Fun Sized Fitness: One Year Progress

20150717_1It’s been roughly one year since I embarked on my fun sized fitness journey and I’m thrilled to say amazing progress has been made! I know it may not look like significant change in these photos, but let me walk you through this.

Since my last progress post, I’ve only lost 3 additional kilos (about 7 lbs), bringing my total loss to 10 kg (22lbs). But the numbers aren’t important. What’s more important is that I’m currently in the best shape I’ve been my entire life! I feel so much stronger, more agile, more energetic. I feel happier and I sleep like a baby. Going down three dress sizes is only one of the perks.

20150717_3My workout routine consists of doing mat Pilates about 5 times a week. I follow Blogilates’ workout calendars. Her workout videos are free and readily available on Youtube. I also attend two reformer Pilates classes per week. Working with the reformer is slightly different than just being on the mat and it also helps to have an instructor correct your form. I’m lucky to have found an amazing instructor at the studio that I go to. I’ve been taking classes with her for seven months and she continues to challenge my muscles with advanced variations. Pilates really helped me tone up my muscles, especially my core. I have much better balance now, thanks to my core stability. But around February, I started to plateau. I was eating clean and still working out consistently, but I discovered that my muscles were no longer being challenged.

So I decided to up my workouts. I added high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting into the mix. On the weekdays that I don’t have my reformer Pilates class, I will do a 20 minute HIIT workout after my morning mat Pilates workout. Then, in the afternoon, I squeeze in a 40-45 minute weightlifting routine at the gym. While this may seem like a lot of time spent on working out, in reality and if done correctly, total workout time is only 1hr 40 minutes. And I’m sure most people easily spend that amount of time (or much more) aimlessly goofing around on the Internet or in front of the TV.

20150717_2I work out a ton. But the most important lesson I’ve learned over the past year is: your diet is 80-90% of your weight loss. I didn’t realize this from the beginning and I still ate crap every day. Or, I ate clean, but I ate too much. It’s simple math. Eat fewer calories than what you burn, and you’ll lose the fat. I find that keeping a food journal really keeps you aware of the stuff you’re putting in your body. If you’re forced to list every piece of junk you eat, you’ll stop and ask yourself if it’s really necessary. I tried the journaling route for a bit but I thought it was too much of a hassle to lug around a journal all day. So I decided to use My Fitness Pal. It’s an app that lets you keep track of the food and how many calories you are eating. You can also use it to log exercise and how many calories you are burning. But I find the MFP exercise logging functions to be a little lacking. I recently got a Jawbone Up2, a fitness tracker. Jawbone has its own app that is great at tracking the calories you burn. And the best part? You can link the two apps together and I find that they complement each other perfectly! The Up2 also tracks your sleep time and quality.

This brings me to my next point. Another vital aspect of getting healthy? Getting enough sleep and enough water in your system. Experts recommend getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Also, it’s important to be asleep between the hours of 10pm -1am. That’s when your liver does its thing and processes all of the toxins in your system. So even if you’re getting 7 hours, but going to bed after 1am, that’s still a no-go. I personally prefer going to be bed around 11 and waking up around 6:30. This allows me to get my morning workout in before I start work at 8:30. You must also drink water throughout day. There are different recommended amounts, depending on who you listen to. But the best guideline I have heard is to drink enough water so the color of your urine is close to clear.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated. It helps to have someone compliment your progress. My family has been super supportive in doing that. The Pilates instructor that I follow on Youtube, Cassey Ho, has been really great in motivating me. Her videos and various social media outlets are always so full of energy and positive encouragement. I had the pleasure of attending one of her classes and meeting her in person when she went on her book tour and she is also like that in person. I’m also a fan of  visual motivation and since there seems to be a wellness/fitness trend right now, there is no shortage of visual motivation on Instagram, Pinterest, etc. You just gotta find what works for you.

If you’re interested, check out my other Fun Sized Fitness posts!

My First 6 Months as a Freelancer (Part 1)

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As my time in the US is coming to an end, I thought I would recap what life was like as a freelancer in the past 6 months and the assignments I booked.

My first interpreting assignment was between an American investment firm and a Chinese securities company. The Chinese company had invested in a fund with the American company and sent a delegation to learn more about the American investment scene. I was contacted by the American client through LinkedIn but I later found out that I was recommended by a friend in Shanghai. He met the American client while providing simultaneous interpretation at a business meeting between the two sides in Shanghai. The American side had arranged for the Chinese delegation to attend presentations at four different investment firms. I was to follow them and provide consecutive interpretation for the presentations.

This assignment was super challenging and I was really nervous going into it. I actually wasn’t anxious until I met up with a friend from grad school and told her about the nature of the assignment. And she replied, “Wow, you’re taking on such a hard topic for your first assignment!” And that’s when I thought, “What did I get myself into??” I dreaded the drive to the first location. The firm was on the street right next to Santa Monica beach. I was taken into the conference room which had an AMAZING view of the coast.

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As it turned out, the contact for the American client was bilingual and well-versed in the business deal between the American and Chinese firms. Whenever there was a term that I struggled with, she would jump in and help me. And since she knew the industry so well, she would also add additional explanations or comments to the English-speaking presenters. She was also very sweet and encouraging to me. After each firm we visited, she would tell me what a great job I was doing and thanked me repeatedly. She spoke extremely well to the other firms of my performance and called me a “lifesaver.” I really like hearing all of that, not to stroke my own ego but because it gave me a lot of confidence and helped my interpreting.

The three day assignment was an eye-opening experience. Not only was it my first real assignment out of school and in a field that I was unfamiliar with, but the caliber of the firms that I interpreted at were top-notch. They managed assets in the billions and had some posh real estate in the affluent parts of LA. And it felt good that I was able to provide my services and serve as the linguistic and cultural interlocutor for firms of this level.

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At one of the firms, they served lunch during the last speaker’s presentation. As I sat right next to the speaker, the catering staff served me as well. But one rule that we were always taught at school was: never eat in the middle of an assignment. But the aroma of the three course meal kept wafting up to my nose as I took my consec notes. It was sheer torture. And by that point, it had been a good five hours since my breakfast and my stomach was complaining. Luckily, I made it through and the American client was kind enough to make sure that I got food to eat before we went to our next location.

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A month after this initial assignment, another delegation from the same Chinese company paid a visit to the US and I was asked back to interpret. The experience was a little different from the previous one. Participants of this delegation were much more interested in the technical details of the fund that they had invested in with the American firm. And since I was not privy to any of the details, it was very frustrating for me to interpret the questions they had.

There was also one point in the conversation when the two parties were on completely different pages, not due to any linguist misunderstanding, but because of very large cultural differences. After much back and forth, one of the Chinese clients said something along the lines of, “Stupid Americans don’t know how the Chinese do business.” This was made as an offhand remark to me, but the American clients looked expectantly at me for an interpretation. I was mortified; there was no way I could interpret that into English.

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But all in all, it was awesome experience. I learned a bunch about the investment and financial industry. I did something I love and I got paid doing it. I thoroughly enjoyed the adrenaline rush (one of the best perks of the job!).