Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Home Workout Tips For Stay-At-Home Mums

Speak to most stay-at-home mums and you're bound to get the idea that MANY (if not most) have already given up on their dream of being able to fit in a regular exercise program into their weekly schedule, let alone attain a figure that is Lean, Toned and Attractive

Indeed, having had the privilege and opportunity to work with many such home-based mums here in Singapore over the years (in my capacity as a Private Home Personal Trainer), and having observed - first-hand - my wife's own stay-at-home child-care experience in the early formative years of my 2 kids, I can attest to the fact that it can indeed be a real challenge for many stay-home mums to even THINK of exercise, let alone DO it, when faced with the myriad of tasks they confront on a daily basis.

Challenges Facing A Housewife
Just think about this - the chores that every stay-at-home mum inevitably faces one day or another include: doing up the laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, vacuuming the house, washing the bathrooms, preparing meals for the family, chasing the kids around, picking up after them, putting them to bed, waking them up for school, getting them dressed, sending them off to school, and then shuttling them off to tuition, swimming lessons, piano lessons, ballet lessons and other enrichment activities etc etc (just listing out all these is already TIRING in itself!!) - on top of a whole host of other motherly duties and nitty-gritty stuff, and then hoping to squeeze in some exercise time!!??

No wonder many stay-home-mums have the view that regular exercise is a LUXURY, if not a near IMPOSSIBLE dream!

Thus, I have written the following tips with the hope that they can offer some solace and help to each and every self-sacrificing, but oft-too-busy mum out there.

Hopefully, with these tips, you'll be able to FREE yourself to experience - first-hand - the liberating effects of regular exercise and its manifold benefits:

Enjoy The Many Benefits Of Exercising At Home

1) Schedule TIME For Exercise

Like any other worthwhile pursuit in life, exercise is something that we simply have to PLAN for. Otherwise, it'll be squeezed out of our daily schedule before we even know it! The most successful exercise-mums that I know of - consciously SET ASIDE or even BLOCK OUT time slots for their personal exercise time. It can be as easy as just setting aside short 15-minute time slots thrice-a week for a start. Once you get the hang of it, and exercise becomes a habit, slowly start increasing the exercise duration, followed by its frequency. 

2) Put Yourself Into The MOOD

One of the strategies that I've learnt from a former client of mine is to get yourself into the mood for exercise the very FIRST THING in the day. For her, this means getting into her workout gear once she's up from bed, and then keeping it on UNTIL she's done with her exercise for the day! The act of wearing the workout attire acts as a "uniform" for her, not only reminding her of  her "appointment" with exercise, but also serves to 'psyche her up' for the workout to come! 

3) Create The Necessary SPACE

In most homes, the most practical workout space is the Living Room. Even if it's currently cluttered with furniture, knick knacks and scattered with your children's many unwanted toys; with just a little forward planning and physical shifting (which can actually serve as a good pre-workout warm-up, by the way), sufficient space can be created - in mere minutes - for a one-person workout area. Of course, you don't really have to limit yourself to the living area. Any space within your home that is feasible or practical - such as the garage, balcony, attic, garden etc - can also be converted into your very own 'personal home gym'. 

4) Keep It SIMPLE

FORGET about multi-station machines,weight racks, home treadmills or even stationary bikes; most stay-home mums I know - will NEVER EVER contemplate having these stuff in their homes, let alone use them!! To be honest, the only training tool you ever need is your own Body-Weight! However, if you really insist on having some gear - then a Medicine Ball, or a couple of Resistance Bands, and a Skipping Rope and your surrounding home furniture will more than suffice for most stay-home mums.

Regardless whether you intend to workout with just your bodyweight, or with the help of simple functional fitness tools as listed above, try to stick to the following recommendation:

A) Pick ONE each of the following Compound or Multi-Joint Movement Variations and do them in a CIRCUIT Training Style, each movement lasting about 30-40 seconds:
  • Squat Variations (eg. Standard Squats, Split Squats, Squat Jumps etc)
  • Hinge Variations (eg. Deadlifts, Good Mornings, Hip Thrusts etc)
  • Push Variations (eg. Dips, Push-Ups, Overhead Presses etc)
  • Pull Variations (eg. Inverted Rows, Upright Rows, Pull-Ups etc)
  • Rotate Variations (eg. Haybalers, Russian Twists, Rotational Lunges etc)
and then finish off the circuit with

B) ONE of the following Full-Body or Total Body Movement Drills to failure :
  • Burpees
  • Reverse Burpees
  • Swings (with medicine ball or haversack)
  • Chops (with medicine ball or haversack)
  • Rope-Jumping
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Skiers
  • Skaters
Depending on your fitness level, aim to perform 1-3 rounds of the above circuit.

Do also try to mix-and-match the above movements in as many different combinations as you can so as to create variety in your workouts, and to keep your body and mind stimulated each time you exercise! 

5) INCLUDE Your Kids 

For some stay-home mums, it might be near-to-impossible to workout in the absence of their kids. In such a scenario, try including your kids into your workout, instead of fretting over their presence. Try simple 'tricks' like: issuing a mini-challenge or a friendly competition (eg. "... let's see how many squats you can do, in the time I take to complete mine"), using active distractions (eg. "... see this skipping rope? Let's see how many rounds you can get in by the time I complete my workout") or even using them as dynamic resistance - especially if you have toddlers and kinder-aged kids; you can use your kids' actual body weight as resistance in movements like: lying chest presses, cleans, swings, overhead presses etc. (But please watch out for the ceiling fan, OK?) In the process, you kill 2 birds with one stone: your kids have FUN and LOVE you for it, while you get to do your workout. Sweet! 

6) Get HELP

Sometimes, despite your very best efforts, there will be days where things simply DON'T work out - whether it's an overly-clingy child, a broken down washing machine, or any other unexpected emergency. When faced with such situations, it's time to get HELP.

Rope in anyone you can think of - your next-door neighbour, your BFF, your mum, your in-laws, and of course, your spouse - and get them to help you out for that particular chore or area of need - just so that you can get your exercise done at the very least.

In such times, an extra pair of hands makes a world of difference! 

7) Just Do IT

Finally, all the advice in this world will be as good as NOUGHT, if you simply refuse to believe that you CAN make regular exercise a part of your life.

Tell yourself - once and for all - that you WILL commit yourself to regular exercise, and you WILL find a way to do it - come hell or high water.

Then like any bona fide stay-at-home mum would say (and do), just roll up your sleeves, dig-in and get down to it.

P.S. 

The above advice should be more than enough to get you started and raving to go.  

However, if for some reason, you still find yourself struggling to get started, or feel you need more advice, motivation, ideas or even supervision, feel free to get in touch with me. I'll see how I can be of help to you.

You may reach me at www.Body-By-Rick.com or at 96609457.

All the BEST!!

Yours Sincerely,
Rick Wong

Friday, July 29, 2016

Random Thoughts On Life, Fitness, Training, And More ...

It truly never ceases to amaze me how fast time really flies. By all accounts, 2016 has been a pretty eventful (and rough) year so far: with the spread of the Zika Virus across South America, the exit of Britain from the EU, and of course, the unprecedented spate of terrorist attacks across France, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq etc ....

Here in Singapore, we can count ourselves pretty fortunate - being shielded from the bulk of the ills facing our world. However, as part of the vast humanity at large - nonetheless, we can't help but be affected still - in one way or another - by the spill-over effects of the above.

Truly, in such volatile and turbulent times as now, I - like many others - have been trying hard to make sense of what's really happening around us, while going about my daily life as a Husband, a Father, a Son, a Business Owner and a Fitness Professional.

Cozying up to the love of my life - my wife, Shirley.
So much so that in spite of the increasing responsibilities and commitments that I find myself encompassed with, I do realize - more than ever before - that I have been actively contemplating and reflecting upon the various issues in and around me.

The following are just some of the very random and personal thoughts that have popped into my mind this past week as I ponder upon the many affairs that pertain to our world, to life, fitness, training and more ....  

1) We need Love, Understanding & Compassion - more than ever before in our world today.

2) Always seek to live LIFE to the fullest.

3) CHERISH those around us because they will not always be around.

4) Sometimes the best thing to do is simply to Let Go and Let GOD.  

5) Love what you do, and do what you Love.

6) Educate, don't just teach (or preach).

7) Integrate, NOT isolate.

8) Train movements, not muscles.

9) Be Real. Be Yourself.

10) Exercise is BOTH a Science & an Art - learn to blend both together.

11) You Are (Really) What You Eat.

12)  One is NEVER Too Old or Too Young to start exercising.

13) Master Bodyweight Training - so you have no excuses not to workout anymore!

14)  Variety is the spice of life (and training).

15)  If you don't like what you see in the mirror, WORK on it!

16)  You LOSE what you don't USE.

17) Think FAT LOSS, not weight loss.

18) Learn to have FUN!

19) It's OK to have an Off-Day. Don't beat yourself up. Get up, get over it and KEEP GOING!

20)  Don't compare yourself to others. We're all DIFFERENT!

21)  ANY exercise is better than no exercise.

22) Train FUNCTIONALLY - and the aesthetics department will take care of itself.

23)  Poor lifestyle choices will OVERRIDE even the best training program in the world.

24) DON'T even think of adding resistance until you have learnt to manage your own bodyweight.

25) All the technology in the world can NEVER fully-replace the Human Presence & Touch - whether it's in the classroom, in the workplace, or even in the realm of exercise and personal training.

26) Seek Balance & Moderation - in all areas of life!

27) Keep Things SIMPLE - whether it's in training, eating, or even day-to-day living.

28)  Prioritize Sleep, Rest & Recovery!

29) Learn to FORGIVE and FORGET.

30) Above all things, Trust in GOD.

Chilling out with the kids

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hard Truths About Personal Trainers And The Fitness Industry

As a practising personal trainer and owner of a personal training business here in Singapore, I've been asked many times what it means and how it feels being part of the fitness community at large.

Well, I can't speak on behalf of every single trainer or coach here in the country - as there are simply so many different trainers, contrasting training approaches, varied fitness niches, and diversification of fitness services across the industry today.

More importantly, I'm sure every single trainer/coach out there would have his/her own personal and unique views regarding the profession too.

Thus, for the purpose of this blog post, I would rather focus on what I - or rather, WE, of the personal training industry - are NOT.

The following represents some of the most commonly-held myths and misconceptions about us - trainers and coaches - and my personal take on these issues, as well as the "hard truths" behind many of these assumptions:

1) We Are NOT "Know-It-Alls".


Contrary to common portrayal, the majority of personal trainers are NOT arrogant, loud-mouthed, "Know-It-Alls" - often too eager to impose their training ideas and opinions on every poor soul unfortunate enough to cross their paths!!

In truth, with the massive and constant flow of information on exercise, nutrition and training being churned out from sports laboratories and exercise institutions from around the world, it takes a brave (and extremely foolhardy) soul to claim to know EVERYTHING there is to know about fitness and training.

Simply put, there is absolutely NO way that any trainer or coach  - myself included - can boast to have ALL the necessary answers and information at our fingertips ALL the time!

To be fair, many of us DO try our very best to keep up-to-date with our profession and industry via the following means: subscribing to scientific exercise journals, joining professional fitness associations, attending seminars, workshops, conventions etc etc. Not to mention, the hefty time and monetary investments that we constantly put into continuing education and the pursuit of advanced/specialized credentials - all in the name of bettering ourselves and being able to serve our clients more optimally.

However, to expect us somehow to know EVERYTHING and ANYTHING under the sun about fitness or exercise or nutrition, and at the mere snap of one's fingers - is perhaps asking too much from us .......

Personally, having been involved in health and fitness for almost 20 years, and having committed myself to being a lifelong learner, I still feel humbled by the fact that the more I read and study about fitness and its related subjects, the more I realize that there is still so much more to learn about ......

2) We Are NOT Perfect Physical Specimens Ourselves.

In case you are still unaware, the majority of personal trainers and fitness coaches out there simply do NOT look like Greek Gods/Goddesses or Cover Page Models.

In fact, most of us DON'T even walk around with 5% Body Fat Percentages or even possess "Six-Pack-Abs" year-round!!!

Bearing in mind that our physiques are often a result of our own sporting backgrounds, exercise choices, genetic makeups, competitive schedules/cycles, training philosophies etc - it should be no surprise that we - fitness professionals - come in ALL Shapes and Sizes!!

Add to that, like everybody else, we are NOT robots but HUMANS - each with our own share of fitness struggles and health concerns -  including, but not limited to: current/past training injuries, structural dysfunctions, muscular imbalances and even existing medical conditions - all of which contribute greatly to our eventual physical make-up.

Taking myself as an example, being of relatively small Asian build, coupled with a high metabolic rate (which could both be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it), and a strong inclination to train functionally with my own body-weight - have all predisposed me to a physique that is more lean- and athletic-looking rather than one that is Heavily-Muscled and/or Herculean in nature (not that I would mind at all, to be honest :)) Add to that, past training injuries, existing dysfunctions/imbalances and personal lifestyle choices have all also played a part in how my body shape has evolved over the years ........

3) We are NOT All About Fitness And Nothing Else!

Contrary to popular opinion, we - Personal Trainers and Fitness Professionals - are NOT all Fitness Fanatics, with absolutely NO Life outside of fitness; and who choose to do NOTHING else but eat, sleep and breathe fitness 24/7.

In reality, most fitness trainers and coaches - like myself - have families and loved ones that we can't wait to spend time with, as well as our very own social life and interest - OUTSIDE of fitness.

For me, seeking BALANCE between the different aspects of my life have always been my main priority and challenge all these years, and that's why even with increasing business commitments, I have always made it a point to have blocked-out time-slots in my weekly schedule to allow me to LIVE MY LIFE - to do things that I truly enjoy, like: "dating" my wife, spending time with my kids, working out, getting close to Nature, doing some Quiet Reading, or simply indulging in any other pastime that fancies me at that moment ............

4) We are NOT Sadists Seeking To Push You Till You Throw-Up Or Pass-Out!

Recent fitness trends, exercise fads and media hype have unfortunately added to the misconception that a personal trainer's job is to push you over and beyond your limits - such that you either: 1) collapse from sheer exhaustion during your workout, 2) puke uncontrollably in the midst/at the end of your workout, and/or 3) ending-up so sore that you can hardly move a limb for a week!

 Add to that, out-dated and extreme fitness cliches like: "No Pain No Gain""Go Hard Or Go Home""Train Till You Drop" etc etc and you can see why so many people equate personal training with torture, abuse and sadomasochism!

Fortunately, the truth is far from the above. I can safely say that the majority of legitimate and qualified trainers and coaches out there do NOT subscribe to such extreme or drastic training measures. In fact, most fitness authorities and experts have unreservedly stated that such drastic and extreme training methods are not only scientifically UNSOUND, but also extremely UNSAFE!!

From a professional point of view, I believe that proper exercise programming should always have SAFETY as its Number One Priority. It should also follow a logical sequence of PROGRESSION (in terms of scaling difficulty levels) and then finally, only if  there are NO existing medical concerns, contraindications or complications - then the program should also seek to actively CHALLENGE the individual - albeit always WITHIN that person's capabilities and limits - so as to elicit positive adaptations in the body. 

Certainly, NO sound or proper fitness program should ever seek to push you BEYOND your limits (nor even to the point of vomit-inducing) - just in the name of fitness or training!!!

5) We Are NOT Miracle Workers!


Sadly, in this age and time, there are still people out there who believe that simply by engaging a personal trainer or fitness coach gives them a FREE PASS to a fabulous body and/or supreme fitness!

Sorry to burst your bubble, folks, but that's NOT how life works!!!

The TRUTH is this: If you DON'T do your part - Nobody, and I mean NOBODY - can help you achieve that Ideal Body or Fitness of yours !

If one has been in this profession long enough, most personal trainers - including myself - would have come across the following types of clients - time and again:

- those who NEVER do their prescribed exercises or "homework" outside of supervised sessions,
- those who persistently FAIL to adhere to recommended dietary/nutritional practices,
- those who stubbornly REFUSE to change unhealthy lifestyle habits, and
- those who are always coming up with EXCUSES of one kind or another for their lack of progress and/or commitment ......

Please remember:  

A Personal Trainer is NOT a Miracle Worker! He/She CANNOT change you, if you are NOT willing to put in the required effort to change yourself!!

As Jim Rohn once said: "You must take Personal Responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change YOURSELF."

With the above account, I hope I have finally set the record straight - once and for all - on what we - personal trainers - are and are not.

Hopefully, these "hard truths" have given you some food for thought, and also, a deeper insight into the Life, Joy, Pain and Frustrations of every personal trainer and fitness coach out here on Planet Earth!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Post Natal Fitness Training: Myths, Thoughts & Concerns

As a personal trainer and pre-post natal exercise specialist, a large part of my job scope involves  working with postpartum clients here in Singapore - helping them to re-gain their pre-pregnancy figures, re-condition their Core and to re-build their fitness levels.

Journeying along with my female clients through this process, I can honestly say that it is both a rewarding and heartening experience for all involved, especially when we get to see - first-hand - the physical transformation of our clients gradually taking place right before our eyes.

At the same time, via my interaction with the postpartum population through the years, it is also apparent that many myths and concerns that women have with regards to a Post Natal Fitness Programme still exist.



Some of the more common ones are as follow:

1) I Must Wait At Least A MONTH Before I Can Do Any Sort Of Exercise!

This is absolutely NOT true! And the sad thing is that there are still pockets of medical professionals out there actively promoting this misconception to post-natal mums!

Putting aside any medical complication or valid medical reason, a postpartum lady can (and should) resume light re-conditioning and rehabilitative exercises, especially for their core and pelvic floor muscles, as soon as possible.

This is a classic case where the longer you wait, the longer you actually DELAY your recovery!

2) I Can Jump Straight Back To My Pre-Pregnancy Exercise Routine If I Feel Ready! 

At the other end of the spectrum, there are also some (albeit, a smaller minority) of post-natal clients who simply can't wait to resume their pre-pregnancy exercise routine and intensity without a second thought. These ladies usually belong to the category of avid exercisers and/or competitive sportswomen who have no qualms pushing themselves hard - the sooner, the better - they rationalize! 

My take on the above approach is this: Too Much Too Soon is also BAD for the body!    

Do remember that pregnancy does take a toil on a woman's body - physically and physiologically. Like it or not, the body does need time to recover, re-align and re-condition itself. As a result, any exercise programming has to take the above into account and has to proceed slowly and progressively.

Also, the presence of the hormone - Relaxin - still lingering within the body for a few months post-partum, does increase the risk of training injuries, if one is not careful.

Always aim to ease yourself back into your exercise routine gradually, and don't be afraid to slow down or even take a step back, if things just don't seem right.

3) I Must Do Lots Of Crunches To Flatten My Belly!

Crunches are OVER-RATED. Period.

And they should NOT be part of your immediate post-natal exercise arsenal.

Bearing in mind that many postpartum mums experience some form of abdominal laxity and separation (Diastasis Recti), doing crunches (which actually only stress the superficial abdominal muscles that have already been weakened and over-stretched during pregnancy) would only greatly aggravate the above condition - leading to other possible medical complications such as tissue tearing and hernias.

And also, in case you are wondering, crunches do LITTLE, if ANY, to help you burn belly fat off!

You'll be far better off doing specific core activation drills which target the deep underlying core musculature of your body, and other complementary strengthening and conditioning exercises to help you regain overall muscle tone, boost your metabolism and to help you burn body fat.

4) I Am Breast-Feeding So I Shouldn't Workout!

Barring any medical issue, you CAN and SHOULD work out even if you are breast-feeding.

Just make sure that you are taking in sufficient calories and drinking enough fluids through the day; and always put on a good support bra when working-out.

And in case you are wondering whether your exercise regime is going to have an effect on your breast milk in any way; the GOOD news is this: research has proven - without a single doubt - that light-to-moderate exercise does NOT affect the quality nor quantity of your milk production at all.

So take heart, go ahead, and feel free to enjoy your physical activities once again.

For more information on your post-partum exercise options, do also check out our Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs) Page On Post-Natal Fitness Training.




Friday, February 6, 2015

The Essence Of Environmental Fitness

To most people, the concept of Environmental Fitness is something relatively new and unfamiliar.

However, in its essence, it simply means: programming and structuring a fitness workout in your immediate environment: one that is ultimately familiar, convenient and accessible to you.

And to most of us living here in Singapore, such an environment can be anything and anywhere: from our own homes to an outdoor park, from a nearby children's playground to even a public car park.

Let's look in detail some of the more common locations for environmental fitness training, and the types of tools/props available in these environments that could be utilized for a great workout!

A) Home Workouts

Image of man working-out at home using a chair

ANY space in your home - sitting/dining area, bedroom, balcony, garage, backyard, etc - could be effectively and creatively used to give you an effective workout.

Add to that: common-place furniture such as chairs, tables, stools, bed frames etc to every-day household furnishings/fittings such as window/door grills, walls, stairs and steps - you basically have everything necessary for a great workout right in your home!

For more details on how to construct a professional home workout routine here in Singapore, do feel free to check out our Home-Based Training Services!

B) Park Workouts


With Singapore being widely-acclaimed as a Green City - hosting a wide range of accessible parks, gardens, nature reserves and other green infrastructures throughout the country, working-out in a park setting has never been easier and more convenient!

And with the majority of public parks fully-furnished with communal facilities like: benches, picnic tables, shelters, lamp-posts, fitness corners etc, together with Nature's very own 'props' such as trees, branches, fallen logs, and open grass patches, park environments indeed make excellent and ideal workout locations!

Check out our Park Workout Series today for more details on how best to utilize a park environment for your own training routine.

C) Playground Workouts


Image of ladies working-out at a children's playground.

Playgrounds are common entities found in Singapore - seen practically in every corner of the island, scattered among both neighbourhood HDB residential blocks, private housing areas, public parks and gardens.

And with most playgrounds nowadays fully-equipped with modern children's equipment (which really make excellent training props!!!) - such as slides, ladders, monkey bars, balance beams, swing sets etc - drawing up an exercise routine using available playground props is often limited only by one's imagination and creativity..........

For more information on how best to utilize your neighbourhood playground to sculpt and shape your body, do check out our Playground Workout Series today!

D) Fitness Corner Workouts


Image of Outdoor Fitness Corner Equipment

Found in every HDB and private housing estate here in Singapore, as well as in most public parks and nature reserves in the country, the ubiquitous fitness corner is a great starting point to embark upon one's fitness journey!

Equipped with all-weather fitness apparatus and outdoor exercise stations such as: parallel and uneven beams, pull-up bars, step platforms, overhead log press stations, sit-up benches and more, these fitness corners offer residents a convenient and hassle-free route to fitness.

Check out our Public Fitness Corner Workout Series today for more ideas on how to use these fitness corners and their various exercise stations optimally in your own fitness routine.

D) Beach Workouts

Image of a man working-out on the beach

Singapore, being an island and surrounded by water on all sides, is blessed with great shorelines and beaches along its coasts - presenting a superb environment to get in shape in the company of Sun, Sand and Sea!

And most of the props found on our beach fronts: including benches, picnic tables, lifeguard stands, sea walls, lamp posts, poles, fences and not forgetting the surrounding soft sand and palm trees - all serve as great training tools for the Creative Fitness Mind out there!
 
For more details on how best to utilize our beaches and shorelines for a fantastic fitness workout, do check out our Beach Workout Series today!

E) Stadium Workouts

Image of woman running up stadium stairs.

Public Stadiums are another ever-present amenity found in Singapore - conveniently scattered across the island for easy access.

Modern and fully-equipped: from the 400-meter synthetic track to the sideline benches to the surrounding bleachers  to the stadium steps/stairs, the stadium presents the perfect workout arena for the fitness enthusiast.

Check out our Stadium Workout Series today to see how we can help you to achieve your fitness goals right at your nearest stadium.

D) Car Park Workouts

Image of empty parking lots all set for exercising

Being an urban and metropolitan city, Singapore has a wide range of parking facilities. From open-air parking lots to indoor multi-storey car parks to underground parking facilities, we seem to have them all.

 At first glance, a car park or parking lot may seem like a queer location for a workout, but in reality, with the right dose of fitness know-how and creativity, an empty, safe parking lot makes a great training location!

Utilizing amenities such as the parking lot space, signage boards, kerbs, horizontal floor lines etc - one can actually have a full-body workout right in the middle of a parking lot!
 
For more details on how best to utilize our car parks and parking lots for a great fitness workout, do check out our Car Park Workout Series today!

Conclusion

Hopefully, by now, this whole concept of  Environmental Fitness has got you all excited and pumped-up over the limitless possibilities and usages of your immediate environment!!!

If you're anything like me, the next time you come across a park, a children's playground or even an empty parking lot, no longer would you look at them with the same, old way and shrug them off as mere commodities in your environment or estate; but rather, view them as your next potential exercise location!

Time to work out a good sweat in your neighbourhood environment now?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Common Fitness Mistakes And Training Misconceptions Encountered In Singapore

Recently, in one of my more contemplative moments, I decided to take a trip back in time, and tried to objectively compare the fitness scene now in Singapore with that maybe just 6-8 years ago.

And what truly amazed me is this: how interest and participation in Fitness & Health have truly skyrocketed in Singapore in just these few mere years! The ever-increasing statistics of residents engaging in sports and physical activities, a mushrooming and vibrant fitness scene where practically  EVERY imaginable kind, type and shape of fitness class, exercise course, event, race, competition and even training facility and venue - catering to every whim and fancy - have emerged in the country.

All in all, the evidence point to the fact that Singapore is indeed fast becoming a major Fitness Hub in the world - like it or not!

Fitness Classes Are Highly-Popular In Singapore!

However - and this is just my personal opinion - these outward physical, infrastructural and statistical upswing in the fitness scene in Singapore, do NOT seem matched to a corresponding increase in scientific fitness know-how, sound fitness philosophy, or even proper application among its residents.

Lest I may sound overly harsh in my opinion, let's consider the following observations that I have noted and made through my years serving as a Fitness Professional & Consultant in Singapore:

A) Tendency To Increase Training Resistance At The Expense Of Form And Technique

This problem has been around for as far as I could remember: simply too many gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts are still overly-obsessed with poundages, weight or resistance when it comes to strength training.

Just observe any individual performing a typical resistance workout, and you'll apt to find the form-book being thrown out of the window - sooner rather than later - in an attempt to satisfy one's EGO of handling ever-increasing loads of resistance.

As important as resistance is in any weight-training program, it should NEVER EVER precede Form and Technique - without which, serious implications such as overtraining, injuries and even death may occur.

Lifting Heavy Weights At The Expense Of Good Form Is Dangerous!

B) Preference For Training Only The Anterior Muscle Groups

The lure of VANITY has also resulted in many fitness enthusiasts today developing tunnel vision in their training - often focusing only on the muscle groups that are the most visible along the FRONT of the body (what fitness experts term the "anterior chain muscles"), while neglecting the vital posterior chain group of muscles running down the BACK of the body.

In a typical scenario, an individual would devote over 90% of his/her time and efforts on the Chest, Arms and Abdominal muscles, while conveniently 'forgetting' and neglecting the all-important middle-lower back combination group of muscles, gluteal muscles, hamstrings and calves.

Engaging in such a skewed program would ironically NEGATE whatever physical aesthetics and proportion one is pursuing in the long run (think: drooping chest, hunched back, flat butt, thin calves etc) and serve only to create further imbalances in the body and increase one's risk of attaining serious injuries in the long haul.

Only by including what experts term: Posterior Chain Training in our fitness workouts - would it help to correct many of the above faults and imbalances, and help the body to return to its proper equilibrium.


Working Only The Anterior Chain Muscles Will Result In Imbalances

C) Equating Effort (Sweat) With Progress

Frankly, I think the over-use and misunderstanding of certain popular terms in the fitness industry, such as - "Sweat It Out", "No Pain, No Gain", "Just Do It", "Go All Out" etc - are all to be blamed for this phenomenon - where one develops the FALSE notion or MYTH that the amount of sweat or effort generated during a workout would translate to an equal and direct gain in fitness progress or results!

Honestly, I've lost count of the number of times where I've come across individuals whose notion of a "Great Workout" is one where they claimed to have lost "buckets of sweat" or felt "wrung-out" or "shattered" or even "totally sore"!!

Sorry, folks. But let's get ONE thing straight - once and for all.

The amount of perspiration that you have lost and your sense of overall general fatigue and even your degree of muscle soreness are NOT accurate indicators of your workout performance or your progress!

These are merely temporal side effects influenced by a variety of factors, including: the temperature and humidity of your immediate environment, your hydration levels, your recovery abilities, your mental focus on that day, or even the amount of sleep/rest you got the previous night before etc etc .

Exercising To Fatigue Is Not Necessarily A Sign Of Progress!

D) Neglecting The Vital Components Of Stabilization, Mobility, Recovery And More

In my opinion, too many fitness enthusiasts still train in a VACUUM today - whether they know it or not.

Meaning, some train purely for aesthetic changes - with absolutely NO notions or regards to functionality or skill transferability; while others train solely for very specific fitness components (e.g. training for either Strength OR Flexibility OR Endurance) to the exclusion of other fitness components.

Whichever of the above scenarios you look at, both, I feel, are equally off the mark, erroneous and dangerous.

Think about it: Fitness encompasses MUCH MORE than just those few components listed above; it includes many others such as Mobility, Stabilization, Recovery, Balance, Coordination etc etc.

Every single one of them is a VITAL component of an all-rounded, balanced fitness lifestyle, and should be given EQUAL weightage when it comes to training.

Yet, sadly, so many of us simply do NOT bother to engage them in our workouts, preferring to do only what appeals to us, or what is deemed popular or acceptable, instead of what is NEEDED!

In fact, neglecting any of them will only seriously jeopardize our overall fitness progress over the long run, and negate whatever fitness gains we may have achieved over time.

The solution to the above is to partake in what fitness authorities would call Holistic or Integrated Training - where ALL components of fitness are equally emphasized and worked upon. This will ensure equity and all-roundedness in any fitness regime.

Stability Training Is Important For All-Round Fitness

E) Relying On Popular Media For Fitness Guidance

With the advent of the Internet Age, more and more people are now turning to YouTube, Facebook and other popular social networking sites to get information on fitness.

Unfortunately, as we all know, the World Wide Web has always been - and still is (and perhaps even more so) - a deep PIT of unseen, lurking dangers .... so much so that most fitness (mis)information found on it, are at best: mediocre, questionable, unfounded or biased; and at worst: downright unreliable, inaccurate and even DANGEROUS!

The last thing you, me and anybody else would want is to bank our entire fitness success and progress on some face-less, online, pseudo-expert's idea of fitness training!

The advice to counter the mass of fitness (mis)information on the Internet is this: always seek to EDUCATE yourself first, by:

1) accessing and reading scientific exercise journals and serious health publications as a start - by the way, we are NOT referring to those off-the-rack, ad-laden, bare-bodied "fitness/health magazines" we find all over newsstands nowadays - many are just as BAD, if not WORSE - than the stuff you find on the Internet,

2) enrol yourself in short academic courses on holistic health, fitness, nutrition etc, - and no, you don't have to consider changing jobs to be a personal trainer or fitness coach in order to do that too,

- BEFORE actually accessing all the Internet videos, audios, images and what-nots - so that you are equipped with sufficient knowledge to separate the chaff from the wheat.

Alternatively, do seek out any reputable and qualified fitness sources here in Singapore in order to verify or clarify any doubts you may have regarding what you read/see/hear on the Internet.


Internet Mis-Information Can Jeopardize Your Fitness Progress

F) Relying On Fellow Gym-Goers For Fitness Advice

Many times, we have the WRONG notion that just because someone who is in a Better Shape than us, or who is Stronger than us, or who simply Seems To Be More Knowledgeable than us when it comes to exercise and training, is necessarily someone worthy to seek advice from.

How wrong we are! In fact, this is often a classic case of where Appearances Flatter To Deceive!

In this scenario, the person concerned - usually a fellow gym-goer or exerciser - while seemingly knowledgeable when it comes to training his/her OWN body; in reality, may have absolutely NO CLUE whatsoever - when it comes to the health, fitness and bodies of OTHER people!

More crucially, he/she may NOT even possess the basic credentials nor formal education to be able to guide and to coach us safely and correctly in our fitness pursuits!

As such, don't ever make the fundamental mistake of treating your gym buddy, your workout partner or your fellow gym-goer as a TRAINER, COACH or MENTOR.

Keep the relationship simple, straightforward and the way it is meant to be: he/she is just someone to accompany you in your training regime, to buddy-up for certain exercises, and at most, to shout words of encouragement to you or spot you with a heavy weight as and when the need arises.

Other than that, ONLY you - and perhaps, your personal doctor, fitness trainer or health coach - should be the ONLY other persons you should ever trust and seek - when you need professional advice on your health and fitness matters.

A WRONG Training Partner Would Do More Harm Than Good!

In conclusion, most, if not all, of the above fitness mistakes and training misconceptions can be AVOIDED if we bother to put in some effort and time into educating ourselves, into searching out the right sources of information, and in seeking out reliable and reputable professional fitness guidance when we need them.


Monday, December 23, 2013

What Does Core Training Mean To You?

To me, the Human Core has always been one of the most fascinating and intriguing areas of study in exercise science.

And despite having been involved in the fitness industry here in Singapore for well over a decade, I still find the subject of Core Training or Core Fitness wildly exciting and pretty amazing.

Image of a client performing the kettlebell swing for the core
The Kettlebell Swing - A Great All-Round Core Exercise

As a fitness professional, I have been privileged to been exposed to the many different concepts, interpretations and understandings of what constitutes the Human Core and the varied types of training modalities associated with that area.

Unfortunately, most of this knowledge is NOT readily available to most of the general population - at least not here in Singapore - based on the numerous misconceptions, fallacies and erroneous training methods that I encounter frequently among members of the general public and the gym-going majority. It just seems that every other person that I come across is either misinformedconfused or simply ignorant over the whole issue of core fitness out there.

So let's see if we can make things a little bit clearer here .........

Well, firstly, what is the Human Core? Without going into the deep technicalities and terminologies associated with it, the Core is essentially made up of a large, complex group of muscles running along the - front, back and sides - of the human torso and spine. These muscles are responsible for supporting and stabilizing our entire back, spine and shoulders, and help us practically in all aspects of our daily existence: from our posture, to our balance, to our movement, to our day-to-day physical activities, and on top of these, they also play a crucial role in injury prevention.

Image of a lady performing the barbell overhead press.
The Overhead Barbell Press - Another Great Movement For The Human Core

How then should we best go about training the core? This is where differences in opinions and approaches arise even from among the most seasoned fitness experts and authorities from around the world.

For me, in line with my professional fitness philosophy and approach, I adhere to the school of thought that the Core Should Always Be Trained As A Single, Inter-Connected Unit Of The Body, due to the complexity, inter-related and integrated nature of the various core muscles.

In other words, when we train the core, we should literally FORGET about small, isolated movements like crunches or sit-ups, and instead think along the lines of big, compound dynamic movements like Deadlifts, Wood Chops, Farmer's Walk, Squats, Overhead Presses, Roll-Outs etc, complemented with selected full-body static drills like the 4-Way Pillar Move (Plank, Side Plank - both right & left sides, Hip Bridge etc).

Image of a woman demonstrating the plank exercise.
The Standard Plank - A Static Move To Work The Core Muscles

I also firmly believe that the core should always be worked through a wide range of movements, planes and angles, using as many different kinds of functional equipment and tools as possible (examples: bosu balls, stability balls, suspension trainers, kettlebells, medicine balls etc)

Indeed, training the core can be pretty complex, scientific and multi-faceted - even to the initiated, what's more to those who are uninitiated.

No wonder so many of us out there are intimidated and confused over how best to go about working our core optimally.

If you are one of them, and your core health is really a primary concern for you, fret not. I suggest you do your part first: by reading up as much as you can about core fitness from reliable and reputable sources such as: scientific publications, exercise science journals, academic papers etc........

Image of a man performing the Farmer's Walk with kettlebells.
The Farmer's Walk  - An Underrated But Excellent Core Movement

And then, feel free also to check out our Core Fitness Services and Core Training FAQs Section to see how we can help.

Remember: Core Training is BOTH a Science and an Art. As such, it has to be approached from BOTH a scientific perspective as well as from a personalized angle in order to bring about permanent transformation and lasting results.