For quite some time I used to tell people that I don’t cook like it’s a badge of honor. What’s funny is, I came from a family that cooks. My late grandfather was known for his amazing pancit, my mother cooked every single day, which he passed on to my elder sister, skipped me, then onto my next sister. And then there comes my brother, who clearly has the gift for it. But even as I lived alone, I didn’t really feel compelled to make my own food. Sure, I cooked now and then but I only did the basics, e.g., frying food, cooking rice. Then recently, a friend gave me the challenge to cook a meal for one whole week. I was like, for an entire week? Can I actually do it? I guess I wouldn’t know until I give it a try.
Day 1: Homemade tapa
I started with the dish that I learned from a friend, Cai. He shared with me this homemade tapa recipe of a chef and ever since I learned how to do it, I stopped buying ready-made tapa from the grocery. It involved marinating the beef with a special mixture overnight.
The next day I fried the tapa mixture, an egg, as well as the rice to make tapsilog. I also cut tomatoes and cucumber for the side dish. The bowl version is for my brother because, for some reason, he prefers eating from a bowl than on a regular plate.
Day 2: Beef quesadilla
I didn’t have enough time to cook on this day because I was meeting a friend over lunch. Hence, I got up early and prepared an easy breakfast. For this recipe, I used whole wheat tortilla and for the filling, the remaining tapa mixture from yesterday, then added cheese, and lettuce. I had Greek yogurt on the side then voila.
Day 3: Deep-fried chicken hearts
I bought chicken hearts from the grocery because I like adding them to the chicken adobo. Today though, I had an idea of deep-frying them like chicken pops. I watched some YouTube tutorials, but they used so many spices for the flour mixture that I opted to just use a store-bought deep-fry mixture. And guys, it was surprisingly good, promise. Instead of gravy, I used chili and vinegar for the sauce, and this makes it even more delicious.
Day 4: Beef kaldereta
On the fourth day, I got a little ambitious and decided to cook a dish that takes a while to make. Beef kaldereta is my favorite Filipino dish next to adobo and while the latter is easy, the former takes more time and more ingredients to make, thus I never attempted it, well, until this challenge. I watched a few YouTube recipes then incorporated them into my cooking.
I started prepping as early as 9 in the morning to tenderize the meat through boiling. This alone took me almost four hours. My friends told me that a turbo broiler will significantly reduce the time to only 30 minutes, but I don’t have a turbo broiler, what else can I do. I had to watch it closely and ensure that the pot doesn’t dry up by continuously adding water.
Never have I cooked this long, so I had to keep reminding myself to be patient. I attempted to do steaks and other dishes that used chunks of beef before, but they were always a failure. The meat ended up being so tough, they were almost inedible. So, I had to do it right this time.
When at last the meat has been tenderized to my liking, I proceeded with cooking it with the rest of the ingredients. After 4 hours of hard work, my beef kaldereta was finished. Given this is my first kaldereta attempt, I didn’t expect much but it turned out so good I surprised myself.
Day 5: Tofu sisig
Realizing I had been eating meat in the last four days, I decided to cook a non-meat dish on the fifth day of the challenge. And because I spent so much time cooking the day before, I whipped up something easy with tofu sisig. By this time, I’d been cooking a lot it felt like it has always been part of my daily routine. This dish garnered the most reactions from my vegan/vegetarian friends (obviously) on Instagram when I posted a story.
Day 6: Tilapia in coconut milk
Another first for me is cooking something with coconut milk, which I did on the 6th day of this challenge. I opted to use fresh coco milk versus the powdered one as I believe it tastes better. Some people do this without frying the fish, but I wanted to make it tastier and a little bit crunchy, thus I began with deep frying the tilapia. The end result is a delicious, spicy, tilapia dish.
Day 7: Chicken tinola
It was day 7, the end of this challenge and I decided to cook with my favorite meat, chicken. I used the chicken tinola recipe of a friend. The secret to making this dish more savory is the ginger, lots and lots of ginger. Just like the other dishes that I made, it turned out to be fantastic; I know it sounds like I’m bragging but I’m really not. I’m all about honestly, I’d be the first to admit if the food is less than satisfactory.
I know some people who are consistent with measuring ingredients (like my friend, Cai); a teaspoon of this, half a cup of that, but I didn’t bother with any of those rules because this is not baking. I learned that cooking requires a good amount of instinct, but I know this may take practice and a deep familiarity with food and ingredients. Sometimes I watch my brother cook and he does away with measurements. Me, being ambitious (or delusional), thought I should do the same. I find that garlic does wonders to almost all kinds of dishes so I tend to be generous with it and I also like adding red chili as I love spicy food.
I learned that cooking requires a good amount of patience and I guess love. You gotta love what you’re doing or it will be reflected on what you do, in this case, your dish. It also made me realize that I’m not so bad at it, contrary to what I used to believe.
The best thing about taking this challenge is that now, I can confidently tell people that I can cook. I used to be so afraid of oil splatters I couldn’t even make a decent sunny side up egg, but now, things are a lot easier. I found that I like the whole ritual of slicing up ingredients, mixing it all in the pan/pot, and watching it all come together to make one delectable dish. Cooking is therapeutic and fun; I don’t understand now why I had been delaying learning this life skill for so long. But I’m glad that I took on this challenge (thanks to my friend, Michy), otherwise, I’d probably still be telling people that I don’t cook.
Sometime in the last quarter of 2020, I was always browsing through hotel booking sites. I didn’t know how else to feed my frustration over my inability to travel because of the pandemic. I’ve already tried different coping techniques that many people have done such as having a plant, whipping out something in the kitchen, working out regularly at home, and online shopping. They worked for me for a time, but eventually lost their magic. So in December, using the “I deserve to treat myself” card, I finally booked a 2-night stay at Shangri-la The Fort.
Shangri-la The Fort Hotel Rates
I availed of the Welcome Home Staycation Package – Deluxe King, which includes the following benefits: breakfast for two, in-room dining, early check-in at 8:00 am, and late check-out at 6:00 pm, and use of their facilities such as the swimming pool and the gym. A week before my stay, I received an email from Shangri-la to settle the payment. I paid a total of 27,020.56. Check room rates.
See below for the breakdown.
2 nights, 1 room – Php 3,900
VAT, city tax, and property service charge – Php 3,120.55
Incidental fees – Php 10,000
Rapid antigen testing
On the 26th of December, I arrived in Shangri-la at around 10:00 am. Rapid antigen testing is required for all of their guests. You can either present a negative result taken within 24 hours or take their own antigen testing for Php 1,800; I went for the latter to avoid the hassle. Note that the antigen test is different from the RT-PCR test. An antigen test detects the presence or absence of an antigen.
After paying in a stall found on the main lobby, I went out and walked toward the room across the parking driveway. Inside the room, I found two women in a scrub suit who were conducting the test. I presented my proof of payment, they had me sit on a chair, sign a form, then proceeded to doing the test. A woman held a cotton swab with a long stem and told me that if I ever felt the urge to sneeze I could just go ahead and do so. She then slowly inserted the swab up in my nose. It was slightly uncomfortable but it wasn’t painful and thankfully I didn’t sneeze. It only took a few seconds, after which, she asked me to wait in the adjoining room. After 2 or 3 minutes, I received an email that showed the result of the test, it was negative.
I specifically requested for a room with two beds because my friend, Cai, was joining me. The room is equipped with a TV (which I never got to use because I was mostly on Netflix using my laptop), a small fridge, and an office table. On the side of the closet is a pull-up drawer that hid the iron and the iron board.
The bathroom is big, with a shower area and a bathtub. They use L’occitane products for the toiletries, which I loved as they smelled so good, especially the soap. The odd thing that I noticed in the bathroom is the lack of a bidet hose. I found it so weird because most if not all hotels in the Philippines have bidets in the bathrooms. I wonder if this is how all Shang hotels are designed, if yes, that’s a shame.
I think my most favorite part of the stay is the bathtub. Every time I’d shower, I’d soak in the bathtub first with Netflix on. I loved the feeling of warm water in my body, taking advantage of it as I don’t have a water heater at home.
Weeks prior to this staycation, I dyed my hair red and the dye bleeds whenever my hair is wet. Careful not to stain the towels and the pillow cases, I brought my own towel and pillow case, lol. Better safe than sorry. Also, the incidental fee is 10k and I had every intention to get that back.
Hotel facility and amenities
The breakfast buffet style at the main hall goes from 7:00 am to 11:00 am. The food was a bit of a letdown, to be honest, there weren’t many options and the taste was just okay. By the way, they don’t allow slippers in the breakfast hall. Cai and I were wearing the room slippers when we got there and they told us politely to change into shoes. As with the dress, I was in my pajamas but they didn’t seem to mind.
The spa is temporarily closed but the swimming pool and the gym are opened. However, you need to set an appointment using their own mobile site as they are trying to limit the number of people in these facilities as part of their COVID-safety regulations. The mobile site can be accessed via a QR code printed on a card that they provide during check-in. You can use it to browse their amenities, reserve a slot to use their facilities, as well as order food for in-room dining.
I brought my gym attire because I wanted to use the Kerry Sports Manila Gym. The place is huge and spacious and lots of sports machines to choose from. Cai went to the gym with me but he didn’t use it as he forgot to bring his rubber shoes. The first piece of equipment that I used was the Stairmaster as I haven’t tried that before. Admittedly, I wasn’t able to maximize my time in the gym as I only picked machines randomly and didn’t have a program to follow.
An hour later, Cai went to the swimming pool while I chose to remain in the room to prepare myself for our dinner. He reported that he didn’t enjoy it that much because it was raining and the pool water was cold.
Prior to our stay, they sent me an email asking for some information in preparation for my arrival. One of the questions they asked is whether I was celebrating anything special. I mentioned that my friend, Cai, celebrated his birthday in December, to which they replied that they’d prepare something special for him. True enough, they delivered a very delicious chocolate cake in our room for Cai. I suddenly remembered when I stayed at another hotel in Makati a few years back to celebrate my birthday. I wondered then if they prepare something for guests who are celebrating special occasions, the answer is, they don’t. That made a little bit sad because I was there on the exact day of my birthday. So yeah, kudos to Shangri-la.
By the way, Cai had an incident when he tried to use the blow dry and got electrocuted. I just heard him scream and when he came out of the bathroom, he looked shocked. Good thing, nothing serious happened to him, but we called up the reception to ask someone to check on him. They sent up their in-house nurse who treated Cai’s hand with an ointment.
There are in-house restaurants at Shangri-la The Fort as well, but we were only able to try the Bakeshop cafe. The coffee there is amazing, but the lemon cake although it looks pretty didn’t particularly stand out.
I think the most remarkable thing about this hotel more than the luxurious amenities is the staff. Their customer service definitely exceeded my expectations. Not once did they make me wait whenever I called them up to request something. With other hotels, I had to call a few times to follow up on my request, but with Shang, one call is enough and they attended to my needs right away.
While having a staycation doesn’t give me the same thrill that I get from traveling, I still think it’s a good enough alternative for taking that much needed rest. I think I even appreciate it more so now that my home has become my workplace due to the quarantine. I don’t usually indulge in accommodation even in my travels so this is something new for me. But I loved it, I think Shangri-la The Fort is worth every penny.
By the way, I thought I should share the following the information that I got from them when I emailed my inquiries.
Am I allowed to come in early and leave late or is this option only available to those who booked on your website?
As a benefit of the rate you have booked, you may avail of early check-in by 8AM or late check-out by 6PM which is prioritized by availability.
Do I have to show a rapid test result even when I didn’t travel anywhere?
Please be informed that the requirement of a negative test result from a rapid antigen test (conducted within 24 hours of check-in) applies to all guests including children whether they have recently traveled or not.
Kindly note the applicable regulations by the Department of Tourism under Administrative order 2020-006-C on staycation guidelines:
Staycation guests shall be required to present a negative result from a Rapid Antigen Test (note this is different from the Rapid Antibody Test) within 24 hours of check-in or the RT-PCR Test within 72 hours of check-in.
Residents of the National Capital Region (NCR) and Calabarzon undertaking point-to-point travel to NCR (ie. no side trips to other tourism destinations) may engage in leisure staycation. A government-issued ID with residence address will be required upon check-in.
Individuals of all ages except those with comorbidity or are currently pregnant are permitted to go on staycation in DOT-Accredited Accommodation Establishments.
*The above information may be subject to change without prior notice guided by the implemented quarantine protocols of the Philippine government.
For leisure staycations and its related requirements, the hotel has an Onsite Rapid Antigen Test Facility open daily from 8am to 4pm. The test is available at Php1,800 nett per person with prior reservations required.
Can I use the spa, swimming pool, and gym facilities? Are they open already?
In accordance with government guidelines, Horizon Club Lounge, Adventure Zone, Spa by Kerry Sports Manila, Jacuzzi, sauna, and select hotel restaurants are closed except for below:
Our In-Room Dining Services will be available from 7:00 am until 10:30 pm.
The Bake House is open from 7:00am until 8:00pm, Raging Bull Burgers from 11:00am until 10:30pm, Samba from 11:00am until 10:00pm, while Raging Bull Chophouse & Bar is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 5:00pm until 11:00pm, and Canton Road from Wednesdays to Sundays from 11:00am until 9:00 pm.
You may choose to contact our Guest Service Center to place your orders.
Swimming pool operating hours is from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, by appointment.
Kerry Sports Gym is open from 6:00am to 10:00 pm by appointment.
I don’t know why I accepted this challenge or what I’m trying to prove. Imagine, me, a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast whose travel itinerary always includes a visit to a local cafe, whose blog name clearly states the devotion she has for this brown brewed drink, has accepted a challenge that requires not consuming coffee for one full week. I know, ridiculous right? I don’t know what I was thinking either.
For context, I posted an Instagram story asking my followers for any challenge that I can complete within a week. It has something to do with my need to cure procrastination as I mentioned in my 7-Day Weight Training Challenge post. The first person who replied is my friend, Cathy (by the way, she has a new blog called, Die Kaisers on a Camper, go check it out) who said that she couldn’t think of anything that I won’t be able to do. While I’m flattered that she believes in my capability, that is not true, I can do a lot of things but I can’t do everything. Still, I prodded her to come up with something, and out of all the goddamn things in the world, this is what she thought of asking me, “Don’t drink coffee for seven days.“
If she told me this in person, I would have grabbed her hair, lol. How dare she give me this challenge that would deny me of one of my favorite pleasures in life. But she is a dear friend, and I thought the dare is simple enough that I accepted it. Turns out I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
The first day went fine. Since I couldn’t drink coffee, I had hot chocolate instead. Then I caught myself thinking, but isn’t that cheating? to which I rebutted with, it’s a no-coffee challenge, not a no-caffeine challenge, those are two different things.
The next day I changed my mind and resolved to stop consuming any products with caffeine. That means no tea, no chocolate, no soda, etc. I just thought that if I’m doing this I might as well do it right. The reason people quit coffee is because of caffeine, which is addictive. I was curious what will happen if I don’t consume any of it.
On the second day I only had water to drink. I quit cold turkey and this is when the nightmare began. Come lunch time, I starting having severe headache. This made it difficult for me to concentrate on any task that I was doing. I didn’t know how to deal with the pain but to sleep it off, which I did three times that day.
My migraine has gotten worse, I swear I could feel pulsing pain in different parts of my head. My energy was low, I could hardly focus on work, and my skin felt warm to the touch, kinda like having the flu. I took a pain reliever because I couldn’t stand the pain. Again, I slept several times that day.
The headache was not as bad as in the last two days but I still felt generally dizzy. This time, I had milk just to have something warm to drink.
The headache was gone but I had something else to worry about. I don’t know if this has anything to do with not having caffeine in my body, but today my legs felt fatigued. Not sure if that’s the correct term in English but we have a word for it in Filipino, “pangangalay.” It’s when your muscles feel weak or numb. Anyway, because of this, I couldn’t sit properly as this weird sensation went from my legs up to my hips. It was very disconcerting and even as I lay down, the feeling won’t go away.
I went to Karada thinking that a little bone alignment and massage might help.
The feeling of fatigue in my lower extremities intensified, which means the Karada session didn’t help. Also, I felt very sleepy throughout the day. This is only caffeine withdrawals yet I was feeling ill and miserable, imagine how terrible it’d be for quitting drugs. I couldn’t wait for this challenge to be over.
And the last day of my suffering has come. The weird sensation in my lower body was gone, thank god. I met up with a friend for lunch and I saw her having coffee. It was like I heard the devil swaying me to order myself a cup, but I persevered. Hun, there’s no way I’d waste all my efforts, I didn’t suffer those last few days just to give up on the last day, nuh-uh, I’m not that weak. Tomorrow I can go back to drinking my favorite drink again, I just need to hold on for one more day.
Day after challenge
Each day, I posted an update on my IG story I received messages from some people curious to know why I was doing this and how I was faring. All of them are coffee drinkers who claimed that they couldn’t go a day without it. So to them, what I was doing was simply unimaginable because as they told me, they’d never be able to give up coffee.
I was very amused at how invested they were of this challenge. I assured them that this was all for the dare and that I wouldn’t give up coffee for good unless I get a medical condition (knock on wood) that would force me to.
Anyway, I completed the challenge and I’m so glad that it’s over. I want a reward, no, I deserve a reward, so I bought a french press and coffee ground from Starbucks to make my reintroduction to the coffee a bit more dramatic. This morning, I had my first cup of coffee after seven days. The aroma alone perked me up, and the first sip had me singing praises to the Lord.
Apart from gaining the ability to sleep effortlessly, I didn’t notice any other advantage of not drinking coffee. What this challenge made me realize though is that caffeine withdrawals are real, and it doesn’t matter whether you have been taking instant coffee like me or espresso. Caffeine is caffeine, you take it regularly you become susceptible to its addictive properties.
What I can only speak of are the disadvantages of not consuming caffeine, at least while going through the withdrawal period. You will have low energy throughout the day, you’ll always feel sleepy, you may suffer physical pains like severe headaches, and may also notice a decreased ability to focus.
To be fair, I haven’t been at it long enough to experience the long-term benefits of quitting caffeine, which based on my research include better sleep quality, healthier teeth, balanced hormones for women, healthy digestion, and the only one on the list that sounded appealing to me, increased collagen synthesis (because collagen is important to fight aging you know). Maybe if I did this for a month, I’d see a notable change in my health, but one week, to be honest that’s pretty short.
However, I love my coffee, and as I mentioned before, I won’t quit unless the doctor says so. For now, I’m happy to remain a coffee person.
Happy 2021 my lovely readers! How has it been for you thus far? Me, two weeks in and I’m in a rut. I’m usually very motivated the first part of the year yet somehow I’m feeling meh right now. It’s like I’m just continuing what I’ve been doing last year, the same old routine and it’s making me unhappy. COVID is still here so there’s little I can do in the matter, but it makes me feel sad nonetheless. Anyway, I didn’t mean to start this in such a negative tone so enough drama and let’s get on with how I spent the holiday season.
Christmas happenings with the neighbors
After years of renting in places where I didn’t talk with my fellow tenants, I managed to get to know my neighbors in the condo community where I currently reside. We have our own group chat where we talk about community concerns/updates, as well as do buy and sell stuff.
Some buildings in the neighborhood had set up Christmas lights and decorations in the atrium and on their building’s facade. We thought we should do the same and so we agreed to chip in some bucks to buy the materials. The result was amazing, our building looked bright and festive, lighting up the street where it stood. It even became a some sort of an attraction that I spotted people from other buildings taking photos.
On the 18th of December we had a Christmas potluck. I brought the Filipino-style spaghetti that my brother cooked, which earned positive feedback from my neighbors. I had fun socializing with everyone, a few of them I already knew, while some I met for the first time. Many people were not able to make it, which I assume has something to do with COVID or some other holiday-related plans.
Noche buena for Christmas Eve
One of my favorite childhood memories was when my mother would rouse my sisters and I at 12 midnight to eat noche buena. We usually had white loaf bread (we call them “Tasty”), fried hotdogs, and hot chocolate drinks a.k.a. Milo. To this day it gives me that warm fuzzy feeling whenever I remember it. With this in mind, I decided to prepare noche buena at home last Christmas eve.
I asked my brother to cook aglio olio pasta then I set up the platter with some cheese, grapes, dried fruits, nuts, baguette slices, and candies. We also had other Filipino noche buena staples, such as fruit cake, fruit salad, and leche flan. Lastly, as a nod to my childhood, fried hotdogs.
Staycation at Shangri-la at The Fort
In the last few years, I had been out of the country when holiday comes around. Traveling in this time of the year is ideal for me as December is when I can go on a longer break from work combining official holidays and my annual leaves. Obviously, traveling is out of the question now so I diverted my travel funds to do a staycation in a 5-star hotel. I had two choices, Conrad Manila and Shangri-la The Fort, ultimately choosing the latter as Taguig is closer to where I live (Pasig) than Pasay.
I had my friend, Cai join me so I got company. We stayed there for two nights, checking in on the 26th and leaving on the 28th of December. This has been my first time staying at a Shangri-la hotel and I’m glad to report that I wasn’t disappointed.
We found out that our other friend, Silver, was also staying there with her husband when we met them accidentally during breakfast. They are now based in the States but from time to time they come home to the Philippines. If you’re not familiar with Silver, I mentioned her a few times in this blog especially in my Quirino travel blog posts.
I will talk about this staycation in full in another blog post so consider this as a prelude.
Dining with friends
Saturday night and dressed to the nines, Cai and I went to The Fort Strip to eat dinner at Caffe Puccini. The Fort Strip was surprisingly alive with several restaurants and bars opened and filled with people. Do they not care about COVID anymore? I remember thinking as we walked past them.
Caffe Puccini is a casual dining, Italian restaurant. The food was good, the ambiance is nice, and it wasn’t crowded unlike the bars outside.
The next day we called for a reservation at La Picara, a Spanish restaurant. It’s pretty famous that it is almost always booked. In fact, when we were able to reserve a table, we were told that we only had three hours to stay. Naturally, it raised my expectations on the food. I mean, if this is this demanding then the food must be amazing. The verdict? Well it’s not bad, but let’s just say that I cannot justify the hype.
New Year’s Eve at Avida Towers
If there is one word I’d describe my New Year’s eve, it’s anticlimactic. I was alone in the condo unit of my friend, Silver, got no food, I could faintly hear but couldn’t see the fireworks. Silver was apparently sick, she and her husband stayed in their unit the entire night. So I stayed in the room, wondering whether I should go somewhere. Eventually, I decided to just sit it out, what’s the point of going somewhere at NYE when I’m alone anyway.
Silver and her husband have two condo units at Avida Towers. After checking out from Shangri-la, the couple moved to their one-bedroom unit in this building, while the other unit, Silver offered to me for a few days. The unit is fully furnished, I could imagine it’d be perfect for Airbnb. I was there for three nights including the NYE. In those few days, Silver and I would meet up to eat or go to the malls and spend hours talking about any topics we could think of. Sometimes, her husband would join us, speaking in his slow-paced but fluent Tagalog (he’s British).
When I’m alone I would usually go to the McDonalds across the street or to a 7-Eleven to get some food. I went home the day of January 2nd, leaving the key to the guard, and texting my thanks to Silver who was then having lunch with her own family. I was feeling rather empty, I’m not sure why. Still it was good to be alone even for just a few days because I have sort of lost my privacy when my brother started living in my house. Not that I mind his company, but I guess I missed having a sense of privacy.
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After-holiday dinner with the fam
4th of January, my sisters, Vanie and Luz, announced in our group chat that they’re in Manila and asked for a meetup. After my work, Barry and I headed to SM Megamall to meet them. Our eldest sister, Amie didn’t join but she had a representative, her daughter, Gwen. I wasn’t able to prepare gifts for my family so I made up for it by treating them to dinner at Salvatore Cuomo at The Podium Mall.
In between pizza and pasta, we played catch-up as the last time we got together it was on Christmas eve of 2019. I asked them about the latest with their lives, but I found that they had nothing much to tell. Vanie is still doing her online job, Luz is still a CSR but now she works from home and stays with our mother in Cavite for Internet connection. My niece, Gwen, on the other hand is now 16 years old. I told her that she and her older sister, Nicole (19) are not allowed to get married yet and make me a granny at 38. Also, that they shouldn’t settle down ahead of me, lol.
And that’s how I spent Christmas and NYE of 2020. Generally, I felt like 2020 is such a waste and I could only hope for a better year head of us. For now, all I can do is to take one day at a time, appreciate what I have, and set goals that are attainable given the current situation we are all in.
I’ve decided to take week-long challenges and blog about them to overcome procrastination and keep track of my progress (if there are any). I don’t know how else I can make myself accountable for neglecting things that I should be doing but this. You see, when I put myself on a dare, I’m more likely to complete it because my pride is on the line. Thus, I am starting this with the 7-day Weight Training Challenge. I will follow a 30-minute workout video each day from seven different fitness YouTubers. I will talk about how difficult or easy the workouts are, how did I fare, and some information about the featured workout instructors for your reference. By the end of this challenge, I will show you the stats, such as the total calories burned and average heart rate from doing these exercises, as well as the hours of sleep I had and the calories I consumed per day as these have a bearing to my stamina.
Disclaimer: The author has taken this challenge for the reasons mentioned above. She is neither a fitness trainer nor a nutritionist and is therefore not encouraging anyone to follow the same challenge without an expert’s advice. She has taken this challenge at her own discretion, and according to her body’s capability and/or limitations.
Equipment and body stats
The heaviest weight I could set in my dumbbells is 15 kg. As with tracking my stats, I’ll be using the following mobile apps:
- myfitnesspal – for tracking food calories count
- Apple Fitness – for tracking active kilocalories, average heart rate
- SleepWatch – for tracking sleeping hours
My Day 0 body measurements are as follows:
- Weight: 47.7 kg (105 lbs)
- Body measurements: Chest – 32 | Waist – 27.3 | Hips 34.8
I am very bloated with some nasty back fat and some cellulite on my legs. I never thought I would ever get cellulite but I think getting old plays a part. I am not even 50kg yet I know and feel that my body is not in the best condition.
Day 1 – Dec 8 (Tue)
It’s a Tuesday, I should have done this on a Monday but it doesn’t really matter, the important thing is, I started. I followed the 30 Minute Full Body HIIT Bootcamp Workout of my favorite Fitness YouTuber, Sydney Cummings. She is a NASM certified personal trainer and fitness, nutrition specialist. Her YT channel, which she launched in 2016 has over 798k subscribers. Each month she introduces a 30-day program and every single day she posts a workout video. I honestly don’t know how she does it, I mean even if she pre-records them then rests for a day or two, it would mean that on the days that she is filming, she was doing one or two workout routines. I’m telling you, the girl is a beast. Not only is she strong, but she also looks the part. Her body is lean and sculpted, the kind that you only get from years of consistent training.
Given how intense, exhausting, and long (sometimes they go for an hour) her workouts are, I could never follow her program faithfully. However, she is my favorite because of her personality, and how she designs the workouts; they were always challenging but easy to follow.
Now getting on to the routine, it is part lifting, part cardio with a 2-minute warm-up. There’s one lifting exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 15, one cardio exercise also for 30 secs, then repeat the entire set for three rounds.
Generally, my body felt okay that I was able to follow Sydney’s instructions without using her easy modifications. However, I didn’t feel that strong that the heaviest weight I was able to lift on each side is only 10 kg. I was also aware of how heavy I was breathing especially with the cardio parts but I had enough stamina to push through it all. Day 1 is good.
Day 2 – Dec 9 (Wed)
I couldn’t sleep early and I had to get up early as well because of a 6:30 am meeting at work, hence I only had 3 hours of sleep. But I slept another 3 hours in the afternoon so I had enough energy to do the workout today.
This time, I did the Squats and Deadlifts Workout – At Home Lower Body Workout by Fitness Blender. It is one of the few fitness YouTube channels that I started following years ago and it is owned by a couple, Kelli and Daniel. The channel has been up since 2010 and to date, it has 6.49 million subscribers. Unlike Sydney, the coupe doesn’t post that often; maybe one or two videos per month, and there was also a time when it took them a while to update. But since they’ve been at this space the longest, their content is pretty solid, with over 600 free full-length workout videos to choose from.
So here’s the workout structure: 6 groups of exercises, 45 seconds on, 15 seconds rest in an ABAB format. Warm-up and cardio were not included in this routine, only lifting and a lot of squatting. The most prominent move is the deadlifts, there is always a variation of it on each set. I made an effort to use 10kg per arm for some of the squats. I noticed that my knees weren’t caving in or shaking compared to yesterday when I was doing the squats. I did sweat a lot but overall, I find Sydney’s routine more exhausting as it involved cardio.
Day 3 – Dec 10 (Thu)
It’s the first time I’ve done a workout by Joanna Soh so I don’t know much about her. Based on her About page, she is a certified personal trainer (ACE) and a Nutrition Coach and Women’s Fitness Specialist (NASM). Her YT channel started in 2012 and she has 2.25 million subscribers.
On the third day of this challenge, I followed her workout video titled, Build Your ABS (30-Min Total Body Strength Training. I was invited to a neighbor’s birthday celebration in the afternoon but before I indulged myself with the delicious (high-calorie) food, I worked my arse on the mat first.
Her routine is core-focused and she only recommended to use lightweight dumbbells. There’s a short warm-up at the beginning of the workout as well as a cool down at the end. There are seven exercises and three rounds. Although it’s supposed to be a 30-min workout, the actual time to complete it is only 27 minutes. I used the remaining 3 minutes to do some stretching as I could now feel some tightness in my hamstrings. I reckon it has more to do with the fact that I’d been doing this for three straight days. It’s the reason I only committed to doing a 30-minute exercise each day so I wouldn’t overwork my body.
Day 4 – Dec 11 (Fri)
The fourth-day workout video is courtesy of another fitness couple, Coach Kozak and Claudia of HASfit. They were early in the game, joining YouTube in 2007 with over 1.57 million subscribers as of this writing. Just like the Fitness Blender couple, this channel is not very active. As I write this, the last video that they posted was 11 months ago.
I discovered this channel a few years ago when I was still renting an apartment in Makati. I followed their 30-day muscle building program and though it didn’t result in my dream abs, I noticed that I’d grown physically stronger. Their workout programs are one of the most intense that I’ve tried that 30 minutes feels like an hour.
And because the routines are hard, you are sure to burn down more calories. On this day, I did their 30 Min Home Leg Workout with Dumbbells video and torched 155 kcal, the most calories that I burned since I started this challenge. Because my legs are still hurting, I couldn’t squat lower and I couldn’t lift heavier weights. I wondered whether I should take a rest the next day just to allow my body to recover.
Day 5 – Dec 12 (Sat)
I thought that perhaps I should take a rest today, but changed my mind. In the afternoon, like a ritual, I lay my mat on the floor, changed into my workout attire, and played the 30 min upper body workout – Intense Strength Workout At Home of Penny Barnshaw – Garage Fitness Girl. I did one of Penny’s workout videos before and I remember liking it because she didn’t talk the entire time, it’s just her exercising, the timer beeping on the screen, with some upbeat music in the background. Out of all the YouTubers that I mentioned in this post, Penny is the newest player having started her channel just last year, 2019. Despite being new, she already has 65.2K subscribers.
There are 3 exercises per set that had to be repeated three times with 10-second rest in between. In actuality, the entire workout lasts for 37 minutes.
Today is when I lifted the heaviest weight, 15kg, to do one of the moves. Thankfully, there wasn’t a lot of squatting so I was able to rest my legs a little bit. The past few days have been particularly trying for my lower body so it’s a good call to focus on upper-body moves this time.
Day 6 – Dec 13 (Sun)
By now, I’m not really sure where I summon the strength to keep going without taking a rest day. While I do ache in some places (this time my arms and the sides of my chest), I managed to complete the 30 Min Full Body Dumbbell Workout at Home of Caroline Girvan. I just discovered Caroline so I can’t speak much of her style and general content. She is a certified personal trainer and her YouTube, which she launched in 2015 has over 428K subscribers.
Just like Penny, she doesn’t verbalize instructions (no voiceover as well) during the workout. On some occasions though, I saw her mouthing instructions to her viewers like when we needed to switch sides for the lunges.
For some reason, I find this workout easier than the rest. I think it may have something to do with the 30-sec rest in between exercises, a bit longer than the 10 or 20 seconds breaks of other fitness trainers.
Day 7 – Dec 14 (Mon)
I can’t believe I managed to do this challenge for seven consecutive days. For the final day I chose a low-impact workout given the fact that I didn’t allow my body a chance to recover.
The workout today is courtesy of Anna, another certified personal trainer who coaches Crossfit classes. She joined the vast number of fitness YouTubers in 2017 through her channel, growingannanas, which today has over 144K subscribers. I used her video, 30 Min Leg Workout with weights, dumbbells to wrap up this challenge.
This workout targets the glutes and quads so there was a lot of squatting involved. It’s a no-repeat routine but there are exercises that were the same only in different variations, e.g., narrow stance squat, air squat, sumo squat. There’s a 6-minute warm-up but no cool-down session. She recommended doing slow and controlled movements to really activate the muscles in the target areas.
Thoughts and observations
As mentioned, I recorded my day-to-day stats as shown in the table below. I burned the most calorie on Day 4 with the workout video from HASfit. Sydney’s routine from Day 1 was a close second.
I stepped on the scale again and saw that from 47.7 kg, my weight went down to 47 kg. My body measurements are the same save for my waistline, which from 27.3 inches is now down to 26.5. Small difference but I’ll take it.
Before I took this challenge, I had been a notorious afternoon sleeper. I normally go to sleep between 12 midnight to 2 am, and because my work starts at 7 am, I couldn’t complete the required 8 hours unless it’s the weekend. So what happens is, I get an afternoon slump that I would go to bed as soon as my work is done, doze off for four hours, then wake up at night to exercise. Working out late plus the afternoon siesta equals bad sleep quality. Thus, it was always very challenging for me to sleep at the appropriate time.
But on the week of this challenge, instead of sleeping, I would go to the mat and workout between 3 to 6 pm. The afternoon slump is gone, it’s crazy. Unfortunately, except for Days 4 and 9, there was no change in my average sleeping hours. Despite this, I always had enough energy to complete the workout.
My calorie target is 1,619 per day based on the goal that I set on myfitnesspal. I made a conscious effort not to eat more than my daily calorie goal because I want to be able to see results after this challenge. We all know that working out is not enough, a healthy body is also made in the kitchen.
I didn’t have a special diet in the sense that I ate carbs and meat and at times. But I limited my sugar intake because while my taste buds like sucrose, my belly doesn’t. I know I may have been eating well below my calorie goal but let me assure you that I don’t starve myself. Also, if my no-defined-abs midsection is any indication, it seems like I’m all good.
More than the slight weight loss, what I’m really happy about is that I was able to complete this challenge (tbh, my pride has a lot to do with it). It’s good to be reminded that I can do anything I set my mind to.