tag:sialingxin.com,2013:/posts Sia Ling Xin 2018-12-11T05:33:41Z tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1352344 2018-12-11T05:33:41Z 2018-12-11T05:33:41Z Transitioning to a meatless kitchen as a couple- tips on what we've learned!

Two months ago, P and I decided to include more veggies in our diets. I never liked the taste of veggies and could not stomach raw greens. The only way for me to consume veggies was to cook them into a mush. For years I harboured a secret envy for people who could crunch down on raw carrot sticks! P enjoyed salads but many of his meals were utilitarian (think chicken breast, brown rice and broccoli). But a documentary here and a delicious vegetarian meal there led to the decision to eat more greens and lo and behold, we've gone from one serving of greens every other day to at least five servings a day every single day for the past month!

We wanted to eat more plants for a multitude of reasons, with the ultimate aim of being happier. Whatever your motivations are, here's what we've learned.

Tips on how to get so much more greens in

1. Commit to one serving per meal, consistently

If like us, most of your meals comprised of meat and carbs, start with just having one serving of greens per meal. Initially, P and I made sure to add a serving of greens to our dinners and boy did we applaud ourselves each time we shovelled that down. We started off with sauteed spinach which took literally 3 mins to cook and was palatable for both of us. After a week or two, we realised how much better we felt with the greens and how sluggish or heavy we felt when we went without. Voila, you have a habit of eating greens now!

2. Make veggies the focus of your meals

Eatings greens can get old fast if you're only thinking salads. Instead of an afterthought, create a delicious dinner that's based around veggies, just once or twice a week. You will start to realise you don't need lots of meat or carbs like rice, bread or noodles to feel satisfied. We started off with Vietnamese spring rolls (cabbage, carrots, beansprouts, spring onions, tofu with a little bit of egg and chicken). I cooked everything into a slush and it probably wasn't the most nutritious but the important thing is we enjoyed them and had them again and again, getting used to the feeling of being filled and satisfied by veggies. 

3. Try new tastes

My month trying out Yogshakti's training programme and vegetarian lunches was a game changer. Chickpea and sweet potato fritters, cabbage salads, dhal, stews... Suddenly I was trying out all these new flavours I never knew existed and would have crinkled my nose at if not for the fact this was the only food available. And then I was dubious - could veggies taste this good without added sugars and other hidden nasty flavourings? I grilled the chef incessantly on the ingredients. 

One day it clicked: just like how fruits now taste so sweet to me naturally, veggies have lots of wonderful flavours too. It just takes the taste buds time to acclimatise and the month of vegetarian lunches taught me to appreciate the natural goodness and flavours of veggies raw and cooked. For me, knowing how delicious vegetarian food could taste also helped when I was trying to recreate recipes myself. Which brings me to...

4. Spices, flavours and seasonings

Many veggie recipes call for a long list of spice and herbs and you may be tempted to skip just this or that. The beauty of veggie dishes, however, are the subtleties of flavours and textures. A stew could go from so-so to out of this world with the addition of a single passionfruit or half a teaspoon of paprika (true story in both cases). You don't need to go all out and spend a bomb on twenty different spices at once, but having a pantry stocked with some basics will allow you to get creative and go from there. Basics for me that I've gone back to time and again the last couple of months: lemon, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, peanuts, sesame. 

5. Yes, you can learn to eat -insert whatever veggie you hate-

Things I detested: cucumbers, peppers, celery. Even the smell of those foods made me wanna throw up. I read that if you eat something enough times, you may learn to tolerate it, and so P bravely set about hiding those foods in salads for weeks. Now, after a couple of months, I am happily crunching down raw carrot bits while chopping them up and can munch on cucumbers and peppers and taste the flavours for what they are, without aversion. Cutting up foods really thinly or spiralizing them is a HUGE help, I cannot recommend a spiralizer enough! You don't need to go straight into the foods you dislike, but I had a huge aversion to common veggies so I wanted to get that sorted a couple of months into this lifestyle.

6. Surround yourself with positivity

While this may sound like a bit of a crock, this tip was essential was for me. I was fortunate to meet some long time vegetarians who did not impose their lifestyle on me or lecture me on the virtues of a plant based diet. That would have very quickly became a debate. Instead, they simply lived that way and only shared more information and tips when asked. They were also very realistic about common issues such as cooking for more than yourself, bloating or deficiencies. If you don't know any vegetarians, I've found Youtube to be a great help.

7. Don't label yourself

Just because you're eating more plants now, does not mean you need to become a vegetarian or vegan. P and I decided not to cook meat (chicken, beef and pork) at home anymore, but we still eat these meats when we are out. We decided on this together and only after we enjoyed weeks of tasty, realistic (preparation time and nutrition wise) meals. There is also no issue if I decide to have fish in my dinner tonight and P decides to have an entirely plant-based meal. Don't impose any rules on the other person or make them feel like they've failed. Food is very personal and P and I have vastly different preferences taste wise and goals nutrition wise. We have made many mistakes but each time learn more on how to make things work. Enjoying time at the dinner table is more important than eating 'perfect' food. Plus, people are gonna want to know if you're going to label yourself as a vegetarian or vegan and there is bound to be outside judgement, so let's not judge ourselves.  Are we flexitarian, pescatarian, what are we? P and I had dozens of conversations about this topic. The words of Pollan sums our (his) eating philosophy up: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. 


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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1330437 2018-10-09T03:38:36Z 2018-10-09T03:38:36Z Flying crow: the journey of arm balances and trust

I struggled with crow pose for years.

When I first started my yoga journey with a haphazard smattering of classes, I had no expectations of myself coming into the pose. I was aware that I had little strength in my arms and core. 

In 2016, I started circuit training: pushups on knees, wonky commandos, planks. In 2017, I was convinced that I needed to work on my core and triceps. In early 2018 I became obsessed with building strength in my biceps, and then shoulders. Teachers looked at my planks and chaturangas and expected me to be able to lift. But why was it so impossible? Every time I tried to bring my feet off the ground, I felt like I was pitching forward and my wrists were a second away from snapping.

I became terrified of crow. 

Often perceived as the 'easiest' arm balance, crow does not get a lot of air time, unlike more advanced arm balances like EPK. Few yoga teachers dedicate time to breaking down the pose even in basic classes. Generic cues like "squeeze your elbows in, chaturanga arms", "keep leaning forward" or props such as squatting on blocks seemed to work for everyone else but me. 

And then in one of my classes, where we were working on tripod headstand and one legged crow, my teacher Erica said: Squeeze, lift, lean forward and hope for the best. You have to be willing fall in order to fly. Arm balances can be incredibly humbling. 

I realised it was my unwillingness to fall, my fear of smashing my face into the ground, my refusal to try and be humble over and over again meant I was at a stalemate. No amount of strength work was going to help me at this stage. This is why I loved yoga - there is no escaping. Something is missing if you do not get the sum when you've seemingly mastered all the parts. 

A few weeks later, another teacher Aishyn was teaching crow in her 7am basics class. For the first time, I spoke up and asked for help instead of avoiding it. Alignment corrections, modifications, props. Plaintive whining: "I don't want to break my nose in the ground." 5 minutes later, I was tentatively lifting both feet, barely an inch off the ground - but there it was that lightness. 

Did I get crow instantly after that first time? No. I practised at home with blocks a few minutes each day, my partner cheering me on endlessly, always ending the session with a 'successful' attempt where I felt that lightness. Over the next few weeks, I requested crow time and again in her classes. With her encouragement and progression cues, I started feeling confident in my crow and the attempts that saw me trembling or falling to the side simply became flukes in my head. In my last week of classes with her, I amazed myself by demonstrating a passable crow to the class. Such pride, when she said: A few weeks ago she was still struggling to fly. 

Sometimes we need someone we trust to believe in us. Watching us, looking over us, giving us their full attention and energy. If they think we can, then perhaps we actually can. And if we fall, they're there to catch us. And then we believe in ourselves. And then the times we fail become flukes, and so we don't even hesitate to try again. And that's how we succeed. 

Last week I lifted into 8-angle watching a video breakdown, and this morning I found a second of hang time in EPK, which felt so head-scratchingly impossible just a couple of months ago.

Aishyn: Many people call crow an easy arm balance. But it is not. It is just the basis of the other arm balances. 

I believe the basics are the hardest. 

It is tempting to think my journey into arm balances started just last month with crow. But it really started years ago, from every plank, every bicep curl, every time I feared and fell, every teacher whose words touched me in some way, every teacher whose cues I felt were completely useless and is now starting to make sense, everything is coming together. Practise and all is coming. 

Crow cues that worked for me:

1. Keep wrists parallel to ground. Place blocks behind wrists and keep your wrists touching them lightly to keep this alignment. You do not need to lean forward so much that your wrists are at a strange angle! In fact, I was afraid to lean forward because my wrists already felt like they were gonna break. 
2. You barely need to bend your elbows, even one inch will do. Your elbows do not need to be 90 degrees! Your face does not need to go close to the ground! Sometimes you need to take a step back and recenter. I had a huge fear of falling flat on my face ironically because I was already leaning forward so much - my elbows were bent so much that my face was only inches away from the ground. 
3. Have your knees on the outside of your triceps squeezing in if that works better than knees on triceps or into armpits. Whatever makes you feel safer. 
4. Work to get the feeling of lightness - you don't need perfect alignment, fly a little first and work on deepening the pose later. 

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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1309837 2018-08-07T03:57:32Z 2018-10-09T01:52:29Z Five habits that make my every day life better
1. 4:30am start
This is a relatively new habit; I am only on week 4 of this. I used to crawl out of bed at 8.30 or even 9am after having hit snooze a dozen times. After coming back from Portugal, my partner and I took advantage of jet lag and finally implemented this routine of waking up at what I like to think is a pretty hardcore 4:30am.

Benefits: so.much.time. And with that, the sense of being in control of your day. I get my workout done and have cleared my inbox by the time people start trickling into the office. I've always struggled with falling asleep and that too got better with this routine.

2. A glass of water every morning
I down a glass of water within minutes of waking up. At the beginning, forcing down water first thing in the morning was an exercise in endurance. I started off with a big mouthful, then half a glass and by about two weeks moved to a full glass. Now, I sometimes drink a good 500ml and it feels like my morning hasn't started right until I've hydrated myself. This habit is especially important for those with a caffeine habit.

Benefits: all the benefits of being well hydrated. For me, in the morning, this translates to less sluggishness, a clearer throat and more radiant skin, especially if I've had a rough night. 

3. Daily inspiration
You must find your reason for the daily grind and remind yourself of it every day. For me, having role models help so much. Some of the people I look up to: Kayla Itsines, Valentina Lequeux, Hannah GypsyOn. I admire their dedication to fitness and their relationships, their attitudes toward food and happiness. And of course, my partner, who inspires me through action every day. Imagine a man who gives all at work for the majority of his day, then heads home and cooks his own dinner and at 10pm, after all of that, goes under the squat bar. There is no excuse to choose the lazy way out when you witness that. 

Benefits: Let the strength, discipline and actions of others uplift you, so you don't feel so alone or even crazy in your journey, so you don't forget the reason you started something

4. Daily training toward your goal
Every day, I strive to do something that contributes to my ultimate goal: the freedom to a long and fulfilling life with my partner. To me, this means a balance of being strong, agile and fit. Over the years, I've played around with bodybuilding (strength), yoga (flexibility and balance) and circuit training (cardiovascular endurance). Recovery is equally important and I try to get 1-2 rest days in a week, whether that's a yin yoga session or taking a nap. Your goals may be different, but the same theory applies.

Benefits: Better mood, higher energy level, being able to lift heavy grocery bags, walk loads on vacations and still feel like you're having an easy day, clothes fit better, appetite is great, you can do so much more, you are unconstrained by the excuse of passage of time. You appreciate sitting on the couch or taking a nap so infinitely much more.

5. A work uniform
Men get by with wearing a white shirt and dark pants every day. Many successful people wear an iteration of the same outfit to work. Over a year ago, I purchased four identical black knee length dresses, but only implemented the practice 5 months ago. My work uniform looks more corporate than my workplace demands, and I definitely received a fair share of blighted comments, which I do not mind, because for me, the office for me is simply not a place for fashion forays. Since I've started this, I've never been under dressed for any client meeting and I love how this frees up my mind for things that matter more to me. 

Benefits: saves you precious time every single morning, never have to worry about looking out of place for any professional situation, now when I decide to dress up, I enjoy it so much more

I am not a disciplined organised person by nature. But I find that prioritising is the key to owning your life, and these habits have helped me greatly in my journey toward that.

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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1275883 2018-04-23T03:45:35Z 2018-04-23T03:45:35Z The fresh, simple, enduring foods of Portugal

Here's what Portuguese cuisine is not: Instagrammable, fancy, molecular, trendy, plated with care, artistic, modern.

Here's what Portuguese cuisine is: simple, fresh, well-salted, traditional, tasty, grows on you, and most importantly of all, prepared with pride. Portugal feeds you foods that have endured thousands of years. Forget all the drama about label reading - go into a Portugese restaurant and the food on your plate came straight from the earth or the seas.

With each trip to Portugal, my partner and I return to his old haunts and try out new places (that are new to us, but really, have been around for ages). I am incredibly lucky to have tasted Portugal through a local, for the most famous food, bacalhau or salted cod fish, is an acquired taste. If that was the first and only thing I'd tried I would cringe, but if you know what to eat, the food creeps up on you. Today I find myself craving Portugese cuisine and a good hearty dish of bacalhau a bras.

Where and what to eat:

Portugalia 

Many outlets but head to the original one. Don't expect fancy service - there's usually a futebol game on the TVs there. 
Order:
Salada de Polvo - chopped octopus in olive oil and herbs, soak up the olive oil that's infused with the taste of fresh herbs with bread after 
Croquette -croquettes can be found at every corner and they're all tasty, but here they serve the best croquettes ever, warm and lightly crispy and soft inside
Ameijoas - light and salty, again use your bread to mop up the juices
Recheio da Sapateira -crab meat minced and served in a special sauce served in a half shell - don't expect the usual texture of crab meat but god this is tasty
Bacalhau a bras -very comfy, homey food. Salted cod mixed with potatoes and egg, the salted cod flavor is more muted and I find this a better dish for first-time bacalhau-eaters
Bacalhau - grilled salted cod! I recommend you share this with a friend if it's the first time you're eating this. Eat with boiled batatas- yum!
Any of their bife or frango steaks in their signature sauce and wobbly egg
Portugalia makes amazing fragrant rice - not the prettiest but so comforting especially for asians like me!

Senhor Peixe

"Mr Fish" this restaurant is just minutes away from the Oriente station and SANA hotel.
Old-man waiters, under-stated decor, catch of the day laid out across ice - so fresh
Order:
Salada de Polvo - if you haven't tried it at Portugalia or loved it and want more
Ameijoas - the clams here are cooked in a really buttery sauce. They are tasty but heavier, depending on their preferences
Green beans - they don't look the tastiest, limp beans boiled until soft, but they're so comforting and go perfectly with salted mains!
Boiled batatas - potatoes boiled and served with olive oil - somehow the way the Portuguese boil their batatas retain a sweetness 
Tiger prawns - grilled with salt only - my personal fave and what I order almost every time there
Squids - grilled with salt only
Fish - ask for recommendations if you're a fish lover! - grilled with salt
(Essentially, any of their fresh catches grilled with salt over charcoal)

Faraleiro

About an hour's drive from Lisbon city, in Cascais
This place is slightly fancier - but still expect old-man waiters
I would order all the same things as at Senhor Peixe and then take a walk around the coast. This place has fantastic views.

I don't think I've ever had a bad meal in Portugal. Once I had salmon that was slightly off and the owner was SO apologetic he did not want to charge for the entire meal! Salmon is not commonly eaten there, and so common in all other parts of the world, so I would go for something else. For breakfast, you need to try a 'papo seco' (pronounced pop-sic) which is a special airy bread with ham and cheese. Pasteis de nata needs no introduction and it is worth it making a day trip to Belem for the most famous one of all. Portuguese food is so simple and so fresh. I am crazy about the sardine paste restaurants serve as starters (slather them onto your bread!). Arroz de polvo is a hearty rice and octopus stew. Perfect for winter time. Caldo Verde - veggie soup that is easy on the tummy.

Portugese cuisine is not exotic or pretty. If you're looking to brag about the food you've eaten Portugal isn't the place. But if you're looking to experience the heart of Portugal, the humble, dependable, fresh, enduring fare is the perfect reflection of the country and its people.


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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1268832 2018-04-04T14:21:18Z 2018-10-09T01:52:48Z Understanding Hemingway

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” - Hemingway

I never enjoyed Hemingway, never even gave him a chance, but somehow I know it's time to revisit his works.

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My time at the newspapers trained me to write straight to the point. KISS. Keep it short and sweet. It was a skillset I learned.

But still, in the dark of the night, on my own, my mind favoured convoluted sentences. In conversations, with others, my words were a maze, bewildering to the one who was really trying to listen.

I've since realised that someone hides behind words when they don’t know who they are, when they don’t know what they truly want to say, when they cannot even admit all of this to themselves.

Today, I think a clear thought and I write it down. One word after the other. Each word owns the space it takes. 

Write what you know, they say. 

I no longer believe a writer has to experience everything to write about it well. 

Now, I know all a writer needs to do is find their voice. 

When you know what you have to say, everything you write is what you know.

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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1266829 2018-03-30T06:30:14Z 2018-03-30T06:31:03Z The courage to find and release old trigger points

Recently I saw a physio for lower back pain. I was hoping her release work meant I would be free from pain the very next day. I was happy for her to go as hard as needed, and told her I would deal with the pain of the moment and the ensuing soreness on the same night, please just fix me asap.

She told me it would take a week for my muscles to relax and only if I did some exercises on my own.

I left disappointed, my lower back as stiff as before the session. I was despondent over the days as the pain persisted. Still I continued the prescribed exercised and within a week, as she predicted, the pain was gone.

I am still doing the exercises that target the immediate issue and source cause.

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When we develop a trigger point, the surrounding connective tissue is affected.

Developing a single trigger point and not getting rid of it fast accelerates the formation of the second and third and so on. And then you find your entire leg is a series of trigger points and the pain has spread to your back and hips. 

As anyone who had the courage to go on a foam roller knows, this process is one of pain and maybe you're only motivated to do what's needed for now. You just need to manage the most pressing symptoms of pain. You roll and stretch and the immediate area is released. You can breathe again.

But if the original trigger point still exists, this whole process of tightening up will start again. The secondary knots will return sooner than you think or manifest in other ways.

Because the biggest knots won't dissolve on their own. They will impede you from achieving perfect form. Years of habits, patterns and beliefs have led to their formation and you need consistent, targeted corrective treatment to undo them.

Recovery is a two-step process. First you must stop whatever unwanted pattern, then you must undo the damage it had already caused. For example, if you want to lose weight, first you need to stop consuming new extra calories, then you need to burn off the pre-existing extra calories. You cannot simply say I've stopped over-eating and expect the extra weight to disappear.

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As individuals, we all have a history of emotional trigger points. 

Pain will continue to turn up until we strip away every single thing inside your body that doesn't have a place. 

So get on that foam roller, release what you can today and every day. Undo the debt. Clear the yard. This is your body, your life. 


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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1265251 2018-03-27T08:13:56Z 2018-03-27T08:17:59Z Delicious green smoothie great for cleansing and recovery

I am not a fan of veggies and LOVE blending (not juicing) my greens!

This is a recipe my partner and I came up with after perusing other green smoothie recipes and testing them out. If you've been downing green smoothies for a while, try this one to up your game.

How it stands out: As folks who are almost addicted to the endorphins of working out and are dangerously close to over training, we find this smoothie helps us recover better. It also cleanses our insides, so don't have this in the morning before a big meeting!

Why this works for busy folks: The only fresh ingredients are the green leaves and fruit. I have the rest of the items stored in the pantry, so making a smoothie doesn't become a huge deal.

Prep time - 5 minutes

Ingredients:
1. Greens of choice, one handful (I use kale)
2. Greens powder, 1/3 to 1 teaspoon (depending on how comfortable you are with the taste)
3. Tumeric, fresh or powdered (I use powder, about 4 shakes)
4. 1-2 pieces of black pepper corn (to activate the tumeric)
5. 1 teaspoon seed of choice (I grind flaxseeds and sometimes include chia seeds)
6. Banana and/or pineapple (about half cup, chopped)
7. Ice cubes (3-4, or as many as your blender can take)
8. Water (sparingly, I used around 50ml or 1/5 of a cup)
9. Honey to taste if needed (use sparingly)

Blend all the ingredients up and there you go! It may look dangerously green (because of the greens powder) but it really tastes pretty good.

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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1264358 2018-03-26T01:12:54Z 2018-03-26T01:12:55Z Falling in love with content marketing

When I left the journalism field for a content role, the word content unnerved me.

I identified as a reporter. I wrote articles, reported on events and filed stories. Then, 'story' was regarded as old-fashioned and 'content' was in.

What is content? It seemed like an abstract concept or buzzword that marketeers came up with. Argh. Was I a sellout?

Almost five years into the industry, the word 'storytelling' has made a comeback. Now, the title 'storyteller' (these days, it can be anyone who creates content, be it videos, articles, photography) is everywhere.

On the other side, I've fallen in love with creating interesting and valuable content for people just like you or myself, courtesy of brands.

I like that content marketing benefits the audience/consumer/you/me. 

As with any kind of advertising, consumers need to be discerning. But the brand/content creator cannot simply fluff and bluff. To be successful, one has to offer information the audience finds relevant, helpful and entertaining.

In a world of countless options, people want to be loyal to a brand whose principles resonates with them.

Companies that have an ethos should use content to put the word out there. Your target audience/tribe/cult/following/people are waiting to be rallied.

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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1264314 2018-03-23T02:38:23Z 2018-03-23T02:55:42Z The human search for balance, not perfection

Before I started working out, I never thought much about my body, except what I perceived to be my flaws and the inevitable sense of doom that as I got older this body was going to sag and falter. 

In the past year, I started marveling at the human body. I got to know the body I owned much better. I started to know her quirks and weaknesses and strengths, how my lifestyle or past lifestyle contributed, and how it is unique from any other body, how the same kind of training or movement would affect, for example, my partner's body and mine differently.

I learned that for every strength there is an opposing weakness and vice versa, and how life is a journey of gaining balance.

Common imbalances of the human body

Biceps versus Triceps
As most yogis would tell you, yoga works the triceps (chaturanga anyone?) more than the biceps. As a result of that, my triceps are much stronger than my biceps. For the first year of my training I only did some half-hearted bicep curls here and there but in 2018 my goal is to get my biceps to catch up. In general, my back is also stronger than my chest, which means busting out the dreaded reps of push-ups.

Glutes versus Quads
I'm quad-dominant, which is a nice way of saying glute-retarded. For the first 3 months of my training, I barely worked my glutes and didn't even realise it until I experienced knee pain and went to see a physiotherapist. Many people have trouble activating their glutes because the muscles are weak from sitting all day. I spent 6 months super conscientiously doing glute activation exercises and now they have no issue firing up. However, because I'd spent so many years being quad-dominant and walking with an anterior pelvic tilt, I am still doing stretches and exercises to achieve balance for this.

Left versus right
My left leg is both more flexible and stronger than the right. During compound moves such as squats I can feel the left supporting most of the load. During isolation exercises I can feel the left firing up more easily. What I do is to constantly think mind-body connection and try to get the right leg to do more work. I have also started working on doing single legged exercises to encourage the right leg to catch up.

Big versus small muscles
The big muscles of my core are well-defined, but the smaller muscles need to work too. I am working on activating certain deeper core muscles to ensure the big muscles only need to do their work well without overcompensating for the stabilisers- because only the stabilisers can do their job well. I am very core-motivated because I want to be in as great shape as possible for a future pregnancy. 

What happens when you're asymmetrical?

Everyone's bodies are slightly asymmetrical. This is completely normal and could be due to genetics or lifestyle factors. The problem is when the imbalance leads to pain, doubt or compromise. 

Sometimes my hips feel out of place because the dominant quads are pulling on my hip flexors, and this affects my gait. There is a visual imbalance between my legs which will only worsen if I don't work on fixing it. Ignoring my weak core stabilisers means the tightness I experience in my lower back may eventually reduce my ability to do a stiff-legged deadlift.

Facing your weaknesses and making them known

I believe seeking balance is the goal of our lives. We all have strengths and weaknesses; often opposing sides of the same coin. You probably already know your strengths. Now look for the hidden weakness and show that weakness to someone, whether it's your physiotherapist, coach, your manager at work or most importantly, your life partner. Who knows, they may have once had that weakness too, which means they can share how they overcame it. Your weakness may also be a strength of theirs, which means they can afford you help.

I've found that the more forthcoming I am with what I am lacking in and my desire to work on it, the more people want to and can help me. You don't need to be perfect or stellar at everything you do, but you never want your weaknesses to impact your strengths.

Find someone you trust and let them in on your search for balance. When progress comes you will find you have someone to celebrate with. 

"Happiness is only real when shared."

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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1263777 2018-03-22T07:35:00Z 2018-03-23T01:07:50Z How to stick to your workouts those first months

For close to ten years of my life, ever since I graduated from junior college at 18, I led a sedentary lifestyle.

In all those years, I had gone for a handful of yoga classes and maybe 5 runs. My only saving grace was I enjoyed walking and would often opt for a 15 minute stroll in the evenings instead of a public transport commute.

In July 2016, I decided to integrate exercise into my life again. My partner had picked up working out again for close to a year and I was motivated by that. I got onto a stationery bike in the gym, cycled at levels 3-5 for 12 minutes, staggered off and almost threw up after that. It took a good 15 minutes before the nausea went away. 

The first few months of working out were no doubt the most difficult. I'd never identified as a fitness/active person and even till today I am amazed how big a part of my life training is. How did I make it through the initial months? Here are some of the things I did that kept me going:

1. Find a good workout mentor
 He/she should be encouraging, knowledgeable and will lead you by example, by being consistent with his/her own workouts. You want a mentor who will tell you how it is ("You have to push yourself if you want to see results!" "The first few workouts are the worst, they're going to get better!"), offer you helpful tips ("Do these stretches if you're starting to feel tight." "Good form is the most important thing." ) and uplifts you ("See your progress? You were gasping the last time you did this!"). 

My partner is my workout buddy and without a doubt he is the biggest reason for my success on this journey.

You can ask a friend who workouts regularly to help you or even find a workout buddy online/in forums. In my experience, having someone who already has workout experience helps, so it's not the blind leading the blind. That said, a committed new-to-workout buddy will make a huge difference too.

2. Make working out simple and accessible
The first month I started working out, I did 'basic' things such as running and climbing stairs. I only had intermittent access to a gym and the rest of the time, I found activities I could do without any equipment. My workouts never took more than 30 minutes and I didn't need to go out of my way for them. I did a lot of reading online, learned about the TABATA method (A four-minute workout! I did sprints.) and followed body weight circuits from Kayla Itsines (28 minutes only) and FitnessBlender (anything from 10 to 90 minutes). You don't need to join a gym or completely rework your schedule to get some activity in.

3. Keep an inspiration board
Every morning before I got out of bed, I would scroll through Pinterest for a few minutes before gearing myself up for the workout of the day. I pinned images of girls who looked fit, who had abs, who were in gravity-defying yoga poses. I wanted to look like that, be like that and do those things. That was a huge source of motivation for me. I also pinned lots of motivational quotes that I would look at over and over and over again. 

4. Plan your workouts in advance
I worked backwards - deciding on the outcome I wanted and breaking down the steps necessary to get there. 

For example, I wanted to do a minimum of three workouts a week every week, planned them (for eg, one cardio, 2 times body weight circuits) and made sure I hit my goal by the end of the week. You need to plan and make time for your workouts, or the bed or a dinner out or a TV show will always call more loudly than your sweat sesh. The more you stick to your commitments, the more impossible the idea of letting yourself down will become. 

I also found that a 'lazy' goal like 'one run a week' or 'a yoga class a week' made little sense to me. It wasn't enough of a lifestyle/mental change. It also felt to me like a way to give yourself an 'out', to say you are being active, when you know the human body should be doing more.

5. Set a time frame 
Results don't come instantly. Just as one day of being inactive or eating poorly didn't put your body in its current state, you won't see results after just one or two workouts. I recommend aiming for 12 weeks of consistency.

The first month you will probably feel achy and out of breath most of the time, but by the second month, your body will have adapted considerably. I could barely do a lunge when I first started, but after 2-3 months, I could bust out 20 walking lunges with just some sweat. Tell yourself that no matter what, you're going to stick with this commitment for three months. 

By the time I'd completed 12 weeks of workout, whether I'd built my perfect body didn't matter, I was just so proud of what I'd managed to do I wanted to do more of it.

6. Never miss a workout
If you've committed to X number of workouts, always follow through. Sometimes life gets in the way, you may fall sick or have to work late. But each time you miss a workout, it gets easier to let another one go. One way to keep going is to make sure you complete the missed workout later in the week as soon as you can, so you know you can't get away from it. What matters is you plan and commit to yourself BEFORE you start, and not make easy decisions along the way. 

7. Reward yourself when you hit your goals
The first weeks I started exercising, I wore whatever I already had. That amounted to 2 sports bras, cheap tights and a pair of 5-year-old sports shoes that were falling apart from disuse. I would browse the athlete sections of shops (I started with the budget friendly CottonOn) and only allow myself to buy an outfit every month as a reward.  

I never used food as a reward, because I wanted the effects of working out visually and mentally and adding food to that just seemed like it would complicate things. 

I had never ever thought of myself as someone who was disciplined or into fitness. Now, 1.5 years in, I cannot imagine a life where fitness isn't a huge part of it. All these tips will help you stick to a routine, but ultimately you need to want it bad enough to do the work. Working out is hard, but the rewards you will get are massive.

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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1263726 2018-03-21T01:45:08Z 2018-03-21T05:41:09Z When you're sick of chicken breast: Healthy Thai-inspired minced chicken recipe

Since my partner and I embarked on our fitness lifestyle a couple of years ago, chicken breast has been the holdfast of our kitchen. It's one of (if not the) best sources of lean protein around and a staple for bodybuilders and athletes and 'fitnessy folks' alike for that reason. 

Chicken breast was my favourite cut of meat as a child. But in the past years, we consumed it so often, I would dread mealtime if I knew chicken breast or fillet was waiting. (I was still good with thigh and wings ha ha.)

Last week I decided to whip up a Thai-inspired chicken dish for us and I'm happy to say that for one glorious meal, we were unfazed by the fact that we were eating chicken breast.

Cooking and prep time: 10-20 minutes

Ingredients (feeds a hungry couple post workout, or 3 regular people? Gauge according to the number of chicken breasts you usually eat.)

  • *3 chicken breasts, minced (Use a food processor. I am not good with machines, so I get my strong brave man to do this part.)
  • *At least a handful of basil leaves (I love basil, so the more the merrier for me. Look out for the Thai variety but any would do.)
  • *Sea salt
  • *Garlic (at least 3 cloves)
  • *Olive oil (1-2 tablespoon)
  • Vietnamese fish sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Almonds (whole, crushed or chopped, or your other nut(s) of choice. I recommend around 15. You can count the number of nuts used according to your food goals.)
  • Chili to taste (I cut up one small chili + used 3 shakes of chili powder) AND/OR 
  • Half tomato or 5 cherry tomatoes, chopped up
  • Bone broth powder (optional, 1-2 scoops)

Method

  1. Mince chicken and marinate with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoon fish sauce and sprinkling of salt (leave for at least 10 minutes).
  2. Chop up garlic, wash and tear up basil leaves.
  3. Heat wok, put in olive oil, lightly brown garlic. I use high heat the entire time.
  4. Throw in chicken mince (the meat will likely start clumping up into one giant patty, leave it be for 30 seconds or so, then use your spatula to break up them and stir fry. It takes 2-4 minutes for the chicken to be cooked on the outside and for the pieces to break apart.).
  5. Throw in basil leaves, tomatoes and nuts, keep stir frying.
  6. Throw in bone broth powder (I recommend to mix with a small amount of water to prevent clumps, else you will need to stir even more rigorously).
  7. Chicken should be fully cooked about 7-10 minutes in. Add more basil, chili, salt, soy sauce or fish sauce to taste.
  8. Let it simmer until juices are more or less dried up.

Notes:

  • If you don't have access to Asian sauces, you can recreate a similar taste using salt, honey and lime.
  • I used a mix of salt and soy sauce because my partner is sensitive to soy and loves salt.
  • *If you are simply looking for a meal for fuel, and just need a way to cook chicken breasts, the *starred ingredients are the absolute essentials to recreate the basic taste of this dish. Everything else is just going to make it tastier. 
  • Overall cooking time is much shorter for minced meat. Plus, the chances of biting into a semi-raw chicken breast is drastically lower.
  • Bone broth is rich in collagen and protein and is said to be great for joints, gut health and skin. I use bone broth powder to add a meaty taste to dishes, the same way one may use chicken broth or a broth cube or even the dreaded MSG. I use the Ancient Nutrition Brand by Dr Axe.
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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1262928 2018-03-19T02:28:03Z 2018-03-20T03:05:23Z Not a morning person

There is so much beauty in a pre-dawn world. 

For 8 years of my student life, I had to wake up at 4.15am to travel from Johor Bahru to Singapore for school. 

The chill of the air, the darkness punctuated by the last standing streetlight, the buzz of insects and chirping of the birds and the smile of the bus driver who only has a smattering of passengers. All of this I remember fondly.

The insidious violence of those mornings have also stayed with me. The harsh fluorescent light in my bedroom flicking on, cold water and a harsh facial scrub for ill-behaved teenage skin, being forced to gulp down breakfast with a churning stomach and the ever-present threat of being mugged as I waited for the morning bus.

The rising cacophony of car honks and the smell of exhaust -- they assaulted my senses and gave me a sense of safety.

As a young adult, I abandoned the act of waking up early and embraced the snooze button.

The past week, though, I’ve found the same wonder in those moments before the sun creeps up, in the stillness, in opening my eyes and experiencing the cycle of light and darkness human bodies are built to go though. And now, because it is my call, because this is part of a ritual, because it is done with intention, I feel a spark of excitement as I flutter into consciousness. I know that if I get up in the next minute I am going to be rewarded greatly for that one single bit of effort, that this decision will change the course of my day.

The sky is a dark bluish grey as my beloved and I fold and elongate our limbs, as we shake the drowsiness from our bones. The bed creaks as we step out. 

Together, we've completed our first act of the day, one part of a promise to own this life together and for each other.

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tag:sialingxin.com,2013:Post/1260657 2018-03-13T07:16:15Z 2018-03-20T03:05:55Z Loving like a parent

A childcare routine is designed for the optimal well-being of a human. It can be simplified into five parts: nutrition, rest, physical growth, mental growth and life tasks. 

Why do we give the best care to our children but allow ourselves and our loves ones to indulge in accepted modern-day vices, such as alcohol and endless reality TV?

The ways we care for our children

Nutrition
We feed our young fresh -even better, organic- foods. We ensure they consume foods from all groups. We employ cooking methods that retain as much of the nutrients as possible, such as steaming, boiling, pureeing. We closely monitor their fluid intake. They drink chiefly water and milk.

Rest
We make sure our kids wake up early and go to bed early. They clock in at least 7-8 hours of sleep, every single day. Nap times, if any, are thoughtfully scheduled.

Physical growth
Tummy time for babies. Milestones such as crawling, walking, running must be hit. There are physical education lessons in school. We sign them up for soccer, ballet, swimming lessons.

Mental growth
They get playtime, not passive entertainment time. Everything given to them for fun, from LEGO blocks to books to educational cartoon programmes, is carefully curated to help their expand their minds. 

Life tasks
We make sure our kids brush their teeth, put their toys away neatly and bring their plates to the sink. 

When we are adults, these routines and guidelines that are designed for optimal living and growth are thrown out. In their stead, we consume fried foods and sugary drinks. We stay up late binge-watching TV shows. We become couch potatoes. We let our bellies grow and sag. Entertainment is mindless reality TV or video games. We leave our belongings strewn all around. And all of this is accepted, because we work so hard as adults?

Translating kiddie rules into adult rules

Nutrition
As an adult, you get to make the choices for yourself. And sometimes, it's harder to make good, difficult choices for yourself than someone else. Simple rules to follow: No sugar. No fried foods. Get your veggies in. Hit your water intake. Never skip a meal. This means going for the grilled salmon steak over the piece of fried chicken. It means choosing the fruit bowl instead of the chocolate cake.

Rest
Sleep and wake up early at the same time every day. If you want to nap on weekends, make sure it won’t affect your bedtime that same night. Plan and follow through with your daily rest time, so you won’t even accumulate ‘sleep debt’.

Physical growth
Work out 3-5 times a week. Do a combination of resistance, cardio and recovery training. Lift some weights. Learn proper form. Kids know how to squat instinctively, it is a fundamental movement that we should employ whenever we bend down to pick something up. Relearn that. Work on your mobility, you will be thankful for this especially in the later years of your life. Get your heart rate up at least 30 minutes a day. You will feel a rush of endorphins and get a healthy glow to your skin.

Mental growth
Mental growth should be both relaxing and engaging playtime for adults. It can be anything that makes you feel (versus something that is mind numbing and effortlessly addictive). Read books and watch films that make you laugh, cry, think. Take a walk outside and see the wonder in the blue of the sky and enjoy the feel of the sun on your skin. Learn how to cook a signature dish. Take pleasure in the smell of freshly baked bread. Write a letter to someone or a blog post. Travel. Be present. 

Life tasks
Live a life of discipline. Pack your work bag the night before. Have a nightly personal care routine. Go to the dentist every 6 months. Apply sunblock. Make the bed every time you leave it. Clear that email inbox every evening. You don't need to lead a regimented military life, but find small changes you know you should make for your own good, actually make them and assess how you feel after two weeks of consistency. 

The results of childcare principles in an adult's life

These routines and principles are designed to help the young function and grow into their best selves, and adults who follow them will start to feel an increased sense of well-being.

We consume food that powers us through the day, so there is no more mid-afternoon energy slump. We get sufficient rest so headaches and sluggishness are a thing of the past. Our bodies feel strong, so walking up stairs no longer leave you breathless and you won’t hurt your back trying to lift groceries. We are constantly learning new things and enjoying all the creativity, beauty and experiences the world has to offer. We no longer feel like we've just wasted an entire weekend doing nothing. We don't run into meetings unprepared. Our personal space is tidy in the way that works for us and fills us with calmness. Voila, we are adult-ing successfully. We're in control of our lives. 

If you (and your partner) want to have a happy, healthy life together, simply take care of yourselves (and each other) the way you will your child. 


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