“My New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. But-”
Stop. Stop right there. Don’t even think about it. The minute you start to make excuses is the minute your New Year’s resolution to get fit dies a swift death, just as it has every single year you’ve made it. No time, too tired, too shy, don’t know how – we’ve all heard the excuses before, but if you really want to get serious about your health this year, then you need to find a way to get past these roadblocks instead of using them as a reason to give up.
You’re not a quitter, are you? We didn’t think so. To help you out, we’ve rounded up a group of fitness enthusiasts and experts to bust some of the most common excuses people have for not working out. The next time one of these pesky excuses pops into your head, you’ll have an answer waiting for it.
SAMIR NOURY MRABET
Founder and Co-Owner of Monarchy MMA Gym
Born to French-Algerian parents in the USA but spending most of his life in Brussels, Belgium, Samir came to Malaysia seven years ago as an officer with the Belgian Embassy. He started teaching martial arts classes in 2011 and opened his own gym in 2012, moving to bigger premises by the year’s end with his business partner, Mike Rodgers. Monarchy MMA Gym now has two outlets, 540 active students and different martial arts teachers from all over the world. Samir himself has a soft spot for Brazilian jujitsu and has fought in ONE Championship twice, using his long arms to full advantage with his signature arm triangle and darce chokes.
“It’s too dangerous.”
Mixed martial arts, Samir says, can actually be less dangerous than other ‘stand up’ martial arts like kick boxing or Muay Thai because you can end a fight with submission, which means that you can tap out. You can also use a variety of options to submit your opponent instead of knocking them out, such as a choke or a joint manipulation.
People also tend to have a common misconception that you have to know how to fight from day one. “You’re not going to get punched if you don’t want to get punched,” he says. “A good coach will take you through the process step by step. You won’t try to do crazy things straight away. In boxing class, the instructor will teach you how to spar with open hands, which won’t hit that hard, and everybody will wear headgear and have gloves.”
“I don’t have time.”
Make time, is Samir’s simple response. “The human body is not made to stay in front of a laptop. It’s not natural. Humans were designed to hunt their food and make their own houses. Classes are 60 to 90 minutes, and that’s the minimum you should be working out a day.”
But work! Responsibilities! Life! It can be done, Samir insists. “There’s this couple who have a baby boy. They come for a private class for an hour and a half. The wife will work out for 45 minutes while the husband holds the baby, and once she’s done, they switch. And they come at 8am in the morning!” he exclaims. “You have to motivate yourself to come. This is for you.”
CONNECT WITH SAMIR AT: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.monarchymma.com
Zumba Education Specialist (Southeast Asia and China)
David Velez comes from Colombia, the birthplace of the Zumba fitness movement - a combination of dance and fitness. The programme’s creator, Alberto ‘Beto’ Perez, was once his competitor but has since become a good friend.
He ‘fell’ into teaching Zumba by accident in 2007 and it has taken him to many different places where he trains Zumba trainers - currently his focus is on Southeast Asia and China. He sees Zumba as more than just a dance and fitness progr amme, though; to him, it is an expression of Colombian culture and has put his country on the world map.
“I don’t know how to dance.”
You don’t need to, though, because Zumba is not your conventional dance programme. “Zumba moves are specifically designed to be simple yet effective, and I think that’s part of it’s success. It’s a happy workout. Everybody can do it - there are no advanced classes and no rules. The only rule is that you need to come, move and have fun. If you move and smile, that’s Zumba,” says David.
Even if you feel that the ‘normal’ Zumba is too difficult for you, there are many variations of Zumba to cater to your needs. Zumba Gold is a lower-impact version for older adults, Zumba Toning is for those who want to do targeted workouts and improve muscular endurance, and there’s even Aqua Zumba, taught in swimming pools, for people who are injured but still want to exercise.
“I can’t keep up.”
Zumba might look somewhat intimidating to people who are just beginning to discover cardio workouts, but David promises that it reall y isn’t. “Zumba is very different from other fitness programmes because people w on’t feel like they’re doing a workout. When you hear a nice song, when the instructors are smiling at you and when people are friendly with you, it’s just like a friendly community coming together.”
Part of Zumba’s appeal, David believes, is in how it makes people feel. “When you move, when you smile, you’ll forget all about your stress and your problems. You have more endorphins in your body. And because it’s a non-stop workout for 45 to 60 minutes, you’ll burn more calories and become stronger, faster and healthier without f eeling it. That is the secret - when y ou’re happy while doing a workout, you’ll see the results.”
Play Professional at The Hula Hoop Institute
Melbourne native Michelle Tan aka Mishie Hoops first fell in love with hula hooping when she watched hula hoop artist Coral Jade performing at a breast cancer fundraiser. Seeing ‘regular-looking’ ladies taking a Circus Hula Hoop class later convinced her to sign up, and over the next year, she moved to Hoop Dance class. She attended her first hoop retreat in Bali in 2013, then quit her corporate job, moved to Bali and hasn’t looked back since. Recently, she decided to spend more time in KL, where she teaches hoop classes.
“I can’t hula hoop.”
Michelle gets comments like these a lot, but she takes it as a personal challenge. “When they tell me that, I say ‘you haven’t done a class with me!’” she laughs. More seriously, however, she notes that people usually fail because they are using the wrong kind of hoop and aren’t familiar with the technique.
“A children’s hoop is not heavy enough for an adult to move the hoop around your body unless you have strong core muscles. It’s good to start with a heavier hoop because you don’t have to move as fast to keep the hoop spinning around your body,” she says.
She often reiterates to disbelieving students that hooping looks more graceful than it feels. “Every session, I break down each trick and run it through the class a few times. Then I give everyone some practice time while I walk through the class and help everyone individually with their technique. People can pick it up very quickly and look graceful if they want to. The escalator, for example, is a move that I took two years to learn, but now I can teach people in 90 minutes.”
“I’m not the right size or shape.”
Hula hooping is about more than just spinning the hoop around your waist. Using the right tool also goes a long way to achieving success. “I did a class with an obese girl in Australia. She struggled to hoop around her waist, but she got all the off-body movements and found it really interesting. And once I had a tall lady come in and I brought a special hoop for her, but she ended up not using it because she learned the technique,” says Michelle.
Besides that, the hooping community is also very accepting. “There are all sorts of people, from really skinny girls to really big girls - and even men, too! Many people are really happy to share their stories."
"In Malaysia, the hooping movement is quite new, but there is a small but growing community of hula hoopers who get together to ‘hoop jam’ outside of class, which means they gather to practice and share skills outside of class learning. This happens especially at Publika, where a group of people practice flow arts like poi, staff spinning and hula hooping every week.”
Grand Master of the KL Junior Hash House Harriers (2016/2017)
Hailing from the South-West of England, Laurence Renshaw first discovered hashing about 11 years ago after talking to another expat after a road run that he didn’t really enjoy. He was invited along the following Saturday to a session at Ulu Yam, which was the start of a long love affair with hashing.
Since then, he runs regularly with the Petaling H3 (for adults) and sometimes with other local hashing groups. In the last few years, he and his daughter have been members of the KL Junior Hash House Harriers (KLJHHH), possibly the only kids’ hash group in the world.
“Running is lonely.”
A major advantage of hashing is the social element - hashers relax and chat after the run, usually with a few drinks, and may then go for a meal together. Hashes also have unique traditions such as silly songs, light-hearted ‘charges’ for real or imagined bad behaviour, and ‘down-downs’ (a form of punishment, reward or recognition, usually involving a drink). The Junior Hash has kid-appropriate versions of songs, and down-downs for positive things like helping to set the trail or having a birthday.
Like any sporting club, each Hash group needs a committee to organise things, which can be a lot of effort. However, all members take turns to do the most important job: selecting a run site and laying the paper trail, which requires an advance visit - a ‘recce’ - to scout the area. Every hash group has special runs from time to time.
For the Junior Hash, special events are Chinese New Year, Easter (an Easter egg hunt is held after the run), Christmas (their biggest event) and more, making it a truly community-building activity.
“I’m not fit enough.”
The beauty of a hash is that it is designed so that people can go at their own pace. Some will treat the hash as a nature trail, while keen runners can push forward. The hare will have set a number of ‘checks’ - places where the trail stops abruptly and may continue anywhere within 150 metres.
“The checks stop the front-runners from getting too far ahead, so the walkers don’t finish too long after them. You don’t have to be very fit, but you’re still spending an hour or two on jungle trails, including clambering around obstacles, so you must be comfortable with that. It’s as much about attitude as it is about physical fitness,” says Laurence.
On the Junior Hash, younger children may need to be carried over the more difficult parts of the trail to keep their enthusiasm up, but it’s a good idea to let them attempt as much as they can on their own and for them to run with friends around the same age.
“Kids are the best at teaching and encouraging other kids, and they’re happy because they can just run together and not care about the adults. Hashing lets them make new friends, gives them a lot of confidence and makes a great day out for the family,” says Laurence.
Yoga Teacher and Personal Trainer
Originally from Russia, Olya Kudryavtseva quit her job in the finance sector in Hong Kong to come to KL with her husband six years ago. Formerly focusing on running and training runners, she first got into yoga when she went for training to find out about asanas (postures) that would work for runners to stretch and cool off.
It wasn’t a tale of love at first sight - in fact, she got quite frustrated because she didn’t know what to do at first - but six months after beginning to learn the movements, she visited India, the source of Ashtanga yoga, and “never doubted the practice ever since”.
“I’m not flexible.”
Nobody is in the beginning, says Olya, and that’s why you learn yoga in the first place! “You start from zero, so you don’t have to have any expectations of your body. You grow if you are consistent. It’s the same as being a runner - the more you practise, the better you get, which is why we practise six times a week!” (Don’t panic: beginners usually start at three.)
Part of this is also, she believes, due to how Ashtanga yoga is practised and taught. “The teacher has the time to guide you, one on one, through a few asanas that you keep practising until you remember and can perform them, then you get another. That way, you avoid injury and the practices can be done by anyone because the teacher judges when you are ready to move on. Everyone moves at their own pace, so people are not doing the same thing and it’s a very private class,” she says.
Trying to rush the progression, she notes, will only end in disappointment because your body isn’t ready yet. “You need to have a cer tain strength to progress. If you don’t have strong shoulders, arms and core, there’s no point trying to do a headstand because you’re not ready yet."
“I just don’t feel like it.”
No matter how awful you feel, Olya stresses, just make the effort to show up, because that’s half the battle won. “I wake up every morning and I’m so tired, I don’t want to go. But I just go. My teacher made an effort to wake up and be there, so I feel responsible too. When I get there, the mood changes because there are other people around practising, so you won’t feel like quitting as much,” she says.
Sure, missing a practice isn’t the end of the world, but it won’t feel good: “Like brushing your teeth, you’re not going to die if you miss a day or two, but you’ll feel a bit of discomfort through the day. If you miss a day of scheduled workout, don’t let it happen two days in a row,” she warns.
CONNECT WITH OLYA AT: email@example.com
Grab a copy of the January issue of Expatriate Lifestyle for the full article!