Actress Wong Li Lin reveals fitness programme behind her fabulous figure

SINGAPORE - You can now keep in shape in the same way that local celebrity Wong Li Lin sculpts her figure.

Wong, 41, who graduated from the Royal Ballet in London and has a Masters in Movement Anthropology from the University of Surrey in Britain, has created a strength-training programme around the Loopz Fitness band, a resistance band that she designed and introduced in 2009.

She has been training fitness instructors and physiotherapists on how to use the band but will soon launch a course for the public and a book on Loopz Fitness.

Scheduled to be out by the end of this year, the book will demonstrate 30 exercises based on resistance training through the use of graphics and step-by-step instructions.

Wong, who was a professional ballerina and a pilates instructor before she became an actress, will personally teach the Loopz Fitness course.

The course comprises 10 weekly hour-long classes. The first run starts on Wednesday at Dance On Us @ Claymore.

Wong is also offering free 50-minute trial classes for the public. For more details, visit www.facebook.com/LoopzFitnessSG.

Her latest ventures come after she and American-Chinese actor and host Allan Wu, 41, announced their split in June.

The couple and their two children - Sage, nine, and Jonas, eight - had been based in Shanghai, China, for the past two years.

The following month, Wong returned to live in Singapore, with the two children in tow.

In her first interview since the split, speaking at an enrichment school where her children were taking placement tests, she said: "When I came back, I realised how tubby people have become. Because we sit so much, our mobility is completely threatened.

"The problem with everybody is the inability to sustain movement."

FITNESS MOMENTS

All a busy person needs, she said, is to create a "fitness moment" every day, which for a start, can be just two minutes.

This is the basis for her strength-training programme, of which hundreds of moves are possible, she said.

For her book, she has come up with 30 deceptively simple two-minute moves that can be done with her resistance band.

Each move targets specific groups of muscles, for instance, those in the back, neck and shoulders.

Wong said: "You will use muscles in your body that you never knew existed and you are suddenly standing taller, feeling stronger, becoming leaner."

The duration can then be increased gradually, by two minutes each time.

One should do at least 10 minutes of conditioning every day, which is what she does, on top of jogging two or three times a week.

She said: "I have my set that I like to do. I work on my abs, arms, butt and spinal mobility."

Li-lin reveals how a foodie like her keeps the weight off

Drawing on her ballet and pilates experience, she has come up with five principles of movement for her strength-training programme, which can be supplemented with cardiovascular workouts.

For instance, one principle is to actively engage the abdominal muscles for each movement.

Wong's book will lay out these principles and teach the user how to practise these properly so that he exercises using the correct forms and techniques. It also guides the user from the setting of small fitness goals to big ones.

REBRANDING STRATEGY

When it was first launched, the Loopz Fitness band was packaged with a pull-out poster and a DVD that detailed only 17 moves.

The idea for the more structured strength-training programme and the book came about when Wong started to work with a design firm to rebrand her business in August 2011.

She was applying for a Design for Business Innovation grant from the DesignSingapore Council, which she eventually received. "We wanted to be an international Singapore brand," she said.

"It started as just me having an idea and putting a product into a box, but it can't be a little 'mum and pop' effort any more.

"You have to start looking at what you stand for. For me, it was my experience as a ballet dancer and a pilates pioneer."

She wanted to translate her experience as a ballet dancer and pilates instructor into something that she could easily share with others, she said.

She sought advice on how to expand the business from a friend, Mr Stuart Andrew Wason, whom she described as a "serial entrepreneur".

He gave her much valuable input and encouraged her to start writing her book. He later joined in as a shareholder of 30 per cent of the business in March last year.

Before the rebranding, the focus of the business was on the Loopz Fitness band.

After the rebranding, the focus is now on the Loopz Fitness system, which, as Wong said, is "a system that happens to use a band". It looks like the effort is starting to pay off.

The fitness system is being used at the Asian Academy of Sports and Fitness Professionals in Hong Kong, which trains trainers and physiotherapists in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.

THE RESISTANCE BAND APPROACH

Ms Elaine Gomez, manager of rehabilitative services at Changi General Hospital, said Wong's fitness approach is good as it guides people to do strength training, which is important.

"Strength training is often forgotten when people look at maintaining their fitness," she said.

"We do need to maintain muscle strength and capabilities so that we can continue to do all our daily activities and our sports, particularly as we grow older. We lose muscle mass as we age."

Studies show that using an elastic band is a valid means of providing resistance training, she said.

But the band is not a must-have as weight machines at the gym, free weights (weights you hold in your hands or strapped on) or body weight exercises work as well, she added.

Its advantages over weights include being lighter and cheaper, allowing the user to move more freely and achieve a greater range of motion, and being suitable to work out various parts of the body.

For instance, ankle weights are needed to train the ankles and hand weights for the upper limbs, but the same band can do both.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that an adult should do resistance exercise two or three days in a week, in addition to three to five days of cardiovascular exercise.

The latter is important as it is continuous, rhythmic exercise of moderate to high intensity, such as walking or swimming, which helps to keep your heart and lungs healthy.

Progressing from two minutes of resistance training to 10 minutes a day is "a good guide to get someone started on exercise", said Mr Gregory Fam, principal physiotherapist at the department of rehabilitative services at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

"However, there are no real lasting health benefits that can be derived from just this amount, unless it is part of a larger programme that follows the ACSM guidelines," he said.

joyceteo@sph.com.sg


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Find out how Li-Lin keeps her body sinewy and strong on the next page!

Top-to-toning toning

Top-to-toe toning

Li-Lin shows us the moves that help her score those sexy abs and lean limbs. All you need is the Loopz Fitness Band and a mat. So long, bye-bye arms, jelly belly and thunder thighs!


Tone your back

LAT PULL

Target: Back muscles

1. Hold onto the band at your desired tension. Position your arms overhead while keeping the band slack. Inhale.

2. Exhale, pulling the band outward and downward so that your arms are in an L-shape at shoulder height.

Press your elbows forward gently and keep your shoulders down.

Hold this position for eight to 10 counts.

3. Inhale and return to the starting position.

4. Do the exercise five to 10 times.

Tone your abs

CURLY

Target: This exercise engages the rectus abdominis muscles that run down the middle of the abdomen, popularly known as the abs, and also works the the transverse abdominis muscles, which are next to the abs.

1. Wrap the band across your upper back and around the outside of each arm. Place your hands through the loops at your desired tension. Lie supine with both legs outstretched or slightly bent. Keep your elbows bent and relaxed. Inhale.

2. Exhale, while contracting your abdominal muscles down toward your spine, curling your upper body off the floor and extending your arms forward, towards your legs. Hold your position for eight counts or more.

3. Return to the starting position.

4. Do the exercise 15 to 20 times. When this becomes easy, you can lift one leg off the ground while doing the exercise.


TABLE PLANK

Target:  Core stabilisers or ab muscles that support your pelvis and spine

1. Place feet through the fitness band at a desired tension. Get into push-up position, leaning body on outstretched arms against a table’s edge with elbows slightly bent and heels off the floor     (below left)  . Inhale.

2. Exhale and bring the right knee to the chest (below right). Hold the position.

3. Inhale and return to starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times for both legs.

Do this on a lower surface such as a sturdy chair for a greater challenge.


SEATED LEG ROLL

Target:  abs

1. While seated, place both feet through the ends of the fitness band and loop it over the thighs. Place feet slightly apart, sit up straight and inhale (below left).

2. Exhale, crunch belly towards the spine and lift one knee towards the chest (below centre).

2. Continue the movement by circling the knee outwards while contracting the abs continually (below right). Inhale as you replace your foot on the floor.

4. Repeat 15 to 20 times with each leg.

 Tone your legs 

Tone your legs and hips

SEATED LEG JACKS

1. Sit on a chair and place your left foot on the floor. Hold on to the ends of the Loopz Fitness band with both hands. 

Place your right foot on the band and create some resistance by pulling on the band. Bend your right leg towards your chest (below left). Inhale.

2. Exhale, straighten your right leg in front of your body, with your ankle flexed.

Extend your right heel as far front as possible (below right). Keep your posture erect and shoulders relaxed. Avoid overarching your spine by lowering your ribs towards the belly button. Hold the position.

3. Inhale and bend your leg back to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times before switching sides.

Note: You can also do this exercise standing, either with your back against a wall or without wall support. You can also add the movement of pointing your foot and flexing it back again at each leg extension. This will help improve ankle mobility.


LEG JACK DIP

1. Stand on your right leg with your knee slightly bent and place the band under your left foot. Extend your left leg in front of your body so it is straight.

Maintain a neutral hip position by lowering your left hip and tilting your pelvis forward slightly. Hold on to the ends of the band with each hand and pull your arms back slightly to engage the band. Inhale.

2. Exhale and deepen the bend on your right leg in a controlled fashion then straighten your leg. Left leg remains extended. Keep your abs contracted and shoulders relaxed.

3. Repeat the bending and straightening of your leg 20 to 30 times before switching sides. This move is great not only for conditioning your legs, but also for coordination and balance.

Note: Beginners can do this with their backs against the wall for support.

 Tone your thighs 

Tone your thighs

LEG SCULPT SIDE

Target:  Outer and inner thighs

1. Place the fitness band on the floor and slip your feet through at the desired tension. Stand on the right leg, knees bent slightly and hold on to a chair with the right hand for support. Place left hand on hips (below left). Inhale.

2. Exhale and lift the left leg up about 10cm off the floor to the side (below right). Hold position. Take care not to "bounce" the moving leg. Doing so allows you to control the muscles and be mindful of which muscles are being worked.

3. Inhale and lower the left leg about 2cm. Repeat 10 to 20 times before switching sides.


STEP AND LIFT

Target:  hamstrings and glutes

1. Place your feet into the desired loops of the fitness band, folding in loose ends if necessary. Start with the feet together and hands on hips. Inhale.

2. Step forward with the right foot (far left) and kick the left heel back towards the butt (left).

3. Exhale, step back with the left foot and place the right foot next to the left foot. Repeat 20 to 40 times.

4. Repeat the exercise by stepping forward with the left foot now.

Information on page 4 to 6 first published in Urban, Straits Times.

 
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to   straitstimes.com   for more stories.

 Tone your butt 

Tone your flabby butt

LEG SCULPT BACK (INVERTED)

Target:  Muscles/area activated: butt, hamstrings

1. Stand on right leg, hold onto ends of Loopz with left hand behind the body and step left foot in middle of band.

Hold onto chair with right hand for support. The left leg should be directly behind you, knee bent towards floor and heel bent towards butt. Hips face squarely to chair. Inhale.

2. Exhale and lift left leg in inverted position as high as you can without caving in at the lower back.

Hold position for 5 counts. Bend right leg if need be for added stability and take care not to 'bounce' working leg.

3. Inhale and lower left leg. Repeat 10-20 sets. Repeat other leg.


PEDALLING CONTROLLED BEND

Target:  Muscles/area activated: balance, ankle, quads

1. Place ankles through adjacent loops in middle of band, standing with feet apart enough to feel resistance in the band. Inhale and lift right heel off floor, left supporting leg is straight, though not rigidly so. Protect your lower back by feeling a lift of your hip bones upwards.

2. Exhale and 'pedal' feet by lifting left heel so now both feet are on 'tip toes' and then lowering, with control, the right heel towards floor into a bent right knee position. Do not drop heel onto floor. Left heel remains up and both knees are now bent.

3. Inhale, repeat lifting of heel and straightening of knees into controlled lowering of other heel into bent knee position. Always keep knee in alignment over toes. Avoid supination or pronation of ankles during movement.

Repeat 'pedalling' for 20-30 breaths. Inhale and return to starting position.

 Tone your arms 

Tone your butterfly arms

HANDCUFF

Target:  Muscles/area activated: Back, triceps

1. Slip both hands through a doubled up Loopz behind the body. Roll shoulder back and relax neck. Inhale.

2. Exhale and pull arms apart, hold position for 5 counts.

3. Inhale and return to starting position. Repeat 10-20 sets.


TRICEP PULL TOP

Target: Muscles/area activated: Triceps

1. Hold onto Loopz at preferred tension, right elbow is bent by side of right ear, forearm behind head. Left elbow is bent by the waist so forearm is folded behind back. Hands should be as close to touching each other as possible. Inhale.

2. Exhale and pull right arm towards ceiling. Ensure that your wrist is in line with forearm by feeling a pull of thumb towards little finger. Left arm remains.

3. Hold position for 5 counts.

4. Inhale and return to starting position. Repeat 10-20 sets. Repeat with other arm.

Information on page 9 and 10 courtesy of  http://www.wureka.com.

About Wong Li-lin

The former actress was among the first to introduce pilates to Singapore in the early 1990s. A graduate of London’s Royal Ballet School, she set up a school here offering pilates and ballet classes. While working with a client with osteoarthritis, she developed a prototype of a fitness band with grip openings, which make it easier to grasp.

Called Loopz Fitness, the $69.90 band is sold at selected Guardian stores and on www.wureka.com, a wellness site she launched in 2009.

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