Hey Girls!

Here I am again, this time from Down Under, where I already spent my first two weeks. As you probably know, summer is nearly over here and it’s supposed to be autumn. By the time I arrived at the South West coast in Perth, summer had no intention to leave very soon and greeted me with it’s full power of 41 degrees! And I thought Asia was hot…

Surfing rock in WA

Although it’s really nice to soak up the sun, it brings a lot of dangers along, especially in Australia, where the Ozone hole is. Everybody always talks about the Ozone hole, so I thought it would be a good idea to gain certain knowledge of how to protect myself against sunburn. If you’ve ever frazzled yourself in the sun, you’ll know how painful this can be, but the long-term effects are even scarier. Many of the skin changes that were thought just to be part of the ageing process, including wrinkling, broken veins and ‘liver spots’, are known to be due to sun damage. Worst of all UV rays can damage the metabolism of skin cells, leading to skin cancer. Skin damage doesn’t just start with sunburn; any time you spend in the sun contributes in the long term. It is thought that sun overexposure results in suppression of the immune system and may make you more vulnerable to infections. Although a suntan can protect against sunburn after two to three weeks, it won’t protect you against the ageing or cancer-inducing effects of UV radiation.

Now if you spend a lot of time outdoors where the sun is almost always shining be on your guard all the time! Generally think of doing the slip, slop, slap thing:

– slip on a shirt – covering up with clothing; special protective tops (rushy) and sun suits are ideal for wearing on the beach and doing water sports

– slop on sunscreen – use liberal amounts of high protection factor (SPF 50 is available at Boots) on any exposed bits of skin

– slap on a hat – a wide-brimmed hat will help to keep damaging rays off your face, ears and back of the neck

Covering up in Oz

Sun does just as much damage to your eyes, so you’ll need to protect your eyes with sunglasses. And when trying them on and checking out which ones make you look most like Victoria Beckham, check that they have also UV protection.

Another thing I came across a few times during travelling and especially now in Oz, is wheatgrass. If you’re not too much into green vegetables this is your ideal solution: only 30grams of wheatgrass is equal to having 1.5kg of green veggies! The benefits of wheatgrass are immense. It’s a powerful detoxifier, helps to heal quickly, builds up the immune system and red blood cells. Further studies have shown that a certain type of pigment (chlorophyll), found in high concentration in wheatgrass, can prevent certain types of cancer. It provides high dose of vitamin C and iron, has 30 times more vitamin B than fresh milk and 11 times more calcium.

Wheatgrass shot

Now don’t you get worried that soon you’ll have to chew on a bit of grass every day like a cow, as wheatgrass is often available in juice bars as a shot or in mixed fruit and/or vegetable drinks. Or you might be able to find it in health food stores as fresh product, tablets, frozen juice or powder. If you drink it, go for the mixed fruit and/or vegetable drink as the shot by itself tastes – hmm…. not very nice (especially compared to all the tasty wine they grow here!)

Fitness wise I’ve done some more running in the early morning hours or shortly before sunset, when the heat is more bearable, swimming and snorkelling in a rather cold sea and cycling – many times against a strong wind as it can get quite windy in SW Australia. But the most impressive thing I did was that I dared to climb the Gloucester Tree, which is laddered with a daunting metal spiral stairway that winds to the 60m top. It took me two attempts as the first time I looked down after 15m and considered this as a mad adventure. The second time I just forced myself only to look up and when the thoughts started creeping up on the first platform that I’m only standing on a wooden plank, 45m above ground, I had to push this thought quickly aside. Once on top I was overwhelmed by a stunning view over the Warren National Park and I didn’t regret it a bit (well maybe on my way down I did a tiny bit…).

Coming down from the 60m tree

Well, that’s it for now. Shortly I will move on to the West coast, where I’m sure I will find more to tell you about.

G’day and see you soon!

Cycling with added weight

Gaby

SUPERchick teach 150 women in Trafalgar Square this morning in the biggest fitball class ever and helped raise £15,000 for Breast Cancer Campaign.

Click here to see pics

Fitball Class in Trafalgar Square

Hey SuperChicks!
It’s already February and I’ve been traveling for 3 months now.
Since 4 weeks I’m in Indonesia and enjoy yet again a different culture. Starting point in Indonesia was Bali. From the airport I went straight to Ubud, which is regarded as the cultural and spiritual centre of Bali. Since the book “Eat, Pray, Love – A Woman’s Search for Everything” by Elizabeth Gilbert, Ubud is probably as known as the famous white beaches of Bali: Batik, wood carving, different balinese dancing, cooking classes, jewellery making, Yoga and mediation – all can be learned and studied between 1/2 day to months long courses. I took Ubud as a hub and did several excursions on scooter. Yep, I rented a scooter – had to come to terms, that cycling in 35 degrees Celsius in very mountainous terrain and the sun frying the brain, just can’t be regarded as healthy anymore… There are again many temples to see and some still active volcanos to be seen. One night I got up at 2am, jumped on my scooter and drove for an hour whilst still rubbing the sleeping dust out of my eyes. Then ‘staggered’ in pitch black dark for 2 hours up to the rim of a volcano and from 5:45am experienced one of the most wonderful sunrises I’ve ever seen. This hike was so worth while – although I wondered what I was doing when the alarm clock first went off.
After Bali I took the boat to Gili Air, one of the three Gili Islands, just off Lombok. If heaven is missing a piece of paradise: here it is! An island with sand paths only, no motorised traffic, only horse carts or bicycles. It’s big enough to see different things but also small enough to walk around it in 90min. Snorkelling grounds are literally in front of every beach bungalow. I was told to go snorkelling at 11am and/or 5pm to increase the chances of seeing a turtle.The island must be lying on the turtle commute as I wasn’t disappointed. What gracious, wise animals! And they didn’t mind me swimming with them for about 15min. And when I went diving I experienced more of the underwater world: sharks, many more turtles, snakes, moraines, octopuses are some of the amazing creatures I’ve seen next to all the tropical fishes in all different shapes and sizes.
But next to snorkelling/diving and lazing on this marvellous island I also went for a few runs on the beach. It’s a great workout and has many benefits! Because of the sand, your body is able to strengthen your ankles, arches and muscles below the knees as well as significantly strengthen your lower-body stabilizer muscles and it torches your quads. You’ll develop power in your lower legs in a shorter time frame than you will when running on hard surfaces. According to some researches, you’ll burn 1.6 times more calories per mile on each run and and those stubborn extra pounds from Christmas will melt away and be replaced by muscle. The reason is that running on sand consumes more energy – as most of you probably already experienced by sprinting to the towel over hot sand. After pounding in the sand for an hour your quads might end up singing like a seraphim. It really burns!
You’ll be surprised to hear that although it’s daily between 33-35 degrees hot here, they are going through the yearly “cold” season at the moment. (Probably “wet” would be more accurate as it rains every now and then for an hour, but quickly dries up with the sun.) Although the temperature is more or less the same year-round, but with some showers between Dec and Mar, it’s interesting to see that the local English newspaper informs its readers how to protect themselves from the flu and how to keep themselves warm. Apart from the common ‘elevated vitamin C intake’ and ‘plenty of sleep’ recommendation I also came across some slightly more exotic items, which aren’t as commonly promoted in the UK:
Chestnuts – They are different from other type of nuts as they are low in fat, high in fibre, rich in potassium, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. It has the function of strengthening the kidney-system to fight off the flu and combat infections.
Honeysuckle – It’s a natural anti-microbial herb that has been used for centuries to increase resistance and fight against bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
Royal Jelly Bee Products – It’s naturally used for feed queen bees. It has long been regarded in Asia as a longevity tonic that enhances energy, virility and immunity. Contains a lot of vitamins and collagen material. An anti-bacterial protein in the substance, dubbed royalisin, is effective against certain bacteria, including streptococcus and staphylococcus.
I leave it up to you to raid the nearest health food store or Chinese herbalist but it’s worth a try.
Two more weeks in Indonesia before I fly on to Australia, from where the search for health and fitness around the world will continue.
Keep yourself warm and well!
Gaby

Sabadee SuperChicks!

I hope you all enjoyed a brilliant Christmas/NYE holiday. I certainly enjoyed a very different one. No snow, no ice, no cold… Christmas Eve I spent in Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon) and on Christmas day I found myself yet again on a bus journey, this time to get from Vietnam to Cambodia.
Cambodia is such a fascinating country. It’s rich in cultural heritage, the people are really friendly and the food is just amazing! It’s truly an inspiration! I stopped in Siem Reap to go to the grounds of Angkor Wat, to discover some of the beautiful temples of the ancient Khmer empire, which ruled from 9th to 13th century. Now climbing the ruins during day time in intense heat was sometimes a bit of a challenge. But staying well hydrated when it’s hot is definitely a must and therefore a lot of water was drunk all day long.
However, hydration is vital to your good health all year around! Water is considered as an essential nutrient. It has many important roles, such as moving nutrients and waste through the body, maintaining normal blood pressure, regulating the body temperature, protecting and cushioning joints and organs and of course it lowers the risk of dehydration and heat stroke.
After a hefty NYE in Bangkok I left the city and went South, to enjoy a bit of a lazy lifestyle at the beaches of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Soon enough I started getting a bit bored by the lazying around and was looking for something new, something active I could do. That was when I took the decision, to sign up for a PADI Open Water Scuba Diving course.
Scuba diving is an excellent way to improve physical and emotional wellbeing, you learn new skills, meet loads of new people (and yes, they generally are fun), expand your environmental awareness and you experience the world from a new angle.
You don’t need to be super fit to become a scuba diver; it’s a sport that can be done  by nearly everybody. But you do need to be in fairly good health. First I had to fill out a looooong medical questionnaire, which I didn’t mind as it’s safe to say – my life was dependant on my answers. Luckily I didn’t need an extra medical check from a doctor, so I was allowed on the course straight away. Next to 10hrs theory in a classroom, I did a 3 hour ‘dive’ in the pool, to learn the basics about the scuba diving gear and breathing under water, as well as 4 dives in the sea, down to 18 meters.
As you’re probably aware, exercising in water is highly effective due to the natural resistance of the water. Swimming in depth strapped up to scuba equipment makes for a great work out! The tank alone weighs about a ton and the weight belt didn’t improve the situation… But of course this becomes insignificant, once you’re under water, as it actually helps you to stay under water and exploring the underwater environment effortlessly. So if you should decide to dive on a regular basis, your general fitness will slowly improve.
Besides the fitness aspect, it won’t take you by surprise that it also improves your emotional well-being. Maybe you’ve heard the theory that watching fish in an aquarium is a stress buster. Imagine how the calming qualities of observing an underwater environment are intensified when you’re actually down there and interacting with it. So after I spent my first 40mins in the sea, I realised, that you have to experience it yourself to understand, what the divers talk about. If it’s floating with a school of barracudas, seeing Christmas Tree Worms disappearing into the corals and coming back out, finding Nemo in the anemone, being ‘chased’ by a trigger fish, discovering a sting ray sleeping or simply watching your air bubbles getting bigger the higher they climb to the surface is simply breath taking! Though ‘breath taking’ only as a figure of speech. Rule number one in diving is that you never hold your breath! But since diving is a great way to get back to nature, de-stress and relax, you’ll learn, to adjust your breathing to a calm, natural breathing, as breathing calmly under water makes your air last much longer and therefore you can dive for longer.
Although you can’t talk underwater for obvious reasons, this isn’t a lonely sport. You’ll always ‘buddy-up’ with somebody, go through gear checks together on board before you dive, watch and help each other out whilst diving and there is a sign language you’ll use underwater. This means that you’ll meet immediately like-minded new people.
Once you’re a PADI Open Water diver, you can go on and improve your skills, do advanced training and choose to take speciality courses such as underwater naturalism, underwater photography, deep diving, night diving and much more.
So you won’t be surprised to hear that I am really looking forward to the upcoming 6 weeks in Indonesia, where I will make sure, that I will find the time to discover not only the terrestrial beauty of Bali, Lombok, Gilli Islands, Komodo and Flores but also the underwater world. Hopefully I can again report many new exciting things to you.
Gaby

Hello SuperChicks

Here is another fitness/health update of mine from SE Asia. Over the past 3.5 weeks I have been to Laos and since a bit more than a week I am in Vietnam. During this time I have been involved in different activities, tasted different foods and drinks and here I write down my most preferred ones.

I travelled from Thailand up to the North of Laos, 60km away from the Chinese boarder. The bus journeys in Laos are long and exhausting as the roads are in some parts dirt tracks and since the country exists out of 90% mountains they are long and windy. It won’t take you by surprise, that once off the bus, I was itching to move. After sitting for more than 8 hours in a crammed bus I knew I have to give my circulation a good kick-start. And being in Asia it didn’t take me very long to find the right tool for that: a bicycle.

Cycling facilitates blood circulation throughout the body, which carries oxygen-rich blood to all the muscles. The heavy breathing experienced after a few minutes of cycling increase the intake of oxygen, making it an effective aerobic exercise. The health benefits of cycling are being recognised around the world. Not only does it burn away body fat and getting rid of cellulite (yes – there is a cure for it!), cycling reduces the chances of heart diseases and also increases the body’s protections against various forms of diabetes and high blood pressure. Cycling can also be used as a stress-buster. Although I would recommend a scenic terrain much more than London traffic… A long, leisurely cycle on the weekend can definitely help reduce stress levels!

So I cycled 30km through hilly terrain to a scenic waterfall and back and was very pleased with myself at the end, for having put on a sweat through exercise rather more than just through the humidity.

Another possibility to get moving and experience the mountains of Laos is hiking. What a great way to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. Not only does hiking allow you to spend some quality time in the outdoors but it also maintains your body in good working condition by walking, which is really a good exercise. It improves the physical as well as mental health and the list of benefits from it is infinite. Researches show, that hiking is an excellent way to lose extra pounds and improve overall health. A short brisk walk of a few minutes  can be already sufficient. So I went on a one day hike on my birthday in the mountains of Laos through the jungle, met local mountain tribes (Khmu) and had a lovely healthy local lunch: fish, grilled in a banana leave, with cooked vegetables and tofu.

Since the country side sometimes isn’t readily available on the doorstep, why don’t you try getting off the bus or the tube a couple of three stops earlier and walk to your office? Or use it as part of your warm up to your Superchick session.

A few bus rides later – which probably took all in all 36hrs – I ended up in Halong Bay, Vietnam. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in all different sizes and shapes – possibly Vietnam’s most famous natural attraction. So, there I was, feeling like James Bond in “Man with the Golden Gun”, sitting on a junk (a Chinese sailboat) and was wondering what will await me in Vietnam. I didn’t need to wait for very long: kayaking was on offer on my excursion and off I went. Kayaking is so much fun if you love being on the water. Smoothly the paddle breaks the water and the kayak glides soundless through the glassy sea; discovering the uninhabited islands in style from the sea.The only down side is that you’re followed by sandflies who regard you as ‘paddle-through’ food to feast on. But other than this, kayaking works nicely on your abs, arms, shoulders, back and chest and this in a high number of repetition. But whilst high numbers of repetitions are boring in the gym, the landscape distracts you while kayaking and you don’t even notice it – until the next day…

Feeling a little bit stiff from kayaking the following morning, I got up early and took part in Tai Chi. Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, is often practiced for health reasons. The slow, meditative practice helps to calm the mind and focus on senses on the present. Everyday worries can be forgotten about, to be dealt with later, giving the conscious and vital time ‘to breath’ and see everyday life in perspective. If you thought this is easy-going, think again! You’ll work up a sweat in Tai Chi practice. Forms make you stronger and more supple (great for my aches and pains from kayaking). Blood flows to the limbs and circulation is improved. Also, the flux of chi around the body has been proven to strengthen the immune system against diseases. And who doesn’t need a little bit of extra protection against colds and flues these days? Gentle postures are great for troubled knees, as vital nutrients can be delivered to the cartilage without the excessive force of many other traditional forms of exercise. Huge benefits are brought to the spine by consciously thinking about and working through a sequence of postures refined over centuries for their health benefits. Tai Chi has been found to decrease cortisol levels in the blood, eliminating mood imbalances. Aha! Finally something to control my PMS! As a spiritual martial art, it encourages peaceful interaction and understanding, as a way of life and as a means of conflict resolutions. Like all martial arts, Tai Chi seeks mastery of the external world through mastery of the self and promotes are more fulfilling, joyful life for its practitioners.

I have now seen the slow motion routines of Tai Chi often practiced in groups every morning in parks throughout Vietnam. And I truly do believe that Tai Chi keeps people so calm in the traffic of Hanoi. It’s terrifying! There are far too many honking motorbikes and cars in the narrow streets. And the only traffic rule which seems to apply is “fill the gap”. Survival tip: Walk – don’t run!Traffic doesn’t stop for pedestrians, it steers around them.

Oh – but if you now think I am only out and about trying out sports and living healthily I have to disappoint you. Far too many “Coffee Bailey’s with whipped cream” have been consumed already. Tea with sweet milk (aka condensed milk) is served daily and the highlight of my drinks so far was a “Gecko whisky with Chilly syrup” shot. Luckily I managed to stay away from snake, scorpion and black bee whisky – so far. But hey, I have still have time in SE Asia. Maybe I have more stories to tell next time.

See you all soon, Gaby

Morning Tai Chi on a Junk sailing boat

Tai Chi in Halong Bay

Hello SuperChicks

Here I am now, nearly at the end of my second week in Thailand, but only at the very beginning of my world trip, which will take me in roughly 8 months to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Canada. Next to visiting all the interesting tourist sights I’m also on a quest to find out how the locals stay fit and healthy. And I can report, that already I’ve see some fantastic things here in Thailand.

From Bangkok I travelled to Sangkhlaburi, 5 hours west of the capital and at the border to Myanmar. The small, idyllic village, which was recommended to us by our local Thai restaurant in London, lies at a beautiful lake where everybody goes for a swim – not only an awesome way to wake up in the morning but also a great way to tone your body and an excellent cardiovascular workout as well. Swimming also helps in weight control (it burns 3 calories a mile per pound of bodyweight) and can relieve your mind from stress and tension, fueling your energy level to a large extent.

The village consists mainly of wooden shacks so I was taken by surprise when I came past an outdoor ‘gym’ after a stroll at the local market. All the machines were very colourful and it was therefore no surprise that all the school kids used it as a playground once school was over for the day.
Obviously I felt the urge to mingle with the kids and I was itching to try out all the magnificent machines in the outdoor gym. The children had a very playful approach to the different items and showed me, that even if the bike was too high for one to sit on they just stood one child on each pedal and cycled happily away. OK, this would have never gone through any health and safety inspection in the UK but hey – they had fun and I still believe this is the best approach to any exercise.

After Sangkhlaburi I traveled further up north to Chiang Mai. If anybody wants to try out different health and fitness related courses, this is the place to be: from cooking healthy Thai food to Yoga you can do almost anything. Buddhist meditation is offered in several temples. Its background is far too complex to explain nor do I consider myself as qualified (not even a far cry from it) to explain it in a few words. But as far as I understand it there are two poles to categorise Buddhist meditation and one of it is called ‘Samatha’. Samatha is focusing, pacifying and calming mediation, common to many traditions in the world, notably yoga. And boy they do yoga in Thailand! Nearly every Thai does it in the early morning hours, even before dawn. For children it’s a natural thing as their mum takes them with and as soon as they are able to stand they learn it in a playful way. The practice of yoga involves stretching the body and forming different poses, while keeping breathing slow and controlled. The body becomes relaxed and energized at the same time. Virtually everyone can see physical benefits from yoga, and its practice can also give psychological benefits, such as stress reduction and a sense of well-being, and spiritual benefits, such as a feeling of connectedness with God or Spirit, or a feeling of transcendence. Certain poses can be done just about anywhere and a yoga program can go for hours or minutes, depending on one’s schedule.

If yoga isn’t your cup of tea and you’re looking for something more fast paced and harder: how about trying out some Thai Boxing? There are places which instruct foreigners as well as Thais. Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) is referred to as ‘The Art of Eight Limbs’, as the hands, shins, elbows and knees are all used extensively in this art. To be fair – I skipped this (rather painful) part and went straight to one of the many available traditional massages for some relaxation. Chiang Mai excels in old-fashined Thai massage. The massage parlour might be just a few mattresses on the floor, but the practitioner can bend, stretch and pummel knotted bodies into jelly without New Age gimmicks. Just the right thing for me before I hit the next bus to go into Laos.

Hopefully I will be able to find as many interesting fitness/health related things to tell you all about. Therefore: stay tuned!

Gaby