I thought I could do it. I thought I could stick to a fitness program during the Chinese New Year holiday. After all, I committed to an 80-Day Obsession program that includes work-outs and a nutrition plan created by Beachbody super trainer Autumn Calebrese.
Prior to the holiday, I completed phase one of the program which included 24 work-outs and a timed nutrition plan. The muscle definition in my mid-section and the toning in my back and arms should have been enough reason to keep me going, but is it actually possible to keep up a fitness program on holiday?
Challenge 1: Accommodation
Our family of four was traveling to Boracay Island in the Philippines for a week and our accommodation included Remington Hotel, our two-bedroom condo at Oceanway Newcoast on the island, and an Airbnb at the Fort in Manila.
I wish all hotels had a gym but the Remington didn’t have one. Thus, I scanned our hotel floor for an open space that was big enough to accommodate the movement needed for Cardio Flow. I discovered that the lobby across the elevator on the ninth floor had an open space with a couch and a coffee table that was small and light enough to move.
In that little corner across the elevators, I did a Cardio Flow-30-minute work-out inspired by animals. Autumn named the movement combinations after animals such as spider push-ups, flamingo, gorilla, crab, bear, mule and frog.
I kid you not. There I was – jumping, planking, and jumping like a mule while other guests loaded their suitcases in the elevator.
When we got to Boracay, our residential area at Newcoast didn’t have a gym either, but a nearby hotel, Savoy, had one. Thus, I went to Savoy to request a week-long gym access which the manager kindly granted for a discounted price of 2,000 pesos (243 RMB) that also included pool access for the family. After working-out under the hot tropical sun beside our condo pool the other day, I took the deal and was pleased with the chance to use equipment again in an in-house location with much-needed air conditioning.
TIP: Research your accommodations. If it doesn’t have a gym, try to find a hotel close by that could offer short-term gym access or be prepared to work-out in the most unlikely of places. My friend Kelly for example worked-out at the Bangkok airport while waiting for her flight to Beijing (now that showed commitment).
Challenge 2: Motivation
A couple of weeks prior to CNY, I started a WeChat group in Beijing for women who wanted to journey through becoming the healthiest version of themselves with a 21-Day Fix Extreme Challenge. A few of us in the group decided to exercise during the holiday.
Kelly messaged, “Worked-out at 11:30 PM.” Wow. If Kelly can have a long flight to Thailand and exercise near midnight, surely, I can find time to prioritize fitness as well.
In addition, Titi, Rebecca, Vanessa, Jasmeen and other women have also started the 21 Day fitness challenge. I want the women in the group to achieve their fitness goals and thus, it drove me to try to reach mine as well.
My husband, Steve and I, agreed to give each other work-out block in the morning. We tagged team between exercising and watching our two daughters, Catalina and Ariella, play in the pool.
TIP: Community and communication with your spouse is key. Find friends or a group who you can be accountable to in your fitness journey. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Find support and also be an encouragement to others. It can be as simple as a we chat group because there will be times when you will need this group to fire you up and inspire you to keep going.
Challenge 3: Nutrition
Autumn’s 80-Day Obsession plan didn’t have a cheat day. It had a strict timed nutrition plan that suggested when to eat and what to eat. Brilliant? Yes. Do-able? Not on holiday in a tropical island.
I’ve been drinking way too many fresh mango shakes while watching my kids play in the sand. It’s what my daydreams are made of when I’m cold in Beijing and thus, I grabbed each chance I got to sip those golden drinks of liquid goodness.
With my parents visiting Boracay, Steve and I also had date nights with some wine, bubbly, thin-crust Italian pizza, triple grilled cheese sandwiches, a few bites of dark mint chocolate, and the Filipino food staple – white rice. All of which were not included in the nutrition plan, not even in the subscribed re-feed day.
It was difficult to control the food so I just tried to eat as much whole foods, local seafood and fresh fruits in the island as I can. I failed the nutrition aspect as I gave myself the flexibility to eat some treats that I didn’t regret enjoying. Daily movement and moderation was my motto and I gave myself grace during times when I chose to gulp down that extra glass of mango fruit shake.
TIP: Plan. Know where to get your food or if needed, bring your own. None of which I was able to do on this trip but could possibly do on shorter trips.
Although I wasn’t able to follow the eating plan to a T, I felt happy with the work-outs that I did over the holiday. I lifted heavier weights on leg day, sweated more than I ever had, and was disciplined enough to prioritize exercise and that I feel was good enough.
Previously Published at http://www.chinafamilyblog.com
Previously published in China Family Blog
I’m not a gym junkie, was never an athlete, and the most I’ve jogged – or what my husband, Steve, would call the version of his fast walk – is five kilometers. “Run forward and not upwards,” Steve coached while we were in the thick of the Color Run.
Not being one for speed, I turned to yoga and finally found a form of exercise that I enjoyed. Yoga made me feel connected with my breath, body, mind, and soul. I liked yoga so much that I underwent a journey of getting multiple certifications. However, even after practicing yoga for more than a decade, I couldn’t seem to tone my mid-section after my second baby, Ariella Rose.
While taking my yoga therapy course, I learned about Diastasis Recti and also came across the vast work of biomechanist and anatomy expert, Katy Bowman. Katy explained Diastasis Recti as “the unnatural distance of the right and/or left halves of the rectus abdominis from the midline.” In other words, the front of my abdomen split open.
I first noticed the symptoms of diastasis recti in my yoga practice. Upon moving into a back bend, my belly protruded and formed the shape of a cone.
It was as if my gut would peer through the unnatural distance between the right and left side of my abdominal wall. Aside from that, I felt that I lost my core strength. After being cleared to exercise after my emergency caesarian operation, I couldn’t do a forearm plank or chatarangga in my sun salutation. I was curious to know why I couldn’t do movement that I repeatedly did in past years.
I shared about these with my yoga therapy trainer, Christina Mroz. She shared, “Your opening is small. So minor adjustments to your postures and watching how you move might be enough. You may have to take out all backbends and planks for a bit to see greater bounds in healing if you want things to go a little faster.”
I listened to Christina’s advice and used restorative and gentle yoga to work my transverse abdominals, the muscles that wrapped around my midsection like a corset, to help knit back the three-finger opening in my core. I removed backbends, planks, and crutches from my practice for a year.
Katy’s book also helped me identify ways of knitting my core back again through alignment, breath work, and mindful ways of moving the body.
After a year of gentle practice, breath work, and prayers for healing, I noticed that the separation has decreased to the width of a finger. “Sometimes taking a step back in your practice is what you need to make progress in your healing,” Christina encouraged.
Upon learning that my core has regained its integrity, I wanted to find an exercise program that would challenge my body and get rid of my mommy tummy. After all, 40 wasn’t too far down the road, and I refused to believe that it was going to go downhill from there.
In my 225-instructor yoga certification course, I met fitness coach Michelle Kellog from the Beachbody group. Michelle posted sweaty selfies in her Facebook page that captured her smile beaming underneath her thick brown hair as she finished a work-out. Moreover, she posted transformation photos that documented how she was able to work through her post-partum belly, severe diastasis recti, and shrink it down back to her pre-pregnancy form. Thus, I called Michelle, registered with Beachbody on Demand, and paid the $99 subscription fee to have access to all of their online workout programs.
“I recommend you to start with the 21 Day Fix,” coached Michelle. “Most of my clients have found success with it because it’s easy to follow.”
The 21 Day Fix program, created by celebrity trainer Autumn Calebrese, included 30 minute exercises and a color-coded Fixate eating plan. What I didn’t realize was that there were two programs on the site and I mistakenly chose the harder option called 21 Day Extreme which was an intermediate and advance level workout but since I was able to do the first workout (although I struggled with it), I just stuck with it for 21 days.
I immediately saw results; furthermore, I realized that I could workout more consistently. It was the first time that I exercised for 21 days straight! 30 minutes a day was just what I would take to browse through Pinterest and Facebook and working out was a better use of my time. I also learned a lot about my eating patterns.
Being Asian, I was accustomed to eating a lot of carbohydrates ranging from rice, noodles, and bread. Being pescetarian, I learned that I was consuming a limited amount of protein.
The Fixate nutrition plan helped me learn to combine food groups and proper portion control. It was not a starvation diet, and I immediately realized the opposite; I needed food to fuel my workouts.
However, I found it a challenge to make all the healthy food myself because I had a full time job, was directing a theater production, and have two young daughters at home. Thus, I partnered with Doko Beijing, a healthy food provider to make and deliver my meals on days that I can’t make them myself.
(For healthy food delivery, check out Doko Beijing here.)
After 21 days, I saw a visual difference in my core and the toning of my muscles. So much that I immediately did another 21 days.
Having experienced the success of this program, I now have a WeChat group of women who journey together to become healthier versions of ourselves and continue to tighten that mommy tummy.
Interested to join us? Add and message me on we chat at Hannah_Northcott