23 June 2008

Cardio Fit Expansion

After passing my Les Mills BodyJam module I finally have a piece of paper to show to the world (no matter how small/inconsequential). So I decided it's time to take my home-growned Cardio Fit class to more places. And also get paid!

Happy to announce that Cardio Fit will now come to Priority Fitness, Sunway Tunas branch! Details:

Date: Every Sunday beginning 20 July 2008
Time: 10.30am - 11.30am
Venue: Priority Fitness, Sunway Tunas, Penang

I'm totally serious about building up a reputation (no matter how small/inconsequential). It will be a mixture class like before, but you won't see me doing any BodyJam tracks, for obvious reasons. My choreographing skillz are still far from l33t, but I'm getting better...

13 June 2008

BodyJam Training Journals: Day 3 and 4

(Part 4 of a 4 part series)

My phone alarm woke me up at 6am but I snoozed it for 10 more minutes before getting up. The girls were still in bed and I took this quiet time to shave, put on my hair products, and squeeze some ripe pimples. I ate the rest of the tuna mayonnaise I bought on Day 0 sans the bread (no more space in my bag), and some biscuits. I was too demoralized to do any protein shake so I just hung around for everyone else to get ready and we got going.

We stepped out into a rainy day and none of us had an umbrella so we had to get a bit soaked walking to the bus stop to take a taxi. The driver capitalized on the rainy day and the early hours by charging us RM10 to drive a 5 minute journey. I was in no mood to complain.

Many people were already inside rehearsing their performance. I took the chance to ask Fetty to evaluate my technique and she gave some great comment. Even if I mess up my coaching later, at the very least I need to get my technique right! At 8.30am, earphones came off and we assembled for our final briefing before presentations.

I thought we were done with the dance school on Day 1, but surprise, surprise! We had another hour of advanced drills where we went through all the moves again but this felt harder as the trainers were stricter on technique and we kept on doing the moves again and again and again. Furthermore we were trying to conserve energy for our final performance, but the fact that we had to show our full potential just started draining our energy away.

We then went through some simpler drills to help us create magic on the stage, and at around 11.30am, the time of reckoning came. Since I was presenting track 4, I only stayed for the warm up track to give moral support to Pauline. After that I quickly went down to the locker room to rehearse my song again and change into my presentation clothes. Days before I already decided what I wanted to wear for my final performance and I put it on now. When I went into the studio my heart was pounding, but my mind was ready.

I’ve been preparing for this for the past year. This is it!

I really gave it my all and I was surprised by how breathless I felt at the end of the 4 minutes. But I didn’t make any mistakes and gave all the cues I wanted to give, so I would say it’s a good job. Arnold who evaluated me this round agreed. He commended my preparation for the coaching, but asked me not to talk so much (always a problem with me) that I drown out the music. My armlines are still not strong enough to his liking but he was generally happy with my performance. I was SO relieved. I knew I would pass then.

After evaluating everyone we were given a longer lunch break this time. I took a look at my energy bars and thought, “Fark this”. I’ve been having protein shakes and Uncle Toby energy bars for the past two lunches, and I deserve something more resembling food after all the work I’ve done. We walked out to the nearby Burger King and got myself a Single Swiss Mushroom burger. I was heavily tempted by the Double, but I didn’t want to reverse my digestion process when dancing later. And it was the most delicious food I had since Wendy’s burger 2 days ago. The chunky mushrooms, creamy sauce, and tasty patty gave me such a warm feeling inside…. or maybe it’s just that I’ve been eating crap lately.

The second half of the day is the most fun we had for the training. One was of course the BodyJam challenge. If you don’t know what it is, don’t worry and just enjoy the activity. It doesn’t affect your results at all, and really ends the training on a HIGH. Then of course we got to cam-whore while waiting to be called up to get our results. I also went around and got everyone else’s contact information so we could keep in touch. Soon, my name is called to the judges’ corner.

Arnold made me promise to keep working on my technique and use more energy because I was tall and had longer limbs. So I had to stretch further, squat lower, and jump higher. I just kept nodding my head and agreeing, and then he put the Pass letter in my hand.

Mission Complete. J

Pauline got a Pass Withheld result, which was still very good. She had to work on her coaching skills first. We had a bittersweet goodbye and ended the training the traditional Les Mills way, with a BodyJam twist.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Pauline’s friend picked us up from the gym and drove us to her family’s house somewhere near Batu Caves. I slept on a sofa that was a little too soft for my aching lower back, but hey, it was way better than the floor! Monday was spent lazing around the house, watching the DVD again on our laptops, and taking afternoon naps. We were hoping to get on down to MidValley Megamall, but Pauline’s legs had weird bruises all over and he feet hurt while walking. Using the Osim iSqueeze massage machine did not help at all! Little wonder, ‘cause it was a pretty boring device.

We took the 5.45pm Transnasional bus back to Penang, and I reached home at 11pm feeling like I melting to the floor. Not to mention I had to work the very next day! But in my heart I enjoyed every moment of the training, and the quiet bus ride home gave me lots of time to reflect.

I’m thankful for all the support my friends and family gave me. In fact, my parents allowed me to skip giving them their monthly allowance in May as a form of support. There was also someone who put up with my stressed attitude for weeks before the training. Special thanks also to Chris for giving lots of useful advice and sacrificing his exam preparation time to help us. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it through!

Now, the hard work begins to convince gym managers I am worth giving a time slot to. This blog will definitely get interesting again as I infiltrate the ranks of a fitness centre.

Stay tuned ;)

12 June 2008

BodyJam Training Journals: Day 2

(Part 3 of a 4 part series)

The alarm rang and I dragged myself out of bed. Time was of the essence so I quickly prepared my protein + health drink mix and gobbled down a Delifrance pastry I bought the night before. There was no time for small talk as mp3 earphones found their way and we mentally rehearsed our tracks. We hopped on over to the gym by 7.30am and we started practicing in front of the mirror.

At around 9am the first round of presentation started. It was very cool seeing fellow trainees get on stage. Nearing my track I slowed down to catch my breath. I even went down to the toilet to clear my head beforehand. Then I went in and did my thing.

For our first presentation we didn’t have to coach anything, but pre-cues of the move names were encouraged. I stuck with that and I managed to nail the relaxed feel of the song 100%. This was pointed out by Fetty who evaluated me. She gave me more tips to improve my technique for the second round of presentations that afternoon. I was relieved that I didn’t mess up anything major, but I noted down her observations nonetheless.

We had a 40 minute lunch break and when we got back it was lecture time again. This time we delved into coaching structure and technique, and did many group discussions. Then, trying to incorporate what we just learned, we were given 15 minutes to rehearse our own tracks before presenting again, this time with some cueing.

I kinda messed up this round. I thought too much about what I had to say and as a result I moved about half-count quicker. I realized my mistake and corrected it, but that dampened my performance as I lost the relaxed feel of the track. Also, the technical corrections Fetty requested of me were not fully executed, so I was a bit disappointed with myself. It was important for me to show that I’m always progressive and not getting worse, so I knew I had to buck up for Day 3.

On the bright side, I was very happy with what I got for Day 3 presentations. It was the first track of the Contemporary Rock block. It’s a harder track to learn, but the angry aggressive feel of the song really suits my personality because I don’t do sexy as well as I do serious. Still, I knew I had to give it my all and avoid making any mistakes the next day. I only had 4 minutes to prove myself!

It was with this heavy (and exhausted) heart that I canceled my dinner appointment with Jackson. He was supposed to take us out for some famous claypot chicken rice but I barely have time to practice, much less eat. Pauline and I stayed back at the gym until 9pm before we went out to have dinner. All I wanted to do was go back to the motel and start preparations again, but little did we know our night was going to take a turn for the worse.

We got back and started unpacking our stuff. Then I heard a loud “Eeyer!” from Pauline and she was pointing to a pretty large cockroach on the floor. Luckily it wasn’t moving very quickly, and I disposed it off with a small, thick booklet. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it was the first time, but I already killed another large cockroach the night before in the toilet and it was starting to get to me. I looked at Pauline, and I knew the words “Let’s move out,” was on the tip of her tongue. But she held it in anyway.

Then the lights went off.

Being a windowless room it became pitch dark. I quickly reached for my phone for some illumination and stepped out into the corridor. The entire lobby was enveloped in darkness, and only the beam of a lone torchlight and the streetlamps gave any indication of human activity. The staff flipped the circuit breaker back on, and the lights came on for a split second before the fuse tripped again. A few more tries and the light came back for a minute, before disappearing again.

I turned to Pauline and said, “Let’s move out”.

The next hour was pretty surreal, like we were in some twisted form of Amazing Race. I asked Pauline to inform Melisha we were coming over. And we began packing our luggage, which was a formidable task for me because I will only have space if I pack everything nicely. Also, you might realize how impossible it is to pack clothes in pitch darkness? So we alternated between sitting in the dark waiting for electricity, and frantically stuffing our clothes into our bags when the lights come on for a few seconds. We even managed to laugh at our ridiculous circumstance during one of our “sitting in the dark” periods.

Once our bags were ready I went out to wait for a taxi. It was already 10pm, and we were situated along a quieter section of Persiaran Kewajiban so I had nothing to do but wait and listen to my music. For 8 minutes or so (I lost count) I stood there in the quiet junction thinking mainly of two things: “I should be practicing my track now,” and “Will the group of loiterers nearby come and hassle me?” I couldn’t do anything for thought #1, but I had a Swiss Army knife in my pocket to deal with thought #2.

I looked into the far distance and saw the familiar bump on top of a taxi and waved my hand frantically, hoping he’ll notice that guy standing in a dark shade (the bright areas were occupied by loiterers). He did, and I directed him to wait while I go grab my bags and check out from the motel, which went from blah to blergh in 5 seconds.

By the time we reached Melisha’s room I was even more tired of lugging around my Herculean bags but I couldn’t afford to sleep. I haven’t completed my assignment for the night, which was to prepare my scripting sheet for the coaching part. I could choose not to do it, but I knew it was for my own good. I also had to take time to rearrange my luggage for a more efficient distribution, and by the time I felt ready for sleep, it was 1am.

Just one problem – there were only 2 single beds. Some hotels layer two beds on top of each other, but The Summit used some kind of el cheapo card board base. In short, this was how I ended up sleeping on the floor of a 3 star hotel. All I had was a spare pillow and a gaudy comforter which I used to wrap myself like a burrito. This helped to provide some padding for my back and keep me warm from the insanely cold air conditioning. I had lost the will to complain about my situation, and just drifted off into a restless sleep.

11 June 2008

BodyJam Training Journals: Day 1

(Part 2 of a 4 part series)

The night before, I bought a tin of Tuna Mayonnaise and Gardenia bread in the sad delusion that I would enjoy eating it without any butter or hot beverage. I didn’t. The girls had a better breakfast at the nearby 24 hour mamak stall.

The studio was still empty at 7.30am and we just sat around waiting for the others to come in. The other two Penangites were already there waiting, and soon other trainees came in. I was surprised at the number of guys taking the module. It’s no secret BodyJam classes are mostly attended by girls, so I was glad to know the boys actually outnumber the girls in this training.

Arnold Warren, our trainer all the way from Manila, started the show at 8.30am and got everyone together. He introduced his teaching partner, Fetty from Jakarta, and soon things were rolling! In the interest of those who haven’t attended any module trainings before, I’m keeping things general because I wouldn’t want to spoil the magic for you.

We had an ice-breaking session, BodyJam stylez, and by the time 23 of us introduced ourselves it was just nice for the Master Class. Meanwhile, in the background, Master Trainer Kylie Gates observed our trainers in action. Like she said earlier, Arnold and Fetty are probably as nervous as we were!

The Master Class was the first time I got to do the release in full. And even though I didn’t have prior experience doing release 45, I’m so glad I’m not training on 44, which was a boring release with only a few moves overall. Although people doing 45 for the first time might think it’s more of the same old house taps, the more you do it the more you’ll like it. There’s quite a layer of complexity in some of the moves and even now I still find new things to learn (and that’s saying a lot since I did the release about 6 times in 3 days). On the other hand, I already felt blah with 44 after two classes.

So here’s a review of BodyJam 45 for those who haven’t seen it yet. The warmup is hot, hot, hot! I was expecting more of a Bollywood feel in the isolations but it was still pretty uplifting. The Work warmup combo wasn’t as fun as, say, New Day from 44, but it serves as a preview to moves in upcoming tracks so I understood the reasoning.

The Roppongi Line Dance is absolute madness! It’s a simple and quick track, so make sure you get your moves and orientation down pat coz’ once you start going around 4 corners you won’t be stopping! First timers might also get a little confused because instructors will follow member’s direction sometimes. But as long as you always start from your right leg, you’ll feel as if you’re partying in a Japanese night club, 4am in the morning!

Feedback serves as a mini-recovery (trust me, take it). It’s cool, smooth, and groovy. Once you get the rhythm down pat just lose yourself to Janet J. Also, if you like to perform on the dance floor, start thinking of your own unique 4 count arm combo. You’ll get the chance to use it towards the end.

Contemporary Rock will completely blow your preconceptions about what can happen in BodyJam. If you thought the Contemporary Rock from release 42 was a bit simple and dull, prepared to be amazed! The moves fit with the music like a perfectly manicured hand to a silk glove. The butterfly turn is not as tricky as it looks and sounds, but the easy option is safer for most people. Before I went for training I was pretty nerve-wrecked at the idea of having to butterfly turn, but after trying it out myself, I found it quite simple! Just make sure you have enough space around you or you’ll probably kick someone in the ribs.

The recovery brings the temperature down a bit, and the moves are pretty groovy too. It’s quite easy to feel relaxed to the track but you gotta pay attention to what the instructor is saying. Many times you’ll find yourself doing the wrong thing because there are minor variations to the same move and you keep switching between them. You’ll go from a clap to a knee & clap to a knee only and back to no knee with a clap. Confused? So was I, so just pay attention to the instructor!

When I first read the sizzler and it said the second block was called Global Electro, I heaved a sigh of relief. We’ve been doing House for four releases now, and the Old Skool House in 44 was just so boring – a rehashing of old moves into a new routine. I was looking forward to a more dance-y feel in Global Electro, so imagine my shock and disappointment when we started doing House Taps again. Oh no, more single-single-doubles? Say it ain’t so!

By the end of the block though, I changed my mind. The music and moves are very good – way better than 44. And as I continued learning the release over the weekend it kept getting better! This is something I couldn’t say about the second half of 43 and 44. So give the House Taps a chance and you might find something more complex underneath the moves.

Finally we grooved down to a very funky Disco style track. There are many places for your inner diva to shine, so make sure you get your acting faces ready straight from the first move. This is probably the most complex groove down track ever. After all, how many groove down have had double turns? The quick leg switch in the stretch will also trip many people up. In fact, I’m still trying to get it! But overall, it’ll bring you to the end with a relaxed feel.

That was the end of the easy part though. After a quick break we got started on learning the 5 Key Elements. At 1pm, Arnold gave us a 30 minute lunch break and I quickly went to get my lunch. Lunch consisted of a protein mix combined with a health drink mix, an energy bar, and two biscuits. By the time I finished “lunch” (if you could call it that), it was almost time and I had to rush back up.

Imagine my surprise when Dance School started right at 1.30pm, barely any time for my lunch to digest! Thus began the most grueling part of the day – 4 hours of going through every single move of the new release. We would take some infinite amount of time to get the technique right, and lo and behold, we have to do the whole thing again with music. Rinse and repeat for all the tracks. We were totally exhausted by 5.30pm, and we haven’t had time to start drilling on our assigned tracks yet!

Earlier, I already saw my name written next to Livin’ a Lie, the recovery track. I was quite happy because recovery is quite possibly the easiest track of the whole release to teach (after Feedback). But then I got a bit worried when I found out it was assigned by Arnold himself. If it was random number picking, I could leave it to Lady Luck. But since it’s assigned by the trainer things could get difficult for me. Obviously in the interest of fairness if someone was doing a hard track today he or she would get an easier track the next day. And since the final evaluation that determines our outcome happened on the last day, it logically means that I’ll need to present a harder track! This impending sense of doom cast a dim cloud throughout the day. While I know I wouldn’t have trouble presenting the recovery track, I kept wondering what my second track would be. So that night I took a look at some of the harder tracks, as a mental preparation in case I was assigned any of them.

But first, let’s digress. As the first day ended, Melisha came up to me and said she wants to move out to The Summit Hotel. She’s not used to our blah room at all, preferring something more comfortable and clean. Unfortunately I already paid for our 3 nights stay so she offered to reimburse her share but I only accepted RM50 for the first night. She did ask us to join her but Summit Hotel is an overpriced taxi ride away so Pauline and I still stuck to our blah room.

For dinner Jackson picked us up and took us to Sunway Pyramid to have, arguably, the most delicious fast food burger – Wendy’s! This was the first branch to open in Malaysia and I totally enjoyed every bite of the two juicy, succulent, beef patties in the burger. At RM15 for the medium set meal, it was definitely cheaper than having a burger in Chili’s or TGIF. Definitely recommended, and recovered my strength for the night.

I had a nice time catching up with Jackson but soon it was time to go back to our blah room. I felt absolutely pooped but I stayed up long enough to go through my track and several others. Lights went off around midnight and we tried to get as much sleep as we could.

10 June 2008

BodyJam Training Journals: Day 0

(Part 1 of a 4 part series)

The Plusliner bus pulled away from the bus terminal at 7.30am as promised, and I settled into my cramped seat next to Pauline. I'm not a big fan of express buses with 4 seats a row – they're just too cramped for long distance travel. Unfortunately, it was the best bus available as most Konsortium buses are still banned on the road, and I would prefer to arrive at my destination in one piece thank you.

The journey was uneventful and we arrived at the Old Railway Station before 1pm. We took the KTM train there to Subang Jaya station. We ventured into the nearby Carrefour looking for lunch but there was nothing appetizing, so we took a cab to our motel at USJ 9.

Cottage Inn is a motel converted from shop lots and besides offering rooms at a cheap rate, they also had "day rooms". I booked a Family Room, which was located on the ground floor next to the reception area so I wasn't bothered by any nocturnal activities throughout our stay. The room is pretty blah. Two queen sized beds, linoleum carpeting with some damp spots (probably due to a leak in the bathroom), and 14" TV (too short for me). No windows, with a strong hint of mildew in the air, but at least the air-con works. The toilet has a sad-looking shower head and we immediately decided to take our showers at the gym.

After a simple lunch at a nearby coffee shop we popped over to True Fitness Taipan for a tour. Weeks before I had already arranged with the Group X people there for a walk around. I wanted to know where everything was so I wouldn't be clueless when the course actually started tomorrow! Annie, the GXC of the gym kindly showed us around (thanks Annie!) and by the time she finished it was already late afternoon.

We went back to our blah room and prepared our bags for the next day. We just tried to mentally prepare ourselves for the module training while watching So You Think You Can Dance US auditions on my laptop (I had earlier loaded a couple of episodes in). I also turned on the blah TV and So You Think You Can Dance Malaysia was on, so we watched it as well. It was unfortunately, a sub-par edition to either the US or Australia incarnations.

Pauline kept voicing her nervousness and uncertainty in passing the module, and I kept reassuring her. She's a good dancer but she needs to get over her stage fright and learn coaching skills. And though I'm not as scared as her, I have my usual jitters before a big day.

We slept at almost midnight but I couldn't let myself drift off into la la land just yet because I needed to let Melisha in. Melisha is the third Penang trainee who will be sharing the motel room with us. She flew in by Air Asia's late flight, and it was almost 1am when she arrived. Groggily, we all went to bed until the alarm clock woke us up at 6.30am…