From A First Time PSLE Mom

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PSLE, a national examination that every Singaporean kid needs to take at 12 years old. Whether you are formally schooled or homeschooled, it’s almost certain that you can’t run away from it.

So my husband and I have agreed to take a more hands off approach when it comes to our kids’ school work. The elder one is pretty much on his own when it comes to his school work. The younger one who is in Primary 1 still needs nagging before he settles down to do his work everyday. These days, he knows that it is his job to ask if he doesn’t understand and if he doesn’t finish his work, he will have to answer to his teachers.

We want them to be accountable for their own schooling and we want them to understand that knowing their school work is their responsibility. There isn’t really any special arrangement to prepare them for tests or examinations, the only work they do on a daily basis is homework brought back from school. The teachers have put in a lot of effort to prepare them for PSLE. They started supplementary classes since P4 and now in P6, worksheets and past years papers are regular drills. Because of that, life at home could remain pretty much the same even during this period. The boys spend most of their time doing their own things, mostly school unrelated.

It’s my first time being a PSLE mum and even though we try to keep things at home as usual, I have to admit that the stress is real. It’s coming from parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and even the social media. I have found that the best way to deal with the stress is, shut them out. But if you can’t, the next best way is, go get a good workout!And yes, I think it is the adults who need to destress because when the adults feel stressed, it would most likely cascade down to the kids!

So why is PSLE so stressful? Why do kids kill themselves over PSLE?

Our general belief is that PSLE is an important milestone in life and this is reinforced by what we see around us. It gets you into the elite schools. A disproportionate number of scholarship winners and top achievers come from these schools. Anybody who seem to be somebody in Singapore come from these elite schools – ministers, top civil servants, etc. Many of us having not been able to get into these top schools, would want the best opportunities for our children. That, we believe, is probably one of the best and most important things that we can do for our children. We do not want to compete against the law of statistics. Getting to one of the elite schools will probably give your children the best chance to succeed in life.

So the question is whether our children can succeed in life without making it to one of these elite schools? Are they condemned to a life of mediocrity if they don’t? What is the positive correlation between success in life and good PSLE results? Does PSLE results have a positive correlation with success in life?

And we can’t answer these questions without first understanding our underlying assumptions about success in life. What is succeeding in life? Should we define it against a list of material possessions and the monthly pay check?

We should also re-examine our underlying assumption that what has worked over the last two generations will continue to work in the future. My generation grew up in a rapidly developing Singapore. We were told to study hard, do well in school, go to university, and get a good job. If you landed a job in a MNC, you have got it made. Yet, many of these dreams were shattered when the MNCs relocated to lower cost countries. What do we know about the future of our country? Of our economy, of our children? Should we continue to shape our children into the moulds that worked generations ago?

Empirical evidence also casts doubts about the importance of going to an elite school. There are people who are top in their fields who do not come from these elite schools. There are also many that go to these elite schools that do not do well in life.

In the larger scheme of things, the PSLE is an exam for getting our children into the secondary school. That’s about it. It does not guarantee happiness or success in life. It may even be totally irrelevant. Our children’s fates are not sealed over this 4 day event. Having a child who thinks that life is not worth living over PSLE result is the saddest things in life. Our children deserve more than that and we should let them find their own way in this ever changing world.

 
 

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My Minimalist Running Shoes

And joy is when the door bell rang and the postman stood at the doorway with a cardboard box packed with your new running shoes! And I was literally jumping up and down with joy like a little girl.

And what’s the big deal about a new pair of running shoes, you may ask.

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I had spent months trying to find a new pair of running shoes to replace my old Merrell but to no avail.

I’ve been running with my Merrell Road Glove 2 for the last 2 years. It’s a pair of minimalist running shoes meant for paved road running and light trail runs or what they call a low profile, zero drop running shoes. Essentially it means that the shoes are designed without a steep slope from the heel to the forefoot unlike most traditional running shoes which come with thick cushioning.

So my husband read about how the traditional shoes, with a significantly raised heel is often the culprit to many common running injuries, such as knee pain. He was convinced that I should give minimalist running shoes a try after trying out his.

I was hesitant at first because I was used to my running shoes with a LOT of cushioning! Up till then, I was told that a good pair of running shoes should provide enough cushioning for support and stability. You need that padded heel to help absorb the shock so as to prevent injury.

Then in recent years, there emerged a group of people who believes that we should all run like the cavemen, barefooted! Because that’s how running was performed throughout human history and even till today, there are people in Africa and Latin America who still runs that way!

So the minimalist running shoe is touted to allow the runners to run in the most natural position without having to compensate too much for how the shoe is trying to dictate the movement of the foot.

I got my first pair of Vibram Fivefingers shoes some years back when it first came out and didn’t like it. Aesthetic wise, it made my thunder calves look even bigger! The soles of my feet hurt when I used them on gravel paths and it was SO DIFFICULT to get all my toes into those holes! The shoes ended up sitting in storage.

Then we got our first pair of Merrell minimalist running shoes. My husband fell in love with his new shoes. I didn’t like mine and I didn’t realize that I had gotten half size too small. My feet felt suffocated in them and for a long time I thought it was because the cut at the midsole didn’t suit me. My elder boy whose feet was growing at a tremendous speed and was in between kids’ and men’s size then ended up taking over my size 6. And since then, there was no turning back for both of them. They were stuck with Merrell shoes.

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So in 2014, we found Merrell’s Road Glove 2 for ladies which came with a bit more cushioning (about 4mm) but still minimalist. It maintains a zero drop, ie the heel height and the forefoot height is the same so there is no slope from the heel to the forefoot, which still makes it a low-profile running shoes. This time round, I bought the right size.

It fit snugly and my feet didn’t feel suffocated. It was super light weight compared to my old running shoes and very flexible (as you can easily bend the shoes).

I LOVE the lime green and hot pink, it was the brightest shoes I’ve ever owned. It has the ‘fast shoes’ look (though I was anything but fast) and most importantly, it doesn’t make me look like I have elephant calves!

Initially I thought I might need some time getting used to, like changing the way I land my foot when I run, but everything went on so well. There weren’t any new shoes woes such as blisters or pains.

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During our last hiking trip in Albany, we didn’t pack any hiking boots but everyone brought our Merrell shoes instead. They were light, easy to dry (because of their mesh surface) and very flexible. We could feel the ground and thus have a good grip on uneven terrain. It was totally different from hiking boots which were stiff, heavy and come with thick soles. We concluded that unless we are hiking on snow and need something waterproof, we don’t need our hiking boots!

It’s been 2 years since I started running in my Merrell and I can’t imagine going back to my old running shoes which are still sitting in storage. For someone who is fickle when it comes to shoes, it’s amazing that I only stick to one pair of running shoes for the last 2 years. My Merrell now sports a few holes and I told myself that I should probably retire them after the Army Half Marathon.

I have been searching around for other brands to replace my Merrell but found nothing suitable. Royal Sporting House have stopped bringing in Merrell’s minimalist running shoes and I was devastated to find out that Merrell has discontinued the Road Glove 2!

Last week, I finally took the plunge and went with the closest I could find on the internet, Merrell’s Pace Glove 3.

It arrived at my doorstep 2 days ago. I was so excited that I brought it to the gym that evening and tried 5 km on the treadmill. It literally fits like a glove but it feels slightly different because the soles has slightly different design as my old Road Glove.

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I have yet to take a good look at myself in these shoes, so I can’t confirm the aesthetic part, especially the part on how well it will go with my calves!

But looks aside, I am very happy with how my feet feel, like they are being swaddled by a loving mother, yet at the same time my toes can splay naturally and don’t feel restricted. 

I shall bring them out soon to try on some rougher terrain and do what these shoes are really meant for!
 
 

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Setting Goals and Becoming Stronger

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So I survived the testosterone raging Army Half Marathon (AHM) a couple of weeks ago. It was exhausting but fun. I realised that there is something different doing a run predominated by men. The kind of satisfaction that you get from overtaking young Army boys half your age is something you can’t get from the usual runs, especially the all-women’s kind.

It was my 3rd half marathon, 2nd time running with the Army but the 1st time running alone, without my husband. We had agreed that he should try his best instead of running at my pace. He came in with an impressive sub 2 timing while I came in more than half an hour later!

It was nerve wrecking to be running alone and not having my running buddy and water boy with me (aka my husband) and I had to be so lucky that my period came less than 24 hours before the run (now that made me sound like a certain Chinese swimmer). I ended up completing a very ‘bloodied’ run which I shan’t gross you out with the details.

I came in later than my 2xU run in April and my legs started to show signs of fatigue at the last 3 km even though I started splattering on copious amounts of heat rub at the the 16 km mark. The run was definitely more painful than the one in April.

I could console myself that my body wasn’t at its best or that I could have done better with more rigourous training. But the fact is, sticking to a training plan is tough. Having the discipline to follow through a plan, having the determination to push yourself is tough. It’s even tougher if you have been a stay-at-home mom for more than a decade, wearing the lady-of-leisure label proudly.

And we go on to tell our kids about emulating these Paralympian girls’ never-say-die spirit, but the truth is, it’s hard to teach them about grit and perseverance when the most strenuous exercise they see their mom does on a regular basis is carrying groceries bags and brushing the bathroom tiles.

A friend who was set to improve his timing managed to stick to a 10 week running program and shaved off more than 15 minutes during the AHM. I was truly impressed with his focus and determination and I wonder whether I will ever be able to do that.

So far, I have always participated with a ‘run-to-complete’ kind of mentality. Seeing how my friend’s training had paid off has inspired me to do better than just completing a run. I am actually aiming to improve my timing for my next run and trust me, that is a HUGE commitment coming from lady-of-leisure me

As usual, my very supportive husband has his views on how I can achieve my goal. Apart from aerobic exercise such as running and cycling, he suggested some circuit training which could help build on my strength and anaerobic fitness. And that was how we ended up trying out at my brother’s newly minted garage circuit training program at MoveFusion.

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Over the weekend, we went over to his warehouse gym and did a morning of jumps, shuttle runs, lifting balls, pull ups, burpees and flipping ginormous tires that weighs more than a hundred kilograms. I nearly died! It was more exhausting than running 21 km! I couldn’t go anywhere after the workout and would have slept the whole day if the kids let me.

The next morning, I woke up with aches and sores all over and it lasted for close to a week. I can’t remember the last time I worked my body that hard and I felt like I grew muscles instantaneously.

The garage circuit training was held at an industrial area in the West and it reminds me of CrossFit in the States where they have their workout at big warehouses. Instead of your usual indoor, fully air-conditioned gym, the training was held outdoor on raw bitumen roads. There were no mirrors or nicely shampooed carpet, instead we were surrounded by wooden planks, concrete slabs and occasional foreign workers spectators. It was a no frills workout place where you get dirty and sweaty, the real serious stuff and I kind of like it that way!

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As much as I enjoy the solitude of exercising alone, a group class like that actually motivates me in a different way. I was inspired by other girls in the class who don’t look any bigger than me but were much stronger.

Most of them were mothers who looked very fit and trim despite having to juggle family, kids and work. It was such a relief that the trainers cater for people like me who are new to the workout. I actually completed the circuit at my own pace, using lighter weights and pull up bands with higher resistance which were easier.

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So if I am really serious about improving my fitness and timing for my next run, I think simply add the garage circuit training once a week to my regular running and cycling would help me achieve my goal. The challenge now is to take the plunge and make the commitment!

 
If you are interested to find out more about the garage circuit training at MoveFusion, they will be having their first pop up mini garage circuit in an urban setting this Sunday, 18 September. It will be an urban garage circuit and they will be conducting high intensity interval training priced at $20 per participants and all proceeds will go to Edwin Chen’s medical treatment.

There will also be a 3 minute Plank challenge and whoever completes the challenge will walk away with their tastefully designed t-shirt and a free trial lesson at their Sungei Kadut warehouse gym. Hop over to their Facebook page for more details and book a lesson with them directly!

 
 
Here’s a list of other Moms and Dads who also workout, be inspired by their stories!
Angelia’s 10 weeks to my GE maiden run
Ai’s Wendler’s 5/3/1 to reach strength target operations
Christy’s Mizuno’s Ekiden 2016
Susan’s I survived my first 10km run
Madeline’s My 2.5 years postpartum weight loss report
Lynn’s Shape run 2016
Meiling’s My first 21km finisher as a racy Mama
Andy’s 2016 Sundown Marathon
Nick Pan’s 5km x 30 days
Jenn’s 6 tips on how to survive through Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (BBG)
 

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