how about cardi..no.

Cardio.

Perhaps one of the most over rated, over done and over estimated form of physical exercise.

But it is also one of those physical exercises that contributes to the surge of endorphines.. the feel good hormones.

And as gross as this may sound, it feels good to finish a workout off glistening with sweat… it’s like tangible, damp evidence of all efforts.

Buuut on some days, cardio? How about cardiNO. 

As much as cardio is good, it can become tediously boring and can quickly lead to physical plateaus.

 running endlessly to nowhere facing a blank wall again, great.

cycling for hours on end on a stationary bike, woohoo.

Now before you get turned off from cardio exercise, let me stress the importance of cardiovascular training. 

We get so caught up training the muscles we can see, like our guns (biceps brachii), those pecs (pectoralis muscles), and the peach gains (gluteus maximus), 

that we often lose sight of the most important visceral muscle that is out of sight- our heart.

It is a small muscle with a biologically massive workload. Imagine, a small muscle the size of your fist, contracting continuously at 70 beats per minute, with an average stroke volume of 70ml of richly oxygenated blood with every beat.

If we do the math, your heart will pump around 4.9 to 5 litres of blood through your arteries every minute (cardiac output).

And this output can double, triple and even increase by 5 fold during physical exertion… or in our cases, training in the gym, playing a sport, climbing stairs.

Now with this in mind, we apply the basics of muscle strengthening.

To get a stronger muscle we need to adopt:

Training frequency- forcing your to adapt to more workload and increase in strength.

aaand, 

a lower repitition set with higher intensities (or weight)- to facilitate muscle hypertrophy (growth) and power.
If we can religiously hit the gym and train for superficial muscle growth, why not do the same with our heart muscles? 
We certainly don’t need a physically larger heart, but we do need a physically active and agile heart muscle to sustain constant, healthy pressures within our arteries (so we don’t die if you know what I mean).

And this all comes down to training it with no other than cardio exercise, which is defined as any activity that causes an increase in heart rate.

The basic principles of muscle growth- the low rep, high intensity concept can and should also be applied to cardio training.

Unless you were a real beginner (which, if you are I commend you for taking your first step to an active lifestyle, you wont regret I promise), or were convalescent, you wouldn’t hit your biceps with a small, 5 kilo weight and go at it for many many repititions would you? 

It’d be a waste of time, and your muscle fibres won’t be stimulated or physiologically stressed enough for it to grow and strengthen in response! 

So why would you hit the treadmill at a comfortable pace for hours on end, or sit at the stationary bicycle cycling leisurely until the end of your precious hour of exercise?

Its no wonder why cardio machines nowadays come with youtube options or screens to plug your episodes of Brooklyn nine one one in.

This is how cardio becomes boring, and your heart muscles dont get a good workout.

That’s it. Things must change.

Instead of engaging in low intensity, steady state (LISS) cardio all the time, it might be more beneficial to do high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Basically working your ass off with full blast, explosive energies (high intensity) for a short period of time (equivalent to low reps) and then taking a mini rest in between before repeating the cycle again.

You’ll be done in 15 minutes at most, depending on how many cycles or circuits you choose to put in.

What I absolutely love about HIIT is flexibility to custom your circuits with whatever cardio moves you like, so it doesn’t become routine.

And you know our muscles need to be tantalised with variety in training in order for progress to be made.

HIIT also keeps the fat burning mechanisms switched on for ages even after the short cardio session is finished. 

ANYHOO, 

Here’s an example of a 4 move HIIT circuit I’d throw in for 3 times a week (less if you were trying to bulk, more if your goal is to cut)

Cycle 1: 

30 second sprint + 30 second jump squats

Add weight for an extra burn in those quads! 

Cycle 2: 

30 second sprint + 30 second jump lunges

Jump lunges kill me every single time. Ensure your front knee does not go over your toes, and land with ‘soft knees’ and heel first to feel the stretch in those lower gluteus muscles.

Cycle 3: 

30 second sprint + 30 seconds single leg side squats

For example, if you were to squat to the right, you keep your left leg striaght (toe pointing forward still) and just bend at the knee towards your right, keeping that right knee behind the toe.

Feel this one in your side glutes and inner thighs. Add weight for more resistance 

Cycle 4: 30 second sprint + 30 second curtsey back lunges

For e.g a right curtsey lunge consists of your left leg lunging back wards, but instead of lunging directly backwards, you lunge with a 45 degree angle towards your right side.

You should feel this again in your right side glute. 

And there we have it!  A HIIT cardio workout. Make sure you take 20 to 30 seconds of rest between cycles, and repeat the entire 4 cycles for 3 rounds to achieve maximum sweat effects.

And if you do still like to jog, or cycle on the staationary bike (LISS cardio), then go for it! Just remember to switch it up a little with HIIT in between.

Note: please only attempt these if you are in appropriate physical cardiovascular state to do so. Consult your doctor or physician should any heart conditions exist before attempting any sort of workout.

And sorry, laziness does not apply as inappropriate cardiovascular states :)) 
Thank you for staying till the end, 

Wishing you all a safe day ahead and sending happy (and sweaty!) vibes your way.

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You are capable of so much more

T’was a sweltering hot summer- 

Actually pardon me,  autumn day I should say (global warming has probably angered Melbourne), and university studies was the usual mixture of uninformatively long, convoluted powerpoint slides, blank faces and an unnecessary 5 hour gap in between classes.

And because I like to procrastinate but have an pet peeve of wasting time, I was out of the humid lecture theatre in a flash and on the next bus to the gym (running away from studies on the treadmill really)

Today was leg day, and I can’t describe that sinking feeling when it hit me that i’d left my gloves at home. 

Hello calluses :))

Despite that, it was a good session today, and I had finally FINALLY stepped out of the squat and deadlift plateau and bumped the weight up just that little bit more to hit a new personal best.

Standing on those thick rubber mats printed with your basic “train insane” and “go hard or go home” in the gym reminded me of a sentence that a coursemate of mine commented after witnessing a girl balancing two boxes of pasta on her left arm, a bottle of coke and a smoothie on her right all while simultaneously pulling a door open with her adidas ultraboost foot- 

Human beings are much more capable than they think they are.

And he’s right, especially under stress.

Most may think stress is counterintuitive to productivity, but sometimes, I think otherwise. 

Stress doesn’t feel good, but its like a force that stretch the boundaries, testing tenacity and resilience. 

And if you are nerdy like me or are doing a medical related course, the beneficial effects of stress can already be physiologically seen in the cardiac muscle cells, the more stretching and stress exerted upon the cardiac cells when blood flows in, the stronger the force of contraction.

learn from the cardiac cells.

The body and mind are amazing things that function in harmony together to adapt to this testing, and to thus react with more strength, agility and flexibility.

I certainly didn’t come to this gym expecting to push my weight today, but all I knew was how stressed out I already was mentally, and it felt good to just translate that into physical stress and kinetic energy. 

Physics and biology aside, 

You are so much more capable than you can imagine, be it lifting weights, at your job, at your school. Perhaps its a public speaking presentation, or an operation, an interview or an exam.

Don’t be afraid to test your limits, channel your negative fears into a challenge for yourself. Sure there may be failure, we are after all only a biological blob of cells- however we are a blob of very highly physiologically and physically organised, adaptive and spiritually sound cells. We are made with a God like image, and our bodies are amazing, functional things, capable of achieving great lengths.

…and don’t forget to recoil after you’re done with testing your tenacity. Take a break, reward yourself, or pick yourself up after you fall and try again.

You are capable of doing so.

Good morning Singapore

It was just shy of 8:30am. I awoke to see Singapore- suburban Singapore, in the light. 

I’m currently living with my paternal grandmother and she stays in a high rise apartment that overlooks a tame, placid river, where the morning breeze is cool and the rising sun is warm.

I stuck my face out of the window, absorbing some residue sunlight slanting in from the gaps of the foliage.

Okay I was tempted- I had to go for a walk. Slipping into a pair of shorts and a shirt, I stepped swiftly out of the door, not wanting to disrupt the moment of stillness.

Inevitably, the humidity enveloped me in its heavy, moist embrace. The air was rapidly warming- starkly different to what one would usually be used to in the dry, cool climate in Melbourne.

The river  was accompanied with a broad, concrete path, which was laced with a plethora of greenery, plants and iconic tropical fauna.


There were sounds, but it wasn’t noisy. Bird songs echoed; a bold crescendo of cawing and chirping, and cicadas squeaked mindlessly in the background. 

The winding path was full of activity- from health concious joggers drenched glossy with sweat to young children and the elderly leisurely strolling. 

As I sat on a stone bench contemplating my desicion of walking under the sun in this humidity, I heard the low purr of an electric bicycle, leaving a light breeze in its tracks as it whizzed past.

The river was a blend between emerald and blue, a sleek, reflective surface, gleaming with sun rays. Subtle movements of widlife beneath bracketed the water with small, fading ripples.

It was a genuine scene of serenity and simplicity, most quiet (and sweaty!) I’ve had in a while. 

Good morning Singapore. 

Minds to the (leg) Muscles

Inhale, aaaaaannd exhale.

Now that all that crazy Christmas rush and that fluffy few days of transition in between to the new year (don’t lie, i’m sure we were all equally as phased and a little lost as to what to do on December the 27th right?) is over, I’m real glad to finally be able to wake up, not having to meet any deadlines or pressing to be at work, or anywhere really.

…Aaannd, because it is Tuesday, the first leg workout of the year is complete! (being real honest here, my entire lower half aches sourly and probably detests me right about now)

Not entirely sure how the professional bloggers and vloggers do it, but here is a try at documenting what I get up to on booty day, starting with a sweaty Sabrina, a shitty little Samsung S4 camera and trying to avoid weird glances from that guy on the adjacent squat rack as I stand on boxes to try and take photos.

So this workout comprises of 2 super-sets, 2 tri-sets and 2 single powerlifting moves.
YES it sounds like a whole heap, but before you leave me, please hear me out!
I generally only work legs once a week, and I like to keep repetitions low and weight relatively heavy, especially on the powerlifts.

For beginners, I’d recommend this workout with very light weight, or even substituting it with free weights.

WARMUP
I like to do 5 minutes on the stair climb machine, especially for leg day. Focus on stepping up, driving from your heels and squeeezing the deep inner muscles of the glute. Step 2 steps at a time if you can.

After that, I like to do fire hydrants, 10 on each leg.
Get onto your hands and knees, hold your core in, and rotate your leg from the hip,bringing it in towards you and then extending it out onto the side in one smooth motion.

By now your hip flexors, joint and boooty should be nice and warm, ready to get downn and dirtyy.

POWERLIFT 1
I like to start with squats. Weighted barbell squats.
Take it in your stride, working with a weight that is appropriate for your fitness levels. (please please PLEASE do not go too heavy without proper form. If you’re a beginner, start with no weights or a very light free weight.)

Do 4 sets of 8-20 reps, starting with a warm-up weight. For me, I like to start with 40 kilos, keeping the core tight, feet firmly planted slightly shy of shoulder width apart.

One GOLDEN rule: Ass to the grass.

And of course, all that usual, knees behind the toes, driving up from the heel as you come up, contracting your gluteus muscles (butt cheeks!) to stabilise your hips. You should feel it in those smaller, deeper booty muscles that we activated before on the stair climber machine as well.

I like to increase my weight as the sets go on to eventually hit 60 kilos on the last set.
If you find the weight is too heavy and it compromises your form, drop the weight gurl, and reset your stance.

SUPERSET 1
Barbell good Mornings (x 8 reps)
+
Barbell calve raises (till failure)
Do this for 3 sets

After squats, we go straight into superset 1 after 1-2 mins’ rest. Remember not to get distracted and rest too long, take advantage while your legs are still warm and perked up.

I like to do a set of 8 barbell good-mornings paired with calf raises till failure. You know, just cause it’s easy with the barbell already, and I’m lazy.

If you haven’t done a good morning before, its basically holding a weight over your shoulders, standing with your knees straight (not fully locked) and bending over until your body makes a 90 degree angle with your legs, and then activating those hammies and butt (hamstrings and gluteus maximus) muscles to raise your torso back up.
Imagine you are wearing a corsette, keeping your core sucked in VERY tightly, and your back kept dead straight without rounding.

Beginners, I’d recommend not holding any weights to start, and just practice getting your form correct. Bend over, and connect your mind to the hamstrings and glutes as you come up. Feel the stretch. Feel the burn girl.

Now without resting, go straight into weighted calf raises. Raise your heels off the ground, squeezing your calves tightly to stabilise yourself.

POWERLIFT 2
Deadlifts. 4 sets normal + 1 sumo set.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
This is what I like 70 kilograms to look like.

Don’t round your back, keep your chest up and bend your knees, making sure they do not go over your toes.

Grip the bar with your two hands, one with a over head grip and the other with an underhand. As you come up, tighten EVERYTHING from the waist down, including your abs, and thrust your hips forward ever SO slightly.

Today, I was able to hit 10 reps on 70 kilos, and 3 reps on 75. It wasn’t a walk in the park at all, mentally or physically, but keeping your mind focussed on the muscles and the strength you will be gaining makes that one last, painful rep worth it.

SUPERSET 2
Single-leg step ups (8 reps on each leg)
+
Side bar squats (8 on each forward leg, total of 16 squats)
Do this for 2 sets

These exercises are on the smith machine, and I absolutely love this variation. Take this as a active ‘rest’ set from the heavy weights, and go at a lighter weight. Its a smith machine, which can be quite restrictive, so go lighter, and do not compromise your form.

Place the bar over your shoulders, and a box or a bench in front of you. Step onto it with one leg (knees behind the toes please!), and fully extend your leg, driving again from your heels and feelin’ the burn in your butt cheek (don’t be alarmed, you might be some distance away from the floor). As you come down, you may use your other leg to assist you in the next rep if your muscles are fatigued, but go hard or go home, right?

Hahaha, just kidding. Listen to your quads and your booty- if you can go without assisting, go for it!

Now side bar squats.. Turn towards one side, place the bar (a shoulder pad is a MUST) onto one shoulder, and squaaaat.

If you turn to your left, the bar will be on your right shoulder, and you’ll be working your right leg. Because the weight here is not heavy, really focus on squatting LOW towards the ground (as low as those apple bottom jeans).

A  side smith machine squat with the shoulder pad in place, left leg in front
so baby just squat lower with one side turned to the mirror check your form before you go, with the bar right on your shoulder.

TRISET 1
Leg press (10 reps)
+
Side step ups (8 reps on each leg)
+
Box glute bridges (10 reps)
Do this for 3 sets

Two feet placed on the leg press machine before the set
Moments before the leg press killed me (Disclaimer: this is NOT how you place your legs on a leg press machine. This is just me procrastinating the set by taking a photo)

A side step up onto a box.. its like a normal step up but onto one side. Place one leg onto the box, with your toes pointed slightly outwards (sumo position), and step up. Feel the contraction at the top of your booty. Add a weight if you like.

Next is a glute bridge, but placing your feet up on the same box that you side stepped off. Add a resistance band across your thighs if you need some extra weeerk (these ones from rogue fitness at the gym are ace), but it works equally as fine without. Slightly.. JUST SLIGHTLY skim the surface of your glute on the mat (don’t go all the way down, i’m watching you), and come back up.

TRISET 2
Quadriceps extensions (on the machine for 8 reps)
+
Hamstring curls (on the machine for 8 reps)
+
Butt lifts (optional, 10 on each leg)
Do this for 3 sets

Machine work should be explanatory, try to hold each rep for a little before releasing. Isometric holds are the best. enough said.

Unilateral butt lifts start with a fire hydrant position, and, raising one leg and keeping the sole of your foot towards the ceiling, pulse for 10 times (use the weight on the hamstring curl machine for extra resistance)

AND GURL, YOU ARE DONE.

A large dog lazily sleeping on the ground
Our gym mascot in the middle of his usual afternoon snooze.

The gym owner brought our mascot in today, and if you’re wondering how I looked like after this leg workout, well it’s something similar to him right about now.

HE’S SHO FLUFFY IM GONNA DIEEE

and here’s a post workout lunch, which is pretty much everything tossed together in a bowl with tuna and toast over a bed of mixed mesclun and spinach leaves (I was holding the bowl to the window for natural lighting okay? 😛 ).

Tuna salad with avocado, roma tomatoes, beans and lentil mix.
Post workout feeds- my go to is always a salad, because it allows you the freedom to eat whatever, whenever. My salad filler will ALWAYS be a four bean mix or a lentil mix- packed with protein, dietary fibre and essential vitamins for health.

Hitting 75 kilos on deadlifts and 80 leg press today was far more than I had thought i’d be able to lift today. I’d been at a leg plateu for a while now, but finally I have been able to lift just that little bit more. It’s all about what you set out to achieve, connecting that mind to the muscle, and of course, squeeezing that booty tight! You’d be surprised at what your body can really achieve once you change that mindset and tell yourself that you can do it.

For me, lifting at the gym isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s about strength and control over your own body. Rather than to focus on how the body looks, I’d like to focus training this year on achieving strength that can be used outside of the gym, especially for work and everyday life. Heck, the gym trains me not only physically, but also strengthens my resilience, persistence and patience.

Once again, thanking the Lord up there for protecting me through weightlifting and preventing injuries (I like to say a little prayer before beginning!).

Thank you for sticking with this post thus far, and I hope you have a great day ahead.