Gyms & Trainers, Health & Fitness, Workouts

The 6 Weeks That Changed My Life – Vanessa Tai

She doesn’t usually admit this publicly, but Vanessa Tai has struggled with her weight ever since she was 12 years old. However, she’s finally found a way to lose weight effectively, and better yet, keep it off.

I’ve felt self-conscious about my size ever since I was very young. I know I’m not obese or even grossly overweight, but having always been slightly chubbier and pudgier than my peers, the way I look has always been a source of insecurity. Over the years, I’ve tried all kinds of methods to keep the weight off. Short of going under the knife, I’ve tried everything from crazy diets (eating nothing but grapes for a week, for example) to even going for acupuncture a few times a week. I even had memberships at different gyms and exercise studios. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to work, or it would work for a little while before I gave up or lost interest.

Knowing of my struggles, Simon Pink invited me to try six weeks of personal training, three times a week. If you’re a regular reader of Material World, you’ll probably know Simon is Deborah’s husband, and both Debs and I attend his boot camp sessions once a week. However, as much as we joke around with him outside of boot camp, Simon takes his work very seriously and it shows in the number of regular boot campers that show up each week. When he offered me this personal training trial, I jumped at the chance as I was planning for a backpacking trip then (I’m actually on it now!) and I thought it would be a good idea to rev up my fitness levels as this trip is pretty intensive, activity-wise. And so, I soon found myself trooping down to Fort Canning Park three times a week at noon. The rest of the Material World team couldn’t decide if I was brave or insane … probably more of the latter.

But the truth is, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long while.



First, Let’s Talk About The Sessions.

In week one, my weight was 59.3kg and I had a whopping 30 percent body fat. Numbers aside, I was constantly feeling sluggish and had to drink several cups of caffeine a day to keep me going. I wasn’t exercising all that much – just boot camp plus maybe a run once a week – and my lack of fitness was apparent in that first week. Simon ran a bleep test on me which is where you’re made to run continuously between two points and as the test progresses, the interval between each “bleep” shortens, forcing you to run faster and faster  and I got a score of 6.5. The fitter you are, the higher your score is. My score was nothing to shout about, but at that point, that was all I could give.

In addition to cardiovascular workouts, we also worked on strengthening my entire body, using a mix of TRX equipment, resistance ropes, and sandbells. One of the exercises we did involved me pushing off on one leg from a seated position on a low bench. It was excruciating! I felt like I had zero strength in my butt muscles at all. In fact, my muscles felt so atrophied that I imagined this was what physiotherapy must feel like. Needless to say, my glutes were sore for days.

I’m not going to lie to you; each session was very physically demanding. In fact, there were times where I felt like bursting into tears and calling it quits. However, there was something inside me that felt like I couldn’t let Simon down, and soon that translated into me realising I, too, should not be letting myself down. And so, I pushed on. It certainly helped that Simon maintained his upbeat and good-natured self throughout my endless griping and complaining. But no, his cheeriness doesn’t mean he goes easy on you though. He made sure I did all my reps properly (“no half-assed efforts,” he’ll say) and always ensured I maintained the right posture during each exercise. For example, he was befuddled as to why I couldn’t seem to be able to do a proper push-up my hips kept moving downwards, seemingly on its own but he kept correcting my posture until I righted it by the third session.

As the weeks progressed, the sessions increased in intensity but I felt like I was better able to tackle the exercises. I don’t think it was simply because I was getting fitter, but I also felt like my threshold for discomfort had increased exponentially.


Me in the zone.

The Mental Factor

By the end of the second week, I could feel a marked improvement in my energy and confidence levels. I felt fitter and stronger, and was definitely less mopey and melancholic, which is my default state of mind. Like what Dr Mark Liponis of Canyon Ranch advised, “As you build your physical strength, you’re also getting mentally fitter. You become more determined and resilient, and you don’t get as worried about things happening to you because you know you’ll be able to handle it.”

That described the transformation I experienced over the course of six weeks. While I used to give up easily whenever I encountered problems, I now find myself either gritting my teeth and pressing on, or trying harder to find alternative solutions.

The transformation didn’t just translate to fitness as well. Throughout the course of six weeks, Simon also regularly dished out nutrition advice (which foods to avoid, what to eat more of, why certain foods are not suitable for my body type, and so on). I cut out all processed food and replaced my usual hawker fare with salads for lunch. In the past, I used to get ravenous whenever I went on such detoxes. However, it seemed easier this time round. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been exercising so much that my body naturally craves nutritionally-rich foods. In any case, I hardly crave for fast food and sweet drinks now. My energy levels were also markedly improved; I hardly feel lethargic anymore even though I’m also sleeping fewer hours each night.

And the new, slimmer me!

And the new, slimmer me!

My Thoughts
Personal training is not just about shedding kilos. It’s about an all-round transformation, from your body to your mind. Of course, if you’re looking for an effective way to lose weight safely and quickly, personal training is an excellent option. In fact, I think the six weeks I went through is the perfect regiment for brides who are looking to lose a few extra kilos just before their wedding day. In six weeks, I lost 2kg and two percent of body fat. I’ve also dropped a dress size from a UK10 to UK8, and I definitely feel like my arms, thighs, and bum are firmer and more compact. The best part is, everyone who’s seen me recently has complimented me on the visible difference in appearance. Aesthetics aside though, I am amazed at how quickly my body has responded to solid exercise and nutrition. My bleep test is now at 10.1 and I can run for over an hour without feeling tired. Above all, I am grateful at how this surge in fitness levels has also boosted my confidence levels and capability to problem-solve.

10/10 will recommend.


Simon Pink Fitness

9171 4927

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

Food News, Gyms & Trainers, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Wellbeing, Workouts

Material World’s Sunday Sizzle: The Third Edition

A great workout, healthy juices, and a delicious brunch … all the ingredients you need for a fabulous Sunday. Find out more about what went down at Material World’s latest Sunday Sizzle event.

Over here at the Material World HQ, we’re all pretty big on fitness and living healthily. When you eat right and move frequently, you have more energy to do the things that matter. In a bid to encourage holistic living, we’ve organised a series of fitness and healthy eating events we call Sunday Sizzle. The event held on June 8, was our third installation.

First up on the agenda was an invigorating willPower & Grace workout held at Momentum Lab. This hour-long barefoot workout combines the disciplines of dance, yoga and more to create an energetic routine that aids in functional movements and strengthens the core. During the class, participants’ awareness were continually brought to their feet and how their feet moved in tandem with their whole body. After all, the feet form the base of all bodily movement – a strong base will lead to improved overall strength, flexibility and agility of the body. Trainer Shira kept everyone’s spirits up with her energy and occasional quips.

The super spacious Momentum Lab can comfortably accommodate about 17 people.

The super spacious Momentum Lab can comfortably accommodate about 17 people.

Within half an hour, it was clear that everyone was working up quite a sweat, but we really have to give it to our participants for putting in 100% effort. We’re proud to say that no one gave up! “I could really feel my core muscles working hard,” said Xiuyun, 26, executive. “Plus, the workout is a great way to kickstart a lazy morning.”

Everyone was immediately rewarded for their hard work in the form of organic, cold-pressed Beauty Cleanse juices! From tasty veggie-based juices, to satisfying nut milks, and refreshing watermelon-mint-coconut juices (a hot favourite!), it was the perfect way to rehydrate after an invigorating workout. “I love the interesting juice combinations,” said Chalene 29, executive. “They are a tasty way to get essential vitamins and nutrients too.”

What better way to rehydrate than with a refreshing cold-pressed juice from Beauty Cleanse?

What better way to rehydrate than with a refreshing cold-pressed juice from Beauty Cleanse?

The Sweet & Chic salad at The Lawn

The Sweet & Chic salad at The Lawn

With everyone in high spirits and quickly making new friends, it was time to adjourn for brunch at The Lawn at Biopolis. What awaited the participants: Wonderfully fresh, generously-portioned salads topped with a selection of grilled meat or seafood. The spacious, serene surrounds of Biopolis in a quiet Sunday morning proved to be the perfect backdrop for brunch. Although some participants had mentioned to us that they were not usually fans of salads, we were glad to see everyone tucking in heartily and enjoying their brunch.

Everyone also got to take home a goodie bag, which included a Triple Dry Anti-Perspirant Roll-On – which you’re supposed to use at night to help regulate excessive sweat production – and a sample of Collection Cosmetics’ Bright & Glow BB Cream (that promises to give you a healthy, radiant complexion). Talk about the icing on a cake!


Triple Dry and Collection Cosmetics

The goodie bag, courtesy of Triple Dry/Collection Cosmetics!

If you didn’t manage to sign up for yesterday’s Sunday Sizzle, not to worry. We’ve got a few more events planned for this year, so watch this space for more details!

We would like to thank our partners for making this event possible:

Momentum Lab
354 Alexandra Road, #01-15 Alexis
Tel: 6339 2210

Beauty Cleanse

The Lawn
31 Biopolis Way, #01-07 Nanos
Tel: 6478 9739

Triple Dry (available exclusively at Guardian) and Collection Cosmetics (available at selected Watsons stores and BHG [Bugis and Clementi])

Gyms & Trainers, Health & Fitness, Workouts

10 Weeks To A Stronger, Healthier You! – Vanessa Tai

Have you hit a plateau in your workout regime and looking for a way to get out of your fitness rut? Or perhaps you’re a fitness newbie looking for a fun way to stay in shape? Read on.

While the joys of solo exercise can’t be denied, there are plenty of advantages to working out as a group too. When you’re feeling tired or unmotivated, you can always count on a bunch of like-minded folks to spur you on. That was one of the main perks I experienced when I recently participated in one of Momentum Lab’s GetFIT20 sessions. During the session, we were paired up with a buddy so we could encourage each other to keep going throughout the high-energy session.

Bosom buddies

Find your bosom buddy at Momentum Lab.

But first, what is GetFIT20?

GetFIT20 is a 10-week exercise program where participants come in twice a week at fixed times and days. Using a mix of Pilates-based techniques, body weight resistance training, and cardio training, each session takes you through about five different workout stations for a full-body workout. There are usually several trainers on-hand to guide you through the workouts and postures, so you don’t have to worry about trying to memorize them all. The 10 weeks are broken up into five phases, with a different focus each fortnight. Phase 1 starts with a general introduction to body weight resistance training before moving into Phase 2, which is about building up your core strength. From there, the focus shifts on building your endurance, stamina and strength.

Class is in session!

Class is in session!

Of course, as well all know, staying trim and healthy is not just about working out. A sensible diet plays a big role too. This is why when you embark on the GetFIT20 program, you’ll be given a folder that includes nutritional tips, a food diary for you to track your daily food intake as well as a Body Composition Analysis (BCA) data sheet for you to track your progress. BCA breaks down your weight into body fat percentage, muscle mass, bone density, and water weight. From there, you can map out your goals for the 10 weeks, whether is it to lower your body fat percentage, gain muscle, or to improve overall strength.

Fun, Lighthearted Atmosphere

Personally, what I liked best about GetFIT20 was the camaraderie that was immediately apparent when you step into the studio. The instructors are really friendly; they were chatting with the participants like old friends before the session, and during the session, they knew just what to say to get each participant to give their best. Another thing I enjoyed was the “circuit training” aspect of the class. As someone who tends to get bored easily if I’m doing something repetitively, I liked being able to quickly move from one workout station to another. My favourite station that night? The CardioPUNCH station, where we got to don boxing gloves and hit punching pads held up by the instructors. Man, that was cathartic!

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’re what two of the participants had to say:

Neng Li (in the middle) with instructors Kimberly and Douglas.

Neng Li (in the middle) with instructors Kimberly and Douglas.

“What I like about Momentum Lab is that the people are unpretentious and the instructors genuinely care about your health. Whenever I step in here, I just leave all my stress at the door. I’ve done GetFIT20 for about a month now, and I’ve noticed that I look visibly more toned.” – Neng Li, 29

Adeline (in blue) with her friend who introduced her to Momentum Lab

Adeline (in blue) with her friend who introduced her to Momentum Lab.






“I was recommended to Momentum Lab by a friend who’s doing personal training sessions here. What I enjoy about GetFIT20 is how there are plenty of variations in the exercise and the instructors are always very motivating. In fact, this is my second time doing it! Being a runner as well, I’ve definitely seen a marked improvement in my stamina – I can run much longer distances now.” – Adeline Yap, 36


Tempted to sign up but not sure if you can commit? Not to worry, you can still attend a make-up session on Saturdays or join another group to ensure you’re on track to achieving your fitness goals. Of course, the most ideal situation would be where you made it a point to dedicate two fixed days a week to the program. Speaking from personal experience, I find it more beneficial to stick to a fixed exercise routine and fit other activities around it, instead of trying to fit exercise into my schedule. By making it a non-negotiable, it’s hardens your resolve to work out when all you wanna do is slack off and go for after-work drinks with your friends. True story.

GetFIT20 is held every Monday to Thursday at 8pm, and is priced at $500 for 20 sessions. For more information, click here.

Material World was invited to review the GetFIT20 program. All opinions are the author’s own. This post was neither paid for nor advised by Momentum Lab. 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

Character & Soul, Health & Fitness, Self-Improvement, Wellbeing, Workouts

Running: Suffering Is Optional – Tan Lili

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional,” wrote Haruki Murakami in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. How can runners relate to this? Founder Tan Lili, who ran the recent Sundown Marathon, explains. 

Photo taken from the Official Sundown Marathon Singapore Facebook page.

Photo taken from the Official Sundown Marathon Singapore Facebook page.

You might’ve noticed a flood of Sundown Marathon photos on your Facebook news feed the past couple of days. While 30,000 runners pounded the pavement through the night, you were probably lying in bed thinking, “Hah. Suckers.”

Yeah, well, I was one of those suckers.

Come to think of it, I’ve been a willing participant of these running events for a while now. It started with the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore in 2007, which apparently brought out the non-sexual masochist in me and got me hooked on endurance running. (By endurance running, I mean a distance of 10km, not 21km or – heaven forbid – 42km. I’m not that masochistic.)

It doesn’t matter that I’m surrounded by tens of thousands of runners. The moment I start my music player and cross the start line, it’s me against the distance. I revel in this solitude and freedom; how I run my race is up to me and me alone. I feel alive in my own thoughts.

Just as well, because what goes through my mind isn’t exactly the stuff motivated runners think about. Here’s what my thought process generally looks like during my 10km runs:

At the start line: (all pumped up from the energetic emcees and party music) WOOT! LET’S GO!

1km: Huh? Only 1km?! Shit. I probably shouldn’t have sprinted. 

2km: What evil possessed me to sign up for this again?

4km: Oh, hello U-turners. The halfway mark is near!


5km: 100Plus banners and standees: the grownup equivalent of the much-loved Milo truck.

6km: Just 4km to go. I CAN DO THIS!

7km: I can’t do this anymore.

8km: What’s 2km compared to the 8km I just did? Piece of cake! Ooh … cake …

9km: I’m never believing in my own lies again.

9.9km: Ah! The finish line! Okay, must look pretty for the cameras.  

At the finish line: I AM AN INVINCIBLE WOMAN OF STEEL. And I can’t feel my legs.

Honestly, I cannot imagine the kind of torture full-marathon runners go through. But despite all that internal turmoil, I will dutifully sign up for yet another run and put myself through yet another mental and physical challenge. (I truly have; Denise, Vanessa and I will be participating in the Great Eastern Women’s Run 2014.)

I seriously don't know how it's possible for my boyfriend's hair to remain well-coiffed after a run.

I seriously don’t know how it’s possible for my boyfriend’s hair to remain well-coiffed after a run.

Am I a sucker for pain? Perhaps. Do I get a perverse sense of gratification in suffering? No. As Haruki Murakami wrote in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” And that is exactly why I run – to find my strength in the experience of pain. See it as a metaphor for life, if you will. Allow me to explain.

Physical pain consists of two components: biologically, a pain signal is transmitted through our body’s central nervous system to alert us that something is wrong; psychologically, we give meaning to the pain signal, which translates to our emotional responses. Suffering is born from the latter – it is a response to pain. The obvious problem with choosing to suffer is that it sets off a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to even more suffering, prolonging the recovery process.

But because pain is inevitable – be it when you run or in life – you can’t not have a response to it. You can either let pain defeat you then wallow in your suffering, or you can use the pain as leverage to overcome it, to help push you forward one step at a time. This is also probably why the sense of achievement you get after completing a big run is almost transcendent.

Of course, it’s easier to internalise all these feelings after my run. It’s still a struggle for me to motivate myself with positive self-talk during a long-distance run, to be honest. Any tips? Do share!

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as (now, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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Branded Content, Health & Fitness, Workouts

[Material World x Breathe Pilates] Is Gyrotonic Right For Me? – Vanessa Tai

You may be a fitness newbie or a long-term Pilates practitioner. Whatever your fitness level, Gyrotonic serves to complement existing sporting endeavours. Vanessa Tai checks it out.

Okay, confession time.

When I first saw the Gyrotonic machine at Breathe Pilates’ Novena branch, I felt a tad underwhelmed. It just looked like a long wooden bench with rotational discs attached at the end. However, I soon discovered Gyrotonic was not as simple as it looked.


My instructor Susanna explaining to me how Gyrotonic helps functional spinal movement.

But first, what is Gyrotonic?

Gyrotonic was developed in the 1970s by Julio Horvath, a former swimmer, gymnast, and ballet dancer whose career as a professional dancer ended abruptly after several serious injuries. In a bid to self-rehabilitate, Horvath developed a series of exercises that formed the basis for today’s Gyrotonic. In a nutshell, Gyrotonic is a system of exercise that incorporate movement principles from yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming, and even tai chi.

Health benefits of Gyrotonic

As with other forms of Pilates, Gyrotonic requires you to be mindful of the connection between your breath and body. Some of the purported health benefits include an improved posture, increased strength and stamina, and reduced tension on your joints.

What can you expect from Gyrotonic at Breathe Pilates?

Before you embark on any class at Breathe, you will be given a one-on-one consultation where either the instructors or resident doctor would assess which is the most suitable exercise for your needs.


Intention of movement is one of the key principles of Gyrotonic. Here, Susanna is ensuring my posture is properly aligned before I engage in movement.

Intention of movement is one of the key principles of Gyrotonic. Here, Susanna is ensuring my posture is properly aligned before I engage in movement.

My instructor for that day, Susanna is a 12-year Pilates veteran who has been practicing Gyrotonic for the last four to five years. She told me she was a dancer by training, which was immediately apparent from her graceful carriage and the fluidity of her movements. She explained that since it was my first session, she was just going to focus on one area of the body – my lower back. For regular sessions, however, you are likely to be exercising your entire body. Just remember, the machine is there to facilitate your movements but it’s actually making you do the work, not the other way round.

The Gyrotonic exercises seemed easy enough in theory; one of them involved me straddling the bench and pushing the rotational discs outward. However, there was a certain technique to it that I found difficult to grasp. I guess it was probably because my core muscles are “sleepy” from years of lack of use, so I found it challenging to isolate my core muscles as I pushed the rotational discs outward.

Thankfully, Susanna was very patient, even plonking herself behind me on the bench at times to guide me through each precise movement. That’s the great thing about Gyrotonic sessions at Breathe Pilates – because each session is one-on-one, you’ll get your instructor’s undivided attention.

Of course, one session is not enough to experience the full benefits of Gyrotonic. It will take at least five to 10 sessions before you start to grasp the principles behind Gyrotonic and feel the physical improvements. That said, I did feel the nagging tightness in my lower back and shoulders ease up significantly after that first session.

So, is Gyrotonic right for you? 

The beauty of Pilates and Gyrotonic is how they were designed to be a fully functional system of exercise. What that means is, the movements you do in class are designed to help you to move with grace, balance, and coordination in your day-to-day life. Depending on your needs, these exercises can be tweaked to be gentle or intensive, or even rehabilitative.

While Gyrotonic is certainly open to anybody of any fitness levels, I reckon the people who would reap the most benefits are likely those who are seeking relief from pain in the joints, shoulders, and lower back.

Susanna demonstrating the other uses of the Gyrotonic machine.

Susanna demonstrating the other uses of the Gyrotonic machine.

Material World worked with Breathe Pilates to review their Gyrotonic classes. All reviews are the author’s own and were not vetted by the client. You may read our advertising policy here.

Breathe Pilates is located at #09-33 Novena Medical Center, 10 Sinaran Drive; and #02-05/06/07 Tides, 217 East Coast Road. For more information or to make an appointment, call 9835 5683, email, or visit

Food & Supplements, Health & Fitness, Workouts

6 Ways To Lose Weight Without Stepping Into A Gym – Matthew Fam

Not all of us can afford pricey gym memberships. And let’s face it: where do we even find the time? A fit bod may require discipline, diet and exercise – but fret not. The everyday woman can achieve a svelte figure with these six simple ways to lose weight the healthy way.

1. Stair Climbing
Works up a sweat and it’s absolutely free! All you need to do is find a high-rise building close to you (HDB flats are excellent; the higher the better.) Unlike heading out for a run, your exercise plans won’t be halted during a rainstorm. Plus, it’s a great way to suss out the cute guys in your neighbourhood!

Focus on tightening your core and gluteus as you lift your weight each stair. Once you reach the top of the block, take a lift to ground level and repeat. Avoid descending stairs, as the downward impact can strain your knees over time. Climb three times a week for 30 minutes per session, and you’re well on your way to a trimmer physique.

P.S your butt muscles are so going to thank you.

Do you have any idea how much sugar is in packaged fruit juices?

Do you have any idea how much sugar is in packaged fruit juices?

2. Forgo that Fruit Juice!
Here’s a secret that not many of us are aware of: contrary to its health-savvy promise of vitamins what-have-you, packaged fruit juices are a total calorie bomb. And it’s not good calories we’re talking about – these artificially sweetened nectars are packed with sugared syrup!

Go for the real deal (self-blended juices allow you to experiment with various flavours) or swap with regular drinking water. Can’t live without your fruit juice fix? Dilute half a glass with water instead.

3. Fast Food
Sometimes, a girl has got to have her cheeseburger- and that’s cool! You deserve an indulgence every now and then. Blotting oil from your fries may be a tad extreme for some people, so try this simple tip instead: replace your fries for a cup of corn or salad side. Better yet, ditch the carbonated drinks (a medium-sized cup of Cola contains 10 cubes of sugar!) for bottled water.

Just 1-2 teaspoons each day will do!

Just 1-2 teaspoons each day will do!

4. Psyllium Husk
This is the miracle health supplement to look out for. Psyllium Husk is known for its weight loss benefits due to the fibre’s filling nature. The powdered husk draws water in to become a thick, gel-like paste that fills your stomach up, so you’ll eat smaller portions and shed excess weight. It also functions like a scour to gently scrub away bad cholesterol within your intestinal tract, while giving you a hit of fibre in the process.

There are two ways to enjoy it: 1) mix 1 -2 teaspoons of the powdered husk into your breakfast cereal or oatmeal. Alternatively, you may also 2) stir it with water to form a paste. Consume 30 minutes before a meal, so you’ll feel fuller by the time you eat.

Sweet, but oh so dangerous.

Sweet, but oh so dangerous.

5. Caffeine Cravings
I’ll be expecting an angry mob if I ever dare suggest slashing out caffeinated beverages from your diet. But you should know that globs of condensed milk are used in food court or coffee shop varieties. This sabotages the calorie count of some of your favourite drinks.

Take a cup of kopi (black coffee with condensed milk) for example: a small serving racks up 113 calories. No big deal, you say? Have several cups a day, everyday, and your waistline will be paying the price. Try asking for less sugar. Or go sugarless altogether: a serving of Kopi O Kosong (black coffee without milk or sugar) rings in at just five calories.

Shake that booty!

Shake it!

6. Dance Dance Revolution
Okay, not that old school arcade game. I’m talking about you plugging in your amped up mp3 player. In the privacy of your room. Dancing like your life depends on whether you can squeeze in that two-sizes-smaller pair of jeans by tomorrow.

Seriously though, get moving and clock in some cardio with this easy weight-loss method. (I recommend Spotify’s custom playlists to groove to.) Thrash about and even flail your arms- no one’s watching! Just remember to lock your bedroom door when busting those moves: someone once walked in while I was in a bout of vigorous dancing. Awkwarrrd…


So, what methods do YOU use to stay fit and healthy? Share your tips in the comments section!

About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and freelancer. He writes, performs for the stage, and teaches drama at secondary schools. Matthew enjoys museum visits, origami, and is passionate about Singaporean Theatre.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

1. How To Eat Clean in Singapore (If You Don’t Cook) – Denise Li

2. Let’s Get Moving! – Tan Lili

3. DIY: Baked Spiced Green Apple Chips – Deborah Tan

Beauty & Shopping, Branded Content, Health & Fitness, Skincare, Workouts

[Material World x Triple Dry] The Anti-Perspirant That Actually Works – Denise Li

There are some women who seem to look immaculate all the time – they never seem to have a hair out of place, their makeup is perfectly applied, and most puzzling of all, you’ll never catch them with a shiny complexion or with beads of sweat rolling down the sides of their faces no matter the temperature or climate.

I’m not one of those women.

I seem to be in a constant state of perspiration. I sweat the moment I step out of the shower. I’m also a big-time worrier and my body’s natural response to anxiety seems to be – you guessed it – to perspire profusely. When I exercise, I look like I’ve just run a marathon after 10 minutes of warming up. When I do planks at the end of a session, a small pool of sweat will collect on the mat under my chin.

This is kinda embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as knowing that I probably don’t smell so good as a result of perspiring so much.

Hard at work during training

Hard at work during training

At the risk of opening myself up to judgement, I’ll just admit now that I am one of those people who does not shower immediately after a workout. When I was training hard for the Executive Knockout boxing event that was held a couple of weeks ago, I made it a point to shower only after I got home. Why? Because after a day of work and training, showering at home with my arsenal of beloved beauty products was my way of unwinding.

Still, I dreaded the MRT ride home after training though I made it a point to wipe myself down with body wipes after training. I never sat down even if there were empty seats because I didn’t want to traumatise the people sitting next to me.

So when I was passed Triple Dry anti-perspirants to try, I was intrigued, if slightly cynical. Would it really be THE solution for someone who sweated so profusely all the time?

When I first started using it (I had the option of using a spray or a roll-on), I have to admit, I couldn’t tell if it worked or not. I sprayed it under my arms just before training sessions, but I seemed to sweat just as much as ever! When I told Deborah this, she exclaimed, “You’re using it wrongly, woman!”

How To Use Triple Dry

Turns out, there is a specific way you’re supposed to use it. What you’re supposed to do: Apply Triple Dry for 4 consecutive nights just before you sleep every night, and shower as normal in the morning. After the first four applications, you only need to apply it every 2 or 3 days.

How it works: Triple Dry is NOT a deodorant. Rather than masking the odour caused by sweating, it has active ingredients that actually combat sweating itself. The product is absorbed into the pores where sweat glands are to regulate the amount of sweat released by your body. You see, it’s not sweat itself that smells. Rather, the moisture provides a breeding ground for the growth of bacteria; the proliferation of bacteria is what causes you to smell bad when you sweat.

Comfortably protected during Executive Knockout!

Comfortably protected during Executive Knockout!

After using it as it’s supposed to be used, I can vouch for its effectiveness. After about three days of using it, I felt significantly drier at the armpits … even after gruelling training sessions. As the product works from within, you don’t need to reapply it after showering or even water sports!

I now alternate between using the spray and roll-on, and there are pros and cons for each.

The spray:

It dries immediately upon contact with your body, but it does leave behind a white powder that flakes off.  I had to dust it off my bed every morning.

The roll-on:

It doesn’t leave a film and is absorbed well into the skin, but it takes a while longer to dry than the spray.

Triple Dry also comes in male- and female-scented variants, but I much prefer the unfragranced version as I use perfume on a daily basis.

I started using Triple Dry about a month before my competition, and by the time the competition rolled around, I was only using it once every two or three days. It proved to be just as effective. As you don’t need to use it every day, each can/roll-on can probably last you a few months, so it’s great value for money too.

After my fight – which happened to be the second last one of the night, leaving me no time to shower – I headed straight for the after party. I had a blast … and no one complained about me smelling bad. Think I definitely got away with it!

Triple Dry Unfragranced Spray ($17.90) and Roll-on ($15.90)

Triple Dry Unfragranced Spray ($17.90) and Roll-on ($15.90)

Triple Dry Anti-Perspirant Spray ($17.90) and Roll-On ($15.90) are available exclusively at Guardian pharmacies. Material World worked with Triple Dry for a review of its products. All opinions are the author’s own and were not vetted by the client. 

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.


Body News, Health & Fitness, Wellbeing, Workouts

Let’s Get Moving! – Tan Lili

Astronomers say the universe is expanding. Apparently, so are the humans living on planet Earth. Why is obesity becoming a worldwide trend, and why should YOU be worried? Read on for all the need-to-know facts.

material world obesity 2

It’s no news; obesity has been recognised as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1997. But according to the latest statistics from Overseas Development Institute, nearly 1.5 billion adults around the world are obese or overweight. That’s one-third of the world population or, to really put things into perspective, one in three adults.

The two main contributing factors shouldn’t come as a surprise – 1) according to the United Nations, the global consumption of fat, salt and sugar has increased exponentially over the past 30 years; and 2) our increasingly sedentary lifestyle (a recent study found that only one in three people in Singapore exercise on a regular basis!).

As much as we love to eat unhealthy processed foods and hate working up a sweat, the serious health implications – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc. – of obesity ought to reshape the way we live. In fact, a WHO report states that nearly 2.8 million people worldwide die each year as a result of obesity.

Just recently, in a bid to fight obesity in Singapore, the Health Promotion Board launched the 1 Million kg Challenge – yep, the challenge is for Singaporeans to lose 1 million kilogrammes collectively. Coca-Cola Singapore has also recently launched Movement Is Happiness, a campaign that aims to highlight the emotional benefits of physical activity. But while it’s great that such initiatives are being rolled out, they would only be effective if we also adopt a positive attitude towards healthy living.

From now until the end of April, expect to see Coca-Cola's "Movement is Happiness" pop-up activity stations across Singapore.

From now until the end of April, expect to see Coca-Cola’s “Movement is Happiness” pop-up activity stations across Singapore.

We speak to Dr Abel Soh, Specialist in Endocrinology & Consultant, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre, to find out more.

The Health Promotion Board recently launched the 1 Million kg Challenge in a bid to fight obesity in Singapore, whose rate has risen significantly over the years. What do you think has caused this spike?

The increasing rate of obesity is not only seen in Singapore alone but around the world. Many factors contribute to this trend but the two most important ones are dietary changes (consumption of a high-fat diet and overeating) and reduced physical activity or lack of exercise.

Apart from heart-related problems, what are some of the less-talked-about consequences of obesity?

Some of the less-talked-about consequences of obesity include high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood sugar level (diabetes mellitus), high cholesterol level, increased risk of stroke, gout, sleep apnea, arthritis of the knees and ankles, and urinary incontinence in women. Obesity is also associated with a higher risk of developing certain cancers – colon, prostate, breast, and endometrium.

For those of us who are overweight, what are some lifestyle changes we should adopt to lose the excess kilos?

In order to lose weight, lifestyle modification is crucial. This includes dietary changes with reduction in intake of calories with or without the use of meal replacement. Increasing energy expenditure through increased physical activity and exercise is important not only for weight loss but also for subsequent maintenance of a lower body weight.

What can friends do to help encourage us to do something about our weight without coming across as brusque?

Weight loss can be difficult for many individuals who are overweight or obese as it involves changes in behaviour and habits that have been formed over many years. Encouragement from family members and friends can certainly help to reinforce the new lifestyle changes needed for weight loss and weight maintenance. Family members and friends should avoid making judgemental statements about the individual’s weight or body shape. They can encourage the formation of new, healthy lifestyle changes by joining with the individual in eating healthily and engaging in regular exercise.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as (now, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets 

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Branded Content, Health & Fitness, Workouts

[Material World x Momentum Lab] Barefoot Training Rocks! – Denise Li

Despite using them so much, we don’t think about how healthy our feet really are. Here’s why barefoot training is fitness’ Next Big Thing.

While I am wary of anything that screams “fad diet” – eating for your blood type, cutting out whole food groups – I steadfastly believe that there is no such thing as a fad workout. Why? Because to me, any workout that gets you off your butt and moving is a good one!

When I first heard about the Willpower and Grace programme – which specialises in developing foot fitness – I was intrigued. It is part of a larger programme known as “The Willpower Method”, which was pioneered by fitness professional Stacey Lei Krauss. Krauss also happens to be the lead fitness advisor for barefoot shoe Vibram FiveFingers.


The insanely fit Stacey Lei Krauss, the woman behind Willpower & Grace.

Why You Need Fit Feet

Willpower & Grace is a high-energy 60-minute barefoot workout (exclusively available at Momentum Lab) that combines calisthenics with dynamic yoga and pilates, as well as dance moves. What makes this workout different from the many other offerings out there is that during the workout, your awareness is constantly brought to your feet. You’re asked to “grip” the ground with your toes, for example; this will help stabilise your body when you’re performing some of your moves.

The point of this training is to improve functional foot fitness, which makes perfect sense. Think about it: We use our feet and legs constantly, yet we don’t really think about how they work in tandem with, as well as aid your body in the variety of movements you perform on a daily basis. Stronger ankles and feet will have a “domino effect”; these will lead to more stable knee and hip joints which, in turn, will help you develop a stronger core. With increased strength and balance, you’ll become more flexible and agile for better performance in a variety of sports – be it runnng or playing tennis. Plus, you’ll greatly lessen the risk of injuries.

I could already see how I was going to benefit from such a workout. Despite doing muay thai and boxing for close to five years now, my sense of balance leaves much to be desired. I’ve also sustained a number of lower-body injuries in the past decade: Multiple sprains in my right ankle, pain in both my Archilles tendons from running, and a tear in my MCL (medial collateral ligament) after a bout of muay thai sparring a couple of years ago.

In fact, I won’t be surprised if I injured myself so many times over the years because of poor foot fitness!

Class is in session!

Class is in session!

Stronger Feet, Here I Come

I was fortunate enough to try a Willpower & Grace class conducted by Stacey Lei Krauss when she was in a town awhile ago to help launch the programme at Momentum Lab. The workout was really intense – after 15 minutes, I found myself sweating buckets, yet because it was so much fun trying to keep up with the moves, time passed by in no time at all. If, like me, you’re not so coordinated, you will find yourself struggling at certain points of the class. Not to worry because the great thing about this workout is that it can be easily modified (I believe there are three difficulty levels), so beginners won’t stress themselves out feeling like they have to keep up with the more experienced ones in class.

Some people also perspire a lot at their feet – I’m one of them – and therein lies the challenge of a barefoot workout. You have to constantly grip the floor with your toes so you don’t slip, and this action of gripping will do loads in strengthening your feet.

The next day, I found myself aching slightly all over – always a sign that you’ve done a great workout. Of course, the results aren’t immediate, but I’m seriously considering doing this over the long term as I believe it will greatly help me in my other martial-arts based fitness activities.

I also had the chance to speak to Stacey about The Willpower Method. Here, she tells us exactly why you need fit feet.

All smiles after a great workout!

All smiles after a great workout!

Why is it that so many people in developed countries suffer from pain their feet?

That’s a result of poor choice of footwear. A lot of women squeeze their feet into pointy shoes or high heels; couple that with the constant pounding on the pavement and you have a recipe for the development of bunions, collapsing arches, and more. Also, when we work out, we’re used to doing them in sports shoes that are touted to “protect” your feet. In fact, a lot of these shoes actually make your feet “lazy” – causing their joints, ligaments, and muscles to become weak. Rather than preventing injuries, these sports shoes are actually the cause of many of them.

How did you become inspired to develop a programme specially to strengthen feet?

Having been a dancer for most of my life, I was used to exercising barefoot. But when I started teaching gym classes, I realised that a lot of people “slapped” their feet on their ground when they worked out barefoot, treating their foot as one big “paddle”. The impact is not good for their knees, and that’s when I realised that a lot of people actually didn’t know how to properly use their feet.

Who are the people you’re targeting for the Willpower & Grace programme?

Anyone, really. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been sedentary or a fitness junkie. The programme can be tailored to suit all fitness levels. I was also conscious of the fact that a lot of people just don’t have the time to put in hours of the gym, so one of the aims of this programme was also to create an intensive, full-body workout that can be done in an hour. That being said, I recommend that participants treat these sessions as one part of a larger, more comprehensive fitness programme. With regular barefoot sessions, they should see an improvement in their performance of other activities such as yoga, pilates, running, and martial arts.

The Willpower & Grace programme is available exclusively at Momentum Lab, 354 Alexandra Road, #01-15. Tel: 6339 2210. First time trial classes are at $35 per session. Besides Willpower & Grace, Momentum Lab also offers a selection of Pilates classes, HIIT training, and more.

Win a Willpower & Grace package!


4 lucky Material World readers will each win a 4-session Willpower & Grace package at Momentumb Lab, worth $200! To enter the draw, simply follow these steps:

1. In the comments section below, answer this question: “What’s the full name of the fitness professional who developed the Willpower & Grace programme?”

2. Like Material World and Momentum Lab on Facebook.

3. Click on the Facebook Share button below and share this post with your friends. Tag “Material World” on your post and remember to set it on Public.

4. Send a private message to Material World’s Facebook with the following details: Name, Age, IC number, Email address, Mobile number, and Mailing Address. Remember to state “Momentum Lab contest” in your message.

This contest ends Friday, 4 April 2014, and is only open to followers of Material World and Momentum Lab.

Material World worked with Momentum Lab to bring you this review of Willpower & Grace. All opinions are the author’s own and were not vetted by the client. You may read our advertising policy here

Character & Soul, Health & Fitness, Self-Improvement, Workouts

4 Things I Learnt Training For My First Boxing Fight – Denise Li

Not too long ago, Denise wrote about trying not to burn out. Two days ago, she reached her breaking point. 

(Image credit: My friend, Bang Ong)

Me, at one of my sparring sessions (Image credit: My friend, Bang Ong)

I was sparring during training the other day when I got socked with a jab to the face. 10 seconds later, tears started streaming down my face. It wasn’t a hard punch, so it wasn’t the pain that brought tears to my eyes. They were tears of frustration – a result of the accumulation of stress, self-doubt, and exhaustion. I decided to continue sparring even though my sparring partner and coach could see that I wasn’t in the right state to continue.

10 minutes later, we decided to stop sparring. I went to the toilet and spent the next half an hour sobbing my eyes out. Every time I thought I was okay, I’d be hit with a fresh wave of tears. I felt like an abject failure … I wasn’t even that upset when I broke up with ex-boyfriends. And I’m ashamed to admit that that wasn’t the only time I turned on the waterworks in the past month or so. I’d cried after training quite a number of times before, but it never felt as devastating as it did two days ago.

The past two months of training for a competition has taught me quite a bit about myself, and about life, and I’d like to share them with you while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

1. Adrenaline can only sustain me for so long

When I started my gruelling schedule running Material World and training six days a week about one and a half months ago, I found the experience exhilarating. Knowing that I had to zip off to training – sometimes twice a day – made me even more focused than usual. All of a sudden, I ceased to be tempted by the usual distractions when I’m in the office – I stopped mucking around on social media and online shopping sites. Whenever I was the office, I made sure I was 100% productive so I could make it to training without worrying about work. There were many evenings I found myself making my way back to the office after training to work till about 10.30pm. I would only be in bed at around 1am after dinner, a shower and a Skype session with Alain. Then I’d be up at 7am to do it all again. For the first couple of weeks, I thought to myself, “This is easy. I can do this all the time.” But then I started to get tired. Really tired. Eventually, after a couple of weeks, I lost that focus. I could not put in 100% in training or in work. And with that …

2. Stress makes me a shitty person

Because I felt rushed all the time, I became very snappish and irritable. The slightest delay in my schedule would send me into silent fits of rage that would manifest as passive-aggressive remarks. I started to take it out on people around me. I could feel my personality changing. I was becoming a class A bitch. But I know being stressed does not give me the right to be mean and unnecessarily rude to those who cross my path. I’m not exactly sure what the takeaway lesson is here … except that seeing I have the propensity to be horrible scares me, and I constantly need to remind myself to take active steps not to be that person. And that means …

Keep calm and work those battle ropes (Image credit: Bang Ong)

Keep calm and work those battle ropes (Image credit: Bang Ong)

3. I need to recognise my limits

Everyone has a breaking point, and I think I’ve been the closest to mine than I have ever been in my life. My friends and family have been gently telling me to scale back a bit and cut myself some slack. At first, I just couldn’t see myself doing that. I equated “doing less” with “being a failure”. Now, I realise they had a point all along. Pushing myself is well and good if I can still see the gains from my efforts. Too much and it becomes counter-productive. Going for meetings not being fully present means I am not being fair to my clients. Going for training dead exhausted means I am slower and less strategic, and when that happens, I get hit more often, but that’s nothing compared to the mental flogging I subject myself to after a bad training session. By doing too much all the time, I trap myself in a cycle of negativity. Now, I’m better positioned to see the warning signs of exhaustion, and I have resolved not to guilt-trip myself if I need a day or two away from work and from training.

4. Help is there if you just ask for it

I must give credit to my Material World partners for putting up with my occasional bad mood, and for being so understanding about my training schedule. I feel bad asking them for help, because I know everyone else is swamped. I can only hope that I will have an opportunity to return the favour in the future. Also, my family has been more than supportive. Usually, I rarely see my mum on weekdays as she’s already gone to bed by the time I’m done with training. On the day that I broke down after the sparring session, she happened to come home late, only to see my crying into my salad. Though I am used to keeping my stress to myself, it all came out when she asked me what was wrong. It felt good to confide in her, something I haven’t done in a long time. Now, she’s helping me out by volunteering to give me a lift to training on certain days of the week to save me time and money on cab fares. While I value my independence, I’ve come to realise that there is no shame in asking for help too. I don’t need to bear this burden on my own.

Yes, it’s been trying times, but honestly? I would not have it any other way. A couple of well-meaning friends have told me that I should consider not fighting since it’s causing me so much stress, but giving up has never once crossed my mind. I still believe I can do it and, if anything, I know I will emerge from this stronger than I have ever been in my life.


Psst … if you happen to want to catch me in action, get your tickets here.

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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Going Upside Down at Breathe Pilates – Denise Li

AntiGravity Fitness has made fans out of Gwyneth Paltrow, Pink, and Madonna. So, is it really worth trying? Denise gives it a go.

Many people think I’m a super brave and gung-ho person but, truth is, there are many things out there that scare me. I like hiking but I’m afraid of falling while descending. I am terrified of heights so I don’t think I will ever bungee-jump in my life. I have mild claustrophobia and I will insist on having the aisle seat in the cinema, or not watch the movie at all.

Yeah … I have a whole host of pretty random fears, so it wasn’t without a little trepidation that I went for for the AntiGravity Fitness trial at Breathe Pilates, especially after I Googled for images of it and saw what it entailed.

It looked closer to acrobatics than any form of yoga that I was familiar with and I must admit … I was not looking forward to being suspended in mid-air for an hour. I mean, I can’t even bear to watch Pink doing her thing cos I’m terrifed that she’ll fall.

Breathe Pilates has a cosy studio located on East Coast Road, and the room where the AntiGravity Fitness is located can accommodate six at any one time. After our teacher Sandra introduced herself, we jumped straight into it. And I mean STRAIGHT. INTO. IT.

The “hammock” that we used for the class is actually way stronger than it looks. It’s able to carry weights of up to 1000kg, which is equivalent to the size of a baby elephant. That set my mind at ease somewhat … until I saw what we had to do.

The first move we did was a basic inversion. Sandra made it look really easy …


… But when it came to my turn to do it, I froze. I got as far as to hook my legs around the hammock. What I found scary was letting go to let my hands touch the floor. Rationally, I knew the hammock was strong enough to support my weight, but there was a mental barrier I couldn’t cross, and Sandra had to gently coax me to release my hands. As I did, I felt my body rock forward, though I’m not sure now if it was just my wild imagination. I started perspiring like crazy because I was so tense, and could see droplets of sweat fall onto the floor.

You can't see it here but my face was red from the blood rushing to my head.

You can’t see it here but my face was red from the blood rushing to my head.

Thankfully, the rest of the class was a whole lot less intimidating. After I relaxed somewhat, I found myself easing into some of the moves and positions. Some the moves were familiar ones that I recognised from yoga – mountain peak (back slightly arched, hands in prayer position), crescent moon (somewhat like mountain peak but your arms and back are stretched backwards even more), chair pose; the only difference was that these were modified such that the hammock was either supporting you, or you were using it as a grip to get deeper into the move. There were also a lot of “swinging” movements where you let the hammock support you as you allow your body to swing forwards, backwards and around. Those moves were so much fun to execute!

Trying to get into Warrior III ...

Trying to get into Warrior III …

I discovered my favourite move towards the end of the class. I can’t remember exactly what it’s called now, but this is what it entails: you’re supposed to put the hammock on your hips and walk forward until it’s taut over your hips. Then, you bend forward and let your legs slightly lift off from the ground. As my hips are easily the stiffest part of my body, I loved how this move helped to stretch them out.

Stretch out those stiff hip flexors!

Stretch out those stiff hip flexors!

Another move I like (though I realise that the pic makes it look a lot like bondage …) was this one. I use my shoulders a lot for boxing, so this really helped ease those tense muscles.

This move is perfect for people who spend long hours hunched in front of a computer too.

This move is perfect for people who spend long hours hunched in front of a computer too.

So … would I do AntiGravity Fitness again? I must admit that if you had asked me at the start of the class when we had to do the scary inversion, I would have said NO. But as the class progressed, I started to really enjoy myself. And when it was time for another inversion – this time with my hands outstretched to the sides instead of touching the ground – I had sorta-kinda gotten used to being upside down by then and relaxed into the move.

AntiGravity Fitness is great if you’re already a seasoned yoga practitioner looking for a spin on your usual workout, but I’d say it could also be good for you if you’re a largely sedentary person looking for an enjoyable workout. It’s supposed to help improve your flexibility, strength (especially core strength, I think) and bring you to a heightened awareness of your body to support efficient movement so you’ll have better posture, fewer muscle aches, and improved muscle tone.

As for me? Well, since I had already deemed 2014 the year of facing my fears, I think my fear of not having both feet on the ground is as good as any to confront head on (pun fully intended).

AntiGravity Fitness is available at Breathe Pilates, #02-05/07 East Coast Road. Tel: 9835 5683

Material World was offered a trial session at Breathe Pilates and was not paid for this review. All opinions are the author’s own.

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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FAQ For Women Thinking of Learning a Martial Art – Denise Li

Martial arts: It offers a complete workout for your body, it’s a whole lotta fun, AND you get to pick up some self-defence moves at the same time. So why should we let the boys have all the fun?

“You do boxing? Wow. So you get punched in the face and stuff?”

“Er, yeah, occasionally.”

“Okay, I’d better stay away from you just in case you kick my ass.”

If I had a dollar every time this conversation takes place, I’d probably be able to buy a Coach bag at full price in no time at all.

Chances of your ear being bitten during boxing training: Almost zilch

Chances of your ear being bitten during boxing training: Almost zilch

And while I find these exchanges a little tiresome, I think I can probably guess what these people are thinking: “Boxing is a brutal sport. Evidence: the fact that that Tyson fella bit off some other guy’s ear during a fight. Therefore, people who box must be violent brutes. You’re a woman who does boxing. So, you must have some serious issues …”

Well, I’d like to take this chance to debunk some myths about fight sports, especially for women who are thinking of taking it up but are intimidated by its testosterone-fuelled image. Here are the answers to the burning questions you might have, based on my experience of having trained both in gyms around Thailand and Singapore.

Most of the people who go to fight gyms are guys. Right?

It is true that you’ll still see more men than women at fight gyms. But I’ve been seeing an increasing number of women picking up martial arts. Muay thai, in particular, has more than its fair share of women, and it’s not uncommon to see women outnumbering men at some muay thai classes. A muay thai coach I interviewed some years back noted that women seem to pick up the sport more easily than men, because women have better flexibility, which is essential for performing those roundhouse kicks.

So is it weird to train with a whole bunch of guys?

I won’t lie; having been immersed in female-dominated environments for most of my life – academic and professional – it took a little bit of getting used to. You might feel a teensy bit self-conscious at first, but as you immerse yourself more into the sport, you’ll find yourself so absorbed in picking up the moves and technical aspects that training with a bunch of sweaty, grunty guys will cease to feel strange.

Occasionally, you’ll meet a guy who outright refuses to spar or looks reluctant to do drills with you, but don’t worry, your coach will usually put him in his place. In my four years, this has happened just twice.

What’s the difference between boxing, muay thai and mixed martial arts (MMA)?

Boxing – think Muhammad Ali and Manny Pacquiao; only hands are involved in the strikes. In muay thai, legs, knees and elbows are employed as weapons. Mixed martial arts involves both striking and submission grappling (judo throws, chokes, locks, and Olympic wrestling are all part of the game).

Did you know that women were allowed to box in the Olympics only in 2012?

Did you know that women were allowed to box in the Olympics only in 2012?

Will I get punched in the face?

If you’re a beginner – male or female – no one is expecting you to jump straight into the sparring. You’ll usually need a few months to pick up the basics of the martial art, and even after you’ve got some of the basics down, no one will force you to spar, unless you really want to. For me, it took about one and a half years of training before I volunteered to spar. For striking sports like boxing and muay thai, there might come a time where you might find yourself plateau-ing after you’ve picked up the basics, and the only way you will be able to improve is if you pit yourself against your training partners. Bottomline: you can choose to spar only when you feel comfortable/confident enough to do so.

The people who train … what are they like?

Believe it or not, they are just like you and me. People who are looking for a fun way to get and stay fit. Not everyone is a chest-thumping, back-slapping Tyson wannabe. Okay, maybe some guys are, but really, they are in the minority. I always liken the gym space to be a microcosm of society; through the various gyms I’ve trained at, I’ve had the opportunity to be acquainted with people I wouldn’t otherwise have crossed paths with. Many are white-collar professionals like myself, but I’ve also met guys who work in construction, poly students who are gunning to be the Next Big Thing in MMA … really, people who come from all walks of life. Gym culture can be as diverse as work environments – different gyms tend to attract a different crowd, so I recommend that you do a little “gym tour” for yourself (most gyms here offer one-off free trials) to see which one you feel the most comfortable training in.

Despite how fight sports are depicted in movies, in my experience, the people you meet in the gym are not necessarily more aggressive than, well, regular people. Fight sports typically require a lot of dedication, discipline, and hard work to master – traits your average bully will probably not have.

But everyone there looks so pro! Am I expected to know all the moves when I join the gym?

Of course not! Everyone started out as a newbie at some point. In fact, being a newbie usually means you get more personalised attention as the trainer will spend some time to take you through the basics.

Will I be able to fend off attackers after learning martial art?

It usually depends on what sport you’re picking up. If you pick up boxing, you’ll be pretty much useless in a street fight. Remember: In street fights, there are no rules. If your main goal is to pick up self-defence moves, I suggest looking for courses that state as much. Knowing the moves also isn’t enough. You need to PRACTISE them over and over until they become almost instinctive. Best m0ves if you get attacked in the street are still the ones they won’t teach in the gym: kicking a guy in the nuts.

Are there lots of hot guys at fight gyms?

If it’s love you’re looking for, the gym is as good as a place as any. Other than nightclubs, I honestly can’t think of another environment such a concentration of eligible men in their 20s and 30s. Best of all, no judgement-impairing alcohol will be involved, you won’t have to wear painful shoes, and no one will be expecting you to look your glamorous best.

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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