I once read somewhere that at least two months needed to pass before you are able to see tangible changes to your body after starting an exercise routine. This is assuming you are consistently working out at least 2-4 hours a week.

Another popular mantra that health experts love chanting is that it’s not so much the numbers on the scale that matter, but rather that you are getting leaner with the build up of muscles from fat loss. You can tell this once your clothes start hanging off you and you find that you could easily fit into smaller ones. Honestly, I didn’t really realize mine were draping loosely on me until I received exasperated comments from people (usually women) around me, demanding me to go shopping for new attire that actually fit me! Surely a girl can’t say no to that?

Although I couldn’t physically see myself change much in the beginning, internally I could feel all kinds of good things happening: for a start, my stamina was getting better and I felt happier after each work out (thanks endorphin production!). I also eagerly looked for ways to increase my NEAT factor (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and doing more house chores. Anything that I could do to bump up my metabolism rate, it had my name on it.

Speaking of NEAT, I was so obsessed about the technicalities of stair climbing that I calculated and estimated the amount of energy I’d exert if I just took the 6 flights of stairs to reach my office floor from the basement parking for every working day over a year: enough to burn off 0.8kg of body fat! How’s that for motivation?

Fairy at tennis

Me playing at a company match (Bangi is hot, man!)

I was happy to find myself keeping up with my sweat sessions at least 3-4 times a week, whether I did it indoors with my Wii gaming console or outdoors via (real) tennis practice which I had also begun to start playing again with colleagues at the club near the office. It was good to reacquaint with a sport that I liked and learned in high school. If there was ever an activity you loved back in school, it’s a great idea to pick it up again, especially if you have like-minded friends willing to evade going home on time to their screaming kids to join you. Sure, I played tennis with two left feet, but I didn’t care, I was having fun and sweating buckets doing it. An hour of tennis burns 490 calories Ok! I usually play 2 hours a week.

While I was anxious to see my physical changes immediately, I decided to just focus on the workouts and food intake control and not mind so much about the weight. However I continued to regularly record readings with my Wii Balance Board to keep motivating myself. Sure enough after about 2 months, I noticed a little bit of a downward trend ever so slight in the graphic chart on the Wii Fit. It was a tiny dip but it was certainly the best looking dip I had ever seen.

After about 4 months of consistently keeping up with my exercises and diet, my good friend Hani from Jakarta who lived in KL at the time noticed my renewed active lifestyle and asked me if I would be interested to join her in some free aerobic sessions at a park 10 minutes from where I live. I was very impressed that someone not originally from around these parts actually knew more about what was happening (but that’s always the case with outsiders), so I agreed to join her on a bright Sunday morning that mid-May of 2010.

[Sidetrack: Did you know an hour of aerobics burns up to 455 calories? Not quite enough to burn off an entire Big Mac (which contains 704 kcal), but good enough to rev up any stalled up metabolism if you're doing it every week!]

I learned that these aerobic sessions are held every Sunday morning at 8, led by Aliez, a petite and sweet Malay instructor in her late 30s. She is always accompanied by 2 female sidekicks who demonstrate the moves in basic and advance forms, and a loud sound system setup to boot. She also has a trademark yell, “Are you OK!?” every time she sees us panting trying to keep up with her. So the story is Aliez has a contract with the city council to conduct these sessions as a community health service for park visitors. The woman is so popular that her fitness loyalists come from as far as 30km away to join her sessions.

In the beginning I was a bit shy to start dancing amongst so many people but after seeing how shameless and confident Hani was (the Indonesians say pe-de, or percaya diri or better yet, ga tau malu - know no shame), I decided to push away all inhibitions and started to go with the flow. After all, it’s like playing Just Dance on the Wii, minus the remote and plus the instructor. I get to flaunt it all in the great outdoors, right? Bring it on!

Hence my Sundays no longer became a day for sleep-ins and being lazy in the morning. By 7am I’d be up to get ready to go to the park. I’d arrive only to be greeted a sea of fellow active seekers who were up to run, walk, bike or like me, engage in dance accompanied by lively loud music blaring from the huge speakers setup by Aliez’s sound guy whom I assume is her husband. Most mornings are cool and the park is a welcoming lush green area, playground to cheeky monkeys complete with a medium-sized lake that tortoises and fishes call home.

Aerobics at the park on a Sunday morning

Aerobics at the park on a Sunday morning - photo taken by Dad

I learned a few new dance routines from Aliez which ranged from salsa (hard!), zumba (interesting), hip hop (yo!) and even African (help!). One dance was particularly memorable. It was the season of the FIFA World Cup and Aliez had put together a series of steps inspired by Shakira’s soundtrack video clip for the ocassion, Waka Waka (This Time for Africa). Wow, that was an energetic number to learn and a fat incinerator for sure! She even had the session recorded on video but alas, I have never seen the clip (it’s probably out there lost in the deep recesses of Facebook). Probably a good thing – I may scare myself into not wanting to do it again.

Hani has since left Malaysia to return back to Indonesia for good and I miss my days of going to the aerobics sessions with her. I still go to the park on a weekly basis after more than a year later since the introduction. I’m super glad I took up her offer to join her for aerobics outdoors; it would later on expose me to another activity which was never quite my favorite since childhood but have recently learned to enjoy doing.

Can you guess what?