Many of us get so caught up with our work that we stop exercising regularly and end up gaining weight, which affects our mental health and image of ourselves negatively. This in turn affects our performance at work and our daily moods, resulting in us spending more time to complete our tasks or neglecting them, leading it a vicious cycle of negativity.
However, in the long run this would not be good for our mental wellness. That’s why in this article, we interview the CEO of Ascend Marketing, Gabriel Wong, to find out why he took up weightlifting and spin classes, and his strategy being disciplined and maintaining an exercise routine despite his busy work schedule. He also shares the benefits of exercising in a group, and how taking up exercises classes changed his confidence levels.
Q: How did taking spin classes and weightlifting classes help you feel better about yourself?
In the past, I was not confident or felt good about my body image before I took up weight lifting and spin classes. As the founder of my own start-up company, Ascend Marketing, I was weighed down by the added responsibility of a leader.
Being sedentary and consumed with worries during the pandemic did take a toll on my mental health as well as my physical. I felt that I was stuck in a cycle of spending most of my time working from behind my computer and feeling fatigued to participate in any social or physical activities after work.
To combat this plateau, I took up bodybuilding classes to train my strength and feel good about my body image. I also took spin classes because I wanted to train my stamina and build my endurance.
I can feel a significant difference mentally and physically by keeping to a healthy diet and maintaining my attendance in the weightlifting and spin classes over three years. I read up studies that show that just by exercising 10 – 20 mins a day, it helps us to reverse or slow down aging.
The result is that the quality of my work improved, and I found myself to be more creative, which is essential in my line of work. The regular exercises I did helped me to overcome the constant fatigue that I’ve faced in the past and managed my stress levels allowing me to emerged calmer.
I have maintained my weight through the years to be around 70 kg. At the moment, I am working hard towards putting on more weight for muscle gain. I went from 19 – 20% body fat to approximately 14% of body fat in my body at this point in time.
Exercising regularly has helped boost my confidence as it provides me with unlimited energy and the ability to perform my daily tasks and recreational activities effortlessly. Appreciating how my body has transformed when I look in the mirror and seeing the visible evidence from my exercise results has helped improve my confidence level. By having a fit and strong body, I can select and wear clothes that complement my physique while projecting a healthy image. In my line of work, I am constantly meeting new people, and being able to carry myself with grace and strength gives me the added advantage of emitting confidence when making valuable first impressions.
Having all this energy allowed me to spend my life and time doing the things I love and nurturing the relationships I cherish. I feel secure in knowing that I have applied myself a hundred per cent when it came to time spent on the people and activities that I love. Overall, my mental and physical health has improved as I now feels disciplined and determined to lead my company as a more decisive leader.
Q: What is one piece of advice you have for working adults who want to have a balance between work, exercise, and social life but find it very difficult?
In the past I always struggled with having a lack of time to exercise. My excuse was always that there is “No time”. However, I realized that if anything worth doing is important to you, you have to make time instead of waiting to have time. This means scheduling it in your calendar, and making it happen.
I schedule my workout in the morning and do that before anything else. If you can’t work out in the morning, then at least schedule it in the day where you can actually do it. My advice is to start small, even if it’s only just for 5 mins. Keeping to 5 mins of exercising daily is better than not starting at all.
In addition, increase your social contact with their friends who are perceived as fitter. I think that when it comes to exercising, there is some truth to the adage, “There is strength in numbers.” Having my gym trainer or spin classmates holding each other accountable for showing up to the next lesson has helped me achieve better attendance and increase my commitment to go for each session.
According to a 2016 study, it is found that people who are obese tend to lose more weight if they increased social contact with their friends who are perceived as fitter. Additionally, the study found that when the time spent together increases, this resulted in the more weight they lose. This is interesting as it shows how the healthy actions of others can positively rub off on us. My participation in my spin class / weight lifting exercises has helped me push myself harder as it sharpens my competitive edge to not fall behind in class.
This may be due to the Köhler Effect, which is the idea that no one wants to be the weakest link in a group setting. When I witnessed others who could do more during my exercise sessions, this ignited a feeling of positive competitiveness for me to surpass my limits. As such, when I can break my own barriers, I feel a strong surge of accomplishment which significantly boosts my confidence.
Q: Besides going to spin and weightlifting classes, were there other contributing factors that helped improve your body image and mental health?
I find that getting good quality 8 hours of sleep really helps to improve my mental health and body image.
Additionally, I make it a point to put in some time to always upgrade myself, usually in some form of learning. This can be as simple as listening to an audiobook instead of music during my gym sessions.
Q: Do you have any tips on how to deal with burnout? For instance, if someone is feeling burnt out, he or she may not even have the energy to exercise or work, and in that case how does one break out of that cycle?
One simple strategy would be to start with committing to 5 minutes of your time to exercise. I believe that this is tip of putting aside 5 minutes to go for a walk for example is not too difficult for anyone who is burnt out.
Studies have shown that our physiology affects our psychology. One study in Harvard has shown that when we move our body or stand in a power pose for just a few minutes, our testosterone levels is shown to increase by 20% (confidence) and reduces cortisol levels (stress hormone) by approximately 25%.
In addition, the benefits of exercising helps to release endorphins which helps you to relieve pain, reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being. All this helps with stress and burnout.
Q: How has this new lifestyle helped with your body image?
This new lifestyle has greatly helped me feel more confident about myself and my body image in addition to building up my self-esteem.
Through incorporating exercise into my routine, I can feel a significant change in my mental outlook improve for the better and the physical activities help to boost my mood greatly. Committing to fitness has helped me activate a strong will and discipline as I tell myself to keep going for my weekly gym sessions.
When I started to incorporate exercise into my routine, it has positively enriched all aspects of my life, both personally and professionally. Through exercise, I’ve developed success traits such as discipline, work ethic, confidence, and accomplishment. As a father, husband and founder of Ascend Marketing – I am inspired to keep going and serve as a motivating role model for my wife, children and staff.
Overall, I am much happier with my body image now as compared to the days before when I led a sedentary lifestyle.
If you’re not keen on doing weightlifting and going for spin classes, and are wondering what kind of exercises you can do, check our our home exercise articles that help you get started on your fitness journey!
Images: Gabriel Wong