another member, Chris and Ford on Saturday night at Funan before we walked down to Chinatown. On the way, we gave away the masks we were carrying to the public and went door to door in some residential building. Even though we received suspicious looks because some people found it hard to believe that we were giving masks away for free and there were a few greedy ones, I really enjoyed myself.

Here are a few things which I noticed while making my rounds:

  • Foreigners. We went up a block thinking that it will be filled with elderly folks. But instead, most of the occupants were foreigners who were renting the flats. We still gave out the masks to them, but what left a deep impression on me was the reactions from those who were from China. As you know by now, relations between the Singaporeans and the Chinese from China have been strained because of many incidents. So when we approached them, they were suspicious and tried to walk away. But when we explained what we were doing, they had a look of surprise and gratitude on their faces. I truly hope that through this mask-giving, in a way, we have extended our “warmest welcome” to them
  • Singaporeans are suspicious of free things even though they want it so much.
  • Quite a number of people that I gave out the masks to wanted to know which church, organisation or government agency I belonged to. I replied that we were doing this on our own effort. I didn’t see a need to mention that we were from CrossFit Fire City because it’s not our gym that defines what we what we do. It’s our values and our beliefs.

I really hope those who are whining and complaining online will come offline and help the people in need. Nothing beats seeing heartfelt gratitude and relief from those you help.

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Going Paleo and stepping out of comfort zones

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It’s not often you find yourself surrounded by people who are outside of their comfort zones. But in CrossFit, nearly everyone is doing just that. They are here because they have taken that leap of faith.

You see them struggling, but it doesn’t matter. Because it takes courage and a lot of heart to do what they are doing. So when I see people like Ford and Farhan who are runners, struggling with the heavy weights during weightlifting, I don’t secretly laugh at them. Instead, I quietly cheer them on during the movement and encouraging them to pick the barbell up again when their hands are on their knees.

I feel so proud and blessed to see them suffering with me, so much so that I want to “suffer” with them too. So I’m in talks with Ford to run/train with him. Yes, I detest running and I suck at running. But I know that these guys will be cheering me on instead of laughing at me because this is what CrossFit does to you. You cheer for the champion and for the last guy who finishes. You don’t laugh at them. Ever. You don’t see that in other sports.

Seeing others stepping out of their comfort zone has also inspired me to step of my own comfort zone when it comes to food. I’m eating clean and making some Paleo meals at the moment, but I love my grains and dairy, so it’s a little hard for me to go fully Paleo. However, from this week onwards, my meals will be 80% Paleo. Hopefully this will ease my transition in to going fully Paleo.

Taking that leap of faith isn’t always going to be easy, but when you are surrounded by people who are doing it everyday, you just can’t help but feel inspired.

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CrossFit with a cause

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Since our offices are so near each other, Joshua and I decided to meet for lunch today. We really hit it off because we are similar in many ways. We both do CrossFit, we work in the digital world and are brothers in Christ.

Even though Joshua does CrossFit, he doesn’t have a box to train in. Instead, he and a group of friends train out of the Singapore Weightlifting Federation (SWF). They call themselves Mobilus. As the founder of the group and a Level 1 certified trainer, he does the programming of the WOD around the equipment that SWF has. It isn’t easy for them, but they are tightly knit bunch. As you already know, this is the magic of CrossFit. It brings strangers from all walks of life together.

I asked Joshua what’s stopping him from starting up a box. He explained that they are happy where they are right now and starting a box is not their priority at the moment. Instead, the immediate priority that Joshua and the rest of the group have at the moment is, “Humanitarian Fitness”, which is also Mobilus’ motto.

The group has started a  “Mission Of The Month (MOM)” project, where they come together to WOD and raise funds for humanitarian projects. This month, they are raising funds for a much needed water purification tank for the seaside Sri Lankan village of Mullaitivu.

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I’m really impressed with the vision Joshua has for Mobilus and CrossFit in general. This is proof that anyone can reproduce the workouts CrossFit has, but no one can reproduce the community that CrossFit produces. Also, as a fellow brother in Christ, this reminds me of the mission trips that I go on. As Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”. What a way for Joshua to do God’s work and spread his love for CrossFit at the same time.

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Deloading week and a change of plans

After going hard in training for the past month like a bear, I feel that it’s time I take a week off from training to deload. What is a deload, you may ask.

Well, a deload week is simply a week spent recovering from exercise or hard training. Because consistent training event builds a deficit that cannot be repaid in a single rest day, a deload week is a chance for your body to recover from that deficit. I also feel it helps to prevent burnt out from training and for me, CrossFit. As much as I love the sport deeply, I do not want to have an overkill of it.

So this coming week, will be a week where I do active recovery, mobility work and some actual rest. I know I have a powerlifting  meet coming up in July (my friends and my coach are more anxious for me than I am) and I should be training hard for it.

I understand that some people have question my decision to try CrossFit in the middle of training for a meet. However, when I signed up for it, it was never my intention to go out there and “destroy the competition”. This is my first meet, so my goal is not to heap pressure on myself and my objective is to soak in the atmosphere and learn from the veterans. Yes, my numbers will nowhere be as impressive as the ones that the veterans put up, but I have been lifting for years and I won’t lose my strength just because I decided to train in CrossFit.

As I always say, for me, fitness is a learning journey. So it will be interesting to see how CrossFit helps in my powerlifting. You learn new things when you step out of your comfort zone, as what Jason Khalipa found out.

Talking about comfort zones, there will be no more of this:

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This will be my last week of internship in Vocanic. It ends a month early because Tribal DDB offered me a job and I took up their offer. Even though I was offered a chance to stay in Vocanic, I turned it down because I was getting too comfortable and I didn’t like it. I always like a challenge and to me, opportunities to work in a big agency like DDB don’t come knocking on your door every day. Vocanic is a great agency and I have learned and grew a lot from working there for the past 3 months. I will definitely miss the friendships I have made. I actually enjoy getting coffee everyday (because it’s The Plain), so the picture above is not a complaint.

It was my plan to go back to studying after my internship ended. But when DDB came knocking, I asked God for his directions. Since I sensed that this was the direction that He wanted me to take, my plans to go back to school will be put on hold for now. Maybe this is  also the chance for me to finally start saving up some moolah and achieve my goal of heading over to Australia to study.

In His time!

And…for those who have been eager to try out CrossFit, here’s your chance! Mention “Medium Shawn” and get $5 off! Hurry!

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Day 25: “Hi, My name is Shawn and I’m a CrossFitter”

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This is it.

My final post for my “adventure in to CrossFit”.

I’m hesitant to call this post a “finale to my CrossFit journey” because CrossFit and I are not breaking up. We are only getting started.

For the past month, I have grown to love the community training in the box, treating them like how they have treated me. Like a family. Without them, Fire City would just be a soulless place, an empty shell. One may not be a firm believer of this sport, but one cannot deny the strong community that CrossFit produces.

From the moment I stepped in to the box, I could feel that Fire City is the kind of place, like my favourite cafe (The Plain, in case you are wondering), that I could spend all my time in. Granted, I have not yet been to other boxes. But for a newcomer like to me to step in to a place like Fire City, where the learnings of CrossFit was not forced down my throat, but slowly introduced to me, is a testament to what kind of a box Fire City is.

A box is also only as good as it’s coaches. But what is a coach? The definition of coach from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “one who instructs or trains players in the fundamentals of a sport”. I believe that a coach not only needs to do that, but also needs to understand his charges physically and mentally. He knows when you are ready to add on weight to your barbell, when is the right time to teach you kipping and finding the right opportunity to encourage you to break a mental barrier.

Coach Sam is all that. He is not only my coach, but my friend and my brother too. Despite scolding and nagging in training, he is also ever ready to sit down and listen to my problems. His greatest asset as a coach is his smile. Because whenever he sees someone getting frustrated over a technique, he will smile and teach the technique to the person. At that moment, the person’s frustration will be erased and he or she will be eager to give the technique a go again. I am therefore eternally grateful for this opportunity that Coach Sam gave me to try CrossFit.

What’s next for me? I will definitely be staying and training in Fire City for the foreseeable future because I have truly fallen in love with this sport. It took me 6 long years, but I’m glad that I have found my true love.

I know some people still have reservations about CrossFit. They are afraid that CrossFit is too “hardcore” for them, that they are not fit enough for CrossFit. Fear not, because Fire City is not a hell hole where you come to be tortured. The main objective here is for you to train hard and have fun at the same time. So come, join us. You may just find out things about yourself that you didn’t know, both physically and mentally. Check out our website and feel free to drop in any time. If I see you, I will be sure to go up to you and say: “Hi, My name is Shawn and I’m a CrossFitter. Welcome to the box”.

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For further reading on CrossFit, check out:

That 5ft Kid

Words With Lisbeth

CrossFit Journal

 

 

 

 

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