While stuck at home during the course of MCO, the former Miss Universe Malaysia, and Miss World Malaysia – Deborah Henry was looking for fun and creative ways to maintain her fitness routine within the confines of her home. Here she will be sharing her story and experience on working out, sure will make an impression to all of you.
1. We all know exercising regularly will be beneficial to our body and mental. But there are not many people who can really stick by it. How does exercising change your body, mental health, and lifestyle?
Being physical enables a magical transformation in your mind, body, and soul. I know this because I was an active person even from when I was a kid and I’ve experienced these benefits first-hand for decades now.
But being physical consistently isn’t as straight forward as that. Yes, the benefits are undeniable but there are also hurdles that we must overcome before we can enjoy those benefits. And the thing is those hurdles are different for all of us.
What I realized over time is that we are all different – body shapes, metabolic rates, and skeletal structures. We differ from one another and what works for me and my body, might not work for others.
When it comes to our physical bodies, the interest of the mind, and passion of the heart, we do not live in a one-size-fits-all world. This is why it is very important for us to understand that we should not compare ourselves to others.
Instead, we should try our hardest to create a lifestyle that suits our own unique health and wellness needs that fits into our busy schedules. Find the practices that are authentic to our body’s requirements and our mind’s distinctive interests for our healthy lifestyle to be sustainable.
Some of us work out better with a group of friends and are more inclined to social activities while others love the solitude that a workout affords. Personally, because I have such a busy schedule and it is hard to stick by it, I find myself trying out new sports and workout types on my own and I enjoy changing things up where possible. I enjoy challenging myself to adapt to a new sport and you will never know what to expect – your body can surprise you when you least expect it.
As we all know, exercise is also a great way to lift your mood and improve your ability to deal with stress. I feel more relaxed and calmer after a workout session and especially after a high-intensity workout, it has a positive impact on your mood as your body and brain release endorphins that are the feel-good chemicals. You may also feel a sense of accomplishment, which boosts your self-confidence and improves your sense of well-being making you feel better overall. The better you feel about yourself, the less likely you will harm your body with unhealthy practices.
2. Can you share your journey to staying healthy and fit?
I was always into fitness even as a kid. Even back in school, I was a very sporty girl and was pretty much involved in all sorts of sports from track and field to being on the basketball team as well as playing volleyball.
When I started modeling at the age of 15, I was just finishing school and I became a lot more body-conscious. I stopped working out and I was not as active as I used to be back in my school days. I also started to starve myself of any kind of food I would consider to be unhealthy. I would look in the mirror and have expectations of looking a certain way. Especially being in the industry, exposed to others who in my mind were always somehow better than me – who were taller, slimmer, prettier. I had low self-esteem and no longer felt good about myself and the way I looked – zero body positivity.
It altered my perception of a healthy lifestyle, self and body image – not just how I look but how I feel as well, and ultimately, this affected my diet and exercise regime. I did not feel good inside and did not have a positive relationship with my body.
Ultimately, I think this did more damage to my body in the long-run. Those long-spells of abstaining from all I loved resulted in some pretty brutal bingeing. At that time, I had a different idea of what being healthy and fit meant, and I thought it was the only way of making sure I looked a certain way and maintain my modeling weight.
I later found my fit is a fab moment when I joined the beauty pageant while preparing for Miss World in 2007 and Miss Universe in 2011. I started on a different journey and began to realize that being skinny didn’t translate to being healthy – I started to work out at gyms, had a personal trainer and I even took Samba classes during one of my pageant training in Brazil.
As time passed since then, when I look in the mirror I appreciate my physical self, to love and embrace myself and how I look wholly. I also started having a better relationship with food and I did not deprive myself of the food I love but instead took everything in moderation.
Fast forward to today, I still maintain a good relationship with food, and I love working out. You get this feel-good vibe after a workout session and it does so much good for your body and soul. It gives you a positive mood and energy boost to get through the rest of your day too. “Your biggest critic is yourself” – I lived by these words and I started recognizing and accepting my body, focusing on doing things that make me feel good inside. And ever since, I made an active decision to exercise regularly, and enjoy the process of it with fun and exciting workouts that both feed my body and my soul.
3. Are there any fun and creative ways to maintain your fitness routine?
Make working out fun! It does not have to be a dreadful mission. Anyone could really make exercise a fun daily activity to look forward to – put on some workout clothes and find a fun way to go about it.
Start with small baby steps of moving your body to your favorite playlist. Get creative and find a few of your favorite workout moves that you enjoy and use that as a starting point. Then just when you are comfortable, go ahead and change things up or add in some variations to your movements. Keep your body and mind constantly guessing with new routines even if it’s just the smallest of variations.
The idea is to enjoy doing it, so you do not find working out a chore. I know it is easier said than done, not to worry we have all been there and I would be lying if I said I have not been there – we are not born equipped to be good at working out but once you get the hang of it, I promise it only gets easier as it becomes a part of you too.
Recently, I also got into watching my mum’s old workout videos of Jane Fonda and I found a liking to them. In fact, that got me started on a long train of all the other aerobic videos that I found in her storage and I decided one day to put on some workout gears and just followed the video for a good hour (hence my Jane Fonda inspired video on Instagram)!
I got so hooked, I ended up playing the tapes and following the aerobic moves for 2-3 times a week amidst my busy schedule. I love everything about them – the energy, bright colorful outfits (the leotard and warmer look really inspired me) and movements. In fact, I have so many friends that feel the same and have said they would happily join an 80’s workout class. The aerobic moves are of course nothing like today’s HIIT circuit training but do not think for a minute you do not work up a sweat!
When I am not indulging in my 80’s workout obsession, I also love morning hikes, biking outside of the city, and even horseback riding.
I guess the lesson here is to find a way to stay active and get your body moving in creative ways. If you are at work, take the opportunity to stand up and walk to the photocopy machine and sneak in some stretches while waiting for your printings or park your car slightly further away so you’ll have a good walk to and from your car. Try to squeeze in a quick workout session every day where possible. Be more receptive and always be open to trying new things – you never know what you would end up loving.
4. What are the fitness movements that you find is easy to master?
For more body flexibility and perhaps for beginners, Yoga and Pilates can be a good start. They are not too strenuous especially for those with the existing bodies and health problems; it can even help improve general wellbeing. There are also many different types of Yoga and Pilates – for flexibility, breathing, stamina, toning, and even weight loss. The poses and postures really help your stability and breathing and build a strong core which is critical in being good at most activities.
For me, to just get the heart pumping and body sweating, as well as to add some girl fun into it by dressing up I like to go for a more Jane Fonda-Esque aerobics workout routine that requires a little more coordination and jumping about. It is the best full-body workout recipe for me so far.
But if you’re looking for something more challenging on your endurance, Zumba can be really fun too and they have all sorts of fun repetitive moves that you can master easily. The fun thing about it is the different mix of songs and moves that changes up through the session. By the end of it, you learn all sorts of styles and moves. It is almost like dancing because you groove to the beats of the music – a mixture of dance and aerobics.
The trick to it is to start slow, know what kind of exercise you enjoy, perfect the technique, and build strength and stamina to go further. Depending on what one prefers, there is always something for everyone.
5. What do you do to stay motivated and determined every day?
It definitely requires work and effort. Just like everything else in life, it does not come easy. I strongly believe that you have to walk the talk, and keeping a strong mind comes from what you focus on. Having a purpose and setting a daily goal for yourself helps keep you in check but this also does not mean you are allowed to beat yourself up if you do not fulfill your daily objective.
True we need to be determined and set goals. However, equally, we need to be flexible enough to just go with the flow because sometimes it’s not a linear journey. There will be hurdles and obstacles along the way and plans do not always go accordingly and we need to accept and be okay with it. It is more about the journey and the bigger picture at the end of it then all the small nitty-gritty details that come along the way.
We are all allowed to have a bad day because we are not robots and we have feelings and emotions – we do not always have to be at our 100% or else we will burn and tire out.
Learning when to focus up and when to just let loose that’s absolutely vital to maintaining motivation and determination in the long-run. Keep your long-term goal in mind and know that getting fit is a journey, it is not an overnight achievement, you have to be in it for the long-haul and that intention is what will carry you through.
Whether it is meditation or exercise, it is important to first set our intentions, evaluate our focus and purpose. Often, we get so caught up with doing, we forget to be, to take care of our mind and emotions so we can give fully to our goals and people around us.
6. Some people find it difficult to stick to exercise, do you have any suggestions for them?
Sticking to exercise is not easy, even for the most committed fitness enthusiast. But here are some tips that I think could help.
For starters, you can find a group of people you enjoy working out with, so instead of feeling like you are going to exercise, you have the idea that you are out socializing with friends but with a healthier background. It also helps to have a group support system where everyone motivates one another, and you do not feel so alone while working out.
Exercise with a mind-set of health and wellness and not with the idea of wanting to look a certain way or to cut the digits off the scale. You tend to lose interest when you do not see the results and yes, this could be the triggering factor for you to start working out and it is not wrong but setting it as the sole purpose will be detrimental to both your health and mental wellbeing. Love how your body feels after each exercise routine and in due time, the results will show. If you feel good inside, you are most likely to look good on the outside.
For some who have been sticking to a particular workout routine for some time and keep falling in and out of it, perhaps its time to reassess that workout. What worked for you a year ago, may not work any longer.
We are all growing older and with that our commitments and priorities change along the way. We need to be flexible enough to understand that our workouts to need to adapt to fit our changing lifestyles.
Consistency is key and just as long as we are doing something on a daily or every other day basis, we should count that as good progress. Keep at it as best you can and that will be good enough in the long-run.