Adapted from ‘Stay in the flock: Get fit with Community Sports’ by Anis Taufik
2014’s entered with a bang and once again, we find ourselves at the crossroads of new beginnings.
A common goal on the list of many a New Year’s Resolutions: get healthy / lose weight. Chances are, you’ve spent the recent holiday period indulging in fantastic gastronomic spreads and festive drinks—come on, who amongst us is truly able to utter the word “no” to that extra helping of Christmas turkey and sip (or two) of beer when in great company?
If you’re the type that’s unable to find motivation to hit the gym on your own after work, maybe it’s time to change your approach.
Challenge yourself: Give community sports a second thought.
Community sport doesn’t just mix physical exercise with companionship among like-minded individuals—it also provides you with the perfect opportunity to move out of your comfort zone.
Here are three community sports you should consider this New Year:
Don’t hit the wall. Hit the road.
Where: KL Lake Gardens
Who: F1 Runners KL
When: Monday and Wednesday evenings—one-hour speed training sessions
The Perdana Botanical Garden (more popularly known as Lake Gardens or Taman Tasik Perdana) in Kuala Lumpur has long been a haven for ardent joggers and runners. With lush greenery and meandering tracks that allow you to stroll leisurely past the placid waters of the lake, the park is also a favourite spot for nature ramblers and family get-togethers.
Established in September 2012 by Mark Williams, head coach of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2012, the F1 Runners KL kicked off with a mere eight members; however, its fame grew rapidly in little over a year, resulting in its current stronghold of over 50 members.
A friendly club that’s open to anyone, the members of F1 Runners KL come from all walks (or runs, if you prefer) of life and boast of an almost 50–50 split between expatriates and Malaysians. There is also a diverse range of abilities among club members in terms of running experience and capabilities; its membership is littered with veterans who have covered the momentous sub three-hour marathon, as well as newbies gearing up for their first ever five or 10km race!
+ Design and organisation
The F1 Runners KL’s training sessions have been specifically designed in a way that allows runners from all levels to train with each other. Each training semester is planned out in advance, allowing members a set schedule of sessions, in addition to weather and route accessibility where possible.
Monday: Focus on hill training to build up leg strength—a key component to a runner’s speed and stamina.
Wednesday: Switch training methods to raise VO2 Max levels.
A vital fitness indicator that refers to the maximum amount of oxygen transported by blood to muscles, it’s worth noting that individuals with higher a VO2 Max tend to be better and faster runners. If this is all sounding too technical and extreme for you, fret not. The club works on improving running technique, utilising correct apparel and aiding runners to find the perfect pace to run at for specific runs.
+ Social outlet
Although the F1 KL Runners are serious about running, there’s no denying the jovial vibe between members as they warm up to practice, and the great spirit of mutual support and encouragement, regardless of individual running capabilities.
Johanna, a running enthusiast from Ireland and member of F1 KL Runners since September 2013, says, “We’re all there to get fitter and faster, and to benefit from Mark’s expertise. To non-runners, our training may sound quite serious, but we have a lot of fun. Besides the opportunity to push ourselves physically, the club offers a great social outlet, and I always, always go home feeling a lot happier than when I arrive. I’ve made a lot of new friends through the club.”
Take a walk on the wild side
Where: Malaysian wilderness—and beyond
Who: KL Hiking
The urban metropolis can be stifling and after living at such a frenetic pace 24/7, one longs to swap the concrete jungle for the real thing—majestic trees rising toward the infinite sky, dense foliage forming an emerald canopy overhead and the lull of birdsong filtering through the distance.
Come out with KL Hiking to venture through the Malaysian wilderness—and beyond. Founded by Alex Laevaert (more popularly known as ‘Alex KL Hiking’ among local nature lovers), KL Hiking was borne out of his passion for jungle trekking and a desire to showcase the true beauty of Malaysian nature through organised and well-coordinated trips.
A native of Belgium who has been in Malaysia since 2003, Alex shared his experiences by saying, “Malaysian trails are generally very challenging. A lot of European and American trails can be considered as ‘highways’ compared to typical Malaysian jungle trails.”
Alex added that not only does the climate create a special hiking environment, but the kind of terrain—influenced by variables such as roots, mud, hard clay, thorns, fallen trees, limestone and slippery rocks, to name a few—combined with the lack of adequate trail markings results in a “pretty challenging adventure” when hiking in Malaysia.
+ Open to all age groups
KL Hiking’s activities are also popular across a broad spectrum of age groups. Highlighting that the youngest hiker to join one of his trips was around the age of five, while the oldest was in double digits of 70s, Alex noted that hiking is an activity with a wide audience and broad appeal, drawing in “students to medical doctors, city girls to experienced hikers, and even 100 per cent leisure hikers to high-competitive participants”, before proudly citing a memorable event that was participated by 35 individuals, in which 15 different nationalities were represented.
+ New places and new faces
A vital trait that resurfaces time and again while discussing the benefits of hiking—besides acting as an alternative form of exercise and giving city dwellers that much needed whiff of fresh air—is the simple fact that hiking brings people together. Describing hikers as individuals who are generally social, helpful and caring, Alex elaborates that he’s seen plenty of acts of kindness and generosity such as complete strangers sharing food and drinks amongst each other, and helping hands being stretched out.
+ Push boundaries
Alex confides that ultimately, hiking is a fantastic way to achieve a healthy lifestyle through some boundary-pushing activities as it serves “nothing more than loving and respecting yourself, being a link in the chain of nature” and that it is always easier to work towards better health when one is in supportive company.
Even though there is a common perception that hiking is an activity catered mostly for those who are already at peak physical form, Alex pointed out that with his approach, participants are encouraged to test their boundaries bit by bit. “Quite some people are pleasantly surprised to see that they can accomplish something they thought was beyond their reach,” Alex quips. “Most of them are amazed to see how fast they can progress.”
Ride your heart out
Who: Kuala Lumpur Mountain Bike Hash (KLMBH)
When: 9:30am on the final Sunday of each month
Where: At a predetermined site for its monthly bike hash--also referred to as a 'bash'.
Imagine darting across rough terrain that covers Malaysian oil palm or rubber tree estates on your mountain bike. Visualise keeping an eye out for clues and checkpoints while attempting to pedal faster over unsteady ground as others zoom past you. As your heart rate increases, you experience a sudden rush of exhilaration—a spike of adrenaline coursing through your veins.
Welcome to the world of the Kuala Lumpur Mountain Bike Hash (KLMBH). KLMBH meets at During its bashes, participants (commonly called 'bashers' or 'hounds') are required to cycle around activity sites—generally made up of oil palm or rubber tree estates—while looking out for bits of paper (aptly termed the 'paper trail'), which are laid out before the event’s commencement by a team of 'hares'
Its deceptively simple agenda was created to take thrill seeking bashers and hounds out for a ride—literally. Both novices and hardened long-timers are subjected to legitimate checkpoints ('checks') and false trails ('falsies'). Described as a combination of treasure hunt and orienteering, the system of checks and falsies serves to keep the group more or less together, which in turn avoids members from straying off the path and becoming isolated from the main group. Plus, what better way to instill comradeship amongst participants than having them stick close to each other and figure out the correct route to reach the finish line?
+ The routes
KLMBH’s activities generally revolve around two routes, the Long Ride and Scenic Ride, which can be conducted on entirely separate circuits or largely within the same circuit with specific markings for participants of the different rides. The Long Ride, like its name suggests, stretches over an extensive route of approximately 30km across varied terrain, steep hills, downhill slopes and even single tracks. The Scenic Ride, on the other hand, covers a route of approximately 12km across physical landscapes that are similar to those included in the Long Ride but with an exception—it avoids excessive hill climbs and dangerous descents.
+ No two are the same
As no two hashes are ever the same, hounds are able to try out fresh routes each time. Depending on the hare’s sense of adventure, participants may even end up biking through totally new areas. Despite the seemingly extreme nature of its activities, the bike hash is intended for riders of all abilities; even fresh bashers can opt for a ride that is appropriate to their skills and ability.
Since its inception in 1994, KLMBH has organised and conducted over 230 bashes. At the previous Enduro Asia MTB race that took place in Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, in September 2013, five KLMBH members were amongst those who graced the coveted top ten list.
To read the full feature story, pick up our copy of the January 2014 issue at major bookstores and selected newsstands today!