Never take your health for granted

“Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.” – Bonnie Ware

Last Monday, I sprained my right hamstring. I heard a “pop” as I slid into my imperfect right splits. I was in a jazz dance class and the choreography called for this move. My heart stopped; I knew that the “pop” sound meant that I was in for a long and serious injury.

I was familiar with hamstring injuries. I sprained the left one twice in the last two years and until today, I still feel pain when I stretch it. When I got home, I iced my leg but it was too late. By the next morning, I had to hobble around.

I was utterly miserable. I knew that the initial pain would fade but that it might be a year before I regain my initial flexibility. What that meant was that I couldn’t dance at 100%; my goal for a full split was derailed… yet again; and that I woul be forced to miss classes while my leg was healing.

I realised then that I have been taking my health for granted. When I was healthy, I never gave much thought to the fact that I woke up each day with the ability to walk, run, jump and dance. I should also be grateful that my hamstring injury was less serious compared to what other people are enduring – be it broken bones or a life-threatening disease. I aim to take time every day to really consciously appreciate my blessings.

My second resolution from this event is to spend more time nourishing and restoring my body. When I first sprained my left hamstring (which left me unable to touch my toes), I pretty much left it up to time to heal myself. I saw a physiotherapist but I grew quite discouraged when she asked me why I was doing “such activities” i.e. practising my splits. I felt that she treated me like a person who didn’t exercise at all and that my problem was not so severe since the injury didn’t  hamper my everyday life. So I lost interest in rehab.

This time, I saw a new physio for my recent injury. She told me that I had to take care of both my new and old injury. These are the things I should be doing to get them back to 100%:

  1. Foam roll at home
  2. Sit on a spiky massage ball; I can even do this at work since I have a desk bound job
  3. Do eccentric training

The last point deserves more explanation. Eccentric training refers to contracting the muscle while lengthening. This brings greater strength to the muscle in the process of stretching it, which has been shown to speed up recovery and prevent reinjuries.

Four eccentrically biased exercises studied by Orishimo and McHugh.
Four eccentrically biased exercises studied by Orishimo and McHugh.

All the exercises above are not meant to be passive stretching. It’s not the same as sitting on the floor and trying to hold your toes. These stretches are dynamic. I was given two exercises by my physio:

  1. Lie on my back. Bend one knee to my chest. Loop a theraband around the foot. Lengthen the foot to the sky (around 90 degrees) while pulling on the theraband for resistance. The knees are straight. Bend the leg to the cheat. Repeat.
  2. Lie on my back. Straighten one leg to the sky (around 90 degrees). Loop the theraband around the foot. While keeping pressure on the foot, circle the leg as close to the face as possible, open up to the side so your hip is opened. Circle the leg back to the 90 degrees position. Repeat.

Apart from rehab exercises, it is also important to nourish my body correctly to encourage healing. I’ve started taking these supplements:

  1. Fish oil – I take Heart Health Essential Omega III Fish Oil with Vitamin E. It contains 3000 mg of fish oil per serving (two softgels), which is much  higher than most other brands. The Omega 3 fatty acids help to speed up recovery thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties.
  2. Curcumin – this is a chemical from turmeric, which is a plant from the ginger family. Endurance athletes like Scott Jurek use this to aid in recovery. I don’t find it to easy to get turmeric into my food so I take supplements in the form of Curcumin Extreme.
  3. Bromelain – this is a protein extract from pineapples that is used to reduce swelling and inflammation. I love pineapples so I have no issue with eating a lot of it. Yummy! But for those who prefer to get this in supplement form, you can get Isotonix Bromelain Plus.

With all these tools at my disposal, I am optimistic that I will be able to make a full recovery. While we all hate injuries, they are important because they make us more aware of ourselves, both physically and mentally.

What has worked for you in healing your body?

No more pricey prepaid gym memberships for me

My yoga studio at Ocean Financial Centre (OFC) recently shut its doors. After beginning operations in 2011, the 21,000 square feet studio took its last bow this March 2016.

I was one of the luckier ones. I paid for two years worth of unlimited classes and my membership expired just as the gym closed its outlet.

Other friends were not so lucky. They either had to move their practice to one of True Yoga’s other outlets (which may be more inconvenient or lack the full facilities of the previous location) or simply work out less.

My last class at True Yoga
My last class at True Yoga

Even as True Yoga’s OFC outlet approached its closure, the salespeople still continued selling packages to visitors and renewing memberships. Either the management kept the closure a secret from the sales team or they were truly unscrupulous. For the members, we were given less than a month’s warning.

In this case, the gym had not closed down, which would have been truly disastrous especially if you had already a few thousand dollars upfront for your membership. But it was bad enough that the terms and conditions had changed drastically such that you would not have signed up for the package in the first place.

This brings me to my point. I would never sign up for another one of these prepaid packages again. Yes, I will pay upfront for 20 classes if that gives me a better deal. But I will not shell out a few thousand dollars to be at the gym’s mercy for the next few years.

There are other horror stories. Yoga studio Sadhana Sanctuary made use of aggressive sales tactics to sell unlimited two-year packages for thousands of dollars. Last year, the studio closed without warning, with just a sign on the front door stating that it was undergoing renovation. It turned out to be a lie. The owner had simply abandoned the business and purportedly fled the country. My friend Peimun had a small package there and was just resigned to the fact that it was money lost for good.

We need to protect ourselves as consumers. Apart from the financial stress, we also want to minimise our mental stress. Many of us already work hard enough and want to unwind at the gym. The last thing we need is to worry.

1. Only give the gym money that you are willing to lose

This is the amount of money you would be willing to part with assuming that your gym shuts down the very next day. We must always be aware of the risks that it is costly to run businesses here with the high rent and labour costs. And not everyone has the business acumen to manage their cash flow or have deep enough pockets to tide through bad times.

Do not hand over $2000 and think it’s a very good deal because it only works out to $50 per month over the next three years. It might turn out to be $2000 for one month if the gym only lasts for that amount of time.

2. Sign up with gyms that allow a pay-as-you-go system

Virgin Active Singapore has a different pay structure. There is a one-time activation fee of about $200 and then subsequently a weekly fee of about $50. You can stop your membership at any time. While this is definitely costlier than the traditional gym membership model, it is less risky. It is also more like a mega gym if you like to workout in big spaces.

Another new economy model that I like is the fitness-sharing platform used by KFit and its now defunct rival Passport Asia. KFit charges $99 a month for 10 classes across various partner studios in Asia. You can stop paying any time you want. I used to be a member with Passport Asia until they too, died a sudden death. I was peeved at their poor communication but I moved on very quickly. After all, I didn’t lose any money from their departure.

3. Buy class cards

There are many studios that allow you to buy class cards at a reasonable volume. Yoga Movement, for instance, sells a 10-class pack at $190 and a 20-class pack at $350. Ritual Gym, which specialises in 30-minute high-intensity workouts, sells 10-class packages as well. One huge selling point for Ritual Gym is that they provide clothes and towels, which many smaller boutique studios don’t, so you can nip in and out during lunch.

A good way to save money is to join classes at community centres. I have taken ballet classes (I paid something like $150 for 10 classes) and baking courses from onePA. I think that the community centres are a treasure trove of activities.

The website is clunky and not easy to navigate but classes are cheap
The website is clunky and not easy to navigate but classes are cheap

Right now, I am using KFit for my exercise classes. In addition, I also take structured ballet classes that I pay for on a rolling 8-class basis. Overall, I pay more per month as compared to when I was at True Yoga but what I gain is peace of mind. Its importance cannot be overstated.

Milk-free avocado chocolate ice-cream

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Fancy a healthy home-made ice-cream? Healthy and ice-cream do not have to be mutually exclusive. I’ve made this recipe twice now and I like how I can use overripe avocados to make a dessert. This recipe also uses coconut milk so it’s good for the lactose intolerant. I don’t have an ice-cream maker so I use my blender.

The ingredients are as below to get slightly less than 2 litres of ice-cream. Use half the ingredients if you prefer less ice-cream.

Avocado ice cream

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 800 ml coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons of maple syrup (more if you prefer a sweeter taste)
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

1. Place the avocados, coconut milk, maple syrup and water in the blender. Blend for 30 seconds or until smooth.

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2. Add the cocoa powder into the mix. Blend for another 20 seconds.

Avocado ice cream

3. Pour the mixture into any container you like

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4. Let the ice-cream freeze for a few hours. Don’t do what I did and take the ice-cream out after one hour. The ice-cream turned out less firm that I would have liked. The subsequent batches were better because they were fully frozen. Leave them to thaw for about five minutes before tucking into the rich goodness.

Chocolate avocado

And voila, a simple and nutritious dessert to feed your tummy and soul.

How a juice fast made me slightly food obsessed

This is a guest post by Barbara, a good friend of mine who signed up for a three-day juice cleanse with a juicery. She spent $240 for 24 bottles over three days. Here is her experience diary-style, showing you her thoughts over the hours and days.

Juice Cleanse Diary Day 1: Rookie Cleanse

a juicery

8am: I’m quite excited to be starting on my cleanse! I set my alarm to go off earlier so that I could prepare my lemon water.

8.15am: I gulp down my cup of warm water with lemon. I thought it would be acidic, but the warm water is very comforting for my stomach and the lemon cleanses my tongue. I am not sure how much lemon to put, so I just throw in two small slices.

dr green tonic

9am: I start on my first bottle of juice Dr Green Tonic. It has bok choy, celery, cucumber, romaine, spinach, apple and lemon, but what I can taste most of the time are celery, cucumber and lemon.

citrus ninja

10.55am: I’m feeling a little peckish now.. Time for bottle no. 2 – Citrus Ninja! This has apple, orange, grapefruit, turmeric, lemon and cayenne pepper. This is really nice and somehow the bitterness of the grapefruit and the hot kick of the cayenne pepper goes well together.

12.37pm: On the advice of my friend who has had experience with a juice cleanse, I have been sipping my juices slowly instead of gulping. Otherwise, I may feel hungry! I finish the last drop in bottle 2. Think I need to get started on bottle 3 soon! I am starting to feel slight hunger pangs after accompanying my colleague for her lunch takeout and was walking along all these food stalls with yummy stuff.

smells like green spirit

12.58pm: I open the third bottle, Smells Like Green Spirit. This has Bok Choy, Sweet Potato Leaves, Romaine, Apple, Pineapple, Ginger and Coconut water. There is a nice green taste and the ginger comes through as well. Another trick I’ve been doing? I pour water into the juice bottle after I’m done and drink the water so as not to waste any of the goodness.. 😛

sweet renegade

 

2.35pm: Time for the 4th bottle! Yay! Sweet Renegade has carrot, sweet potato, ginger, tumeric, apple and lemon. It’s cold in the office so I’m taking out the bottle slightly earlier to “defrost”.

2.43pm: I can taste the sweet potato, carrot, turmeric and lemon. This one is really yummy. So far, I’ve been looking forward to opening each bottle and savoring the contents.

3.33pm: I’m not hungry but I think I’m hungry. I want some food! I’m supposed to get my next juice at 5pm! Trying to drink some ginseng tea now. I assume that’s allowed?

5pm: I stare at my watch and am aware of the gnawing feeling in my tummy. Darn, this meeting is still going on…..

lemon drops

5.40pm: I get back from my meeting and I’m absolutely starving. I’m 40 minutes overdue for my juice! I take a big gulp of Lemon Drops. I think I’m starting to dream of solid food because this tastes like my mum’s soy sauce ginger chicken. There is definitely NO chicken in this and it has lemon, ginger, mint, filtered water and coconut sugar. Now I know a vegan substitute!

6pm: I meet my husband for dinner but I’m really just watching him eat while I sip my Lemon Drops. He offers me his food, which looks really tempting. Maybe just one spoon? That little voice in my head says. I politely decline and sip more of my Lemon Drops and wish they were really soya sauce ginger chicken.

the real cool aid

7pm: Still feeling like I need to eat something and my tummy is growling just ever so slightly. Bottle 6 is my absolutely favorite. The Real Cool Aid has pear, lotus root, water chestnut, lemongrass and coconut water. But it tastes like lychees which I love! This was the juice that won me over to A Juicery. Ok, off to the tennis court to distract my mind from food.

8.28pm: Done with tennis and some stretching. Tummy is growling again!

Super G

8.51pm: 7th bottle of juice! At this rate, I need 10 of ’em. Super G has kai lan, cucumber, Napa cabbage, watercress, lemon and coconut water. I find the lemon taste a little too strong and wish for more taste of the greens. But anyhow, I can taste the napa cabbage and watercress in this. I shall do some stretching to take my mind off being hungry.

coco cloud

10pm: I am finally not hungry!! And it’s time for the last bottle! Coco Cloud has cashew, coconut meat, cinnamon, coconut sugar, vanilla and filtered water. Tastes like a snickerdoodle cookie which is basically a cinnamon sugar cookie. The coconut meat makes the drink taste like a smoothie. Maybe this should be a mid-day drink instead!

10.20pm: I have been sipping my coco cloud happily but I don’t really like eating too near to bed time so I gulp down the remaining half bottle. Time for bed!

Juice Cleanse Diary Day 2: Fanatic Cleanse

I decided on two days of the Rookie Cleanse and one day of the Fanatic Cleanse so I can switch things up with different bottles of juice. The Fanatic Cleanse also has eight juices, but several bottles are slightly different.

8.40am: I’m late!! I forgot to set my alarm! No time for lemon water.

9am: I’m on a cab to work and I realise I don’t feel hungry! The Coco Cloud yesterday must have worked wonders. Then, I notice a picture of a mackerel, then an otak. That orangey slab of fish meat looks delish and I could do with one now. But it’s day 2! Holding on!

9:45am: I take my first sip of the first bottle of the day – Dr Green Tonic. This is the same starting juice as the Rookie Cleanse.

marmalade skies

11am: Bottle number 2 is Marmalade Skies and this has carrot, lime, mint, orange and pineapple. This tastes like a cocktail and is super yummy because I love all the ingredients. Also, I’m still not hungry! Yay!

12.52pm: Ok, those hunger pangs are starting to set in… Time for bottle 3, Smells like Green Spirit. Starting to think of food again…

1pm: I sit down with my colleague while she has a nice steaming hot bowl of Korean kimchi soup. They give her banchan (complimentary sides) meant for two but I obviously can’t eat them… Boo! I sip my juice and stare longingly at the leftover kimchi.

never miss a beet

2.45pm: Still kind of hungry, but maybe it’s more in my mind than in my body. Bottle 4 is a different one, Never Miss a Beet. There’s beetroot, carrot, kai lan, ginger, pear, pineapple and lemon.

evergreen potion

4.57pm: Definitely hungry now, but I’m getting busy at work so I don’t have as much time to think about it. Bottle number 5 is also different, and it’s Evergreen Potion. This has celery, chyesim, wheatgrass, aloe and orange. The celery taste is pretty strong!

5.20pm: I meet Paleorina for a cuppa tea and I debate between an earl grey lavender and a green rooibos. Since I’m advised not to have caffeine, I go with the green rooibos. I sip my Evergreen Potion in between the tea.

6pm: I’m still feeling hungry. I debate whether I should go to the gym. I decide I will to take my mind off eating.

6.30pm: I go to the gym and bring bottle number 6 Lemon Drops with me. I power through my Fitness Blender lower strength workout and I am not tired! It still amazes me how I’m still able to workout whilst subsisting on juices. So we really don’t need that many calories after all.

7.44pm: As I leave the gym sipping my Lemon Drops, I pass by some bars and I smell PIZZA!!!! Too bad girl. Drink up your ginger soya sauce chicken, says the voice in my head.

7.55pm: I’m really just greedy. I’m not hungry now but someone in the train mentions “..Prata shop…” and my mind starts racing. “Prata?? Prata!!! Where?? I want one now!!” And to make things worse, a lovely Indian lady has a nice smelling box of Indian takeaway that I swear smells more and more like prata to me.

8.45pm: I think the Devil is out to tempt me. I’m in a cab and it smells heavenly. I tell the driver there’s a nice smell and he seems to think I am being sarcastic. I convince him that I can smell some nice food and he says “I packed some Hokkien mee.” It’s time for my 7th bottle, Super G. I taste cucumber and the coconut water. It’s no Hokkien mee, but it’ll do for now.

9.10pm: I work on my assignments for my upcoming yoga teacher training as a way to distract my mind and sip more Super G.

10.10pm: Time for my last bottle Coco Cloud. I put in a request earlier to swap out one of my Coco Clouds to a Choco Sutra but I guess they forgot. I have also been looking at pictures of Japanese food in Hokkaido on a food blog but I think I should stop. No more mind games! Day 2 is almost done!

I seem to be permanently cold from all the cold juices so I make myself a “Healthy Fasting” yogi tea, which consists of herbs like licorice, burdock and fennel. Unfortunately, I don’t feel any fuller from the tea.

Juice Cleanse Diary Day 3: Rookie Cleanse

8.00am: I try to get out of bed but am feeling super lethargic and tired and cold. I decide to continue sleeping.

9am: Oops, I overslept and jump out of bed. No time for warm lemon water.

10:20am: I’m not hungry, which is surprising again, but food is definitely still on my mind. Back to the rookie cleanse and it’s Dr Green Tonic. It’s a great juice for the morning as it wakes me up with the celery and slight hint of lemon but in a gentle way. I’m also kinda happy that I get to drink my next bottle soon!

10.57am: Starting on bottle 2, Citrus Ninja! Loving the mix here and I can taste the orange, grapefruit, turmeric and cayenne pepper.

12.31pm: I got busy at work and that took my mind off food. I’ve taken my third bottle Smells like Green Spirit out of the fridge so that it’s less cold and it’s also looking less green than the previous days. I think it’s starting to oxidise! Someone is eating food on my floor and the smell is coming through the aircon vents… Food food food….

12.47pm: I’m going to start sipping the juice!

2.30pm: Now its time for Sweet Renegade. I share some with my colleague who thinks it tastes pretty nice too! I take a walk to the fruit shop and buy a canteloupe for Sunday. Can’t wait to eat it!

4.08pm: And now for my all time favourite, The Real Cool Aid. Lychee in a bottle! Yummmmm

5pm: And I’m gonna drink bottle number 7 before 6 because I’ve decided to eat dinner tonight! So this is Super G. My husband wants to do dinner with me and it will really suck to just watch him eat. Life is too short to miss out on food. 😛

I shall keep Lemon Drops and Coco Cloud for breakfast tomorrow as I feel they can last longer since there are no veggies in them.

Barbara’s conclusion: Would I do this again? Maybe just a one-day or two-day cleanse. Three days were really hard since I would still like to be able to exercise. I didn’t feel lighter or clearer in the mind like other people have experienced but my stomach was definitely not bloated. (I have irritable bowel syndrome.) In fact, my stomach was mostly feeling slightly hollow. My portion control has been getting out of hand and the cleanse has been really useful in resetting that as I feel full pretty quickly when eating regular meals. Hopefully this will last! All in all, I really enjoyed the juices and there wasn’t single one I didn’t like. Really yummy!

Paleorina’s thoughts: I’m so glad that my friend shared her experience with me on this blog! I would never do a juice fast myself because I know that restricting food would make me slightly deranged. I am okay with having smoothies for meals as the fibre helps to fill the tummy but I imagine that a juice fast is too much for me. If you have tried a juice or smoothie fast, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Why I am eating less meat than before

Paleo diets tend to be synonymous with meat eating. Mark’s Daily Apple, for example, recommends that meat, fish, fowl and eggs make up the bulk of one’s caloric intake. Eating meat every day, or even at every meal, would not be out of place in a paleo diet.

When I first started my paleo journey, I feasted on all sorts of meat, from Korean BBQ pork to juicy slabs of steak. I even started eating meat for breakfast, which was very unusual for me. Then my body got really sick of all the meat and I practically went vegetarian for two weeks after that because I couldn’t stand the thought of another chicken wing.

Today, I eat far less meat than before. And after watching several documentaries recently, I am even more convinced that I should minimise my meat intake. There are several reasons:

  • The livestock industry does more harm to the environment than transport

Livestock is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a higher share than transport, according to a 2006 UN report. Raising animals for consumption also contributes greatly to deforestation, with 70% of previous forested land in the Amazon occupied by pastures. I almost cannot believe it but apparently livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land area. The documentary Cowspiracy, which was an eye opener for me, talks about these environmental effects.

Source: Foodwatch
Source: Foodwatch

This problem is only going to get worse as countries become wealthier and demand for more meat. In particular, I foresee China contributing massively to the demand for meat. Already, they are the world’s largest pork consumer. Continue reading Why I am eating less meat than before

Taking the stage as an adult ballerina

There are some girls who grow up dressed by their parents in pink tutus and who always insisted on wearing frilly dresses. I was not of them. I was never a girly girl. In junior college, when I was 17 and 18 years old, I joined the windsurfing squad, where we trained at least twice a week in the scorching sun and got really tanned as a result. In university, I joined the women’s football team, where we ran around in muddy fields in our studded boots.

My girliness only manifested itself in the past year when I started taking photos of my friends in yoga poses. I became entranced by the the aesthetics of the body, specifically the lines and planes of one’s body that made for a beautiful photo. That led me to ballerinas, who have the most beautiful lines of all dancers.

I first started my adult ballet “career” at a community centre with Joni. She taught my friends and I the basic arm and leg positions over a period of 10 weeks. I enjoyed the classes but lost interest towards the end when my knees starting hurting from the turnout. It was only much later did I realise that I should not force my turnout from the knees.

Following that, I gave up ballet until I chanced upon a new dance studio at Boat Quay called Wings to Wings three months ago. The studio was small, which limited the number of students that were able to attend the class. Instead of a traditional class that tend of to be quite hands-off, our teacher Denise went around adjusting her students. I was thrilled because I finally understood what muscles I needed for ballet and how I was not suppose to lift my hips whenever I raised my leg up.

At the end of the class, Denise said, “We are having our year end concert in November and we need dancers for ballet. Please sign up for it!”

I thought nothing of it when she said that. It was laughable that I could even perform as an absolute beginner. But as I attended more classes and became less intimidated, I started thinking that I could indeed prance around on stage. It also helped that the other dancers were truly “adult ballerinas” and not child prodigies who stopped for a few years and started once more.

So on 27 November 2015, I took the stage in a ballet recital at the ripe old age of 31.

adult ballet
(Left to right) Me, Ling, Mayu and Esther
Minami buns her hair, while the rest of the girls discuss makeup
Minami buns her hair, while the rest of the girls discuss makeup

We arrived at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts at 3pm to do up our hair and put on makeup as well as take part in two rehearsals before the actual performance started at 730pm. In between that, we had time to muck around and take photographs. Continue reading Taking the stage as an adult ballerina

Nut butters made in Singapore

Nuts are great for your health. I love my nut butters and I usually buy them from Melrose or Meridian. They sell everything from almond to macadamia butter. Now, instead of buying them from foreign brands, we can reduce our carbon footprint and at the same time, support local butter churners.

One such company is Nuts About Butter, which creates their butters using baked nuts, raw honey and sea salt. They have three different flavours: almond, almond macadamia and almond sesame. You can buy them in full sized jars or small little cute ones like these below.

Nuts About Butter

I have never had nut butters with sweeteners before. The honey was a nice addition because it balanced out the creaminess of the nuts.

Blender in action
Nuts are blended into a creamy paste

Nuts about Butter can be purchased at:

On my recent trip to the Kranji Countryside Farmers’ market, I also came across nut butters made by The Hunters’ Kitchenette. Continue reading Nut butters made in Singapore

Back handspring workshop at Alpha Gymnastics

The back handspring must be one of the scariest gymnastics moves you can learn as a beginner. First, you have to somehow coil yourself up with so much energy that you can spring off your feet. Next, you have to launch yourself backwards into the air where you can’t see the ground until your body is suspended backwards. Then you have to land on your hands and then push off again with enough force to land back on your feet. Phew!

My friend Alicia and I signed up for Alpha Gymnastics’ back handspring class, a 2-hour class for $60. We didnt’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. Thankfully, the coach was very patient and methodical and the back handspring was easily broken down into steps.

There were six of us attending the workshop at Alpha Gym’s new premises at Loewen Road. I love this photo below because you can see me huffing and puffing at the back (in pale blue leggings) trying to get into a split, while my other gymnast friends look like they are dozing.

splits

We also stretched our hamstrings in the forward fold. I swear the more yoga I do, the more inflexible my hamstrings become. I used to be able to touch my nose to my knees (!!). What happened, hammys?

Forward fold

Coach How was incredible patient with us. He explained that we have to enter the back handspring with a rounded back. We also learnt how to overcome our fear of leaping backwards by practising it on a big mat. Continue reading Back handspring workshop at Alpha Gymnastics

Review: Passport Asia mobile app for exercise classes

I found out about Passport Asia one month ago from a friend, who told me with sparkling eyes that she has been attending exercise classes around the island – ranging from gymnastics to yoga to spinning – just by signing up with one mobile phone app.

I took little convincing. I love trying classes at different studios. Passport Asia hooks you up to 200 different exercise studios and you can select classes from kickboxing to judo to hip hop dance. You can even sign up for bubble bump soccer. If you don’t know what’s that, just take a look below – it looks awesome.

bubble bump

When the app first launched on smartphones, it was free for the first month. My friend tried out a dizzy array of classes before deciding to commit to paying $59 a month for four classes. That’s just $13.75 per class. A drop-in yoga class might cost $25 at the bare minimum. A boxing class in the business district costs around $40.

The first class I signed up for was adult ballet at Wings to Wings. When I arrived at the studio at Boat Quay, one of the teachers manning the reception cheerily that the class was on the second floor. The ballet teacher, Denise, took our attendance and asked us which app we were using – Passport Asia or its competitor KFit – before starting the class with minimal fuss. There were no complicated forms to fill in, which made the whole process very pleasant indeed.

The class itself was really fun. There were only six of us so the teacher had enough time to go round and correct each one of us. We did plies at the barre, jumps in the centre and also did assisted stretching. At the end of the class, I whipped out my phone again to book more dance classes at Wings to Wings.

The first thing you see when you open the app is this:

The landing page for the Passport Asia app
The landing page for the Passport Asia app

You can use the search bar on top to search for a class you like – such as yoga or even the studio’s name. Alternatively, you can scroll down and click on the type of class you want to attend.

This filters for the class you want to attend – circuit training, in my case – and lists them by day. You can even filter further to specify the location, time of class and specific studio.

I chose circuit training
I chose circuit training

Apart from ballet at Wings to Wings, I also attended boxing conditioning at Level gym, which is located at Telok Ayer in the city centre. Once again, the process was fuss free. I arrived earlier to fill in a form, noted that I was from Passport Asia and I was good to go. At the end of the class, the boxing coach told us he would see us next week and there was no talk of signing up for any packages. I was very happy that the whole experience was easy.

And because I was curious, I also downloaded the KFit app, which is rival to Passport Asia. In comparison, KFit’s interface was a lot more cumbersome. The landing page looks similar, except that it insists that there are zero activities this week. KFit’s interface has improved a lot since I last wrote this post. I am happy to see that they now rival Passport Asia’s interface.

IMG_3554

I also could not find a search function. The filtering only allows me to filter for broad activities, such as martial arts, and location, but I couldn’t search specifically for judo or karate. If I wanted to go for a ballet class, I have to filter for dance and zumba, then scroll through every day to look for ballet classes. And because I could not filter for specific studios, I could not see what other classes were offered by the same studio.

You can now search by typing in key words, by ratings, distance and trending.

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Maybe it was just me being dense but I certainly had a much harder time grappling with KFit’s interface. When I downloaded the app, they had a promotion that allowed you to go for one free class per month. I attended a judo class at Aljunied and like Passport Asia, the experience was very nice and there was no hard selling.

There were some overlapping classes with Passport Asia and KFit. The ballet classes I attended, for example, were available on both platforms. The judo class I took on KFit was not found on Passport Asia. In general, I felt that KFit offered a wider variety of martial arts classes.

Overall, I chose to go with Passport Asia because of ease of use and because I could go for unlimited classes at Wings to Wings. On occasion, studios might choose to limit your attendance to a certain number of times per month to encourage you to sign up directly with them. Level gym, for example, only allowed me to go for classes twice a month.

The two issues I found with Passport Asia was that I had to “check in” the app to register my attendance. I did not do it for the first two times and was registered as a “no-show.” I was fined $15 for each “no-show,” which meant that I was charged $30 unfairly for classes that I attended. I emailed the support team, who were quick to respond. They could only give me a coupon for $30 off for the following month but could not reverse the charges on my credit card. So, users beware. You have to check in on the app either before or directly after the class. Leave it too long and the deadline to “check in” would have passed and that’s a $15 fine.

The second issue is that you cannot book back-to-back classes. For example, if Studio X has two classes, one starting at 7pm and another starting at 8pm, you can only book one of them. Passport Asia restricts you from booking classes that start within half an hour of each other.
Edit: Seems like I am able to now!

It costs $99 a month to attended unlimited classes and $59 for four classes per month. Passport Asia has replaced their $99 unlimited pass with a more inferior system.

  • Four Star Pass: at SGD 54 this is the smart supplement to your weekly fitness routine. Allows you to book four classes per month.
  • Six Star Pass: combine value and variety at SGD 76. Allows you to book six classes per month.
  • Eight Star Pass: always on track to reach your fitness goals at SGD 98. Allows you to book eight classes per month. (I chose this one after my unlimited pass ended but I may cancel altogether as I tend to attend more than 8 classes per month and the platinum pro pass is not an option as it’s too expensive.)
  • Platinum Pro Pass: challenge yourself with a daily workout. Allows you to book up to 31 classes per month at SGD 179.

I signed up for the unlimited package partly because I knew I could cancel it any time I wanted to. I didn’t have to commit to a one-year package and I could pause the subscription if I were going away on a long holiday. My friend is on the four classes a month package and she tries something new each time to complement her existing workout routine.

If you want to sign up, you can use the coupon code JOYCE-346F which is good for new subscribers.

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$15 off one month’s subscription

 

Graceful and toned with Barre Sculpt on Codyapp

I am not usually a fan of home exercise videos. The last time I completed a home programme was during an exam period when I had no time to go to the yoga studio or for a run. This time, I injured my wrist and cannot even hold a plank. The doctor told me I had a cyst in my wrist and I had to avoid putting weight on it.

I decided to buy the Barre Sculpt programme on Codyapp, which costs US$39.99 for five videos, each 30 minutes long. The exercises can be assessed directly from the Codyapp website or can be downloaded as an app on your iPad, iPhone and other media devices. The trainer, Jacqueline Umof, has a dance background and also taught at Tracy Anderson’s fitness studios.

How Barre Sculpt works

There are 30 days in total and each week consists of the five workouts and two rest days. At the start, we are given a short introduction on how to use the plan.

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The  strength and beauty of this programme is that it focuses on the smaller muscles that dancers use, which are often neglected in regular cardio or strength training exercises.  The movements are somewhat similar to those done in barre classes but I really like that Jacqueline focuses more on ballet positions. She also uses ballet terms (“Do a deep plié! Sauté!) and gets us to turn out our legs. This means that you’re not just doing pilates moves while holding a chair; you are actually doing conditioning moves that dancers use.

This is not to say that the classes are ballet classes disguised as a modern upbeat exercise routine. There is a good mixture of ab exercises on the floor; arm toning with light weights and unusual leg work with the help of a chair.

Here are screen shots of what some of the moves look like:

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Second position pulses from “Interval Barre”
Abs and thighs workout during "Rhythmn and Movement"
Abs and thighs workout during “Rhythmn and Movement”
Toning the arms with weights from "Dancer Core"
Toning the arms with weights from “Dancer Core”

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