I gained 2 kg over Christmas and Chinese New Year from overeating. It was your typical case of holiday indulgences. I ate everything in sight and convinced myself that I was allowed to because the holidays were meant for merry making. Alas, my metabolism couldn’t keep up, given that I was no longer a teenager. I didn’t stick to paleo eating as well – bring on the pineapple tarts and Christmas puddings.
I didn’t realise I had gained any weight (because I don’t weigh myself) until my clothes starting feeling tight on me. My stomach, which was never really slim to begin with, started protruding out and I felt self-conscious about wearing fitting clothes. Even my bra was cutting into my chest.
Was running the answer?
I decided that I would run more. Since I enjoy running, it wasn’t a chore. It just took quite a lot of time because I wanted to go for long runs and I often didn’t have an hour a day to spare. This went on for about a month before I hurt my knee and couldn’t run anymore. The frustrating thing was that my weight didn’t budge at all. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to lose 2 kg that shouldn’t be there in the first place. To me, I was 2 kg over my equilibrium weight. I wasn’t trying to be unnaturally slim.
At the same time, I signed up for the CFA exam – which is a really tough 6-hour exam covering financial topics – for my work. My spare time was further reduced. So I didn’t have time to go to the gym now and I didn’t have time to run. I decided to look for home exercise videos.
Home exercise videos
Friends recommended Beachbody’s Insanity workout by trainer Shaun T, which was touted to be the hardest workout ever put on DVD. But you get really good results, like so:
I borrowed the DVDs from a friend but was discouraged by the fact that each workout takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour and I was determined not to exercise for more than 30 minutes. Also, I wasn’t sure my knees could take the plyometric jumps.
Focus T25 Home Exercise Video
It turned out that Beachbody had a few other programmes as well, most notably the Focus T25 by trainer Shaun T. This came with 11 workouts and each was only 25 minutes long. Yes, I definitely can do 25 minutes! There were two phases – Alpha and Beta – and they consisted of high-intensity interval training workouts. There are no breaks in between and you work out for the full 25 minutes.
The workouts from Alpha are:
- Cardio – this is very tiring non-stop cardio work that focuses mainly on the lower half of the body. Moves include lunges and jumping into squats. No equipment required.
- Ab Intervals – this focuses on the abs. I really like this workout because the moves were quite creative and wasn’t just focused on crunches. A mat is required for floorwork but we are also on our feet quite often to keep the heart rate up.
- Speed 1.0 – This is also cardio but focuses on explosive moves to keep you light on your feet. There are some Body Combat moves. I think this is my favourite one. The music is the best out of all the DVDs.
- Lower Focus – this focuses on the legs. You will feel the burn in your butt, quads and calves. Not my favourite. I wanted more on the inner thighs.
- Total Body Circuit – the most exhausting track of the lot. Not only are you doing cardio on your feet, you are also called to use your arms and core. Lots of burpees and push-ups. I like this second best after Speed 1.0.
The Alpha phase spans five weeks. In the first week, you were supposed to do one workout per day for four days and two workouts consecutively on the fifth day. I didn’t follow the programme exactly because I couldn’t bring myself to do two workouts in a day so I only completed five in each week, as opposed to six.
In terms of diet, I didn’t make any drastic changes but I was more strict about not eating processed food. For a while, I was quite taken with the red bean pancake at Jollibean and I would eat two for breakfast. I told myself that although it was full of sugar and grain, it was better to indulge my cravings rather than to resist it and than think about it all day. I stopped eating my red bean pancakes and had yoghurt with fruits and honey every working day for two weeks. It worked to satisfy my sugar cravings and I was all the better for it.
For lunch, I started eating more salads, yong tau fu and my paleo sandwiches instead of the vegetable and meat dishes at my regular economic rice stall. This way, I cut down on the suspicious sauces and oil used at the hawker stalls. Salad ingredients tend to be cleaner and what you see if what you get. I still ate my chicken and fish but this time, they weren’t covered in some weird sauce.
As for dinner, I started going home more regularly for my mum’s home cooking. I had been eating out quite often at restaurants or just grabbing something quick on the way home because I would get hungry early. For the two weeks, I was home for dinner at least three times a week. My mum’s regular dishes included stir-fried vegetables, fish and meat, along with a big bowl of soup such as lotus root soup or black bean chicken soup. They were all delicious and best of all, fresh and clean. On Friday nights, I chose to forego cocktails in favour of whiskey or red wine. Cocktails must be the most sugary things ever and it’s so easy to drink them quickly!
Over the weekend, I went back to my economic rice (without rice) as per normal. One weekend I dug into the most amazing Nasi Padang at Bedok Camp Hawker Centre. I think this was psychologically important for me to have two days to be more relaxed and take a break from the salads.
In terms of calories, I don’t think I was eating less and I never felt hungry. But I was definitely eating better and I felt “cleaner” as well. Such mental benefits cannot be discounted.
After one week, I weighed myself and was surprised to find that I had lost 1 kg. Well, that wasn’t too difficult, I thought. This seemed more effective than running. Of course, the workouts weren’t easy. Each time I press play and jump around for for 25 minutes, I drip sweat all over the floor (and I’m the kind of person who finds it difficult to perspire) and feel really uncomfortable. I don’t get any runner’s high. I don’t feel zen. Sometimes I get really grumpy and feel silly having to flail around in front of my laptop. In the first week, I even hid in my room because I was afraid that my family would laugh at the elephant bouncing around. But in terms of effectiveness, it was an efficient use of my limited time.
After the second week, I didn’t have to weigh myself to know that the programme was definitely working. Finally, my clothes weren’t feeling tight anymore and I was back to feeling normal. I went on the scales and saw another 1 kg gone. That brought me back to my equilibrium weight. Two weeks of this high-intensity exercise for only 25 minutes a day did more for my body than one month of running! Nonetheless, with my weight back to normal, I can now go back to my favourite activities – running shoes and yoga trousers here I come!
As I write, I’ve now just started the fourth week of the Alpha round. I have another week and a half to complete this cycle and then I will move on to Beta just to complete the whole programme. If you’re interested to find out what the Beta round is like, I will update in a later post.
Other T25 reviews:
Zucchini Runner – shares my view on how running is her passion but realises she needs some cross training in her life that won’t up too much time.
Melanie Mitro – she’s a Beachbody coach, which means that she gets a cut of profits if you order the DVD through her. She has good before and after photos.
Mama’s Losing It – T25 helped this mother of two lose 11 inches.