With so many travel opportunities and a jam-packed social calendar – not to mention year-round barbecues and many meals out – it can be extremely tough to maintain a disciplined fitness routine in Singapore. Yet there’s a workout to suit everyone’s personal preferences and physical needs, from bootcamp-style sessions and group Pilates classes to spinning and one-on-one training. We asked several EL readers to share how they stay healthy and fit, and got some tips from the experts.
Danielle Khan, 40, British
7.5 years in Singapore
Exercise of choice: Personal training
What it entails: Varied workouts that focus on both the lower and upper body; exercises usually include planks, squats, press-ups, sit-ups, circuits, free weights and Power Plates.
Why she started: “When I moved to Singapore, I succumbed to the expat lifestyle traps – eating out and drinking often – and I just woke up one day and realised what an unhealthy lifestyle I was leading, and how lethargic I was feeling. It was very hard in the beginning to get my fitness levels back, and to add something else to my already hectic schedule, but I was determined to stick with it.”
Why she loves it: “I love that every session is different and never boring. Not working out alone means I’m constantly challenged to keep going through each exercise and repetition, and I feel a sense of achievement at the end of each session; the next day’s muscle aches are somehow satisfying. Also, because I’ve been training with the Physique360 team for three years, it’s a bit like catching up with friends three times a week!”
Results: “The benefits for me have been enormous. I’ve always been quite ‘sporty’, but honestly, I didn’t know what to do in a gym in terms of how to use the machines, and didn’t know what good form looked like for each exercise, or how to achieve the physical goals I was aiming for; now, I know.
Most importantly, I’ve seen a huge improvement in my overall wellbeing and vitality. I’ve been able to maintain my weight, give or take a few kilos, and have seen inch-loss on my arms, hips, thighs and stomach; but, to me, weight loss is not as important as feeling toned and being able to wear the clothes I want to wear. Having a healthy glow, energy and body confidence at 40 is the best outcome I could ask for.”
383 Bukit Timah Road, Alocassia Apartments
Teresa Plummer, 32, British
Three years and five months in Singapore
Exercise of choice: Baby bootcamp
What it entails: This outdoor fitness class incorporates body-weight exercises and interval training for new and not-so-new mums. Babies can come too, and sit (or sleep) in their prams in the shade.
Why she started: “To pre-condition my recovering body for the level of sports and exercise it was used to pre-children.”
Why she loves it: “In addition to the variety of exercises, I love the expert advice and guidance, group encouragement, achieving an all-over body workout and having someone else plan it for you. Sam, the trainer and founder of Ooberfit, is a qualified Pilates instructor, and I really enjoy the cardio workout followed by Pilates toning.
I also love the convenience. I take the class twice a week at the Botanical Gardens, and Sam also offers a class near my house on the East Coast, so if I’m unable to make my usual days, there’s an opportunity not to miss out on my exercise for the week. I can also bring my baby, Tommy, with me to class, and he just sleeps in his buggy while I get a workout.”
Results: “In addition to achieving visibly toned arms and shoulders, I’ve seen a huge difference in my stomach muscles since training with Ooberfit. I suffered from diastasis recti, a four-centimetre gap between my abdominal muscles, which Sam identified in my first class; now, the gap is just 1.5 centimetres, which really says it all. Sam was able to adapt the exercises to my specific needs, as she does for everyone in her classes. I love being able to train with a professional who understands how my body recovers, and paces my training in order to achieve the maximum benefits in a realistic timeframe.”
Rosimara Serrate de Carvalho Martins, 41, Brazilian
Seven years in Singapore
Exercise of choice: Personal training
What it entails: Muscle toning exercises and posture correction, incorporating resistance and functional training, and sculptural techniques using positions in which the body supports itself to build core stability and achieve a balanced, functional and pain-free state.
Why she started: “I had been in a car accident that affected my cervical vertebrae, and needed help with rehabilitation, as my chronic pain was easily aggravated by day-to-day activities. In addition, I wanted to get in shape, correct my posture and improve my overall wellbeing. I turned to Catherine from Bodymind on Niven to create a custom routine that would suit my specific needs.”
Why she loves it: “I love having a customised programme that’s tailored to my personal needs and physical limitations. I think that the results are so much faster and more effective than what I could achieve by myself at a large commercial gym. If you’re a beginner, I feel it’s especially important to have a professional who can orient you, and help you do the exercises correctly, in order to prevent injuries. I like training with Catherine because of her discipline, strong support and motivation. She always finds a way to convince me to push myself and go one step further.”
Results: “Training twice a week for the past five years has toned my muscles, corrected my posture and helped with rehabilitation. It’s also enhanced my overall wellbeing and self-confidence.”
Bodymind on Niven
59 Niven Road
Dirk Perrin, 40, American
One year and 11 months in Singapore
Exercise of choice: Personal training
What it entails: Each workout is different, sessions generally including cardio, strength-building and flexibility exercises and using fitness tools like Kettle Bells, Dura Disc, TRX suspension training, VIPR, battling ropes and the freeFORM board.
Why he started: “My health and fitness have always been very important to me; however, I admittedly slacked off quite a bit before moving to Singapore. Once we’d settled in here, finding a trainer and getting back into a regular exercise routine was a top priority. I needed to lose some weight and get back into shape.”
Why he loves it: “Working out with Vanan from EzFit once a week for the past year and a half has been great. He makes it very convenient by coming to me and being very flexible with scheduling. He varies my workout routines so that I don’t get bored, and helps keep me motivated by setting goals and tracking my progress.”
Results: “I’ve lost 20 kilos, increased my muscle mass and significantly decreased my body fat by 13 percent. I’m much healthier now, and feel a lot better. Another benefit that I believe is related to my weight loss is that I no longer get heartburn.”
Sophie Levinson, 44, Australian
Seven years in Singapore
Exercise of choice: Aqua Spin
What it entails: Aqua Spin involves pedalling on stationary bicycles submerged in the pool, using the water resistance to burn up to three times more calories than land-based cycling.
Why she started: “I’ve been Aqua Spinning for a about a year. After knee reconstruction surgery a few years ago, I haven’t been able to run, so I was looking for a good, low-impact way to stay fit. I was first introduced to the concept at a trial class at the British Club and was instantly hooked.”
Why she loves it: “I was initially surprised – and still am – by how spinning in the water provides such a great workout! Aqua Spin is the perfect exercise, as it combines cardio, interval and strength training, all in a low-impact environment. It’s perfect for rehabilitation because the water resistance helps strengthen muscles while the water buoyancy provides support for the body, decreasing the strain on joints, muscles and ligaments. It’s also great in Singapore’s climate, as the water keeps you quite cool as you train.
Yannick and Alicia are passionate instructors who make every class different and tough, but always with a big smile and a sense of humour. I really miss Aqua Spin if I don’t get my two sessions in per week.”
Results: “I’ve gotten a lot stronger and have become more confident in using my dodgy knee for other exercises. I’m definitely much fitter now, too.”
Wendy Shaw, 65, South African
13 years in Singapore
Exercise of choice: Functional training and Pilates fusion
What it entails: This combination workout targets the whole body. While functional training focuses on using large, mobilising muscles by recreating daily movement patterns in an exercise routine – think pushing, pulling and throwing – Pilates strengthens the core and trains the small, postural muscles that help keep bones properly aligned. Stott Pilates equipment and functional training devices like TRX, training ropes, Kettle Bells and medicine balls are all incorporated to make each workout different and challenging.
Why she started: After being injured in a car accident years ago, Wendy decided to seek out safe and physiologically correct training methods. Pilates and functional training both originated in rehabilitation, and the combination of the two provided a perfect solution.
Why she loves it: “I’ve been doing Pilates for nine years because it’s great for toning and strengthening the core, and elongates the muscles without adding bulk. Also, I love that Marina from SmartFit pushes me to reach my goals – being a dancer and Olympic runner, she’s an absolute perfectionist, and I can’t speak highly enough of her.”
Results: “My posture is great and my whole body is strong, including both my lower and upper back. I’ve also improved my bone density, which is important for my upcoming hip replacement.”
1 Orchard Boulevard, #07-04 Camden Medical Centre
Leticia Roxo, 35, Brazilian
Five years in Singapore
Fitness of choice: Prenatal Pilates and physiotherapy
What it entails: “In my group prenatal classes, I use the reformer, the mat and the Pilate’s arc.”
Why she started: “I started doing Pilates four years ago to help manage the chronic neck and upper back pain that I’ve had for the last 10 years, due to scoliosis and lordosis problems associated with poor posture from too many hours in front of the computer. Before my pregnancy, I was attending reformer, tower, strength and conditioning group Pilates classes. Now, I look forward to my prenatal Pilates sessions, and also attend a once-a-week physiotherapy session, which incorporates pain relief treatment, stretches and exercises to reduce the tightness of muscles in my lower and upper back, using equipment like a barrel, a chair and a trapeze table.”
Why she loves it: “I’m addicted to Pilates and do it at least three times a week. I like to alternate classes and instructors, as I enjoy different class styles and energy flows. The exercises are challenging, and I’m constantly aiming to improve. I like to see the changes in my body and muscle tone, and always leave class feeling tall and powerful. When I can’t practice, I tend to feel less energised, shorter and not as happy.”
Results: “I’ve really become more conscious of the way I move during daily activities, from working out at the gym and running to household tasks and maintaining good posture while sitting at work; it’s also made me more aware of how to use my strength and breath more efficiently. I used to tense my neck in almost every exercise, and I had a very weak core. It was very challenging for me at first, as it required patience and motivation; in fact, it took me more than one year to really understand the concepts and how to use my body and mind in a more effective way.
Most importantly, Pilates relieves my back pain; even at 36 weeks pregnant, I’m strong and active.”
22 Malacca Street, #08-00 Royal Brothers Capital Building;
302 Orchard Road, #08-03/04 Tong Building
Rob Davies, 43, Australian
Five years in Singapore
Fitness of choice: UFIT bootcamp and personal training
What it entails: Outdoor bootcamp sessions incorporate cardio and resistance training with UFIT’s infamous flex-bands for strength, flexibility and core-building; personal training sessions at the UFIT studio are tailored to each individual client’s needs and limitations.
Why he started: “Quite simply, I was overweight and unfit. The real catalyst was my three-year-old son saying ‘Daddy’s got boobies.’”
Why he loves it: “I love exercising outdoors, and the group setting provides great camaraderie and a little bit of healthy competition. The coaches really know their stuff and, rather than just taking you through the same routine, they mix it up so you’re always progressing; they also offer great advice on all aspects of health and fitness.
Also, the recent partnership between UFIT and OZFIT has really added to the diversity of sessions available, and I can already see that the coaches are sharing more ideas and learning from each other.”
Results: “When I started, I weighed about 83kg. In the first four to five months I lost 20kg, and I’ve kept it all off since then. More importantly, I feel great, have lots of energy for my two boys, and have now developed healthy habits without having to go on fad diets. Most importantly, no more man-boobs!”
87-88 Amoy Street
In case you hadn’t heard… Two of Singapore’s most popular bootcamps, OZFIT and UFIT, have joined forces to provide clients with a greater variety of classes, and in nine different locations island-wide such as the Botanical Gardens, East Coast Park, Fort Canning Park, Marina Bay and Sentosa.
Tamy Ambarchi, 40, Australian
Ten years in Singapore
Fitness of choice: OZFIT bootcamp and Boxfit
What it entails: Bootcamp sessions incorporate high-intensity interval training, plyometrics (jump training), body-weight circuits and resistance training, and exercise techniques aimed at developing strength and cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. The Boxfit class combines boxing and focus pad drills with cardio and strength circuits to provide an intense, full-body workout; punching combined with running up hills and stairs, for example.
Why she started: “As a teenager, I was actually very lazy, and would sneak off from sport to go to the local cafe. As I got older and met my husband, I began to enjoy exercise, and the way it made me feel. I tried Shefit bootcamp with the encouragement of a friend who was sure I’d like it, and she was right; I eventually switched to OZFIT bootcamp, and also started Boxfit six months ago.”
Why she loves it: “The classes are always different; every time you turn up, you can be sure that you’ll be doing something different, which isn’t what you get from all trainers. Also, the OZFIT trainers are so motivating, and give just the right amount of encouragement to everyone in the class.
I’m really excited about the OZFIT and UFIT merge, as it provides greater opportunity for more and varied classes. I also now have the chance to extend myself and try more running-based classes.”
Results: “Only once I started with OZFIT did I realise how much more I could achieve and how much better I could feel. Once I started going three times per week, I began to really see a difference in my body shape, my energy levels and how I felt about myself. Trying on new clothes is now a pleasure – not to mention a drain on my finances!”
Kelly McAteer, 41, British
Three years in Singapore
Fitness of choice: Bootcamp and personal training
What it entails: Each session incorporates strength training, cardio and fitness tools like elastic bands and TRX.
Why she started: “To get fit, lose weight and be sociable.”
Why she loves it: “For me, it’s a mind and body thing; if I work out and feel good, I’m happier, and more productive and active in my daily life. I’ve made a lot of lovely friends through my bootcamp sessions. I also love that the instructor makes sure every class is different, as I get bored very easily.”
Results: “I’m much happier and more conscious of what I eat and drink. I also love to exercise now, even when I’m on holiday. I participated in the Fitnmix shape-up programme for six weeks, and now I’m 18 inches smaller and 6kg lighter.”
Psst… cool new CBD gym!
Known for its no-frills, “get it done” attitude, personal training gym, Ultimate Performance (UP), has opened the doors to its brand new 7,000 square foot space in the CBD, complete with a sprint track and an outdoor training area. We asked Joe Halstead, director of UP Asia, about the gym why one-on-one training is a great option. He simply told us: “Results. Most people don’t know the effective ways to train or diet for proper body composition results. A reasonable estimate is that 12 weeks of one-on-one training with us three times a week will get most people better results than they’d achieve in two years of going to a normal gym.”