2016: A Year in Retrospect

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Now that we’re inching that much closer to the New Year, I thought I’d share some great experiences and changes I’ve made throughout 2016. I’m not saying that I’ve perfected my fitness routines or completely eliminated all sweets and desserts. A healthy lifestyle is different for everybody, and I’m definitely still learning but here are several habits that have greatly improved my health in 2016.

Dietary

  1. Meal prep on weekdays
  2. Eating out on weekends, but still getting enough greens & protein in each meal
  3. Snacking on fruit, nuts or yoghurt in between meals
  4. Eating 3 – 4 types of vegetables for lunch and dinner
  5. Enjoying something sweet for breakfast, usually peanut butter & banana on toast or oatmeal
  6. Drinking at least 4 litres of water every day, plus 1 -2 litres after working out
  7. Switching coffee for tea (chai and matcha latte are my saviours)

Fitness

  1. Signed up for free workout sessions (I’ve been lucky to participate in several this year)
  2. Strength training (either with Bodytone or at home) 2 – 3 times weekly
  3. HIIT 2 – 3 times weekly
  4. Hot Pilates 2 times weekly
  5. 1 rest day (which I spend getting a massage and/or facial)
  6. August – 10km marathon by Standard Chartered KL
  7. November – 2-hour Zumba Festival by SCORE Fitness

Next year, I’ll be focusing a lot more on my strength and flexibility, so I’ll be practicing yoga and lifting heavier weights consistently. There’s no set plan yet as I want to enjoy my holiday as much as possible, but I’ll get back on track in January. Here’s to more great adventures in 2017!

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Women’s Health Fitness Squad with Calvin Klein Performance

Join The Women’s Health X CK Performance Fitness Squad!

Back in November, I attended an exclusive bootcamp session by Women’s Health Magazine Malaysia and Calvin Klein Performance. Held at Celebrity Fitness Mid Valley, only 60 ladies were chosen for this event so needless to say, I was incredibly lucky to be able to be part of such an event.

Itinerary

8.00am      –   Registration and T-shirt collection (Celebrity Fitness, Mid Valley)

8.30am      –   Bootcamp starts

10.00am    –   Bootcamp ends (proceed to the new Calvin Klein Performance outlet)

10.30am    –   Introduction of The Fitness Squad by Editor-in-Chief Sueann Chong and styling talk by Fashion and Beauty Editor Audra Roslani

10.45am    –   Refreshment, Shopping & collection of goodie bags

11.30am    –   End (announcement of selfie contest winners)

After collecting and changing into our Calvin Klein workout top, we were ushered into an air-conditioned hall to do 10 – 15 minutes of light warmups. After a quick speech by Sueann, editor of Women’s Health Malaysia, we were divided into groups of 20 and our trainers of the day led us to different workout stations.

There are 3 stations, each of which has 2 trainers teaching us how to do 4 types of HIIT (high-intensity training) exercises. We have 1 minute to complete each exercise before switching to the next one. Thankfully, I’m familiar with all of the exercises but that didn’t mean I was breezing away!

Station 1:

  • Burpees
  • Elbow Plank
  • Walking Lunges
  • Bodyweight Squats
  • Lizard Jumps

Station 2

  • Plank Jacks
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Flutter Jacks
  • Lateral Skater Jumps

Station 3

  • Push Up and Medicine Ball Tap
  • Situps
  • Squat Jumps
  • Jumping Lunges

Whew! It was one challenging bootcamp session for me, especially when it came to Lateral Skater Jumps. I was (still am) rather uncoordinated whenever legs are involved, so I had to stop a few times to find my balance and get the moves right, only managing to do so during the last 20 second of the interval (oops).

After our cooldown and a quick photo session with the entire crew, we went down to the Calvin Klein Performance outlet where refreshments were served courtesy of Delicious Café. All of us were also entitled to a 30% storewide discount and a shot at winning RM500 CK Performance shopping vouchers. Even though I didn’t win, I was still happy I got a free workout top and session that day.

I would like to thank Women’s Health Magazine Malaysia for their efforts in empowering women to look and feel their best regardless of age, size, and lifestyle. Looking forward to the next Fitness Squad session!

Bodytone Mont Kiara’s Beach Bod Workout (Thursday 17/8)

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Disclaimer: this post was written a while ago (Thursday 17th August, 2016 to be exact), but I really want to share my experience at one of my favourite fitness studios in KL. 

I was in Malacca with my fiancé and his family for the weekend and ended up about 2kg heavier thanks to all the good food and Klebang coconut shakes! We did a lot of walking in Jonker Street but the hot weather had me craving more food so it didn’t really help much. So this week, I booked a session with Bodytone called Beach Bod with Nasrun which I’ve never done before but I’ve heard good things from other members.

I arrived quite early so I updated my measurements using the Body Composition Analysis as my previous test was done about two months ago. Basically it’s an upgraded weighing scale that also detects your BMI, WHR (waist-to-hip ratio) BMR (basal metabolic rate), lean body mass, body fat mass, etc. Thankfully, the results came out relatively positive:

  • Weight: – 1.9kg
  • Muscle +0.5kg
  • Fat -1.2kg
  • BMR +12 calories

Unsurprisingly, I felt more motivated to work out so once everybody got ready, we moved right on Beach Bod. Here’s what we did for total of 45 minutes after a five-minute warmup.

  • Set 1:

Kettlebell Deadlift + Squat + Press – 20 reps (5kg)

Plank – 1 min

  • Set 2

Dumbbell Press + Rotate – 14 reps (4kg on each hand)

Side plank (right) 30s

Side plank (left) 30s

  • Set 3

Push Up + Mountain Climbers – 14 reps

Russian Twist with Kettlebell – 20 reps (5kg)

Reverse Crunch – 20 reps

Repeat each group of exercises three times, rest for about 20 seconds before moving on to the next one. Although I did the entire workout on a Power Plate, these exercises can be done in your living room or gym and are equally (if not more) challenging if you’re using heavier weights. Good luck!

Avocado Pesto Pasta

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetGreat for when you’re famished and pressed for time, this recipe for avocado pesto takes less than 5 minutes to make. While I topped my pasta with just a poached egg and tomato slices, you can add whatever ingredient you have on hand – smoked salmon, chili flakes with baby spinach work wonderfully as well.

Avocado Pesto Pasta Recipe

1 avocado, halved & pitted
100g basil leaves
50g baby spinach
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon of olive oil
¼ teaspoon of salt & black pepper
2 ounce uncooked pasta
1 organic egg, poached
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

  • Combine the first 5 ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth
  • Place pasta into a pot of boiling water and let it cook until done (about 8 mins)
  • Drain pasta onto mixing bowl
  • Add pesto and mix until pasta is fully coated
  • Divide into two plates
  • Top with tomato slices (and poached egg if desired)

FitnessBlender – Working Out with Youtube

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Today’s post is dedicated to the Youtube channel that kick-started my fitness journey back in 2015 – Fitness Blender. Helmed by Daniel and Kelli, you can find hundreds of free full-length workout videos, fitness tips, and even refreshingly honest testimonies of their very own weight and health issues.

What I love about Fitness Blender’s videos is that they’re tailored for those living in small spaces and don’t have access to a fancy gym, which is an intimidating space for someone who’s never worked out before. I choose to watch workouts done by Kelli because unlike other workout videos I’ve seen on Youtube, her videos are not sexualized AT ALL – no weird close-ups of her butt or chest, no raunchy dance music – and like a normal human being, she struggles to complete the last few reps.

On days when I’m not attending Hot Pilates and Bodytone classes, I’ll be home working out using Fitness Blender videos which comprise HIIT, yoga & stretching, cardio, abs, and weightlifting. Although some of the workouts require the use of dumbbells, you can easily use your own bodyweight to tackle them. My fiancé’s condominium has an onsite gym so I now have free access to the weight room (yay!).

They also have an official website which offers inexpensive workout programs, printable routines, fitness tests, and healthy recipes while their Youtube videos are categorized according to difficulty, body focus, training type, etc. Whether you’re an exercise newbie or unabashed gym junkie, you’ll be sure to find a workout video on Fitness Blender that challenges you.

Hot Pilates Sculpt at Urban Spring Bangsar

Hot Pilates

Located in Bangsar, Urban Spring is a chic fitness boutique that specializes in Pilates, Hot Pilates and Xtend Barre, each of which takes place in separate studios. For the normal Pilates class, the studio comes equipped with equipment to help enhance your workout, including Trapeze table, Reformers, Ladder Barrel, Spine Corrector, Orbit, foam rollers, baby arcs, and magic circles.

Meanwhile, the Hot Pilates studio accommodates about 12 people at a time, featuring floor-to-ceiling mirrors, wooden flooring, and yoga mats. The room is also heated at around 40 Degrees Celsius throughout the entire duration of the class – needless to say, you WILL be sweating buckets within the first 15 minutes.

I’ve been severely slacking when it comes to my Hot Pilates classes, mostly due to conflicting schedules on my part. I usually attend weekday sessions after 5.30pm (but no later than 7pm) as I finish work at 5pm while my weekends are usually booked for Bodytone, movies, lunch dates, and at-home workouts. Luckily, this month’s schedule has not one, but two Hot Pilates classes that are perfect for me – 6.45pm on Tuesday & 6.35pm on Thursday.

I attended Thursday evening’s Hot Pilates Sculpt, which incorporates light weights and various equipment into traditional mat Pilates to help increase your calorie burn. My instructor was Maria, and she’s easily one of my favourite trainers at Urban Spring due to her cheerful mannerism and easy-to-follow instructions.

Overall, my session went rather smoothly, though I did struggle a bit when we did repeated lunges while balancing a magic circle over our heads.  My thigh muscles are always fatigued from regular HIIT and strength training so the combination of heat and Pilate exercises managed to alleviate some of the stiffness by the end of the hour-long class.

If you’re looking for a low-impact yet challenging workout, I highly recommend Hot Pilates at Urban Spring Bangsar.  There are various types of classes to suit just about any level of fitness, so check out their website for more information about the benefits of Hot Pilates.

Blueberry Spinach Oatmeal

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Creamy, sweet, and hearty, this oatmeal recipe was inspired by a Youtube post by Vegbethany – I adore her incredibly photogenic and healthy vegan recipes! At first I was intimidated by the fact that she added spinach into her oatmeal, but after trying it out, I could hardly taste it! I like to keep things simple by adding only blueberries on top of my oatmeal but you can also add granola, sliced bananas, shredded coconut, almonds, etc if you like.

Blueberry Spinach Oatmeal Recipe

3 tablespoon of Quaker Quick Oats
1 handful of spinach (or kale)
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
1 cup of Pacific Unsweetened Soy (or almond milk, coconut milk, whole milk)
1 handful of blueberries
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
½ large banana

  • Blend soy milk and spinach together until you get a smooth consistency.
  • Combine liquid with oats, cinnamon, chia seeds and banana in a pot over medium-low heat.
  • Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently until the oats reach your desired texture.
  • Transfer into a bowl and add blueberries or any other toppings you like.

How I Got Started into Fitness

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Growing up in a normal Malaysian household, I was pretty lucky to be able to eat whatever I want without gaining any weight. My daily meals usually consist of white rice, Indian & Malay curries, cakes, sweets, fried chicken, Starbucks Frappuccino, Fillet o’ Fish & French Fries (notice the lack of greens?). To no one’s surprise, exercising was something I purposely avoided but I still managed to remain scrawny until my early 20s.

College life was tough due to a two year-long toxic relationship which pretty much revolved around emotional abuse, drugs, skipping meals, losing friends, fearing for my life, and breaking my parents’ hearts. In 2015, I finally gathered the courage to leave after a few months of long distance and landing a great job in travel writing.

My newfound freedom led me to start drinking alcohol and partying every weekend for about a year. I still kept up with my usual eating habits and before I realized it, the weight started creeping in – within a year, I went from 47kg to 59kg. My extended family members started commenting on my weight gain and for the first time in my life, I suffered from body image issues and my confidence sank down to an all-time low.

After turning 26 in June 2015, I decided enough was enough and did extensive research on weight loss solutions that don’t involve starving myself. I started small by getting sober (which was easy for me since I didn’t even enjoy alcohol to begin with) and used YouTube videos (Fitness Blender is my favourite channel!) to workout in my apartment.

Once I started getting less winded from doing 20 minutes of cardio, I joined an outdoor Bootcamp class but I soon got bored and quit after six months of unpredictable weather conditions and flaky teammates. Urban Spring Bangsar’s Hot Pilates class is one I still attend with my fiancé, though we haven’t been doing so in a consistent manner due to conflicting schedules.

The weight was slowly declining due to my at-home workouts but whenever I travel for work or pleasure, I would go crazy when it comes to eating and drinking. My heaviest weight was 62kg after returning from a six-day birthday trip to Sydney back in June and while I enjoyed every minute of it, I faced negative comments from my family once again which led me into start taking my health even more seriously.

I began eating relatively clean by greatly reducing my intake of sugary drinks, white bread, dessert & fast food and incorporating whole grains, vegetables, and seafood into my diet. I’ve also been pretty fortunate to win several fitness-related competitions throughout the year, including free personal training sessions with Firestation & healthy meals by Mission Malaysia for 21 days and a Bootcamp session with Kia Kaha Fitness.

Early this year, I’ve also discovered Bodytone which involves exercising on a vibrating Power Plate. Each group session is 45 minutes of various high-intensity workouts & strength training. It’s one of the toughest classes I’ve ever done but it’s undeniably effective. Within two months after my Sydney trip, I’ve gone down to 56kg thanks to the combination of consistent exercise & healthy eating but that doesn’t mean that I’ll be going back to my old eating habits and sedentary lifestyle.

This blog is my continuing journey towards a healthier lifestyle which includes first-hand experiences in fitness classes all over Kuala Lumpur (& beyond) in hopes of inspiring my readers to get out and sweat. After all, if a Starbucks & fast-food addict like me can do it, so can you.