Before & Before photos

Finally started to take some proper photos of my body to see if there’s any change after slogging to all those YouTube fitness videos.

There’s just a month between these photos below, but I was still hoping to discern some difference.

Left: 1st May, Right: 1st June

The more I stare at it the more I *think* I can see an itsy bitsy just teeny weeny bit difference, but maybe it’s just wishful thinking in my head.

That, or it could be the lighting. I couldn’t get the same lighting as they couldn’t be shot in the same place. The photo on the right was taken yesterday in the hotel room I am in now for my quarantine.

And maybe I was also sucking in my stomach extra hard ๐Ÿ˜‚.

Let’s not call this “Before & After”. Let’s just call it ‘Before – Part 1 & Before – Part 2” instead. Let’s hope the next one will be a proper Before & After instead of involving a Before – Part 3.

But you know what, f**k it, this is my journey.

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The fun revelation though is the big difference lighting can make. Check out the photo below I took in a different part of the room. I actually almost look buff here! If I squint really hard I can make out the beginnings of a bicep. All just because the light from the window hits me on my side, not front. Crazy.

Moving into the bathroom next, even the photo in there makes my body look a bit better than what it looks like in real life. Lighting really is everything. Yes okay I’m still sucking in my belly like crazy, but you know what I mean.

Hello, bathroom selfie! Pleased to make your acquaintance, I’ve heard so much about you. Let’s be friends. ๐Ÿคฎ ๐Ÿคญ

By the way I’m not showing my face in these shots because I’m shy, I mean vain. If I achieve a nice body one day God willing, maybe I’ll be happy to attach my face to it. Maybe.

105 Burpees a day for 30 days

I hated burpees for a long time! Because they’re so damn hard. But yesterday I just finished 30 consecutive days of 105 burpees a day. Months ago I would find that crazy unbelievable so I’m happy about it.

It’s made possible by a YouTube fitness trainer I’ve been following called Jordan Yeoh, who cleverly sneaked in 105 burpees at the last part of the last day of his 21-day fitness challenge, which I wrote about here.

It was clever because if he had said before that there was going to be 100 burpees I’d be all like “Forget it!” but it innocently started with 10, then shots of 5 with rests in between, and somehow I went along till completion. And after the hundred he still breezily squeezed in 5 more. As Jordan puts it: the power of not thinking too much, just do it. Click to play the video below. The burpees start at minute 15:05 and end at minute 28:40.

With lots of huffing and puffing noisily throughout and feeling like I was going to die while screaming and cursing on the inside, I scraped through. In my exhaustion soon into it, many of my pushups were barely half done, my ‘jumps’ quickly reduced to inch-high hops, and at one point I had to pause the video to take a longer break of a full minute more, but whatever. When I finished, my lungs felt like they were going to explode out my chest, but at the same time I was so shocked and happy I managed to do it.

I gave it another go a week later. While still painful and left gasping in full breaths of air, once again I felt like such a champion that I could do 105 of the formerly dreaded burpee in one session (never mind the crappy form). I then decided to try it for 30 consecutive days. On Day 7, I made the mistake of pushing it off till I plain forgot to do it, so I had to start Day 1 anew.  Yesterday I finally finished Day 30. The bonus is that with all those reps, my form had also slowly improved, and I think my pushup part is okay now.

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Instead of having to refer to the video above all the time, for convenience I use an interval timer app I already had in my phone, installed from Google Play Store. I keyed in the following sets of workout and rest. This is what works for me; enough time to not rush through it, and I find 20 seconds of rest is enough to catch my breath.

Work 40 seconds – Do 10 Burpees for a total of 10 Rest 20 seconds
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 15Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 20Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 25Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 30Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 35 Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 40Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 45Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 50Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 55Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 60Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 65Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 70Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 75Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 80Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 85Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 90Rest 20 secs
Work 20 secs – Do 5 for 95Rest 20 secs
Work 40 secs – Do 10 for 105 (Total Time 13 minutes)

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I was actually introduced to burpees like a year ago, via the following video of a Japanese YouTuber that was featured on an online article.

Even though his burpee is sans pushup, it’s still really tough to me because of the tabata style of workout, a very short 4-minute but very intense workout incorporating sets of 20 seconds of work (in this case 8 burpees in those 20 seconds) followed by 10 seconds of rest. A total of 8 sets make the 4 minutes.

In the beginning I managed only 4 or 5 burpees per set, and was already panting like crazy after a couple of sets. It took me weeks to finally manage to do 8. Even then I never really got the hang of it. Having only 10 seconds to catch my breath in between those sets was just too hard. But now thinking about it, thanks to this brilliant workout I was already cranking out 64 burpees in just 4 minutes! Okay, sans pushup, but I still think it’s so cool.

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So why do I do burpees (let alone 105 in a session) even though I think they’re kinda sadistic? I have to admit it is a great full body workout, and giving me both cardio and strength training in one go is a great bonus. When I struggled with it in the beginning it made me realize how out of shape I was, and I decided to use the exercise to get better. Well I’m still out of shape haha, and still panting madly throughout most of the workout, and still need to sit down a bit afterwards. But my fitness level has improved somewhat so I feel better about it.

The journey continues!

21 Day Fitness Challenge by Jordan Yeoh Fitness

When it comes to exercise instruction on YouTube, one of the routines I have moved on to is this programme, which I like and have done 2 rounds so far. Featuring a separate video for every single day, the shortest is about 6 and a half minutes long and the longest, for the last day, is about 30 minutes.

The workouts are more of an ‘intermediate’ level but easier versions of some exercises are offered to the beginner to follow, as mentioned in the introductory video below which by the way is only 3 minutes long yet covers well what the programme is about. Clicking ‘Watch on YouTube‘ at the bottom left corner (if you’re reading from a desktop computer) will also lead to the playlist of all the videos.

What I like about it:

  • No equipment required, not even dumbbells. Just a mat for comfort. I use a yoga mat. I also prefer to have shoes on when doing cardio exercises, also for comfort, so I have a pair solely ๐Ÿ˜‹ for exercising indoors (since we don’t wear shoes in the house).
  • The instructor Jordan Yeoh’s clear instruction and calm, pleasing tone of voice.
  • His tips and words of motivation interspersed throughout the videos.
  • The useful accompanying graphics feature a clear and attractive design, so they are easy and pleasant to follow.
  • The alternating intensity. Tougher workouts are followed by videos for the following days that feature less strenuous routines, including relaxing stretching poses.
  • As mentioned earlier, easier alternatives are offered for some exercises that may be hard for the beginner.

Here’s a sample – Day 1.

And here’s an example of an easier workout for a ‘recovery day’. It’s 17 minutes long, but the actual abs workout is only under 5 minutes. Stretching poses, which are relaxing and help to prepare for the next workout the next day, make up most of the rest of the video.

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YouTube exercise videos can be just 5 or 10 minutes long so they are terrific if you just have a short while to work out and want to do something, but of course you can always combine two or more, which is what I tend to do. Since I’m already exercising and already sweating away, I try to exercise for 30 minutes or more at a time.

New Year Resolution begins today

At least when it comes to exercise.

I don’t really believe in New Year Resolutions. If we really want to do something, there’s no need to wait until 1st January. Or use it as an excuse to delay doing it. If you think about it, it’s actually more constructive to adopt a New Month Resolution or New Week Resolution instead. That would cut down the procrastination to a great extent. Of course, the best would be New Day Resolution, even better if Day refers to Today, not Tomorrow, or worse, Forever Tomorrow.

But New Year Resolutions are more fun and novel because it’s just once a year, feeding into grander dreams of what we can achieve in 365 days. Who doesn’t dream of being better people, in better situations, in better shape. New hopes, new beginnings. Hopes and dreams are fun. But that’s possibly because we can do our hoping and dreaming while our asses are still in bed or on the sofa. It’s actually having to put in the effort come 1st January and the weeks and months after that it progressively ceases to be less and less fun.

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So I’ve been thinking, the reason why my New Year Resolutions to exercise regularly crumbles soon after is sore muscles. Yes, when we work out after not doing it for weeks or months, naturally our joints and muscles become all sore the following day as they seek to recover from the sudden workout they had suddenly been subjected to. Depending on how strenuous the workout is, we might take days to recover.

So what usually happens year after year is, after only the second or third workout, I finally can’t take it anymore and have to take a break for a few days. And then find that I can’t fully get back into the previous momentum. This affects the will to exercise which gradually peters off, with more and more breaks in between, until by March or so I’m back to square one.

So, my strategy is simply to start now in early December. Get all the soreness out of the way, so that come 1st January, I’ll be all up and running. That’s the idea, anyway. Which I may or may have not thought of while my ass was still in bed or on the sofa.

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So what’s my New Year Resolution with regards to exercising regularly? Oh, only about 30 minutes or so, 5 to 6 days a week. Nothing too ambitious to cut down the chance of burning out. A mix of dumbbells for resistance training, and cardio.

For cardio, I want to incorporate the following video I came across on YouTube by an instructor called Rowan Row. I tried it yesterday (a Monday = New Week Resolution!) only to discover how out of shape I’ve become. The 10-minute routine is simple to follow: 10 simple exercises, each 45 seconds long followed by 15 seconds of rest. I found that I can’t do some (like the half-burpees, the third exercise) for the whole 45 seconds. It’s too hard.

Never mind, though. I simply do what I can for now, 30 seconds, with a view to build up my stamina over the next few weeks to do the whole 45 seconds. I also modify some exercises to suit my current fitness level. For example, for now I don’t go low on the lunges, the seventh exercise, so I don’t over-exert and hurt my knees.

So that’s another great reason to start our New Year Resolution early. Get the kinks all sorted out, get our joints and muscles acquainted to the routines we want to do. Get used to the time of day we’ve set to exercise, especially if it’s early morning. Settle all these and other things to be mentally and physically ready.

Come 1st January, we’d already be doing it with comfortable confidence, instead of just starting out. Best of luck to all of us, especially me! I’ll be needing it ๐Ÿ™‚

An idea for how countries can finally ban smoking

File:No Smoking.svg

Sometimes I come across anti-smoking campaigns yet again, with all the heartbreaking facts and gruesome imagery associated with the deadly habit, and I ask myself yet again:

Why isn’t smoking banned once and for all?

We have known for decades that smoking kills. One hundred million people have died from it in the 20th century, mostly from high-income countries. One billion people could die from it in this century, most in low-to-middle income countries. (source).

Yet smoking is still allowed. Health Ministries of many countries around the world may make it difficult to smoke in more and more public spaces, increase the taxes and therefore the prices of cigarettes, and generally frown upon the habit. But essentially it is still allowed.

We think we know why. Because it’s a drug to which millions of people, young and old, are addicted to, and it would be cruel and unrealistic to suddenly ban it outright.

Well, excuse me for being cynical, but I think the main reason is because governments find tobacco taxes too lucrative to give up.

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Let’s pretend we live in an ideal world (a parallel universe, perhaps) where governments are willing to give up the massive amounts of money they get from tobacco taxes, money that basically comes from allowing millions of their citizens to continue harming themselves and their loved ones around them.

The simple idea is just to make the ban gradual. Whatever the legal age for smoking is in your country, raise the age by one year, every year. And just keep going until it’s finally eradicated.

This way, the current addicts who are above the legal age do not suffer from having their nicotine drug taken away from them. As the people who are below the legal age grow older and increase in population, the nation becomes steadily more and more smoker-free.

I believe smokers themselves will support this method if implemented. I truly believe in my heart that even the most hardcore nicotine addicts who laugh and shrug off the health risks, privately wish they had never started the habit, and would love for their children and grandchildren to be properly protected from ever becoming slaves to the drug as well.

I’m so happy to discover literally just minutes ago while researching for this post, that my country Singapore has been in the midst of raising the legal age of 18 to 21, gradually over 3 years. It started this on 1st January 2019 when the legal age was raised to 19, then to 20 on 1st January 2020, then it will be raised to 21 on 1st January 2021.

My idea is to just keep raising the legal age by one year, every year. Don’t stop at 21. Just keep on going until it’s eradicated.

Just imagine: with the way time flies, in only 10 short years, it would only be 30-year-olds and older who can smoke. The thought of that is just, wow, surreal.

And, yes, it would only be in 2080 that only 80-year-olds and older can sneak in a puff like naughty teenagers, feigning a guilty expression when caught. And if there are stillย  centenarians like there are surprisingly hundreds of thousands around today, well, the youths and children of today might have to look beyond 2100 to witness a truly tobacco smoke-free world.

But time is going to pass, anyway, and like I said, time flies. So, implement the idea and keep at it. Whatever the legal age for smokers in your country, raise it by one year every year, and just keep at it. Don’t stop.

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Please help to share and spread this post if you like the idea. Who knows, some activist or government official or some other concerned regular person might end up reading it, and triggers it being proposed in parliament somewhere. I know I said ‘ideal world in a parallel universe‘, but sometimes parallel universes collide! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Related:

The coronavirus: Why I am sewing my own cloth masks

Before I go into masks, just a reminder that good personal hygiene is far more important than any mask. This includes washing our hands frequently with water and soap. Where there is no access to water and soap, use sanitizer or wet wipes instead, if available.

Also try to avoid touching your face unless your hands are freshly washed. I was surprised to note how often I was touching my face before arresting the action midway or too late, and also by how difficult it is to break the habit. But we all need to seriously try break this habit.

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This is what the masks I’ve sewn look like.

I own a sewing machine. Though my sewing machine ‘skills’ are wonky, they’ll have to do. I haven’t tried hand-sewing one. I imagine it will not only take longer, but harder to do. But I might give it a go to see what that’s like.
The template I use features a pocket in the design of the mask to insert an extra layer for added protection.
That extra layer can be an anti-bacterial wet wipe like this one (hang-dry them first). As this is not biodegradable, I lean more towards just kitchen paper towels or even toilet paper. Whatever you choose, they should always be disposed of after every wear.
The disposable layer being inserted into the pocket.
What it looks like when worn. Presenting: a model from my Botanical Silhouette Spring Summer 2020 Collection! Kidding.

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Click any of the numbered links below to go straight to the reasons why I’ve sewn my own cloth masks.

1. Surgical masks have long sold out

2. Wearing masks is more about protecting others from our own cough or sneeze

3. Cloth Masks are better than No Masks, and besides, Surgical Masks are not perfect either

4. Wearing our own cloth masks leave more surgical masks to the medical personnel, the sick and others who need them more

5. Cloth masks are more environmentally friendly

Also,

6. Where I got the idea and instructions on sewing the cloth masks.

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It has been almost two months now since I was first struck with waves of shock and worry as news about the coronavirus turned worse and worse as it continued to unfold.

Here in Singapore, the first case was confirmed on 23rd January, involving a 66-year-old Chinese national from Wuhan who flew in from Guangzhou, China with nine companions, some of whom went on to be the first cases in neighbouring Malaysia two days later on 25th January after they had moved on there.

I just came across online on the Australian news.com.au on a post published just yesterday that “the very first coronavirus case in China can be traced back to November 17“. However, scientist stressed that the patient, a 55-year-old from China’s Hubei province, was not ‘patient zero’.

As of writing, Singapore has 212 cases (97 of which have recovered) while Malaysia has 238 cases (35 recovered). Neither country has deaths from the virus, thank God.

1. Surgical Masks have long sold out

By Chinese New Year on 25th January, two days after Singapore’s first confirmed case, surgical masks had sold out at many shops here. It didn’t help that back then many Chinese nationals living in Singapore were buying up masks to send back to their loved ones in China. It had probably been happening for some time by then as Chinese nationals were probably more aware of the looming medical crisis than the rest of the world.

Until today I have never managed to buy a single mask for myself.

Until today, it is still very difficult to get them. At a Johor Bahru pharmacy I’ve been to recently, purchase is rationed to a packet of only five masks per person in the queue. Stock is available only twice a day at specific times, and there are limited packets available per timing, e.g. only 50, so only the first 50 people get to buy them. Naturally, queues form long before the specified times of availability.

I have never joined these queues and refuse to do it because I think it’s crazy to put ourselves in a crowded place more than we have to. It’s bad enough to have to travel on crowded buses and trains for work, but even that is only about an hour each time. Queuing for masks can be for a couple or several hours, in close proximity to people who may cough or sneeze close to you.

Until today, the only surgical masks I managed to get my hands on are the four pieces given free by the Singapore government, and I was required to go to a designated Community Centre to collect them. I was also required to present my Identity Card as the disposable surgical masks were strictly limited to only four pieces for each household. They are meant to be worn only when one is unwell.

The four pieces of disposable surgical masks provided to every household.

I agree with the opinion that we should wear surgical masks only when unwell, because it is important surgical masks are made available to people who need them more, like medical personnel, the sick, their caretakers, etc. However, we can always wear cloth masks which we can make ourselves.

2. Wearing masks is more about protecting others from our own cough or sneeze.

Yes, I’ve heard it many times: wearing masks is not likely to be effective in preventing the coronavirus. But that’s not the reason why I insist on wearing my cloth mask, especially in packed places like public transport or the supermarket.

The problem is that if we are infected with the virus, we may not know it and it may be some days after infection that we start to feel unwell. In the meantime, if we don’t make an effort to keep our mouth covered when we cough or sneeze, we may spread the virus to the people around us.

So, a handkerchief or a tissue, then? One or two more coughs or sneezes may happen before we finally fish that handkerchief or tissue out from our pocket or bag. I prefer to have my cloth mask on.

Until today, I still come across at least one person practically every day I am out, who don’t have the courtesy to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. I have long been bothered by this. Virus pandemic or not, it’s just disgusting and a display of such bad manners.

3. Cloth Masks are better than No Masks, and besides, Surgical Masks are not perfect either.

Compared to cloth masks, surgical masks feature superior ‘3-ply non-woven fabric’.

As outlined by this article on healthline.com, while surgical masks “prevent large droplets of bodily fluids that may contain viruses from escaping via the nose and mouth” and that they “also protect against splashes and sprays from others, such as those from sneezes and coughs“, surgical masks are “fairly loosely fitting“.

Most also open pretty widely at the sides when worn, as I have noticed from personal experience.

In addition to that, masks are unable to protect us from getting airborne virus particles, from a cough or a sneeze, into our eyes, anyway. So, using masks to protect ourselves from others becomes even less of the main idea of wearing them.

(Related: The Guardian – Can a face mask stop Coronavirus? Covid-19 myths busted.)

4. Wearing cloth masks leave more surgical masks to the medical personnel and others who need them more.

This is a very important point that bears repeating. It is crucial that doctors, nurses, ambulance staff and all other medical staff have access to a constant supply of surgical masks, N95 respirator masks and all the other protective equipment they need. Obviously, if they run out, they are going to get infected very easily due to the nature of the job.

We definitely do not want an escalation of this virus pandemic to reach truly nightmarish levels in the scenario that our doctors, nurses and other medical staff are dropping out of action like flies because they are infected and have to be quarantined themselves.

On top of that, there are many other people who need a constant supply of surgical masks urgently like the already infected, and their caretakers. We should also consider that public servants like the police, military and other such agencies need these masks to be available, in the event that they need to do crowd control and other security work should the situation require it.

5. Cloth Masks are washable, reusable, and therefore more environmentally friendly

Surgical masks are made with ‘non-woven fabric’, and according to this article, the material most commonly used to make them is polypropelene, a form of plastic material. And then there is the elastic ear loop commonly found in surgical masks which is definitely not biodegradable.

Much of our planet, including our oceans, is heavily polluted as it is. With the virus pandemic now on, just imagine the millions of disposable surgical masks being discarded every single day around the world, adding on to the pollution every single day. If the millions of people who are wearing disposable surgical masks wear washable cloth masks instead, that will not only greatly help the medical personnel on the frontline and other people who need the surgical masks more urgently, but it will greatly help our planet as well.

6. Where I got the idea and instructions on sewing the masks

The idea is from an asiaone.com article I came across titled “Doctor recommends making your own cloth face mask with air ‘filter’ – here’s how to do it.

It was about how Taiwanese anesthesiologist Dr Chen Xiaoting recommends using cloth masks, provided they are used correctly and washed often. Unlike ordinary cloth masks, his feature a piece of non-woven fabric inserted into an opening of the mask.

The instructions on how to make the cloth masks with the opening are from another Facebook post by a Facebook user called ‘Button Tree‘ that was also featured in the asiaone.com article.

The instructions of the tutorial are in Mandarin, and as I do not know Mandarin, I got the idea to copy-and-paste them onto Google Translate! Voila. Literal translations can be a bit dodgy and weird, but I decidedly got enough of the gist of it.

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