Do you need an exercise machine at home?

February 4, 2009 6 comments

Exercise machineIn my parents’ home, the study room is a graveyard for fitness equipment. A threadmill now serves as a clothes hanger than a place to sweat it out. A rowing machine lies folded in one corner, dusty from years of unuse. A mini stepper is used to hold books.

Things are quite different in my apartment. Although I do use my stationery bike to hang clothes too, I use the bike at least twice a week. If I do not bunk over at my parents’ home a few days a week, I’d probably use it every day. I love that dear old machine, and often huff and puff away on the bike while catching up on my favourite movies and shows. To me, the stationery bike is a great investment.

According to a New York Times article, a 2008 Consumer Reports said that “nearly 40% percent of those who buy home exercise machines say they use them less than they expected.”

Before you spend hundreds or even thousands of ringgit for an exercising machine, answer these questions first:

1. Do you have a place to keep it?
No point buying that RM5000 epiliptical trainer if wifey kicks a fit when you place it right smack in the middle of the hall.

2. Are you a lone exerciser?
Not everyone is a solitary exerciser. Some people prefer a group environment such as an aerobics class. If you find chugging on a threadmill in your hall the most boring thing on Earth, perhaps you can use your RM5k on a gym membership instead.

3. If you have it, are you going to commit to using at least 3 times a week?
A very logical question but one that is not asked often enough. To know for sure, you got to ask yourself: How badly do you want to lose weight/keep fit? If you really, really want it, go for it.

4. Will you get bored on the machine?
Knowing what kind of exerciser you are is so important. If you prefer to exercise in the great outdoors more often than inside, then maybe you should reconsider. But if its the boredom of staring into space as you whip your body into shape that’s stopping you, consider putting on the radio or watching TV while you exercise.

5. Can you afford it?
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend the chakai RM200-300 machines you can find in hypermarkets. They break down easily and often do not have enough difficulty levels to challenge you in the long run (this is from personal experience with my parents’ hypermarket exercise machine purchases!). So, you may “outgrow” the machine as you get fitter.

Invest in a decent machine. Yes, they certainly can be expensive, but they will pay off in the long run. Wait around for sales – I bought mine nearly 50% off at RM1k. It has a digital reader with calorie counter, clock and mph readings.

PS: I’m 83kg today. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Crossing fingers and hope to be 82kg by end of February. The last time I was 83kg, it was 2007!

Midnight exercise

February 3, 2009 Leave a comment

midnight1I was so annoyed with thwarted attempt to exercise this evening that I did the craziest thing: I put on an Kathy Smith aerobics DVD and worked out – at 11.30pm!

At a time when most people were already in bed, I decided to go crazy in front of the TV. Never in a million years did I ever think that I’ll be so dedicated to losing weight that I’d forgo decent sleep for calorie burn.

Update: They say that late-night exercise interfere with your sleep. Well, it did the opposite for me. I slept like a log! In fact, I think I slept better. But I don’t think I want to do it again! LOL

Categories: Thoughts & such

6 ways to fit exercise into your daily routine

February 3, 2009 1 comment

cathy

1. Exercise at a time you prefer
I know with absolute certainty that I’m not a night exerciser. Which is why I’m sitting here typing this instead of being in RPM class like I originally (and very foolhardedly) planned. The reason? The traffic snarl in front of my office, which would most assuredly make me late for 7.30pm class.

Luckily, I kicked and punched for 20 minutes with a kickboxing DVD this morning. It wasn’t as long as I’d like, but at least I have “done my dues” for the day.

Examine your daily lifestyle. What’s the best time for working out for you? It’s often best to exercise before daily distractions come in, whenever they may be.

Thanks to my job (which has unpredictable hours and lots of travelling to do), morning exercise sessions is the best way to excuse-proof my workouts. What’s your best time?

2. Exercise while watching TV
The best investment I’ve ever made was on a stationery bike, which I’ve placed in front of the TV. It’s the best thing ever to watch The Mentalist and huff and puff on the bike at the same time. I love multitasking, don’t you?

3. Take the stairs, not the lift!
I’m such a hypocrite since 9 out of 10 times I do the opposite but this is good advice nevertheless. (One day I shall brave those steps, carrying my laptop, bag of books and handbag five flights up the stairs!) It’s not just the stairs, however. Take every opportunity to move your body. Walk to the grocery store instead of driving there. Park your car further away from the mall and walk. Every step counts.

4. Choose a gym nearby
Join a gym that is near your home or your workplace. That way, it won’t be such a big hassle trying to get there.

5. Exercise at home
Heck, to be honest, you don’t even really need a gym!

Exercising at home is the best method for me by far. When I have a home gym at my bachelor pad, my iinner whiner cannot say, “The gym is too far away-lah!”

Over the years, I’ve built quite a nice home gym for myself. My apartment is so well-equipped that my friend, who is an avid exerciser, could do her weight training and cardio without worry! But I don’t have many expensive equipment. I have a step box for step aerobics, a couple of good aerobics DVDs, and hand weights. The most expensive equipment I have is my stationery bike (RM1000 which I bought during a sale). Oh yes, my apartment pool is kinda nice too!

6. The 20 minute rule
I tell myself to exercise 20 minutes every morning despite how I feel. And a lot of times, I exercise up to 30 minutes or more. A little exercise is better than NO exercise at all.

The fat comments of Chinese New Year

February 2, 2009 2 comments

Wow. I survived Chinese New Year, which meant that I survived my relatives!

I hated CNY for as long as I remember. Not only for the “when are you getting married, why are you still single” pesky queries, but for my relatives’ creative ways of telling me that I’m fat.

Now, being fat and Asian is like a double sentence.

Guys treat you like you’re invisible because they’re so many skinny, petite Asian girls around and worse, they don’t have the Western restraint of not commenting on someone’s weight.Some of the verbal gems I’ve gotten from the opposite sex in my three decades of existence:

“Why is your arm so fat?”

“I didn’t think a girl so fat can be so smart!”

“Wow, you’re heavy!”

You’re definitely not spared during CNY either, for relatives feel entitled to point out your burgeoning weight “for your own good”:

“Wow, looking prosperous this year!” said an uncle as his eyes ran up and down my girth.

“Oh dear! I thought you were your mother! You’re as big as her, aren’t you?”

“Here, this will help you lose weight!” An aunt said as she proceeded to lift my blouse and strap on some waist contraption on me – in front of my other relatives.

So, yeah. I hate CNY for a very good reason.

But this year, it was different. Since last month, I’ve lost 4kg and my relatives have noticed.

“Wow! You’ve lost so much weight! You just need to lose a little bit more!”

“Last time you don’t have shape, now you have shape!”

And so on and so forth.

My more philosophical side wanted to say, “Guys, why are you so obsessed about how much a person weighs anyway? It is the inside that counts, not the outside!”

But what the hell, I found myself grinning with pleasure. Shallow me. My mother must have heaved a sigh of relief because I promised her that if any of my relatives dare to mention how fat I am this year, I’m gonna give it to them good.

So, welcome year of the Ox! May I lose 10 more kg to get better compliments next year!

Stellar day

January 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Breakfast:
Eu Cha Kway, two strips (a Chinese snack – basically flour fried in oil. Not very healthy!)
1 slice of cheese
3 pineapple tarts

Lunch:
Brocolli, carrots and mushrooms – stir fry with garlic and water, no oil
1/4 Roast chicken, which I bought from Cold Storage

Snack: 4 slices of green apple

Dinner:
French beans and mushrooms, stir fry with garlic and water, no oil
1/4 roast chicken – from Cold Storage

Exercise:
Around 1pm, I headed to the gym, particularly anxious to work off the flour and pineapple tarts. Spent about 20 min on the cross trainer, and 10 more minutes on threadmill (5.5mph, 2.0 incline) and ended with a little stretching.

Felt the itch to exercise again around 6pm. Put on an aerobics video – 15 min kickboxing, 10min light aerobics, 10 min yoga.

I feel really great today! Yahoo! Energy levels were steady all day, no lethargy or headaches.

Categories: Thoughts & such

The Insulin Resistance Diet

January 24, 2009 6 comments

insulin resistance dietThis book changed my life.

I’ve always found it notoriously difficult to lose weight. I blamed in on my lack of will power for not eating clean enough and not exercising enough to shed the pounds off. (Enough, meaning, working out 7 hours a week, high intensity all the way.) I didn’t realise that I was fighting a sugar addiction, and that body chemistry is difficult to beat with will power alone, and that exercise is tough when you feel like crap. I was really hard on my body – I just wasn’t listening to it.

Before eating the IR Diet way, I felt ill most of the time. I rolled out of bed each morning tired to the bones, despite having had eight hours of sleep (or more). I had headaches, and by noon, was so tired I could barely get through the day. I also had a host of stomach problems: I had the runs at least 3 times a week, and was always bloated.

This wasn’t the way to live, so I decided to research to find out what’s wrong with me. And one day, I found out about something called “insulin resistance“. It was a eureka moment – I realised that I had almost all the classic symptoms of IR (from the Wikipedia article – my symptoms are in bold):

1. Fatigue.

2. Brain fogginess and inability to focus. Sometimes the fatigue is physical, but often it is mental.

3. High blood sugar.

4. Intestinal bloating. Most intestinal gas is produced from carbohydrates in the diet. Insulin resistance sufferers who eat carbohydrates sometimes suffer from gas.

5. Sleepiness. Many people with insulin resistance get sleepy immediately after eating a meal containing more than 20% or 30% carbohydrates.

6. Weight gain, fat storage, difficulty losing weight. For most people, too much weight is too much fat. The fat in IR is generally stored in and around abdominal organs in both males and females. It is currently suspected that hormonal effects from such fat are a precipitating cause of insulin resistance.

7. Increased blood triglyceride levels.

8. Increased blood pressure. Many people with hypertension are either diabetic or pre-diabetic and have elevated insulin levels due to insulin resistance. One of insulin’s effects is on arterial walls throughout the body. <– my doctors always said that although my BP was within normal range, it was ‘high for my age’

9. Depression. Because of the deranged metabolism resulting from insulin resistance, psychological effects are not uncommon. Depression is said to be the prevalent psychological symptom.

Eventually, I found The Insulin Resistance Diet, and the authors explained why people with IR has such difficulty losing weight:

People with this condition overreact to carbohydrates with higher-than-normal insulin spikes, so fat stores occurs faster for them.

I wanted to cry. You mean it’s not my fault?

The authors explain that IR sufferers have wonky body chemistry and explain why it’s so difficult for them to lose weight. The great thing is that the authors offer a solution. They call it “linking”, where you basically pair a certain amount of carbs with protein so that it doesn’t spike your insulin too much.

I began the IR diet during a holiday. It wasn’t the most ideal way, especially in the town of Ipoh where wonderful food is everywhere, but the diet was so doable and simple that I could do it anyway.

I listened to my body a lot during this period. I noted my reaction to certain foods and discovered that I have an adverse reaction to flour, sugar and rice – any high GI food, for that matter. Each time I consumed a high GI food, I’d feel like crap. IR symptoms would assail me – brain fog, headaches, and most noticeably with flour, I’d bloat and get, um, gassy. (I really believe I’m sensitive/allergic to flour now.)

Although the authors of The Insulin Resistance Diet say you can eat almost any kind of carbs as long as you link it with protein, I realised that I needed to be stricter with myself. I decided to only eat low glycemic index carbs instead and absolutely no flour.

Giving up sugar and flour was not as difficult as I thought, because I felt so good after giving up those things that going back to them was like knowingly eating poison. Plus, my body reacted so strongly to sugar or flour – headaches galore! – that I am reluctant to even indulge!

I am more conscious of what I eat now, and if I do eat some sugary stuff, I’d work out or exert myself soon after that to lessen the symptoms. (The sugar needs to be spent instead of being turned into fat.)

It’s been almost 1.5 months since I started eating the IR Diet way and I’ve already lost 3kg. I am astounded because I have never lost weight so fast before – not even when I was working out 5 times a week, an hour each session! It takes me weeks of that to even lose 1kg! I have not been exercising much either, so imagine if I actually did that?

Losing weight is a really good side benefit of the IR Diet. But what it gave me was my life back. I can function again. I’m more alert and happier. And finally, I have hope. All these long years, I wondered why my weight refused to budge from the 88-87kg range. Now I know.

I think I’m on the way to being healthy at last!

A good week

July 21, 2008 Leave a comment

I woke up exhausted today, and I wondered what in the world I did to make my body feel as if it has been put through the wringer. Then I remembered: I exercised four times a week last week! Woohoo!

Monday: 25minutes of light to moderate cardio, weight training for an hour
Wednesday: 20minutes of cardio, an hour of weight training
Saturday: Spent the entire day cleaning up the apartment (it takes a lot of energy!) and 50 minutes of FIRM exercise video. Lord it was tough.
Sunday: 40 minutes of steady state cycling, moderate.

So I did it – have a reasonably good exercise week.

I weighed myself on the scale today, despite telling myself that no miracles will happen and I was right – my weight remains stubbornly at 88kg. Was depressed for a while, then told myself: Hey, you’re not going to beat up yourself now that you’ve achieved a good exercise week, are you?

Besides, I have not weighed myself for a month, so I could’ve lost weight and not realised it. Also – didn’t you prefer to track your progress via pictures anyway?

Yes, I finally took pictures of myself and can I say it was horrifying. Staring at the pictures made me face up to the fact that I’ve gotten horribly fat and the only way is down or up the weight scale. I chose down.

Diabetes is knocking on my door – my father is borderline diabetic and my mother diabetic. My risk factor is extremely high.

I give myself until Dec 2008 to get my weight down to 80kg. Until then!

Categories: Thoughts & such