Wednesday, June 10, 2009

STI: I rock for toned abs

June 7, 2009

I rock for toned abs

Time and char kway teow wait for no slacker so I'm getting the Ab Roller to up my game against The Bulge

By Chua Mui Hoong

It's sitting right beside me in my room as I write this.

A contraption with six tubes fixed together to form a sort of three-dimensional U, with a cushioned head-rest. 

You lie on it, head up, neck resting on the cushion. You grab the handlebars with your upper arms. You inhale and on the exhale, you pivot yourself up, face grimacing, abs crunching.

It's one of those Ab Rollers. The kind that used to be advertised on television, used by toned smiling models in gym gear. A few minutes a day, and you'll have toned abdominal muscles like them.

My office gym used to have one of these, and I would rock myself to and fro on it. It certainly took the strain off the neck and back while doing ab crunches. If there is one way to get toned abs relatively painlessly, this was it.

As my waistline expanded over the years, I decided to do something about my abs so my family members aged 13 to 80 would stop prodding my tummy and ask if I am pregnant.

I tried doing crunches, but my neck felt so strained, I stopped. My trainer managed to get me to do lots of crunches in nine punishing workouts - and I'm now avoiding him.

I decided it was time to Take Action on my own.

Go shopping and buy a gadget that will get me started on my quest to lose weight, lose inches and tone my abs so I look just three months pregnant, not five.

Over a very pleasant hour at the Aibi store in Plaza Singapura, I tested out their machines.

Just $3,500 buys you an entry-level home gym with impressive-looking weights, adjustable seat and what-not. You can do over 50 exercises - a total body workout that stretches your lats, your quads, your glutes, your hamstrings, your abs and muscles in places you never knew existed.

The machine that took my fancy, though, was one that allowed you to stretch your body using your own body weight. You sit on it and cross your legs and arms this way and that, and lean back, and gravity takes care of the rest. It was relaxing and fun.

But I could do similar stretches on a floor mat.

In the end, I was practical and bought just the Ab Roller.

It's the first step in a Battle Against The Bulge.

Many women struggle to maintain their weight and shape as they hit middle-age.

In my 20s, I was the envy of friends at buffets, putting away platefuls of high-fat, deep-fried or high-sugar stuff. 'Eat so much, still so thin!' they would say and I would smirk and say I must have a high metabolic rate.

In my late 20s and all the way to 40, I went from Small to Medium, and rapidly to Large.

One admirer when I was in my 20s warned: 'You're slender now but you're quite fleshy, better work out to stay in shape.' I should have listened to him.

Another admirer from my 30s cooed: 'Curves in all the right places.' Curves become slack folds, I should have realised.

These days, whatever admirers real or imaginary may say, I know the truth: I'm just Overweight.

The reality check came last year, when my medical report put my Body Mass Index in the overweight range.

Then my little niece grew up into a lithe teenager, all legs and arms. She reminds me of the way I looked at 17. I stand next to her in the mirror and realise the dumpy-looking figure next to her is her aunt. Me.

And then a good friend of mine, who is in her 50s, looked at me and said: 'You've been putting on quite a bit. Better watch it. Once you hit 40, it's almost impossible to lose.'

Somewhere along the line, the worm turned.

Like many women out there, I've long thought it would be nice to lose 5kg. But these days, it's not just for vanity's sake. There's a health reason to do so.

So I decided to get serious.

I tried to eat less, or at least more healthily. But it was close to impossible, with eating companions who take me to the best laksa, char kway teow, duck rice and bak kut teh in Singapore.

I decided to work out instead. Time to go shopping for stuff that will help me lose weight.

I eyed that wonder Home Gym. It would fit in my spare room. I would use it 20 minutes a day, five days a week. I will lose 5kg in six months and drop a dress size. I will look fit and sexy again, not middle-aged and dumpy.

'It looks like a good White Elephant,' said my friend.

When I was about 30, I paid $1,000 for a Nordic ski machine. Friends predicted a White Elephant future. I told them I had iron will power.

The machine came in real handy for hanging my clothes. In all the two years or so it sat on my balcony, I used it maybe 10 times.

Now I am 40, and wiser. Chances are, a huge Home Gym would be a White Elephant indeed.

But not the Ab Roller. A few minutes a day, and I will have a defined waist. I swear, this is one fitness gadget that actually gets used.

I belong to the category of folk who swear that the first step towards changing your life is to go shopping.

When I take up a new hobby, I head to the stores to get all the equipment. And especially the apparel.

I have a bicycle, helmet, gloves, lights, mirror, aerodynamic blouse made of a special fabric, padded cycling shorts and bike pump, for the six times a year I cycle.

I have three yoga mats and about eight yoga outfits, yoga mitts and socks, and a growing collection of workout DVDs.

I have a set of 2.2kg dumb-bells that look very nice on the shelf where they have rested undisturbed since I put them there.

Somehow, the act of handing over hard-earned money to buy a piece of equipment that promises to get me fitter or slimmer, feeds my psychological need to 'do something' about my body.

It's as though buying the gadget is satisfaction enough. If I actually use the gadget in the first weeks, it's money well-spent.

It has been three days since the Ab Roller got unpacked and assembled. I used it religiously the first two days. Already, I swear, my abs feel tighter.

It's 9.30pm and nearing the close of the day. I can fit in five minutes of crunches.

Oh, but I have to head out to meet a friend. I'll use the Abs Roller later. After supper.

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