Why Size Does Not Equal To Strength


FACT: SIZE DOES NOT always EQUAL TO STRENGTH. I understand where the logic comes from. The opposing belief seems viable when comparing a toddler to an adult; in which case then yes, size will likely equal to strength. Here I am speaking about the context of physical fitness and athletic performance in adults because although this principle applies to children and young adults when comparing them within the same age category, it’s hard to compare growing children because neither age group are physically mature yet. The truth I want to highlight is that size is not a true measure of strength due to the complex structures which exist within the human body.

On several occasions, in a group class setting, I’ve had women react with complete surprise at how strong I am for such a small person. In Asia, I would say I’m of average size, but I guess to the rest of the world I am what some would consider petite. I am 160cm (approx. 5’ 2’’) and my weight fluctuates between 47 kg-50 kg (approx. 103-110 lbs), but through my athleticism and commitment to training over the years I’ve been able to develop great strength for my size.

Here’s what’s important to understand. Muscle strength is not a matter of size, rather, muscle strength is a matter of force and velocity, which simply put is what allows for muscle contraction to occur. It’s possible to be small in appearance and size but strong in strength. Force is defined as strength or momentum which propels physical action or movement, while velocity is defined as the speed of the movement.

When training for strength, understand that there’s a whole lot more going on under the skin than just lifting, pushing, and moving. What needs to be classified is whether you’re training for size or training for performance and endurance. This difference in classification is what will differentiate between the type of training that’s best to achieve the desired goal. At its scientific level, muscle hypertrophy or muscle growth can occur in two ways: myofibrillar hypertrophy and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Neither of the two are better than the other, nor do they exclusively occur independently of one another, but the distinction creates an emphasis on why defining the goal for training matters.

First understand that each muscle fiber is an individual cell with multiple nuclei. Contraction or shortening of the individual muscle fiber is ultimately responsible for contraction of a whole muscle. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is an increase in the size or thickness of the cellular structures of the muscle fiber through the increase in myofibrils within each muscle fiber. An increase in myofibrils improves the force-production of individual muscle fibers because myofibrils is what contains the contractile (active) proteins: actin and myosin, which what makes muscle contraction possible. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the volume of the semi fluid which surrounds individual muscle fibers but doesn’t contain the contractile proteins actin and myosin. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy prioritizes on muscle fibers which contain the proteins used for tissue repair and growth. The increase in volume is what people refer to as muscle “pump,” as this situations creates increased cross-section of muscle fibers, but the enhancement in appearance and size is caused by an increase in semi fluid, but the semi fluid does not impact the contractile capacity of the muscle fibers and therefore does not impact force production. This is why identifying the goal to training is important.

Not all training are made equal because beyond the aesthetic and physical efforts there’s a lot of complex physiological, neurological, and chemical reactions and relationships which occur underneath the skin; beyond what meets the eye. This is why cardio may not be the best for weight loss and why strength training is advocated by many health professionals, because if size alone is what’s desired then there are specific methods of training which are more favorable to such goal while the same is true if performance is what’s desired more. At the end of the day, this is why narrowing to more specific goals and having a clear understanding on what the desired outcome is, beyond just being toned and fit is important.


McCall, Pete. “10 Things to Know About Muscle Fibers.” ACE, 7 May 2015, www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5411/10-things-to-know-about-muscle-fibers.

Neumann, Donald A., et al. Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation. Third ed., Elsevier, 2017.


Why The Most Common Goal Being Set Is A Cause For Failure


It’s time to get specific, very specific. One of the most common things I hear as a fitness professional is “I want to get toned and fit.” That’s a good goal, at least the desire for improvements is there, but that’s also one of the most generic and un-motivating goals anyone can set for themselves. Honestly, it’s a ‘goal’ that sets most for failure. Here’s why:

Reason #1 - The desire lacks a specific goal for individuals to work towards.

Here’s the reality, in the world of health and fitness, there’s no real limit to how healthy or fit a person can get. The longer I work on my health and fitness, the more results, the more benefits, and the more gains I reap. Health and fitness is a spectrum versus a singular achievable destination. I know exactly how long my flight from Singapore to Bali was, but with health and fitness, there’s no real measurement to the distance because there’s always room to do better and there’s always room to improve. I can continue to improve my flexibility, improve my strength, increase my endurance, increase my muscle mass, reduce my fat percentage, etc. because the capacity for improvements is endless.

Reason #2 - The desire is undefinable.

Everyone has a different preference and definition to what “toned and fit” is because it lacks universal identification. Toned and fit is a description, not an identification. Body type preference also comes into play here, what I find toned and fit may be too much or too little for some people’s expectations. For example, some people may want larger bulkier muscles, while others want leaner muscles, or others want bigger butts while others prefer to focus on their abs. There’s a multitude of desires when it comes to what each person wants, so if I can’t even define what I want, how can I expect to achieve it?

Reason #3 - Everyone’s body is different.

Everyone has a different idea of what the ideal body is but the reality is, each person is born with different body types, with different genetics, with different metabolisms, and therefore with different capacities. Before identifying what is my ideal body type, there must be an understanding of the reality of each individual’s body. Each body is beautiful in their own way, but genetics and physiology is something we’re born with, therefore the limitations of this reality are also inherent.


Solution #1 - Identify the desires and intentions.

Everyone has different desires as to what the ideal body is. Identifying what this means within the context of one’s own body and what this means for each person is key to the success of each individual’s health and fitness journey. This is Why Identifying What Drives You Is Important. There also first need to a be a clear understanding of the why. Why do I want to embark on this health and fitness journey? Understanding our desires and motivations is an important first step because Intention Matters. What I am driven by is different to the person next to me, so I should expect that how I motivate myself is different too. Identifying these critical components will help to identify the goal.

Solution #2 - Come up with specific goals.

Once I understand the why, I am then able to identify specific desires and motivations to help me identify specific goals. “I want to be able to do 10 push-ups because I want a stronger upper body,” “I want to be able to do a 20kg (approx. 44 lbs) deadlift because I want more shape to my butt,” “I want to be able to jog from my house to the gardens without stopping because I want to work on my endurance,” the possibilities are endless, but the main thing to remember here is to come up with one or a few specific goals to keep you motivated and start with the why! Of course, once you’ve achieved the goal, cross it out and set a new one!

Solution #3 - Accept that each body is different.

Accepting and working with what I have to achieve my healthiest and fittest self is the first step to a successful wellness journey, here’s A Beginner’s Guide To Working Out, which explains several criteria to get right in order to aid a successful fitness journey. These criteria listed are what I believe are key components to a successful health and fitness journey. The main point to draw on is on accepting and celebrating the body we have been blessed with and to work on optimizing its potential.

Everyone has the capacity to improve their health and fitness, but there are too many fad diets and fad workouts out there which mislead people’s expectation of themselves. Especially with the rampant existence of media nowadays, there’s a race towards perfection and unrealistic aesthetic reaches.

The shift that’s needed in the health and fitness world is an acceptance towards all different body types. Not everyone is tall and lanky, but that is the projected ideal for females in this world. Not everyone is big boned and chiseled, but that is the projected ideal for males in this world. What’s more important is to keep moving forward towards a healthier and fitter self, because what’s more liberating is the freedom to love one’s only body and to treat it like the holy temple it really is. Meaning to do whatever it takes to help this body I have to achieve its best potential.

Each body is unique, each body is different, each body has its own capacities and therefore its own potential so why not work towards its personal best, rather than drowning my mind and my body with unrealistic and unachievable expectations of what society and media have deemed as worthy?


How To Take Your Sweat To The Next Level: The Mind-Body Connection


Mindfulness and mindful practice is a force in today’s pop culture: from meditation to hygge (the Danish cultural phenomenon) to meditation apps and meditation studios, the world is pushing forward with strong momentum towards a more conscious lifestyle.

Humans are incapable of living without a functional brain; where dysfunctions in the brain can impact a person’s ability to live and lead a normal life. It’s no surprise then that muscle contraction and body movement depend and originate in the brain.

The basics to movement and muscle contraction is this: the Central Nervous System (CNS), which encompasses the spinal cord, the brain, and the nerves, is a quick communication channel that acts as the control center for movement and muscle activation.1 (Side Note: There are more complex depths to this relationship, but for my current purpose, this brief explanation is sufficient.)

The human body wouldn’t be this miraculous marvel if it didn’t have a brain and the same is true for the brain if the opposite were true. The brain’s capacity is limited to the body it belongs to. Exercise culture tends to focus a lot on aesthetic benefits, but if the body is nothing without a brain and if the brain is only limited to the body that it is in, then what’s more intriguing to understand is how exercise benefits from cognitive function and how cognitive function benefits from exercise.

A study by Duke University found that the prefrontal and frontal region of clinically depressed and older participants were enriched in an exercise-versus-medication study of 84 individuals.3 Those who exercised found improvements in memory, “as well as in executive functions pertaining to planning, organization and intellectual multitasking.” Neuroplasticity, the brain’s lifelong capacity to adapt and change, is part of the reason why this is possible. The relationship and dependency of the brain and the body are what is worth paying attention to because each plays a significant role in defining the capacity and capabilities of the other. The physiological reality is that without the brain humans are nothing.

Here’s why this is important & how this information can help you take your sweat to the next level by optimizing the mind-body connection:

1. To optimize my sweat time, I need to participate in mindful sweat sessions

As highlighted above, the body depends on the brain and the brain depends on the body. If exercise is treated as a mindless activity, where my mind is contemplating about what to wear this weekend versus staying conscious of the movements and muscles I am working, then I am falling short on optimizing on my sweat time. I am putting in the time and most of the work, but cheating myself from reaping the full benefits.

2. To optimize my sweat sessions, I need to think about the muscles being worked

It’s not necessary to know the anatomy of the whole human body, but the more I know the more it helps. Think of it like this, when I first started texting, I had to look at the keypad in order to type. After sometime typing became much more automatic. Now as I type on a touch screen, typing without looking is possible, but I am much more accurate with my texts if I look. This analogy can be applied in regards to muscle activation in exercise; especially when it comes to the more dominant muscles. Although muscle activation can happen quite automatically, especially if the exercise and movements are familiar, thinking about the muscles as I move will create better accuracy.

3. To avoid a plateau, I need to continue to stimulate my brain and my body.

Think back to when toddlers first learn how to walk. Learning how to walk was difficult for everyone. No baby came into this world knowing how to use his or her limbs. It took months of growth, months of practice, and more than a couple of tries before the mind was able to direct the body to walk.

Learning how to walk is the same as learning how to exercise correctly. We all started at zero at some point and everything needs to be learned, but once it’s learned it tends to become automatic. This is why I don’t believe in doing just one type of exercise. I am an advocate for cross-training because it is only natural for the body to adapt. If I want to optimize on challenging both my mind and my body, then I need to also challenge myself with varied types of exercise. The more unfamiliar I am with the activity, the more challenging it becomes for my body and my brain. Therapists and trainers working with older populations have even started to incorporate brain games to help improve overall reception to training.3

4. To help motivate myself to exercise, I should think about the benefits of exercise beyond aesthetics

Aesthetic gains win people’s attention, but aesthetic gains are such a small part of the real benefits of exercise. There’s what feels like an infinite list of the benefits: from physical health to mental well-being, to improved mood, and so much more! (Check out What Happened When I Added Weights and What’s To Gain With Strength Training).

In understanding the essential connection the brain has with the body, it’s easy to see why I like to place emphasis on training beyond the physical body and beyond aesthetics. The mind is a powerful tool and if we want our body to optimize on function and health, it requires more than just physical health, attention to the mind and mental stimulation is also necessary.


1. Hargrove, Todd. “The Central Nervous System.” BETTER MOVEMENT, 2008, www.bettermovement.org/blog/2008/the-central-nervous-system.

2. McGrath, Brent. “4 Tips To Help Train Your Brain For Massive Gains: Mind Muscle Connection!” Bodybuilding.com, 16 June 2010, www.bodybuilding.com/fun/4-tips-to-help-train-brain-massive-gains-mind-muscle-connection.htm.

3. Myers, Carrie. “Creating the Ultimate Mind-Body Connection.” ACE Fitness, www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1748/creating-the-ultimate-mind-body-connection%20/.



How Long Did It Take?


There’s one question that people ask me that gets me smiling (because it is a nice compliment), but at the same time also frustrates me (because of the myth that usually leads people to ask this question): “how long did it take you?” There are variations to the question people ask me. The most common of which is, “how long did it take you to get to where you are?”, “how long did it take you to get that body?”, “how long did it take you to get abs like yours?”, “how long did it take to get as fit as you?” and other versions of these. I don’t highlight this to show off the number of compliments I get, I highlight this point because of how baffling it is to witness the strength of this myth. People are led to believe that achieving optimum fitness and health can be done within a specified time frame, but this myth is what’s stopping so many people from achieving the body they want because reaching your optimum level of fitness and health is a lifelong endeavor.

Whether it’s a couple of weeks or a number of days, there’s a strong belief that to achieve health or some type of fitness goal I will only need to commit myself to ‘x’ number of fitness-focused and healthy eating days. Here’s where the confusion lies: health and fitness do not have a definite end.

Remember health and fitness exist within an indefinite spectrum that’s specific to each individual, so how long I take to lose ‘x’ amount of weight might not apply to another. The other issue with this is that a lot of the common ambitions aren’t specific enough, “I want to lose weight,” “I want to lose fat,” or “I want to be more toned and lean.” These goals, although relevant, are too generalized. Instead, state a specific weight you want to drop to or state the range of fat percentage to body mass you want to achieve (that’s within the healthy range). The goal can even be more related to routine, like how many sweat sessions clocked in during the week. The main insight to understand here is that health and fitness take thought and commitment. It’s not about setting realistic and individualized goals for yourself. When people ask “how long did it take you?”, for the most part, what they’re really asking is “how long will it take me?” I am here to tell you that that’s not how fitness or health works because, at the end of the day, it’s about finding a routine that works for you. Not for me or anyone else. It’s about finding what you enjoy, what works with your schedule, what works with your circumstances and once you find what sticks to commit to it for as long as you’re living, breathing, and are able.

This means committing to regular sweat sessions with varied intensities, listening to the body when it needs rest, dedicating enough time and effort towards proper recovery (yes, that means quality sleep as well), eating right (at least 80-90% of the time because we all know indulgence is just a fact of life sometimes) and understanding that it takes more than just a couple of weeks or months to truly be healthy. Health is a never-ending spectrum, we can either be healthier or less healthy but there’s no definite health which every person can strive towards in the same way. Health is an individual achievement that’s also dependant on so many other biological, psychological, environmental, and physiological factors which is out of most people’s control. Our task is to appreciate and value the body we’ve been born with, to care for it as best we can, and to elevate the body to the best potential it can reach. Overall the main thing to take away is not “how long will it take,” rather, the question to ask is, how much longer will I wait before I start to elevate my body towards its full potential?


Why Is It Harder for Women To Lose Weight?


A client had expressed frustration at the fact that her husband was showing much more progress compared to her. They were working out the same amount and pretty much eating the same foods, but although she was proud of her husband, she was also confused about why the same amount of work and effort didn’t bring her the same monumental transformation which her husband had. In the midst of her frustration, I realize her concern is not unique. You see, weight-loss is part physical, part mental, and part biological and when it comes to biology, we have zero control over the DNA and the body we’ve been given. The good news is that it doesn’t mean that we can’t overcome the challenges which are innate to achieving a healthier self, but there are more scientific explanations to this and here are the facts to face:

#1 - More Testosterone in Men

Thanks to biology, men possess more testosterone in their bodies, which leads to a greater percentage of muscle versus fat. While women produce more estrogen and progesterone which tends to promote more fat storage. The result of this places men at an advantage because when it comes down to it more muscle equals to more calorie burn, “as the amount of muscle mass an individual has is directly proportional to metabolism, and thus caloric expenditure.” (3) The fact to face here is that the truth of each journey is in our DNA and biology.

#2 - A woman’s body requires more fat to be healthy

Let’s remember that fat (despite the terrible rapport it gets) is an essential component to health and the body’s ability to survive. “A certain amount of body fat is necessary for insulation and thermoregulation, hormone production, cushioning of vital organs, and maintenance of certain body functions.” What is important to recognize is, when it comes to weight-loss, there are different needs between the genders. “For men, essential body fat is between 2-5%; for women, it is between 10-13%. The remainder of body fat is stored throughout the body in adipose tissue..., acting as a readily available source of energy or to cushion and protect vital organs.” (3) In other words, part of a woman’s biology is geared to hold onto fats, because aside from the internal functions fats assists with, fats are also essential for a woman’s reproductive abilities.

#3  - Science reveals, men are wired differently when it comes to being HANGRY (hunger driven anger)!  

Whether a woman is hungry or not, a woman’s response to food is different to how a man reacts to food. In a study by, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted in 2009, brain scans reveal that even if a woman is not hungry the region of the brain which controls the drive to eat is activated simply by being shown food. This is not the case for men (1). What this research reveals is that women tend to eat, not just because they’re hungry or to satisfy a biological need. For women, there is a labyrinth of motivations when it comes to eating.

#4 - Women are prone to more hormonal shifts

Concluded in a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women are more emotional eaters compared to their male counterparts. This emotional drive towards food also causes a secondary impact to reach towards “foods that will ignite the reward center of the brain, which tends to be the sugary, fatty, salty, hyper-palatable foods,” which are also food which are likely to cause weight gain, says Pamela Peeke, author of “The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.” (1)

#5 - Fat Distribution

Generally, men will hold more excess fat around the belly area, while women’s fat storage is more spread out across the body. When it comes to weight-loss, men who lose weight will appear to have more progress because excess fat is contained around the belly area which is a prominent and more noticeable area. For women, because fat is distributed in all areas of the body, weight loss is less noticeable and is more gradual in its progression. (4)

It’s important to understand that eating and weight-loss is a much more complex topic than what tends to be portrayed. Beyond the physical aspects, eating and weight-loss is also about the mental conditions in which each individual operates from. What’s critical to recognize is that there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution. We’re all different. From our DNA and biological makeup down to the environments we live in. What matters most is about recognizing the unique aspects of each individual body, each life, and each progress. It’s also about taking matters into our own hands and making educated decisions on what will work best for us. There may not be one solution that’ll work for everyone, but the greatest news is that there is a solution that’s right for you that’s waiting to be discovered. So ask yourself, what is right for you and make it happen!



1 Allen, Jennifer Van. “Why It Really Is Harder for Women to Lose Weight.” The Washington Post, 12 Aug. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/weight-loss-it-really-is-harder-for-women-research-shows/2014/08/12/0a95c1aa-1d9b-11e4-ab7b-696c295ddfd1_story.html?utm_term=.e2ffe7049018.

2 Green, Daniel J, and Cedric X Bryant, editors. ACE's Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals. American Council of Exercise, 2010.

3 Bryant, Cedric X., and Daniel J. Green. ACE Personal Trainer Manual: The Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professionals. 5th ed. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise, n.d. Print.

4 “Do Men Lose Weight Faster Than Women?” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/diet/features/do-men-lose-weight-faster-than-women#2.



How Do You Know If You're Doing Enough


Here are some of the questions that linger in my mind after my sweat sessions: “how effective was my workout?” “why are things getting easier?” “why don’t I feel as challenged as I did a few months ago?” “why am I not dropping weight as fast as I was?” “why am I not seeing results as fast as I was?” Honestly, the whirlwind of unanswered questions used to multiply in my mind when it came to evaluating the effectiveness of my fitness routine.

Like most people, I am eager to see results and keen to feel the difference the next time I workout, but what I found challenging was how to evaluate myself because I’ve always been active all my life. I never lost my fitness routine, even after my days as a high school athlete, aside from when I was ill or injured. Measuring effectiveness became an afterthought (or sometimes not a thought at all), because what I knew was that I was meeting the minimum recommended hours by health experts. All I thought about was as long as I am working out and sweating I am improving my fitness. Not until my education in personal training do I now understand some of the important principles to think about when evaluating the effectiveness of my routine:

#1 - Progression

What’s important to consider in regards to progression in fitness is, “how am I progressing my fitness?” or “how am I progressing the challenge I place on myself?” As humans we tend to complain about boredom when things get too ‘routine’, but the truth is we are also uncomfortable with change (whether mentally, physically, or in other aspects in life).

In fitness, it is important to keep the body challenged. The body naturally adapts to exercise, think about doing your first push up (or lack of ability to do a proper one), then think about the progression between the first attempt to the most recent attempt (that is if you’ve been working on them of course!). There’s a drastic difference in ability thanks to our body’s ability to adapt!

This is why progression is important, without progression, the body becomes stagnant. Progression is the key to improving our level of fitness and this can be done is so many ways, but here are some tips:

  • Increasing repetitions
  • Increasing weight(s) used for a specific exercise (e.g. I can complete 12 repetitions of chest presses with two 7kg [approx. 15.4lbs] dumbbells, therefore I can induce progression by increasing my repetitions or to increase the weight I lift).
  • Increasing frequency of training (e.g. instead of twice a week move up to three or four)
  • Incorporating new workouts (e.g. if you’re a yogi, maybe adding a circuit class into the week would be handy)

#2 - Regularity

It is important to maintain regularity in training routines because any progress made or any physiological adaptations the body makes is impermanent. Yes, you heard me right! What’s at play here is the principle of reversibility and the principle of diminishing returns. In simple terms, these two principles outline the unavoidable physiological truth in which the body operates with; adaptations can happen positively or negatively, it is part of the body’s natural state of development.

This is why I advocate for fitness as a lifestyle choice rather than a method for weight loss because the strength of the weight loss industry tends to cloud this distinction.

#3 - Overload

Overload identifies the specific need in strength training to increase the weight load or resistance in order to maximize the capacity for strength development. This is important because not everyone does strength training, especially as a female in Asia, there’s a certain taboo to the idea of strength training.There’s a great fear in getting too big or too muscular, but the reality is in order to achieve more strength and get stronger, strength training, whether with weights, body weight, or resistance is important (remember: the more muscles we have the more calories we burn at rest). There’s a whole lot to gain with weights and strength training in general, but the main benefits are to assist in progression and more importantly the health and physiological benefits which come with it; like an increase in bone density.

There are plenty of reasons to train and sweat but having a better understanding of the full scope of the benefits which go along with training is also beneficial in helping to create longevity in routine. These guidelines helped me to understand the value of getting comfortable in discomfort. Following the same routine is always what's comfortable, but it’s more important to challenge the body in order to catalyze positive development in my health and fitness. We all want to make all our efforts count, so it’s time to stay conscious about what we do!


A Beginner's Guide To Working Out


I am lucky I've always been an active person, even as a child, so I have never really been a beginner to working out; nor was I ever a beginner at the gym. Although, I do remember how nervous I was stepping into a gym for the very first time in high school. For those of you starting your journey for the first time, I can sympathize how intimidating this realm is, especially with all the boutique studios and new concepts popping everywhere. First off, I applaud you for taking this first step! Here are some key things to think about before you begin this journey!

#1 - Love Your Body

A lot of people who start their fitness journey enter with a mindset of not being happy with their bodies versus wanting to become healthier. Therefore a lot of people are committing to fitness in order to achieve weight loss, look leaner, or look better in general. Having these desires is normal and OK, but what’s troubling is when this mindset also leads to an expectation that working out is the answer to all insecurities. Everyone’s first step is to first accept and love their bodies because no matter how hard you work out, the reality is, there’s a barrier to the satisfaction we can derive from aesthetics; especially if we don’t accept and love ourselves and our body first.

I grew up as an insecure child and teenager. Weight was always a pain point because I was always the chubby one in my family. Later on in life, I gained 9kg (about 19lbs) in University and my insecurity skyrocketed. Despite making some progress in my health and fitness, like losing some weight, increasing my level of fitness, eating healthier, etc. None was ever enough. I remained always dissatisfied because no matter how hard I trained if I don't prioritize the condition of my mind over the aesthetics, insecurities will disrupt the journey.  

#2 - Know Your Body Type

We exist as a species with varied body types. Not just between genders, but even within the classifications of gender, there are different classifications of body types. Remember these classifications act as generalizations. The real truth is every individual body (even between identical twins) are unique to that individual. Each person on this planet possesses a distinct combination of characteristics and traits that make them unique.

In regards to fitness, these differences matter as it impacts each individual’s capacity in fitness. Not everyone is made to be the next Michael Jordan. No matter how hard I try (and let’s discount gender for a moment) I will never be a pro-NBA player because I am 160cm (5ft. 2in.) Neither will I become the next Usain Bolt. The reality is there are differences in which we are born with, which extends far beyond just height and is more specific to things such as; our body composition, the types of muscles we have, our resting metabolic rate, are we naturally more flexible, and so much more. What’s important is to maintain an honest and realistic approach to the differences in our bodies.

There are also plenty of online resources available to try and figure out what body type you are and what’s the best routine for your body type. One of the best ones I’ve come across is here. It takes you through a quiz to identify your body type based on your answers to different questions. The results also specify what kind of workouts are best for your body type.

#3 - Evaluate and Accept Your Level Of Fitness

I’m a massive believer in investing in proper form first before trying to do advanced workouts. The reason is, once someone has learned something he or she will become accustomed to the way they’ve been taught and over time these wrong movement patterns will become habitual actions which are automated. If you’re a beginner be honest about it. If you’re in a class setting, don’t be intimidated or ashamed to inform your trainer where you think you’re level is. It’s better to do something correctly and safely rather than trying to do something too hard and risk injury. Even if the person next to you is crushing one-legged burpees, don’t feel the pressure to keep up because, for all anyone knows, that person might be a superhuman robot (HA!).

Understand that it’s OK to be a beginner is the first step. There’s no shame in being honest about where we are because everyone started as a beginner, at some point. No one was born fit! Everyone worked hard to get to where they are! The sooner you start the longer you have to achieve greater results. Fitness is a lifestyle and it’s important to maintain consistency because physiological adaptations to fitness are impermanent, unless maintained.

Taking care of our bodies, our health, and an overall care towards well-being takes work! But, it is one of the most rewarding aspects of life, because it’s the gift that keeps on giving!


Overtraining Is A Real Thing


There’s something about exercise I didn’t use to think about too much because I used to think more exercise equals to more gains. I mean everyone is always on and on about how great exercise is for pretty much everything, so the logical belief is more exercise and the harder I work the better it is for me. Here’s the truth I learned through personal experience and my education as a personal trainer, rest, and recovery just as important as the time I put in sweating it out.  

Truthfully, there’s a level of addiction I must admit to training at higher intensities. I live for it! It’s the kind of thing I don’t mind getting up at 7am every day for because I know it’s always a thrill to get the rush of endorphins after each session. On top of my fast paced circuits, I started to incorporate weights into my routine too. This really upped the ante for me because adding weights not only increased the challenge, but also the results. It was an absolute rush! But, after several weeks of training at high intensities 5-6 days a week, things started to take a turn for me.

I no longer left sessions feeling energized, rather I left training sessions feeling sluggish and exhausted. I struggled to keep my energy up throughout the day. I was constantly fatigued and had endured prolonged DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Another very interesting symptom was the change in my appetite. Having a high appetite is the norm for me as I have always been a very active person. I remember feeling confused. Initially, I didn’t think about it because fluctuations in appetite (especially for a woman) isn’t out of the ordinary. What ran through my mind at the time was how unusual my fluctuation was. Typically my appetite ranged from having a high appetite to a monstrous appetite, especially during certain periods of my menstrual cycle.  What raised a red flag for me, was realizing the reverse relationship between my appetite and how much energy I was burning. (Remember: I was training 5-6 days a week at high intensities and on average was completing circuits at about 75-85% of my maximum output for at least 45 minutes each session, and sometimes even scheduling two workouts a day). With this kind of energy output, my body should be screaming for fuel, but the reverse was happening.

Another thing I noticed was the fact that I felt my workouts were getting harder (when I was essentially doing similar things at similar intensities). I found it more difficult to complete some of the same exercises. It didn’t make any sense at all. How can I find these exercises more difficult when I’ve been training harder? How can my fitness level drop when I have been training harder? These were the questions which ran through my mind. Until I came across the subject of overtraining syndrome in my education as a personal trainer.

The known symptoms of overtraining are varied in people. It ranges from physiological to emotional changes, and therefore is very specific to the individual who are experiencing the symptoms. The symptoms I endured may be shared with others experiencing overtraining, but the symptoms aren’t mandatory.

For reference, here are the known symptoms:

  • A decline in physical performance with continued training

  • Elevated heart rate and blood lactate levels at a fixed submaximal work rate

  • Change in appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Multiple colds or sore throats

  • Irritability, restlessness, excitability, and/or anxiousness

  • Loss of motivation and vigor

  • Lack of mental concentration and focus

  • Lack of appreciation for things that are normally enjoyable

What I learnt is how important it is to dedicate proper attention towards rest and recovery. I need to be realistic about my level of fitness and allow a realistic progression versus an everyday burnout. I need to accept that my body is not made to go at 100% everyday. It’s about embracing the cycle of work and recovery.


Bryant, Cedric X., and Daniel J. Green. ACE Personal Trainer Manual: The Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professionals. 5th ed. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise, n.d. Print.


My 3 for 3 Rules & Principles for Fitness


If you read my posts, there’s a recurring theme to the message I advocate for: health and wellness is a lifelong journey! Here are the rules (some slap in the face truths):

  1. There are no shortcuts.

  2. There are no quick fixes.

  3. The length, consistency, level of effort and commitment will likely match the result

Here are the key principles to understand:

Principle #1 - Reversibility

“The principle of reversibility pertains to the losses in function experienced after the cessation of a training program. Regardless of the gain in fitness achieved through a regular exercise program, those improvements will be reversed to pre-training levels…”

This is why when someone tells me, “Oh I used to do HIIT sessions 3 times a year ago” or “I used to run everyday a few years ago” becomes-- within the context of fitness level-- becomes insignificant. The good news is, our muscles do have muscle and motor memory, so people who have done some type of training or was an athlete in their younger days will generally fare better in terms of movement compared to a complete beginner, but in terms of fitness level, unfortunately (depending on how long you’ve stopped) you might be back to square one!

Principle #2 - Diminishing Returns

First and foremost it’s important to realize that fitness is a personal journey. From birth, we possess a unique genetic makeup which are factors to our fitness journey and potential. Furthermore, the combinations of these factors, like resting metabolic rate, muscle to fat ratio, and so much more are attributed to the individual. Here’s the truth: no two persons are the same. There’s no way two people can react in the same exact way to any exercise or nutrition program. There are common goods which are shared, but ultimately health and fitness is an individual journey, in which “performance outcomes among various exercises are highly individualistic.”

“The principle of diminishing returns suggests that the rate of fitness improvement diminishes over time as fitness approaches its ultimate genetic potential. The response to physical activity is not only associated with heredity but is also highly influenced by an individual’s current level of fitness,” because the capacity to improve also depends on the starting point. This means two things. One, what were gifted with at birth is a major component to the rest of our fitness journey. The reality is that there are just some of us who were born to be athletes and some of us who aren’t.

Secondly, although our genetic basis matters, training, in general, is proven to improve overall health for everyone. The only real reality to face here is that the more fit a person is the smaller the window of improvement is versus someone who’s starting from sedentary. In other words, the beauty is that no matter where you are, there’s always room for improvement! (Unfortunately, it just doesn’t mean we’ll all be the next Usain Bolt by committing to training).

Principle #3 - Specificity

First, of, it’s important to understand that in regards to the energy used during exercise, the body relies on three energy systems: phosphagen, anaerobic glycolysis, and aerobic glycolysis. For the current purpose, I will only go through the latter two very briefly. In simple terms, anaerobic means producing energy without the need of oxygen, while aerobic means requiring oxygen. The reason why this is important in regards to training programs equates to how the body uses energy through different training programs. “The principle of specificity explains the outcome of a given type of training program such that the exercise response is specific to the mode and intensity of training. In other words, only physiological systems emphasized during a training program will improve.”

Why does this matter to this discussion? The principle of specificity really emphasizes the three points above: there are no shortcuts, there are no quick fixes, the length, consistency, level of effort and commitment will likely match the result. If I want to train for endurance, I need to put in the work and hours that will help my endurance. If I want to train for strength, I need to commit to the right kind of training to achieve strength. If I want to work on getting bigger (i.e. aesthetically increasing the size of my muscles), I need to train in a specific manner to focus on muscle hypertrophy.

What I am trying to highlight is what the health and wellness journey really requires. There’s no such thing as minimal effort to produce optimum results. The real questions are on understanding what do I desire, what is my goal, what is realistic, and how much commitment am I willing to put in?


Bryant, Cedric X., and Daniel J. Green. ACE's Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals. American Council on Exercise, 2012.


Inch Your Way To Summer


When the idea of summer comes to mind-- BBQs, trips to the beach, and plenty of pool time comes to mind. Getting that summer bod is what a lot of us are after, especially as spring subsides or as the rainy season draws to a close for those of us living in the tropics. A massive reminder of that New Year’s resolution (which we might not have jumped on quite yet)! Summer parties, boat parties, and all the festivities which come along with summer is what might daunt us, but don’t let the change in season scare you.

If you don’t have access to a gym or any equipment, here are some of my favorite moves to get myself in the groove for summer (no gym memberships or equipment necessary)!

Exercise 1: Burpees! (YAY!) When chasing that beach ready body, burpees are my go to! It’s an all body workout that fires up a lot of the beach baring essentials.

Do 4 sets of 12-20 burpees with 20 second rests in between each set. Tip: If you don’t have a stopwatch, count up to 20 slowly (“One mississippi, two mississippi…”)

Choose according to your fitness level. Remember quality over difficulty is key here! It’s more important to get that posture right versus completing the more difficult version with faulty posture.

1. Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and plant your palms on the ground around shoulder width apart. Then jump backwards with both feet to a straight arm plank. Remember to keep the core engaged, spine straight, and clench the butt to keep the hips tucked in. Avoid arching the back at all times!

2. Lower the body to the ground, as you would in a push up. Tuck the elbows in and breathe in as you lower down. Imagine you had to hold paper in between your armpits. Squeeze those armpits tight and don’t let those elbows flare!

3. Right before your chest touches the ground, breathe out and push back up to a straight arm plank.

4. Finally, reverse the motion. Jump both feet in towards the arms into the starting squat position. Then jump upwards with both arms in the air and “wave it like you just don’t care!” Remember to land with soft knees! Absorb as much of the downward momentum by following through the motion and allowing the knees to bend into the starting squatted position.

If this is too difficult, follow the following steps (as seen below). Step 1 is the same as above.

2. Lower the body all the way to the ground. Rest the chest, thighs, and body onto the ground and release the toes to straighten up.

3. Then tuck the toes back in and jump both feet in towards the arms into the starting squat position. From there, jump upwards with both arms in the air. Remember to land with soft knees. Follow the momentum through and allow the knees to bend into the starting squatted position.

If both options are too difficult, instead of jumping with both feet together, move the feet backwards one at a time.

Exercise 2: Plank + Spiderman Plank Crunch which is a variation of the classic plank. I am a massive fan of plank variations because they’re core burners that you feel immediately.

Do 4 rounds of each exercise. For the plank, slowly count to 30 (“one mississippi, two mississippi...”). Then do 12-20  spiderman plank crunches. One right and left leg crunch counts as 1 rep. 1 round counts as 1 set of 30 second plank and 12-20 spiderman plank crunches. Take a 20 second rest between each round. You’ll end up doing 4 sets of 30 second planks and 4 sets of 12-20 spiderman plank crunches (for each leg).

1a. For the plank, start with a push up position. Making sure the hands are in line with the shoulders. Bend the elbows into a 90 degree angle. Rest the forearms parallel to each other on the ground with the palms facing the ground and fingers spread out wide. Remember to keep the elbows hugged in.

1b. Look down in between the arms with the head and spine straight. Keep the core and butt engaged, to make sure the hips is tucked in.

2a. For the spiderman plank crunch, remain in the plank position. Move the right knee towards the right elbow, then repeat the same move on the other leg. Keep repeating these movements until the 30 seconds are up! Remember to keep the non-moving leg engaged, along with the core and hip tucked in!

If this is too much, straighten up the arms into a straight arm plank and complete the same crunch motion (as seen below). Alternate option:

Exercise 3: Single Leg Bench Step Up is a classic to get the tush and hammies fired up.  

Do 4 sets of 15-30 single leg step ups for each leg. Take a 20 second rest in between each set. You’ll end up doing 4 sets of 15-30 reps for each leg.  

1. Place one foot on the bench. Make sure to place the whole foot on the bench without any overlap over the edge of the bench. Starting with one foot on the bench, look straight ahead with the back straight. Keep the weight on the heels and step up. Let the other foot hang behind. Avoid pushing off the resting foot when stepping up.

EXERCISE 4: Squat Jumps & Crab Walks are a mean tag team that’ll help get those legs and bottom ready for those sexy summer shorts.

Do 4 sets of 5 rounds with 2 squat jumps (1 squat jump on each side) and 4-6 steps in between. Moving from one side to the other counts as 1 round. Rest for 30 seconds in between each round.

1. Stand with the feet shoulder width apart. Squat down with the back straight and weight on the heels. Making sure the knees do not go over the toes. Spring up to a full jump with both feet extended and both arms swinging down. Land back to the ground on soft knees.

2. Stay in a lowered squatted position and start to move laterally from one side to the other. Start with the inside feet and take 4-6 steps in between. Then repeat the squat jump. Walk back in the same squatted position to the opposite side and repeat the jump. Avoid standing up. Push through the burn!

EXERCISE 5: Push Ups + High Plank Lateral Shuffles are great preparation for those shoulder bearing summer tops.

Do 4 sets of 4 rounds with push-ups at each side and 4-6 steps in between. Moving from one side to the other counts as 1 round. Rest for 30 seconds in between each round.

1. Start in a pushup position with the back straight, arms shoulder width apart, hands in line with the shoulder, and palms firmly planted on the ground with fingers spread out wide.

2. Lower the body down to the ground and hug the elbows in (making sure they do not wing out). Right before the chest touches the ground, push back up into a straight arm plank position.

3. Look straight down to help keep the head aligned to a straight spine. Once back up, start to move the hands and feet laterally. Move one feet first, followed by the hand on the same side. Repeat for 4-6 steps before doing a pushup at the other side, then move back the other direction. Keep moving until time is up.

For an easier option, eliminate the push-up from the sets. For a challenge, increase the number of push-ups by 1 each time you reach a side.

EXERCISE 6: Bench Dips are a friend to the skinny straps and shoulder revealing tops popular in the summer.

Do 4 rounds of 15-25 bench dips. Rest for 20 seconds in between each round. The farther the feet the harder the exercise.

1. Start seated on the bench with the back straight with both feet flat on the ground and hip width apart. Hold on to the side of the bench with palms flat on the bench and fingers hanging onto the side. Start to move the butt off the bench by walking the feet forward slowly until the desired distance is achieved. Note: The straighter the leg the more difficult the movement. If you’re going for the more difficult version, with legs straight, then rest on the heels with the toes pointing up.

2. Look straight ahead and avoid looking down. Keep the weight on the heels and start to lower the body down to the ground. Maintain a flat back throughout and do not bend over.

3. Finally, push back up right before your tush kisses the ground.

Whether you’re home or on the go, these moves will help you inch closer to that beach ready body.


What Happened When I Added Weights


Circuits have always been my go to because there’s a level of satisfaction to completing a circuit. The speed of circuits keeps me engaged, the level of exertion required is addictive, and the versatility keeps me entertained time and time again. What changed everything for me was when I started to incorporate heavier weights into my circuits.

I remember my first day using weights. It was in a circuited class format, at a studio called F45 (where I've recently joined their team of trainers). At first I was intimidated because my preference is for a lean body and not a bulky body. My fear was grounded in my past of being pretty bulky (I wish I had a picture to show, but I didn’t really take that many back then). Having to buy a size up because my arms or thighs couldn’t fit in wasn’t fun, , so my solution was to avoid heavy weights. (Don’t get me wrong, some women prefer a more muscular physique, but as it comes down to preference, my preference is for a leaner body build).

In the beginning, what kept me coming back to F45 was the fact that this was circuited group training, which means I’m able to continue to do circuits but with friends and other people around me. I remember how hesitant I was to grab the heavy weights in the beginning, but what happened a few weeks after is something I continue to testify about today. Weighted circuits is what transformed my physique and I am forever an advocate for using weights. (I am not about piling on heavy weights just to prove the number I can hold, but what I am talking about is a gradual increase in the weights I use in order to constantly challenge myself and increase my athletic performance).

A bit of background on me, I’ve always been an athletic individual. Playing sports and staying active throughout my life has always been part of my lifestyle. Having an athletic physique is not something new. What F45 helped me achieve is a stronger but leaner figure. (Of course diet plays a role, but I’ve always been a relatively healthy eater, so in my case I know diet wasn’t the differentiator).

In all the years I’ve been training, I always had a problem with looking bulky. In part because I am what most will call a petite figure. Any gain in mass or muscle is therefore quite evident on my figure. I was impressed because in the past, the more I trained the bulkier I looked and the bulkier I became the more awkward my clothes fitted (I don’t know how anyone else feels about this, but having to buy a size up just because my arms or thighs couldn’t fit in the clothes was a personal fashion nightmare). Another gain from training at F45 was seeing changes! I had hit a plateau in my training before joining F45, where results in my physique stagnated and improvements slowed. It was to my delight to find something which actually transformed my body in a new way!

What made the difference at F45 was the combination of moderate to high heart rates, the continuity of the work to rest periods, and the consistent use of weights and resistance (of course). Circuits are about sustaining a level of intensity throughout. Resistance and weights is what helps to increase the challenge of the movements, which otherwise would be hard to achieve without.

What I hadn’t thought about before was how weights and resistance used in a circuit format equates to training for muscle endurance versus muscle hypertrophy. Training for muscle hypertrophy (or bulking) is what I had previously done when using weights. It involved low repetitions, longer rest periods, and therefore relatively low heart rates. I finally realize it wasn’t about the weights, rather it was about how I was using the weights which left me bulky before. The combination I am accustomed to now is where the magic happens! Circuited weight and functional training is where it’s at!

Read more about F45 and about its rapid growth as one of the world’s leading fitness franchises.