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Saturday October 26, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday October 26, 2013 MYT 9:55:01 AM
by tee hun ching
Move your butt: Why settle for ‘skinny fat’, if you can be ‘skinny fit’? -AFP
I may be thin, but I’m unfit. As my sense of mortality grows, I’ve hit the gym to get in shape.
I DON’T exercise. Not at all. The last time I did anything that could pass off for a workout (a slow 25-minute jog) was at least a year ago. It was a one-off, an impulse as rare as a solar eclipse.
In this age of healthy living and fitness fanaticism, when even my parents do yoga poses and stretching exercises daily on their own, I’m an embarrassing aberration.
I’ve read stories where people were shocked into shaping up after they couldn’t, say, fit into the largest available wedding dress, get past their own door or recognise themselves in holiday snaps.
But I’ve never had problems with my weight. In fact, at 46kg, I’m considered underweight and my body mass index falls below the normal range.
So while I’m thankful that thin genes run in my family, I know they are a curse too. I’ve never felt compelled to work out simply because I seem fine outwardly. I’m fashionably thin but hopelessly unfit – I’m winded after just five flights of stairs, but I can stuff my face without putting on weight.
“Oh, you can afford it,” people usually say when I decline second helpings of cake, fried chicken and other artery-clogging treats.
So I cruise along on complacency, even after someone in the family suffered a heart attack three years ago. It turns out high cholesterol runs in our genes too. And since about 60% of one’s cholesterol level is said to be determined by genetic factors, I have a higher risk of developing heart problems. I also have to work harder than others to keep the related ailments at bay.
Yet even the health scare failed to galvanise me into action. I clung on stubbornly to my sedentary lifestyle, thinking: “I will exercise one day. Just not today.”
I was never the sporty type, but I wasn’t such lazybones either. I played table tennis for my school (not the most arduous sport, I know, but still); I climbed Mount Ophir with the Outdoor Activities Club after weeks of physical conditioning (hardly Mount Everest, but still); and, up till my late-20s, I happily took two buses each way just to swim 30 laps at my club at least twice a week (I did the less taxing breaststroke, but still).
Before our first kid arrived six years ago, my husband and I would cycle and swim at least once a week. Since then, however, I have been plagued by chronic inertia, unable and unwilling to get a physical routine going. Too busy. Too tired. Too far. Too hard. The excuses are endless.
Then two Fridays ago, my friend Ping sent me a Whatsapp message: “Hi, you keen to take up yoga, pilates, Zumba?”
It turned out she had just signed up for a three-year membership in a gym near my place and was looking for a workout buddy. You can save a pretty penny under an ongoing promotion, she said.
“It works out to only $80 a month,” she concluded. “You can go for any of the classes and for as often as you like. We can attend together.”
Well, I definitely need to get off my butt, was my non-committal reply. I’ve been saying that for the last six years without moving a muscle. Somehow, just spouting the line makes me feel less guilty and more virtuous, as if I’m confessing to a sin and might finally be ready to do the right thing.
Ding. Ding. She then snapped pictures of the class schedules for October – everything from Beginner Dance to Extreme Ride – and sent them across.
Her enthusiasm was infectious, as usual. But I am a hardened procrastinator. Let me think about it and run it by my husband, I told her. “Let me think about it” is a favourite stalling tactic of mine that usually ends up requiring no follow-up.
I had under-estimated the go-getting Ping though. Before I knew it, she had arranged for me to meet the membership consultant who had signed her up the next day. After a chat and a quick tour of the facilities, I duly paid for the same package as Ping’s. I had no excuses: The cost seemed reasonable and the gym was but a few minutes’ drive from my place.
Then I went one (giant) step further and signed up for 36 personal training sessions as well.
“Wow,” came Ping’s Whatsapp response. “Thought you just wanted to learn pilates?”
It’s to get me started and ensure that I get the most out of my workout time, I told her. I wouldn’t know what to do on my own otherwise as a gym novice.
I also wanted to tell her about the dismal results from a computer body analysis they had me undergo, except I was still reeling from the shock.
Based on the print-out, my muscle mass is a woeful 16.9kg, well below the normal range of 20.9 to 25.5kg, and my body fat percentage is a whopping 29.85%. Going by an accompanying chart on the wall, anything above 30% is considered obese for females.
In short, I’m a walking time bomb beneath my deceivingly slim build, or what doctors call a “skinny fat” person. There’s a medical term that describes people like me: metabolically obese, normal weight.
So five days after Ping’s message, I found myself at the gym, ready for change.
With two years to go before I hit 40, I’ve been experiencing a growing sense of mortality. I have this gnawing desire to feel as lithe and agile as I did many moons ago, and I know I’m running out of time. If not now, then when?
Being struck by a pre-40 health wake-up call is not uncommon. A recent survey of 2,000 Britons aged 25 and over found that three-quarters of them make serious lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthier diet and exercising more, at age 39, when many start to feel old.
At our first session recently, my personal trainer put me through a workout that combined a series of cardio exercises with strength training.
As expected, I was wheezy, creaky and felt like a leaden lump as I moved from station to station in a half-daze. At the end of our hour-long session, I embarrassed myself by nearly passing out.
The trainer had me lie on a mat, with my feet propped up on an exercise ball, then passed me an isotonic drink. Revived, I rediscovered the joy of a post-workout buzz – every aching muscle and bead of sweat was proof that my weak, jiggly body was slowly being whipped into shape.
I felt so good I promptly went shopping and spent $200 on proper workout attire.
Thanks, Ping, for finally lighting a fire under my flabby bottom. Let’s hope I can keep the flame alive. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network
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skinny, fat, gym, fitness, exercise
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