Jonathan Tan - Rebel Bootcamp

How To Shed 2 Kgs While On Holiday

Holidays are taken for many personal reasons. Most families use it as a family time, some to visit friends and relatives in a foreign place and perhaps country. More common, holidays are taken for reasons of having a down time. Shopping, exploration, adventure, gastronomic indulgence comes in the package of being away at a foreign land.

Here is the catch. I am in the opinion that holidays, although it is a refreshing mind release from the everyday grind, can be quite strenuous onto the body. Have you never had the feeling that you’d wish you could take another day off after returning from one?

Holidays are stressful and if you manipulate it well, can aid in some weight loss. Here are a few pointer how you can do it with success.

Holiday tip 1 – The breakfast conundrum

Destination holidays come packaged with a wakeup call time in plan, and it’s usually at an unacceptable holiday like timing which is even worse than a normal working day. If a tour bus leaves at 8am, it means the FREE hotel breakfast needs to be ‘enjoyed’ and savored at 7am, which means the the wake up call will be at 6.30 or 7am. Lady folks need a 30minute minimum prep time. And then there is the issue of who uses the bathroom 1st.

Then there are the creatures of habit who turn instantaneously green in the face from a full breakfast and need to rush to the toilet after a full breakfast.

Here is the catch again. Breakfast may be free and there will be temptation to wallop everything available and still knick the odd apple and banana for later. Restrain yourself. A measure of control to consume minimal calories helps.

Holiday tip 2 – Plan an activity oriented holiday

I went to Pulau Perhentian once and even that holiday had an agenda. Swim, snorkel, dive, sunbathe, party, sleep repeat. For 3 days. That! Was tiring. Tour holidays are worse. Packed into a vehicle by nine and return to hotel in the evening. Some tours require lots of walking. Some tours are shopping centric; more walking.
The average person actually walks and is active up to 5 times more on holiday than on a daily work day. Equate that into calories consumption and it is a lot. It is no wonder that we tend to eat more on holidays.

Holiday tip 3 – Avoiding a gastronomic meltdown

There is a tendency to indulge more on holiday. After all, it’s a holiday. The food is always nicer and better in a foreign location. Its called a gastronomic adventure. At home and in our comfort zone, some measure of control can be administered to not over indulge. On holiday, that rule usually gets tossed out of the aircraft window.

I know it can be hard to control holiday over eating, but with a bit of self-control, it can be done. I personally control myself using these 3 simple rules:

  1. If it is not worth the calories, don’t eat
  2. If it does not look and taste remotely nice, skip it.
  3. If I’m almost full, stop eating.

Try it.

Holiday tip 4 – Workout

On holiday, unless you opted for a no frills budget stay, most decent hotels do have a gym and swimming pool as part of the facility. If a pair of sneaker is too much luggage to handle, I’m sure swim wear can be managed. A 30 min swim is not only relaxing it can give you an extra appetite for around 300cals.

There is even a multitude of exercises that can be done in a hotel room. Google up body weight exercises and a whole slew of results will follow, both on cardio and strength training.

Have fun on holiday!

Learning to run free and natural

Originally published in the Sun.

VIBRAM USA has reportedly been in the limelight lately as consumers are hitting the company with lawsuits for false advertising over its toe shoes.

The maker of the glove-like Vibram FiveFingers running shoes has agreed to settle a class-action suit against it that alleged the company made false and unsubstantiated claims about the health ­benefits of its footwear.

Vibram USA had jumped in to capitalise on the barefoot running boom that came about when Chris McDougall ­published a book entitled Born to Run in 2009.

I own a pair of Vibrams myself. It’s an awesome shoe that allows and mimics natural running like no other.

With a pair of Vibrams on, our feet could function in the normal manner which they were ­intended to and yet not be considered barefoot.

McDougall writes that the human foot was not designed for footwear. Modern running shoes with their elevated heel cushioning and high heels are what’s causing calve and foot muscles to weaken.

In Born to Run, McDougall tracks down members of the reclusive Tarahumara Indian tribe in the Mexican Copper Canyons.

A runner himself, ­McDougall marvels at the tribe’s ability to run ultra ­distances of over 26.2 miles or more at incredible speeds, without sustaining any of the ­injuries of most runners.

He asserts that modern cushioned running shoes, unlike the thin sandals worn by the Tarahumara ­runners, are a major cause of running ­injuries, pointing to the ­explosion of running-related injuries in modern times.

The secret of barefoot ­running is actually in the foot strike. Natural barefoot ­running stride lands on the forefoot or mid foot. The heel barely lands on the ground.

This method ensures that our foot lands gently on ground.

For most people who run heel-strike style, that would be hard to comprehend until you take off your shoes and run.

What McDougall and ­Vibram have done for the foot and running industry is truly a milestone.

Some may not realise it, but they helped change the way we look at running now, and more importantly for me, how we look at foot function.

Heel-strike shoes inhibit our ability to run naturally (forefoot strike) and alters our gait. That’s why runners are still sustaining injury with modern traditional running shoes.

However, it’s not the shoes that are the problem. It’s the training patterns and the way people run that create injuries.

Traditional running shoes with high-cushioned heels and motion-control midsoles are severely inhibiting our natural running form so bad that a high percentage of runners are getting injured.

Here is what I know is the truth about transitioning to running with forefoot/midfoot strike:

► Your feet and legs are going to be extremely sore, even after 10 minutes of running. From running heel strike since birth, forefoot running will be alien to your body. There will be a lot of pain.

► Adaptation takes time. Muscles need time to heal and adapt. Adaptation to a full forefoot strike run and, eventually, to marathon ­completions will take months to years.

► Old injuries incurred from heel strike will also take time to heal as well as new growing pains of switching to forefoot strike ­running.

► The first 10 steps of a child’s walk is done with caution and slowly. Do the same when you transition from heel strike to forefoot landing.

► Forefoot running may not be your thing. If you have been running heel strike with no problems, don’t re-invent the wheel.

Prior to running forefoot, I ­occasionally had knee pains and regular twisted ankles from runs. But I have no more knee pains since. I run free and natural these days.

Jonathan Tan is the Senior Sergeant of Rebel Boot Camp.

Outdated fitness rules

Originally published in the Sun.

To update the readers, here are some outdated rules and advices for physical training.

► Rest indefinitely in between sets

Well, yes. Do catch a breath and shake off the muscle fatigue after a set of exercises.

The guideline for intervals between rest sets is no more than 30-45 seconds in between sets or opt for circuit training.

If you sign up for an hour-long workout on your busy schedule, resting 2-5 minutes between sets and ­exercises is counterproductive.

Fitness is becoming more time-efficient with each ­passing day. We want results. And we want them in 30 ­minutes or less.

Shorter intervals and higher physical challenges ensure time efficiency.

By cutting down your rest time, you challenge your body to do more, while it’s still warmed up.

Longer intervals lead to muscle cool-down in between sets, which could cause injury or cramps.

Quick tip. Keep your smartphone in the locker. That way, your 3 minutes will fly by quickly.

► Pre and post workout snacks

Unless you are in the habit of getting gastric attacks or low blood pressure, then yes, have a 200 calorie snack.

If you’ve eaten a heavy meal a couple of hours before the workout, a pre-workout snack is unnecessary, ­especially if your workout goal is to lose weight.

Snacking up to 300 calories before a session to workout 300 calories? That’s not smart.

The rule, however, is more of a personal check. Do you feel hungry, tired, and low on energy 30 minutes before a workout?

If yes, then eat a pre-workout snack of 100-300 calories, depending on what your day’s calorie budget permits you. Post workout snacks are not for the average exerciser.

This method is originally intended for high intensified workouts as such of athletes and bodybuilders that last more than 2 hours.

A typical calorific ­expenditure of such is close to 1,000 cals. Fast replenishment of calories is thus needed to prevent muscle loss. For you and me, the smart choice is a planned post-workout meal.

► Is aerobics or walking best for long term fitness?

Hour long sessions of aerobics in the form of classes and walking are great exercise. But if your goal is for the long term exercise and optimal weight management, you need to work those muscles with weight training.

Cardio exercises are great for cardiovascular fitness, but not good enough for weight-loss or weight management.

Strength training directly affects weight management and benefits your body by boosting metabolism and training your body to burn calories more efficiently.

► Light weights for women, and heavy weights for men

Lift weights that challenge your body , increase muscle performance, joint strength and stability irrespective of gender or weight.

If you’re able to complete three sets of 15 reps each

without breaking into a sweat, you aren’t challenging yourself enough.

The only thing heavier weights will do is give you a leaner and stronger body that is better capable of maintaining a desired weight.

Weight lifting does not bulk up women as women just don’t have the levels of testosterone men do. Lifting weights build strength and power. Isn’t that what ­women have been striving for this century? Go women power? Well, start with the weights then.

► Yoga is enough for weight loss

Yoga is great for aiding breathing technique, digestive problems, fighting allergies, and body weight strength but it isn’t the most complete fitness workout. How yoga impacts your fitness goals, depends on what your fitness goals are.

If you just want ­flexibility, light strength and better lung power, then yoga’s the workout for you.

But if you aim to lose weight, get toned, and lose inches, then you’re better off with cardio and weight routines.

Then there is the lack of cardiovascular fitness in yoga sessions. One hour of yoga, even power yoga, burns ­approximately 200-350 ­calories only. This isn’t enough for a sustainable weight loss fitness routine.

► Spot target for abs, legs, shoulders, hips and thighs

Every once in a while, I’ll get a question like this, “I hate my thighs. Tell me what do I have to do?”

Only programmes that tackle overall weight loss or toning will help you deal with your problem areas.

Spot targeting exercises like hip abductions, a ­million crunches, lunges to hell and tricep extensions won’t lose the fat as how you would imagine.

What actually works when you spot target is waste time and make the area more pronouncedly bigger than what it is. It’s unproductive.

A well-rounded ­programme that includes cardio and strength training produce the best results.

The same amount of time spent on 10 extra sets could have in fact been spent on a more comprehensive ­programme that increases your metabolism and intensity.

Jonathan Tan is the Senior Sergeant of Rebel Boot Camp.

A mid-life weight crisis

Originally published in the Sun.

MOST people find that as they get older, it becomes harder to manage their weight due to their metabolism slowing down.

Diets that worked in the past have also become less ­effective.

Contrary to most weight loss advice (which seems to treat everyone the same), my take is that once you have passed the age of 40, you need to approach weight loss ­differently.

So if you’re over 40 and want to shed a few kilos, here are a few things you need to be aware of.

► Exercise is not enough

You can’t rely on exercise alone for weight loss. If you’re ­working out regularly and still not losing weight, it’s because you have to pay more ­attention to two factors – what you’re eating and how your workout is structured.

The problem with dietary control after age 40 is that you can now afford to eat better and more often while your ­metabolism rate has been decreasing over time.

Also, people in their 40s tend to be desk-bound with longer working hours and more commitments.

You now find that you can’t lose weight as quickly as you did when you were 25.

Even when you are putting in ­effort, you’ll feel ­frustrated and discouraged at the pace and difficulty of the progress.

All I can say is that your ­metabolism has failed you.

Starting at around age 20, you’re looking at a natural decrease in resting metabolic rate (RMR) of about one to 2% per decade.

This slowdown is mainly due to a decline in lean body mass – something you can stave off by adding strength training to your workouts.

If at age 25 you ran 5km five times a week to maintain your weight at 60kg; at age 45, you would need to run over 7km five times a week to maintain that weight and not diet.

This, coupled with the fact that many women become less active as they age, is why weight gain is so common among the fairer sex.

► Quick fixes don’t work

Weight loss products and treatments are a multi-billion dollar industry. Everyone wants a fast way to lose weight.

If you are gullible enough to enter into a ­programme that recommends you take sachets of powdered meal replacements five times a day with ­guaranteed results in one week, then I’d say that the programme works only if you could endure ­digesting only ­chemically-­synthesised ­powder for up to a month.

You might think that it’s a good thing that you can drop 2kg in a week. But you have to focus on making long-term changes, which is the ­cornerstone of any ­successful weight loss.

Not only can you not rely on quick fixes, but you really can’t rely on dieting any more, either.

► Reassess failures

Often, one failure is enough to put people off from trying again. People in their 40s have a long list of diet failures behind them. For some, the diet never get off the ground.

The best way to lose weight is to change your ­eating habits. For most people, even if they are given the best food plan in the world, they struggle to stick to it.

Why? Because our eating habits are ingrained, restricted by time, likes, food dislikes and food availability.

Every active gain starts with a plan. Make small ­manageable changes. Don’t completely overhaul your ­current eating habits.

Start by taking control of your food environment. ­Remove tempting food from your line of sight (on your desk at work or the kitchen).

Next, focus on being more mindful of when and what you’re eating. Share desserts, minimise portions to lower calories while still enjoying foods you love.

There are plenty of ­different areas of your eating you can change. The idea is to “nudge” your behaviour in the right direction.

But remember: the best changes are small ones that you barely notice.

► Persistence is the word

Things won’t always go your way. There will be weight plateaus and reversals. There will be bad ­eating days, busy no exercise days.

But that’s okay. Just keep focusing on your goal, keep making small changes and keep going. That’s the key to success.

While it’s possible to lose weight at any age, there’s no denying that you’ll have a smoother ride the sooner you start.

Your success is your own doing to gain better health, quality of life and overall ­wellness. So start now!

Let’s be fit!

Jonathan Tan is the Senior Sergeant of Rebel Boot Camp.

Functional shifting workout

Originally published in the Sun.

WHETHER you call it lifting weights or pumping iron, conventionally, strength ­training involved the ­muscular contraction at two joint ­movements at most.

Bicep curls, squats and ­shoulder press are ­examples of such ­movements. So are muscular contraction from the action of ­lifting, pushing or pulling.

Unfortunately, lifting ­programmes in the past were ­incomplete. And it’s because that’s just what it was – a ­lifting programme. ­

A bicep curl strengthens the biceps and a shoulder press strengthens the ­shoulder. ­Likewise, all other lifting ­exercises concentrate on micro-managing the particular muscles to be worked.

Here is a scenario. You need to pick up a box from the ground, walk 20m to the end of the office and place it on a high shelf with the aid of a chair in one ­integrated move.

In integration, all ­bodily muscles are synergistically ­functioning at work to produce that movement.

This is where a lifting programme fails functionally to address the need for strength in movement.

To individually train all these muscles at work for that movement into a ­workout, lifting programmes usually break down the workout into individual ­working ­muscles one by one.

Exercise is really just human ­movement performed at an intensity that is ­challenging, to enable adaptive changes in the body’s musculo-skeletal framework.

Most weightlifting exercises involve lifting, directly ­opposing gravity like squats, dead lifts, shoulder presses, and pull-ups.

But in life, we lift, shift body ­positions, and twist things we hold, and move to avoid ­objects and projectiles in our path. We move with the resistance of gravity and the velocity of momentum. Moving vertically against gravity is only one part of movement.

For example, in order to get a soccer ball into the back of the goal net, you’d have to move, dribble, avoid, jump and perform a whole lot of other intricate ­movements. ­

A weightlifting ­programme will not be able to train for the intricacies of the ­movement and vector changing needs of a soccer player.

Lifting programmes will always be the backbone of all strength-training ­workouts. It’s still relevant.

However, when lifting programmes are spiced with some shifting and twisting and movements, the “lifting” programme can now provide a more complete ­movement experience which is relevant to the needs of daily movement.

It now becomes a functional shifting workout.

While lifting has been long ­advocated by fitness professionals, resistance ­training with lifting is essential for fitness.

The emphasis lately has been to expand the definition of lifting to include shifting and twisting movements.

Here are some sample exercises that provide shifting or twisting along with lifting.

► Dumbell burpees

You might know what a burpee is. Burpees have recently been made popular from exercise bootcamps as a staple exercise movement.

From a standing ­position, squat to place palms just in front of the toes.

Once palms are planted on the ground, jump backwards into a plank ­position and do one push up.

Jump feet back into a crouch and instantly jump up airborne while lifting arms ­overhead as if you are reaching for the sky.

With the ­element of dumbbells on each hand, lifting would then be ­integrated with movement to make it functionally shifting.

► Sit up to plank

From a lying down position, hurl your body up to a sit-up and eventually move into a squatted position. Place palms on the ground and jump feet backwards into a plank. For added difficulty, hold dumbbells in each hand or a barbell.

► Medicine ball side lunge with halo

Stand with feet wide and hold a medicine ball or other handheld equipment such as dumbbells.

Perform a stationary side lunge and reach the medicine ball down to one foot. As you return to the upright position, lift the ­medicine ball up to the opposite side of your head and swing it around ­behind and to the other side.

As you bring the medicine ball around to the front, it will be already moving toward the ­opposite foot so you will now ­perform the same lunge and medicine ball reach to the other foot.

Remember, by deliberately including a mix of shifting and ­lifting, instead of just ­lifting with some shifting and lifting done by ­accident, you will provide a movement ­experience that is more complete.

Let’s be fit!

Jonathan Tan is the Senior Sergeant of Rebel Boot Camp.

Fit for work

Originally published in the Sun.

Staying mentally sharp in the workplace is an ongoing challenge and many will reach for ­artificial stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks to help get the brain cells firing.

However, employees can gain greater clarity by engaging both body and mind. A regular physical fitness routine, even for as little as 15 minutes each day, can create a synergistic payoff for the body and mind.

Exercising can improve productivity at work and help mitigate work-related stress. While we can’t control every aspect of our work environment – demanding bosses, difficult co-workers or unreasonable amount of work – we don’t have to let the stress take a toll on us.

Employers can dangle multiple carrots for morale, productivity and attitude but how can they boost workforce energy? By creating a wellness or fitness centre in the workplace.

This can lower healthcare costs, absenteeism and stress at work while, at the same time, increasing productivity, morale and time utilisation.

It might sound like a costly proposition, but health promotion need not be costly, and the benefits to both employers and workers ultimately outweigh the costs.

Two vital elements to the success of any corporate wellness programmes are support from management and participation from employees.

Employers need to take time to evaluate where and how productivity, cost benefits and workplace morale can improve.

For employees, not all benefits are tangible to their daily needs. Therefore, there has to be incentive for them to be a part of a wellness programme.

What can a company expect from initiating the programme?

Physical fitness has a direct effect on mood and attitude. When employees are working out, they’ll experience the benefits of decreased depression and anxiety while getting a boost of mood-lifting endorphins.

When they feel good about themselves and their lives, their attitude will be reflected in their job performance.

Plus, they’ll also help lift the mood of co-workers and make the office a more positive place, which will increase the entire team’s productivity.

Exercise also increases the energy in folks who work out. That means that instead of hitting that 3pm slump and barely being able to focus the rest of the day, workers will have enough gas in the tank to plow through the day without having to rely on caffeine or sugary snacks.

They’ll have natural energy that keeps them going strong all day long.

One way physical fitness increases productivity at work is by improving employees’ health.

Adequate exercise boosts the immunity while also fighting a number of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, depression and stroke.

If employees are fit and healthy, they will be less likely to require time away from the office for health reasons. They also make fewer errors, work harder and are mentally alert.

When an employer spends the necessary dollars to care for an employee’s health, it speaks volumes to the employee.

The message is that the boss do care about their health and is willing to invest in a programme to improve their quality of life.

This means less medical and insurance cost as well as fewer medical leave.

Allowing for flexi time to fit in exercise is one way to encourage employees to exercise. It gives staff the flexibility to manage their working hours so that it is convenient for them to include this component in their lives.

Promoting wellness in the workplace is something every company, regardless of size and budget, can do.

Let’s be fit!

Jonathan Tan is the Senior Sergeant of Rebel Boot Camp.