Thirty days, two fitness trainers, and one man’s aspiration to get into shape.
Contributed By Dannon Har
The task was simple: spend a month with personal trainers from Aspire Concept three times a week, and keep a journal of my experience.
It sounded easy at first, but it was only a week in before I started lamenting the journey ahead of me. The coaches at Aspire Concept, though friendly, gave no quarter when it came to training. They really pushed the limits of both my physical strength and stamina.
Having gone through the gauntlet however, I have no regrets. Here’s how it all went down.
WEEK 0: TESTS AND MEASUREMENTS
Before I could start, my coaches needed to know what they were working with (or against). I headed down to the gym at Southbank, which is furnished like a condo unit, save for the two large connecting rooms that are used for fitness activities. Sessions at Aspire are by booking only. The privacy is a nice touch for people like me who don’t like others watching them work out—a problem I have with big gyms.
To gauge my fitness levels and to customize the exercise regimen to meet my specific needs, the coaches conducted a standard physical examination (weight, height, BMI, etc.) and also a series of “challenges.” There was a step test to measure my heart strength, push-ups to measure my arm strength, sit-ups to measure my core strength and so on. The verdict? I had lots of room for improvement.
My coaches were also concerned about why I wanted to do this. I gave them my top three reasons: to feel better about myself, to be physically fit, and finally, to lose weight.
WEEK 1: LOCATING MY BEARINGS
One thing that should be known is that exercise was an alien activity for me, something that I had not engaged in since my army days two years ago. Unless you include running for the MRT in the morning, my lifestyle has been largely sedentary. So when I was asked to run on the treadmill during my first visit at Aspire Concept, I groaned inwardly: I wasn’t sure I could even manage five minutes on the treadmill, much less my target of 20! I somehow managed it with the constant encouragement of my coach.
The rest of the one-hour session was spent on specialized exercises that targeted specific parts of the body. I did the Mountain Climber, which simulated climbing a mountain wall except I was “climbing” horizontally rather than vertically.
In my third and final session of the week, I partook in a fitness boot. Boot camps are intensive outdoor small group exercise sessions. The plus is that you get to meet some like-minded people here for the same reasons. Getting fresh air, coupled with a change of scenery was nice too.
My second week of training passed in a blink of an eye. I never imagined I would say this, but an active lifestyle really feels great. I felt thoroughly energized after each workout, though I was juggling work and school commitments at the same time.
Because of the one-to-one treatment that I got, I could discuss doubts and questions with my trainer. I discovered some startling facts about exercise, like stretching before exercises does not necessarily prevent injuries, but one should always stretch after a workout, to loosen muscles that have tightened up during exercise and to prevent lactic acid build up. Each stretch should last at least 30 seconds for there to be any significant effect. Most importantly stretching lessens the pain you experience when you wake up the next day.
WEEK 3: TIME IS RUNNING
The most common excuse people give for not exercising is not having enough time. It certainly was my old refrain.
That said, my third week into an active lifestyle was a challenge, time-wise. Before I started this program, balancing work and study was already difficult. Now, with physical workouts on my plate as well, the strain on both my mind and body was starting to take its toll.
I had decided, however, to finish what I started. During the few times I could not make it down to the gym to exercise, I did “homework” instead. My coach assigned me a set of pre-planned exercises to do at my own convenience.
The idea of having “homework” is part of the business model of Aspire Concept. The purpose of doing so is to inculcate into the trainee a lifestyle of exercise, and not to be dependent on the trainer in order to work out. While many gyms retain customers through gym-based exercises and classes, creating a habit of exercise through “homework” helps the client to create his own independent, active lifestyle. This is why now—almost a month after the program ended—I am still exercising regularly on my own.
WEEK 4: THE FINAL LAP
When my final week arrived, the results were obvious—at least to me. I no longer get breathless easily when I climb up stairs, or when I carry a heavy load. I am more cheerful and lively at work, and I feel relatively fit.
In terms of weight loss there was nothing vivid, but losing weight is never an accurate gauge of one’s fitness, and the people at Aspire Concept know that. That is why they have never been overly concerned about the amount of weight l had lost. What mattered was that over the course of four weeks, I could carry heavier weights and run further than I could at the beginning. Most recently, I managed a 4.5 km run just under 35 minutes. From someone who didn’t think he could jog for five minutes a month ago, this was an amazing breakthrough.
I am now independently exercising regularly without any supervision from my fitness trainers. It’s the dream of Aspire Concept’s founder and director, Desmond Vince Tan, 35, to see more successes like me. He aims to help “every person who has difficulty making exercise a routine; he who wants to lose excess weight the healthy way, and the one who simply wants to keep fit” by using fitness activities, dietary advice and sustainable and achievable programs.
But if I am any indicator that managing a job, studies and a full exercise regime at the same is not only possible but enjoyable, then anybody can achieve their fitness goals too.
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