No limits: training like champs while staying home

With travel bans in place due to the global pandemic, it pains us to know that people are separated from their families and friends. With gyms and fitness centres closed, many of us are struggling to keep fit. Local professional athletes, Herlene Yu (triathlete), Radeem Rahman (pro-MMA fighter) and Ng Ming Wei (taekwondo athlete) are especially feeling the heat. These professionals share their experiences adapting to training in the new ‘norm’ and how you can adapt too!

By SGN | 18 May 2020

In April, Singapore announced for a month-long, later extended till June, ‘circuit breaker’ that mandated for stay-home measures and temporary closure of businesses which includes gyms and fitness facilities. Community fitness corners and sports stadiums were cordoned off shortly after the start of the circuit breaker as part of heightened measures to curb social interactions. Singapore’s professional athletes are feeling the heat – these measures have no doubt impacted their training which could affect performance.

For a close-combat sport like taekwondo, professional athlete Ming Wei Ng faced a challenge – he is unable to train with sparring partners, which is “very important for preparations.” In fact, Ming Wei was training for the Tokyo Olympics Qualifiers in Norway when the virus broke out and had only returned to Singapore in April.

To ensure the safety of athletes, staff and spectators, competitions are being cancelled or postponed until further notice – the Tokyo Olympics have since been postponed to 2021. Professional MMA fighter, Radeem Rahman shares a similar situation as Ming Wei. He was looking forward to competing in various competitions this year, but plans are on pause and training sessions have taken a hit.

“I still need a partner to drill and do live situation. Only certain things can be focused on such as shadowboxing, solo drill on movements and techniques,” Radeem says. Similarly, Ming Wei has been relying on visualisation and mental skills to train. He shares that when he practices his kicks and movements at home, he tries to visualise his opponents, which is “similar to shadowboxing but taekwondo-style.”

He is also taking the time to work on the basics. “As the tournament season for taekwondo is peppered with many tournaments throughout the year, it is not often that I get the chance to sit down and slowly work on the technical fundamentals of my kicks. I am therefore using this period to train to kick harder, faster and more accurately,” Ming Wei says.

Herlene (pictured) has been getting creative in her training.

When you are closed in by the four walls, training has to get a little creative. For triathlete Herlene Yu, whose sports consist of swimming, biking, and running, the stay-home measures have brought about a new way to train. While unable to access any swimming pools, Herlene has been using stretch cords to simulate swimming in the pool. She cycles at home on a wind trainer while on “Zwift”, an app that allows cyclists from all over the world to ride together virtually to keep in touch with her teammates; and she goes for runs around her neighbourhood.

Coping with the new normal – the wifi is the limit

The outdoor characteristics of triathlons is a complete parallel to training at home, and Herlene shares that stay-home measures can take a toll on her emotional and mental front. She was actively training under a programme in Australia when news of border closures prompted her and her sister to quickly get on the last flight home – just before SIA suspends all flights from Australia.

“I just felt like an imaginary door was shut closed in front of me. I am not good at sudden changes and all the sudden rapid changes that happened really allowed me to learn to adapt and make do with all that is available to me,” Herlene explains. She says that it is support from family, friends and teammates that had helped her cope through this trying time – she now tunes in for weekly online chats and check-ins with her training squad.

Ming Wei (top right) in a Zoom training with Singaporean teammates.

“As humans, we are all social creatures. I was therefore indeed affected. I wanted to train with my friends and teammates again. The space at home is small and nothing compared to the national training centre. I therefore felt very suffocated both emotionally and mentally,” Ming Wei shares the same sentiments. He has been working out with friends and teammates over Zoom.

“Although we are not physically together, the sense of camaraderie and support is still very real when you can see and interact with your friends in real-time,” Ming Wei says.

The virtual space is also used for other purposes – for the casual fitness junkies, workout videos are the new hype to meet with fitness goals while staying home. Radeem has been posting weekly videos on YouTube, covering HIIT, Muay Thai and MMA solo workouts to help others keep fit and learn the proper techniques.

“I wanted to help the society,” Radeem says. He explains that he had noticed many people wanting to workout but lacked guidance and a proper workout programme. By posting home workout videos, Radeem also wanted to create an awareness for people who have a misconception about working out.

“Some people think that they need to be fit before working out and others think that combat sports are only for those who want to compete. Hopefully [when they use] my video to workout, they will realise that they do not have to compete if they train with Muay Thai or MMA,” Radeem says.

The pros’ tips to keep fit at home

1. A resistance band and yoga mat can go a long way.

Yoga mats can be used for core strength training, and resistance bands are useful to achieve a full-body workout. Herlene reckons that a resistance band is the most important equipment.

“Even without any weights available, the resistance band provides resistance and allows one to simulate exercises that can be done in the gym. This definitely helps to keep one’s momentum going despite not having any access to the gym or fitness equipment.”

2. No equipment? No problem.

Radeem acknowledges that not everyone has access to workout equipment at home and suggests getting creative (and fit) with what’s lying around. For example, a bag of rice or a bottle of detergent can be a good substitute for weights; and multiple shoes can be linked to create an agility ladder.

Ming Wei shares the same view. He recommends for body-weight exercises, which can be done anywhere and at any intensity. Household products can be used as additional weight to supplement the training.

Radeem (pictured) demonstrates how he uses household items as a substitute weight for a Turkish Get Up.
3. Always clock in a ‘full-body, balanced’ workout

Ming Wei advises for one to have a balanced and consistent approach to fitness and to ensure that they work on the major muscle groups. He says that this will help prevent muscular imbalance and consequent injury. For example, one can focus on arms every Monday while leaving to train the legs on Tuesday.

He also recommends taking the time to train for flexibility as it will increase one’s range of motion and thereby reduce injuries. He shares that this is often neglected but in the long run, can be good for health.

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