113K Desaru Triathlon

I am usually pretty rash when it comes to signing up for races. In the sense that I rarely give it much thought. But for this particular race, I think at the back of my head I somehow felt invincible. I had completed the Putrajaya Ironman 70.3 and although it was the most challenging event I had ever gone through, I made it to the finish line and I was so sure I can do it again. That was the gels and caffeine talking, though. Truth be told, I was signing myself up for a lot of pain I was actually not quite ready to take on again. Fast forward to Friday, 16th August. We’re in the car together, Rupert, Gary and I, along with Doc and Phuitin in the next car, making our way down to Desaru. If I could say what the second best thing about racations are (second to crossing the finish line, of course) it’s the company. Road trippin with a bunch of cool kats definitely makes things really fun and memorable.

20140815_145643Ending up in Johor Premium Outlet, “by accident”. Sure.

Saturday morning, Race Day. The tide was apparently low when we got there. the buoys have not even been put in place yet, and at this very moment, the sea looked calm. I was a little nervous, the usual race anxiety. I figured whatever doubt I had was useless at this point because it’s too late! I was already there, standing on a shore I was about to run out off and endure 7 hours of hardcore sweating subsequently. Meh. Let’s do this. A little bit before 8 am, 7.56 am on my watch, we were flagged off. Mass start, which meant that I was swimming alongside big, burly men who may or may not necessarily be very fast swimmers. I realised soon that in this race, many of them were pretty noob swimmers like myself also. Because after swimming tirelessly for 15 minutes, I was still amidst huge boulder arms and legs and getting kicked in the face and gut over and over again. Urgh. Dislike. The water also got a lot choppier out in the sea. On the plus side, I devised a new method of “crawling” through the big guys if I am stuck, that is to pull a couple of quick front crawl strokes and snake my way through them, just to get past them, before going back into my breast strokes. On the down side, I saw many cheaters! Ah, but they’re only cheating themselves. :) I submerged from the water next to Fook! :) I looked down at my watch as I was running up the beach and I saw 8.46 am. 50 minutes, for 2 km of open water swimming, I smiled in satisfaction. =)

I was dying to pee. Try as I might, I could not pee in the sea. HAHA! So I decided to be all lady like and run to the restaurant’s washroom on the way to the transition area. Then it’s straight to my bike. I was a little thrown off balance, maybe by my toilet pit stop. Legs a little wobbly, I tried to unload my bike from the stand and lost my footing, almost crashing on my bum. Then I realised I have not even put my shoes, sunnies, or anything on. Smart, Karen. Racked my bike again, quick towel off, socks on, bike shoes on, sunnies on, gloves on (yes i take time to wear socks and gloves), stuffed my potatoes and one gel into my pockets, squirt of water, and off I go! I was dreading the bike leg as it had 3 loops! I hate loops. But there’s no room for hatred. Energy better spent cranking em wheels! Riding out felt good and strong. I waited till I had ridden about 8 km before I started to eat my potato. Like I had imagined, it tasted delicious! :) It kept me happy. Going out I was going really fast and I realised it was because I had lovely tailwind to thank. Got to the u-turn, and made my way back. This was hard. Headwinds from hell made it a loooong ride back. And I got to do this 2 more times? Oh boy. At the U turn to get back on the second loop, I saw Gary snapping away and felt happy. In so many ways, this guy is my rock :) Helped pushed me on to my second loop. It was during this time I was starting to feel uneasy. My tummy was starting to feel bloated and a little upset. Hm…ride it off, I thought. Downed a gel, and tried to ride on the tailwind out, getting as much good time as possible. On the turnaround point, I was feeling pretty weak. I don’t know if it was my tummy, or the fact that I was already feeling pretty exhausted, either way I didn’t know how I was going to survive the 3rd loop. I decided to eat my last potato, hoping it would keep me going a little further. Riding in loops has one advantage though, seeing your mates, whether faster or slower than you. Encouragement is found where encouragement is given. I managed to steal a short ride in a peloton (Although it was illegal to draft, but I was so slow, it probably didn’t quite matter, I was not stealing any podiums). Onto the 3rd loop and my tummy was giving me a lot of grief. I could almost feel something coming up my throat, so I stopped by the side to see if I could throw something up. A lot of retching happened but nothing came up of it. So I hopped back on the bikeand just pummeled through. 5 km later, I started retching on the bike. Again, i hopped off and tried to get it out. Nothing. Annoyed and feeling really uneasy, I hopped back onto the bike and made up my mind to just pushed on till I see the end. I shall decide whether or not to carry on when I reach base.10476091_10202624056626221_8893712908357974058_o It was showing 90 km on my bike meter when I could see nothing but a looongg steep hill up ahead. I was so disappointed at this point. My body was shivering in pain and exhaustion right now, and yet the finish was no where in sight. Nevermind, ride back and u can complain to them! Pedaled and pedaled and pedaled, and finally at 93.8 km I was back at Lotus Desaru. I was feeling really crappy. It was Putrajaya all over again. I wanted so much to quit. Tears started to flow as I sat on the floor and put my running shoes on. But I knew quitting was the stupidest thing I could do right now. Just get back on your feet, Karen, it’ll all be over soon. (I talk to myself a lot in races). I saw some friends as I walked out of the transition area. My throat was tightening up because I was crying, so talking to them was a challenge. I don’t even know why I was crying. To be honest, I was crying not because I was sad, but because I was in pain, and it was an involuntary cry. I needed to get started again, but somehow my legs felt like concrete bricks and it was just not happening. So I think I walked for about 500 m before I decided to slowly start jogging again. Gary was next to me and he was my only source of strength at this point in time. Had he not been by my side I doubt I would have started running. Anyhow, running is my favourite leg, and if I did not try to savour it, I would’ve missed the opportunity to enjoy the best part of triathlons, that is, overtaking other runners. I am a hopeless swimmer, an ever more pathetic cyclist, but my legs are my best machine and in them, I trust. Slowly but surely, I trudged on and eventually I found my pace – the speed at which I knew that there was no stopping. To me, I said, let’s bring this home, Karen. The amusing thing about my run was meeting Jimmy, who recognised me as the girl with the devil horns in the Standard Chartered marathon 2 years ago. He had sent me a message that time to say he drew motivation from watching me run past him then, and I remember being very touched by his message. So when he came up next to me in Desaru and said “Where is your devil headgear?” I was really surprised! We chatted a good 20 minutes after that, he was entertaining me with his interesting stories. It was good! We covered good distance in that time, so thanks Jimmy!


In the 3rd and final run loop, I was numb to any pain there was. The scorching sun didnt even matter anymore. I was ready to go home. I had a peek at my watch and figured if I ran fast enough I could possibly make it under 7 hours. I tried. One last push, Karen. I tried. 10575158_10202624501597345_152859742150202516_o

I came in at 3.01pm. Which meant I took 7 hours 5 minutes. Well, considering the bike and swim routes were overdistance by 100m and 4km respectively, I managed to finish in a better time than I did in Putrajaya, I guess it is safe for me to say I have improved. =) Ah, the joy of crossing the finishing line! Nothing ever feels sweeter! :)10514418_10202624501917353_4381893341598644822_o10541424_10202624502437366_2280514190569438003_o

So I’m done with triathlons for this year. And I honestly feel super glad. I think I would really like to go back to my other fun hobbies. Like shopping or something. HA!

Categories: Because I love me, Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run! | 1 Comment

Ironman 70.3 | Putrajaya

Despite feeling antsy all day the day before, I slept like a baby from 10.30 pm till 4.30 am. I woke up feeling pretty good, calm and chilled out. As if it was just another day. I think at this time, the thought of doing a whole 70.3 Ironman has not quite sunk into me. Not even when I was carrying all my stuff that I packed the night before into the car – the bike pump, bike shoes, swimming bag, everything. Not even when I was already IN my trisuit. I felt nothing.

Got to race site, and started arranging all my stuff at the transition area. I was still so sleepy and blur that I had forgotten my race belt and number when I left the transition area. I was chit chatting with Gary and my parents. Even took potatoes from Gary (the sweetie made me race snacks!) and placed them back next to my bike. Then only had a last minute look in my bag pack before handing it in to baggage storage, and noticed my race belt sitting in there. Ran back to transition and placed it there. Phew!

It wasn’t until Gary wished me good luck, and I said “See ya later” to my parents, did I suddenly realise, “Holy Sh*t, later could be more than 7 hours from now!”. I put my swim cap on and suddenly felt a whole lot more nervous than I did in the morning. All of a sudden I wished I trained more, I wished I ate more yesterday, I wished I slept more, I wished I DID NOT SIGN UP. #sweat

But friends were there, all happy and jolly and rearing to go, so I tried to soak it all up and brace myself for what lay ahead. Little did I know, I had NO IDEA what I was in for.


The SWIM start was delayed. So what was supposed to have been a 7:41 am start became an 8:01 am start for my age group. It was a deep water start, and considering I had not traded in water in centuries, I quickly took note of the fact that a bit a practise, even trading water, could be handy. It took me a while to realise what I needed to do.

Ready, set, GO, and we were off. I caught a glimpse of my watch and it showed 8:02 am. One of the good things about starting with all the women is that less of these big burly men will come slapping me in the face and kicking me in my gut. But that being said, it didn’t take long before the guys from the next wave caught up with my tortoise speed and started jabbing into my sides without so much as a “hello”. haha…

Anyhoo, I kept swimming, swimming, swimming. This was a distance I have NEVER swum before. I repeat, NEVER. the max I have ever done is 1.5 km and that was probably once in a triathlon some years back. In training, I’d be lucky if I got 1 km in. I just dread it. But there’s one thing I am quite good at, and that’s keeping going during race day, so as not to “lose face”. Heh. It was a LOOOONGGG swim. I remember seeing the buoy and thinking to myself, “oh, that’s not too bad. I can totally do this” before realising that was the buoy to turn back to the transition, and that the second and 3rd turnaround buoy were so far away I could not see them yet. This is where I go “Happy thoughts, Karen, happy thoughts”.

Some time later, I finally make my final right turn at the 4th buoy and it was all hi-speed strokes from now on. (A least as hi-speed as my arms could manage). I swam as hard as I could and got myself, clumsily, onto the pontoon at the finish. Checked my watch and saw 8:54 am. Boy, was I pleased!!


Onto my trusted bike! Strapped on my shoes and guess what? The velcro strap on my left shoe breaks. GREAT! Haha…nvm, at least still got one strap, just strap on, eat gel, wear glasses, wear gloves, wear helmet, stuff gels and potatoes into pockets and go, go, go! With my shoe’s velcro strap flapping in the wind…

I felt good! A little winded from the swim, but good. Can pedal well. Weather was great! I drank my Gatorade and went on my way. First loop was good. I was almost at the end when I realised I was finishing it well under my 2 hour target. I knew then I was going to do my bike leg in under 4 hours. I was determined to do so.

The second loop wasn’t so forgiving though. The sun was high up in the sky and my back was starting to hurt. The soreness in my lower back was becoming more obvious and I was starting to suffer. I was chewing on my second potato and had already taken my gels at 60 km and I was on the verge of giving up. I felt a strange feeling coursing through my body – a sudden weakening of my limbs. I think this must be what Gary calls “Bonk already”. I bonked. Hard. And I had freakin’ 25 km to go.  I kept bouncing back and forth between giving up after my bike ride, or carrying on. I was so sure I had no more energy left to run. But I tried my very best to push those thoughts aside and concentrate on finishing my bike.

Slowly and painfully I finished off the clicks one by one until I finally came back to the transition area. I was still unsure about running. Until it came to me. I spent 200 freakin USD on this race so I am going home with a damn medal! And that decision was final.

Seeing Gary at the end was definitely inspiring and it made me push off on a strong run!


Running has always been my forte. Or so I thought. Running AFTER swimming 1.9km AND riding 90 km was a different story. Throw the scorching mid day sun burning at about 40 degrees C above your head to top it off and you got yourself a long, painful 21km to go. I started off okay, with my new Garmin watch showing me that I was doing an average of 5.40 to 6.00 minute pace. Right up till about 4 km. Again a wave of fatigue started to wash over me and I recognize the horrible feeling of “hitting the wall”. My feet felt like bricks. I found it difficult to even hold my body upright, I was dragging my sorry bum through the route and it felt miserable. I chugged down isotonic drinks at the next drink station and ate another gel and found temporary relief from the pain after that. It worked for about the next 4km or so but soon after that I felt sluggish again. I pep talked myself all through the way, hoping to see friends I know so I can divert my attention away from the pain.

Finishing the first loop was tough, but the second loop was a nightmare. My only motivation was getting that medal and seeing my parents and Gary at the end. My feet were in so much pain. Just. A. Little. Bit. More. was all I could chant to myself. I spotted Phuitin and tried to egg her on, motivating myself in the process. I then spotted Warren as well, and they ran with me for a while. I tried to chat up some European guys (unfortunately the slow ones aren’t the best looking ones :P). And finally I saw it. The bridge. The 20km sign. The FINISH LINE.

Oh the sweet sweet smell of VICTORY! I could not describe with mere words how I felt when I ran through the Finish. It was heavenly. I saw my parents, I saw my friends, I saw Gary. It was the best moment ever. :D

The Ironman 70.3 was an extremely humbling experience. I now know the amount of hard work needed to complete and excel in this sport. I now look up to full-blown IronMen (My brother being the God of them all) in awe and admiration. Will I attempt the full IronMan? At this moment it feels like that’s asking for too much. I don’t think I am mentally prepared for such an event. I can’t even figure out what I would like to train tomorrow, let alone for the next whole year. I will leave that race for a time when I am mentally prepared, and have got about 15 grand lying around to buy a new TT bike :P

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run! | 3 Comments

The Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2013

This year’s Standard Chartered KL Marathon signified my 11th full marahon. I had big hopes for this one, seeing that I recently managed to clock just a minute over 4 hours in the Malaysian Women’s Marathon. I had never been able to do a sub 4 hour marathon time in my home country Malaysia, but have managed to achieve it twice in New Zealand. Thus, I had a goal to do a sub 4 hour marathon in the KL Marathon this year.

But alas, luck was not really on my side as I came down with a bout of salmonella poisoning a week ago which made me sick and unable to train for a whole week. Add that to the fact that I was given the amazing opportunity to open a booth in The Heart exhibition (more on this soon) the whole weekend of the race. I was pretty drained of energy come Sunday morning 4 am at Dataran Merdeka. I knew that a sub 4 was going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

I was spot on. Cut short, I felt like the only fuel source I was running on were from the energy gels that I consumed every 10 kms. Even then, the energy I gained from each pack drained up within 7-8kms of running, leaving me to drag my feet along for the remaining 2-3 clicks before I consume another pack. I’ve never felt this exhausted before, my legs were heavy as bricks and my mind was weak as well.

Nonetheless, I was determined to finish it anything under 4 hours and a half, and so with every ounce of will power I had in the last 15 clicks or so, I pushed through and came in in 4 hours and 20 minutes. Crossing the finish line felt extremely bittersweet. :)

The Marathon has once again humbled me. The last few clicks were terribly agonizing but the satisfaction of not giving up is eternal. :) My Malaysian PB will just have to wait till next year.

Photography Credits: Mr. Chan WK

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Treading on eggshells. Very very sharp ones.

You’ve been getting into all that running. 10k DONE. Move on to 21. Train train train. 21k DONE. Move on to 30. Train train train. And then you realise something. The bottom of your foot is sore. It’s getting more sore each day. No longer can you “run it off”. It stays. And the pain is magnified especially when you take your first few steps in the morning when you get out of bed.

You probably have plantar fasciitis. This is not new to me actually. I’ve suffered from plantar fasciitis before a few years back when I was in Auckland. And as I type this right now, I have an ice pack to my right heel, after aggravating it yesterday while running. It’s back! So I thought I’d share a little bit of what I have learned about this very annoying injury.

What is your plantar fascia?
Underneath your foot, there is a sheath which covers the bones of your foot. It starts from your heel bone to your toes. This is your plantar fascia.

What is plantar fasciitis?
This is a condition whereby the plantar fascia gets inflamed due to injury or trauma. Often a change in routine can cause this:
1. Sudden increase in run mileage
2. Sudden change in running style
3. Running too much in a show that’s not broken into slowly.
However, some people are more predisposed to plantar fasciitis:
1. Flat or high arched feet.
2. Overweight or obese.
3. Tight Achilles tendon/calves.

How do we fix this?
Don’t worry you don’t necessarily need surgery. It’s just an inflammation, so lots of stretching and icing can help a lot! There are different levels of severity, though, so if the pain persists for longer than 1 year, I would suggest checking it out at your nearest Sport Clinic.

This is something I personally think is quite helpful. Take a 500ml plastic water bottle. Make sure it’s quite uniformly cylindrical. Fill it with water and then freeze it. When it is frozen, roll your foot on it with a little pressure. This is massaging your plantar fascia, and applying cold compression at the same time. Do this 2 times a day, every day and you’ll realise a vast difference! 

How do we prevent this?
Try not to increase your mileage too quickly. Do everything gradually, especially if you fall under any of the high risk categories (flat/high arched feet, overweight/obese, have very tight calves). Always break in your shoes slowly, and never ever wear anything new on race day.

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The Journey to Fit & Fab

I have had some clients who have been training with me for longer than a year. If you compare the person they are today with the person they were a year ago, the improvements are vast and amazing. But yet, their journey is not complete. There are still milestones they have yet to achieve, and things have yet succeeded in doing. If you asked me, I would say the Journey to Fit & Fab is long. Take the longest ultramarathon you can think of, multiply that by a 100. That long. In fact, I would even say that that journey, is and should be never ending, because you can always be a better, fitter, faster, stronger version of you. Always. But let’s face it, a “never-ending journey” does not sell well, and not everyone wants to invest with no end in sight. So to set some expectations right for some of you, let me lay the cards on the table for you. This is your journey.

1. Push Start.
You start thinking about adopting a healthier lifestyle. For whatever reason (health, weight loss, sports) you know that you need to start doing something about your lifestyle for you to gain some changes. This is step number one. Pressing the start button. Making a decision to get up and go.

2. Shopping.
You start asking around. Make some appointments with friends of friends. Ask about gyms, classes, bootcamps, diets, the works. You join your friends on Sunday runs. Whichever choice makes the most enticing offer, you go for it.

3. Obstacles.
The first week or so, commitment is that damned word these trainers keep throwing at you. Your body is sore, you can barely walk normally to work, every painful step yells out to you to quit. This is where you must push through. Make yourself go. Keep calm and carry on.

4. Smooth sailing.
The dog days are over. The muscles are slowly forming, your stamina is worth bringing up in conversations, the runs, or the workouts don’t get easier, but you enjoy them more. You love the feeling after each session. A month into your program, and you finally muster the courage to step on the scale, hoping to see a drop in your weight, AND……your weight stays the same. You wonder why, because friends and colleagues have been telling you, that you look slimmer. You, yourself, feel great! So why isn’t it showing any difference?

Interjection: Let me shed some light here. You are getting fitter and stronger. You’re building more lean mass. Your heart is getting stronger. But the weight will only go down if your whole metabolism changes. Metabolism = The usage of energy in your body. Changing your metabolism takes time. It requires a whole lot of physiological change to happen. I’m talking more blood capillaries, larger muscle fibers, increased mitochondria, blabla-scienticgibberish-blabla. The bottom line is, a lot of stuff have to happen and it’s not like you can buy these things from the supermarket. It takes time.

5. Fine-tuning.
About 5-6 months into your program, you are now extremely dependent on exercise. It is your must do every day or every other day. It is THE feel good factor. You like it, but not as much as you need it. It sounds negative, but it actually isn’t. You’re just habitualizing it. This is your lifestyle now. It is part of you. Every workout you do would not bring about big changes anymore, but you’re fine-tuning yourself within. You’re working on the details now. Getting that 1 second faster, lifting that 1 pound heavier, pushing that 1 push up more in a minute. To keep yourself motivated enough to keep on pushing your limits is going to be tough. But lucky for you, motivation can now come from other things. You fall sick so much less. You’re no longer panting from running around with your 5 year old. You can go up the stairs and down without breaking a sweat. You start to change your shape. Dress sizes are dropping. Many things in your wardrobe now cannot fit you.

Interjection: You can now see bigger changes. Physiologically, your resting heart rate should be significantly lower. This shows that your heart is way more efficient. Your blood pressure is at a healthy number. This shows the arteries and vessels are cleaned up. There’s now a spring in your every step. This just shows that you’re feeling pretty darn happy about yourself and what you’re able to do! And of course, you’re finally looking like the young, fit person you aimed to be. This just shows that you have made your body go through all the necessary changes to make it a lean efficient energy producing machine.

6. Destination.
You’re finally there. You’ve completed that marathon in under 4 hours. You’ve climbed Mount Kinabalu without getting air lifted down. You’ve gone for your high school alumni dinner and wowed everyone. You’re there. You feel fantastic about your achievements. You look back and realised it was hard, but definitely not impossible. You look forward. Where can you go from here?That’s your choice.


Your journey would vary from your peers. Everyone goes through a different journey, with different scenes. Even the length of your journey might vary. Many things come into play throughout this journey. Your will power being the most crucial. You decide how you want your journey to pan out :)

Categories: Because I love me, Burn burn burn!, In your head, Muscles, What's happening inside my body? | Tags: , | Leave a comment

“You’re so lucky!”

I get it. It’s tough. It’s hard work. I have it easy because I actually love exercising. I love the adrenaline rush. Fat does not run in my family.

I can go on and on and I can make you feel worse about yourself. Right?

People say I have it easy, and that I am lucky because I love working out and I generally have good genes. Yeah, I guess you can say that. And that’s all great if life is only about vanity and appearance. But life isn’t about just that. Life is about so much more!

Life is about living long and good. It’s about being able to meet your grandchildren and watch them get married and have children. It’s about being able to dance and sing and laugh over dinner together with everyone else, and being able to feed yourself and go to the toilet by yourself. It’s about watching many sun sets and many sun rises and witnessing change and progress.

Life is about fulfillment. It’s about the sense of achievement, the victory, the glory, the euphoria you get when you reached the peak. It is about knowing how hard you’ve worked and how you finally got there. It’s about the millions of times you felt like giving up but you did not. It’s about achieving that 10 km when you could barely run for 5 minutes. It’s about wearing the kind of dress you’ve always wanted to wear. It’s about success and 100% hard work done by you.

Life is about moments. It’s about rejoicing the simple things every day. It’s about how a cup coffee tastes so good, it’s about snatching a good deal on things you want to have. It’s about seeing your loved ones laughing.

To me, staying fit and healthy allows me to achieve all those things. It allows me to keep the diabetes, and heart diseases away. It allows me to travel and see many things for days on end. It allows me to go out and meet people and enjoy a pint or two. It allows me to see a future for myself.

I guess what I want to say is, exercise and work out because you want all that too, and not just to lose weight and look good. Do it for quality of life. Do it for moments to treasure. Do it because it will make you feel good. Do it because you love your body, not because you hate it. =)

Categories: Because I love me | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Why men, women, kids, seniors and everyone SHOULD run.

Recently I’ve been tagged onto different articles on Facebook which claim that steady state cardio is bad for you, and that running on the treadmill for long durations every day will mess with your metabolic hormone, T3, and that if you’re aiming for weight loss, you should do no cardio at all. It’s interesting to read the different views on exercise by other “fitness professionals”. I do agree with a couple of points here and there, but I think that they have a very skewed view on people’s exercise goals. Not everyone is in it purely for weight loss (Not everyone should) and not everyone is in it purely for vanity (Yeah, some of us actually train to be fitter, faster and stronger). But since I am an avid marathon runner myself, this is my comment and humble opinion on cardio exercise. Before I begin, let’s just be specific. Assuming the goal is Weight Loss and the cardio workout is Running. Read on…

What is steady state cardio?

Steady state cardio is a term coined to describe a cardio workout that goes on continuously at a steady state of heart rate for a long duration. For the majority, the only steady state cardio one can achieve for a bout of 30 minutes is simply walking (~40-50% of max HR). To be able to sustain a steady state of 60% of max HR and higher, one would definitely have to train for it for quite a while to build up endurance. In one of the articles, spin class was given as an example, and I would definitely have to disagree with this one. Have you ever been in a spin class? There is NO WAY you maintain a steady state heart rate throughout that hour, if you were following the instructor correctly.

How do we lose fat?

Plenty of ways. We all know that the road to a slimmer, leaner you is a combination of exercise and good nutrition. The nutrition part of it is a bit complicated. I, myself, would refer to a dietician or a nutritionist every now and then to get my information right. But the exercise part, I can help break down for you.

Cardio is short for cardiovascular (anything relating to heart and blood vessels) and cardio exercises are any workouts that works out your heart. Your heart, like your other parts of the body, is a big muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Unfortunately, it is buried deep underneath our ribs, so we can’t do dumbbell lifts with it. The only way to exercise it is to move your body fast enough so your heart starts to beat faster and you can imagine it contracting like a pump.

Resistance training encompasses any exercise using a load. It could be weights like dumbbells, barbells or machines, or it could be your own body weight (push ups, sit ups, squats). These exercises are aimed at increasing strength by working out your muscles. The more resistance training you do, the bigger the muscles your body will produce (via amino acids) to cope with the load, thus you become stronger.

Both types of exercise raises your heart rate. It all depends on intensity and repetition and duration. And as long as your heart rate is raised, and your muscles are contracting, you’re burning fat. Work yourself out hard enough, and you’ll experience Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). Cardio – do short bursts of sprints. Resistance – either increase load or increase repetition and speed.

The T3 hormone and thyroidism

Some articles claim that long term steady state cardio impairs the production of T3 hormones. These hormones, coupled with T4, are thyroid hormones, produced to regulate your body’s metabolism. Hypothyroidism is a state of too little T3+T4, whereas hyperthyroidism is a state of too much.

I have personally been through hyperthyroidism. Twice. The first time it hit me, I was 20 years old, and it came quite suddenly. I couldn’t run. I was perpetually sweating and feeling hot. I lost plenty of weight. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t run. It was quite a stressful time for me because I was not performing well in any of my races and I felt extremely flustered. Have I been running consistently before I got it? Yes. I ran almost every day, ranging from 4 to 8 kms depending on what I felt like. If steady state cardio impairs the production of T3 hormones, how did I get hyperthyroidism from running every day? I read a few articles online and asked my doctor about it, and T3+T4 hormones, as hormones do, can be triggered by many possibilities. Diet, change in lifestyle, genes, stress…anything. My grandfather has the same problem, so I think for me it was in my genes (skipped a generation though) and I was in college then so possible stress and lifestyle change played a part too.


Here’s where it gets interesting (to me, at least). Can running make you fat? I really think chances of it are unlikely. Science has every proof that running, fast or slow, does not make you fat. Whether you’re going at 50% of your max HR or at 80%, you’re burning SOMETHING, how else do you get your energy to move? Newton’s law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created nor can it be destroyed. Your body has to burn something to get energy. And sure it may be burning up some proteins (muscle mass), but only if you have no other fuel to burn! Plus that takes forever to break down so you’ll be running very slowly if your body is fuelled by only protein. To run, your body burns up a mix of carbohydrates, fat and protein. The rule is, eat a well balanced diet and your body will know what to burn.

Is running a steady state cardio exercise? Only if you want it to be. I know a girl who beats me in every run since 2 years ago and when I asked her how she trains, she told me that because of her busy schedule, she can only do interval running. She trains about 30 minutes to an hour every other day, and when she runs a full marathon, she aces it at 3 hours 45 minutes. Is she fat? Far from it.

Where heart rate is concerned, I once wore a heart rate monitor on one of my marathons. (Many runners do actually, so you can ask them). I was told by my lecturer in Auckland university that marathoners run at about 85-95% of their max. I did not believe him. It seemed impossible to be running at such intensity for so long. So I tested myself. Wanna know what my heart rate was throughout the whole marathon? No lower than 165 bpm. That’s about 84.6% of my max at that time and I sustained it for a little over 4 hours. I didn’t believe it myself, but it’s true. Train hard enough and your cardiovascular endurance will amaze you.

High heart rate = high caloric burn. May not all be fats, but a good portion of it definitely was.

So lose weight, how?

As a personal trainer, if you tell me your goal is to lose weight, then I strongly believe in a a well balanced diet and cross training. Your body is amazing at adapting and finding the optimum efficiency so doing just one type of exercise will do you no good. Do a mix of cardio and resistance training. Throw in some weights if you like, or dance or yoga every once in a while. Build your fitness and strength up gradually and keep challenging yourself.

Don’t run for 2 hours on the treadmill at a fixed speed and gradient every day. Your body will adapt to that intensity and duration very fast, and when that happens, your caloric burn will be less (Not zero). Do that for a month and then raise the bar. Increase your speed, or throw in an uphill. Then go and do some burpees or squats at the side for some added resistance training.

But for the record, weight loss should NOT be your only goal in mind. Maybe you started off with that, but when you feel the difference and see the changes in your own strength and abilities, you should shift your goals to bigger things in life. Maybe you want to hike Mount Kinabalu? Maybe you want to travel with your partner for months and do plenty of walking? Maybe you want to go bungee jumping? I have always encouraged my friends and the people I train to enjoy their workouts. Running is the easiest sport to get in to, because all you need is a pair of shoes. And with the abundance of runs organized in Malaysia throughout the year, anyone can set a goal to run a 10, 21 or full marathon at any point in time and work towards it. The feeling you get from crossing the finish line for the very first time is priceless. Not to mention, addictive ;)

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run!, What's happening inside my body? | Leave a comment

The Marathon

Running has always been my favourite game since I was a wee 13 year old. I did my first long distance run (7 km) when I was in Form 1 and found out that I had quite a knack for it. Fast forward to now, 14 years later, I have now completed ten full marathons, the 10th one just happened a few days ago. For the uninformed, let me tell you what the Marathon is all about.

Malaysia Women Marathon 2013

The Marathon is special. It is the birth of long distance running as a competitive sport, in my opinion. It is unlike all other run distances in that all other shorter distances were created as a build up to the Marathon. I think that every man who have tried their feet at endurance running, should finish up the task by completing a full marathon.

It is 42.195 km long and according to ancient Greek history, this was the full distance ran non-stop by a Greek soldier from a battlefield in the town of Marathon, back to Athens carrying the message that they won the battle. It was said that he ran all the way home and shouted “We won!” before collapsing and dying before the people of Athens.

The Marathon is a test of physical and mental spirit. Ask any full marathoner and they can tell you that from KM1 all the way to KM30, life’s peachy. It is after that that sets aside the strong minded from the weak. It is when your feet are burning with every step, your legs are in agony, your skin possibly suffering from chaffing or sun burn, and any amount of water you drink does not seem to alleviate the pain. It is when the best technologies in sporting gear can no longer help you any more, and when your legs seem to want to fail you, and all you have left is the bare spirit of your mind. Your perseverance. Your determination. Your will power. “Do I want to finish a champion of the Marathon?” You will ask yourself this countless of times and the temptation to just say no and give up is greater than you can imagine.

I have done ten in total, and no matter how many times I’ve been through it, every experience is a humbling one. Pain still feels like pain after hours of running, and victory still feels like glorious victory when you cross the finish line knowing that you never gave up.

So I implore you, man or woman, boy or girl, young or old, athletic or not, to give the Marathon a chance. It will change your perception on life. It will change your life. :)

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Raleigh Round Island Challenge – swim till you drop!

I have always said that I am very much a land animal. As long as it is on dry land, be it on my 2 trusty legs, or on some wheels, I have no qualms going very fast! But when it comes to water sports, I often feel a hundred pounds heavier, and I move so slow!

So the thought of a 24-hour swimathon is, to me, an indescribably painful day. But that’s just me.

A group of youngsters are game for it. The Raleigh Round Island Challenge will be held in Perhentian Island on May 3rd, 2013 and will encompass a 56 km swim around the island! 56 participants have risen to the challenge in the name of charity. And oh, it is, moreover, Malaysia’s 56th year of independence. =)

So support this amazing, incredible feat by donating or just being present to cheer for these brave, brave young people. :) Click on the image above to find out more! :)

Categories: Burn burn burn! | 2 Comments


Previously, I have highlighted some exercises for you to strengthen your back. Interestingly enough, though, many back issues arise from people having extremely tight back muscles. So even if you are fit and healthy, all the exercises you do need unwinding for them to relax and for your body to be at peace (I mean this quite literally because more often than not a sore muscle is caused by two antagonist muscles “at war”). So on top of the exercises you did to strengthen your back, here are some stretches you can do to save yourself some agony. =)

Cobra pose

This stretch helps stretch out the abdominals. Sometimes after a good abs workout, tight ab muscles may cause your pelvic bone (your hip bone) to tilt back. This can be seen if you tend to stand by pushing your hips forward as if to “hide your tail between your legs”.

When doing the cobra pose, ensure you hips do not leave the ground too much, best to keep them touching the floor.



Child’s pose

This stretch helps to lengthen the lower back. A lot of us do not sit with good postures, often do to poor ergonomic infrastructure. Doing this stretch helps to ease the tension in the lower back caused by sitting in a bad posture for too long.

Try to keep your arms stretched out in front of you as much as possible, your elbows should be off the mat.


Knee to chest

By pulling your knee(s) in towards your chest in a lying down position, you are stretching your glutes (butt muscles). There are many of us who have extremely tight butt muscles either from doing lots of lower body exercises without stretching, or from lots of sporting activities such as cycling, running uphill, hiking etc.

You can start with one leg at a time, pulling your knees gently towards your chest and holding it when you start to feel the stretch on your glutes. Finish up with pulling both knees inwards at the same time, and hug your knees firmly.





Piriformis stretch

Your piriformis muscle is a small muscle in the upper side of your butt. This is tight for almost everyone I know. Giving it a good stretch every now and then will loosen you up and help you avoid back pain.

When pulling your leg towards your chest, try to keep the leg that is on top of the other thigh, parallel to your chest. Pull on the thigh that is beneath this leg. Repeat with the other leg.



Lower back twist

This is a great stretch that will take all the kinks and knots out of your lower back. The effects are almost instantaneous!

Have your arms stretched out like a cross. Press down gently on the knee that is bent, and once you feel the stretch hold the position. Keep your chest and head facing upwards, so your lower back gets the maximum twist. Repeat on the other side.


These are all great stretches that can be done at home. Hold each position for about 8 seconds on each side. Your entire stretching session should be as long as you can manage, but with a good 10 minutes of stretching you’ll already feel the difference. Hope this helps!

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