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Lifestyle

Here’s why passing your IPPT might be easier than you think

SUPT (NS) Terence Choo says the “secret” to passing the fitness test lies in shifting your mindset and routine.

PHOTOS: TERENCE CHOO

TEXT: ALYWIN CHEW

As the Chairman of The REAL® Run committee, SUPT (NS) Terence Choo has witnessed the transformative power of fitness. In 2017, he embarked on a personal project, compiling a collection of IPPT training tips that could benefit his fellow NSmen. Titled IPPT Ready, the online book was recently updated with additional tips that specifically help servicemen improve their performance in the three IPPT stations. Terence, who is a longstanding HomeTeamNS volunteer, shares with us more about the book — and his views on why passing IPPT is much less difficult than you may think.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO DEVELOP THIS ONLINE RESOURCE?

I wasn’t always as fit as I am today. In fact, I failed my first IPPT attempt in 2014! But I’ve since discovered the “secret” to passing the IPPT, and I wanted to share this with my fellow NSmen, through a dedicated IPPT resource website, which doesn’t quite exist anywhere else today. 

This one-stop guide is meant to help motivate NSmen and cultivate a more positive attitude towards IPPT. It’s also aimed at helping them train safely, effectively, and efficiently with three different levels — those who are restarting exercise, those who borderline pass or fail their IPPT, and those aiming for Silver and beyond. I have also included a special chapter for leaders and commanders on fitness motivation and the D.A.R.E. framework.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM THIS PERSONAL PROJECT OF YOURS?

The real challenge is not about addressing the fitness ability or knowledge of NSmen. Rather, they need to nurture their willingness to embrace health and fitness by discovering their personal meaning in pursuing better health and fitness. Once they uncover that meaningful purpose (which could be a professional or personal goal) that fuels their desire for strength and fitness, that will become the foundation for lasting transformation.

SO, WHAT IS THIS “SECRET” TO PASSING THE IPPT?

The secret is to be consistent, keep it simple, and have the right attitude towards fitness. A friend of mine who is 50, scored full marks on the push-up test. He doesn’t go to the gym regularly or train for long hours. All he did was incorporate a push-up routine into his daily life for the last 7 years. All he needed was a few minutes before showering or right after waking up. You may view the IPPT as an event that you need to train for and clear once a year. But I encourage you to see it from another perspective. Don’t train for the IPPT. Train for yourself. Make exercise an intrinsic part of your daily life.

HOW WOULD YOU RESPOND TO PEOPLE WHO ARGUE THAT THEY ARE TOO BUSY TO EXERCISE EVERY DAY?

Life in Singapore can be pretty hectic, but there is no reason why we cannot spare a few minutes every day to exercise. Find a routine that you have to do daily, for example, showering. Incorporate one set of squats or push-ups into your pre-showering routine. After a few weeks, and before you know it, it has become a routine that you’ll do naturally without thinking. One set of push-ups might even slowly turn into three or four sets. You can also look at this as a good way to energize yourself and feel good after a long day. I know this sounds rather unbelievable, but we only need a few minutes of exercise daily to pass the IPPT. 

Check out my online book for workout ideas that could help you enjoy working out even more. 

A FEW MINUTES? IS THAT REALLY ENOUGH TO GO FROM FAIL TO PASS?

Yes! Close to 25% of our NSmen just missed the passing mark by a few points. By investing a few minutes a day to do a few sets of push-ups or sit-ups or completing a short run helps to gradually improve your fitness over time. The key here is maintaining consistency and gradually increasing the intensity of the workout as you go along so that you improve and reach the required level to pass.

WHAT IF I’M SOMEONE WHO IS COMPLETELY OUT OF SHAPE AND CANNOT EVEN PERFORM A HANDFUL OF PUSH-UPS?

10 years ago, I could not do a single push-up. Consistency and patience led me to where I am now. You need to start with what you can do. Start with 8 to 12 repetitions of the variation that challenges you slightly. Do it daily, and as you get stronger, you can go for more repetitions or variations that are more challenging. Before long, you’ll be able to pass. Results are the fuel for greater action.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WHO LACK THE MOTIVATION TO EXERCISE?

I would ask such individuals: Would improved fitness make your life more difficult or better? We all know the benefits of working out regularly far outweigh the drawbacks. Firstly, it is far more logical and productive to exercise just a few minutes every day than having to carve out time to attend hours of remedial training (NS FIT), which can be very disruptive. Secondly, it’s no secret that being fit and healthy comes with a host of benefits. You’ll look better. You’ll feel more energetic and healthier. Most importantly, it can also help you to reach your personal and professional goals!

WOULDN’T EXERCISING EVERY DAY BE DETRIMENTAL TO HEALTH? SHOULDN’T I HAVE REST DAYS?

It all depends on the intensity of your workout. After an intense workout, you can opt for passive recovery the following day, either with a massage or simply resting the muscle you trained. Alternatively, you can also do active recovery — light workouts that are a fraction of the normal intensity. Personally, I like to do active recovery, and that is to exercise daily. When I need more time to recover, I will do a light workout instead of an intense one.

SHOULD I ENGAGE A PERSONAL TRAINER AT A FITNESS WORKZ GYM TO HELP ME TRAIN FOR MY IPPT?

A personal trainer can give you  more targeted advice and help you to train safely by imparting good exercise techniques. You can also discover more about yourself by asking questions, which  can help you make the breakthroughs you want. You can speak with the staff at the Fitness Workz gym to find out what the personal training experience is like.

SUPT (NS) Terence Choo’s “magic ingredient” for improving IPPT scores

“Beetroot can help improve muscular endurance and help you do better, especially in the 2.4km run. A lot of research has backed this claim, and it has helped me personally. The nitrates in beetroot help reduce oxygen costs during exercise, and when you reduce the amount of oxygen you need, you can run at a fast pace for longer before getting tired. I usually start taking beetroot supplements about three days before the test. However, check with your healthcare provider if the supplements are suitable for you before getting started on them.”

Interested in serving beyond your obligations? Consider the Volunteer Extension Scheme, which allows PNSMen who have completed their NS liability to continue serving beyond their statutory age. PNSMen (With NS liability) who have passed their statutory age of 40 years (Junior Officers) & 50 years (Senior Officers) may apply.

Like our stories? Subscribe to our Frontline Digital newsletters now! Simply download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App and update your communication preference to ‘Receive Digital Frontline Magazine’, through the app settings.

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Lifestyle

7 Fun Ways You Can Keep Fit And Healthy This Lunar New Year

Make time amid your busy visiting schedule to enjoy activities such as bowling and laser tag with your family.

PHOTOS: HOMETEAMNS; NATIONAL PARKS BOARD; FLICKR USER NOVA;

TEXT: BEATRICE BOWERS

According to CNA, most people consume 39% more calories than usual during festive seasons, and nearly 45% of them gain an average of 1.7kg during the Lunar New Year. While indulging in food is done in the spirit of the season, it’s still important to look after your health and fitness, especially if you’ve got a busy schedule visiting relatives and going to parties.

Here are seven things to do — both indoor and outdoor — to help you stay fit despite consuming copious amounts of pineapple tarts, including family-friendly activities to maximise your bonding time.

1. Head to the bowling rink

Burn calories and work out your muscles while having fun with your loved ones at the bowling alley. We’d recommend knocking down those pins at SuperBowl located at HomeTeamNS Khatib or StarBowl at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok (open daily till midnight) — both of which will be open throughout the Lunar New Year. Public holiday rates start from $3.50 per game, so you can play to your heart’s content.

BONUS: HomeTeamNS members enjoy a 10% discount on games at SuperBowl (Khatib) and 15% discount on games at StarBowl (Bukit Batok).

2. Book a laser tag session

Laser tag, which combines the games of Hide-and-Seek and Tag, is an excellent way to get a solid cardio workout. Dodging laser beams, darting to hiding spots and rushing to ambush your opponents will quicken your heart rate and get your blood pumping. Book a game at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok’s Laser Quest — open throughout the Lunar New Year — which features atmospheric lighting and pulsating beats to keep your energy level high. This is also a great team-bonding activity to consider if you’re planning a Lunar New Year company event.

BONUS: HomeTeamNS members enjoy exclusive member rates at S$4.07 per game for Laser Quest.

3. Go on a hike

This festive period is a great time to escape the traffic and embark on an invigorating hike with the fam at one of the many parks and nature trails around Singapore. Head to the Southern Ridges, which comprises 10 km of green, open spaces that connect Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park, and Labrador Nature Reserve. Here, stroll through the architecturally-stunning Henderson Waves and spot wildlife such as the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and Brahminy Kite.

4. Head to the gym

It’s easier said than done, but visiting the gym is already half the battle won. If you don’t have time to stick to your usual workout regime, don’t fret. Just make the most of your time by working up a sweat with brisk treadmill walks, a 20-minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session, or peddling a stationary bike for 15 minutes at any of HomeTeamNS’ Fitness Workz gyms. We especially recommend the Fitness Workz Garage at HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir, which boasts a state-of-the-art functional training zone equipped with a customised multi-functional octagon training frame rig featuring battle ropes, a punching bag, and a cross-core system.

BONUS: HomeTeamNS members enjoy special rates starting from $262.41 for a 12-month membership.

5. Organise a healthier potluck

Organising a healthy potluck for your reunion dinner is a delightful way to celebrate without compromising wellness. Encourage participants to embrace traditional flavors with a nutritious twist, opting for lean proteins, whole grains, and abundant veggies. Try these healthier recipes and encourage your guests to bake their own  goodies using almond flour or coconut sugar for less-guilty indulgences. 

6. End the day with yoga

Yoga promotes physical strength, flexibility, and balance while enhancing mental well-being through stress reduction and improved focus, contributing to overall holistic health. This will help you start the Year of the Dragon on the right foot. Squeeze in a 10 to 15minutes workout guided by YouTube tutorials from the comfort of your own home, or join an outdoor class by the Yoga for Peace and Balance group, which may include gentler movements to warm up, followed by more challenging standing poses, balances, inversions, and peak poses.

7. Go for a swim

Swimming provides a full-body workout that helps burn calories and improve cardiovascular health, which is especially important when you’ve been indulging in rich foods. Cool off from that relentless February heat at any of the HomeTeamNS clubhouse pools, including the 50m, six-lane infinity pool overlooking the reservoir at HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir. Your little ones will love splashing about at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok’s kids’ pool, which features slides and installations inspired by Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) vehicles.

BONUS: HomeTeamNS Ordinary, Associate, Family, and Corporate Members get to enjoy free pool access.

How to stay healthy this Lunar New Year

1. Drink green tea

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, consuming ‘heaty’ food in excess,such as those eaten during the Lunar New Year,can cause symptoms such as fever, sore throat, mouth ulcers, acne, excessive thirst, redness of the skin, and irritability. Drink green tea, which is unfermented and rarely oxidised, and thus believed to have a cooling effect on the body — besides being rich in antioxidants.

2. Stretch after every meal

Once you’re done eating, get up, take a quick walk around the space, and stretch your muscles. Stretching after a heavy meal can aid digestion, alleviate discomfort, and promote relaxation, contributing to overall well-being and reducing the potential for post-meal sluggishness.

3. Eat before visiting

Don’t go visiting hungry, because you’ll tend to overeat. Instead, have a high-fiber, nutritious snack before going to see your loved ones, and you’re more likely to make better snacking choices.

Like our stories? Subscribe to our Frontline Digital newsletters now! Simply download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App and update your communication preference to ‘Receive Digital Frontline Magazine’, through the App Settings.

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Lifestyle Shape Up

What is altitude sickness and how do you prevent it when climbing mountains?

Learn how to prevent the condition that has led to tragic consequences for mountaineers during one of Mount Everest’s most treacherous seasons.

TEXT & INFOGRAPHIC: EVELINE GAN
PHOTO: FLICKR USER SCILLA KIM

In May, a Singaporean climber went missing after reaching the summit of Mount Everest. He was reportedly suffering from frostbite and altitude sickness when he got separated from his group. The news, which came amid a spike in fatalities on the world’s highest mountain, raised questions over whether a rising number of inexperienced climbers and guides led to this. What’s certain, is that another factor partially responsible for many of the deaths that occurred this year is altitude sickness.

According to American academic medical centre Cleveland Clinic, altitude sickness may occur in up to half of people who climb to elevations above 8,000 feet (2,440m). It is caused by ascending too rapidly, which doesn’t allow the body sufficient time to adjust to reduced oxygen and changes in air pressure.

Don’t ignore the signs

As mountain climbing becomes increasingly popular, being aware of the risks and red flags of altitude illnesses is key to a safe experience. The mildest form of altitude sickness — which can usually be treated by over-the-counter medication — is known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), with symptoms that recall a hangover. This can deteriorate into High-altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), a life-threatening build-up of fluid in the lungs, and High-altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), a severe condition where there’s fluid in the brain. Such cases require immediate medical attention.

Regardless of your climbing expertise, all high-altitude adventures come at a risk of potentially life-threatening altitude sickness, points out Mr Vijay Kumar, director of SGTrek, an outdoor travel platform that offers mountaineering expeditions. “Even experienced climbers may fall victim to altitude sickness if they disregard proper acclimatisation practices or ignore their body’s warning signals,” he explains. 

With that being said, individuals at higher risk of developing altitude sickness include those with lung or heart conditions, pregnant women and climbers who live at low elevation — such as in Singapore.

Mr Vijay adds that in some cases, climbers may benefit from using medication like acetazolamide (Diamox) to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. However, it is important to discuss this option with a medical professional before use.

Never underestimate the mountain and its challenges, Mr Vijay cautions, adding that “the key to preventing altitude sickness is a gradual ascent, allowing the body to acclimatise to higher altitudes”. “Listen to your body and be aware of any symptoms of altitude sickness. If conditions or circumstances become unsafe, be prepared to turn back. The mountain will aways be there and your safety should be top priority,” he emphasises.  It is also important for people with medical conditions to obtain a doctor’s clearance before embarking on a high-altitude hike. 

Being physically and mentally prepared, and taking the necessary precautions during ascent can reduce your risk of developing altitude sickness. Here are more tips for ensuring a safer and enjoyable climb.

Sources from: WebMD, SGTrek, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Livestrong, and Cleveland Clinic.

Like our stories? Subscribe to our Frontline Digital newsletters now! Simply download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App and update your communication preference to ‘Receive Digital Frontline Magazine’, through the App Settings.

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Lifestyle Shape Up

What keeping a food and activity diary taught me about my overall wellness

Our writer learns that the first step to adopting a healthier lifestyle can be as simple as recording what you eat and do every day.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK, HOMETEAMNS

Looking at me, you’d never think that I was fat – I stand at 1.85m and weigh just over 70kg. But underneath my T-shirt lies one of my biggest secrets: a tummy. It’s the classic “skinny fat” syndrome, which means that I have a relatively high percentage of body fat and low muscle mass — despite maintaining a normal Body Mass Index (BMI).

To address this, I turned to Mr Muhammad Khir Bin Mohd Saleh, Fitness Trainer Assistant at HomeTeamNS Fitness Workz. “The biggest misconception about shedding belly fat is that more high intensity exercises like running, skipping meals and sit-ups are the only ways to achieve it,” he explains.   

Mr Muhammad Khir Bin Mohd Saleh, Fitness Trainer Assistant at HomeTeamNS Fitness Workz
Mr Muhammad Khir Bin Mohd Saleh, Fitness Trainer Assistant at HomeTeamNS Fitness Workz

He adds that there’s no point in doing those exercises if you don’t pay attention to your daily diet. “One of the main reasons why burning calories through exercise may still not result in weight loss is due to overexertion, or inflammation of your body. If you exercise too hard on a daily basis, there is excess inflammation in your body, which in turn makes you gain more weight,” he advises. Instead, he says a low-calorie daily diet is ideal for shedding belly fat. Getting at least seven hours of sleep from Monday to Saturday, and nine hours of sleep on Sundays, can also help you achieve your weight loss goals.

To help me achieve my goals, I documented my fitness routine and food consumption over the weekend. The diary didn’t just help Mr Khir make sense of where I could improve; it also forced me to take note of what I was putting into my body and how much I was exercising.

I’m not alone: according to Harvard Health, keeping a food diary can help you understand your eating habits and patterns. Research shows that for people interested in losing weight, a journal can be an effective tool to help change behaviours. And it worked. For example, only after recording my food intake, did I realise the significant amount of carbohydrates I consume.

Here’s Mr Khir’s review on my food and activity diary and his tips on how I can adopt a healthier lifestyle for the win:

FEB 4, SATURDAY

Breakfast: Three wholegrain WeetBix squares with fresh blueberries, blackberries and banana, topped with fresh milk

Lunch: Pan-seared salmon, basmati rice and snow peas/baby corn stir-fry

Dinner: Pork dumpling noodles

Snack: Wholegrain bread with peanut butter

Mr Khir says: Try reducing your solid carbohydrate intake and concentrate on consuming liquid proteins such as protein shakes. With that being said, consuming foods that are high in protein and fibre, and contain iron, healthy fats and vitamins can also help maintain your healthy diet.”

Activity: A quick workout of 180 squats and 180 jumping jacks

Mr Khir says: “So far so good. To challenge yourself more, consider applying some intensity to your squats by hugging a 5kg packet of rice or a weight plate. You can keep yourself motivated by scheduling regular workouts and aiming for fun and variety – swimming, weight and interval training, jogging, walking and cycling are all great ways to lose weight.”

FEB 5, SUNDAY (CHEAT DAY)

Breakfast: Minced meat noodles

Lunch: Rice, boiled chicken, broccoli

Dinner: Baby spinach salad with chicken thigh, egg (no dressing)

Activity: None

Mr Khir says: “Don’t be afraid of the occasional cheat day. You can plan this for when you’re not exercising, and return to a high protein diet on the days you do work out. The rationale is that by allowing yourself brief periods of indulgence you’re less likely to veer off course for your diet. Cheat meals can help to reset hormones responsible for metabolism and insulin regulation, replenish glycogen for increased energy and keep fat torching mechanisms high. Cheat meals really work for those who are on a strict diet plan or an intense workout regimen. A cheat day or cheat meal should be a small break before returning to your healthy diet.”

STAY ON TRACK

What to remember when keeping a food and activity journal:

  • Write everything down, no matter how small it seems.
  • Don’t rely on your memory at the end of the day. Instead, record your meals and activity using your phone’s notes app as the day progresses.
  • Be specific. Had fried chicken? Write it down instead of just stating, “chicken”.

Like our stories? Subscribe to our Frontline Digital newsletters now! Simply download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App and update your communication preference to ‘Receive Digital Frontline Magazine’, through the app settings.

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Close Up

Having the right attitude

DSP (NS) Mohamad Syaifudin bin Ahmad Ismail takes his health seriously, having witnessed first-hand the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. 

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA
PHOTOS: DSP (NS) MOHAMAD SYAIFUDIN BIN AHMAD ISMAIL

Even at 36 years of age, DSP (NS) Mohamad Syaifudin bin Ahmad Ismail is an example of a highly disciplined individual.

“Early in my life, I had seen the effects of a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle,” he tells Frontline.

At the age of 11, he saw his father suffer a heart attack. Ten years later, he watched his mother battle cancer. Fortunately, both DSP (NS) Syaifudin’s parents beat their ailments and continue to lead healthy lives today. “As a kid, I didn’t automatically link these to poor diet and lack of exercise. But at university where I studied Physical Education and Sports Science, I decided to make a change,” he reflects.

Well-built and toned, the NS Commanding Officer (CO) of Training, Training Command (TRACOM), clocks at least five sessions a week at the gym and complements his physical regimen with a strict diet: Five half-boiled eggs and a cup of oatmeal every morning, followed by grilled chicken breast or salmon with a large serving of roasted vegetables for lunch and dinner. “I do indulge on weekends,” says DSP (NS) Syaifudin, who is the recipient of the SPF NSman (PNSman) of the Year award in 2021.

ADAPTING TO A NEW WAY OF STAYING FIT

Since then, DSP (NS) Syaifudin has been leading a healthy lifestyle but has adjusted certain routines to fit his changing life situation. One of the most significant changes is something we all go through –   ageing. “I love to play football. In my 20s, I could play with teenagers, but these days, it would place a great strain on my body,” says the Physical Education (PE) teacher who teaches at a local educational institution.

In fact, DSP (NS) Syaifudin has sustained three knee surgeries in recent years, all while playing football. “After the latest incident, I decided to call it quits. It was difficult at first because I was obsessed with the game growing up. But it’s something I had to do if I wanted to stay active in other ways.”

This included working out at the gym and going on walks with his family. “Both my wife and I are PE teachers, so we are eager to instil a love for physical activity in our children,” says the father of three, aged six years, five years and four months old. Despite being together for nearly two decades, the couple is passionate about keeping their romance alive. “We do this by going for bike rides and trail walks together, as well as enjoying a quiet meal in each other’s company whenever we can.”

DSP (NS) Syaifudin and his wife are keen to instil a love for physical activity in their children.

DRIVEN TO NURTURE

Such moments of respite are welcome after long days in school, where DSP (NS) Syaifudin is also the Head of Discipline. He reveals that the past two years have been challenging for educators like himself. “PE lessons and co-curricular activities have been adapted so that students can participate safely in small groups, depending on the prevailing safe management measures,” he shares. “Before the pandemic, I would also speak at morning assembly at least once a week, reminding my students of the importance of self-discipline and inculcating good values and habits. But since we can’t gather in large groups anymore, this is now done virtually. More work has to go into continually engaging the students at this time.”

Still, DSP (NS) Syaifudin remains passionate about his work because he enjoys mentoring and interacting with people, both young and old. It’s something that his NS role also allows for. “Most of my batchmates have already completed their NS obligations, but I’m still at it, 13 ICT cycles later,” he says. “I am grateful for this chance to serve and groom the next generation of NSmen and I’ll continue giving it my all while I still can.”

WINNING WAYS

Over the years, DSP (NS) Syaifudin has Received numerous awards and accolades, including:

  • Seven consecutive gold awards for his IPPT (from 2015 to 2021)
  • Director PNS Commendation Award in 2017 for his work organising the HomeTeamNS REAL® Run in conjunction with NS50
  • PNSman of the Year 2021

“I’m very grateful for the positive affirmation from my NS Commander, PNSmen PO, fellow PNSmen and regular officers from the TRACOM, where I serve,” he says. “I could not have done it without the strong support of my wife and family and my school leaders and colleagues.”