Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

Challenge Yourself Today – Denise Li

Working hard on an endeavour outside of your job can do wonders for your self-esteem, says Denise.

Tonight is fight night. Two months of training six times a week will finally come to an end. The experience has been in turn exhilarating and exhausting. But regardless of the result tonight, one thing remains certain: Learning martial arts has left an indelibly profound mark on my life. Without it, I wouldn’t know just how much I can achieve when I put my mind to it. The journey has been a bumpy one. More often than not, I find myself asking: “Why am I doing this? I will never be good enough.” Every time I train, the thought of giving up crosses my mind. But I don’t … I push through and show up for training time and again, because I know quitting would be akin to giving up on myself.

I will probably give boxing a rest for awhile after tonight, but I’m not going to stop learning martial arts. I’m already thinking of which sport to pick up next: It could be judo, Olympic wrestling, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but regardless of which one I go with in the end, the point of it all is to keep on learning.

Who knows? Brazilian jiu-jitsu might be the next sport I pick up.

Who knows? Brazilian jiu-jitsu might be the next sport I pick up.

I think one of the best things to have come out of this whole experience is the fact that I’ve had to chance to meet some amazing women along the way. With these bunch of women, I never have to explain why I voluntarily take part in a sport that involves being punched in the face time and time again. We encourage each other to push on when the going gets tough. We confide in each other about the self-doubt we all experience every now and then, about the difficulty of putting in the hours of training at the expense of our social lives and other commitments. There is an implicit understanding about why we all choose to do this; we know it’s less about unleashing some imaginary pent-up aggression than it is about discipline, commitment, and a single-minded belief that we can all be better than we were yesterday.

At the weigh-in for tonight’s fights two days ago, I got a chance to speak more to one of the other ladies taking part in tonight’s competition. She’s in her early 40s, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from her super-ripped physique. I found out that in her time, she’s picked up a whole host of sports and activities ranging from gymnastics, wushu, yoga and pole-dance. Now that’s what I call life-long learning, and I’ve been very inspired since I spoke to her. Besides her other fitness activities, she runs a half-marathon every weekend! Oh, and did I mention that she has a full-time job as an engineer, to boot?

How does she do it all? It all boils down to priorities and good time management. But my friend is not that special – I believe everyone else can do it too.

Today, I would like to urge you to do something that will change your life. It doesn’t have to involve exchanging blows with someone else. It can be something as simple as picking up tai-chi or yoga. Make sure it’s something hard that you will have to put in time, energy and effort to doing to see results. Trust me, when you finally do, it will be the best feeling ever.

The Material Girls after completing a half-marathon during the Great Eastern Women's Run last year. We plan to do it again this year.

The Material Girls after completing a half-marathon during the Great Eastern Women’s Run last year. We plan to do it again this year.

In fact, why not start with training for your first 10km? To motivate yourself, join a running club. This way, you’ll be committed to show up to train on a weekly basis. Get some shiny new gear while you’re at it. Now’s the perfect month to pick up some new running shoes, in fact, because Running Lab is organising a shoe-donation drive dubbed Project Love Sneaker, now in its fourth year. If you have a pair of running shoes at home that you don’t use anymore, but are still in useable condition, trade them in at Running Lab outlets for a $50 voucher. This voucher can be used to get a new pair of shoes at the store.

The store has partnered with New Hemispheres and students at the National University of Singapore to donate the shoes to Hope Village Cambodia, located in Kampong Speu province. The village is home to close to 500 people. The villagers are currently still staying in straw houses, but the aim is to eventually build wooden houses on stilts for them so they can enjoy a better quality of life.

The children living in Hope Village, Cambodia

The children living in Hope Village, Cambodia

It’s the perfect chance to do something good – both for yourself, and the less fortunate. Now, why wouldn’t anyone be on board with that?

Project Love Sneaker IV is ongoing from now till April 30, 2014. Trade in a pair of useable sports shoes at any Running Lab outlet, and you’ll receive a $50 voucher, which can be used at the store to purchase a new pair of running shoes. 

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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