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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

How to beat the heatwave in Singapore

With the planet getting hotter and Singapore’s temperature recently hitting a 40-year high of 37 degrees Celsius, here’s how you can keep cool.

TEXT: LYN CHAN
PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK, HOMETEAMNS

Can’t go a day without blasting the air-conditioner at home? 2023 is shaping up to be a warm year, with the mercury rising to a 40-year record of 37 degrees Celsius in Singapore in May. The intense heat looks set to persist, with US government agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announcing the arrival of El Nino. The climate pattern, which describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, is known to lead to spikes in global temperatures.

Compounded by global warming and Singapore’s urban heat island effect — a phenomenon whereby densely built-up areas experience higher air temperatures than rural areas due to heat trapped by surfaces such as buildings and roads — the heatwave can trigger sweaty discomfort and health risks. The latter include heat rash, heat cramps and even heat exhaustion.

While air conditioning helps, there are other ways that can prevent such maladies and cool you down.

1. Splash about

This heatwave is the perfect reason to unleash your inner child and have fun with water activities.

Start at HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir’s indoor Aqua Adventure, which boasts a looped 114m water slide – also known as the longest indoor slide in Singapore – another one that plunges visitors into pitch darkness, and a Ninja Warrior-esque over-water obstacle course. Also in the east is Wild Wild Wet, one of the island’s largest water parks.

At Sentosa, you’ll find two splash-worthy water attractions: Adventure Cove, where you can pair thrilling rides like the Riptide Rocket with marine life encounters, as well as aqua park HydroDash, which features exhilarating obstacle courses.

If a relaxing swim is all you need, head to any pool at our clubhouses – HomeTeamNS Khatib’s eight-lane swimming pool is built with eco-filtration technology that reduces chlorine usage and improves water quality.

2. Wear sunscreen

You already know that sunscreen protects the skin against ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is associated with skin ageing, sunburn and skin cancer. Sunscreen also plays a part in keeping you cool: According to a study published by the American Physiological Society, it prevents nitric oxide levels in the skin from dropping, which in turn promotes blood vessel health that plays an important role in regulating body temperature and responding to heat stress.

Dermatologist Dr Cheong Lai Leng from LL Cheong Skin & Laser Clinic advises: “Shop for sunscreens at the pharmacies. A rating of SPF 30 and above is good enough. The protection afforded by an SPF 100 sunscreen is only marginally higher than one with SPF 30, and may create a false sense of security, making you think re-application and shade-seeking behavior are unnecessary.” Additionally, mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide generally cause less skin irritation than chemical sunscreens, and therefore are more tolerable for those with sensitive skin.

3. Wear the right fabrics

Back in 2021, engineers from China’s Zhejiang University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology unveiled a fabric that they claim can cool the body by nearly five degrees Celsius. Apart from reflecting UV rays, the textile uses chemical bonds to absorb body heat and re-emit its energy into space as mid-infrared radiation (MIR). While this futuristic material has yet been made commercially available, there are other high-tech fabrics you can purchase to stay cool. Wicking fabrics made of high-tech polyester from brands such as Nike, Adidas and Uniqlo draw moisture away from the body and spread it out to evaporate more easily, unlike cotton that takes longer to dry. For a sustainable alternative that won’t cleave to your skin like cotton, choose a light linen fabric, which is highly absorbent and better facilitates ventilation as air flows through its fibres.

4. Watch what you drink

Don’t wait till you’re thirsty before gulping down water because that means you’re already mildly dehydrated. Better yet, drink milk. According to a study by Scotland’s St. Andrew’s University, beverages with a little sugar, fat or protein do a more outstanding job of keeping you hydrated for longer, as they help to slow the emptying of fluid from the stomach and keep hydration happening over a longer period. Milk contains all of that. You may also want to avoid excessive alcohol consumption, as it is a diuretic, which increases the production of urine. Add that quality to excessive perspiration during a heatwave, and you’re at risk of massive dehydration.

5. Eat fruit and vegetables with hydration properties

Supplement your daily intake of fluids with water-rich fruit and vegetables. Cucumbers, watermelons, strawberries, tomatoes and cantaloupes, which are known to have a water-content of more than 90 per cent, are several hydrating options. Alternatively, throw in slices of cucumber, orange or lemon into your bottle of water for a tasty perk-me-up, or make a smoothie on the go using a portable blender.

6. Take spicy food and warm drinks

Consuming spicy food or warm drinks in sweltering heat may seem counterproductive, but such foods increase your body temperature and induce perspiration. This is known as gustatory sweating, which typically appears on the forehead, face, scalp and neck while eating. Studies have shown that energy in the form of body heat is used to convert beads of sweat into vapour, and that evaporation process is what helps cool you down.

7. Know your body’s “hot” spots

You can quickly lower your body temperature by applying something cold to pressure points where your blood vessels run close to your skin. They include the back of your neck, wrists, inside of your elbows and knees, areas close to your temples and in front of your ears. Try applying an ice cube wrapped in cloth to these pulse points, or — if you’re about to head out and brave the blistering sun — soak a bandanna in cold water and tie it around the back of your neck.

8. Dehumidify your home

It’s no secret that high humidity causes us to feel clammy and uncomfortable, while low humidity increases evaporation and creates a cooling effect. While reducing indoor humidity doesn’t lower temperatures, it does improve your body’s ability to manage the heat while staving off nasty mould. To that end, you can use the dry mode on your air conditioner, which functions as a dehumidifier. If you are considering purchasing a portable dehumidifier that works by hoovering up excess moisture from the air and pumping drier air back into the room, do note that such equipment typically generates small amounts of heat during operation and can make spaces feel warmer. Choose a refrigerant dehumidifier, which releases less heat than the desiccant version.

9. Make small changes at home

Firstly, ensure that your ceiling fan is spinning counterclockwise, as this pushes cooler air downwards and prevents the recirculation of warm air rising from below. You’ll also want to keep plants, as they absorb CO2, hence reducing the greenhouse effect, and keeping spaces cooler – succulents, ficus and ferns require minimal care. To have a good night’s rest, use beddings made from cool and breathable cotton, linen, bamboo and Tencel. You can also lower the room temperature by replacing incandescent and halogen lights with LED varieties that generate significantly less heat, on top of saving energy. In the daytime, use energy-efficient blinds that reduce heat gain from sunlight. These include cellular shades designed with honeycomb-shaped cells that create air pockets and provide insulation, as well as roller shades with solar reflective fabric engineered to block heat and UV rays.

10. Use the air recirculation button in your car

Driving in a heatwave can be daunting, especially when your car feels like an oven after sitting in a sunny car park for an extended period. To ensure that your car’s air conditioning cools as quickly as possible so you don’t stew in sweat, locate the air recirculation button on your dashboard, which is typically an icon of a car bearing a sideways-u-shaped arrow. The button effectively prevents warm exterior air from recirculating within your vehicle, helping to cool the cabin more swiftly. And there are other perks: It also blocks out exhaust fumes and reduces fuel consumption, as keeping the interior air cool uses less energy than continuously cooling hot air from outside.

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.”