Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Activation And Mobility Warm Up - Tiny Girl's Guide To Fitness

My best training days come from making an effort to have a dedicated warm up time. That includes mobility and activation work to to prepare you for your actual workout. As important as it is to progress in your fitness level and physique, I can't stress enough on how important it is to warm up your body proper before any type of physical activities. And I'm not talking your basic stretching routine. 
I'm talking mobility exercises with increased range of motion and joint mobility. This my friend is going to save you from back ache, neck ache, shoulders pain or any type of injuries. Spend 5 - 15 minutes to really activate your body; if you sweat from it, you can move mountains.
I do this tummy tuck squat (I learnt this one from a crossfit routine) after my mobility warm up to activate my body to get to werkkk!! I will post my 5 minutes mobility warm up routine soon next, so stay tuned! Happy Tuesday everyone!!! 
Do you even warm up?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Finding A Gym In Yangon City - Tiny Girl's Guide To Fitness

You'd want to find a gym that fits you and offers an environment that motivates you. So, I'm going to help those in Yangon who are new to gym, and those who are new to Yangon but want to find a good gym.

Here's one major setback with Yangon fitness clubs in general - THERE IS NO FREE TRIAL. Bummer, I know. So, those of you who are accustomed to internationally acclaimed fitness clubs in other parts of the world that give you free trials, you've been warned. This review is based on the 'daily rate' that I was charged, not membership fees or promotions. Either way, my best bet is to go for a trial run by paying a daily rate first before you can commit. 

In today's post, I'm going to break down the difference between three contenders and let you know which will give you the most bang for your buck. The results, which certainly aren't unanimous, will surprise you!

Meet today's contestants:
  1. Traders Fitness Centre - Opens 6 AM - 11 PM; located at 223 Sule Pagoda Road (within Traders Hotel)
  2. Real Fitness - Opens 7.30 AM - 9 PM; located at 20, Pearl Street, Golden Valley Ward, Bahan Township (Right across Mya Yeik Nyo)
  3. Balance Fitness Opens 6 AM - 11 PM; located at  64(G) Kyitewine Pagoda Road, 8mile. (within Hotel Avenue 64)
Traders Fitness Centre
Daily rate for non-member: US$20 | US$17(accompanied by a member)

Why is it not worth your buck?
Photo courtesy of Traders Hotel
Location - The downtown traffic jam will literally turn you off before you even get to the place.  
Staff - They don't have personal trainers or trained staff who could assist you during your workout.
Class - There are no fitness classes, which I think is a bummer for the price you pay. 
Equipment - They use older model equipments from 'Hammer Strength'. A major set back I find is the odd placement of training equipments, not to mention limited selections to begin with.

What is good about this club?
Members - You'll see a mature crowd who work around the area, and hotel guests. I find it less intimidating, and rather more relaxing.
Cleanliness - 8/10 
Space - A more compact, boutique-sized gym space. I particularly find the designated warm up area better than the other two, you'll see why later on.
Swimming pool - To make up for its lack of group activities or trainers, it has a decent size swimming pool (the other two gyms don't have a pool).


Real Fitness
Daily rate for non-member: US$20 | US$15(accompanied by a member)

Why is it not worth your buck?
Equipment - New equipments from 'Hammer Strength' but a limited selection to work with. 
Photo courtesy of Real Fitness
Space - It is a nightmare during peak hours. Did I mention, there is no space for mat works or warm up? If there's no activities going on in the aerobics studio, they let you use the room.

What is good about this club?
Location - Fantastic location if you live in the central. You can expect lesser traffic than most other places.
Classes - They have aerobics classes and TRX training classes daily.
Staff - I found the personal trainers n staff the least intimidating of all; they are very friendly and helpful if you're new. 
Members - You can get star struck by local actors/actresses who come in even for a quick shower. If you don't know who the f**k they are (like yours truly), then you're in for a good workout. 
Cleanliness - 7/10


Balance Fitness
Daily rate for non-member: Flat rate US$10 

Why is it not worth your buck?
Photo courtesy of Balance Fitness
Location - It's a bit far fetched if you live in the central area, it's located in a new hotel right across Junction 8. Traffic traffic!
Cleanliness - 6/10 
Members - Expect a younger, enthusiastic crowd (I mean 16 - 18 yr olds) who will go out of their way to hustle the equipments with/against you. They'd do anything from misplacing your towels off the squat rack in the middle of your sets; questioning if you're done, again, in the middle of your sets; you'll get what I mean.

What is good about this club?
Classes - Group fitness classes here are a must try, with a slight spacier studio than the other.
Staff - They have a group of highly motivated, and well-informed trainers and fitness class instructors.
Equipments - I like their 'Technogym' equipments, relatively new and more options to select for a better workout - cardio, free weights, machines, etc. I did not fancy the treadmills, however, as they're quite flimsy.
Space - I like their lounge area, it's almost half of the entire floor, which may come in handy if you feel like just chilling out there. The gym area is slightly spacier than the rest with a better lighting and enough mirrors to obsess over yourself.


My Verdict: I honestly did not expect to find a decent gym in Yangon, as these establishments happened in less than a year since I came back for a visit. That aside, I find all 3 gyms great, depending on my need and preference of the day. In terms of size, they're packed but you work with pretty decent equipments. 

Go for Traders Fitness Centre if:

  • You like a peaceful, less intimidating environment with great hygiene
  • You like low intensity exercises and pamper yourself silly - swimming, running, spa
  • You can pay more and located in the downtown area
Go for Real Fitness if:

  • You prefer to rub shoulders with the 'it' crowd
  • You like interval and weight training, and can squeeze into a small fitness class in between
  • You can pay slightly more than what you're used to and located in the centralised areas like Inya Road, Golden Valley, Shwe Gone Daing or Kabar Aye Pagoda Road
Go for Balance Fitness if:

  • You prefer to keep your cost to a minimum
  • You like to get fit within a highly-motivated community of trainers and gym-goers
  • You like interval and weight training and located nearer to 8-mile.
What say you? Which one are you a fan of? Where do you get your grind on?

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Weight Training For Ladies - Does It Burn Calories?

What's your goal in mind when you step into the gym or any kind of exercises? - weight loss? strength? muscle gain? I run, I lift and I also love high-intensity interval training (HIIT). But today's post will focus predominantly on weight training for ladies.

I'm a lady, and I have seen enough ladies in the gym whose exercise routines revolve around jogging on a treadmill. It's not bad, but cardiovascular exercises (running on the road or treadmill) do little to physical progress or burning calories, at least for me. I began running in 2011. I find that cardio is decent for burning calories, but it only burns calories while you're running. Studies have proven that there is limited Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption with cardiovascular exercises. 

I personally find that, apart from getting the runner's high or my knees giving way, nothing significant happens in terms of progress in my overall fitness. I'm no expert, but this point is proven in many studies and expert insights that might change your perspective towards weight training, especially if you're someone who feels intimidated by weights: "The_hierarchy_of_fat_loss". Here's one study from the article:
Kramer, Volek et al.

Overweight subjects were assigned to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 pounds) than the diet group (training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks).
The weight training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only groups respectively). Basically, the addition of aerobic training didn't result in any real world significant fat loss over dieting alone.
Thirty-six sessions of up to 50 minutes is a lot of work for one additional pound of fat loss. However, the addition of resistance training greatly accelerated fat loss results.
Alwyn said that working with a large number of muscle groups from squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, raises, push ups and pull ups in a circuit, keeping your reps within 8-12 range, will help you build muscle and burn calories long after you completed the exercises - up to 38 HOURS.

The take-away message, though, is "Nutrition". You can't out-exercise a shitty diet. You lose fat through a caloric deficit, while fuelling yourself with sufficient protein, good carbs and essential fats. You want to lose fat? Include weight training in your routine and pair it with whatever cardio/high-intensity exercises that you do. 
  • Don’t let fear stop you from training your strength. There is no such thing as toning. You don’t get bulky from lifting weights, your muscle will improve definition and reduce the layers of fat around these muscles.
  • Read widely and research on the concept of any exercise you do, until you know enough to do it well. Don’t do it because someone else does it or told you it was good for you.
I'm in Yangon for a week and was surprised by the gym at Trader's Hotel Yangon last night. I didn't think I'd find a good gym here, but there I was working on perfecting my deadlift. The error in this video - my hips rise too soon. 
Fail, but always fail better.

Have a strong week everyone! 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.” 

When life gets tough, I lift.

Top: Side lateral raises - good for shoulder width and mass. 
Bottom: Bicep curls - control your movement instead of swinging it like a monkey. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

How To Deadlift - The Tiny Girl's Guide To Fitness

There are several reasons why women should include deadlifting into their workout routine. 

We are taught to believe that we can’t get strong, and that we should only lift barbie weights in pretty pink. One of the most important reasons deadlifting is important for women is that it allows them to realise their true strength potential. 


1. Neutral spine/chest out 
2. Brace your core 
3. Dip your hip 
4. Push through your heels... and rip that shit off the ground

1. Squatting the deadlift (it is not a hip dominant movement)
2. Not pushing through the heels
3. Not using the glutes at lockout
4. Breaking the floor too fast (your hips will shoot up quickly)

♥ It will change your life

A picture says a thousand words guys! 
Read widely and research on the concept of any exercise you do, until you know enough to do it well.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Improve Training Performance: How To Use A Foam Roller

"Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape."

Are your squat and deadlift numbers flat-lined? Your weak hip flexors could be the culprit. There may be various benefits these foam rollers can bring, but let's focus on improving your training performance today. I only started weight training seriously 6 months ago. Despite recovering from my runner's knee, I train about 3-4 days a week with weights, and I try to squeeze in yoga and body combat in between when I can. 

This is what I learnt from the past 6 months in the weight room - a pair of tight, weak hip flexors can screw up your performance a lot. I noticed the weak flexors when I sprint, an unstable bottom depth when I squat and discomfort in the hip region overall. As a result, the tightness gets pulled all the way to the hamstring, affecting the lower body functionality. This means that when I'm using a barbell in the gym, I have an early breakdown in form, and an ugly rounded back in my deadlift and squat. 

What does a foam roller really do?
Muscles are surrounded by a soft tissue called fascia. The foam roller works these muscles and tendons, making them more at ease and less tight. This can improve your flexibility and joint range of movements. In my case, it does a great job on my back muscles by strengthening and mobilising my lower back, and much more:
  • Prevents injuries
  • Keep your flexibility in tact
  • Improves blood circulation - skin, muscles and tendons
  • Promotes optimal spinal range of motion
  • Prevents lower back pain
  • Relieves sore spots
How long and often should I use it for?
Research suggests that you spend about 2 - 5 minutes on each muscle group or go on until you feel the muscles are at ease. I usually spend a good 15 minutes trying to get most parts of my body, especially my problem areas like the shoulders, lower back and hamstrings. I pair it with my warm up routine before every workout. I can tell you that my mobility and strength are reaping off the benefits.

What's the technique?

I'm loving the *squats* out of these Foam Rollers!

Place your body weight on the foal roller, and start going in up and down motions along the length of the muscle you want to work on. It will hurt for the first few times, and visible red spots are often found on the skin afterward. Watch this short clip:

Type of foam rollers to buy:
Go for 'high density rollers' as you can reap of bigger benefits. A recommended size would be between 6 by 18 inch, 6 by 36 inch and 15 by 45 inch. On the other hand, if you want to target on smaller areas, smaller foam rollers will do the trick, and you can carry them around wherever you travel.

·       Elite foam rollers
·       Trigger point performance
·       Physique foam roller
·       Alpha foam rollers

I've only started lifting heavy 6 months ago. Always being referred to as tiny since smaller, I train to gain strength and I'm open to constructive criticism when I can. Two things that are optimal when I train, my form and my grind. 
Stay tuned to see more on my 'FORM' with the squat and deadlift in the next post and I'll try to keep posting regularly from now on! 
Cheers!!! xoxo

Limitations in the research
Research on these foam rollers is not extensive. Recent research by McDonald et al only included 11 subjects and all were male. There have also been conflicting research, who found no change in hamstring flexibility after 8 weeks of foam rolling, and little evidence was found on the use of rolling for specific injuries. While taking some guidance from what evidence is available, it's good to be aware of its limitations.

Friday, 28 June 2013

How To Pick The Right Shoes For Your Workout - Beginners' Guide

I am pretty sure that most of us (myself included) are guilty of this - when we get ready to jumpstart on our walking, jogging or even a gym routine, we begin to scavenge the cupboards and drawers in the house in an attempt to find an old pair of sneakers. And what is wrong with that? If the shoes can talk, they’d tell you here’s the problem - “you left me lying there a decade ago and I may no longer give you the support that your precious feet need.”
For those of you who do not know me yet, I’m a little fitness enigma who loves everything from running, BodyCombat, swimming, weights, yoga, pilates to concocting my own little DIY workout routines.
I got on this fitness journey over 2 years ago - I had my own fair share of health issues from kidney stones, binge eating, excessive drinking, risk of being overweight and as a result, I was also troubled with the emotional consequences of it (more on that story in another post). I’m not embarrassed to tell you though that I started with a slow 2 km brisk walk along the Ulu Pandan park connector and never looked back ever since.
This is also why I want to help you get on this journey with me (if you haven’t already), and get started on picking the right shoes. I had the hardest time trying to find the right fit for my wide, yet very small feet. I scoured the earth (okay I lied, I Googled) trying to find useful information on what type or brand of shoes are best fit for my training regime.
To no avail, I also received many supportive and unsupportive opinions too. Will I stop working out at one point? Am I wasting my money on a new pair of shoes? Will I chuck them aside once I get too lazy to workout anymore? Man, it was hard. It was hard mostly because I had little faith in myself. It was even harder because I wanted to know exactly what brands are known to build the best training shoes for my feet type and training routine.
So with this piece of advice for newbies from a freshie herself, allow me to glorify your bewildering sports-shoe shopping experience, with as little damage as possible.
1.      Believe in yourself
Here’s the first step to getting the motivation, believe in yourself and your abilities - trust in yourself that your health is going to be the best investment you’d ever make and that it’s a lifestyle change you will soon learn to appreciate. Don’t listen to what others have to say, unless they’re going to run in your shoes. And once you do that, start reading further.
2.      Know thy feet
I can’t help you determine the type of foot you have. I know nothing about foot anatomy. There are ways you can tell from your footprint or just looking at your foot. But I strongly advise you to not be afraid to walk into any sports specialty/concept store like Nike, Asics or New Balance and get an expert insight on the shoes that best fit your feet.
My best bet would be the New Balance concept store at Velocity @Novena Square because the guys there were very helpful in helping me figure out mine. They have a treadmill where they can watch you walk/run and evaluate your foot and tell you the type of shoes that best fit you (measurement, foot strike, type and activity). Unless you’re already an expert, I would suggest that a good sports concept store with helpful staff could help you determine a better fit for your feet.
This is only the basic of knowing your foot. Every sports shoe advertisement tells you that they are the ‘best shoes’ out there, but the truth is that everyone has different needs. Now, we know these needs will depend on our biomechanics, our weight, the surface (road vs treadmill), activities we partake in and the type of feet we have.
3.      Shoes, shoes and shoes everywhere
Unless you’re familiar with your sport for a while and you know exactly what shoes can best fit your workout, I wouldn’t suggest you buy a pair by simply trying them on for once. A common mistake that we make (especially me, I’m a sucker for this) is that we pick the shoes right off the shelf based on the color(s) or design we love. We pick B because A looks cheap. We pick C because the design looks expensive. We pick D because E doesn’t come in the colors we like.
I know because nothing motivates me more than my favorite pair of training shoes in my favorite color, yet it is not the best fit as I had a knee injury.
In the event that your local sport store expert is an ass who refuses to shed light on the shoe choices, your feet could fall into one of the few categories according to the sources:

The Normal Foot

Normal feet have a normal-sized arch and will leave a wet footprint that has a flare, but shows the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band. A normal foot lands on the outside of the heel and rolls inwards slightly to absorb shock. It’s the foot of a runner who is biomechanically efficient and therefore doesn’t need a motion control shoe.
Best shoes: Stability shoes with moderate control features. 

The Flat Foot

This has a low arch and leaves a print which looks like the whole sole of the foot. It usually indicates an overpronated foot – one that strikes on the outside of the heel and rolls inwards (pronates) excessively. Over time, this can cause many different types of overuse injuries.
Best shoes: Motion control shoes, or high stability shoes with firm midsoles and control features that reduce the degree of pronation. Stay away from highly cushioned, highly curved shoes, which lack stability features. 

The High-Arched Foot

This leaves a print showing a very narrow band or no band at all between the forefoot and the heel. A curved, highly arched foot is generally supinated or underpronated. Because it doesn’t pronate enough, it’s not usually an effective shock absorber.
Best shoes: Cushioned (or 'neutral') shoes with plenty of flexibility to encourage foot motion. Stay away from motion control or stability shoes, which reduce foot mobility

If you still have trouble finding shoes, you can always try the RW Shoes Finder, which I think works fantastic. Just click on this link Runner's World Shoe Finder.
I personally got hooked on minimalist running after my recovery from a knee injury (more on that story in another post). Well aware of the risks involved, I love to run light and strengthen my legs naturally. Very importantly, there are a few take-aways from this post.
Shoes that are too tight or too long can both equally cause blisters, bunions and bruising to your feet. Please nag your store assistant to make proper measurement of your BOTH feet before you buy one.
There is no such thing as the perfect fit for everyone. So don’t choose your shoe based on your friend’s review. Also, don’t be too bothered by the cost factor (which a lot of us are). Remember your two feet are the only things you will be walking with for the rest of your life, so be kind to them.
Don’t love your shoes too much - once they wear out usually after a year or less, please box them up good and place them in the hall of fame (aka the trash bin). You don’t have to wait till your body gives signals and you begin to feel the aches in your back, knees or heels. Someone once told me it’s advisable to use keep more than a pair of shoes for different activities so that you don’t wear out your favorite pair too quickly by wearing them for every occasion. Make sense?
I hope I have helped you in your quest to find your awesome fit. 
I will write more on training gears, workout plans, clean eating your way to health and many many more on this blog, so stay tuned and visit me again on HappyFitnessMe!!