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Let’s get physical with REAL® Run

Whether you’re new to the REAL® Run or want to beat your personal best, the hallmark of a good race is prepping well and following through. Here’s how.

TEXT: NICHOLAS JACOB

PHOTOS: HOMETEAMNS

With virtual races having been the status quo until very recently though, are we really prepared for the differences between physical and virtual runs? Now that you’ve signed up for REAL® Run 2022, here are some tips from our Fitness Workz trainer on how you can better prepare for the race physically and mentally.

MOTIVATION AND CONSCIENTIOUSNESS COUNTS

Between the day you register and the day itself, only one thing truly matters: Preparation.

Training for a virtual run came with many unique challenges. Being unable to train with friends physically can dampen the sense of camaraderie and hamper the desire to get up for those early-morning training sessions without a buddy.

The benefits of a physical setting, however, don’t stop at just the sense of solidarity we build when training in person with fellow runners – the excitement of physical competition can be a powerful motivating factor.

Even so, it’s important not to get too overzealous while training for a race. Fitness Workz trainer Danish’aizat shares that over-training and lax post-training habits, for instance, are notable hazards.

“To minimise risk of sustaining injury, runners should moderate their training frequencies and intensity. Heat and stretching before all the exercises and icing the muscle area after the exercise itself are also essential for proper recovery,” he elaborated.

THE RACE-DAY EFFECT

Studies show that many runners perceived virtual races to be harder, also showing than on average, runners were slower during stand-alone time trial efforts versus when racing head-to-head against in-person competition.

Part of this boils down to how our brains perceive when and how much effort we invest into an activity. In a physical race however, we have constantly targets in front of us to pace against, chase down and overtake.

The atmosphere of a physical race is not to be understated – competition in close quarters and crowds cheering you on may well give you that extra push you need to smash your personal best time.

Mr Danish’aizat has fond memories of the festive atmosphere at a REAL® Run race. This extends back to well before he became a Fitness Workz trainer. He volunteered with the rest of his class for REAL® Run 2018 when he was a Higher Nitec Sport Management student.

“I was able to volunteer with my peers and make new friends and connection at the event. We were all busy working and communicating as a team and it went super smoothly. When one of us needed help, someone would lend a hand. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and the atmosphere was great.”

While the atmosphere at a physical event can make a big difference, Mr Danish’aizat cautions against being too caught up in the moment and ignoring any potential injury.

“Serious injuries can occur during any run. When it comes to injuries like a twisted ankle, some runners will continue to run if it is bearable – but doing so will only worsen the injury,” he clarified.

“As another example, if experiencing lower back pain, stop the run, stretch it out and continue the run if it feels relief, but if it does not, seek medical help,” he advised.

A LESS FORGIVING RUN

Another major difference between virtual and physical runs is the race route. With virtual runs tracked using apps or fitness wearables, it’s far easier to plan an ideal route.

With a physical race, the route and timing are often fixed.

Sometimes, runners may “hit the wall” during a race despite ample preparation, which can be particularly crushing during a physical race. Mr Danish’aizat notes that the most important thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter how fast you go, as long as you do not stop.

“You have already spent months preparing for it, why give up now? Always stay positive and remember that there will always be a next race in the future,” he said.

PREPARING FOR PHYSICAL VS. VIRTUAL

Training for physical runs require runners to anticipate conditions for their competition route.

For example, treadmills can help with training for hilly terrain. By training on simulated inclines, one can not only mentally prepare for steep climbs and long ascents, but also develop leg strength and improve your form in the process.

Also, if one expects bumpy roads or uneven trails during a physical run, it’s worth making preparations like purchasing the right footwear and deliberately running on rough terrain to develop balance and agility while reducing risk of injury.

Finally, make sure you’re mentally prepared ahead of the race itself. The key here is to keep a clear mind focused on your goals. Remember to breathe, trust in your training and push yourself to meet or even exceed your goals as you keep your eyes on the prize: that glorious moment when you cross that long-awaited finishing line.

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Why a Mediterranean diet could benefit you

Adapting to the Mediterranean diet could offer a wealth of benefits, like improved heart health and lower cholesterol. Here’s your sign to switch up your palate and indulge in healthier food options at HomeTeamNS Clubhouses.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK, ELA & SIAM KITCHEN

While the Mediterranean diet – featuring more seafood, more vegetables and less carbohydrates – was discovered in the 1950s by American scientist Ancel Keys, it has remained popular for being easy to adopt as well as relevant; with more studies substantiating its promise of multiple benefits.

HOW DOES IT HELP WITH HEALTH?

The grilled salmon mentaiko rice bowl served at Indulge Teppanyaki & Grill House in HomeTeamNS-JOM Balestier.

Taking inspiration from the typical menus of those living in the region, such as Italy, Greece, Spain and Morocco, the Mediterranean diet boosts vegetable intake while cutting back on red meats and refined carbs.

Its most pronounced effect is that on the cardiovascular system – reducing risk of heart diseases, alleviating high blood pressure, and even helping with overall mortality. In a 2018 study of nearly 26,000 women, 25 per cent of those who followed the Mediterranean diet had less risk of developing cardiovascular disease over 12 years. The main drivers for this were attributed to changes in inflammation, blood sugar, and body mass index.

There are also increasing reports that support its role in supporting slow ageing and cognitive health as well, especially for men.

The Mediterranean diet fundamentally does this in two ways, by upping nutrient intake through generous servings of vegetables and fruit, and by relying on the use of monounsaturated fats. One of the biggest changes is using olive oil, which is a healthier fat that lowers total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol levels. For proteins, the diet prefers fish like sardines, mackerel, tuna and salmon. These meats are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which fight inflammation within the body, and the polyunsaturated fats also reduce blood clotting, lower the risk of stroke and heart failure. They also help the body with building brain cell membranes.

Ms Jessica Bayes, the lead researcher for the UTS study found that the increased intake of fibre from the diet of nuts, fruit and vegetables contribute to healthy microbial growth in the gut, and that in turn stimulated more production of serotonin – the chemical which makes us happy.

Add to that the nutrient-rich properties of staple ingredients like tomatoes (antioxidant lycopene, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K) or chickpeas (vitamin B9, copper, manganese and iron), your diet will protect and energise with its natural goodness.

SO WHAT DOES THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET CONSIST OF?

Ela at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok also offers traditional Greek soups like Fasolada.

One advantage of the Mediterranean diet is that it involves shifting your dietary preference than cancelling intake altogether.

Replace refined grains with whole grains and benefit from the added nutrients and fibre while enjoying your carbs. Swap out fried sides like fries and chips and opt for hummus, beans or salads instead. Feeling peckish? Try snacking on nuts and seeds instead of processed treats.

The meat department also needs some rotation. Try to reduce their intake to twice a week as you will be getting plenty of good protein from legumes. Also, move away from red meats and choose fish and other seafood instead.

While following the menus of this region may have you thinking that it’s pizza, pasta and ice-cream all the way, know that while those items do feature in the cuisine, the locals take them in moderation, and tend to eat them in smaller portions with plenty of sides of legumes, vegetables and fruits. This is because items like pizza can contain too much processed red meats and use refined flour, while ice cream contains added refined sugar.

AND IT’S EASY TO START

The Steamed Seabass in Chili and Lime dressing served at Siam Kitchen in HomeTeamNS Khatib.

Luckily for us, Singapore has excellent access to affordable imported ingredients, which means kickstarting a Mediterranean diet is within reach! Many of the ingredients that grow on the sunny Mediterranean belt can be found in local farms as well, like tomatoes and greens.

To start, try swapping out one of your sides, or have a meal lean into the principles of more vegetables and white meat. Make small decisions; like replacing desserts full of refined sugar with fruits, or using the rich regional spices or cheese like feta and goat to flavour your food.

Singapore’s vibrant food scene also makes it easy for one to adhere to the diet. Whether it’s chowing down at Singapore Food Festival or one of the eateries at HomeTeamNS clubhouses, you can always easily find meals that line up with the diet.

For example, the Steamed Seabass at HomeTeamNS Khatib’s Siam Kitchen is one item with the fish healthily simmering in a chili and lime dressing. At Indulge Teppanyaki & Grill House in HomeTeamNS-JOM Balestier, the Pan-seared Scallop Rice Bowl and Grilled Salmon Mentaiko Rice Bowl fulfil the white meat quota with sides of edamame beans and cherry tomatoes. And if you’re looking for the full experience, Ela at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok offers a delicious Greek menu with pita bread, cucumber yogurt dips, traditional salads and soups like the Fasolada, and marinated servings of chicken and octopus to complete your meal.

If you’re a HomeTeamNS member, kickstart your Mediterranean diet and enjoy 10 to 15 per cent off the total bill at the HomeTeamNS eateries above. Just flash your digital membership card in your HomeTeamNS Mobile App upon checkout.

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Featured Shape Up

Fitness Workz trainer by day, Mr World Singapore finalist by night

Mr World Singapore finalist Aidid Haidil has come a long way since his life was changed by a road accident in 2017. This fitness trainer at HomeTeamNS Fitness Workz hopes to inspire others with his story.

TEXT: NICHOLAS JACOB

PHOTOS: FITNESS WORKZ

A model, an avid football player, and a lifelong fitness enthusiast, Mr Aidid Haidil awoke from surgery in 2017 to see his right arm and leg completely encased in casts. In addition, his upper lip had been torn apart and stitched back together.

He was lucky to be alive, having survived a major road accident in which his motorcycle collided with a lorry at the cross junction next to Marsiling MRT station. Mr Aidid had been flung off his bike into the lorry’s windshield, before landing on the road.

“I thought it was just a dream as it felt like I had just woken up from a nap,” he recalled.

The sudden awakening was soon followed by a bleak period of depression, as he slowly recovered from his injuries but continued to struggle mentally.

“Knowing that I had 20 metal implants surgically placed in me, I was demotivated and started wasting my life away. I was depressed and honestly speaking, I gave up on fitness and sports as I knew for sure that everything would not be the same anymore due to the physical challenges I have permanently.”

A TURNING POINT, VIA FITNESS

Mr Aidid tried to keep a cheerful face on for the sake of his supportive family and friends, but he hit his lowest ebb when he was unable to secure his dream job as a flight attendant, having failed the skin check portion of the interview due to his physical scarring.

“I sat down by the roadside just outside the building where the interview was and I broke down badly,” he said. “I sat there for a good two hours as I could not accept the fate I had been given. But something popped out in my head, telling me to give my lecturer from ITE College West a call.”

It was the turning point for Mr Aidid. His lecturer suggested that he apply for the Work Study Diploma in Fitness Management, as Mr Aidid already had a Higher NITEC in Sports Management and his lecturer was confident that he had the capability to succeed.

Recalling how proud his parents had been when he graduated from ITE, he took a leap of faith and applied for the programme. Today, Mr Aidid is a Fitness Workz trainer at HomeTeamNS Khatib. He received the Personal Trainer Certification from the American Council of Exercise last year and has made it to the finals of the Mr World Singapore 2022 competition.

If he was able to go back to the aftermath of the accident in 2017, he says he would tell himself that everything happens for a reason, and always for the better: “It happened to make me realise that not everything will go as planned. Don’t ever give up – don’t make the same mistakes and waste the upcoming years being so hard on yourself. Get back up on both feet and achieve the success you were meant to achieve.”

HELPING HIMSELF BY HELPING OTHERS

Five years after the accident, Mr Aidid still suffers from bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder. But he tries to keep himself occupied and focuses on his mental health.

One thing that gives him a deep sense of fulfilment is helping his clients, especially NSmen like himself at Fitness Workz. While none of them have been through a similar accident, he has assisted clients who suffer from various conditions, such as slipped discs, asthma and polycystic ovary syndrome.

He is able to understand their difficulties and meet them on another level. Over time, Mr Aidid has worked to rebuild his own fitness despite his own physical challenges, such as being unable to flex or extend his wrist fully, which means that he cannot do a proper push-up or bench press.

“I told myself that I have to find ways to strengthen and condition my body again, and not let all of this pull me down,” he said. “I fought through it. The sweat, pain and literal tears were worth it – today, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”

Having surpassed his former fitness levels, Mr Aidid is eager to help others do the same.

“I don’t just help the clients who have paid for their personal training sessions with me,” he said. “I attend to any gym members in need, or those who seem lost and demotivated in the gym. I approach them and guide them throughout their gym session.”

FACING THE WORLD AND SHARING HIS STORY

Mr Aidid first heard about the Mr World Singapore 2022 competition from gym members, who recommended that he enter. He took up the challenge, feeling that the event would serve as the perfect platform for him to share his story and inspire others in a similar situation.

“I took a chance,” he said. “The experiences I’ve gone through so far are amazing! From going to events, parties, getting sponsored by multiple companies and meeting new people from different backgrounds – it makes my life more interesting and I love it.”

He added: “I have a habit of not expecting great things, but with all the effort and sincerity I’ve put in, I’ve managed to progress on and become a finalist in Mr World Singapore. I believe that with my consistent effort and willingness, I will get to reach out to people and raise them back up on their feet to achieve success, just like me.”

Besides modelling and acting, Mr Aidid still enjoys his first love – football – and of course, working out at the gym. Despite his pageant success, he plans to remain in the fitness industry.

“I want to be better, gain more knowledge and further progress in this line of work,” he says of his career as a trainer. “My goals are not just for me, but also for society. I want to be the reason why people are inspired and get out of their hiding spots to achieve greatness as well.”

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Featured Shape Up

How to put your best foot forward for the REAL® Run

Here’s how you can conquer the REAL® Run, whether you’re crossing that finish line for the first time or aiming to beat your personal best.

TEXT: NICHOLAS JACOB

PHOTOS: HOMETEAMNS

It’s finally back: The REAL® Run.

HomeTeamNS’ annual signature event is back on the streets for the first time since the pandemic. Flagging off on October 8, the 26th REAL® Run makes a true return to form as a long-awaited physical run offering 5km and 10km categories, at Gardens by the Bay, The Meadow.

This year’s event looks to bring together runners itching for that race-day atmosphere that was missing during the virtual events staged during the pandemic. The question stands: are you ready to make the most of it?

As the saying goes, success occurs when opportunity meets preparation – let’s go over the full run-down of how best to gear yourself for the big day, from start to finish.

READY, GET SET …

First up, physical training.

REAL® Run offers two categories: the 5km and 10km run. While this isn’t quite a marathon, it’s worth bearing in mind that these are still far longer distances than the 2.4km many of us are familiar with.

Consistency is key – ensuring you can avoid both burnout and injury are key to a successful training plan. This is particularly true for beginners; it’s important to start out slow and ramp the intensity over time.

As a general rule of thumb, training between 3-4 times a week with rest days in between is ideal. A solid baseline training program generally takes place over 8 weeks, with more weeks being beneficial if you need that extra bit of prep.

For beginners, start your runs at around half of your target race distance, and gradually ramp up weekly until you can run 90%-100% of the full mileage.

For intermediate and advanced runners, throw in some interval training and tempo runs in between to improve speed and pace alongside the long runs you’ll already be used to for building endurance.

Regardless of your level of fitness or experience, remember to take the appropriate injury prevention measures. Take rest or active rest days, ice and compress joints, do plenty of stretching and, of course, eat a healthy and balanced diet.

THE FINAL STRETCH

Following weeks of training, one certainly won’t want to falter as they approach the literal and figurative finishing line.

After all, you’ve trained so hard and geared yourself mentally for so long – no reason to not finish strong by ensuring you’re well-prepared for the race day itself.

Veteran runners will know that race day prep actually begins the week before.

Continue to condition your body, but start paying extra attention to not overdoing it in order to avoid injury. Mix in several long, slow runs with a couple days of interval training at your target 5km or 10km race pace broken up with light jogging in between.

The little things matter: Clipping your toenails (don’t do this too close to the race day!), visualising the actual race and thinking of your post-run celebration plans are all small strategies that the pros incorporate before their runs.

A little bit of prep at this point also goes a long way. Lay out your race day outfit, fitness accessories and running shoes. The less you scramble on the day itself, the better your chance of being in peak condition mentally and physically during the run.

Two days ahead of time, you’ll want to ensure you get in good, carb-heavy meals to maximise both your body (nutrition) and mind (motivation) as you await the day to come. At the same time, hydrate well throughout the day.

As with all important days, you’ll also want to make sure your body gets plenty of rest a couple days before; two good night’s sleep of about 8-9 hours should do the trick.

THE BIG DAY

On the day itself, try to get a solid meal in about 2-3 hours before the race – an energy bar about an hour before the starting horn is also a good idea for that extra boost.

Remember to pace yourself by starting at a measured pace and ramping up as you get into the swing of things. If you’ve got a fitness watch, use that to keep time and check yourself against the pace you’ve become most accustomed to during training.

If all goes according to plan, the light at the end of the tunnel will come into view sooner than you’ll probably expect. Keep at it, and you’ll cross that glorious finishing line in no time – all according to plan!

But perhaps the most important tip of all: remember to enjoy yourself. Relish in the run, soak in the vibes, and don’t forget to smile when you cross the finish line!

Now that you’re equipped with the race tips, take the next stride and register for the REAL® Run now. Registration is now extended to 21 September 2022, and is open to HomeTeamNS members, SAFRA and Passion Card holders, and the public. For more details on the race entitlements and fees, please visit our website.

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Shape Up

Futsal FTW!

Futsal lovers are dusting off their shoes as they hit the courts once again. We speak to a Fitness Workz trainer to find out why and how the sport benefits you.

TEXT: NICHOLAS JACOB

PHOTOS: MOHAMMAD ASHRAF & NUR ADLINA BINTE ADAM

Futsal is a fan-favourite ball sport that has enjoyed a rapid resurgence with fans flocking to courts to realise long-overdue meetup plans with their usual kakis.

And it’s easy to see why. It is very much an enthusiast’s sport, with fans loving the adrenaline-packed action and the sense of community it fosters.

AN ACTION-PACKED PLAYING FIELD

Futsal’s small field of play makes for fast, action-packed matches.

The defining trait of futsal is its fast-paced, pick-up style nature.

It takes place on a smaller field of play compared to football. It requires constant, short sprints. With smaller teams, each individual player is also generally more engaged and involved throughout the course of a match, compared to football games.

According to Fitness Workz trainer Mohammad Ashraf Bin Jamal, who is a fan of the sport himself, this makes for an addictive, high-intensity game.

“You are constantly sprinting within that small field and keeping pace with other players throughout the game. Because of the small field, players must move quickly.”

While typical football matches take place on a huge field, placing more emphasis on running long distances and the cardiovascular aspect of fitness, Mr Ashraf believes futsal focuses more on agility, acceleration, and speed.

“It is such a fast-paced sport that players must constantly be on their toes, always ready to anticipate the ball at a very close distance between teammates and opponents,” he explained.

SOCCER AND FUTSAL: TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

Basic skills like ball control are applicable to both futsal and soccer.

Like football, each player on the futsal field has a specialised role.

There are 5 different positions in futsal – the goalkeeper, two wingers, the pivot, and the defender. Each of these requires a unique set of skills but all roles share the same fundamental skills.

According to Mr Ashraf, starting with the basics is key to getting the maximum enjoyment out of the sport.

“In general, every player should master the basics like ball control, long or short passing and tackling. I feel as a player you should master the basics first. From there, you can then focus on other specific skill sets to elevate your mastery of the sport,” he elaborated.

“Having a good understanding of the basics is very important because it helps the team better communicate and assess the situation on the spot. This places players on the same page, which enhances communication and cultivates a great team dynamic,” he added.

Mr Ashraf notes that one of the best aspects of futsal is how easily the skills translate for an experienced football player. This makes the futsal community a potentially massive one, meaning you’re never quite going to find yourself lacking when putting together a few stacks to organise a pick-up game.

THE LOVECHILD OF FITNESS AND COMMUNITY

It goes without saying that futsal is a fantastic form of aerobic activity.

“Futsal generally improves overall fitness levels if played regularly. For example, improved lung health and increased lung capacity are one of many benefits that you can gain from  just playing futsal on its own,” shared Ashraf.

Moreover, engaging in sports like futsal can also be great for your social and emotional wellbeing, creating positive benefits for one’s mental health.

“Through playing futsal, you can put your communication skills to great use as you coordinate with teammates and socialise with the community. This helps to both foster new bonds with other players, as well as to further develop friendships,” explained Ashraf.

PREPPING FOR PLAY

Fitness Workz trainer Mohammad Ashraf believes that futsal can help one’s general fitness as well as boost social and emotional wellbeing.

Fitness and futsal go hand-in-hand, which means that the game can be a powerful motivator to build up your general fitness as well as to develop physical abilities specific to the sport.

For starters, Ashraf notes that swimming and high intensity interval training (HIIT) are great forms of exercise relevant to futsal to improve overall body fitness.

“Swimming engages almost the entirety of an individual’s body. It also involves a lot of cardiovascular and muscular endurance which can further improve performance in physical activity,” he shared.

At Fitness Workz Premium at HomeTeamNS Khatib, we offer HIIT classes. HIIT classes involve moving quickly from one cardio exercise to the next to keep your heart rate high. This type of training focuses on muscular endurance, agility, speed, power, and cardiovascular endurance. Every physical aspect that HIIT develops is crucial during a futsal match, because an individual’s overall fitness often can make the difference between winning or losing a match,” he added.

HomeTeamNS also offers a Futsal Clinic for younger futsal fans looking to become the next soccer star. These clinics, conducted every Saturday by an experienced coach from the Football Association of Singapore, help give children a head start with an all-rounded learning experience.

Whether young or old, it’s never a bad time to try out a new sport and the futsal courts at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok are a good place to start. You might find that first foray into the futsal field turning into lifelong experiences with a sport you may grow to adore, alongside the friends you’ll make along the way.

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Featured Shape Up

It’s time to give yoga a try

Yoga can benefit anyone looking to develop flexibility, strength and serenity. Here’s how you can get started.

TEXT: MELODY TAN

IMAGES: HOMETEAMNS, SHUTTERSTOCK

If you think yoga is only for the young and flexible, think again. These days, people of all ages and fitness levels are up for its physical and mental benefits, including top football players like Ryan Giggs (who released a yoga DVD), Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It’s a growing trend all over the world, including in Singapore, which has seen numerous studios set up shop and a profusion of different styles to suit every preference: hot yoga, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and even yoga blended with high-intensity interval training.

Whether you’re a gym addict or a couch potato, yoga is accessible, relaxing, and easy to incorporate into your lifestyle – and you don’t even have to squeeze yourself into leggings (unless you want to). Here are some of its benefits, and how you can try it out for yourself.

STRETCHING TOWARDS A STRONGER, HEALTHIER BODY

All that stretching and posing helps to build and tone muscles. After all, it takes real physical effort to hold a plank pose or a dolphin push-up.

When it comes to strengthening your back muscles specifically, it’s yoga’s time in the spotlight. Many poses hone the spine’s flexibility and strength, providing increased blood flow to spinal muscles and encouraging growth. Studies have even shown that Hatha yoga can assist with spinal cord injury recovery – although if you have an existing back issue and want to take up a new form of exercise, it’s always best to check with a doctor first.

But what if you’re looking to bulk up? According to research, it can be combined with your existing weight-training routine to improve muscular strength, through relying on exercise science principles. These include progressive overload (going through different poses to place tension on your muscles), mechanical damage (holding poses for longer periods) and metabolic stress, which occurs when you engage in more challenging poses.

Professional athletes in sports ranging from basketball to American football have attested to yoga’s ability to extend their careers and assist in rehabilitating injuries. But you don’t have to be a National Basketball Association star to enjoy the benefits. In a study of male college athletes, it was found that regular yoga practice increased flexibility and balance, and could potentially optimise athletic performance, with positive health outcomes that included lower blood pressure, enhanced muscle torque, handgrip strength, and delayed muscle soreness.

Another major benefit is pain relief. Yoga has been shown to help numerous chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis, migraine, lower back pain, and osteoporosis-related curvature of the spine. According to studies, it helped to improve sufferers’ mobility and daily function.

A MEDITATIVE MINDSET

Slow and calming hatha yoga and nidra yoga can calm your mind and help you to focus on your breathing, instead of chasing anxious, jittery thoughts. In a study of insomniac elderly, twice-weekly yoga classes and daily home sessions were found to improve sleep duration and quality.

Yogic breathing, known as Pranayama, has long been thought to have health benefits. The controlled breathing techniques in yoga are said to reduce stress, improve concentration and focus, and even boost one’s immune system. Some studies have even found that breathing practices can help dispel symptoms of mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, and depression.

Absent-minded people can benefit as well. (Just make sure to remember what time your class starts.) In an experiment conducted by a professor at an American university, participants of a single 20-minute yoga session displayed improved speed and accuracy on tests of their memory and inhibitory control. Overall, they were better able to maintain cognitive focus, as well as learn and remember new information.

GETTING INTO YOGA

If you want to give yoga a go, don’t feel compelled to rush out and purchase brand new gear. All you need to start is loose, comfortable clothing and a yoga mat, which offers a safe, non-slip and cushioned surface to practise your poses.

Any flat, empty space can be used – your balcony, living room or bedroom floor are all suitable surfaces for your mat. Once you’re set up, you can rely on YouTube tutorials or other online resources for a beginner’s guide to basic yoga poses, such as the child’s pose, downward-facing dog, and tree pose.

However, part of yoga’s appeal lies in its sense of community. Working out with others can help to motivate you and keep you going, even when your muscles are burning. Attending a class is a great way to make new, like-minded friends as well.

HomeTeamNS makes yoga affordable, accessible, and fun, with regular classes across the island. Stretch it out in hatha yoga at HomeTeamNS Khatib, Balestier and Bukit Batok, or find balance through yin yang yoga at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok. Check out the available classes here – and get ready to move into a healthier body and mind.

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Shape Up

Work that Dad bod off

Your Dad bod won’t melt away overnight, but it’s not an unattainable dream. We speak to a Fitness Workz trainer for some fitness advice.

TEXT: NICHOLAS JACOB

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK

With community restrictions lifting, borders re-opening and vacation season upon us, it’s high time to start working on getting fit to look good in all those travel photos we’ll be snapping. After all, who doesn’t want a summer bod while on that beach holiday?

Alas, achieving a trim tummy is easier said than done.

Ask any fitness instructor and they’ll tell you that losing the gut is one of the hardest goals in exercise. Not only do you need the right kind of workouts – special attention needs to be paid to your diet.

Fret not, as we have you covered. Here are some tips and tricks from a HomeTeamNS trainer to start you on your journey to six-pack abs.

BELLY FAT MYTHS

Before you begin your journey to stripping away that Dad bod, it’s important to understand some of the common misconceptions around belly fat and what it takes to lose or maintain it.

As Fitness Workz trainer Deyna Sabryna shares, a bulging belly is a common area of concern for most people – which means that when people come across a diet or fitness trend that promises quick results, most people jump on it (often to varying degrees of effectiveness).

“A common misunderstanding is that belly fat is just the same as body fat. Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is accumulated deep under the skin around the organs,” she shared.

Notably, visceral fat can often lead to health issues like insulin resistance, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. This means that choosing the right approach to belly fat loss, backed by health science, is essential to preserving one’s health (as opposed to simply riding on the latest TikTok quick workout trend).

Ms Sabryna shares another misconception that one should “avoid fatty food” in order to avoid a Dad bod. Rather, belly fat occurs due to a variety of factors, which include having an unhealthy diet, inactivity, sleeping patterns and other lifestyle habits.

“Only by making changes in every area and practising healthy lifestyle habits will you be able to shave some inches from your waistline,” she advised.

THE ROAD TO A TRIM TUMMY

One of the first things to recognise when planning a fitness regimen to start shaving belly fat is that one cannot target weight loss at one’s gut.

 “Spot targeting fat is not effective in general. If you are trying to lose body fat, a mix of strength and resistance training, high intensity aerobic exercises and a healthy diet are key,” said Ms Sabryna.

Some of the recommended exercises for those seeking to trim down a Dad bod include strength training aimed at working on your chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs and so on, as well as cardio training like running, brisk walking or cycling.

Ms Sabryna personally recommends joining a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class, which combines the best of both worlds of strength and cardio training for best results.

For beginners, she adds that it’s also important to start by doing some mobility and flexibility work. This is to help build up one’s range of motion and to ascertain strengths and weaknesses, and can be of particular benefit when working with a fitness trainer.

 “Based on this initial assessment, I will know which part of the muscle that we can start working on. For those in their 40s and 50s, we’ll know that you will need more time to slowly work with as they can be prone to getting injured easily. That’s why we make sure our clients understand the process in order to achieve a goal that will take time and dedication,” she elaborated.

Besides exercising, it’s important to also factor in the holistic lifestyle changes you should adopt.

These include eating regular, balanced meals (don’t skip breakfast!), incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables and high-fibre food into your diet, drinking lots of water and also maintaining a consistently active lifestyle.

CONSISTENCY IS KING

According to Ms Sabryna, by ensuring you maintain your habits in both exercise and diet, noticeable weight loss and muscle changes can come in as few as six weeks.

“Notably, eating a calorie deficit is not important – you will actually need to be eating enough carbs and protein to help repair muscles. People who train and do not address nutrition will have a harder time achieving and sustaining results,” she explained.

Another note of importance is that there isn’t such a thing as a six-pack shortcut.

Ms Sabryna shares that six-pack abs are the result of a very low body fat percentage. It’s when the subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin) gets very depleted that you will most likely be able to see your abdominal muscles. This can only be achieved with proper habits and nutrition over an extended period.

As a general rule of thumb, one shouldn’t expect to ditch their Dad bod immediately after starting their new routine. As with many things, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to trimming the tummy.

“There is no shortcut to losing weight. It takes time and dedication in order to achieve your goal. But if you are not quite sure about what exercises help or lack motivation, you can engage in one-to-one personal training, ask a friend to be your buddy workout, or even join group classes,” she said.

When it comes to the latter, Fitness Workz offers a range of programmes that help beginners and veterans alike level-up their fitness game. For example, NS FIT is a holistic fitness programme that offers Home Team NSmen more opportunities to stay active and exercise regularly beyond IPPT-specific training.

Depending on your needs and existing workout preferences, one can either clock NS FIT sessions at physical Fitness Workz Gyms, or sign up for Virtual Fitness Training (VFT) sessions – that sort of flexibility is key to ensuring one can maintain that long-term fitness journey, after all!

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Fighting fit for National Service

Enlisting for National Service soon? We talk to a Fitness Workz trainer to find out how you can improve your conditioning to be in the best possible shape for NS!

TEXT: NICHOLAS JACOB

PHOTOS: FITNESS WORKZ

If you’re about to enlist for National Service (NS), it’s understandable to feel some trepidation over what lies in wait over the next two years. After all, NSmen are trained rigorously to ready themselves to defend our country – an important duty which calls for the requisite level of physical fitness.

Even so, with the right mindset and plan in place, you can place yourself on the right track to emerging from NS stronger in both body and mind, while having had the best experience possible – and we’re here to guide you through that!

EXPECTING WHAT TO EXPECT

Some of the challenges NSmen can typically expect to undergo include adjusting to new living environments and routines, hours of demanding physical training sessions, and a range of intensive physical activities which call for a high level of fitness.

According to Mr Muhammad Danish’aizat Bin Kamsani, a fitness trainer at Fitness Workz, setting realistic fitness goals is one way to stay on track and motivated before enlistment and throughout the NS journey.

“This gives you a framework through which you can achieve milestones. Achieving your fitness goal can be rewarding and being fit ahead of enlistment can reduce the risk of injury during basic training,” he shared.

So, how does one structure that fitness plan?

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME

As a rule of thumb, it is ideal to allow yourself around a year to prepare for NS – this allows plenty of time for you to train at a measured pace and condition your body before enlisting.

Mr Danish’aizat recommends hitting the gym three days a week for the first few months, then ramping up the frequency to five weekly sessions as you progress.

“Always aim for improvement every week and try out new training styles. Having a few gym kakis can also help you stay motivated and focused on your fitness goals,” he advised.

Of course, not everyone may have the luxury of time to spend a full year of training. For instance, if one only has a month to prep before enlisting, Mr Danish’aizat recommends focusing on improving cardiovascular health and muscular endurance for the best short-term gains possible.

“This can help you to be mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming training sessions,” he explained.

THE ROAD TO GETTING FIGHTING FIT

When it comes to the exercises, our fitness trainer notes that focusing on strengthening your pectoralis and abdominal muscles before enlisting will translate into the greatest benefits for your NS journey. Again, tie these back to goals you wish to achieve.

For example, training yourself to run the 2.4km under 13 minutes will improve your cardiovascular fitness – which can not only help with the 2.4km run itself, but also a wide range of physical activities you can expect during NS.

Fun fact: Incorporating additional exercises to develop your shoulders, arms, back and legs can also improve your overall cardiovascular health! Doing so will also enhance your holistic strength, allowing you to tackle the physical challenges that come with NS more easily.

FITNESS FOR LIFE

Apart from fitness training, Mr Danish’aizat recommends maintaining a balanced, healthy diet to complement your training while also mentally preparing yourself for lifestyle changes during NS.

“Simply replace vegetable oil with olive oil, choose baking or air-frying over deep-frying. Try to prepare your own meals as much as possible or pick healthier options when you eat out. Getting used to eating healthy will also make it easier to acclimatise to a new healthy lifestyle upon enlistment,” he explained.

Through it all, the fitness habits picked up during NS will be helpful long after your stint is complete.

“Fitness does not stop as there is no limit to it. Continuing to live an active and healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of illness and improve your mental health! Each new day is a new opportunity to improve yourself – take it and make the most out of it,” Mr Danish’aizat advised.

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Getting fit with your phone

Screen time on your phone isn’t all about Netflix and social media – your phone can also help you become better, stronger and fitter. Here’s how.

TEXT: NICHOLAS TAN

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK

Our smartphones allow us to do just about anything and everything – from keeping in touch with loved ones to accessing any manner of content or information our minds can imagine.

For those in the know, our smartphones not only help us stay connected and catch up with the news; they’re also a great means to kickstart your fitness journey. Whether you’re an exercise newbie or fitspo veteran, mobile technology can give your workout plan a serious boost.  

BUILDING YOUR FITNESS PLAN

If you’ve been telling your family and friends about how you’re “thinking about hiring a personal trainer”, you may consider starting off with your smartphone.

With access to a limitless database of fitness information online, understanding how to get started on (or enhance) your fitness regime has never been easier.

For one, your phone is a great way to research different exercises and workout programmes that suit your fitness profile – particularly useful to make the most of your time during lull periods in one’s day, like your daily commute. Apps can also be used to set fitness targets and construct plans to achieve them, while providing workout recommendations and health tips along the way.

Mr Afiq Syahmi, our Fitness Trainer at Fitness Workz, is partial to the Nike Training Club app as his fitness companion of choice.

“If you’re into fitness, then the Nike Training Club app is for you! The app has a user-friendly interface, and personalised workouts that make it suitable for anyone new to fitness or looking for something fun and new,” he explained.

The app grants access to more than 200 free workouts ranging from strength, endurance, yoga and mobility exercises that target your upper body, lower body and core muscles. Afiq notes that each workout can vary from five to 50 minutes, depending on your needs and lifestyle.

KEEPING YOU ON TRACK

While wearable fitness trackers like Fitbit or Garmin watches are all the rage, you don’t necessarily need to buy one, especially if you’re just starting out. Modern smartphones can easily act as a fitness tracker, given the right combination of apps.

These range from apps like Apple’s Health app which tracks general activity level, including metrics like steps and calories burnt, to specialised apps tailored to cyclists (Cyclemeter) and ones incorporating social networking elements (Nike Running).

Afiq adds that some apps can incentivise your workouts to give you that little extra push.

“Fitness apps like LumiHealth reward users with app credits and vouchers by participating in their in-app fitness challenges. These game-like challenges encourage the users to form healthy habits and stay motivated on their fitness journey,” he elaborated.

Such apps not only add a little more fun into your fitness experience, but also promote bonding through exercising with friends and family – all in order to push one another to greater heights.

BALANCING YOUR OVERALL WELLNESS

One important rule to live by: Exercise isn’t the be-all, end-all for those who are on a path towards living a balanced lifestyle.

Nutrition and sleep are two essential components to living an overall healthier life – both of which can be enhanced if you use your phone to track your progress.

There are a wide variety of phone apps that can be used to research, build and stick to diets, as well as track sleep quality and deliver recommendations to improve sleep for health benefits.

For instance, MyFitnessPal boasts comprehensive nutrition logging with an easy-to-use database offering nutritional information for millions of different foods. SleepCycle tracks your quality of sleep and sleep patterns, and wakes you up during your lightest sleep phase every morning – ensuring you always start your days well-rested and ready to get moving!

USING TECH THE RIGHT WAY

While there may be a lot your phone can do for you when it comes to levelling up your health, technology will only get you so far.

“While many fitness apps grant a quick fix for the public, few can curate workout programmes that cater to their individual fitness levels and needs. It’s also possible for users to overly rely on fitness apps’ default fitness programmes, neglecting their capabilities and safety in the gym,” advised Afiq.

He goes on to suggest that personal trainers are a great way to bridge these gaps, since they can provide real-time feedback and make quick adjustments to ensure that safety is not compromised.

Of course, he believes that it shouldn’t be a choice between one or the other – personal trainers and technology can go hand-in-hand to keep you on track with your fitness journey.

“Managing multiple members at once can be challenging because the sessions are back-to-back most of the time. Personal trainers must review members’ progress within a limited timeframe before a new session begins. As a personal trainer, I can efficiently track a member’s progress and plan the upcoming personal training session with the fitness app,” he explained.

“Our members can review their progress through the fitness app and inquire via the in-app messager. Fitness apps help streamline the process, and I can focus on curating more personalised programmes,” he added.

At the end of the day, whichever method you adopt, the most important principle in fitness is to stay focused and be consistent. Drawing up a plan, establishing clear goals, and maintaining diligence are the key ingredients to achieving better fitness overtime. Apps and personal trainers will guide you along the path to success, but you must ultimately walk that path with your own two feet.

New to the scene? Try kickstarting your fitness journey with a trusty partner or a friend to push each other to greater fitness heights.

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Couple workouts for every level of fitness

Couples who train together stay together! In Part 2 of our couple workouts series, we explore four exercises that can get you moving with your partner whether you are both beginners or workout veterans.

TEXT: NICHOLAS JACOB

PHOTOS: MEDIACORP STUDIO 3

Last month, Fitness Workz trainers Azmirah Azman and Aidid Haidil shared how couple workouts can help keep you aligned towards a common goal and facilitate your common fitness goals over the long term, regardless of your level of fitness.

Whether it’s in the gym or at the fitness corner, exercising as a couple carries a multitude of benefits, from improving the consistency of your overall fitness journey to reinforcing the bonds and confidence levels shared by both individuals.

As you each become fitter and more knowledgeable, these couple workouts get increasingly productive as you discover ways to play to each other’s strengths and improve on weaknesses.

In this story, we explore how you and your companion can add greater depth to conventional exercises, activating key muscle groups in novel ways, and keeping your training plan fresh and exciting through a series of four partner exercises.

PLACING A TWIST ON THE HUMBLE SIT-UP

Muscle groups targeted and benefits: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques.

Sit-ups are a staple in any athlete’s repertoire of exercises. Done correctly, it helps stimulate your core abdominal muscles to build strength and develop that highly sought-after muscle tone (don’t forget to pair with a fat burning diet so that 6-pack can really shine!).

In addition to building core strength, sit-ups are a great way to build athletic performance, improve posture, and enhance balance and stability.

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  1. Basic: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet anchored. Tuck your chin into your chest to lengthen the back of your neck. Cup your ears or cross your arms with your hands on opposite shoulders.
  2. Exhale as you lift your upper body up toward your thighs. Inhale as you slowly lower yourself back down to the floor.
  3. Intermediate: Try back-to-back sit-ups, introducing a twist as you lift your upper body, clapping your partner’s hand on alternating sides with every rep.
  4. Advanced: To crank up the intensity, pass a medicine ball between yourselves. This can add some serious additional resistance so you really feel the burn!

MIXING IT UP WITH CRUNCHES

Muscle groups targeted and benefits:  Forearm muscles, wrist flexors, lats, upper back (Monkey bar Crunches), and Abdominal muscles, obliques, hip flexors (Crunches).

Monkey bar crunches are a core muscle exercise with a greater range of movement than sit-ups. They help build forearm and upper body strength for that quintessential athlete’s V-shaped physique. This exercise helps to build greater core strength while improving balance and flexibility.

Working with a partner is key to gradually ramping up the intensity. A partner can assist you by gently holding your legs to support the movements as your arms and abdominal muscles acclimatise to your body weight and the range of movement.

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  1. Start monkey bar crunches by hanging on a pull-up bar. As you inhale, engage your core muscles.
  2. Lift knees across your body to your left until thighs are perpendicular to chest. Lower your legs, then repeat the movement on the right.
  3. You and your partner can also perform crunches in tandem. Sit on the floor facing to one side and lean back at 45 degrees. Raise and hold both feet slightly above the ground.
  4. Raise your knees towards your chest and lower on the opposite side. Level up by slowing your crunches or trying to gradually weave your legs higher and higher over your partner’s. Or, have a friendly competition to see who can perform more reps.

SIDESTEPPING FOR AGILITY USING LATERAL SHUFFLE THROWS

Muscle groups targeted and benefits: Glutes, quads, inner and outer thigh, shoulder muscles, triceps and latissimus dorsi.

Lateral movements are key to building agility. They improve your ability to make swift movements in a controlled manner, maintaining balance in every movement.

The lateral shuffle throw activates smaller muscle groups outside the usual dominant muscle groups. It helps engage muscles holistically, evening out muscular imbalances and stabilising your hips. This is also a really fun way of keeping workouts fresh and stimulating.

Remember to engage your core throughout the exercise and keep your chest lifted. This will help you maintain proper form. Focus on making the full range of movement while ensuring the correct muscle groups are engaged at every stage of the exercise.

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  1. Basic: Stand with your feet a hip’s width apart. Sink into a deep knee bend. Bring both hands in front of the chest in a guard position holding the ball.
  2. Move your right foot to the right and follow through with your left foot. Shuffle four times to the right. Throw the ball to your partner then move left. Repeat the same moves, moving to the left this time.
  3. Intermediate: Turn this into a game by speeding up or adding unpredictability into the exercise. This helps you to train both mind and body while having heaps of fun.
  4. Advanced: Try performing the entire exercise with squats ranging from mid-to-low height. Challenge your partner to see just how low you both can go!

BUILD THOSE PECS WITH PARTNER PLANKS

Muscle group target and benefits: Pectoral muscles (chest), deltoids (shoulders), triceps, abdominals, serratus anterior (wings).

Planks are a mainstay in many home workouts. The plank pose is an exercise in mindfulness – engaging many of the major muscle groups of the body in a single pose and challenging your mind to endure the burn of the fixed position for as long as you can possibly go. Be sure to keep your body in a straight line, keeping your abdominal muscles tight throughout the exercise.

Planking with a partner encourages you to push harder. You can also check that each is maintaining proper form to get the most out of the exercise. Who better to push you to greater heights than a highly-competitive workout buddy?

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  1. Basic: Begin in a kneeling position. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and pitch forward so your hands, forearms and elbows are on the floor. Extend your legs behind you with toes tucked under to press into the plank.
  2. Intermediate: Start in a standard plank position. Fully extend one arm at a time so you are in a push-up plank position.
  3. Tap your partner’s hand while in a push up position. Revert to a standard plank position and repeat.
  4. Advanced: For a true challenge, try performing an overlap plank with your partner –one person planks directly on top of their partner who’s already in a plank position. Then, perform a push up at the same time.

Get your engines moving with your workout partner! Try out these workouts together over at our Fitness Workz gyms and spice it up with the equipment available. Book your preferred gym outlet and timing all in one place with our new and improved HomeTeamNS Mobile App now!