My trainer makes me a narcissist

Around my third week of training at the gym, Eric made me do push-ups, which went very well until he asked me to look in the mirror.

“Look in the mirror,” he said. “Check out your toned arms.”

I don’t have a photo of me doing push-ups so here’s a photo of me doing lunges, instead.

Sheylara at the gym

I said, “I can’t. I’m channelling all my efforts into not fainting from exhaustion.”

“Hahaha,” he said, “You’re doing good. Just look straight in the mirror and admire your rippling muscles.”

I tried to say something clever but I was at the same time struggling with the push-ups, so I could only manage a weak hiss like a deflating balloon.

Sheylara at the gym

While that was going on, Eric continued to make approving sounds at my muscles, which were, at that point, screaming for mercy.

“Don’t have lah,” I huffed weakly, “My arms look the same as always.”

“Okay, you’re done,” he said, “Stand up and flex in the mirror.”

I did what he said.

“See??!” he exclaimed triumphantly as I flexed into the mirror.

Sheylara at the gym

“Okay, fine,” I conceded. “It’s a little bigger than usual. Stop making me a narcissist.”

But Eric is apparently very pleased with the way my arms are shaping up.

The next time we had a photoshoot, he had our photographer snap lots of photos of my arms.

Sheylara at the gym

Sheylara at the gym

I don’t really see any cause for celebration because I have never been in the habit of scrutinising my arms, so I can’t tell the difference.

But Eric works me very hard every session so I suppose there must be some kind of improvement.

There’s always a lot of laughter during our sessions (mostly from me). I know it’s very bad to laugh when training but I can’t help it. I will laugh involuntarily when my muscles start burning. I think it’s an automatic stress-relieving response.

Sheylara at the gym

Also, Eric is always trying to trick me into doing more reps, which I find very funny, so that makes me laugh doubly hard.

We were doing lunges and he was doing them with me to give me some extra motivation.

I hate lunges with a vengeance.

Sheylara at the gym

For the first set, I can do maybe 20 and then I’m ready to order a wheelchair.

Seeing Eric do them with such inconceivable ease, I asked him, “How many can you do?”

He said, “Ooooh, is that a challenge?”

I rolled my eyes and tried not to collapse.

He continued, “Let’s compete. See who stops first.”

That was when I burst out laughing uncontrollably because it was such a ridiculous competition.

Sheylara at the gym

I demanded that he give me a 500 handicap but he didn’t bite.

In the end, because we’re always bantering, we end up not counting, so I always end up doing more, I’m sure.

Sometimes he will purposely miscount and I will protest and then he will say, “Oh, did I count wrong? I’m sorry, let’s start again.”

And then he would start from one.

Sheylara at the gym

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

When that happens, I guess the only safe thing to do is to be a narcissist.

Sheylara at the gym

Like a drunken zombie trying to do a marathon

In the same week that I started my gym training, I also signed up for Shape Run 2009.

To prepare for it, my personal trainer suggested that I go for a run on my own, once a week, in-between my sessions with him.

Sheylara at the gym
Eric Goh, my trainer.

For my first run, Eric said I should do at least 45 minutes. It sounded reasonable to me at that time.

First Run — Saturday, 6:30pm


It had been almost two years since I ran, so I started off with a slow jog. I believed 45 minutes wouldn’t be a problem with that pace.

Five minutes into the jog, I was ready to drop dead.

I felt really fatigued. And hungry. I was at East Coast Park. The fragrance of meat being barbequed by weekend revellers taunted me left and right as I plodded along unsteadily like a drunken zombie trying to do a marathon.

The task I had set out for myself began to feel impossible, but I knew that endurance training is really about mind over matter. If your mind says you can do it, your body will do it. Simple!


So my mind constantly gave my body pep talks.

It said, “You can do it. You can do it. Do it. Do it. Do it.”

It told my legs, “Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right.”

It told my abs, “Sexy abs. Sexy abs. Sexy abs.”


Every so often, my body would plead, “Can we stop?”

The answer would come back screaming, “SEXY ABS!”

Twenty minutes later, while my mind was still going “you can do it you can do it sexy abs” like a broken record, my legs suddenly stopped jogging and started walking.

My mind was, like, “What the…?! I didn’t tell you to stop!!”

My body gave it the proverbial finger and said, “Nyah!”


Over the next 10 minutes, I start-stopped several times as both mind and body sought to wrest control.

Eventually, I gave up and went home. I was starting to break out in cold sweat. By the time I reached home, I was so dizzy and exhausted that I had to lie down on the floor. I couldn’t move for 10 minutes. I just lay there and breathed heavily.

Later, when I recounted my experience to Eric, he laughed and laughed.

Funny meh??


He said it was so funny. And he just wouldn’t stop laughing.

Great. I’ve gotten myself hooked up with a crazy sadist of a trainer.

Sheylara at the gym

Bite-size Sheylara

Muscle Girl

My biceps and triceps et al are showing! (When I flex.)

I am no longer merely a skeleton. I am now a skeleton with muscles. Woohoo.


Sheylara in the gym

Had a second photography session at the gym today. Will show muscle photos soon.

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Sometimes, when ladies put on makeup, we make mistakes. We get smudges or uneven eyeshadow or joker smiles.

(Not really, that last one.)

Fixing mistakes does not always involve wiping them off. Because we might end up wiping off foundation and creating an unsightly patch. So, we cover up mistakes with more makeup.


Sometimes, the cover-ups make it worse, so we try to cover up the cover-ups by covering them up with even more makeup.

Then we run out of time and have to leave home.

That’s why we sometimes look like we have too much makeup on.

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No Fat

I just got bluffed into buying the worst-tasting thing in the world.

Was shopping for yoghurt and not finding my favourite brand, so had to settle for something different.

One auntie was promoting a new yoghurt. I decided to try it. It claims to have 0% fat.


It tastes like starch with flavouring. I think my tongue keeled over and died.

I don’t trust low-fat/no-fat food.

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My fingers smell heavenly. I had a Subway sandwich earlier.


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Why do people pretend to like you and they act like they’re so happy to see you but they badmouth you behind your back every opportunity they get?

I don’t need these people to tell me they don’t like me. Just don’t pretend to like me.


And don’t make unfounded accusations.

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The last two times I brought my laptop out, I forgot to bring my USB modem. Today I remembered my modem but I forgot my mouse.


Yesterday, I went to drums class without my drumsticks.

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My personal trainer is… *beep*

It’s such a joy working out with Mr Eric Goh, California Fitness personal trainer.

He springs the most unexpected surprises, leaving you in such stunned disbelief that you momentarily forget the pain of muscle burn because what you’re feeling at the moment is to bop him in the head with your last remaining strength.

In the beginning, of course, all is peaceful and innocent.

Mr Eric Goh smiles encouragingly as he makes your legs work for their keep.

California Fitness

He counts for you patiently as you work your quadriceps.

“One… two… three….”

Soon, your quadriceps rebel. They don’t want to do anymore and they demand a hot bath with no concessions.

So you tell Eric, “Cannot already! My legs are not moving!”

But Eric continues to smile at you encouragingly.

California Fitness

He says, “You can do it. Just three more and you’re done, okay?”

You grit your teeth and tell your quadriceps, “Quit whining and just do three more, then.”

They say, “OKAY FINE,” so you proceed.

California Fitness

With all your might, you do one count and Eric counts out, “O.”

Veins bulging from your temples, you force out another, and Eric counts, “N.”

Something starts niggling at the back of your mind.

Drawing on the last bit of energy you never knew existed, you do just one more and Eric counts, “E.”

Then you burst out laughing even as you stare daggers at him: “WEI YOU CHEAT!!”

California Fitness

Eric says, “Come on, don’t stop, that’s only one. You still have two and three.”

In utter disbelief, you numbly call on your last reserves, iota by iota, and, before you know it, you’ve finished doing T, W, O and T, H, R, E, E and you can’t feel your legs anymore.

Your quadriceps finally realise that they’ve been duped. As you try to stand up from the bench, they buckle over in rebellion and reduce you to an unglorious heap on the floor.

“Wah lau kena bluff!” you protest weakly as you pant exhaustedly.

And Eric smiles at you encouragingly and says, “Now, next set!”

I love pain

Last Friday, I submitted my first food log to Eric Goh, my trainer at California Fitness.

Food log

He came back saying, “And why is your breakfast at 3 pm??”

Actually, 3 pm is considered early for me. I usually have “breakfast” between 4 pm and 8 pm, depending on how busy I am.

He also said:

  • Cut down on carbs after 6:30 pm.
  • Cut all fried food. (!!!!!!! x 100,000)
  • Dinner should be lighter than breakfast.
  • Take clear soupy food if you must eat at a crazy hour like after midnight.

All very noble aspirations for me to strive for. I have to constantly chant the mantras of my favourite sports brands.



That kinda helps a bit… until someone walks past me with a box of steaming hot KFC an hour after I get off from an exhausting gym session and I’m starving.

But I am proud to announce that I haven’t eaten a single bit of fried food for two whole days now.

Not two seconds. Not two minutes. That’s TWO WHOLE DAYS. Thank you for the applause.

Training at the gym
Eric attempts to convince me that being strapped to a machine resembling a torture rack and hanging by my arms like that is good for me.

By the way, the photos I’m showing today are of the same batch from my first session.

There’s some red tape involved in getting approval to take photos in the gym, so I won’t be able to do it too often.

Well, the plus point of having a personal trainer (even a sadistic one) is having someone show you the proper way to use an exercise equipment so you don’t hurt yourself or train your muscles the wrong way or something like that.

Training at the gym

And even if you know how to train properly, a trainer will keep you from cheating.

Training at the gym
Trying to cheat but failing because of evil trainer’s eagle eyes.

After two insane sessions, my body is still taking it well.

I’m still able to type, at least.

But if I try to do more than type, for instance if I try to make the bed, my arms will call 999 and report me for attempted murder.

Training at the gym

Stretching after each muscle group workout is very important.

Training at the gym

It gives you an excuse to escape doing more reps.

Just tell your trainer, “Wait, wait! I need to stretch some more!”

Before you know it, your hour will be up.

Then your trainer will dump you on an elliptical and make you climb-on-the-spot for 20 minutes maintaining an RPM of about 353,729, while he goes off to think up more evil things to inflict upon you for the next session.

Training at the gym

Whee. I can’t wait.

I have invented a third mantra to help me get through the next two months: