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.

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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

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Looking good while working out

This blog’s tagline is “Health, fitness and vanity.” There is quite a lot of talk on health and fitness but I count just two posts on vanity – one about how I have too many workout clothes and the other on the how endurance athletes have quite attractive body types to me. Does this mean I’m not as vain as I thought I was? :)

Today I’m going to talk about something quite bimbiotic – which is how to look good while working out. As you can tell, this post is targeted toward the female population because I have this impression that guys don’t really have the same hangups as we do about looking pretty while sweating!

My three tips to looking good while working out are:

  1. Put on makeup that doesn’t look like makeup
  2. Wear flattering clothes
  3. Prettify your hair

Put on makeup that doesn’t look like makeup

Ideally and practically speaking, you wouldn’t be wearing any makeup at all when you’re exercising. Your pores should be allowed to breathe and it’s nice not to get powder all over your towel when you’re wiping down. But unless you have perfect skin, you’re not going to look very pretty exercising bare faced. That doesn’t mean that you start caking on foundation and three layers of mascara like Kim Kardashian at the gym.

Kim Kardashian wears a full face of makeup to the gym
Kim Kardashian wears a full face of makeup to the gym

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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

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Xtend Barre class at Upside Motion

If you have been following me on Instagram (@Paleorina) you will know that I have been moaning about my knee injury. I have been unable to run without a throbbing soreness in my inner right knee and it has been driving me mad. Without running to help me expand my energy and keep me from bouncing off the walls, I needed something else to do that was low impact and interesting.

Yes, I have yoga but yoga was something very familiar to me. I wanted to try something different and exciting. Enter Xtend Barre. This is a pilates cum ballet workout that was created by an ex-ballerina in the US. The aim of this exercise was to create the long lean lines of ballerinas without actually having to take a ballet class. I mentioned in a previous post that my favourite body types are that of gymnasts and dancers so I was quite excited to try these classes!

I signed up for a one-week trial at $55 with Upside Motion that allowed me to take not only Xtend Barre classes, but also aerial yoga and pilates. In that one week, I managed to take three Xtend Barre classes under two different teachers, Laura and Saniya.

Xtend Barre Singapore

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Namaste Yoga Festival in Jakarta – Nov 2013

A weekend of yoga with great teachers, amazing Indonesian food and relaxing hair spas – what more can I ask from a short weekend jaunt overseas?

In late November, I attended the Namaste Festival at Hotel Sultan in Jakarta. This was three days worth of workshops ranging from yoga classes to martial arts to recycle art. The yoga classes were the main attraction naturally. Because we signed up very early for the festival, we paid only S$130 each (it was a one-for-one deal) for the full festival pass. Barbara, who attended a similar festival in Hong Kong earlier this year, paid about S$500 for that event. This Indonesian one was a very good deal indeed.

The festival took place in downtown Jakarta at Hotel Sultan. We were fortunate that we were able to bunk in for three days with our Indonesian friend Rosiva who lived just 10 minutes away and didn’t have to waste money on accommodation.

The hotel grounds were humongous. All the tennis courts were converted into marquees for the yoga workshops. Here we posed at the pool.

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Chua Chu Kang BIG Farm Walk & Run 2013

Last Sunday I took part in an 8km neighbourhood run at Chua Chua Kang. This run, unlike the more fancy ones organised by Bloomberg or Standard Chartered, was planned by a number of community centres, including Yew Tee Community Club and Bukit Gombak Community Centre. The entry fee was a mere $8 ($10 if you are a non-PAssion card member).

It took me more than half an hour to drive to Chua Chu Kang in the wee hours of the morning but I was seduced by the thought of running through our local farms, imagining that it would be picturesque with rolling fields (it wasn’t).

The starting point was at Brickland Road. We arrived about 10 minutes late, by which point the 8km runners had already been flagged off. The start point wasn’t clear at all. There wasn’t a big banner or anything. This photo shows the start point.

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Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2013

I’ve been getting into running recently. I think it started when I realised I like sports autobiographies very much; I’ve devoured books on fell running and triathlons recently. I was so inspired I decided that I would sign up for some races as well.

Last Sunday, I ran my first 10 km at the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run. I couldn’t have chosen a better race to do my first 10 km. It was the most well-organised running event I’ve attended! I was actually moaning about the race two weeks before because I forgot to collect the race pack at Bugis+ and had to travel all way to Sembawang to pick it up ($48 cab fare for both ways). But turns out the money was well spent because it entitled me to an excellent goodie bag.

yellow ribbon run

The race started at Loyang road near Changi Village. They were very punctual and started on time. Serena and I were still stretching and strolling to the start line when the bell went off for the start of the race. It didn’t matter anyway, we had timing chips in our bibs so we took our time to begin six minutes later.

I don’t have many photos of the race itself because I refused to stop in my very first 10 km race. Continue reading Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2013

Yoga workshop with Briohny and Dice

Last weekend, I was convinced that I had developed visible stomach muscles after practising yoga for seven hours over two days.

“Look at them! I seem to have some muscles now!” I crowed, pointing to my non-existent abs. My friend Barbara wasn’t so convinced.

We were at a three-day yoga workshop conducted by instructors Briohny and Dice. This workshop was held at Pure Yoga at Ngee Ann City. It was going to consist of very strong poses, such as handstands, arm balances and various other athleticism. Actually, it was more like a slow gymnastics class rather than yoga, and that was the way I like my yoga.

Take a look at this picture below and you will know what I mean.

briohny dice

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Acroyoga – or how we went topsy turvy

I first heard of acroyoga from surfing on Instagram. There, I saw photos of people contorted on each other. It looked more like gymnastics rather than yoga. I wondered how they got on top of each other. It looked really difficult.

acroyoga 1Source: alexxac

acroyoga 2Source: alissayoga

acroyoga 3Source: mallzballs

It turns out that acroyoga is quite a new trend in the yoga world. It is a blend of yoga and acrobatics and was conceived by yoga practitioners in North America (Montreal and California) in 2001. This practice, as you can see from the pictures, require two people at least, and usually consists of a base, who has the most contact with the ground, as well as the flyer, who is elevated off the ground.

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Yoga – crow pose

crow-tara stilesSource: Tara Stiles

Arm balances have always been the bane of my yoga life. I couldn’t get into crow pose (pictured above) or do chaturanga, which is like a yoga push-up. I thought I didn’t have the arm strength. It was only until recently did I realise that I did indeed have the strength to do these things. It was a matter of technique – I was taught by Alicia how to shift my weight forward to get the balancing sweet spot.

On the other hand, my friend Barbara has always been very good at arm balances. Here is her crow pose. The difference between hers and Tara Stiles above is that her calves are not lifted as high.

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