It's been a really long road that's brought me to Impulse, and let's put into perspective why it's such an awesome way to get back to my fitness regimen.
On June 30th of 2011, I ended my last chemotherapy session and a month after that, I got back to running (my favourite sport in the world). By August, I participated in my first 16.8km run for Adidas King of the Road.
[Adidas King of the Road - 16.8km]
This was merely training for the two half marathons I had planned to embark on later that year. In October, there was the Putrajaya Night Marathon, and in November, the Penang Bridge International Marathon.
[Putrajaya Night Marathon - Half Marathon]
By the time PBIM rolled around in November, I was already feeling the strain of running upwards of 10km on a daily basis, and once I made it through that, the situation got progressively worse. What happened was that chemo had weakened my knees because it runs through your bone marrow as well, and it led to severe deterioration to the point where my lifestyle became increasingly more sedentary. It meant no more yoga, no more kickboxing, and no more badminton. I wasn't any good at any of them (coordination problems), but I will religious about going!
Fast forward to 2015 when I got pregnant and my attempts at reinstating a less rigorous running schedule and incorporating yoga came to a screeching halt because I had such a tough pregnancy. Funnily enough, I actually lost 15kg through the duration of my pregnancy. Unfortunately, the monstrous nature of a newborn led to gaining it all back, plus a little more in the 5 months post-pregnancy. It wasn't exactly helpful that I had a c-section either, because at this point my core strength was completely non-existent.
So, why is Impulse the choice I've made over a regular gym? First off, with a baby at home, I don't have the luxury of hours of free time. With each session taking just 20 minutes, I'm out the door and back home within an hour and a half (and this includes a shower at the studio!). I kicked off Impulse at the right time too. Before this, Pinata started work at 7am daily, which meant he was out the door no later than 6:30am. Since he's switched jobs, I can go in for 8am sessions and be home by 9am for him to get to work on time. This, coupled with the fact that my knees still bother me with high impact exercises, makes it the perfect solution. As an added bonus, you don't need to take anything with you. All the workout gear is provided, and there is a shower with shampoo and body wash provided. There's even deodorant. All you need to take with you is your face wash, skincare and makeup.
What exactly is Impulse then? It's a revolutionary system using Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) to replicate the body's response to voluntary muscle contractions. Essentially, you are doing weights without the actual weights. Further, because of its use of electric impulses, you are at lower risk of injuring yourself, unlike what frequently occurs at the gym. Even if you're doing it wrong, you won't cause irreparable injury to your body.
Of course, they don't tout this as the cure all. Obesity and lack of optimal fitness are a resulting combination of dietary issues and exercise. As such, when you go in, they keep tabs on your body composition as well (something we'll go into in a bit). Interestingly, Jinie (the mightly lady in charge) explained that we can use on-the-go portion sizing to ensure we're doing it right. Essentially, you need a fist-sized portion of carbs, an open hand portion of protein, and a fingertip's portion of fat in every meal. Naturally, the intake has to fit in with your dietary and caloric requirements as well. I also love that she doesn't advocate cutting out all the joys of eating. She made it plain that you can have everything in moderation, and within your dietary requirements. This really does help avoid the feeling of deprivation you get on a traditional diet.
[Body Composition Analysis]
On your first visit, you will be weighed using the machine that analyses your body composition. This means we're not just looking at weight. It charts out the levels of your fat, muscle, protein, water, BMI, etc. Basically, all the components that make up your overall health.
Every two weeks, you are measured again to keep tabs on the changes of your body composition so that you know whether you're on track or you need to make adjustments.
The suit (it doesn't hurt that it looks cooler than any workout gear you will ever have) is integral to the process. It is sprayed down with water to help conduct the impulses through to your muscles. There are contact pads which correspond to the major muscles on the body to ensure that there is the right level of stimulation for each area. The suits come in various sizes, so there's something for everyone. They're also thoroughly cleaned regularly, so for those of you who are traumatised by germs like me, don't fret!
You're then hooked up to a machine that maintains records of your workouts, and the intensity of the impulses is controlled through the terminal. Since workouts are appointment-based, you don't need to wait for machines, and you don't need to figure out how to use them. Impulse is essentially the perfect combination of having a personal trainer and ease of use. Each trainer will only work with a maximum of 2 people at once, so it really does feel like it's a personal training session. Most of the time, when I go in at 8 am, it's just me.
[The Impulse Terminal]
The machine radiates impulses through your major muscles, and the trainer ups the intensity as s/he sees fit. As I'm on the weight loss programme, my sessions are a combination of upping my heart rate, and strength training. How does one up their heart rate in such a manner? With on-the-spot sprinting and jumping jacks while the machine emits impulses!
In case you're wondering, the impulses don't actually hurt. They just feel like you're carrying weights.
In the following series of pictures taken by Carol, you see Steven at work trying to kill me.
[Demonstrating The Movement]
[Correcting My Stance]
The trainers are there to put you through your paces and motivate you as you go. They demonstrate the exercise and then watch you as you do them to ensure that your stance and motions are correct. As I've mentioned, I have serious issues with coordination and they do help to modify the exercise so that I can do it right. For example, when I was getting mixed up with my elbows meeting my high knees on the opposite side, they told my to just keep my arms held up over my head so that it was less confusing than adding the motion of lifting the appropriate arm.
[Checking on the Motion]
[Notice that I'm not the one smiling?]
As you go, they watch how you're doing and up the impulses as they see fit. Sometimes it gets brutal, but it fits with the theory that you should be failing at the weight you're carrying or you're not doing it right. The intensity (or pain if you will) level should rate at 9 on a scale of 10.
[Noticing That I'm Not Suffering Enough]
[Upping the Ante]
You would think that 20 minutes isn't so bad, but it's a truly brutal workout. By the end, you feel like you've been at the gym for 4 hours (which is precisely what those 20 minutes equates to), and you feel a sense of accomplishment. It's really nice that the session ends with a few minutes of impulses running through your body to simulate a massage.
Once you're done, there's a lovely locker room for you to sort yourself out in as well.
As a general rule of thumb, it helps to go with a friend because it motivates you.
[The Buddy System]
However, even going on my own in the mornings hasn't been an issue. I've been at it for a month now and I can safely say this is something I'm definitely on board with. From the second session, I could see a difference in overall fitness. I was less out of breath walking up stairs and less exhausted overall. I am also a lot happier on days that I go in (twice a week), and I do miss it since I haven't gone for a week now (you can't go in when you're on your period or sick).
I did my weigh in a couple of weeks back, and I'm glad this is a system that's in place. I found out that I had lost just under a kilogram, but it was the wrong kind of weight to have lost. I lost muscle instead of fat, and if it were just a regular weigh in, you wouldn't know this. My water level was down, as was my protein, and my fat had gone up despite cutting my calories and taking protein powder. Far from killing my motivation, it made me realise that I just needed to tweak what I was doing, so I finally compromised and made the switch from full fat milk to low fat (my love for milk made this a real toughie), and I increased the amount of lean meat I'm eating as well as a switch from rice to quinoa. We shall see how this fares.
Beyond the numbers however, I've realised that I've been feeling a little horrible about myself simply because I haven't been trying to fix the problem. In getting on board with a regimen, it's given me back a bit of confidence on that front, pushing me to dress a little better and actually make an effort. It's so easy to slip into being frumpy when you've had a baby and can't seem to shake the comfort of yoga pants and maternity jeans.
Here's to Impulse for the long haul! I'm really excited about my next workout with them, and the rest that's to come!