Gyms & Trainers, Health & Fitness

5 Signs You Need to Fire Your Trainer – Denise Li

If your relationship with your fitness trainer is starting to become a “toxic” one, don’t be afraid to walk away, says Denise Li.

Having worked with my fair share of fitness trainers over the years, I can tell you one thing: Finding a good trainer is as hard as (or even harder than) looking for a relationship partner. I have had some truly awful ones over the years. One particular trainer I worked with at a muay thai camp in Phuket somehow thought I could learn a thing or two if he kicked the shit out of me. I’m not exaggerating: He kept on kicking my inside left thigh without giving me pointers about how to defend against such kicks. It truly felt like he had malicious intent, though I’m pretty sure I had done nothing to offend him. By the end of the session, I could barely walk and suffered bruising larger than the surface area of a small loaf of bread that took more than 10 days to subside. When I switched camps, another trainer I worked with noticed the ugly purple bruising and thought I had been in a fight, and was horrified when I told him what had actually happened.

Related: Should You Hire a Personal Trainer?

Related: 10 Weeks To a Healthier, Stronger You!

That is one of the more extreme examples. But I’ve also had more than my share of middling trainers who are just more concerned that I’d pay him at the end of the session than really being invested in my progress. But just like dating, I quickly learnt to spot the warning signs of a lousy trainer and I’m sharing them here because I believe that bad trainers shouldn’t happen to good people: Especially when you’re paying him good money for it.

1. He checks his phone all the time

I’m not a complete Nazi. I won’t fault the trainer for checking his phone during my water break or in between sets. But it is not cool if he walks away from you for more than two minutes while you’re trying to finish a set. A good trainer should ALWAYS be there to help you track your reps and sets.

A good trainer will always be on hand to check on your progress

A good trainer will always be on hand to check on your progress

2. He doesn’t bother to correct your form

Most of us will need some minor adjustments when we’re trying a new exercise or machine for the first time. A good trainer should be able not just to show you the proper form, but also to talk you through the exercise as you do it. This will ensure that (i) you don’t get injured and (ii) you get as much benefit from the exercise as possible.

3. He flakes out on you all the time

This is definitely a red flag especially if you’ve signed up for personal training. I’m not saying you have to be completely unreasonable and demand that he be at your beck and call all the time. But being able to cater to your schedule is part of the service you should be expecting. While you can excuse the odd last-minute cancellation (people do have emergencies after all), you are definitely NOT obliged to put up with an unreliable trainer.

4. He makes unwarranted comments about your body

In my early 20s, I was a member of a fitness gym near my home and as I usually went during off-peak hours, I’d usually be the only working out. I’m not sure if it was because he was bored, but the trainer used to stand on the treadmill next to mine while I was running and make comments about my “cyclist’s calves”. Not only is it SUPER annoying when someone tries to have a conversation with me when I’m running, his remarks made me feel scrutinised, objectified and very uncomfortable, and I didn’t bother renewing my membership after it had expired. Yes, a trainer is supposed to help you track your progress (especially if weight loss is one of your goals) but making pointed remarks about your body is unacceptable and borders, I think, on sexual harrassment.

5. You stop seeing progress

A good trainer should be knowledgeable enough to identify plateaus and tweak your workout plan accordingly. But at the end of the day, it is a two-way relationship, and it would help your trainer a lot if you are clear about your workout goals from the start. Weight loss is a common goal, but there are also people who want to become stronger, rehabilitate an injury, etc. The more specific you are, the better. Also, if you’re prepared to to work hard, tell your trainer as much! A lot of people find exercise torturous, and as a result, a lot of trainers prescribe easy workouts to keep their clients. Being pointed about your determination to achieve your goals will subtly cue your trainer not to slack off too.

The above are just broad guidelines to help you identify when a relationship with a particular trainer is not working out but as I mentioned earlier, looking for a trainer is very much like looking for a relationship in that you need a certain “chemistry” with him/her in order for it to become a successful relationship. Do you thrive on constant motivation or encouragement, or are you motivated by tough love? Personally, I love exercising and learning new things, so I need a trainer who doesn’t just know a lot, but also displays a certain enthusiasm to share that knowledge. Whatever it is, you need to feel that the money you’ve invested into a personal trainer is well-spent. Most important of all, don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel that the “relationship” is no longer working for you.

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.

Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

This Article Will Change The Way You Look At Yourself – Deborah Tan

Because we are certain everyone has an inspiring story waiting to be discovered, the team at Material World decides today to share their individual UNTOLD story.

In the last 3 weeks, Material World highlighted 3 women who shared their UNTOLD stories. Today, the team would like to share our UNTOLD stories to demonstrate that no story is too insignificant and no lesson too small to inspire. If you feel inspired to share your UNTOLD story after this, email it to us at . We look forward to reading your story too!

Denise Li
The first impression Denise gives people is that of a tough lady who can punch the living daylights out of both men and women. Truth is, martial arts was a relatively recent discovery for her. Below, she talks about how it changed her life … for the better.

Denise (in blue) at her first boxing match.

Denise (in blue) at her first boxing match.

“A few years ago, I found myself drinking quite a bit on a regular basis, and I knew, deep down, that the drinking was a coping mechanism for the constant worrier in me. When I drank, I felt lighter, happier, and freer. In short, I drank to escape from my problems.

One hungover Saturday morning as I struggled to recover from a raging hangover, I realized that I was sick of relying on alcohol as a crutch. I decided that I needed to channel all that nervous energy into a healthier habit. Two days later, I found myself signing up with a muay thai gym, and I never looked back.

Now, five years on, martial arts is at the core of my existence. From muay thai, I moved onto boxing, and recently started MMA. Martial arts has taught me discipline, perseverance and, most importantly, the importance of keeping calm under pressure. I have a much better handle on stress and anxiety, and though I still enjoy the odd tipple every now and then, I no longer feel the need to binge-drink. Now, whenever I’m angry or stressed, I head to the gym. There’s nothing a gruelling workout can’t fix!”


Lili Tan
The statuesque Lili has a figure that many envy but did you know that in her teenage years, she was often mocked by classmates for being overweight. Today, she is a regular at run events and she actually loves running. Read on to find out what she has to say.

Lili (second from left) beams with pride after the Sundown Marathon.

Lili (second from left) beams with pride after the Sundown Marathon.

“Back in secondary school, I was bullied for being overweight. I remember dreading the TAF (Trim & Fit) Club sessions – us overweight kids stood at the back of our respective classes during assembly once a week so we could adjourn to the exercise venue while the rest of our classmates continued to read “silently”. Every time we broke away from our classes, a gulf of shame and hurt would wash over me, no thanks to insensitive schoolmates who would openly mock us. My self-esteem was at its lowest.

Right after graduation, I figured tertiary life was the perfect chance for me to start anew. Over years of hard work and determination, I managed to shed the excess kilos. It wasn’t a massive transformation but it was enough to shock old friends that I bumped into on the streets.

Even though I have come to accept that teenagers are just prone to silly, insensitive acts, those jibes and insults stuck with me – and I guess this is why they say revenge is sweet: it always feels SO GOOD seeing ex-schoolmates stumped and speechless when they see how I look today. But, the strength you gain from a horrible experience is infinitely sweeter.”


Vanessa Tai
Nothing cheers Vanessa up like a good session of karaoke! The girl belts out both Cantonese and English songs with gusto. But she wasn’t always so confident with the microphone. She tells us her story.

Vanessa is no longer afraid to show off her vocal prowess!

Vanessa is no longer afraid to show off her vocal prowess!

“Most of my friends know I absolutely love singing but not many people know that I used to be extremely self-conscious about my singing voice. That’s because of an insensitive teacher in primary school who told me that I was tone deaf. Since then, I avoided singing in public as much as possible, feeling mortified whenever I hear my singing voice.

While I toyed with the idea of taking vocal lessons, I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to be embarrassed. Finally, fed up with my endless whinging, my mum signed me up for vocal lessons. The first semester was particular trying; it was hard to ignore the shame I was made to feel about my singing as a kid. However, under the patient and encouraging tutelage of my then-vocal coach, my confidence grew.

It’s now been two years since I first enrolled and I’ve recently graduated. While I’m no Adele, I’m definitely way more confident about singing in public now. What I’ve learned from this experience is that people (even people we respect or trust) are going to throw hurtful remarks at us all the time. The difference is whether we choose to wallow in it or find some way to triumph over it.”


Deborah Tan
As the former editor of two magazines, one would think Deborah was an ace in English back in school. The truth, however, cannot be further away … 

Deborah (far right) on her last day with her team from Cosmopolitan.

Deborah (far right) on her last day with her team from Cosmopolitan.

“When I was in school, my teachers never made me forget that my English was appalling. It was true. Grammar was a challenge and no one thought I’d be capable of passing English. Although I had – by some stroke of luck – scored an A1 at the O Levels (my teachers ‘projected’ that the best I could do was a C5), I had a C6 for General Paper at the A Levels. In the first week of my freshman year at university, I had to sit for an English proficiency test to prove that I could actually speak and write in English.

It seems ironic that I had been able to carve a great career for myself in publishing and am now making a living out of writing.

When people say you need a natural flair in languages to be good at them, they are wrong. You can train and teach yourself to be good at English – in fact, be good at ANYTHING. All you need is an insane amount of willpower and focus. One of my techniques is: when I read a book and I stumble upon an interesting grammar ‘law’, I would make a mental note and look for other instances where it is used in the same way. Then, I would try to incorporate it into my writing the next time and keep using it until I’m familiar with the way it works.

What this has taught me about Life is that if you allow someone to define you, you’ll always be limited by them. I don’t let anyone tell me who I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do. I call the shots.”

Watch all 3 episodes of “Her UNTOLD Story” here and find out how you can win a $400 Elizabeth Arden hamper by sharing your very own UNTOLD story.  



About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She believes every one can create a more awesome life for themselves. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.


Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

4 Things I Am Grateful For Every Day – Denise Li

Once she realised how much she really had, Denise Li began enjoying life so much more. 

Despite my constant whinging, bitching, whining, and complaining about how swamped/tired/achy I am (as my partners at Material World will vouch that I do on a regular basis while rolling their eyes), I am, on the whole, a pretty positive person. I’m the kind of person who believes that how happy I am and can be is dictated solely by me, myself, and I. And while that may seem like a simple statement, TRULY believing in it has completely changed my outlook on life. Instead of stewing in a pool of negativity, I proactively take steps to improve my situation if I’m unhappy about the way things are going, and I get annoyed at friends who always bitch about the same things but refuse to do anything to help themselves.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t days where I feel like just lying in bed to cry when I contemplate my neverending to-do list. On those days, I take a deep breath, then spend the next five minutes reminding myself that I am actually really fortunate. Try it: It’s a really uplifting exercise.

Related: Before You Reach Breaking Point, Read This.

Related: The Best Decision You’ll Ever Make

Here, the four things I am grateful for.

1. That there are people who love me

My family at my sister's recent birthday celebration

My family at my sister’s recent birthday celebration

On weekends, when I wake up, I know that my favourite fishball noodles will be waiting for me on the kitchen table. Why? Because my mum knows how much I love it and, despite the fact that I am 31 this year, she still worries that I am not eating well or enough.

My dad always volunteers to play chauffeur to me on weekends. Yes, again, I’m 31.

There are some days where I get really grumpy and am truly unpleasant to be around. I don’t feel like talking, and when I do, it’s to complain about how hard my life is (I know, terrible). Despite this, Alain still takes time out of his day to talk to me on Skype. He just lets me be.

Sometimes, I wonder if I must have done something right in my past life to be surrounded by these wonderful people.

2. I have full use of all my limbs

I've also had the chance to go on numerous fitness vacations.

I’ve also had the chance to go on numerous fitness vacations. Here I am with my boxing coach in Chiang Mai.

Being able to run, jump, kick, do burpees, kettlebell swings … it’s such a joy to be able to move. I’m always acutely aware of the fact that I won’t be young forever, and while I am, I want to enjoy my body and what it can do.

3. I like how I earn my money

The hoary old cliche goes “Do what you love, and you never have to work a day in your life.” What an overly simplistic statement. I mean, if that were true, I would be paid for going for training and watching sports on TV. And as much I enjoy writing, it sometimes feels likes painful, laborious, painstaking work. But on the whole, I find what I do meaningful and I love my current working environment: No office politics, no incompetency to deal with, and the best part is knowing that those late nights will eventually translate into more cash for me.

I think the best part of being your own boss – despite the irregular income streams – is that your day-to-day living situation greatly improves. When you are no longer obliged to arrive at the office at 9am, and you stop expending your energy fighting fires and instead channel that into productive work, the feeling of liberation is truly unparalleled.

Related: I Bought A Designer Bag, And …

4. Pizza

Pizza. Need I say more?

Pizza. Need I say more?

There hasn’t been a lousy day that hasn’t been made better by a delicious pie. THANK YOU, ITALY!

What are YOU grateful for?

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.

Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Do Couples NEED To Have Something In Common? – Denise Li

It helps, especially if you’re a long-distance relationship. Denise Li explains why.


I may have been a relationship columnist for three years now, and I find that some of my richest material comes not from things I’ve learnt about my own relationship (although that provides plenty), but from observing couples around me.

And while I dole out love advice on a regular basis, I’m still hard-pressed to give an answer about what makes relationships tick. Sometimes, the law that “opposites attract” holds true. Some couples that seem to have diametrically opposing personalities somehow find a way to make it work. And I’ve also seen couples who have dated forever and seem completely right for each other file for divorce after just a year of marriage.

My conclusion is that each and every relationship has its unique dynamic, and there are just way too many hidden variables for anyone to give a definitive answer about what exactly ensures it’s a happily-ever-after.

Related: What Is Your Language Of Love?

Recently, I’ve been particularly curious about what makes MY long-distance relationship work and in an effort to figure it out, I’ve been keeping track of what we talk about over our daily Skype sessions. Here are some of my observations:

1. We can talk for a REALLY long time

Our Skype sessions span anything from 10 minutes to 4 hours. They average about an hour. I honestly can’t think of anyone I can spend that long on the phone with, and our conversations are always effortless.

2. There is ONE thing we always talk about.

And that’s fight sports. We talk about training, techniques we learnt, workouts we logged, UFC fights we’ve watched, nutrition … this can go on for hours at a stretch, especially on weekends.

From observation number 2, I can draw a further two conclusions:

1. Having something in common has proved to be extremely vital for maintaining our relationship, and;

2. It’s a good sign to spend a lot of time talking about our interests, because it means our relationship is healthy in all other aspects.

While it’s probably not necessary for all couples to have common interests, a long-distance relationship is one of those instances where sharing similiar hobbies certainly helps the course.

In the first place, having a dedicated hobby gives your life structure and purpose, which you will need when you know you’ll be away from your partner for months at a stretch. And of course, sharing the same passion as your man means endless fodder for conversation.

Having something in common – especially one that requires as much dedication and commitment as martial arts – also means that your partner will be particularly understanding when you invest time and effort into it. Some of my training friends have mentioned to me that their girlfriends hate it when they spend so much time at the gym, at the expense of spending time with them. And I get it, really. My ex was a huge gamer and while I respected that he had the right to pursue his own interests, I – as a non-gamer – could never truly understand what exactly was so engaging about fighting fake wars online using fake armies. We used to have huge fights as there were occasions when he was late to meet me because he lost track of time while gaming, and I eventually found myself growing resentful of his hobby.

Now, personally, having found my life’s passion, I can’t imagine dating someone who isn’t into martial arts. I love training and talking about training, and I don’t think I can find it in myself to face a future with someone who just doesn’t “get it”.

Anyway, I’m curious to hear about what you think about this topic. Do you think it’s important to have overlapping interests as your partner? And what’s the dynamic like if the two of you have few things in common? I’d love to hear from you.

Related: Dealing With Differences In Opinion

Related: To Thine Own Self Be True

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. Stay tuned for more!

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.

Beauty & Shopping, Makeup

Maybelline BB Wonder Smooth Compact Cream: The 6-Hour Test – Denise Li

Denise Li is forever on the search for Holy Grail of base makeup – one that doesn’t need touching up AT ALL. So, did the Maybelline Wonder Smooth Compact Cream cut it?

How do you like your base makeup? For me, I have always been about liquid formulations. The finish is a lot more natural than that of compact powders, which sometimes make you look like you’re wearing a mask. Compact powder tends to get cakey quickly – especially if, like me, you have oily skin.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with blending my base makeup too – I’ve been mixing my too-light BB cream with my too-dark-and-too-heavy liquid foundation and it’s just PERFECT. Not only has it allowed me to get my perfect shade, my custom formula also means that I get high coverage (from the foundation) without losing radiance (thanks to the BB cream). With compacts, you need to find the perfect shade from the outset.

So – to be honest – I wasn’t sure how I’d take to this cream-to-powder compact. I had a lot of questions before I started using it: Would it blend well? Would it look cakey? Would it look cakey after long hours of wear? Most importantly … would it survive the 6-hour “stress test”?


With our capricious weather of late – sunny one minute, rainy the next, sometimes both at the same time! – finding the right base makeup that would last through a workday day (I’m not a fan of touchups) has been somewhat challenging. I love a radiant, dewy finish, but step out into 95% humidity and dewy becomes oily faster than you can say “sebum production”. The perfect base makeup (to me) has to be able to keep sebum production in check yet make skin glow. Tall order, I know. So did this Maybelline compact live up to the test?

First Impressions

It has a wonderfully creamy texture that melts into skin – if you don’t use too much of it a go. I didn’t really like the sponge it came with because it doesn’t spread the product well – I had to blend it into my skin using a combination of fingers and a foundation brush. Coverage was amazing; my pores simply disappeared (and I didn’t use a primer or pore-blurring product as I normally would). Though my complexion looked flawless, the finish was on the matte side, as you would expect. But no matter. Let’s see if it would last the next six hours without me needing to touch up or blot my face.

Immediately after application …


See! Not a pore in sight. It’s the perfect canvas for the rest of my makeup.

Two hours later (sitting outside in high humidity) …


This is normally around the time I’d have to start fishing around for my blotters but so far so good! And is it just me or is my complexion looking more radiant as the day wears on?

Six hours later (after running around town doing erands) …


What sorcery is this?! The BB looks freshly applied close to seven hours later (and I know … my face is a totally different colour from my neck. Not because the BB colour didn’t match my skintone but because I’m guilty of the beauty sin that’s putting sunscreen ONLY on my face …). By a happy accident, I found that the BB was also very effective as an eyelid primer. I forgot to bring my usual primer out today so I gently spread a little BB on my eyelids, and it was great at preventing my eye makeup from smudging and migrating!

What else do you need to know about this BB compact?

1. It has SPF25/PA+++

2. It has vitamins C and E to give it antioxidative properties.

3. It keeps skin well-hydrated, and has soothing Chamomile extract to calm the skin.

4. It comes in two shades (though, do take note that both shades are more suitable for girls with fair skin).

Conclusion? The Maybelline BB Wonder Smooth Compact Cream is one of the few compact formulations that passes my “six-hour test” with flying colours. So while I still prefer liquid base makeup, this is the one compact I’ll reach for when I’m extremely pressed for time.

The Maybelline BB Wonder Smooth Compact Cream retails for $19.90 and is available at Watsons, Guardian, and SaSa. The products were given to Material World for review purposes. All opinions are the author’s own. This post was neither paid for nor advised by Maybelline. 

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.

Beauty & Shopping, Branded Content, Contests, Makeup

[Material World x Maybelline] The #OOTD Challenge – Denise Li

Denise Li was issued a challenge by the folks at Maybelline to create 5 OOTDs using the new and improved Maybelline Hyper Sharp eyeliners. This is the result.

If you were to ask women in Singapore about the one beauty product they can’t live without, I’ll bet my last dollar that most of them will say it’s a liquid eyeliner. Gel liners can be a bit unwieldy – it’s hard to draw a thin line and they dry up too quickly; pencils are great for smoky eyes but they aren’t the best if you’re running around for meetings cos they smudge way too quickly.

When it comes to liquid eyeliners, the one to beat definitely has to be Maybelline Hyper Sharp. They’ve just launched a new and improved version with an even finer tip – 0.01mm! What this means: Greater precision, so you’ll be able to create more diverse looks, from the classic wingtip to something a little more dramatic.

With the launch of the new Hyper Sharp, the folks at Maybelline issued Material World a challenge – to come up with 5 #OOTDs (outfit of the day), and create a variety of looks using the three eyeliners in Brown, Soft Black, and Intense Black. Despite the fact that I’ve always thought of my wardrobe options as limited – I am a dress and sneakers girl – I took it on. Challenge, ACCEPTED!

The Everyday Look



This is what I usually wear on harried mornings when I’m rushing to get out of the house and don’t want to think too deeply about throwing together an outfit. Foolproof skater-cut dress, no accessories. I brightened up my eyes with a subtle wash of yellow, and finished it off with Hyper Sharp in Brown. Though the default colour of eyeliner for many of us is black (as was mine), I permanently made the switch to brown a few months ago following the advice of makeup artist Larry Yeo who noted that black can actually look too stark against Asian skin, particularly if we’re not going for a dramatic eye makeup look.

The Look That Says “Trust Me, I Write Creative Copy!”



Just before meeting a client last week, I experimented with a more punchy look. The razor-thin tip of Hyper Sharp is perfect for graphic eye makeup, so I went all out with this one. I was afraid that it would go south, considering my less-than-steady hand but I’m pretty happy with the result. It’s definitely not something you can achieve with a lot of other liquid eyeliners. I finished it off with a swipe of shiny pink lippie.

The “WOOHOO, TGIF!” Look



I’m usually pretty spent by the time Fridays roll around so to perk myself up, I’d put on my favourite canary yellow dress and Melissa heels. On my eyes, I used a shimmery light blue eyeshadow and gave my peepers definition using Hyper Sharp in Intense Black. On my lips is a berry lipstick-gloss. All set for the wine bar and, if my friends are up to it, grooving the night away at a club.

The “Saturday Brunch” Look


I don’t usually do “themes”, but I was feeling particularly inspired on this day. The particular theme in question? Flora and fauna. I paired my super-girly Topshop dress with equally girly makeup. On my eyes, I used a yellow cream eyeshadow as a base, and layered on a green cream eyeshadow (flora and fauna, forest … get it?!), before lining eyes with Hyper Sharp in Brown.

The “Casual Friday” Look



Honestly, the term “Casual Friday” doesn’t mean that much for folks in the creative industry …. every day is Casual Friday for us. Despite that, I’m not usually in the habit of wearing T-shirts to work. But I was DETERMINED to wear my new favourite Beastie Boys tee at all costs. So as not to look too sloppy, I threw on this grey cardigan and finished off the ensemble with a leather bag. This deviates quite a bit from my usual look but I’m really really loving the androgynous feel of it. It’s actually quite an accurate reflection of my personality. To balance out the boyishness of the outfit, I dressed up my face a little more. On my eyes, I used all three Hypersharp liners. I lined my top eye line with Intense Black, and layered Brown on top of it, up to the fold of where my double eyelid begins. On my bottom lashline, I used Soft Black to balance out the heaviness of the look. A little coral on cheeks and on the lips adds a soft, feminine glow.

My thoughts on Maybelline Hypersharp:

They weren’t kidding when they said it was really easy to use – drawing the perfect wingtip was a cinch. If you’re a makeup newbie, this is definitely the eyeliner to get. Because the tip is so thin, you can get very close to the lashline – it’s very nifty for filing in sparse lashes. I also thought that the Soft Black was the perfect shade for the lower lashline – it will further define eyes, while ensuring you don’t stray into “Auntie” territory. They are also relatively waterproof and smudge-proof. The colour didn’t migrate even when I was out and about for meetings in high humidity.

I must thank the folks at Maybelline for issuing the #OOTD challenge too – turns out my fashion repertoire is more diverse than I initially thought!

Material World worked with Maybelline to review its Hyper Sharp eyeliners. All reviews are the author’s own and were not vetted by the client. You may read our advertising policy here.

Win one of three Maybelline hampers worth $100 each!

From top: Brown, Intense Black, Soft Black

From top: Brown, Intense Black, Soft Black

Now, it’s your turn to take up the #OOTD Instagram challenge. Here’s how to take part:

1. Create a two-photo collage (like the ones above) showcasing (1) Your favourite daytime OOTD (outfit of the day) (2) A close-up of your daytime makeup.
2. Upload your collage onto your Instagram account (which should be set to Public), and tag @maybellinesg and @materialworldsg.
2.The top three posts will each win a $100 Maybelline hamper, including the Hyper Sharp liner of your choice)
This contest ends Wednesday, 4 June 2014, and is only open to followers of Material World. Please read our terms and conditions here.
Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

Unleashing My Inner Competitive Side – Denise Li

Denise Li was always happy to coast through life … until she realised that she actually enjoyed the feeling of competing.


I’ve never really considered myself a competitive person. While I’d taken part in track competitions when I was in school, I have to say I never particularly enjoyed it: I was a middling athlete and there was just waaaaayyyyy too much stress to handle for knowing that I wasn’t going to bring home a medal at the end of the day.

At work, I’ve never really been particularly ambitious either. I was always focused on the process – I wanted to do the best possible job I could while keeping my participation in workplace politics to a minimum. I focused all my energies in tackling each task and problem as they arose. If I got promoted because the higher-ups thought I was doing well – that was a bonus, but being promoted was never a strong motivating factor for me. And certainly not strong enough to keep me in the job when there were other things I wanted to do with my life, namely, travel.

Recently, however, my dormant competitive side seems to be making a regular appearance, particularly when it comes to fitness and sports. A couple of months ago, I took part in my first boxing competition and am considering doing it again. At my group strength and conditioning classes where the coaches always encourage a little healthy competition, I always aim to finish first or second, and I am disappointed with myself when I fall short. This, despite the fact that I believe that working out should be about fighting against yourself and being better than you were before, than about being better than other people. I still want to be the first to finish a series of 100 squats or kettlebell swings.

I’m not exactly sure what sparked off my innate competitiveness. But I do know that there’s something about it that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I’m not sure if it’s because my chosen sport of choice is a male-dominated one where women’s attempts to compete are usually met with patronisation, cynicism or even outright discrimination, that it’s a sad fact of the world that women who display competitiveness or other male-related traits are viewed in a negative light, or simply because it just goes against the grain of everything I know about myself.

When I was in uni, grades were given on the bell curve. That means, for better or for worse, you were compared against your peers. Fully aware of my average intellectual capabilities, I focused on doing the best I could, while trying to ignore the painful fact that my best would probably never see me make it to the Dean’s List or honours roll. I made peace with it, as I did the second-lower class honours degree I graduated with.

To want to “win” now, even when there is no tangible benefit other than an immense sense of self-satisfaction is a bit of an alien concept to me.

Perhaps ... there was worthy competitor in me all along.  (Image: Courtesy of Impakt Gym)

Perhaps … there was worthy competitor in me all along.
(Image: Courtesy of Impakt Gym)

But thinking it through now as I write this, I have to ask myself, “What IS wrong with having a competitive mindset?” Google “being competitive” and the search results on the first page all have to do with reigning in or checking competitive behaviour. The articles caution against being competitive at the expense of your relationships and your own sanity.

If you asked me for my definitive opinion about it, I think being competitive has been overly demonised. Yes, there are certain instances where it’s unhealthy and plain silly to be competitive: Like feeling the pressure to buy a Chanel 2.55 just cos a number of your friends own one.

But at the end of the day, I think a competitive mindset acts as a check and balance against a false sense of entitlement. Being competitive means being acutely aware of where you lie in the food chain, and how much more you have to do to make up for the shortfall. Being competitive means you will probably work harder to secure gains, rather than feeling that you DESERVE something simply because of your position.

The only time when you should feel deserving of anything is if you worked your ass off to get it. That doesn’t mean you need to get competitive in every area of your life. How stressful would THAT be? But it does mean knowing that you have a choice to be the best in whatever area you choose to excel in.

I’ve recently read quite a few articles about people who’ve made good despite the odds against them. Teenagers who grew up in poor families, recalcitrant drug users who later went on to become successful in their chosen careers … I doubt that any one of them would have made it if they were driven not just by a sense of wanting to better their stations in life, but also of a sense of competitiveness – an inner, unshakeable belief that they can catch up with and surpass those who have already achieved certain milestones in life.

We may not start off on an equal footing as others but we certainly have a choice. Do I want to sit here and moan and whine that I haven’t gotten as far ahead in my career as my peers/not making as much money as my friends/am unable to do any pull-upsl? Or do I want to get cracking and start working towards achieving all that, and possibly more?

I know what I’m going to choose. I might not have been the sub-par athlete I thought myself to be had I believed in myself more, and worked harder to become a bona fide athlete. I’m going to make it a point to thrive on – not shy away from – competition.

And I haven’t done too badly in life despite the fact that I never really explicitly set out to be number one in whatever I do. Who knows how far I can go and what I can achieve now that I’m starting to embrace my inner competitive side?

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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Lifestyle, Vacations & Staycations

How To Travel With Friends – Denise Li

Denise likes travelling on her own. So what happened when she recently went on a week-long trip with the rest of the Material Girls?

Since I started travelling on my own in 2006, I’ve always been adamant that travelling solo is the way to go. You can wake up any time you want, do anything you want, and you don’t have to stand in a corner of a street debating for 15 minutes about “what the next plan is”.

I must admit that travelling with other people always fills me with a sense of dread. Just like moving in with a partner, you never know if there’re any unsavoury habits you’d unearth about them until you find yourself in the situation.

Returning to Singapore from Penang. Hangovers aside, we look happy together, don't we?

Returning to Singapore from Penang. Hangovers aside, we look happy together, don’t we?

And as much as I love my three business partners (we’re friends AND colleagues), it wasn’t without a sense of trepidation that I embarked on a week-long holiday with them for Debs’ wedding party in Penang just a couple of weeks ago. I’ve heard enough horror stories to know that even the smallest things you find out about each other when you travel together can destroy years of friendship. The last thing I wanted was to deal with any awkwardness … especially since we all still have to work closely together long after the trip was over.

Well I’m happy to report that we didn’t just survive living in the same apartment together and hanging out together 24/7 for close to a week, I think our relationships with one another were strengthened in the process. A lot of my fears about travelling together were unfounded. I think if you’re embarking on a trip with friends for first time, some level of mental preparation is in order to ensure the friendship (and your sanity) survives the vacay. Here are some tips:

1. Decide on the ideal group size

Depending on the type of holiday you’re going on, this number can differ. For this holiday, five (including Debs’ husband Simon) was a good size. We could comfortably share a three-bedroom apartment, and we could share cabs everywhere (semi-)comfortably. If you’re planning on backpacking for three months, do it yourself or with one just one person you know has a similar travelling style as you. That’s because, when you backpack, you have so many more decisions to make (Should you stay longer in a place you like, pushing back the rest of your travel itinerary in the process? Can you afford to take a detour?), and you want to make the process as pain-free as it can possibly be.

2. Determine the budget well in advance

Obviously, if one person’s idea of accommodation is a five-star hotel, while another person’s is a no-frills guesthouse, there’s going to be a problem. Have an honest discussion about how much each of you are willing to spend well in advance. Vanessa also suggested that for this trip, we pool some of our money in a common fund, which one person is in charge of. This money pays for things like meals we have together, cabs, and other shared expenses. This system worked really well for us – none of us felt like we were paying more than our fair share for group expenses. It also takes away a lot of hassle of keeping track of who’s paid for what.

3. Voice your opinions, but be flexible

I think this is the most important tip of all. One of the biggest reasons why friends fall out is because someone in the group is always insisting that everyone sticks together at all times, but this is just an unrealistic way of doing things. Some people are early risers, while others like to sleep in when they’re on holiday. Some might want to see as many attractions as humanly possible in a day, while others just want to go for a five-hour spa retreat. But it’s just so much easier to have everyone go their separate ways to do what they want, then regroup later in the day. On one of the afternoons, I told the rest that I needed some time to be on my own (that was my inner introvert speaking). I shopped and watched a movie on my own and was a happy camper for having done so. Remember: just because you’re on holiday together doesn’t mean you need to be joined at the hip at every minute of the day.

Have any tips to share about surviving a holiday with your friends? Any horror stories? Please share them in comments below!

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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Health & Fitness, Wellbeing

Abs Are Overrated – Denise Li

For most people, abs are the fitness holy grail. But there is so much more you can get out of your exercise regime than a rock-hard six pack, says Denise Li.

I speak from experience: Abs are overrated.

I had abs three weeks ago, in the week of my boxing competition. More specificially, I had them for, like, three days. It was a result of training at least an hour a day 5 – 6 times a week, doing a mix of boxing and strength and conditioning training for two months straight.

But mostly, those precious lines that everyone seems to be covet that finally appeared in my mid-section were a result of very clean eating: In the month before my competition, I only allowed myself carbs once a day. But I chose them wisely. I stayed away from anything white. Refined carbs digest quickly, causing surges and drops in your blood sugar level, so you’ll feel hungrier more quickly. I cut out all known sources of sugar. Dinner was usually a salad with chicken breast, topped with a low-fat dressing. Snacks were either baked almonds or protein shakes. In the week of my competition, I didn’t have carbs at all because I had to lose a few kilos to get to my fighting weight.

After a sustained period of that punishing regime, this was the result. I took this pic on the day of my weigh-in:

Denise's Abs* *available for a limited time only

Denise’s Abs*
*available for a limited time only

Please excuse me just this once; I know I’ve written critically about fitspo, and I think if there’s one thing worse than selfies, it’s body/fitness selfies. But I took that photo (and yes, I posted on my public Instagram account too) because I knew that the abs sighting was going to be a rare occurrence: The regime I put myself through was way too punishing to sustain over the long term and I had no intention of continuing with it after the competition. Yeah I was on the road to having a proper six-pack, but I was also stressed, tired, and worst of all, I had no social life, because I hated being that person who always had to say, “Sorry, I can’t eat sugar/carbs” and turning down offers of lychee martinis.

Today, three weeks on, I have completely lost my abs. In those three weeks, I clocked just two (half-hearted) workouts. I pigged out on pizza, zhi char, gin & tonics, and beer. Alright. Technically, my abs are still there, but they are hidden under the layer of fat that I call my “happy belly”.

And you know what? I don’t miss my abs at all.

Now that I’ve fully indulged myself after two months of deprivation, I am looking forward to going back to a more moderate lifestyle. I can’t wait to go back to my almost-daily workouts. I’m only going to allow myself drinks every fortnight, and I’ll go back to eating salads every other day.

But one thing I will not do is hanker after abs. And I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t either. And you definitely shouldn’t beat yourself up or consider yourself a fitness failure just because you don’t have abs.

Now, I don’t think it’s wrong to work out because you want to look good. Ask anyone who works out: I bet vanity would be one of the reasons they do it for 99% of people out there, and anyone who says otherwise is a big fat liar. But to exercise excessively (at the expense of your social life) and to continually deprive yourself of sweet treats just so you can have a Jessica Biel-worthy mid-section is a long and lonely road that I don’t think anyone should embark on.

What I would advocate instead is developing a healthy attitude towards exercise with the following tips:

1. Aim for results on more visible parts of the body


I’m guessing that you probably don’t have a selection of cropped tops that you wear on rotation anyway, so why not work on toning up the parts of the body that are more regularly exposed to the world, like your arms, legs, and shoulders? These can be easily achieved with body-weight exercises that don’t require the use of a gym or equipment. For starters, try The Seven-Minute Workout, which you can easily do in the comfort of home. There are loads of free apps on the Apple App Store and Google Play store you can download to bring you through the routine.

2. Remember: The numbers on the weighing scale don’t necessarily mean anything


A couple of women I spoke to recently complained about how they actually put on weight and bulked up a little when they started working out intensively. I know how alarming this can be because I remember not being able to fit into my favourite party dress two months after picking up muay thai five years ago. The reason this happens is because your body builds muscle faster than it loses fat. Muscle also weighs more than fat, so when you first start working out, you might see the numbers on the scale go up first. Don’t panic, and don’t lose heart when this happens. Remember: When you build more lean muscle, your body burns more calories. Keep at your workouts; I guarantee that this “bulking up” is only temporary and you will start shedding weight by losing fat after awhile.

Nonetheless, I know how tempting it is to use numbers as a gauge of a your progress, and if you must, focus on other measurements other than your weight and BMI. Things such as body fat percentage, muscle mass, amount of visceral fat (the fat surrounding your organs), and metabolic age matter more than how much you weigh. If you are a member of a chain gym, one of the trainers there should be able to help you take these measurements using one of their specialised machines.

3. Take note of how the workouts make you feel, mentally and emotionally

If you're not smiling after a satisfying workout, you're doing it wrong.

If you’re not smiling after a satisfying workout, you’re doing it wrong.

Most people tend to only pay attention to their physical progress when they start working out. They want to be able to lose weight, lift heavier weights, etc … but don’t get caught up in the numbers game. When I exercise and (try my best to) eat clean, I find that I have a lot more energy, and I am mentally a lot sharper. I am able to concentrate for longer periods of time when I am at work, and the lack of sleep is less debilitating.

What are some of the non-vanity benefits you reap from exercise? I’d love to hear from you.

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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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] 4 Awesome Things About Being In a Long-Distance Relationship – Denise Li

LDRs are hard, but they come with their own set of redeeming factors too, says Denise Li.

Can I just say it? I am absolutely miserable right now. I just sent Alain off at the airport the night before – he was here for two weeks over the Easter break – and as usual, I was a sobbing, slobbery mess when I came home from the airport and for the most of yesterday.

Long-distance relationships are funny things. I actually cope fine most of the time when we’re apart. When I’m not working, I’m at the gym or hanging out with my friends, so it’s not like I spend most of my time at home feeling sorry about myself and my situation. But every time we’re together, it is the best feeling ever, and whenever the time comes for us to say goodbye, it feels like someone is cutting off one of my limbs.

I do try my best to be the person who sees the glass as half-full most of the time though, and despite the pain and suffering Alain and I put ourselves through, I think there are some benefits of being in a long-distance relationship that some couples living in the same timezone are not privvy to.

1. When you meet, it always feels like the initial stages of a relationship

Yeah we're kinda like this when we meet at the airport, sans the dramatic thunderstorm

Yeah we’re kinda like this when we meet at the airport, sans the dramatic thunderstorm

My heart always skips a beat when I catch the first sighting of Alain at the airport. And when we say hello, it’s pretty close to what you see in the movies – we hug, and kiss and we refuse to let go. Even just the simple act of holding hands feels magical when you’re first reunited with your love. We’ve been together for four years now, and it always feels amazing when we first meet at the airport.

2. We communicate – a lot


I was talking to a friend who’d been together with her boyfriend for eight years. She lamented to me about how she’s been seeing him only about once a week and, the last time they met up, it was with another friend for dinner, so they didn’t really get to spend quality time together. She says, and I quote, “Sometimes, I feel like a single person.” I know how this friend feels because it felt this way in my last relationship. When you live in the same place, it’s all too easy to assume that the person will “always be there”. Even if you don’t get to meet up in a certain week, you’d just think: Oh well, there’s always the next.

I think this is especially true in Singapore where it’s not very common for couples to cohabit, and not seeing each other becomes the norm, rather than the exception. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for couples having lives apart from each other. In fact, I think it’s healthier that way. But you have to admit that it’s all too easy for it come to a point where you have to ask yourself: Are we taking each other for granted?

3. We get what we give

In social psychology, there is something known as “equity theory”. In every relationship, an individual gives and receives, and that he will perceive that relationship to be equitable if he feels that he is getting as much back (rewards) as he is sacrificing (costs). The theory states that if the individual perceives the relationship to be inequitable – that the relationship it costing him more than it is rewarding him – then he will do whatever he can to close that gap. This doesn’t mean nitpicking on every single tiny aspect of the relationship; it just means that, all things considered, you feel that things somehow … balance out between the two of you.

The point I’m trying to make is this: It is so much easier to tell if your relationship is equitable if it is a long-distance one. When all your interactions are done over Skype, you can more quickly tell if your partner is investing as much into the relationship as you are. Alain and I recognise that we each have to make sacrifices in order to make it for Skype time. With the 7-hour time difference, he sometimes has to stay at home even when he has errands to run; for me, I have to cut short going out with my friends at night to make it to my computer at a decent time. Being in an LDR, you’re always aware of the fine line you’re treading; any slightest perceived imbalance has the potential to cause resentment and derail the relationship. This means you’ll put in more effort to ensure the relationship is as equitable as possible.

4. You don’t sweat the small stuff

In the face of a 7-hour time difference, and trying to work out what’s the best way for one person to make The Big Move, it gives you a sense of perspective. Suddenly, a lot of the little things don’t matter. In my last relationship, I was constantly worrying about things like: Am I more awesome than his ex? Does he secretly think I’m fat? Why does he not text me to check that I got home safe when it’s late at night?

Perhaps hindsight and maturity have something to do with it, but it’s also partly to do with my making a conscious decision not to get obsessed over things that are beyond my control. It wasn’t easy initially, and we’ve had our fair share of fights over stupid things, but I can safely that’s (mostly) all in the past. Now, we’re all about picking our battles. Sometimes, when things get a little heated, one of us will stop and ask, “Do we really want to fight about this? Really? Are we going to waste our precious Skype time arguing about something stupid?” Usually, the answer is No. We take the next few moments to resolve it without dragging it out more then we have to, then we move on.

So, most of the time, being in an LDR sucks. But it’s not all doom and gloom all the time. In my darkest and most lonely moments, I remind myself that I’m very fortunate to be in a relationship with a man who’s willing to stick it out with me in this extremely trying situation. And that’s usually all the assurance I need.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. Stay tuned for more!

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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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Gyms & Trainers, Health & Fitness

Should You Hire a Personal Trainer? – Denise Li

Personal training is a bit of investment so, should you take the plunge? 

Woman with Personal Trainer in gym

Let’s get one thing straight: having a personal trainer IS an indulgence. Sessions with personal trainers in Singapore typically range from $80 – $120. If you train twice a week with the PT, you’re looking at a tidy sum spent every month just on fitness alone. And if you decide to go with the PT at the chain gym, there’s still the monthly membership fees to contend with!

And with the proliferation of fitness bootcamps and intense group workouts offered by studios these days, you may argue, there is hardly a need to pay someone $100 an hour if you want to work up a serious sweat.

About three weeks ago, however, I decide to hire a personal trainer to help me get into fighting shape for my boxing competition on April 4. The folks at Radiance Physiofit have kindly offered me a 50% media discount off their usual rate of $1,070 for a package of 10 sessions. Though it still works out to just over $50 per session, I feel that it’s been worth every cent I paid for it, and I think I’ve been able to justify spending that kind of money for the following reasons. See if they apply to you as well.

drill1. I need a drill instructor

I love certain aspects of boxing training. I love punching bags, and working with a coach on padwork. What I don’t like: strength and conditioning exercises. I hate doing squats and lunges and kettlebell swings and squat jumps and burpees and the like. The problem is that these sorts of exercises are also important in helping to get boxers in fighting shape. And while I know this, I know I just don’t have that sort of willpower to follow through with doing them on my own. That’s where the personal trainer comes in. He will help push you through that gruelling third set when you’re fighting the serious muscle burn. He will make sure you don’t cheat by carrying a lighter weight. A good personal trainer will get you more quickly to help you get to your fitness goal than you will on your own.

2. I don’t like to plan my workouts

I see some people sign up with gyms, only to use the treadmill and cardio machines. What a waste of money. To see results, you need to change things up and have a good mix of workouts in your week. It can be cardio one day, strength and conditioning the next, and weight training on yet another. Remember: your body will quickly “get used” to any workout you do repetitively, which is the reason why fitness plateaus happen. But yes, planning your workouts is hard work, and if you don’t know enough about fitness, you won’t be able to plan a good enough programme for yourself in the long term. That’s where the PT comes in. He will take your fitness goals in mind to plan comprehensive workouts that get progressively harder the longer you work with him, as well as track your progress.

3. I need the flexibility of time

I’m currently working with three different entities to prepare for my boxing competition: (1) boxing training in a group at Impakt Gym, (2) group strength and conditioning with two other coaches (3) personal training at Radiance Physiofit. That, coupled with a recent heavy workload, means that I really need to manage my time well. Not only do I have to think about how to get my work done in time to clock 10-hour training weeks, I need to plan my training schedule such that I’m not doing two intense workouts back to back. I like that Ian Yussuf, my PT at Radiance, has been really nice in accommodating my insane schedule, though I try to give him at least 24 hours notice if I am not able to make it to train with him. I’d say that if you have a busy schedule BUT also a flexible one which allows you to squeeze in a workout as and when you can make it (rather than trying to always make it for the fixed timing of group classes), it might do you well to hire a personal trainer.

Anyway, those are my top three reasons for going with a PT. When I decided to go with one, I had very clear goals in mind: I wanted to not just get stronger and have better endurance for the fight, I also wanted to work on some of my boxing weaknesses. Ian was assigned to me because he’s Radiance’s muay thai trainer, and is pretty knowledgeable about fighting sports.

Ian looks fierce here but he's actually a super friendly guy!

Ian looks fierce here but he’s actually a super friendly guy!

That initial chat with your personal trainer is an important one as it will help him better plan your workouts. I asked Ian what the top three things he wanted to find out from his clients are, and here’s what he has to say:

1. Goals

“What are their objectives? Whether we prescribe a shorter or longer training plan depends on what they hope to get out of training. Do they want to be fit in general? Do they need help getting back their basic strength because of an injury? Are they getting into bodybuilding or require some sort of specific sports training? The more specific the client is, the more the trainer will have to work with.”

2. Your past and current workout regime

“Have they been physically active for the past six months? If not, I’d usually classify them as sedentary. The programming for such a person will, of course, be very different from someone who is relatively active. With active people, fitness levels can differ a lot as well, depending on how frequently they train. All this is essential information to help the trainer plan a training programme.”

3. Injuries

“The last thing a trainer wants is to have a client aggravate an injury. If I’m aware that a client has an existing injury, I’d usually advise him to consult a physiotherapist or go for rehabilitation first. We do what’s in the client’s best interest: sometimes we may have to advise the client to stay away from training until the after rehab or after the injury as healed up.”

Radiance Physiofit is at #01-02 AXA Tower, 8 Shenton Way. Tel: 6822 1618

Have you every worked with a personal trainer? What was the experience like? Drop me a comment to let me know!

Material World was offered a complimentary three-month membership at Radiance Physiofit, as well as a 50% discount off personal training. Material World was not paid for this review and 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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