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Fitness is not exclusive to fit people

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A classic before-and-after photo to show(off) my transformation | Photo: ach

You’re probably wondering — what is this cheesy slogan in the title! Believe me when I say it’s not, because it’s the very thing that pulled me off a slippery slope I was going down and helped me get moving in the right direction.

Fitness is not exclusive to fit people is a constant reminder I tell myself, even to this day. I will admit that there are still times when I feel intimidated, like I’m not good enough to pursue fitness.

When I first made a promise to myself one and a half years ago that I would be fit one day, it was hard. For someone who is generally unfit and do not play any form of sports all my life, my sudden desire to be fit came as a sucker punch mixed with scorn and incredulity — I couldn’t even hold a 5-second modified side plank.

I saw two extremes out there: complete and total newbies like myself, and at the other farthest end, professional fitness trainers and athletes. And they looked really good. Like every bone in their body was fit and perfect.

The thing is, what I admired most was not their picture-perfect toned bodies or that they could do push-ups as if they were made of thin air. It was the self-confidence that came packaged with the fit body, and it was a sight for sore eyes.

I could only dream of being like them — fit, confident and beautiful.

I took shortcuts like slimming products

Seeing if I lost fat from the pills and detox drinks | Photo: ach

I felt like the only way to achieve fitness for me was to take some shortcuts. Because no way in hell was I going to achieve some semblance of fitness without it. So I turned to slimming pills and detox products.

I was happy when it worked — but alas, my happiness was short-lived. It worked but only for a short while and then my body became immune to it. I had to switch to a new slimming product. This became a vicious cycle: I quickly found myself consuming one slimming product after the next, until I practically exhausted all the possible products available in the market.

Talking about this makes me feel like kicking myself then, for taking so long to realise this clearly isn’t going to work. I wised up, told myself: enough of this. I couldn’t possibly be taking slimming pills and detox drinks all my life, not to mention they were also expensive and draining on my financials.

Looking back at my previous self now, I would laugh at my foolishness. But then I also remember the desperation. The notion that only fit people can do fitness all but drummed into me. I remember feeling like I needed to take these shortcuts in order to get a “qualifying ticket” into the fitness league then I could start practising fitness workouts.

I know now this sounds so silly now. It does to me, too. But I honestly didn’t know any better then and I hope that by sharing this, you would make smarter choices than I did.

The day I decided enough was enough

Photo: ach

I cleaned up my act, stopped buying and eating slimming pills and detox drinks. To my surprise, I felt relief. I was tired of the rebounds, realising my body was immune to a certain product, putting on and losing weight again and again.

And I logged on to YouTube to pick out a workout video and started exercising. Consistently and diligently. Even though I started off really weak — I always opted for the modified version and my posture was probably wrong half the time — I pushed myself mentally to see past my weakness and focus on putting in the hard work instead.

I refused to let the insecurities bubble up and feel lousy about myself. Instead I told myself, “I feel great. I feel proud of myself for putting in all this work and I can’t wait to get stronger.” The words you say to yourself have more power than you know.

I just want to say here that every drop of sweat counts! If you’re working your butt off, you’re going to see results. It just takes time and a little bit of self-love.

I also saw some fit influencers giving advice along the lines of, “if your posture is wrong, don’t bother.” It’s true that you should always strive for a good body posture and alignment to get the full benefits of your workout, but having imperfect postures should not deter you from working out.

After all, it’s better to be wrong and strong — and everyone has got to start somewhere. Maybe your posture is not perfect because you are currently just not strong enough. But overtime, you’ll get it. Based on my own personal experience, I would say as long as it does not give you a sharp or unbearable pain, try and complete those workouts that are hard for you.

It’s always rewarding when you strive for progress, not perfection. And as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Put in the work and results will come.

Keep your workouts short, simple and frequent.

Photo : ach

You know the fitness advice, “you must work out for at least an hour before it counts and you start burning fat!”

I’m calling bullshit on it. It’s not necessary to work out for at least an hour, as it depends on the intensity of workout as well. My workouts personally last only 30 minutes per session and I am seeing results from it.

We are all busy people, with different commitments like work and study, depending on the stage of our lives. Working out for a full one hour can be tough to do, and may deter you from keeping your fitness promise to yourself because it’s unrealistically long.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt through my fitness journey, it is that the frequency of exercise far outweighs the length of workout. Being consistent is key and it is only when you show up regularly because you’re committed to your goal when the magic starts to happen. For me, I am committed to working out four times a week for 30 minutes each. I find that this gives me more sustainable results than hitting the gym once every few weeks for a couple of hours straight.

“Sorry, ain’t got no time for exercise” is a lousy excuse.

I look around me and see that many friends and Singaporeans in general subscribe to the belief that exercise takes focus away from the pursuit of more important life goals. Like financial freedom, a promotion at work or something else they’re chasing.

“I have no time to exercise now because… my work is a priority and I need to get that promotion.”

“I have no time to exercise now because… I need to be working as hard as I can to achieve financial freedom first. Then I’ll work out, sure.”

“I have no time to exercise now because… I just can’t spare the time. I have work, I have kids, and when I’m free I want to relax — so tired already how to exercise?”

I used to believe in all that too, until I realised that the opposite was true: exercise adds focus and energy to everything else in my life.

And science can provide an explanation for this. According to a study, running results in increased levels of cortisol and endorphins lasting at least 2 hours post-exercise. In simple speak, it means your body is charged up, you feel positive vibes — and being in a good state, you’re likely to get things done more easily and productively.

Exercise also actually benefits your brain function, due to neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin that work to enhance the brain and safeguard it against mental disorders.

If you think time flies, you haven’t held a plank recently | Photo: ach

I recommend that you start with just a simple five-minute workout in the morning, before you start the day. Just five minutes daily.

This will absolutely not detract you or set you back from any goal you’re trying to chase, and doing it first thing before your work day starts and unexpected things occur will make it easier for you to commit to it.

Remember, you don’t have to be extreme or overcommit, but just be consistent. After working out for five minutes every day for at least a week, notice how you feel — in your mood and your energy. You could even start liking and looking forward to your morning workouts — it’s a slice of time that you have set aside for yourself only, free from the distractions of the world.

Fitness is not meant to crush you, but build you.

View full workout video here | Photo: ach

Another fitness advice I hear sometimes is, “if a workout doesn’t crush you, it’s not doing anything.” Nooo. Why would we want to feel crushed after doing a work out all the time? We should be feeling good post-exercise.

We can feel challenged, but not devastated.

Imagine we do soul-crushing, body-wrecking workouts all the time, just because we subscribe to this belief. We’d feel exhausted physically, and mentally? We’d be so discouraged. Before long, we’ll find it a torture and slowly skip it altogether, saying it’s too hard.

Being slow and consistent about your fitness workouts — slowing chipping in the work day in day out — always triumphs the short-lived fast and furious.

Stop it. Eating carbs is okay.

People can be terrified of carbs. I don’t know why, but somehow carbs have become the bad guy in fitness. Advice like, “you should stop eating carbs if you want to see results” doesn’t help either.

The truth is, there is no scientific evidence that prove carbs are completely bad for us. And it is definitely not a fact that you can’t lose weight, build muscles or gain strength because you eat carbs.

I personally do not recommend any form of restrictive diet, unless you feel like this is truly for you and is sustainable. I cannot imagine going carb-free for the rest of my life!

Food is life, and you only live once! | Photo: ach

So, maintain a healthy, sustainable relationship with your food. Stop jumping on diet fads, beating yourself up when you don’t toe the diet line, and of course, stop eating slimming products. Take it from someone who has been there — it’s a slippery slope you don’t want to go down. You’re better than that.

Am I still insecure and scared? Do I still think I’ll never be good enough to be fit? Am I afraid of other people’s judgement, even as I share my journey on Instagram and write this piece?

Yes, yes and yes.

Sometimes, even my loved ones can be unnecessarily mean and pass judgement without being sensitive to my feelings. But I’m not going to be paralysed by my fears and my insecurities. I’m going to keep putting in the work.

So, let’s keep reminding each other — we are enough to pursue fitness.

And one day, through our own hard work and effort, we’ll become the strongest and fittest we’ve ever been.

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