Team work

The month of July has been a particularly interesting one for me. Thanks to different opportunities, I got to see different teams working together, and even had the privilege to be a part of some teamwork effort too. 

I’m an ambivert, but more of an introvert than extrovert, and although team work isn’t new to me, these few weeks brought me many new insights into the art of building great teams. I got to participate in big teams of more than 20 people, as well as small ones consisting of just me and another person.

However, there were some points in creating good team work that remained constant, regardless of size of the team or reason behind the need of teamwork. Here, I’m going to share with you the very things I felt and observed that not only make the good teams great, but also made their fruits of labour awesome.

1. Your relationship with your team mate(s), at the very least, should not be negative

Working in a team = working with people. Thus, building of relationship is a must
when working in a team. Remember that person who yelled “I cannot work with
him/her!”? What that person’s really saying is “I’m unwilling to build a
relationship with someone like him/her”.
Being unable to build a relationship with team members will result in huge
obstacles during the course of working together as help will be required from each
other throughout the process. Without good relationships, the team will wish to
only finish things as soon as possible without caring about the results of their

There are many things that can be done in and out of work to foster cohesion in
the team. For a start, focusing on the project together is a great stepping stone.
Catching up over a meal, watching movies together, or just hanging out are some
other examples. Building a relationship requires time and commitment. Some
relationships are definitely more challenging to build than others, but give it time,
don’t give up, keep pressing into their lives and the results will slowly blossom.

2. Working in a team requires you to be honest with each other

Working together requires you to be able to be brutally honest with your team mate, sometimes without holding back. Of course, it may lead to hurt feelings, but the truth will set your team mate free. Just imagine a great band having a severely deluded vocalist that shatters every piece of glass in a 500 meter radius around him the moment he starts “singing”, performing at your local pub on a Saturday night. All the money wasted on replacement fees and ear surgery could have been avoided if his team mates were a little more honest about his singing.

That said, dealing with feelings can be tricky, but have to be dealt with when working with teams. You are, after all working with people. These people need to understand that while you’re critically pointing their errors to them, it is not because you’re out to attack them, but rather to share with them where the mistakes may be in hopes that adjustments can be made in order to bring the results of your (and his/her) labour one level higher. And if they can understand where you’re coming from, they’ll see your comments as productive feedback instead of satanic insults.

3. Be very critical, but not judgemental

We’re all created imperfect, and as much as we wish our team mates to be Jesus, I hope you realize by now that they are not. That said, if you find a perfect team, don’t join it, because you’ll break it.

One big problem I’ve seen many times in different teams is how A will that feel B is inferior, and start gossiping about it to CDEFGHIJKLMNOP. Soon, the whole team knows about the inferiority of B, and start hating on him. B will then leave the team. A new weakness falls upon somebody else within the team. Guess who’s going to leave the team next?

The thing about working with people is how there’ll sometimes be things we don’t like about each other. These can be solved by talking to each other and dealing with them. Of course it takes two hands to clap, and both parties must be willing to compromise to an extent. If it’s a flaw that cannot be changed, perhaps trying to accept it is needed. Gossiping & judging the team however, is never the way to go.

4. Dare to be vulnerable in the team

If you’re a sports athlete, you’ll realize this is something you have to go through no matter which team sport you play in, especially if it’s your first time in the team. It is therefore very important for team members to note that taking care of the newcomer in the team is as important as taking care of a VIP. You are, after all trying to “sell” to him reasons on why he should join the team.

A newcomer, especially if he is a walk-in, is entering an environment totally new to him. His anxiety level would possibly be sky high, thinking about what’s in store for him. First impressions are therefore very important. When training with the team, his thoughts would be on how not to screw up in front of everyone. He would feel insecure, worried, and to certain extent, scared. However, if the newcomer is able to make new friends, the feelings of worries and anxiety will be greatly reduced. Newcomers are more likely to come back and stay in the team if he feels comfortable and supported in the environment of the team.

If you’re currently in a team, yet are not vulnerable because you don’t want to “lose face” or something like that, you’ll realize that you’ll lose out in performance at the expense of trying to look good. Because you’re afraid of making mistakes, you’ll not dare to try new things, or practice things you know you’re not good at. But when you open yourself up to the team, especially if the
team is good, you’ll find constructive feedback that’ll help you improve; great support, love and also encouragement that’ll help you climb higher.

5. Sticking to a common vision

Every team has a reason towards why they were formed: To complete a project, to train for a competition, learn a new sport, play a game, etc. Whatever it is, that reason usually comes with a vision (to win, to learn, or to achieve something). The saying goes that people follow visions, not leaders. Therefore, it is important to strike a clear direction of why you’re doing what you’re doing, so that the whole team can wholly follow the vision together, sticking through thick and thin in order to fulfill it.

I brought home something impactful during my coaching observation assignment in Wildcards, Singapore’s 5 time national champion in cheerleading. One of the team’s coaches, Lim Hann Bin, said to his team “I cover you, you cover me. That’s why we’re a team”. It’s simple, but very true. After all, who needs enemies when you’ve got team mates who don’t look out for you?

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Guilty eating


Unfortunately, the sentiments reflected by this person is not an uncommon trend. If not managed properly, this will become the reason why you will eat that fried chicken wing, or that plate of char kway teow, or that salted caramel ice cream with waffle, again and again and again. For many of you, this is going to be the reason why you’ve been doing it for the past many years, and the same reason why you may continue to do so even after, and it could be the reason why you’re stuck in the vicious cycle of overeating, unable to change your weight or your food habits.

In the lives of many who are on the plus side, like Johnny (not his real name), the client who dropped me the above message last night, this wouldn’t help because people around him will “fuel” that guilt by making comments such as “you so fat, you still eat that chicken wing!”, which makes the now guilt-filled him feel even more shameful. This will then become a vicious cycle, making him do it again and again, creating a habitual pattern.

In his eCOUCH series, Clinical Psychologist Dr. Robi Sonderegger gives a helpful insight that will allow you to understand how guilt and shame become the reason towards why you will carry on eating that next chicken wing and more.

Guilt and shame is processed in the brain as being painful. Ironically, one of the fastest way to overcome pain is through some kind of pleasure. Giving in to the cravings and temptations of pleasure helps soothe the pain of guilt and shame. But re-engaging the behaviour will in turn yield greater guilt and shame, setting up a cycle for relapse. Therefore, beating yourself up for what you have done simply reinforces the behaviour in the long term”

Putting this into the topic’s prospect, what happens when Johnny feels guilty after eating is that he will now want to soothe this “pain” that he has. Thus, when not properly managed, Johnny will crave for pleasure to soothe that pain, and his mind will do that by craving for a new sweet desire. When he sees that chocolate ice cream, Johnny’s thoughts will say “Nevermind lah! Eat first. I will burn that away later.” Then, because of the taste and content of the food, Johnny will once again feel guilty, and his guilt will turn into shame. This cycle will keep going on and on, creating the big problem of what I would like to call “guilty-eating”. Do note that this process doesn’t necessarily have to happen on the same day. The guilt can build up and accumulate for a few days before temptation strikes, creating the relapse.

Usually in the process of guilty eating, one doesn’t stop at “one slice of cake”. Most of the time it will move on to one cake, one ice cream, two bowls of rice, three extra value meals and/or four plates of carrot cake. Guilty eating has now turned into over-eating, bursting your calorie intake by leaps and bounds. Shame then creeps in when you realize how much calories have been devoured in your body. You’ve now trapped yourself in the matrix that brings you into a world of many fats.

So here’s the thing: I’m not writing this post just to inform you about how the whole matrix works. I’m doing so to help you solve the problems you face within the matrix, and these are a few suggestions you can use to better cope with it.

1. Move on

Forgive yourself and start moving on. The calories are already in your body, and crying about it isn’t going to do anything to help you get them out. For a start, tears are pretty much water and sodium, both of which do not contain calories.

Dr Robi stated in his eCOUCH series that when it comes to the impact our behaviour has on others or our future, we have 2 roads to choose: Guilt and Shame, or Humility and Love. The latter is how you can help yourself work towards moving on. Rather than feeling all the negative emotions, I would like to invite you to accept the fact that you’ve already taken the calories in. Stop beating yourself up for that, and start forgiving yourself with love, and move on after that.

2. Start Planning

It has been said so many times, but here’s the fact: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Now that you’ve moved on, the next most important thing to do is to not let yourself go back into that guilty zone, and for that to happen, proper planning is required.

The industry right now offers many different types of diet & lifestyle changes for everyone. There is no “one diet fits all” solution, so choose the type of lifestyle you want to lead. Plan it according to your goals, and decide your diet & lifestyle goals in advance. If you have a fitness instructor/nutrition consultant friend, show it to him or her, grab some advice, and move towards it. Most trainers & nutritionist don’t mind helping IF you ask them properly. Remember, it’s not an obligation on their side, but totally out of freewill.

While on the point of planning, being human we would all at times have cravings. These cravings can come in all shapes and sizes. As you plan your meals, you may realize that you have space for extra calorie fun to enter. Should you be one of these people, you may save them to create caloric differences in order to lose weight faster, or spend them once in a while to enjoy your favorite cravings. Alternatively, what you can do is have a cheat meal day where you decide to stop being hard on yourself for that meal and start feasting. You may also decide to spice up every single meal at hand with maybe an extra 10 or 20 calories of flavouring. These can be done through light sauces, herbs, flavored oil (olive oil & extra virgin coconut oil are great examples), etc.

Should you decide to count calories, and find that your calories are really low, yet you want to pop more food into your mouth, exercise is the key to create a higher calorie bank.

3. If your food plan fails on you, go back to point 1

A plan is made so that we have an idea of where we’re heading to. It’s like our road map to success. But sometimes, we would like to side track. In the area of food planning, side tracking can mean eating something that isn’t as planned. These unplanned meals can be food cravings of higher calories, which can once again lead to guilt and shame. Should this happen, go back to point 1: take in the calories, enjoy the meal, don’t beat yourself about it, forgive yourself and go back to your road map. You’re looking towards a long term lifestyle change, not a short term diet. A single meal may damage your goals a little, but it certainly wouldn’t destroy your plans. Moving on and going back to your plan will still bring you to where you want to be, so don’t worry about that guilt-meal.

4. Keep a food diary

This is what I get every one of my clients to do, and this has been one of the greatest help for both them and even myself (as their trainer); we get to both see what’s been going on in their diet, and we get to make healthier decisions together to help improve their lifestyle. If you’re looking to create a better health plan for yourself, keeping a food diary is a good start. It tells you what you’ve been eating, when you’re eating, and the reasons why you may not be meeting your goals.

Guilty eating can be stopped, and it should be. I didn’t do a survey on this, but based on the amount of conversations I make on a day to day basis, I dare say that guilty eating is one of the biggest reasons why people are not seeing results in their lifestyle, whether in terms of weight or body composition goals. If you know a friend who’s going through something like this, I strongly encourage you to share this message to help them cope with guilty eating. I hope this long post has been both educational and empowering to you, and I pray that your eating habits will be able to slowly improve for the better from here on.

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Tan Qing’s Testimonial for me

I am Tan Qing, a 22 years old Student. I only play badminton once a week and James was here to help me lose some fats and gain some muscles. Basically I requested for tone up sessions.

My schedule with James was on every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for 2 months. He has inspired me to wake up every early morning just to travel from Hougang to Upper Bukit Timah Road which takes me 1.5Hours. He has made training fun although the training programs are always testing my limits.

During training, he is very proficient and especially particular on the techniques and forms. He has never failed to encourage me during training especially when I was not in the mood to train. He has this phrase that he always use… ‘Very fun one.’ Which never fails to make me laugh.

James is a very dedicated and customer-satisfying trainer. He produces results and he takes good care of all his clients such as myself. He will assess his client during workout and after. He would provide necessary nutrition when possible such as Amino acid drink to help with my recovery. He puts fitness before income. He has been flexible with my schedule timings and duration.

He would advice on my diet plans so as to help me better achieve my goals.


James produces results.  Thanks to his training, I have managed to achieve a better body posture such as not slouching as much as before.My legs and arms are much more toned up now, less flabby as before due to intensive squats, dead lift and many more.My core is better in shape now and with more training, I believe I would be able to achieve my 4-6 packs!

And lastly, which most girls would love to hear about, is that James has helped me achieve a firmer and rounded upper chest/breast. I believe it’s due to a better posture as well. It is very satisfying.  Now I believe that training chest with weights DOES NOT reduce the size of your chest. And he has definitely proven that to me.

I am now more confident than before as a whole.

In conclusion, James has been a competent trainer. And anyone training under him, I am sure to have achieved what they’ve wanted provided they have the discipline. I have learnt more about working in a gym and am inspired to continue training in future.

I would have continued training under him if situation has allowed me to and I believe and am very confident to say that I would have achieve more than what I’ve already did.

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Keira’s testimonial for me (:

Hi Guys, this is a testimonial I asked my client to write for me, and I thought it’ll be good to share it out here (: Hope you enjoy it!

Photo of James's fitness client - Keira

I am Keira, a 24-year-old female teacher. I am also a regular runner, and recently decided to train with James with hope of toning up, increasing my strength for running a full marathon and learning more about gym training.

A Competent Trainer

James is a competent trainer. He is very passionate and motivating, and greeted me constantly with “Today’s workout is going to be exciting!” He is also very proficient in teaching techniques and forms, as well as planning programmes to suit his clients’ profile and goals. Under his comfortably challenging programme, I managed to lose 2 inches of flab off each of my arm, 2 inches off my waist, and 2 inches off each of my thighs, which is a big deal because I am not flabby to begin with. I gained 1.5kg of muscle within a month while losing those flab too. I increased my running pace from 8.5km/h to 9km/h. I no longer slouch. James at the same time ensures good form to prevent gym injuries. James produce results.

Inspiring change

James inspires change. Firstly, he converted me to like the gym. Trainings are very fun; I get excited to wake up at 6am just to train. There are so many things he can come up with to suit my likes and dislikes, which makes it really enjoyable. Secondly, he is very driven himself. He has lived on “very clean” diets, he trains with a competitive bodybuilder regime, and he works hard, driven by passion above everything else. This enthusiasm spreads to me. Thirdly, he knows what is best for his clients. Once, I asked for a crash diet. To that, he replied that fitness is not a diet but a lifestyle. Through him, I learnt how to pick nutritious and healthy options which I like. Food keeps me very happy, and in great shape too!

Selling point

James’ unique selling points are that he is very dedicated and creative. He once made toasts for me after my first very intense session of heavy weights. That small gesture goes a long way. He also places fitness before income, and was always fine with extending the session a little bit and not hurrying me to quickly finish my workout. He is very creative, being able to combine a plethora of exercises into a single session to work on all muscles. This includes TRX, weights, resistance bands, mat exercises, combination exercises, gym machines and outdoor training.

The gym is also conveniently located at Upper Bukit Timah, and offer three training spots within a single location. It is very well-equipped, despite the sheer absurdity that he lives in the gym; his house is the gym. It even has foam rollers and bosu ball for training purposes.

On the whole, James made me very comfortable (never once threatened my easily-jealous boyfriend, haha!). He is a competent trainer, he inspires change and he is very personable. Cool stuff.

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This is Keira Zhinian. Being a distance runner, she never really learnt much about resistance training in the gym, and came to me last December for personal training, with hopes to tone up and increase her strength.

Keira’s training sessions was always at 8am, twice a week. That would mean waking up early for me, but it also means waking up earlier for her. While I only have to wake up by 7.30am, she needs to make sure she gets up by 6am. However, she was never once late, and sometimes would have done warm ups before she entered my place, giving more time to the “main course”.

Training was always fun, but never easy. There are times when training with me will require a lot of mental energy and physical strength, but Keira never gave up no matter how tough the training can get. As she enjoyed the usage of different props, at times she will throw in some special request, challenging me to combine what she wants with what she needs. However, no matter what was given to her, she’ll never once say no, and make sure she clears the menu for the day without a single word of complain

Due to personal reasons, Keira was unable to continue training with me. However, in just short 8 sessions within a month, as quoted from Keira’s testimonial for me, this is what’s included in her results:

“Under his comfortably challenging programme, I managed to lose 2 inches of flab off each of my arm, 2 inches off my waist, and 2 inches off each of my thighs, which is a big deal because I am not flabby to begin with. I gained 1.5kg of muscle within a month while losing those flab too. I increased my running pace from 8.5km/h to 9km/h. I no longer slouch. James at the same time ensures good form to prevent gym injuries. James produces results.”

I’m very proud to say that this is a client who managed to attain what she was looking for, and I wish her all the best in her future endeavours!

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Good food? Bad food? Which is which?

I’ve been training a client for a while now, and his questions regarding food are pretty much in tune with what most ofvyou would ask; “Is yogurt good? What about alcohol? Hey, but noodles are not fried, can I have them? What about biscuits? Can eat anot? Is it bad? Or good? Can I eat the potato chips?” (all the above are actual questions written as asked), and the list goes on and on. In every country, there’s a wide selection of food choices for each and every one of us to make. When moving from sedentary to healthy, however, many tend to only look into the likes of salad, chicken breast and brown rice, and get turned off by the thought of having to adjust to these food choices instead. Thus, I’m going to write a post on choosing your food sources so that you can have a better idea of what to eat. Healthy living is not difficult. People (like you and me) made it look difficult.

Before reading the points below, bear in mind that all foods are created with a caloric digit, and you will still gain weight when you cross your daily calorie needs. The pointers I’m presenting to you will probably help widen your selection of food choice, but anything taken to an extreme will cause harm to yourself, so please use them as a guideline to select your food choices, not an excuse to enjoy everyday cravings.
1. There’s no such thing as good food or bad food.

We all have to understand this first before moving on. Most sedentary people do not want to try living healthily because of how much they believe what they eat is seen as good or bad. While there are many food items that are generally taboo, I typically teach my client to learn how to see food as “better choices” instead of simply “good” or “bad”. After all, while instant oats may not be as healthy as steel cut oats, they’re definitely better than going back to white rice and yellow noodles. To some, moving from eating fried to eating healthy is like changing their clothes. To majority of the people however, moving towards healthy dieting is worse than running an ironman race, and for this group of people, learning to see food as “better choices” is far better than just labeling them as “good” or “bad”.

2. You have the rights to choose your food.

As you move towards a healthier lifestyle, there is a general list of food options given, and while the common healthy food options like super lean meat and crazy green vegetables sound like madness for you to change towards, there are many other options within the category you will find joy in feasting too. Take some time and shop around the
supermarket, and do some research on the healthier choices you want to try out. Brown rice may sound like a bad idea when you first hear of it, but many of my friends who’ve tried them feedback to me that they actually love it. The point is, you never know until you taste them. Also, when you get the hang of making food choices, you’ll be able to
know how to add a little bit of “unhealthy” to spice up your lifestyle without having to sacrifice your diet. Yay!

3. Have fun!
In all my experience of weight lost, I never once succeeded without having fun. Whether in terms of exercise or nutrition, you gotta have some fun in doing them. Otherwise, what’s the point if you gain the whole world (or your dream body in this case), and lose your soul?

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To eat or not to eat?

Recently I went on a 4D3N cruise trip, and every meal I had was a buffet. Yes, you read it correctly. Buffet for every meal: Breakfast, lunch, tea time, dinner, supper. And as much as we love fitness, so do we love food. For some of us, we train because we want to keep fit, get a nice shape, groom out a good body, show our gigantic biceps to the girls we love, and pretty much make everyone else admire our six pacs. But for others, the sole, and only reason why exercising is so important to them is because they love food.

More exercise = more caloric window = more food intake allowance. But for every meal to be at buffet level, keeping up with with your fitness goal is hard. And in all honesty, being human, I too had a few of my gluttony moments. That said, does it mean that when you are on the cruise of temptation, you can do absolutely nothing but to eat and let loose? No.

When you’re at the buffet, with all the good food around you, you probably wouldn’t take up the option of opening up your little container of oatmeal infront of your friends, but instead hit the plates with your friends, especially if you’re paying for your own buffet. I mean let’s face it: you’re at a 5 star hotel, and you’ve paid $80. Who’s going to sit down
and eat oatmeal for $80? Thus, here are a few measures I tried during my days in the cruise that you can take to help you reduce or even neutralize the damage.

1. Reduce your portion

Very often in buffet, we see our favourite food, and taking more of them automatically becomes normal. My suggestion would be to reduce your portion sizes, since there’s so many varieties of food choices in a buffet. This will give you more calorie space for other food you want to try. After all, if you want more, there’s always seconds, thirds
and maybe even a fourth round, if your calorie intake for the day can handle it, that is..

2. Change your plate size

Research has shown that people tend to love filling up their plate with the food they choose, and buffet plates are often humongous. Thus, bigger plate = bigger serving of food you will most likely take. Changing to a smaller plate size would therefore help you to lower your calorie count. Well, that’s considering the fact that you’re not trying to build a mountain on your plate.

3. Wisely choose your carbohydrates

While many will fill up a portion of their plates with the fried rice or awesome spaghetti, you can substitute that with some greens. Increasing the number of vegetables on your plate will help you to gain fiber, and allow you to feel fuller, give you the vitamins/minerals you need, and like any other rice or noodle products, provide you the carbohydrate you require. Furthermore, vegetables has lower calorie count than rice/noodle. Thus you can eat more vegetables!

4. Drown yourself with water

Water doesn’t take up calorie spaces, but it definitely take up spaces in the stomach. Drinking water before your meal will help fill up a certain amount of space in your stomach, thus lowering your appetite, ultimately lowering your food intake. Furthermore, you add on to the benefit of fulfilling your daily water intake, which means you’re killing two birds with one stone. Awesome!

5. Exercise!

Either you expand your calorie intake, or you burn away the excess you took in. Exercise and nutrition always work hand in hand. Half the time in the cruise I spend in the buffet table, the other half I pretty much spend in the gym. Hit the weights. more muscles = higher metabolism, and I’m sure you know what that means: Higher level of weight
maintenance! Your body will require energy to help you rest and recover from the weights you pump too, so you’ll continuously burn calorie by hitting the weights.

Do up some cardiovascular activities. Cardio is the current hands down winner of fat loss. I did a lot of jogging in the gym. But In all honesty, other than the fact that cardio helps you burn fat, I did it because they had this really awesome treadmill that allows you to jog and watch the television at the same time, and being a child at heart, Disney Channel was playing. So I had the time of my life pretty much running on the treadmill.


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