Life Lessons I Learnt from My First HIIT

Life Lessons I Learnt from My First HIIT

Life Lessons I Learnt from My First HIIT

Today we are almost into half of February. Suddenly 42 days of 2020 has just sneaked past quietly. Usually January is a fun-packed month for us, filled with leisure activities, retreats and celebratory meals to reward ourselves for the hard work we put in the past one year. It certainly did not help that Chinese New Year 2020 came early this year in January.

Not surprisingly, I put on some excess weight and had only clocked into the gym TWICE (OMG – it was supposed to be a weekly affair) but yes only twice this year because both my Physical Trainer and I were away at different times.

My sister recently started HIIT sessions which was a little birthday gift from me. In the past one month, she shed close to 4KG and being a fervent follower of me on social media, she dropped me DMs (direct message) in IG couple of times, “Eh your arms are getting flabby!” Occasionally she would send me a second note. You would have imagined, she might have said “Sis, I’m sorry if I was too direct ok, you look great actually.”

On the contrary, the answer was “No.” The second note was “Oh, even my boyfriend thinks so.” That’s the curt truth.

Human beings are primarily motivated by two factors. Either PAIN or PLEASURE
In this case, it was the “Pain” of getting fatter and indeed I could feel my tummy forming a visible ‘swimming float’. Coincidentally, I came across Benjamin Loh’s Instagram post which asked “When was the first time you tried something new?” It seemed like a calling.

I signed up for HIIT the following day. My usual habit was to start my personal training at 9am on weekday mornings. But that day, I decided to just pack my gym stuff and go for a planned HIIT session in the evening at 6.15PM.

Coincidentally I bumped into my Personal Trainer who turned out to be the HIIT trainer! When he saw me, he had an awry smile and said these 4 words “Good Luck to You.” At first I was uncertain what he meant. My train of thoughts were interrupted by a shout behind my ears “OK Everybody, in your warm up positions! Let’s go!” He pointed to all the students, around 15 of us to a blackboard below:

I was flabbergasted. The fifteen of us were split into 3 groups of 5 and each group (A/B/C) will take turns to complete each set within 15 minutes. When he blew his whistle, everybody shifted into their respective positions with full confidence knowing exactly what to do. Whilst I was still grappling with trying to understand the instructions written on the board.

In that uncomfortable situation, I felt that this was so intriguing that we can also draw parallels between HIIT and life.

Some of the life lessons I have learnt from HIIT:

Applaud Yourself For Being Here
Celebrate small wins. I gave myself a little pat for getting out of my own comfort zone to step into an unknown area of HIIT. It was already a ‘win’ because I did not “think and not do it”. Yes, I was a little daunted when my own personal trainer gave me a smirk and said Good Luck. But reframing was done immediately by telling myself that two workouts a week is better than just once a week right? Such little positive words of affirmation got me going everyday.

Many times in life, I am sure many of us have an urge to do something. Unless you hold on to that so tightly, make a decision to do it, foster a plan and make it happen, otherwise it will just slip past us as time goes on. Sometimes it could be something trivial whether to go for a run or pick up a new hobby. Those opportunity cost of not fulfilling it might be small. But how many times have you heard from someone that “I had that thought and I wished I had done it!”. They fostered a good first half (the goal) but yet had not follow through to develop a plan to execute it to make it a reality. It does not matter how big or beautiful our dreams are. For a dream unfulfilled will continue to be just a dream.

Do not feel pressured. Just follow your own pace

During the session, all the HIIT participants knew exactly what to do. Except me. I was akin to a lost sheep. Totally. I surmise most would have felt uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I was still comfortable to be in my own skin. I simply acted chill and just mirrored what the others were doing.

The first exercise was:
1. 10 times squats with 6KG dumb bells on both arms, 10 times burpees with the same weights.
2. 9 times squats with 6 KG dumb bells, 9 times burpees with the same weights.
3. 8 times squats with 6 KG dumb bells, 8 times burpees with the same weights.
Then the repetition all the way till I time and then up from 1 time back up to 10 times. Based on this 10-1 and 1-10, we would have completed 110 times.

You must be wondering, did I manage to do it? Of course I DID …… NOT. I only managed to do half of the sets, in total 55 times. Frankly I could barely continue when I reached 4X4 set but I kept reminding myself follow my own pace and do not be bothered by others’ speed There is no need to feel pressured because I am here for health reasons rather than a competition of speed.

Just like life, we all run our own pace in respective areas. Having said that it is healthy to get competitive once in a while. All successful people like such healthy competition. For me, there is only one person whom I am in constant competition with is myself.

My only competitor is “My Yesterday Self”. Success to me simply means we are better than who we were yesterday.

Enjoy the Process of Struggle
I struggled a lot in the first set on the weights and burpees. When we swopped to the 2nd set, it was slightly easier for me:

-3 sets of Running 200m, 15 Kettlebell swings and 10 box jumps.

By the end of first set of weights and burpees, I was really panting badly and sneakily taking a 5-10 seconds break. Once the first 15 minutes were up, all my group mates dashed to the treadmill and starting to run with speeds like 13 to 14km/hour. For me, I set it at a moderately comfortable fast pace of 9.5km/hour.

Whilst others took less than 60 secs to finish the 200m run, I did it with 90 secs. Once again I reminded not to feel pressured. By the time I started the box jumps, my legs and abs were aching. But I smiled to myself and reframed that I was finally in Mohamed Ali’s state when he was asked the number of sit-ups he would do.

I don’t count my sit-ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count. ~ Mohamed Ali

In life, we will all experience some kind of discomfort when we embark on something new. Struggles are inevitable. But if we maintain a Growth Mindset mentality, all the struggles will eventually converge leading to a happy outcome. Ultimately it all depends on how we view and put things into perspective.

For instance I recently attended a seminar and the keynote speaker Maxine Teo shared with us the thrilling video clip she had when she decided to Skydive in Australia. From the start, she felt exhilarated to board the helicopter with her friends. When the helicopter began to take her higher into the skies, she started to feel scared.

When the helicopter door opened, every time a person jumped out, she would scream for the other party. Finally she was the last person left. At that point, she was scared stiff. The skydiver she was attached to just took the leap of faith and it was free falling for some time. At some point, the parachute was stuck underneath her chest. She was worried and struggling. Eventually the veteran skydiver opened it and they landed well!

The moment of landing felt her feel triumphant and victorious! She could not believe it! Had she not put herself through the struggles, she would not have completed such a feat! The best outcome was that this skydive experience generated such great content to be shared among the audience.

Once Committed, Follow Through.
It was barely 10 minutes after the HIIT session started. I would frankly admit that there were moments which I had the devious thought of sneaking off since nobody was truly watching. But thankfully the other good side of me was trying to wrestle those nasty thoughts out.

I went back to the reason WHY I was even here to begin with. Obviously it was because I had gained weight on my arms and thighs, further exacerbated by the cold brutal feedback from my sister. That’s why I signed myself up for this inaugural HIIT. If the fats had been there for some time, obviously it would require efforts and in fact extensive efforts to burn them. No pain, no gain.

If I am here already, I might as well make full use of my 45 minutes of HIIT session. Stay committed and follow through to maximise my time and presence here. Rather than diverting my brain resources to debate between my Good and Evil self, I should instead focus on doing the exercises.

When the 45th minute was up, I just felt triumphant towards my evil self. I managed to overcome my own procrastination and followed through the entire process. I felt proud about myself that I forced myself to tread into the uncomfortable and unknown zone. This feeling was simply AMAZING!

Does the above sound familiar to you? I am pretty sure you must have experienced similar kind of Good vs Evil Self dilemma before and in fact many times in your life. Perhaps about an impending decision that you wanted to make but not sure if you should move forward. Or maybe like me, trying to wrestle your way out when you meet with struggles. Everybody faces such conflicts at times. Most importantly, when you encounter such situations, one suggestion is that you should re-visit your own WHY.

The current situation could be bad or sometimes be so negative that you just simply want to give up at times. But I believe when you have a greater purpose to drive you to make a commitment, we should stay focused and follow through. After all in life, the rainbow only appears after a stormy weather.


Jaslyn Ng is an ordinary working mother of two. Someone who loves to challenge her own limits. Her greatest competitor has always been herself. At the age of 33, she took a leap of faith to move out of Corporate HR to join Prudential as a Financial Consultant, starting all over again. It has been an amazing journey so far. because she has truly found a career which aligns with her personal values of work-life integration, family, health, meaningful career and relationships. She is also a mentor to her own team of 8 Financial Consultants today.

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