Reflecting on Fitness Setbacks & Re-seeking Balance in Warrior Goals

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After my military conscription ended in mid 2012, last year’s Day Of Ninja (2013) prodded me to finally get back into martial arts and fitness. My excuse for the delay was not knowing how to add fitness into my schedule as a full-time double-major university student and freelancer without overstraining myself. So, when my degree was completed in November last year, I decided to make significant changes in my lifestyle, organising the first Day Of Ninja movement to kickstart the wheels of motion (while helping other people on their journey). This sudden motivation was partially spurred on by my desire not to be a hypocrite who was only an armchair writer and founder of Way Of Ninja.

Having made my goals transparent on Day Of Ninja, there was pressure to take action on my goals and stay committed. I began getting into a pure callisthenics workout routine with daily runs, focusing on functional fitness rather than aesthetics. I tweaked my dietary habits to incorporate healthier foods. Months into the changes, my clothes were baggier and my pants were falling – while I was of average size when I began (certainly not overweight), my problem area was always the butt. The new routine, surprisingly, dealt with that.

Being Sidetracked with Fitness for Aesthetic Purposes (Yes, I know I’m vain)

Having become leaner, I became sidetracked. Fitness and running were no longer based on function and performance – it became rooted in aesthetics. And I was trying to make things work to the extreme. Rushing to and from work amidst the central business district crowd in order to have enough time to exercise daily, losing my already short hours of sleep and attempting to eat on a prolonged caloric-deficit. My conservative approach to calorie counting unfamiliar foods and estimating activity levels meant overstating my caloric intake and understating my caloric usage to the point that the cumulative deficit was huge.

With the drain in energy and out of control imbalance, I started having small indulgences of food, feel guilty about it and up my activity levels even more. This affected my social life and sleep. And it was also causing issues for my body and mind. I coped with the energy drain by exercising to artificially spike my adrenaline, ignoring the warning signs of knee injury and terrible migraines. Even when my motivation waned, I kept at it out of fear. I was too afraid to rest and recover, believing that taking a break would set a precedence of laziness. I didn’t trust myself to commit to the new fitness routine.

Wake-up Calls through Failures and Plateaus

With the new focus on aesthetics, performance took a backseat. This wasn’t a conscious decision. I was trying hard to achieve both performance and aesthetic goals but ended up failing in both. The fact that I was doing too much, sleeping far too little and eating below maintenance caloric intake impeded my progress. What kept me from making drastic adjustment was the fear that I would return to square one until a few incidents.

1. Returning to Aikido training meant having to accommodate to an additional four hours of training. I did my best to rework my routine, but failed to consider how tired I would be from rushing between transits and how legs day workouts would affect my Aikido seiza techniques.

Within the week of my return, I experienced failure in my routine on Sunday. I could not physically bring myself to complete my run and finish up 1.5 hours of callisthenics. The lack of recovery was draining my motivation.

Out of necessity, I changed the workout scheme to incorporate some recovery time on Sundays.

2. Soon after, there was a day I felt funny but decided to continue an intense legs day routine. While en route to supper thereafter, I felt light-headed and nauseous, unsure if I’d be able to get home without collapsing and then unable to sleep the entire night. It turned out that I caught the flu virus and had been running a high fever. I was advised against working out for two weeks.

I wouldn’t stand for that and asked the doctor what could possibly go wrong. I got a lecture on the number people who died from a heart attack while exerting themselves when affected by the virus.

I learnt to take recovery breaks a lot more seriously from then on while feeling extremely guilty.

The Way Forward

Although I have cut down my routine, I had not altered the fundamental issues that plagued my way of life. My fitness routine involved rushing from one activity to another. At the end of the day, it takes far too long to unwind from the high cortisol levels from being stressed over being able to complete the entire schedule in time. Fitness was an obsession, an addiction.

The irony, however, was that my lack of sleep and insufficient diet kept the body from making leaps in progresses. At a functional level, my gains in performance  was minuscule. In terms of aesthetics, I was also going nowhere.

That said, these setbacks point to the direction for my new Day Of Ninja goals. What I can say is that my commitment to the fitness and martial arts way of life remains unwavering. I just need to learn to trust myself to move forward. To stop reacting with exercise out of fear of failure. And to inject fun and variety to my routine.

Evaluating Past Goals (Day Of Ninja 2013 goals)

For details on my 2013 Day Of Ninja goals, please refer to this entry: Fitness, Combat and Parkour Goals Till The Next Day Of Ninja.

1. Attain gold for IPPT (failed) 

All stations qualify for gold except Standing Broad Jump.

2. Join Two Running Events in 2014 (achieved)

Joined and trained for five runs, including two obstacle races. Will be joining my last race for the year next week.

3. Return to Martial Arts Training (achieved)

Returned to training in Aikido after a four to five year break from being in the military and then university. Recently graded to third kyu!

4. Incorporate Basic Parkour Training in My Workout (failed)

For the reasons outlined in the above reflections – being overly ambitious in fitness and fearful of experimentation – I never got to integrate parkour in my training.

5. Reschedule My Sleep Timing (failed)

Again, read the above. My terrible sleeping habits are still there and have caused a multitude of issues.

6. Find time to Workout and Run (achieved)

Achieved. In fact I became obsessed with it, to the point that I was presenting symptoms of an exercise addict.

Secondary goals. Join an obstacle race (achieved), Learn a new language (failed)

Obstacle racing was a secondary goal for 2014, but I joined two obstacle races for the challenge and fun of it. I intend to conquer more in 2015.

Didn’t have the time for language learning though.

Day Of Ninja 2014 Goals

Goal 1

Get the gold award for the old system of the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT)

IPPT Gold Badge


As part of being in the military reservist, an obligation as a citizen of Singapore, I am required to pass the annual IPPT. Due to a review on the IPPT this year, the military is currently phasing out the old test and replacing it with new standards, which are easier. Instead of aiming for a mere pass, I would like to get the gold award for the old system before it phases out and I have until my birthday in 2015 to take the test.

Last Day Of Ninja in 2013, I made this very same goal but did not achieve it before Day Of Ninja 2014. I managed to get the gold standard for all stations except Standing Broad Jump, which pulled my score down to a Silver. Unfortunately, due to being preoccupied with other goals, my training routine was altered to focus on distance running, causing my 2.4km run timing to increase slightly.

How would I know that I have achieved this goal?

  • Be able to complete 2.4km run within 9 minutes and 44 seconds
  • Be able to complete at least 39 sit ups in 60 seconds
  • Be able to complete the shuttle run in less than 10.2 seconds
  • Be able to complete at least 12 pullups
  • Be able to jump at least 234cm for standing broad jump
  • Be informed of the gold award in the results slip after the test

Why and how is this goal important to me

Because the old IPPT system is considered of a more difficult standard, it would give me the satisfaction to get gold. It would prove to my old self that getting gold was not an impossibility, I need to achieve the gold award before April, which is roughly when the new test applies for me.

How I intend to kickstart this goal

  • Do a self-test on the five components to ascertain my present performance and focus on my deficiencies
  • Start speed training in 30/60 seconds sprint/jog intervals to get back my old running time
  • Train in Standing Broad Jump technique progressively, focusing on one component at a time. As a start, I’d like to train tucking my legs to the chest while in the air and being swingging my arms forward full-force without falling over
  • Train in explosive jumps to increasing jumping power
  • Train by jumping over low obstacles or over open drains

Deadline to get started: 18.12.2014

Potential obstacles to achieving my goal

  • being distracted with achieving other goals
  • having my training performance suffer due to my bad sleeping habits
  • busy schedule with getting the other Way Of Ninja articles written

How I will overcome the obstacles

I will need to make getting gold in IPPT a primary goal until I take the test within the first quarter of 2015 – the performance for IPPT will be the priority over the other goals. Inaddition, I intend to measure my IPPT standards weekly so that my focus is always on achieving goldstandard. If the weekly standards drop, it would naturally motivate me to do better.

Goal 2

Find balance in life and my responsibilities and recharge my energy levels. Regain the motivation to workout. Become calmer.


Exercise had become an obsession that threw my life out of balance and depleted my energy in other aspects of my life. My problems were mainly being overly ambitious with working out, feeling paranoid or guilty if I ever took a rest day (so I avoided it), not sleeping enough, eating inconsistently and working my schedule rigidly around exercise and work. I had little time for social activities or personal pursuits like writing, movies, reading, nightlife, and others. This just made my daily routine stale, giving me no outlet to de-stress.

This Day Of Ninja, my second goal is to refocus my workout objectives and narrow its scope, stop rushing around between activities, stop obsessing over calories, stop obsessing over staring at the timer to ensure my workout duration was long enough, stop adding sets because I didn’t think I was doing enough and adapt my workout routine. In addition, to boost my recovery timing, I need to avoid not warming up before exercising because of lack of time.

How would I know that I have achieved this goal?

  • Be able to watch my eating without stressing on strict calorie counting
  • Have reasonable rest days and social days to recover
  • Feel a sense of enjoyment (and not dread) when I run or workout
  • Be daring enough to mix in spontaneous movements to routine (and not overdo callisthenics so as not to feel too tired to be spontaneous)
  • Have time to breathe between transit
  • Make sure to warm up before working out

Why and how is this goal important to me

I am sick of  obsessing over calories and calculating activity levels. I am sick of not being able to trust myself in excelling. I want to have fun working out. If I continue the way I have been approaching fitness, I will be on the road to giving up or worse, to the hospital.

How I intend to kickstart this goal

  • When eating, be aware of what I eat. Roughly get the macros and caloric intake right. If I make a mistake, so be it. No more using exercise to catch up to erroneous calculations.
  • Allocate days to rest and recover (or have a low activity day)
  • Play and experiment on weekends without staring at the timer. Regain the fun in working out.
  • Get my sleep and sense of timing right.
  • When the workout gets stale, mix it up.
  • Rope friends and family into my fitness goals (they are presently avoiding my calls. Hahaha)

Deadline to get started: 09.12.2014

Potential obstacles to achieving my goal

  • Difficulty in changing habits
  • Not having time to implement the plan

How I will overcome the obstacles

Inform family and friends to keep me in check and warn me if I’m heading back in the same obsessive cycle.

Goal 3

Train in Aikiken and Aikijo to reach familiarity in movement for all seven Suburi and six Kumitachi. Make further progresses and qualify for second kyu in Aikido in 2015.

Ruroni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno duel
Ruroni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno duel (Retrieved from


Advance Aikido training involves training with the bokken and jo. Having felt the effectiveness in Kumitachi, I would like to gain familiarity with the fundamental movements in the seven Suburi and six Kumitachi. Training in aiki weapon principles also enhances my understanding in combat timing and distance for empty-hand techniques.

I would also like to improve my fundamental techniques in Aikido. I still have major weaknesses in extension and ukemi front rolls.

How would I know that I have achieved this goal?

  • Be able to perform all Suburi and Kumitachi movements with reasonable form from memory
  • Be able to increase effectiveness of my fundamental Aikido techniques (even by a little bit) by being aware of minor kinks in my techniques and removing them
  • Gain familiarity with executing Sankyo and Yonkyo for grading purposes
  • Be able to distinguish different forms of kaiten and perform them with a small level of effectiveness

Why and how is this goal important to me

Aikido has been my passion for a long while. My break from Aikido means that I’m out of reach from my old training partners who are now dan grades. I want to be able to discuss and practice techniques at their level. Failure is not an option.

How I intend to kickstart this goal

  • Watch Aikiken Suburi and Kumitachi videos as guides (in addition to regular dojo training)
  • Train in Aikiken movements, working on one correction per session
  • Consciously apply extension in all my fundamental techniques during training
  • Slow down my movements initially to catch errors and mold the technique into muscle memory

Deadline to get started: 08.12.2014

Potential obstacles to achieving my goal

  • Feelings of exhaustion in the middle of Aikido training, which in turn distracts my focus and observation
  • Feelings of anxiety when encountering unfamiliar execution patterns
  • Lack of sleep robbing my coordination abilities
  • Being partnered with trainees who offer little resistance or excessively early rote-motion ukemi

How I will overcome the obstacles

Get sufficient sleep the night before training and try not to cram in a heavy workout right before Aikido.

Tell my partner to increase resistance or point out his/her ukemi issues so that they can improve, which in turns improves my training experience.


Goal 4

Sleep at least six hours daily. Sleep earlier on weekdays (with exception of Aikido training days)



I have horrible sense of timing when it comes to sleep. I can look at the clock showing 2am and still think it is early, while rushing to do more. When I do stop, I still feel wired from the day and end up sitting on the sofa doing nothing just to unwind. This needs to stop.

How would I know that I have achieved this goal?

  • Sleep at least six hours each day
  • Have enough energy the following day
  • Have the ability to recover

Why and how is this goal important to me

If I continue sleeping little with my hectic routine, I will possibly sink back into melancholy or die from sudden heart-attack. I have experienced chest pains, nausea, migraines, dizziness, sleep paralysis and issues with hand-eye coordination on days where my lack of sleep has accumulated. Honestly, not sleeping makes me stupid. I cannot hold a conversation without losing my thought process. When performing a mental task, I get distracted. My memory lapses some times.

How I intend to kickstart this goal

  • Start by developing a sense of urgency to the clock (and consciously push away thoughts to prolong the day)
  • Set aside time to prepare for bed and unwind
  • Stop all activity 5 minutes before unwinding and preparation time

Deadline to get started: 20.12.2014

Potential obstacles to achieving my goal

  • HABIT!
  • Unexpected situations cropping up

How I will overcome the obstacles

Rely on a routine initially. Inform family and friends of expectations and new routine to reduce untimely situations. If a situation can be dealt with the next day, then deal with it the next day. Avoid checking emails at the end of the day.


Goal 5

Inject fun and variety into my physical activity routine bu including street workout, parkour, bar athletics and tricking


Image by Christos Loufopoulos (
Image by Christos Loufopoulos (

This goal serves to refocus my fitness routine from being aesthetic centric to being based on performance, function and skills. This makes my routine more rewarding and motivating. Staring at the mirror daily to see differences is depressing. Tracking performance and progress, on the other hand, gives a thrill.

Now, why parkour, street workout, bar athletics and tricking. Being a person with a creative-side, I have always been interested in activities that emphasised on natural movements and artistic expression through movements. These fitness disciplines will be great outlet to de-stress, aside from Aikido and my passion in writing.

Because of my focus on functional abilities, I need to determine the specific techniques, skills and tricks I wish to train in. As always, I intend to start with the fundamentals and progress from there.

How would I know that I have achieved this goal?

  • Be daring enough to mix in spontaneous movements to routine (and not overdo callisthenics so as not to feel too tired to be spontaneous)
  • Be able to do basic safety rolls and transition to a roll from actual falling impact or height
  • Be able to perform three types of parkour vaults
  • Be able to do proper parkour landing
  • Be able to do a kip up
  • Be able to increase my flexibility to do a partial split
  • Be able to do 10 seconds handstands

Why and how is this goal important to me

I’m tired of doing the same old routine without trying out functional skills. Parkour was something I was interested in for close to a decade. I need to take action and speak less.

How I intend to kickstart this goal

  • Begin by planning and printing out a training plan focusing on the fundamentals of street workout, parkour, tricking and bar athletics
  • Follow the street workout plan for the first half of the training duration and leave time for play and experimentation for the second
  • Because of my IPPT priority, I will not go full force on parkour and tricking until the second quarter.

Deadline to get started: 02.02.2015

Potential obstacles to achieving my goal

  • Not knowing how and where to start
  • Feeling self-conscious from passers-by watching
  • Not being able to find someone to give feedback on my technique
  • Feeling too drained after a callisthenics work out to add spontaneous movements

How I will overcome the obstacles

Self-train in the basics and safety techniques for parkour and tricking. This means safety rolls, landing technique, round house kicks for starters. I must also get used to being watched (something I have an issue due to performance anxiety). For techniques I have trouble with, I will reach out to the local community and online acquaintances and friends in the Way Of Ninja community.