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Tangram's October Client Fitness Inspiration: Nell van den Ende!


When Nell first contacted me back in June, she was approaching the 6-week mark after giving birth to her gorgeous daughter, Nia. Once Nell had been checked by her gynae and given the all clear for exercise, she was keen to get going straight away!

Nia is Nell’s second child and, like many mums, Nell found it more difficult to make the time to exercise during her second pregnancy. She ended up gaining slightly more weight than the first time round. Nell was determined to lose this baby weight as quickly as possible but she was also aware that her tummy muscles were not in the best shape!

Nell knew of Diastasis Recti (DR) but did not suffer with it much after her first pregnancy. Bryn, her 3-year-old boy, was a smaller birth weight baby and, at that point, Nell's body was pretty strong after years of exercise. Nia however was a larger baby at birth and like many mums, this made Nell’s DR much worse the second time around.

Diastasis Recti (DR) is a splitting apart of the outer abdominal muscles. It's very common in pregnancy, especially with larger weight babies or twins, and in expectant mothers who have previously given birth to at least one child. The muscles are forced apart by an intra-abdominal pressure created by the growing womb. In many cases, if the connective tissue which surrounds the deep inner core muscles is weaker, this can herniate through the gap, causing a mottled effect, which some people refer to as the ‘mummy tummy’.

It’s very important that DR is managed immediately before a new mum embarks on any type of vigorous exercise. Failing to do so can cause chronic lower back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction and a long-term lingering mummy tummy.

So, despite Nell’s desire to lose her baby weight fast, she knew we really needed to begin her programming at a low level, mainly encompassing DR recovery through inner core strengthening.

It took Nell 4 to 5 weeks to regain much of her inner core strength and in this time we did see a measurable reduction in her DR.

Nell took off to the UK over summer feeling stronger and happier in her body. As we’d taken the slow approach in healing her DR, it meant she was able to go jogging again without any lower back pain, or having to pee constantly!  Returning to Singapore in September, she was now determined to lose the remainder of her baby weight before going back to work.

We had 6 weeks of training and she’s really given it her all! Nell’s programming has progressed from low level DR regeneration to encompassing full body strength and endurance exercises. We’ve even added elements of HIIT to her workouts to shrink those fat cells!

HIIT training is very difficult in the postpartum period due to weakened pelvic floor muscles but as we managed her DR correctly, Nell now has the inner core strength to support her pelvic floor muscles during this type of exercise.

Her overall body strength and particularly her abdominal strength has improved massively, allowing her to really push herself in our sessions. She’s lost a lot of her baby weight and inches all over her body. Usually this type of training and progression would correlate with an increase in energy levels and improve quality of sleep but you’ve got to remember Nell is a mum of two. Nia is still breastfeeding and waking repeatedly through the night and Bryn is a 3-year-old boy…enough said!!

Super mom? Yep, I definitely think so!

Well done Nell, you should be very proud of your achievements, you work hard, smile throughout and have really taken on the challenges of motherhood! Congrats from the team at Tangram Wellness.

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Tangram's September Fitness Inspiration: Gloria


This month I’d like to give a massive shout out to my wonderful client, Gloria!

Gloria has been training with me for the past 7 months. She first approached me after she’d been unable to exercise for a few years following the birth of her daughter and a few medical issues over the years.

Gloria wanted to feel healthier in her body and get her life back on track. She’d suffered from a niggling lower back and neck pain for some time and, like many of us, she was concerned about the health issues that often arise with getting older.  

Gloria initially had poor energy levels. She rated her fitness ability, aerobic capacity and muscular strength very low. These factors, however, did not halt her progression. Gloria has proven to be a fighter; she works hard and shows determination in every session.

Over time we’ve seen Gloria’s lean muscle mass gradually increase. Her body composition has become trimmer and her ability to perform advanced compound exercises has improved tremendously.

Despite rating her fitness ability as low and claiming on her first session that she detests running, Gloria’s high intensity treadmill sprints are now a regular component of our sessions and she almost enjoys them…. almost!

It was apparent from quite early on in training that Gloria’s core muscle strength required attention. This is not surprising after enduring a difficult labour and subsequent complications. We therefore made core strengthening high on our list of priorities from the beginning. By progressing her workouts gradually week by week, Gloria has managed to reconnect her inner core unit which was shattered during pregnancy.

Learning how to properly activate her Transverse Abdominals during each exercise has not only strengthened her core and flattened her tummy but also means she no longer suffers from chronic lower back pain.

A true testament to Gloria’s determination with her training was made apparent over the summer. Gloria spent a couple of months back in her homeland of Italy visiting family and friends across the country.

Before leaving, Gloria voiced concern over the fact that she wouldn’t be able to train for two months. She worried that the progressions she’d made, especially regarding her core strength, would be lost. I devised a core strengthening workout plan for Gloria which she could perform anywhere, anytime…and she stuck with it! 

The hard work and consistency paid off. By sticking to this 20 minute plan, 3 times a week for the entire 2 months, Gloria has returned to Singapore in great shape. Her core strength is awesome and we can continue to push her in her sessions, without the usual holiday setbacks…this makes me a very happy personal trainer.

For Gloria, personal training has been a lifestyle change. She looks and feels so much healthier, her energy is high and she really enjoys herself in her training sessions! For her consistent hard work and excellent results, Tangram applauds her in being September’s client fitness inspiration! Well done Gloria, from all of us at Team Tangram. xx




The Gym Bag Lowdown: Here's What We Can't Live Without

While many women keep a cute purse by their side, we wellness warriors rely on a big ole' gym bag to get us through our days. Ever wonder how fitness fanatics actually live? In this blog, we give you a peek inside the goods- our gym bags, of course! Read on.

Katheryn Meadows, Yoga Instructor 


You never know what you’re going to find in my gym bag! Diapers, toy cars, a box of raisins, or 7,000 receipts?!? It’s always an adventure!

The few things I never leave home without are by far the following: 

  • Lifefactory Water Bottle: It’s weighs like 5 pounds alone but goes everywhere with me (I think of it as extra strength training). Water just tastes better in it and staying hydrated is essential for my active lifestyle. 
  • Lululemon yoga towels: Lululemon’s towel mats are a must for hot sweaty practices. They’re lightweight and portable, absorbent enough to keep your grip in sweaty practices and come in super cute designs!
  • Moleskin notebook: All of my secrets are hidden in these chic Moleskin notebooks! Here I keep a morning intention journal that helps to design all of my classes for the week (and keep my sanity!). I also jot down creative ideas, quotes and movements whenever I have a chance - you never know when inspiration will hit!
  • Headbands, headbands, headbands!: As a busy mom, sometimes washing my hair falls on the lower end of the priority list (and by sometimes, I mean pretty much always!). Headbands can make all of the difference in this humid climate (hello frizz!), just throw one on, tie your hair up in a topknot and you’re ready to go!
  • Wallaroo Visor: This might make me an old lady, but the sun here in Singapore is no joke! I slather on SPF 50 in the morning but never leave home without my visor. It’s light, machine washable and protects my entire face from the sun. 

Aimee Barnes Pestano, Health & Recovery Coach

Well, the first thing you’ll see in my gym bag are a zillion loose hair ties and coins floating around! My gym bag is pretty much my purse, since I’m running around to appointments all day and go to the gym right after they’re done.

I pack a Quest bar or two as a snack, and sometimes I’ll bring my lunch if it’s a long day out. 

Two things I cannot live without are my Valeo weight belt and my Versa Gripps, both of which I’ve had forever. They’re smelly and cruddy at this point, but the weight belt has become a lifesaver for heavy squats and deadlifts, and the Versa Gripps have helped me increase my pull up numbers and my load on pulldowns, as well as minimizing callouses. I much prefer them over gloves.

I always have several notebooks with me- one for writing business ideas, one for writing a general “to do” list, and one for tracking all my sets and reps at the gym, as well as my mood and how I was feeling overall.

And of course, the hair again- I pack a dry shampoo with me for those days when I don’t have time to wash and blow dry. A lip gloss or two is also in the mix!

Anna Kwan, Health & Fitness Specialist

My gym bag doubles up as my general day bag. I'm usually out all day with clients
and so tend get most of my cardio exercise simply walking between my clients throughout the day. I love to get a bit of a stride on- walking can be so invigorating especially in some of the stunning open spaces we're lucky to have in Singapore!

I always pack my elastic resistance bands, these are so versatile and my clients can use them anywhere for a great resistance workout. 
Deodorant is a must, it's so sticky and hot walking around the city! 

My shades and earphones...I love to listen to calming, chilled music when I'm walking, it helps clear my head and blocks out the stresses of the city and overpowering noises of construction sites! At the moment I'm hooked on The 1975, The Sound...great album!

Snacks...I always have a stash of almonds in the pocket of my rucksack in case my energy levels drop. Almonds are high in protein and a good source of fat, they serve as an easy on the go snack. I'll usually have an apple too, pink lady's I'm addicted to, so crispy and sweet!

Coconut water I usually carry with me in case I'm feeling dehydrated. I find this better than a sports drink as it has fewer calories, less sodium and more potassium. 

Yan Huang, Metabolic Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach

Bands, bands, bands. I loveeee working out with bands. Versatile, highly effective, offers great feedback to the body, and most of all, it is lightweight. For someone as mobile as I am, this is fantastic companion -- so there is no excuse not to have a great workout ANYWHERE! 

Bands are also great for stretching and mobility work. Elite athletes train with resistance bands most of the time too.

Check out the other posts in this series, What's in the Fridge and What's For Breakfast? to learn more about how wellness pros really live- we think you'll be surprised! If you liked this post, share it! If you have a question for us, just email or leave a note in the comments section. As always, thanks for reading! 



What's for Breakfast at Team Tangram?

Have you ever wondered what "health nuts" eat for breakfast? In this new series, Team Tangram will be giving you an uncensored peek into how wellness pros actually live- we think you may find it refreshingly surprising! Making time for breakfast IS important- studies show that people who eat breakfast are better able to manage their weight, meet their nutritional needs, and sustain concentration throughout the day. However, there is no "perfect" breakfast for all- every body's different, with different requirements and preferences, and we all have different rhythms and responsibilities in our lives as well! 

Anna, the Personal Trainer

"Today for breakfast I had watermelon, one of my favourite fruits, and so refreshing to have first thing in the morning as it is made up of over 90% water so really hydrates the body. It also contains amino acids which hold anti-inflammatory properties- great helping for muscle soreness after a week of hard training.

During the week, when i'm training clients in the morning, I tend to have grapefruit instead as my morning fruit. Grapefruit has a really low GI for a fruit and so helps maintain my energy levels throughout the morning. 

I make my own muesli which is a combination of rolled oats, bran fibre, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds. Its a great combination of low GI carbohydrate, fibre, protein and essential fats. I mix in a few teaspoon of cinnamon powder for extra flavour!

Today i had greek yogurt and Manuka honey with my muesli. Greek yogurt is a good source of protein and so will keep me full longer; it helps lower the GI of my breakfast, meaning time taken to digest is longer. Manuka honey is a great sweetener and has a higher nutrient density than regular honey.  I love this combination, the refreshing watermelon combined with creamy sour greek yogurt, sweet honey and crunchy, spicy cinnamon muesli.....YUUUUM!!!"

Katheryn, the Yogi

"What do yogis eat for breakfast? Why, artisanal gogi berry kombucha with kale kimchi foraged by virgin Nepalese sherpas deep in the Amazon jungle, of course. #artisanal #cleanliving

What do I actually eat for breakfast… Cereal. And not even the good for you kind of cereal. Frosted Mini Wheats or Raisin Nut Bran (which sounds good for you but is like 80% sugar) #badyogi #deliciouscereal

Breakfast is for sure the most important meal of the day - and I am one cranky mama if I don’t eat immediately after waking up! But mornings with two babies are such chaos that I end up prioritising convenience to save my sanity. A healthier choice would be a smoothie with protein powder or Aimee’s famous protein pancakes!

We all struggle to take better care of ourselves! Just do the best you can with what you’ve got."

Aimee, The Coach

"My breakfast is a bit weird these days! I'll usually have some kind of egg dish. Today it's an egg white quiche with carrots and zucchini. I added a baked free range chicken leg from last night's dinner- we usually cook in bulk so there are leftovers in my meals each day. I also have homemade beef broth every morning, which is basically just beef bones simmered in a slow cooker for 24 hours. Then, I'll have a Greens Plus drink with fish oil and maca powder in it, and a cup of green tea.

I've been eating this way for about four months now, following an autoimmune protocol diet (AIP). It was an easy adjustment to make since I'm not a sugar person anyway. Autoimmune disease is rampant on both sides of my gene pool and I inherited some of that, so when my body started going haywire again last year, I did lots of research on how to help boost immunity and reduce inflammation with food, as well as seeking guidance from functional medicine professionals. I'd say that following an AIP plan is definitely helping! 

We're all given different challenges in life. You can live well and be fit, even when your health isn't optimal. As Katheryn says, doing the best with what you've been given is key. How we eat can make a big difference in our daily lives."

Thanks for reading! What's on your breakfast table? We'd love to hear from you! 



3 Things You Can Do NOW for a Season of Serenity

I've got a question for you. When you came across your first Christmas tree sighting or holiday sale this month, did you think, "how lovely, tis' the season!" or were you more along the lines of "bah, humbug! Why can't the Grinch just steal the whole darn thing already?"

As we move into the most hectic time of year, a little planning around your physical and mental well-being could make all the difference between merriment and meltdown. Holiday stress puts our health at significant risk while increasing our likelihood of turning to self-sabotaging behaviors in order to cope, such as overeating, reckless spending and heavy drinking. In fact, a survey on holiday stress found that comfort eating increased by over 10 percent among women toward the end of the year, when our perceived expectations are at an all-time high. Let’s face it, we have a tendency to be incredibly tough on ourselves during the festive season! Some women tear their hair out trying to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones. Other women force themselves, yet again, to shove a toxic family situation under the rug in the name of good cheer. And, the comparison trap can feel impossible to escape as acquaintances share updates about travel plans, gifts, and seemingly perfect families. Despite the metaphorical sacks of coal that many of us carry into the “silly season”, this time can actually become a season of SERENITY and a celebration of light, goodness and peace.

Take a minute to think about the roots of any stress you experience around the holidays. Are you agreeing to too much? Are you holding yourself to an impossibly high standard? Are you allowing feelings of guilt or obligation to control you and if so, where are those messages coming from? Do you keep thinking that it “should” be a certain way? Are you resisting what feels purposeful and sacred while holding onto traditions that serve no one? 

If what I’ve written resonates with you, here are three surefire ways to greatly reduce holiday stress starting NOW:

Artist: Rob Gonsalves

Artist: Rob Gonsalves

1. Create the meaningful holiday that YOU desire. “But wait! Isn’t that selfish?” you might be thinking. What’s more selfish: being miserable and dishonest by spending time in situations that are harmful to your health, or joyously spreading holiday cheer by engaging in something that uplifts your soul? If guilt is weighing you down, there are many volunteer work options available during this time, like delivering gifts to children in need through non-profit programs, working with a local soup kitchen, volunteering at a prison or hospice, or signing up for a Habitat for Humanity build. If a well-deserved vacation is more your speed, consider planning something that keeps you active and engaged with others, or brings you to a country that could really use your tourist dollars. This can also be a time of spiritual connection and reflection, and a wonderful opportunity to finally go on a silent or religious retreat, or to experience pilgrimage to a sacred place.

2. Get Off Facebook. A recent study found that people who quit Facebook for a week were 55% less stressed than those who continued with their regular Facebook use. In fact, scientists have recognized for quite some time that Facebook increases depression and anxiety, as well as being a massive time suck, but if you’re on the social network, you probably know that from experience! During the holidays, we’re particularly prone to comparing ourselves with others and losing sight of the bigger picture. Equally, it's a time where many of us feel like we need to put up a mask, which means a lot of photos and status updates in your feed that will definitely not represent reality, as well as added pressure to share your own carefully crafted "highlights." If you're stressing out just thinking about it, consider quitting Facebook for the month of December. The gift of your full attention is one of the best you can give. (I'm on day 18 of my personal social media detox and all I can say is that the freedom of disengaging from something so unreal tastes even better than pecan pie. More on that later). 

3.  Recommit to fitness. If you’ve let your exercise routine fall by the wayside, now is the time to hire a personal trainer or coach, join a gym or yoga studio, and really make a promise to yourself to take care of your body. Exercise can actually be MORE effective than antidepressants for those prone to depression, and by kicking your endorphins up a notch, you’ll reduce stress while distracting yourself from worry. It'll also be easier to maintain your weight and keep your alcohol intake in check by increasing your mindful focus on well-being, despite the many temptations of the season. Don’t wait until you’ve made your New Year’s Resolutions. Encourage a fun and fit festive season by getting your blood flowing and drawing up an exercise plan of action now.

What proactive step will you take TODAY to reduce holiday stress? How will you create a Season of Serenity for yourself and your loved ones? If you think this post would be useful to someone, share it!



Q: How Do I Get Back Into Fitness Again?

Have you ever struggled to get back into your fitness routine after a long break? Maybe you haven't worked out in a few years and are ready to commit to taking care of your body again. If this resonates with you, then you'll definitely want to check out the video below, where I answer a question from Lisa, who asks:

"I want to start exercising again after a super long hiatus. However, I've become so unfit that I can feel my glutes and calves ache after walking up a flight of stairs. I have a gym membership which I never use. However, I feel self-conscious when I go to the gym. How should I start again? Should I start off with bodyweight exercises? 

Have a question on fitness, nutrition or habit change? Ask away, and I'll answer it via video or blog post!


© Tangram Fitness 2013