Listen to thy body: #workoutchallenges

Since the Circuit Breaker started, those privileged enough to work from home have been trying out different ways to stay active. Some jog to get some fresh air, some go for live workouts on Zoom, and then some turn to YouTube.

My best friends and I started meeting online for various challenges by YouTube fitness instructors and wew, it’s been more than a month.

We started off with Chloe Ting’s 2 week Shred Challenge and it was pure cardio. Like gurrrrrrl, we ded. It was intense heart-pumping, cursing-under-your-breath good though.

My friends and I hopped on and rode the bandwagon groaning.

‘What is that??!’

Wah sh*t.’

‘他妈的, oh my god.’

If a cuss jar was in play, we’d be set for all our gatherings after this pandemic is over.

Apart from the 2 weeks programme, Chloe has quite a few others, varying in target areas and duration. With the world in lockdown, many people have been doing workout challenges, as I’m sure you have seen on social media.

It’s like Instagram has access to my google searches. *Narrows eyes*

2 weeks later, we wanted to keep up our active streak.

So we switched to Emi Wong’s 1 month programme. Even though it’s not as intense as Chloe’s, it still gets us going. If you only have 20 minutes per day, this would be perfect! Her workouts are a gentle slide into the world of cardio and Pilates.

All in all, their workouts tend to focus on HIIT (high intensity interval training) formats for fat burning; 30-45 seconds of exercise and 10-20 seconds break.

For added oomph, wherein you’re also looking to build strength and endurance (i.e. me too!), Cassey Ho from Blogilates has some pretty sweat-worthy workouts. She has a beginner’s programme if you’re new to pilates! Otherwise, she has a couple of 7-day challenges that just came out this month (see video below). Monthly calendars are available too, but they last for about an hour per day. But if you have time and you’re up for the challenge, *double thumbs up*!

Her workout formats are longer (45-90 seconds with 15-20 seconds of break in-between). The longer time allows for more torture me to focus on my form, making sure everything is aligned and that correct muscles are used. I’ve gotten neck aches from ab workouts and wew, the migraines that follow are intense.

After a month of daily workouts, I have definitely noticed changes in my body and there’s good and bad. I can do an oil rigger (hehe!), last through the timer for some exercises and of course, I’m seeing and feeling lines of definition.

But most of all, I’ve noticed how my body (wrongly) uses its muscles. Especially for certain exercises since pre-pandemic times. When people say to engage your core while doing butt lifts, they mean it. These wrong uses can be corrected by – very often – in the tiiiiiiiiniest of details: pulling in your tailbone just a hair while in a plank, rolling your shoulder blades down when working your back, etc.

Yoga with Adriene focuses on finding what feels good, so give her videos a whirl if you are wondering about things like, ‘why does only one butt cheek hurt during butt lifts’ or ‘why does my abs only hurt on one side’ and perhaps, ‘is my lower back supposed to hurt during a plank?’ Or maybe even, ‘my wrists hurt.’ Her teaching style encourages you to explore during poses, to literally find what feels good by paying attention to the details mentioned earlier.

For those who have just started out, she has a beginner’s series too! But in any case, there are videos like these that could make you feel better on gloomy days. The movements are simple, but she helps to guide you through it, as if its yoga and meditation all in one.

It’s through her videos years ago, that I realised my hips aren’t straight(?) and most recently, that one shoulder droops a little. Which explains a heck lot of the pain I’ve experienced over time. That said, yoga has helped/is helping with that and I would naturally sit up straighter because it has become more comfortable than it is to slouch. Of course, all this will take time and constant practice.

No pain, no patience, no gain.


On the flip side to all these fitness adventures, the droopy shoulder has been feeling wonky. Sometimes, I would wake up with an ache radiating up my neck and head a day after an ab workout (why but i used my abs thooo). The next natural thing to do is to stretch it out, right?

So I did.

And my neck cracked as if I was halfway through a Thai massage. Because bone is a great sound conductor (read: bone conductor headphones), that crack literally rattled my skull…and my soul.

‘This might probably be the way I go,’ I remember thinking after one particularly loud, albeit satisfying crack. The good news is that the pain disappears right after that soooo…yikes. Talk about necessary evil. If I leave the pain on its own, a full-blown migraine would creep in over the next few hours.

That said, reading my body has also become something of a new lesson: If in (sharp) pain, there’s no gain. And by ‘pain’, I mean pain that is not supposed to be there. Totally different from post-workout soreness. If my shoulder acts up, I’d drop abs for the day. If my knees are aching, I’d take it easy on the lunges. If I feel hungrier than usual, I’d go back for a second helping of rice. The last one is not related to pain, I know, but mum’s Assam curry fish ain’t gonna eat itself.

While having chiseled abs would be a really awesome side-gain, I just want to get stronger and one day, safely do an actual pull-up.

And splits. That’d be cool.

The idea is to be better than how you were yesterday. Good luck on your fitness journey!

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