The Road to Gold

Sun 14 August 2016 | -- (permalink)

Yesterday Singapore witnessed Joseph Schooling win his first Olympic gold medal - and also Singapore's very first gold medal in our 51 years of history as an independent nation.

This reminded me of a goal I set a month ago after I failed my IPPT miserably.

I generally have no problems motivating myself, whether it be a year long Final Year Project, studying for 6 modules or working every school vacation. But when it comes to fitness, I somehow cannot sustain an exercise plan for more than a couple of weeks.

Two months ago, I decided I had enough of this shit and all the excuses I was giving myself. I was going to get gold for IPPT by January 2017. The last time I got a gold for a fitness test was way back in 2004 in secondary two. Subsequently, I either barely passed or failed my fitness tests. No silver before - only fail (mostly), pass (sometimes) and gold (once)!

Some reasons why I failed to stick to exercise plans in the past:

Making the activation energy too high

Exercise three times a week, alternating between two different sets, each targeting difference muscle groups. Do x sets of y reps with z seconds of break in between

That was how my training program used to look like and x and y varied depending on the exercise. The training program was unnecessarily complicated.

Not keeping close track of my progress

This is related to point 1. Due to the overly complicated program, it was troublesome to keep track of how many reps I did, and the amount of rest I took between sets. Sometimes I jotted them down in my phone, while other times I just did my max and went home.

Too many excuses

It's raining / too early / too late / no time.

Not making it a priority

Work is important, studies are important and fitness is important. However fitness was always a less urgent priority compared to the other two.

Something different had to be done. I don't believe in using pure willpower to accomplish goals; your habits and environment need to change as well. These are the changes made:

First, I will take IPPT every single month until I get gold. This is to have something to work towards every 30 days, using official records to keep track of my progress. No half-assed push ups or sit ups will be counted.

Second, there must be backup plans to not let excuses get in the way. My backup plan is the vertical dash. In this simple exercise we sprint up 17 floors, walk down, then repeat again. Climbing 17 floors only takes 3-4 minutes but is extremely exhausting. The first time I did it, my legs could barely carry me down after the end of the first set and I was gasping for air. It is the perfect excuse-proof cardio exercise as it only takes 15 minutes, can be done within my HDB block and is not affected by the weather.

Third, keep it simple. I will only do push ups, sit ups, 2.4 km runs and vertical dash when training on my own. No lunges/squats/jumping jacks/pull ups/planks/gym sessions. Only when I have made the most basic exercises a habit will I incorporate other activities.

Fourth, make it fun by attending IPT in the park sessions. With things like kickboxing, yoga, agility ladders and circuit training, they are a great way to spice up training. IPT is also free! I usually head to the ones at Pasir Ris and Punggol parks. The lousy NS Portal UI 1 is a blessing in disguise as it provides an additional barrier to logging on and cancelling sessions.

After sticking to this plan, I have managed to exercise consistently for the longest time ever. Below are the results for the past two months. Hopefully I can start passing when September ends!

  1. I would love to dissect the ways in which NS Portal can be improved, but it is probably unwise to do so in a public blog 

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