A Journey to Being Fitter

Have you ever had comments about how fitness came easy to you? How getting fit or being “slim” is due to your genes or that exercising comes naturally to you?

 

Most of the time, I let these comments slide pass me. Like water off a duck’s back. More recently, I realised that this does not give any of our stories any justice. What stories you ask? Well, the story of struggles and little accumulation of decisions that makes us who we are.

 

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Does this photo shock you? I was 15 years old and was in the school band. I think I weighed approximately 70 kgs then.

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How about this one? I was 21 years old and probably weighed around 80kgs.

See, fitness did not come easy to me. As a child, I have treats such as soft drinks, fruit juices and sometimes chocolates and chips.  As a typical asian family, we eat a lot of rice. However, we rarely eat out and I would say we eat home cooked food pretty much everyday. Not overly unhealthy. No deep fried food or Macdonalds. In fact, we have a lot of fish, chicken and soups.  So how did I gain all these weight? Looking back, I think I neglected to think about portion sizes. I eat whatever and whenever. I do not listen to my body of when it’s satiated. I went by feelings. I FELT like some food so I just eat. Pretty typical of most teenagers I think.

Being in University probably did not help. For the first time, I cook and did groceries shopping for myself. I lived on instant pasta packages, bottled sauces and indomie.  Sometimes, I could finish a packet of potato chips in one sitting. I gained 10-12kgs in one year.

I wrote before that I lost a lot of weight in my early twenties. Following the first two years of University, I had a health scare. A lump at the back of my neck. Tests revealed that it was just my lymph node reacting to stress and there wasn’t any serious health concerns to go with it. However, it totally freaked me out. That, and in addition to me being in size 16 or 18 clothes, looking frumpy, exhibiting IBS symptoms and feeling awful in generally made me decide to sign up for a gym membership. You know the drill, I attended Les Mills classes, ran on a threadmill and had a few personal training sessions. I started cutting back on my food portion sizes. Choosing to eat a small bowl of rice rather than a plate. Cutting a chocolate bar into 3 portions rather than finishing it in one sitting. Eating yogurt as dessert and choosing more vegetables for my main meal. It worked. I lost 30-35kgs. That took me 4 years.

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(May 2009)

By then, I was in my mid twenties. I became engaged and got married to a wonderful guy who loved me when I was obese and supported me through my weight lost journey journey. I graduated and also started work.

It didn’t happen overnight. However, I started to feel my clothes getting tighter. I ran more. I ate less. I had all those low fat products that you see on the markets. Oats for breakfasts. Chicken salad for lunch. Stir fry with rice for dinner. Most nights we hd pastas or noodles. Snacks were low fat yogurts, low fat muffins and fruits. I was feeling lethargic and falling sick often. It wasn’t good. I decided running wasn’t good enough. I re joined a gym and started going for zumba classes. Two hour classes I would attend. My stamina improved, i was feeling better again. I started boxing classes. I loved them! I was hitting the gym 6-7 hours a week. I was eating clean 80% of the time and was scheduling cheat meals and days. I go crazy during cheat days and would eat chocolate bars, potato chips and have massive desserts. Still my weight was more stable and my body fat was hovering around the 21-22% mark.

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(Oct 2012)

In between, I was also diagnosed with PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. That may explain why I struggled with weight loss and was feeling crap. On top of that, my husband and I were told we could not have kids. That shocked us again. I was 28 years young.

 

Re-evaluating our lives, we decided to cut back on stress. We reduced social, church and work commitments. We began to live life simply. We started going away on short and long trips to re group and rest. We scheduled in rest. We started acupuncture. More importantly, we ate clean. Cutting on processed food and focused on good produce from markets. Guess what? I fell pregnant and had a baby before I was 29 years of age.

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(June 2013)

I mentioned before I gained a lot of weight when I was pregnant. 27 kgs in fact. I returned to the gym and started doing Konga, Metabolic Conditioning and also Boxing 6 weeks post delivery. Through eating clean and being consistent. I lost MORE than 27 kgs. In fact, I lost 33 kgs by the time baby was 7 months. My body fat has dropped significantly. I am fitted and healthier than I was BEFORE I became pregnant. We ate 90% clean. I have no cheat meals or days. Rather, if we eat out or want a treat, I just go for it. No guilt or regrets. (PS: I had a creme brûlée mini tart on Saturday from KoKo Black and it was AMAZING).  (Pps- noticed I said mini tart and also I should mentioned I shared that with my hubby. We also shared chocolate truffles and a mocha).

I’m happier within myself because life wasn’t about me or hubby. I have a little man to look after and he is a joy. Yes, those sleep deprivation nights and days are a pain but when he looked at me with love in his eyes, big cuddles, or reaching a milestone, my heart swells with joy. Looking back, being happier in general certainly help my body recover. I truly believe it heals from within. The mind and body connection is true and things started falling in place.

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(Taken in March 2014. I found a pair of shorts that I used to wear when I was 16)

Yes, I breastfed my baby. Yes, it helped. No, it was not the miracle answer. I trained 3-4 hours a week and ate well. On days that I do not train, I walk heaps. I do squats, lunges and thrusters with my baby. I do silly dances. I do everything a mum does. I also stretch, relax and do pilates at home from time to time. I eat chocolate. I drink coffee.

 

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(Photos taken in Sept 2013, Oct 2013, Nov 2013 and Dec 2013 as part of a 12 weeks eating clean and exercising challenge)

It was NOT easy. There were no shortcuts. It was consistency and being disciplined that got me the results I wanted. I’m not perfect. There are fitness goals that I still want to achieve.  I am less critical of myself and embrace my new body (excess skin and all) a little more. I count my blessings my body is able to function well and I have a baby boy to boost of. I am a mum and I’m proud of that. You see, there are more reasons to be healthy. I want my son to have a set of healthy parents and a lifestyle that will make him strong and healthy. He needs to see that life is to be enjoyed and health is to be earned.

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(June 2014)

 To the naysayers out there. To people who often comment that it is nature who gave me what I have. That’s not true. I made quite a few decisions over this period of time.

– I want to be fitter. So I started doing more activity.

– I need to be smarter about time. What can I do to have a better bang for my time?  I train 3-4 hours a week by doing metabolic conditioning and boxing. That’s nearly half the time I used to spent at the gym. I have a growing weight aka baby that I use to go for walks and exercises. He has fun and I got some movement happening. FIY this morning I did 20 squats, 20 thrusters and 15 minutes of Pilates with him.

– I plan my meals. I write a menu weekly and we shop accordingly. My fridge is full of vegetables and fruits on Saturday and quite empty by the following Friday.

– I kept a diary and tracked my food intake for 6 months. I no longer do the calorie counting thing now. The early days of tracking ensure that I have enough nutrition. I found that I under eat as I am usually too busy with baby to remember I’m hungry. That is bad news because I would stuff my mouth when I sit down in the evening when baby is asleep.

– I have a coach and a team of close friends who kept encouraging me.

– I started experimenting and making our snacks and desserts. I made the decision that eating clean should be delicious. I make snacks, breakfasts and meals for my whole family.

– I threw away anything that is processed. I have no flour in my pantry.

– I plan emergency meals. Those nights that I am too tired to cook? We would have roast chicken from the deli with a salad, or take away from our local sushi place for some sashimi salad. I might have dishes that I bulk cook stashed away in the freezer that we could re heat.

-Most of my friends and family are aware of my plans to be healthy. Some thought I was obsessive and over the top but most came to the table when they saw my results. It took YEARS for them to realise that eating clean for me is a lifelong decision. I was consistent through these years, hence most came around more recently. Note: I really think that not having cheat days helped demonstrate consistency. Cheat days or meals denote that there are bad food should be eaten on a certain day. On hindsight, that’s a diet. Eating clean mostly and then enjoying food when you want in moderation is living life.

– I educated myself about portion sizes. I slow down when I eat. I remember that food is for nourishment and enjoyment.

– I do silly dances and gave mental pats on my back when I achieved mini goals at the gym.

– I decided to be kinder to myself. It’s ok not to workout daily. A stretch to me is a workout too. Like everyone, I have had crappy days at the gym. I have days when I don’t feel as good as I like to be. On the other side of the coin, I have more days that I feel productive, happy and loved. That’s being a human.

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(April 2014)

Overall, I learned that being healthy is part of my identity. It’s not a phase. I’m not on a diet. It did not happen overnight. No, i’m not a runner. No, it’s not because I’m “young”. No, it’s not because I have not been eating. No, it’s not because of my breastfeeding.

I’m not saying that those factors did not contribute to it. I’m saying that it took effort, time, planning and consistency. It took tweaking of meals and exercise programs. It was a mindset shift. There were no magic portions or pills.

So before you comment to someone that it was because >>>>> of some magical reason that they lost weight or looked good, perhaps consider that it was a series of decision and actions that got the person where they want to be.

Because life is a journey. My journey has just began.

 

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 (May 2014)

 

 

 

Workout: 20 min kettlebell AMRAP

Today’s Workout:

5 rounds of 40:20 (40 seconds work 20 seconds rest)

  1. Goblet Squats
  2. Sprints (originally kettlebell cleans)
  3. Halo (20s each way)
  4. Kettlebell Swings

Don’t underestimate this workout – I did. It was 20 minutes of solid hard work! The cleans were subbed as not all of us were comfortable with the movement yet.

Good fun 🙂

Filthy 50

There was once upon a time where I can’t even do thrusters. Yes, thrusters are my nemesis. A previous car accident means my shoulder and neck muscles are prone to injuries. I struggled to finish a drill before with 15 kg and had to go down to just using a bar. That was incident 1. In incident 2, I could hardly do 15 thrusters with 10 kg in 40 seconds.

 

But there is something encouraging and uplifting when you overcome your nemesis.

 

So we did Filthy 50 yesterday. yup! 10 exercises. 50 reps. Sounds awesome right?

Those movements were:

– Trx Rows

– Overhead squats

– box jumps

– Push ups

-Kb Swings

– Sit ups

– Thursters

-Bicycles

-Mountain Climbers

– Burpees.

In actual fact, I had 3 nemesis in this WOD. Overhead squats aren’t my favourite but neither are box jumps. I just can’t freakin get over in my head to jump up a box post pregnancy! (Yes, I could do it pre pregnancy. I’m still puzzled by that). Well, I will conquer that one day. Now, I’m jumping on a shorter step to get myself acquainted with jumping to a higher platform again. My head did perceive things differently after a baby!

Filthy 50 tests everything. Endurance, technique, cardio, strength. If you don’t feel it today, you will tomorrow.

I did it  under 25 minutes. Each and every one of those exercises. It’s not GREAT timing but it’s a WOD done. A more challenging one as well. What helped?

1) Breathing. Just practising to breathe right through the nose and huff out through each squats.

2) Concentrating on using my glutes. Technique helps. I’m pushing using my hips through squats.

3) Concentrating on form and using my core. EVERYTHING uses the core. When I slack, everything slack. keep it tight and the movements flow.

4) Counting to 30 and then start counting backwards. Mentally, the numbers go smaller and seems manageable.

5) Taking some breaks. For push ups, thrusters and burpees, I broke the set up. I did 3 sets of 10 and then if need be, break it to 5s. I try to stick with 10s.

6) Having encouraging friends around help. I learned this as a participant but also when seeing others doing their work out. A gentle “GO!” and “You can do this!” makes a difference.

 

The feeling of achieving and finishing something you struggled before? Amazing.

Workout: 100 Thrusters

Throughout the week you vary the movements in your workouts so you end up with a good workout to different areas of your body with sufficient rest. Every now and then we will do a challenge to see how long it takes us to complete 100 reps of something with an EMOM to break it up. Today’s challenge was Thrusters

100 Thrusters with 10 TRX rows EMOM

Our Times

  • 6:00
  • 7:50

How did this workout feel?

First, your weight should be challenging, you want to be breaking every now and then. After a while I had to stop every 7-10 reps for a quick breather before pumping out more reps.

Form is 100% most important when you are doing lots of reps of the same movement. I will stress this in every workout post. Your form will want to drop as the same parts are being used over and over. Go slower if needed but do not sacrifice form! Do not give in! Make sure your weight is not so heavy that you are at an increased risk of injury (exercise will always come with a risk, but be reasonable). If you feel you can not maintain form, definitely switch to a lower weight – remember – you can always work your way up – you can’t exercise at all if you injure yourself.

  • 1-50 is something I have done several time before and while challenging, was manageable.
  • 50-80 sucked. This is where you’re more than halfway, so close but so far feeling, just had to keep pushing. It helps to count how many you have left rather than focusing on a big number. The trx rows help to re group.
  • 80-100 you can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Everyone is different but Mel prefers not to use the mirror and concentrate on her movements while Daphne uses the mirror to correct her form.

After this, you sit and rain sweat for a few minutes while your heart rate goes way up and then recover. Then take it in because you have just completed 100 amazing thrusters!

 

Workout: 14.5

For Time:
21-18-15-12-9-6-3
Thrusters x Front Burpees
Barbell Thruster = medium challenging weight (I used 20kg)
Front Burpee = burpee facing the barbell, jump over the barbell – 2 feet to 2 feet
My Time: 13 minutes
This was the workout for the 2014 CrossFit Open in California. My instructor thought this would be a good challenge to give us a rough idea of where we are in our fitness levels in comparison to the best of the best in CrossFit.
Boy was this a challenge! By the time I was through with this, sweat was raining from my head for at least 10 minutes.
See this link for the world championship video, tips and best times: