Friday, July 21, 2017

One-on-One Personal Training - Girls Can Pull-Up Too! | Operation 健康アップ

I think there's a common misconception that girls can't or don't have the strength to do pull-ups.. but that is totally not true!! Girls can pull-up too!

Yes, it is a fact that women have less muscle mass in their upper bodies {up to 40%} compared to guys, but with proper strength training and technique, we are fully capable and can be just as competent as guys in doing pull-ups..

In fact, regardless of muscle distribution, since girls tend to be lighter, pull-ups should be relatively easier for us because it is also a fact that the lower your body weight & the leaner you are, the easier the pull-up will be.

But of course, strength and technique matters..

Every time I share something about my pull-ups on my social media platforms as a way to note my progress, there are usually many positive comments and sometimes people are literally in awe...

It's not a humble brag, really, but I ponder, aww really? Thank you so much.. but it's nothing much to hype about really, because GIRLS CAN PULL-UP TOO!! I am not the only one!!

Anyway, I thought of consolidating my pull-ups progress thus far in one post since I recently made my personal record in 1) max bodyweight pull-up reps, and 2) max weighted chin-up rep *grin*

FYI, although as long as you can pull yourself up most people say that's a "pull-up", technically "pull-ups" refer to a pronated or overhand grip, "chin-ups" refer to a supinated or underhand grip. Pull-ups might be harder for most people as you'll have to use more back muscles {that are harder to activate} compared to chin-ups that uses more biceps and arms... but both are just as useful and both should be trained well.

Hopefully if you ever thought of doing a pull-up but never really tried because you thought "you can't do it", you will be inspired to actually get down and train for it after seeing how I've progressed the past 1.5 years in it to get to where I am now.

In Feb 2016, while I was still training at Genesis Gym, Superman randomly asked if I could do a pull-up.

I knew I could as a kid when I was still swimming competitively, but I never bothered to do it once I stopped... so I honestly didn't know and was pleasantly surprised when I realised I could! #yayme

Pull-ups / chin-ups are excellent full-body exercises and once Jen knew I could do pull-ups, he added them into my workouts.

I started doing the Fighter Pull-up program to improve on them.

With pull-ups, one of the most important way to get better with them, is to just keep doing them. With the Fighter Pull-up program, I was literally doing them 4 out of 5 times I was training in a week and  the volume got too high, unfortunately, and I injured my biceps.

It wasn't like the usual soreness or muscle aches.. but really felt like throbbing, debilitating pain that kept me awake at night sometimes. So much so that I had to take painkillers.

Anyway things got really bad until I had to stop doing pull-ups / chin-ups for a period of time as I wasn't recovering fast enough.

When I started again, I had to start slow and from a low weight again... and this time, I really tried to focus more on using my lats/ back muscles when pulling, instead of my bicep and arms by changing my grip {using more pronated grips} and grip width {going wider}.

When I started doing more pull-ups again around late Sep / Oct 2016, I was actually training more of my upper body because I had my first major back injury and my lower back was messed up.. so I couldn't do my usual deadlifts and squats.

Getting the right technique and motor skill for pull-ups is important, and that's why you have to keep practising it..

But you also have to train for the strength to pull yourself up so that's why I do accessory work like lats pull-down, rows and bicep curls to help me improve my pull-ups.

Really stoked I managed to push 130kg on the prowler today!! 😅💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻 The gym has always been my respite for many things. My home away from home. To me, it wasn't just a place to pump weights.. it was my sanctuary when life outside got overwhelming, a haven where I found a fitter/ stronger me, and a place where I met some of the sweetest and most loving people. I may not show it much during my time there {sorry for my b*tchy resting gym face!!}, but I do appreciate each person I met there that taught me something about health, something about strength, something about life, and something about love. As this chapter closes, and a new chapter in my fitness journey starts.. I can only count my blessings for the opportunity to have spent 1.5 years here & all the precious memories will stay with me forever 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🌸 #sakuraharuka #aifitnessdiary #nevergoodatgoodbyes #newyear #newbeginnings #trngwithB
A post shared by Ai Sakura  (@aisakuraharuka) on
Like I mentioned in the beginning, getting lean is also very important so I always did finishers after my workout.

Superman loved to give me prowler pushes haha as it is really good at aerobic conditioning {and also strength training for my legs too since I'm not doing much lower body work}... so most of the time, I had to push a heavy prowler for 20 mins...

When I left Genesis in Jan 2017, I started to climb stairs with weights instead of pushing prowlers to get my cardio work in.

It's terribly mundane and boring.. and very tiring too as sometimes I've to climb for up to 45 minutes, but I do feel that it helps with my overall weight loss and leg strength. I used to be really terrible at unilateral leg exercises but now I feel like I'm not that bad? haha..  

A post shared by Ai Sakura  (@aisakuraharuka) on
Superman is very cautious with my injuries and even up to now, I have not done a single barbell squat. Even with the deadlifts, I am increasing my weights per session extremely slowly or once I feel a tinge of backache, we stop immediately.

Most of my training still revolves around upper body work with a big focus on pull-ups, {seated} shoulder press and bench press.

In Feb 2017, I tested my weighted chin-up max for the first time and managed to hit 15kg {or maybe 16.5kg if you count the pin weight...}! It's been a long time since I tested my PR in anything so it was certainly a happy milestone.

After that, Superman gave me a target of 20kg to hit.

Once you can do a pull-up, there are a few ways you can progress with it. You can train to do max reps.. or you can train to do max weight.. or you can also train to do max weighted reps.

For some time, most of my gym workouts involved weighted pull-ups / chin-ups so in June 2017, Superman gave me "homework" to do 1 set of max bodyweight pull-up reps at home whenever I could.

The first time I did it, I managed 11 reps which I thought was.. just ok haha. Superman was pretty surprised and pleased though as when I first started out, I could only do 3 reps. He really didn't expect me to do 11 reps of strict pull-ups.

So yup, 11 bodyweight pull-ups became my PR and baseline to improve upon.

Actually, I thought I could and was aiming for 15 reps.. That's why you can see in my video I rested after 5 reps; I know I can probably do 6-7 reps straight without resting but I wanted to bring it up in 3 sets of 5 reps heh.

In early July 2017, I tested my max weighted chin-up and managed to hit 20kg. Not bad considering that my right shoulder was aching and it was done in the evening after a hard day at work...

Most of the time as working adults, we do not get to train in the "optimum" environment or state, but we do what we gotta do, and train as best as we can to get the work done.

There are still improvements to be made, of course, and I'm aiming for 15 pull-up reps and 25kg weighted chin-up next. Hopefully both by the end of this year ❤

P.S. There are many resources online on how to train for a pull-up which you can refer to - How to Do Pull-Ups with Proper Form, The 4 Levels of Pull-Up Power, The Secret to Pull-Up Success and Bar Pull-Up Progression {video tutorial} are some I recommend if you don't even know how to do a single pull-up. Or... you can just hire my personal trainer, Superman, to coach you hahaha.. #notsponsoredplease

One-on-On Personal Training Updates:

Genesis Gym Personal Training Updates:
The Beginning - Signing Up for Personal Training

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fitness Finds - Gaston Luga Backpack for Gym + {Promo}

I've had my current Reebok gym bag for ages and I reckon it's time for a change. A chic change for something that doesn't just look like it's fit for the gym, but versatile enough to bring out and gai gai with too haha. Something that combines style with functionality...

And ta-dah! Here is my new gym bag, the Gaston Luga Clässic in Pink & Black #excitedmuch

Gaston Luga is a Swedish brand {I really like their metal name plate haha} and the bags aren't sold locally... you have to order in directly from Sweden {see below for my 15% OFF promo code!} but they have free DHL Express courier delivery to Singapore and you get 20% OFF as tax rebate {on top of my readers' discount} since we are not part of the EU.

It's made of strong & thick cotton canvas for durability and has a flap cover with 2 front leather straps held by strong magnets for easy access to the main compartment, which is doubly secured with a drawstring opening.

At 15L big, it's a pretty deep space that can hold all my shower accessories, extra clothes, gym shoes and gear like gloves, towel, skipping rope etc. If you have a laptop, you can use the big back pocket with a special laptop cushion to protect it on the go. It can fit a 13-15" device.

There’s definitely plenty of room for all your necessities, with some to spare.

There's also 2 smaller pockets inside for smaller belongings like keys, protein bars, headbands and loose change to keep everything well organised.

In the front there's also an outer zipper pocket under a smaller flap with leather buckle straps for closure where I put my mobile, EZ-Link card and iPod & earphones for easy access, and on the back there's also another hidden pocket for keeping items e.g. tickets, safe yet accessible.

The adjustable shoulder straps are also made of the same canvas material and I think if they were slightly wider and padded they would be more comfortable, especially when carrying a heavier load, but they still feel all right and probably look more stylish this way.

I'd have also liked if the canvas material had a water-resistant coating or if the inside of the bag was insulated to keep my stuff dry when it rains... would be very useful especially in our tropical climate where sometimes it can suddenly pour like crazy :P Nonetheless, the bag holds up pretty well even in light rain and since it's fabric material, it doesn't get damaged as easily as leather bags.

The canvas material is also easy-to-maintain and washing it requires minimal effort since you can just hand-wash with cold water and lay flat to dry.

The Clässic backpack reminds me of those vintage, rugged rucksacks which I like. It's minimalistic and as a classic design, goes well with almost any outfit, any time of the day. A very nice piece to add to my bag collection hehe.

I can be wearing just my gymwear, or a simple denim dress, or even a fancier outfit and it still doesn't look out of place. It’s reliable and practical, but at the same time stylish and chic.

A post shared by Ai Sakura  (@aisakuraharuka) on
Gaston Luga Clässic backpacks also come in other basic, easy-to-match colours like Black & Black, Navy & Brown as well as Olive & Brown. Guys might prefer these colours more, compared to the Pink & Black, I reckon haha..

Oh, when I last checked yesterday, the website still lists Yellow Peacock and Red & Black but they are phasing out those colours and are unavailable... so sad because I really love the red bag!!

Anyway, if you're looking for a new gym bag, or a bag for school, hiking, or even work, do check this out on Gaston Luga's website. It costs S$299 but if you'll pay only S$203.32 after discounts from my promo code below, and tax rebate i.e. you save S$95.68!! Really excellent savings.. and if you use it as an everyday bag, pretty good value-for-money too.

Gaston Luga also sells other backpacks, tote bags, laptop bags, wallets and leather luggage tags. Have a look at their site for more product information and details.

Promo: Quote "haruka15" for 15% OFF for any Gaston Luga product from their website. Valid until Sunday, 31 Dec 2017. In addition, you get 20% instant tax rebate if you purchase outside EU!

Disclosure: This is a review for Gaston Luga Sweden. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Monster Jam 2017 debuts in Singapore this August!

I'm not that into motorsports but when something like Monster Jam comes to Singapore National Stadium for the FIRST time, you just gotta sit up and pay attention!!

On 19 August, Monster Jam, said to be the world's biggest monster truck tour, will roar into town and feature 10 of the most high-profile trucks in the scene, including four-time Monster Jam World Finals champion Grave Digger, 11-time world champion Max-DTM, El Toro Loco and Monster Mutt Dalmatian.

My fave is actually Madusa... because it's erm, pink? And it's driven by a cool, badass chick who used to be a pro wrestler haha but unfortunately she won't be coming to Singapore this time.

Hopefully in the future!! *fingers crossed*

Not just for motor-heads, this action-packed event will appeal to all members of the family I'm sure. I mean, it's not everyday that we get to see behemoth vehicles execute gravity-defying stunts live!!

A monster truck show usually involves the trucks racing each other and then letting it all hang out in a "freestyle" competition where the trucks do numerous stunts such as backflips and wheelies {aka wheel-stands, a vehicle maneuver where the front wheel or wheels come off the ground}. Plus, there's also high flying acrobatics of freestyle motocross!

I've seen a few videos online before but I've never watched it live so am really excited to head down to Monster Jam Singapore next month. We've got tickets to watch the event and attend the Pit Party.

A post shared by Monster Jam (@monsterjamlive) on
The Pit-Party pre-show event is open from 2-6pm, while the main show starts at 7pm. 

This pre-show event gives Monster Jam enthusiasts the chance to walk the track, meet their favourite Monster Jam athletes, get autographs and have an up-close and personal look at the Monster Jam trucks.

Official Monster Jam merchandise is also available at the Pit Party. You can see the selection at the Monster Jam Superstore, although not everything will be sold at the Singapore event I'm sure.. probably only the memoribilia for the trucks that are coming.

I've got my eyes on the mini Monster Jam truck toys and cute tire ear muffs hehe.. 

Monster Jam 2017 is in Singapore for just one night and I'm not sure if it'll ever be returning so if you wish to see it with your family too, better hurry and get your tickets. More information can be found on the Monster Jam website and there are special prices for kids, so it's not that expensive to bring them too.

Category                     Adults                           Kids
Front Row                    S$120                            S$120
VIP                               S$85                              S$70
Cat A                            S$65                              S$50
Cat B                            S$45                              S$30
Cat C                            S$25                              S$25
Pit Party Pass         S$10 {valid event ticket + Pit Pass required for entry}

Just remember that the Monster Jam trucks are quite loud and ear protection is recommended for children and/or people with sensitive hearing. Ear muffs & ear plugs will also be available for purchase at the show.

Monster Jam Singapore 2017
Singapore National Stadium
Event day: Sat 19 Aug 2017
Ticket Price {excl. booking fee}: S$25, $45, $65, $85, $120 {adults}
Show Time: 7pm {doors open 5.30pm, pre-show Pit Party 2pm - 6pm}
Duration: 2.5 hrs {incl. 15 minutes interval}
*Kids under 2 years old may be admitted free of charge & must be seated on the lap of a parent or guardian. Kids aged 2 years and above require a ticket for admission.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Letter to my girl #19: The One Where You're More Ballsy than Mummy

Dear Lil Pumpkin,

Mummy has always been a thrill-seeker and it's actually something I'm pretty proud of.

I love love love going on exciting theme park rides {roller coasters are my favourite!} and am usually game for any challenges.. whether it be swimming in the deep end of waterfalls and climbing up the rocks, or getting out of my comfort zone and trekking through deep forests.

I'm usually the one who will nudge people along to try new things and not give in to {senseless} fear. And that's how I try to parent you too, my dear.

During the June holidays, Daddy and I took leave some days to bring you out as a family and one of our outings was to Science Centre Singapore. You've been there before with your preschool but gosh! It's been aaaaaaaaages since I last visited the Science Centre!!! Was it during my primary school days??

Anyway they have a new-ish attraction called KidsStop now, which is an edutainment centre that aims to engage kids from preschool to lower primary levels by exposing them to science in their formative years.

It's housed within the Omni Theatre building and is pretty fun, especially for the young ones like you. There are trained guides to facilitate play and learning in various thematic zones and each exhibit / zones are designed to promote simple science learning through hands-on activities and programmes. 

A post shared by ドクターダル (@the_tattooed_vet) on
One of the thrilling experiences in KidsStop is the Giant J slide, where participants get to safely experience the sensation of free fall before they slide to safety from as high as 7m! That's about 2-storey high...

When I saw it I immediately asked you to give it a go... as well as ask if adults could try it too haha. Thankfully, they did allow adults to play too! hehe

Kids can decide how high they would like to be lifted up the slide as they challenge themselves and build confidence while having fun. When the staff asked you how high you wanted to go, I told you, " Just go right up to the top dear!! It'll be fun!" You thought for a second then gamely said, "ok!"

So up 7m you went, eyes wide open and nary a cry. And when the staff shouted to let go, you immediately did so without a thought! Oh my brave little girl!!

After that since there wasn't anyone else in the queue except for me, so you went for a few more tries at the various heights.

And then it was MY turn and I went up with my eyes wide open too and saw actually how crazy high it was when I reached the top... it's really much higher than I thought when standing on the ground so I hesitated and fear started creeping #yikes

In the end, Mummy chickened out and only managed to drop from 5m (ノ∀\)

Wow. I really ate humble pie that day when I realised that you, my dear 8-year old daughter, was even more ballsy than me!!

But then, it was also a #proudmamamoment when I realised that my 8-year old kid IS even more ballsy than me... I was proud that you wasn't afraid of trying things for the first time, and also for your mental strength in overcoming adversity. I know you must have been afraid, but you didn't let your fear of heights stop you.

Not wanting to give in to my fears too, I decided to give 7m another shot again and this time once the staff said "let go!", I didn't think twice and just let go of the handle to free-fall down.

My heart nearly flew out of my mouth but it was a really, really good experience and Mummy went a few more times too haha.

Oh baby girl, Mummy and Daddy really think you are so brave and I hope that you will use this quality to your advantage. Bravery is not the lack of fear, but the ability to move forward in spite of fear.

Don't be afraid to take risks and challenge yourself to grow and chase after your dreams. Once you become fearless, life becomes limitless. I pray that we will be by your side to guide you and support you in them too

Love you always,

P.S. Mummy thought you were really brave as well when you dared to hang upside down just clinging onto silk ropes in your Kids Aerial Yoga workshop too (*´∀`*)