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

Before True Yoga closed its studio at OFC, we had already heard from people in the know that the landlord was not going to renew its lease. But when we brought it up with the salespeople, they would deny it and even continued selling packages to visitors and renewing memberships. Either the management kept it secret from the sales team or they were truly unscrupulous. 

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.

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

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.

IMG_3555

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.

JOYCE-346F

$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.

barre sculpt codyapp

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 pli√©! Saut√©!) 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:

codyapp barre
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”

Continue reading Graceful and toned with Barre Sculpt on Codyapp

Push your fitness boundaries with Instagram challenges

Since I joined Instagram two years ago, I have taken part in about four Instagram challenges. They were all related to yoga poses but there are also other challenges for general fitness, such as those hosted by @blogilates, who posted a 30-day challenge for her followers. By taking part in this challenge and using the appropriate hashtag, people can follow the progress of other people and motivate themselves! It’s like having a virtual exercise buddy.

image

Taking part in yoga challenges on Instagram has forced me to practise poses that I normally avoid and also allow me to document my progress over two years. Here is how it works:

1. The host shows a preview of 30 poses to be done daily for one month. There are usually a few hosts per challenge and sponsors that will give out prizes, such as yoga leggings, at the end of the challenge to a few people.

2. To enter the challenge, you have to follow the daily poses and include the names of the hosts and the sponsors in your Instagram post so that they can take a look at your entry. Do this for the next 30 days or 10 days, depending on the length of the challenge.

3. Take a pretty picture! Get a friend to place the camera at a low angle if your pose is close to the ground. Choose a nice background. The beach is a good choice.

4. Use the hashtags provided by the host, which should allow other people to easily find your photos. It is very encouraging to get nice comments and words of motivation on your photos!

When I started on one of my earlier challenges, I couldn’t straighten my legs in firefly pose. One year later, I looked less like a cockroach and more like a firefly! I dare say that my photography skills have also improved – I became more fussy about lighting and background when I took photographs.

In this case, the firefly pose was something that I would never practise on my own if I wasn’t forced to. Indeed, I went on YouTube to search for instruction videos. I fell on my bum many times and tried different variations before I figured out the right way to carry my weight. I also learnt the various stretches to prepare for this pose.

Firefly pose

Continue reading Push your fitness boundaries with Instagram challenges

Want to win some paleo goodies?

I’m giving away¬†a loaf of paleo bread or a bag of paleo cookies to two people! Now is a great time for you to take part if you’ve always wanted to try¬†the bread or cookies but¬†are not sure if you’ll like it. Or if you’re a regular customer, you can get your next loaf for free!¬†This is the first contest I’m sponsoring so I’m very excited. The winner also gets a one clothing item¬†from local online yoga retailer¬†www.omgoing.com, which stocks amazing brands like Teeki and Liquidoactive.

contest free bread

It’s very easy to take part in this contest.

1. First, you need to have Instagram. Go download¬†the app¬†on your phone if you haven’t!¬†It’s fun and you can ‘follow’ people to see what they are up to!

2. Next take a photo of yourself wearing your gym wear outside of the studio. The idea is that we need not confine exercise clothes to the gym and that there are creative ways to make them look good for outside wear as well.

3. Post this photo with the hashtag #coloursplashsg and tag the four sponsors @paleorina @omgoing @yogaseeds and @trinityark. The other sponsors are also giving away goodies, including free yoga lessons.

3. This contest will run for two weeks from now until 23 July 2014. Winners will be announced on my Instagram wall.

Here are some sample photographs. Let’s create some colour splashes around Singapore!

bodyangelactivewear
Omgoing sisters wearing their yoga tops to the playground
yoga clothes free
Aunty Pearly taking her yoga leggings sightseeing overseas

Green Corridor 10.5km Run 2014 – more like a Brown Run

This May I took part in the Green Corridor Run – a trail run extending from the Tanjong Pagar railway station up north to Bukit Timah railway station. My favourite kinds of runs are trail runs and they are so much more fun than just pounding up and down the Marina Bay area, where most runs in Singapore seem to be held.

I was not disappointed with the Green Corridor Run. I ran on grass, gravel, clay and mud and things  became more exciting when the downpour started 1km into the run.

The start point was right at the start of the train rails, where the now defunct train from Singapore to Malaysia used to run. Apart from being beautiful and green, there’s also some nostalgia and a lot of history behind this stretch of land.

green corridor run

The Green Corridor 3

The organisers gave us four waves to choose from to start our race. The quicker you were, the earlier you would start the race. I chose the second timing of 920am. Continue reading Green Corridor 10.5km Run 2014 – more like a Brown Run

How I lost 2 kg in two weeks

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:

insanity workout

Continue reading How I lost 2 kg in two weeks

Staying healthy on holidays abroad

Overseas holidays are normally associated with lots of eating. We want to sample all kinds of delicious foreign food and we take a break from our usual workout routine. It’s not uncommon to come back with our bellies bloated and skin blotchy from poor eating! Even if the trip involved physical activities like¬†hiking for two days, it’s still possible to eat unwisely when we are not prepared with healthy snacks. Or we may pig out after our strenuous activity thinking that we have burnt enough calories!

How do we stay healthy on overseas holidays then? I just returned from my friend’s bachelorette party in the Maldives and indeed, we feasted non-stop! Actually, I thought we ate a lot less than our usual holidays simply because the food and drinks were prohibitively expensive. Here are a few tips:

  • Do a fast before your holiday

If you know that your holiday will involve a lot of eating and sitting around, it may be prudent to do a one-day fast before the trip to compensate for the extra intake. There are several ways to fast. My favourite is the Fast Diet method, in which you only eat 500 calories for women, and 600 calories for men, for one day. The next day you go back to eating normally. It’s not as difficult as water fasts and not as sugary as juice fasts. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend juice fasts at all given the amount of sugar consumed. The good thing about fasting is that¬†you do it just for one day¬†but studies have shown that even¬†temporary caloric restriction can¬†have many benefits for the body, including improvements in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.

  • Start with a salad

maldives holiday inn Continue reading Staying healthy on holidays abroad