6 Reasons Why You Should Exercise

If you’ve been struggling with motivation and reasons to get up and hit the gym or get active, you’re not alone. There are days when I just want to throw my phone against the wall (a melodramatic approach to a 530am alarm going off) and curl up under my sheets in the safety of my dark room. But about 100% of the time that I skip the gym, I regret it. And every single time I’ve pushed myself to actually go to the gym, 100% of the time, I’ve always been glad I did. If what you need is a gentle kick in the bum, then below are 6 reasons that will hopefully do just that.

  1. Exercise improves mood.

When you exercise, your body produces endorphins. Endorphins reduce the perception of pain and set off a positive feeling in your body (makes you feel good), kind of like morphine. The perfect answer to a bad day at work, a stressful time in traffic, or even a break up (which I can personally vouch for haha) is a good sweaty session either at the gym or out for a run.

2.  Exercise gives you an energy boost.

Blood carries oxygen to our brain and different parts of our body (which is why when you sleep late and have low blood pressure, you yawn due to the lack of oxygen in your brain). When you exercise, your blood circulates through your body smoothly, bringing oxygen to the parts that need it–getting your heart and your lungs to work more efficiently, which in turn gives you more energy. (Personally, I like to start my day with a good cardio workout because it puts a spring in my step)

3.  Exercise helps control weight.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. A sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for health disasters. But when you stay active and exercise regularly, your body’s metabolism gets a good nudge thereby helping you burn calories more efficiently. The starchy food we eat turns into sugar, and when we don’t move around and burn excess calories, that sugar turns into fat. Fat can never truly magically melt away through pills or gadgets. There is nothing like exercise to blast fat and keep it off. It doesn’t have to be an entire hour out of your busy day. You can start with setting aside 7 minutes of exercise every morning when you wake up. You can do a few exercises that will help get your heart rate up and jumpstart your body’s calorie-burning ability. There are some fun workout apps available that you can check out like 7 Minute Workout or 8Fit. I’ve tried both during seasons where I’m too busy to hit the gym or when I’m traveling and have no access to a full gym but need to stay active. The 8Fit app also has a meal planning feature you can sign up for.

4. Exercise can help give your sex life a boost.

Regular exercise can lead to better or more enhanced arousal for women, while men who work out regularly may lower their chances of erectile dysfunction. Besides, a physically fit body is a great turn-on because it shows that you take good care of yourself. Strength, endurance, and confidence are definitely pluses in this department.

5. Exercise can help you sleep better.

Sleep is vital to muscle recovery. Establishing a regular exercise routine is good for your circadian rhythm because it helps you sleep better and deeper. I used to be such a night owl and had to get up at the crack of dawn the next day for work. I felt sluggish and less productive. When I finally established a regular workout routine and schedule, my body eventually adjusted and my bed time effortlessly came at 9pm. These days, I very rarely sleep past 10pm because between 10pm to 2am is the deepest and most regenerative sleep that your body can have. That’s when your body detoxifies, repairs, and restores itself.

6. Exercise is a fun way to a healthier you.

Pick a workout buddy to help you get started on a good exercise regimen. You can go running together whether on a treadmill at the gym, or on a trail outdoors. There are so many options for workout buddies/groups who want to have fun while getting fit and strong: dance classes, running clubs, martial arts, hiking, aerobics, or spinning classes. Whether you choose to exercise indoors or take it outside, exercise is definitely more fun when you have someone to do it with.

What are you waiting for? Make the decision today to start working on a healthier you! Feel stronger, feel more confident, feel healthier, and feel better.

If you have any questions or would like help with a starter exercise program, feel free to comment below and provide your email so I can help craft one for you.

Meal Planning Basics

I know my posts of late sound a little redundant about the whole Meal Planning thing. Thing is, if you’re going into bodybuilding whether for fun or competition, Meal Planning is going to be the most ubiquitous thing in your vocabulary second to “gym.” It’s so essential to take note of the calories and nutrients you take in so that your body can gain and develop muscle, lose fat, and perform optimally.

meal plan.jpg
image from the Web.

Here’s an interesting article from Muscle & Fitness that I came across yesterday. I like that it’s pretty simple to understand and even helps you go about creating your own Meal Plan. Hopefully your goal isn’t to become waif-thin or crash diet because that kind of goal is really the road to health perdition. Haha.

meal prep.jpg
image from Web.

It matters a lot what you eat before and after a workout and what you indulge yourself in on days that you don’t train, or what’s called “rest day.” There’s something that the tiny OCD part of me finds exciting about  If you plan your meals well, you can progress much more quickly and efficiently with very little risk to your health. 80% of bodybuilding is really nutrition. Like they say (and I’ve quoted this before), “Abs are made in the kitchen.”

weigh scale.jpg
image from diet domination.com

At first I was thinking, “Oh wow I have to ACTUALLY weigh my food?! How tedious!” And it is–but only in the beginning. After awhile you learn to kind of eyeball the amount of chicken breast or veggies you need for what your goal is. And cooking your meals won’t seem like a major production anymore. On the upside, cooking them ahead makes it easier, because when time comes to eat, you just grab one of your little food keepers and heat it up and voila! A (slightly) tasty meal, custom made for you. Haha!

Remember to Breathe

Sounds kind of a dumb thing to say isn’t it? “Remember to breathe.” Who forgets a basic involuntary bodily function like breathing? It turns out, I do.

Lately I’ve noticed that I hold my breath every now and then and really only noticed it because my chest started to feel tight and my head got all funny and woozy. I caught myself holding my breath frequently whenever I was under certain circumstances: switching lanes on the road while driving, when I’m about to read a text message from someone who has significant impact and power over me, and when I think about the unknown near future. I’ve found that when I am in high-stress situations like when I’m in a room or in close proximity to two people who have an obvious animosity towards each other and I feel like I have to be some sort of pacifistic bridge between them, I tend to hold my breath until I’m no longer around them. When someone I don’t particularly like or feel comfortable being around (or someone I distrust) enters a room and sits next to me or near me, I find my chest tightening and I hold my  breath.

Obviously I can never really forget to breathe because my brain automatically sends signals for my lungs to take in air. But there is such a thing as proper breathing. Proper breathing helps efficiently distribute nutrients throughout our body and helps the body deal with stress. Carol Krucoff wrote an article on The Seattle Times about how proper breathing helps us deal with tension and stress:

Slow, deep breathing is a powerful anti-stress technique. When you bring air down into the lower portion of the lungs, where the oxygen exchange is most efficient, heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, muscles relax, anxiety eases and the mind calms.

I was surprised at how much I take such a mundane yet important task for granted. I tend to take shallow breaths that don’t really fill my lungs to its capacity and so I don’t load up my blood with oxygen that my brain so badly needs in order to function well. And I wonder why I feel so brain-dead on some days. Now I won’t be so quick to cure my migraine with an ibuprofen. Yogis believe that oxygen purifies the blood and is more responsible for meeting and supplying our body’s energy requirements more than the food we eat is.

image from springdaleclinic.com
image from springdaleclinic.com

According to holisticonline.com scientists have discovered that the chemical basis for energy production in the body, which is ATP (adenosine triphosphate), is highly dependent on oxygen. O2 is vital to the ATP’s production. This is why proper breathing is central to the Yoga practice. (I personally don’t do yoga, but am inclined to give it a go if only to learn and master proper breathing.)

In case you’re curious about how breathing works to help the body be at its optimal condition, Livestrong breaks it down simply for us:

Fresh oxygen is exchanged in the lungs for poisonous carbon dioxide. This function is vital to sustain life. Breathing oxygenates every cell in the body, from the vital organs to the brain. Sometimes during pain, anxiety, or during deep thought, people can begin to breathe in a more shallow manner. This allows less oxygen to be exchanged for carbon dioxide, making less oxygen available to vital tissues and organs of the body. According to healthdiscovery.com, without enough oxygen, the body becomes susceptible to health problems.

image from kevinneeld.com
image from kevinneeld.com

I’m facing a lot of challenges in the coming months and it’s causing me a lot of anxiety and sleepless nights. I can understand how being unconscious of the way I breathe can affect the kind of sleep I get (if at all) and the way I respond to situations. Lately I’ve been trying to take deep deliberate breaths right as I wake up, and I think of positive things I’m grateful for so that my mindset is bright and cheery. Maybe it’s the reason Lindsay Lohan got “breathe” tattooed on her wrist but got the tattoo a little too late because she’s clearly made a lot of bad choices that she didn’t take her time breathing deeply and pondering about. Haha.

If you want to start being more conscious and deliberate about the breaths you take, check out the Springdale Clinic‘s 3 breathing exercises to combat anxiety (and sneezing).

Here’s to more deliberate, fresh breaths of air!

It is

imPOSSIBLE.

There are days when I’m raring to get started–to hit the ground running. Get in the car, drive happily to work, do my job, clock out, then hit the gym. if you had met me 6 years ago, you would probably have called me a gym rat because I was there every day for at least 4 hours. If I’m not running and working on my core, I’m probably in the boxing ring and then doing some weight training after. I was at the peak of my health then, having just enrolled in Muay Thai along with a twice-weekly 10k run. And then I found out I was 15 weeks pregnant. Eventually I had to stop martial arts and I had to take it easy on the gym sessions because my belly was getting too heavy (I can thank my half-British baby for that–he was born a little under 8 pounds!). I was 118lbs and 5’1″ tall.  The 8 pounds was all baby! Motherhood took front and centre in my life and nothing else was as urgent or as important as my new calling. I missed the tough workout sessions, I missed my gym buddies. I missed the feeling of being exhausted beyond words but proud of myself for pushing on with a  killer workout. But then the bliss of being a breastfeeding, full-time, hands-on mama washed over me and soon enough I had stopped working out entirely.

baby bump

For three years.

Starting from scratch is daunting. I somewhat have the benefit of muscle memory (being really fit when I became pregnant was such a tremendous help because I stayed strong during my pregnancy and bounced back right away after delivering), but it’s still a lot of work. A LOT OF WORK. I’m back to my pre-baby weight but I wasn’t as strong or as toned as I used to be, so I started working out again. I realise that I’m one of those people who just feel so much better when I’m exercising (I guess anyone who exercises and produces endorphins will agree that a good workout makes an entirely huge difference in your mood!) and when I don’t work out, I start to feel ill and weak. The challenge now though is that as a full-time mommy who also works (and is a solo parent), I don’t have the 4 hours I used to have. I needed to strategise better.

Here are some key things I had to establish if I wanted to have a committed fitness regime.

  • Be determined to see this commitment through.

It’s easy to start and stop and start again, but that kind of pace doesn’t build good momentum and hardly yields results. When it comes to weight loss and muscle toning, it takes about 12 weeks of consistent working out for people to see the difference in your body. I had to write down a promise to myself that I would wake up and hit the gym no matter how lazy or yucky I felt (except of course when I’m sick! It’s not ideal to workout when you’re under the weather because you immune system is down. You’d also be risking getting other people at the gym getting sick).

  • Carve out a definite schedule for the gym.

I only have so much time in a day and being a solo parent is a 24/7 job. Any free time I get is spent with my son and somewhere in there I need to steal away some Me Time as well. I decided to devote an hour each day, three days a week in the gym. It would have to be a solid hour though, no wasting time on chatting with friends at the gym, or walking slowly on the treadmill on my smartphone checking out social media. It has to be a dedicated 60 minutes of exercise. I like to spend 15 minutes in the sauna or steam room after I work out because it helps relax me. I spend it massaging my muscles like my calves or arms and it gives me some quiet before I head into the outside world again. barbell

  • Inspire yourself.

Some women motivate themselves into working out by buying new workout clothes and shoes. That’s a little too capricious for me since my gym clothes from before the baby came all still fit, so I have to find other ways to motivate me. Music has always been such an integral part of my life (after all, I was a radio DJ for 6 and a half years) and so I created playlists containing songs that pump me up as well as songs that bring back happy and fun memories so as to make my workouts more enjoyable. I also look at photos of fit women in my computer so I can look at it on days I’m feeling slothful–it reminds me of my goal and really gives me the push I need. I also like to take some progress photos of my fitness so that I can remind myself that the slow but sure process is yielding results. I get to check how my arms and shoulders are looking, I can see if my squats are proving effective, and I can see the difference between my Before and After photos. It’s so thrilling to see yourself finally manifesting results of your workouts by way of a fitter body and a sounder mind.

b:w great arms girl

  • Inspire others.

This is a tricky one because you don’t want to come across as the douchey gym freak who makes everyone else feel less because they don’t work out in the same pace as you. By inspire I don’t just mean try to influence them to work out. When you exercise, you start to take on a much happier mood because you have a great outlet for your energies and stresses of the day. People will see the difference in your countenance and the spring in your step (or some may not) and that will just add to the great mood you’re already in any way. Eventually people will take notice of you physical appearance and when they do ask, you can share to them your passion for health and fitness–maybe even give some friendly (read:non-condescending) tips on how they, too, can get on the road to fitness.

Try befriending someone in your office or neighbourhood who maybe doesn’t have anyone to work out with and take them along with you, or accompany them to whatever their preferred activity is. It’s a wonderful way of bonding and building new friendships and relationships. Plus, working out with a buddy is always much more fun.

It is quite difficult to start a journey into fitness if you’ve never had an inclination to it before. But if you get started today and you stick to it (even when it’s just small 15-minute exercises in the morning before you hit the shower), your consistency will bring you great rewards. Give it two weeks and you’ll gain traction and hopefully you’ll find that your body is stronger and healthier, your mind is more refreshed, and you feel a lot better about yourself. Lazy days will come, but don’t let them win over you. The hardest part is getting to the gym; once you’re there, you might as well work out anyway. Nothing is impossible. You can do it, just take it one day at a time. imPOSSIBLE

What’s your fitness regime? Do you like working out? If you’ve never done it before, would you like to get started on it soon?