I did not know how unfit I was until I tried to to summit Bukit Timah Hill via Dairy Farm. I would park near Hillview MRT and take the Wallace Trail and veer off a side path that leads to the Dairy Farm Loop, and thence to Jungle Fall Path, and down Rengas Path and back to the Wallace Trail. A good workout that takes about 45 minutes or more, depending on your fitness.
I did this once with my wife and daughter after the Circuit Breaker and found it too challenging. In the past, with regular weekly training, this route would have been fairly easy and routine. I realised how unfit I was and decided that I need to devote more time to getting fit and healthy again. In addition, I noticed that I have been gaining weight the past year. So I have decided on a program to get healthy and fit again.
This has now become a weekly affair. It has been about a month or more of hiking the route, and I could feel that I am better able to tackle the Dairy Farm and Jungle Fall staircases with greater ease. I hope to reach my previous level of conditioning and fitness when it comes to hiking.
This is a more accessible activity and exercise. It is so convenient for me. When I hike I have to drive a good 15 minutes to get to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. When I cycle, within ten minutes of cycling, I would be in the Jurong Lakeside park connector, or the Ulu Pandan park connector. This makes cycling something I can do on the spur of the moment. Even when the cloud looks grey and heavy, I could take a risk and ride, for within minutes, I can take shelter and return once the rain stopped.
Cycling gives me a sense of freedom, of being mobile. I can explore different places and even take the foldable bike on the train to another park connector close to a MRT station. Besides the sense of freedom and adventure, I feel the pleasure of being faster and more relaxed than the joggers I pass by. Jogging is strenuous and requires tremendous effort. I need motivation to merely put on my shoes. Most times I give up before I leave the house. But with cycling I feel different: I look forward to it, the breeze and the coolness, the scenery I can immerse myself in, the people I can observe and look at. It is so much fun. And such a good exercise.
I have many pastor friends who cycle as well, and that makes it more fun when we cycle together and stop by places for a meal or a snack and catch up on what has been happening in our lives, what the Lord has been teaching us. Recently, I did one such jaunt with pastor Eng Hwa. We did a ride from Jurong East where I live, to Jurong Lake Gardens, Bukit Gombak’s Little Guilin, and Bukit Batok Park before we stopped for lunch and fellowship. Fun, exercise and edification – wonderful trinitarian combination.
Now for the second week I have begun to swim laps. I find this so good for the upper body and heart fitness. My arms felt weak and limp, and I was out of breath after ten minutes of non-stop swimming. I need to do this more often, especially since the swimming pool is literally in front of my block. No excuses – just do it. I hope I will be able to sustain this. I need to learn to enjoy the swim and not think of it as an exercise I “have to” do.
Besides these I try to do my planking; and work on stretching and strengthening exercises which can be done at home.
I feel that I have neglected my physical health while in pastoral ministry. I often cannot join my hiking friends who hike on Saturday mornings because of ministry commitments. Then on Monday, I feel emotionally drained and what I needed most was a restful and quiet day to remember, rest and relish, not to forget the chores and errands to run. Inevitably, my fitness and health suffers.
I really admire people with iron discipline and great time management and self-control. These people can squeeze time in the schedule and hit the gym and workout or run or exercise like a machine. They don’t need to enjoy what they do. Just do it. Get it over with. It’s necessary so just do it. Enjoyment, pleasure is not in the sights: its purely to oil the human machinery. Like taking bitter medicine: its good for you so down it. I am not like this. Too bad. I need to find something I enjoy so that it is sustainable for the long run.
This is all part of the spirituality of ageing well.