Happy & healthy life at any time and ages

Born in England Rona Morgan has made a great career in a banking. She had been managing large branches of HSBC in London, then for 13 years in Hong Kong, and more years in Melbourne, Australia. But now, instead of chilling during her retiring, Rona is a very happy woman with her new full-time job as a health-life coach, personal and small group exercise trainer in Singapore.

I have met Rona at a biggest fitness educational conference in Asia for fitness, health and wellness professionals in Bangkok (Asia Fitness Conference and Expo 2015). When I heard her life story and the way to fitness pro, I understood I have to share this motivational story with people. Rona knows well what does it mean to be busy, stressed and depressed with your business and job. She was not in a good shape or fitness person for all her life. But she has found a way to manage an active and healthy lifestyle regularly, has lost 20 kg, and used the time from banking retirement to study Personal Trainer and Health Coach certifications.

Me: Have you ever been in a bad shape?

Rona: I started my first diet at the age of 13 and had been on and off a weight-loss diet for most of my adult life. While I had always been active, there were periods of my life when I was very busy, stressed and sometimes travelling for work, which impacted my exercise regime and my health. I would say there were 3 occasions when I lost a significant amount of weight, each time vowing never to regain it!

On the last occasion, I was in Australia. I foolishly believed that moving to Australia would enable me to get fitter and healthier because of the outdoor lifestyle and fresh food, both of which are highly limited in Hong Kong.  I was wrong, and gained even more weight due to a number of factors including hormonal changes, great food and great wine which is relatively inexpensive, and stress.  Due to my job, I wasn’t as active as I should have been, although I did try.

I joined the gym in the same building as my office and came across a Step class and I loved it. I used to do Step a lot in Hong Kong and at one time, I used to do 5 classes a week. I went into the classes with a bit too much enthusiasm and at the beginning of my fourth class, I badly sprained my ankle. It was quite bad, and I didn’t work out for quite a while. I became depressed. I felt I was not in control of my weight and I would end up being obese.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona
The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: How did you find your motivation again?

Rona: Eventually, it was husband who took positive action. He came across a small PT studio near where we lived and signed us both up. They specialize in weight-loss among other things and friend of mine had also lost weight with them. It was a very non-threatening and friendly atmosphere and all the team knew our names and greeted us each time we went. In addition to PT, they ran a lot of group exercise classes, which were fun, and so we went almost every day!

Our weight-loss was slow and steady. In 10 months, I lost 20kg and John lost 30kg. In the process, we learned more about nutrition and healthy eating. I think doing it together was huge factor in our success, since we would shop and cook together and most importantly, did not lead each other astray, even on holidays. We have maintained the weight-loss now for more than 3 years.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: Why did you decide to be a PT and Health coach?

Rona: I have always been interested in health and fitness and it was more than 10 years earlier (when I had lost weight and got fit after an operation), that I first thought about trying to help others, particularly mature women, to lose weight and get fit.  I saw a gap in the market at that time, as many older women find the gym environment intimidating.  That idea was put on the back burner when my career took off but once I decided to “retire” from banking and having achieved my lasting transformation, it became a possibility. With not working for the first time in my adult life, I had the time and energy to study, so I took the ACE personal Trainer and ACE Health Coach certifications, as well as a nutrition qualification.  I also achieve a Functional Ageing Specialist certification, as this is an area that particularly interests me and is not well served by our industry yet.

Me: Are you happy now? Why?

Rona: I am very happy now, as I feel I doing something very worthwhile and helping others to make changes in their lives.  I was also very fortunate to be hired by a new concept club that’s looking at a holistic approach to wellness for senior executives, business people etc.  This is a very good match for me, having worked in the corporate world for so many years.  I understand their challenges.  Every day, I use my previous corporate experience to help me to help others.  The last 10 years of my banking career were in Risk Management and I see a lot of similarities in the world of wellness.  I am passionate about disease prevention and exercise as medicine.  The world is facing a health crisis of epidemic proportions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc).  I hope to change the world, one person at a time.

Me: What is your schedule now?

Rona: I am currently working full-time at the club I mentioned. My normal day is coaching a few clients, running a small group class and helping with health assessments. I am also continuing my studies in the next levels of nutrition and coaching.

I try to workout every day, except Sunday, when we usually take a long, evening walk. I think the general population believes that people in the fitness industry are super fit but I have seen a large number of fitness professionals who are not “walking the talk”. While I don’t think I am “super fit”, I try hard to maintain a very good level of fitness.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona
The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: How can you explain your working style in a fitness industry?

Rona: I design my own workout programmes or borrow from the many sources that I read.  I love to try new things and always test before I use with clients.  I like to use combination exercises, which challenge the mind as well as the body and my current favorite thing is to incorporate a short metabolic circuit into sessions, which my clients enjoy too.  My approach is total body conditioning rather than to train isolated body parts, unless that’s what a client specifically requests.

My philosophy is to get people moving better and feeling better about themselves, at any age. For the future, I would like to further explore the market for mature adults and continue as a specialist weight-loss coach.

Me: How would you describe a good fitness & health coach?

Rona: Personal Training 101 starts with rapport, and that principle endures. A good coach is someone with great listening skills and empathy for their client. It is also someone who understands what their client is experiencing in their lives and someone who can identify and build on the client’s existing competancies and recognise their achievements.

Me: What is your main principle to keep happiness?

Rona: To stay happy, I count my blessings.  I acknowledge how fortunate I am to be able to live the life I lead and to be fit and healthy.  

Thanks to 2015

Since my teenage ages, I summarize all my results before my B-day and before a New Year one more time. This helps in many ways: in the consciousness of ьнself, correction of my path, the relevance of earlier goals, recognizing the success. And, most importantly, summarizing helps me to feel, understand and formulate my dream for a New Year.

It’s an incredibly-cool year! Bright, fun and joyful! Filled with new super people, risky decisions which brought great results. I feel I’ve become the other, a new one. I like it. Many doors were opened. And it’s inspiring to join the New year! Thank you 2015!

There was a lot of magic over the last two years of my life. So now I’m dreaming again as in childhood: without fear and in the belief that any dream, even seeming unreal now, is real! Dream as a child! And the magic will come into your life 🙂

Brownie (sugar and gluten free)

Yummy! I have found a good ratio of ingredients for a home-made brownie! Of course, there were no sugar, no gluten, no butter. We both say this is a best brownie in our life 🙂

Ingredients:

Bananas – 2 pieces;

Baking powder – 1 tea spoon;

Cacao nibs or cacao powder – 7 tea spoons;

Water – 50 ml;

Eggs – 2 pieces;

Coconut oil – 3-4 tablespoons;

Flaxseeds – 4-5 tablespoons;

Brown rice flour – 4-5 tablespoons;

Dates – 7-10 pieces;

Walnuts – by your taste.

I whip bananas, baking powder, cacao nibs and water up in a blender. In a separate bowl I whip eggs and coconut oil by hand mixer. Then I add a liquid from the blender to the bowl and mix it together. Then add a grounded flaxseeds and a rice flour. You can also add an additional cacao nibs or powder. The wight should be enough thick. Finally I add there a chopped dates and spread in a silicone shape for baking. But before I sprinkle this with grated walnuts. And put it to bake for 35 minutes at 180C.

Homemade brownie is a great desert or breakfast for a healthy Christmas and New Year holidays! 🙂

 

Diet and sweet pancakes

A weekend is a great opportunity to slow the time down, not be in a rush and do what you like. I really enjoy cooking. At the same time, I never spend in the kitchen for more than forty minutes. Because healthy meals do not require a lot of time.

In the morning, I slowly crawled out of bed on an exercise mat. A little more than half an hour of yoga, and I my body is grateful to me. This afternoon, I play tennis which is an intense cardiovascular workout. So 30 minutes of yoga is enough to warm-up joints and muscles. After yoga – a green smoothie, shower and cooking breakfast. As always this happens with different recipes in my case, Russian pancakes recipe was converted into a one without gluten and sugar.

Ingredients for eight medium pancakes:

  • bananas instead of sugar – 2 pieces;
  • baking soda – 1/2 teaspoon;
  • eggs – 2 pieces;
  • coconut milk – 3 tablespoons;
  • cup of quinoa flour (can be substituted for rice flour, if you need gluten-free option, or wheat, if you eat gluten);
  • glass of water;
  • a pinch of salt.

Bananas I mash in a blender, then mixed with all the ingredients. And I leave the dough for 30 minutes to infuse. Then I stirred and still about a quarter cup of water. I fry pancakes quickly with a little olive oil.

In the evening I made a variant of dietary jam. Just mashed in the blender two mango pulp (you can use any other fruit). I added five teaspoons of chia seeds in a mango puree, and put in the refrigerator overnight. The seeds swell and make the mass like a jam. It served as a topping for pancakes with strawberries.

The great compliment for this breakfast is a green tea with lemon and a little clove. It is not only a tasty and healthy meal, but also a way to hear one more time that I am the best wife in the world! 🙂

Five Reasons Why I’m Joyful

Whew..! Today is the first day following the three days in Bangkok at Asia Fitness Conference and Expo 2015.

My iPhone is filled with new sports photos and videos that I’d watch again and again. Several dozen new people show up in my Facebook friends feed. My muscles are aching after hours of physical activity, and my head is overflowing with information, as well as my heart is full of joy and gratitude. This makes life worth living.

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Ten different classrooms, three of which held a few hundred people, 2,000 participants from 30 countries, dozens of fitness celebrities and coaches (mainly from Canada and the U.S.), 60 various sessions daily. This is how big the event was. Thirty-minute breaks between sessions passed as if they were just five minutes: ask the coach some questions, take some photos, talk to the old and new friends, check out new equipment, eat an apple or banana, and remember what session is up next. This makes it worth to learn and know English.

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The feeling that I’m in the right place, doing what I truly love, didn’t leave me for all three days. During this time in Bangkok, the only places I’ve visited were the airport, the hotel, and that building where AFC2015 was held. And only on the last evening I visited a Japanese cafe. This makes it worth to do things you love.

There are the list of my classes: fitness dance, plyometric jumps, crazy core, boot camp workouts, Power Plate & ViPR, TRX dance, TRX Mobility, TRX Partner Fusion, headstands, kettlebells, vocal athlete, coaching, Latin dance, Bulgarian bag workout, yoga flow with African music and moves. And I must have a Thai massage with a huge layer of warming ointment on the last day. This makes it worth to train your body.

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As always, the best things about all this were the people. The people who are open, kind, intelligent, and full of joy doing their thing. Each one of more than two thousand was ready to chat. It was safe and easy to leave your backpack near the wall in a large room and enjoy your workout! This makes it worth to trust the Universe.

Learning from this experience is up next. Dealing with theses, handouts and exercises. Understanding why, with whom, and how to use them. I promise that in November, I will finish preparing a program of mix training, which will include the best of what I’ve learned during this weekend.

Continuous improvement

Today, the hero of my blog is Artem Ismagilov. He wasn’t known to have any prior professional swimming experience, however, on the 8th day of the 8th month of 2015 (2+0+1+5 also equals 8) he managed to swim eight kilometers in open water in several hours!

Artem encourages everyone with his improvement and way of life. I watched him become a sports snowboarder from a professional one, and then he moved to stock photography. Both times were vastly successful. At the same time, Artem came third in the Russian Wakeboarding Championship, met his beautiful wife and became a father of two lovely kids. He chose to quit photography, started shooting video and again succeeded as an art-director of the company’s new direction as a video studio.

This year he tried something new – the first in his life swim in open water from shore to shore. Artem accepted this challenge thrown down by his friend Andrei Shishkin. Andrei is also an athlete, who thoroughly prepares for sports events with professional coaches using all the latest technologies. He was sure that it’s impossible to swim 8 kilometers across the lake without the help of a coach. Artem decided to prove that motivation and self-preparation are more important. They had a bet. Andrei has put his fancy sports bike at stake, and Artem has promised to get a tattoo if he loses.

Eight is the lucky number for the entire project: besides being the symbol of infinity, and the fact that the swim happened on the 8th day of the 8th month, even a bicycle is similar to number 8 in shape.

Artem had six months to get prepared. The task was to swim 8 kilometers in open water. In fact, the active phase of his preparation began three months before the event. His job and errands caused the delay. However, the time came when Artem realized that if he doesn’t start now, he won’t succeed. And so he began.

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Eight rules for his preparation:

  1. Perform the most difficult swim for the first time to check your capabilities and set a starting point;
  2. Look through thematic forums and talk with people who did long swims in open water before. Define the goal based on the test swim and draw up the training program;
  3. Draw up a weekly training schedule: one training session in the pool, 2-3 workouts in open water for a few hours each (the lakes are 100 km away) as well as running, skipping rope, and stretching;
  4. Continually estimate your time limits of being in open water and work to increase them (interval endurance swims, alternating rhythm and speed);
  5. Perform strength swims (swim with the same rhythm and speed as long as possible);
  6. A buoy attached to you should contain a running uniform, a phone for navigation and training tracking, as well as Isostar sports nutrition;
  7. Listen to your body and adjust the training on the go;
  8. Watch your breath and learn to breathe correctly.

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Uvildy lake in Chelyabinsk region has been chosen for the swim. The swimmer could stay in the water as long as he wanted, have a rest and eat. The swimmer loses if he grabs the buoy, touches the boat or admits that he lost.

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Eight rules for the swim:

  1. Form a support team in the boat and on the shore near the finish line;
  2. Attach the same sports nutrition to the buoy that was used during the training;
  3. Create a playlist with favorite music, which gives an emotional charge during the swim;
  4. Find the right rhythm and get into it, which helps to move with ease for a long time;
  5. Be mentally and physically prepared for different weather: head tide and waves;
  6. Be familiar with the lake for the swim (Artem admitted that he made a mistake not having a single training session in Uvildy lake);
  7. The buoy should contain only an essential number of items and food to avoid its weight collecting seaweed and creating unneeded obstacles for the swim;
  8. Always remember the goal: to feel the shore and land underfoot. This helps to swim up to the very end.

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This summer wasn’t particularly hot. Artem trained 4-5 times a week, regularly traveling to the lakes in any weather. His wetsuit, movement, family and friends’ support helped to not get cold. Dedication helped, too. Three months of training have passed quickly. The big day has come. Artem puts on his wetsuit, hat and goes into the water. He swam longer than he expected. There was one time when Artem was swimming but he wasn’t moving towards the shore for nearly an hour. As soon as he realized this, he immediately changed his technique, and began to approach the finish line again. The last two kilometers were the most difficult. He was ready to quit several times, to get out and get a tattoo. But he didn’t give up. Artem swam for four and a half hours to cover more than eight kilometers and won the bet. When he reached the shore, people applauded him, while he hardly remembered his name. He could barely speak. But he did it!

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“It’s hard to imagine that I started with one kilometer three months ago!” – Artem says, looking back at that day. “I’ve done what matters most – I’ve changed myself. Although, I must say that when you freak out in the water for several hours straight, all the tattoos, bikes, and all the numbers, including eight, become insignificant. I distinctly remember that the best thing for me that day was to feel solid ground under my feet.”

About the… eyesight

I had bad eyesight since I was a school student. I wear contact lenses during the day, and glasses in the evening. Low-dioptric myopia is accompanied by astigmatism. That is why passing diagnostics by one and the same ophthalmologist couple of times a year is the basic program I adhere to. Examination results had consistently shown stagnation or worsening of my eyesight. But not this time!

For the last six months my eyesight has improved for 1 and 1.2 diopters! With the eyesight of -7.7 and -7.0, learning that now I have become a happy possessor of improved parameters of -6.5 and -6.0 is a real breakthrough!

Last month I was thinking a lot of what new I had started doing for the last half of the year. The list I popped up with is not extensive, but quite interesting. It might somebody else restore eyesight.

Here are my innovations:

  1. Daily yoga and meditation for 0.5 – 1 hour on empty stomach. In addition to this, I keep on doing a variety of physical drills every day.

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  1. Regularly playing tennis and occasionally playing squash. Both games give practice to the pupil through tracking the ball route. Even my doctor prescribed tennis as myopia prevention method.
  2. Daily drinking green smoothies with a set of different greenery, vegetables, ginger and the main secret ingredient – Aloe Vera gel. Only recently I have understood that his ingredient could give such strong effect in improving the eyesight. When describing aloe’s useful properties, Wikipedia says “aloe is used in medial practice for treatment of… progressive myopia”. Initially I wasn’t aware of the fact. I started adding aloe in my smoothies just intuitively since I remember my grandmothers telling about its healing properties.

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  1. Sleeping daily for about eight hours. Last year I allowed sleeping for only six hours a day. Now I have learnt to go to bed earlier, which increased my sleeping time for a couple of hours.
  2. Taking omega-3 in capsular fish oil. I am not a fan of pills and capsules, so I don’t take fish oil in regularly. But I always take in one capsule if I have 100% vegetarian dish.

Choco shock

A month ago I organized an excursion to the small chocolate factory owned by a French couple in Saigon. It took us two hours to get there, and it is considered extremely long by local standards. However, it really was worth the trouble. From this time on, cacao nibs are a must-have in our kitchen.

You can see cacao nibs in the picture of my brownie. The harvested and dried cocoa beans are then roasted and cracked. After that, cocoa butter is produced using the hydraulic press. Cocoa butter is the most valuable product in chocolate production process. The extraction process also produces cocoa powder, which is not as costly as cocoa butter, but is quite healthy too. To produce a chocolate bar, cocoa powder is mixed again with cocoa butter. Then sugar is added for sweetness. The sort of chocolate depends on other ingredients added to basic ones. Milk chocolate contains much milk; aerated chocolate consists of much air. By the way, white chocolate actually has no chocolate. There is no cocoa powder in it and cocoa butter is replaced by palm oil. Basically, if you study chocolate bar labels in detail, you will find out that of chocolate there is only color left in them, the rest is sugar, palm oil and emulsifiers.

Still, even the most expensive and darkest chocolate bars have not as much chocolate as we would like (French chocolate factory in Saigon is an exception, as chocolate there is hand-made and of premium quality). My boyfriend is an avid sweet tooth. After the chocolate factory excursion he went to the supermarket and studied all the chocolate bar labels possible. From now on, he is going to eat nothing but my homemade sweets.

And here is the recipe of my first brownie. You can easily substitute cacao nibs by cocoa powder. The result will be the same!

  • 2 bananas
  • 80g cacao nibs/ cocoa powder (grind cocoa beans in blender or coffee mill)
  • 4 tablespoons rice flour
  • 3 tablespoons buckwheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (grind them in blender or coffee mill)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (it’s up to you, I like to add it to my pastry)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 200ml coconut milk (can be replaced by any kind of milk)
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar for sweetness (can be replaced by honey or dates)
  • Walnut – optional.

Whisk bananas, cacao nibs and agave nectar or dates. In a separate bowl beat eggs, cinnamon, coconut oil, coconut milk and baking soda. Blend in both mixtures, whisk and add flour. Then stir in ground walnuts. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Pour mixture into a baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

I have baked brownies twice recently. And our family council has concluded that cooled down brownies taste better and tend to reveal a more vivid chocolate flavor.

I recommend you to prepare fresh ginger and lemon tea to your brownie. Just put some ginger and a little of lemon juice into a teapot, add hot water and in 10 minutes your flavored tea is ready!

Outdoor bootcamp workout

In my previous posts I promised to share my outdoor boot-camp exercises, which I tasted in practice with my friend when I was traveling in Israel.

This is 60-minutes workout with just the list of exercises in their sequence. You should google and learn the proper technique before. Choose the quantity of repetitions in each exercise due to your fitness level and physical perception.

The list of exercises is just base which you can use for designing your personal workout program. This is a body-weight workout with minimum equipment. We used a street bench, a grassplot in front of the sea and hoodies instead of mats.

Warm-up and dynamic stretching — 10–15 minutes in total:

  • Jogging to a grassplot — 7 mins;
  • Jumping jacks — 40 reps;
  • Walking lunges — 10 reps for each side;
  • Alternate lower toes touch — 10 reps for each side.

After warm-up and dynamic stretching you should start your circuits. Perform all exercises in a circuit one time without a rest between three of them. Then have a one-minute rest. Then repeat these three exercises. Then have one more minute rest and a last performing.

You have to check and clean a grassplot of sharp objects before boot-camp.

Circuit #1:

  • Push-ups — 6–8 reps for beginners (you can also simplify this exercise and perform from the knees) and 12–16 reps for an intermediate level;
  • Sumo squats — 15 reps for beginners, 20–30 reps for an intermediate level;
  • Mountain climbers — 10 reps for each side or 15–20 times for each side depending to your physical perception.

Circuit #2

  • Bulgarian split lunges (we used a street bench to put one leg there) — 8–10 reps for each side or 12–14 reps for an intermediate level;
  • Standing side crunch — 10–15 reps for each side or 20–25 reps for each side;
  • Bench triceps dips — 8–10 reps or 12–16 reps for an intermediate level.

Circuit #3:

for abs targeting

  • Half way supine crunches — 15 reps or 20–25 reps for an intermediate level;
  • Supine bicycle — 8 reps for each side or 10–12 reps.

Cool-down and a static stretching for different muscle groups: chest, arms, shoulders, back, legs during 5–7 minutes.

How I was recovering from a cold virus

So today was my first workout in the gym during last two weeks when I was recovering from a cold virus.

During these two weeks I have done two weight workouts at home, and it was my big mistake. My fever become worse and just after that I gave my body the rest.

During this time I was laying on the bed full two days, but mostly I begun my morning with light and short yoga. During last week I felt I could increase the time for yoga from half an hour to one hour. And I finish my day with walking for 30 minutes.

My food dairy was the same as every time: with a lot of vegetables and greens, with some fruits and nuts every day, with a little fish or sea food, with quinoa, buckwheat blended flax seeds, chia seeds and berries. I was drinking a lot warm water with ginger and lime juice. I was using a lot of fresh ginger, onion and garlic in many dishes. I even ate dark chocolate, goat cheese and some cake.

The results are the same weight and measurements, the same abs and muscles are on the place!