Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Body Pump! (Part 2)

Continued from Body Pump! (Part 1)

Third and Final Day!

I woke up with an aching body, and my quads were still tender (as if a fork has been stuck there!). But I had to force myself up, and surprisingly, the pain reduced as soon I started moving around. Even so, I have to get a dose of Alaxan FR to make sure that I'll be able to manage the final day's training. As the day earlier, I spent the early morning replaying and replaying my track, adding in additional motivational cues. I had to devise a system so I won't forget mentioning all of my cues during my actual presentation.

The day started with a lecture, mainly focusing on the key element Connection. And then we promptly proceeded to our presentation, imbibing our own tracks with new things we learned from each lecture. This time, I got the choreography perfectly, with "great" control, timing and coaching. The rest of the group also showed marked improvement from their earlier performances. We got the chance to watch ourselves in recorded video and receive feedback as well. After which, we had additional drills to practice our timing and technique. It may seem simple to do the 2-2's, 1-3's and slow movements of BodyPump™ as compared to the choreography of the other programs, but the timing in the execution of these movements is essential and crucial. Similarly, correct execution of technique is necessary for effectivity of the exercise and most importantly safety. We then proceeded to the most exciting key element: Fitness Magic, and as introduction to this part, our instructors presented a powerful rendition of "Who Are You", which was a shoulders track. Obviously, they were good at this, and one couldn't help but feel in awe. Music, presence, connection, personality and attitude, and everything else creates this magic… which makes the workout simply FUN. And for our final presentation and final judgement, we had to make sure we incorporate a touch of this magic.

One couldn't describe the tense but warm ambience during our last presentation. Everyone was obviously exhausted and couldn't wait to get this done once and for all. The last presentation was obviously the best presentation for everyone. My final presentation was my best among the 4 assessment, and despite my fatiguing legs, I gave it my all, as everyone else. And unlike the earlier presentations, everyone was in all out support for each other – a sign that we were there not for our individual selves, but for the batch's success. We definitely wanted each one to pass the final test.

Each one of us were given individual feedback, and of course the final verdict – whether we pass (pass as trainee/shadow) or fail (resit). When it was my turn for feedback, I approached Rue who was all smiles at me… and she said… "Rev! You were great! You were very confident and natural!" and I was very relieved, and could not say anything but be thankful. She gave me some pointers on where I should improve on, basically in giving advanced cues and CRC's. It didn't dawn until a few moments after, but I gave a deep sigh of relief and satisfaction: "This is it, I can now rightly call myself a Les Mills instructor!" And I looked around, and the room was full of energy as almost all of us passed. We were in physical pain and exhaustion, but all these seemed to melt away upon realization of our batch's success.


We were lucky to have Judy and Rue join us for dinner and drinks. And it was definitely the culmination of a tough 3-day training (which in summary was approximately 7 masterclasses and 2 challenges squeezed almost impossibly into a 3 day period!). In the true sense of Filipino hospitality, we gave each of our lovely trainers with a memento from our country: a shirt bearing the stars and sun of our flag. And in return for the challenges we willingly accepted during the 3 days, we forced them to eat balut and sisig later that night. It was a rewarding Sunday night, and I came home thinking: it was great to have been part of this bonggang-bonggang batch… It's amazing what sort of images one can conjure upon hearing the name of our batch… Batch Body Pump 69!

Looking forward…

People ask… do I still have time for this, on top of my already many official and extra-curricular activities? Well, one always finds time for things they are passionate with. I go to the gym to work out anyway, almost daily… so why not make each visit to the gym memorable by being able to share your passions and influence other people? Plus, it's a sure and constant reminder that I have to remain fit and more.

After the training, the trainees still have to go through a mentorship program before we will be able to teach our own classes in the clubs. So, if you frequent Fitness First clubs, don't be surprised if you see us up on stage shadowing or team teaching with instructors. Pretty soon, we'll be leading our own BodyPump™ classes, working for international video certification or more! And I can't wait for those moments!

Body Pump! (Part 1)

I've been a Fitness First member for more than 4 years already. And I remember first walking into the then newly opened Robinson's MetroEast club with dreams of shedding off excess weight (210 lbs! And it was causing me a lot of health problems). I constantly immersed myself among the treadmills and cable machines. I was very hesitant in joining the group exercises because I knew how challenged my body was when it comes to coordinated movements and quite frankly I was worried I could make a fool of myself. But soon after some time gathering enough guts, I joined the classes – I started with BodyPump™ first, and my body was a wreck after. Maybe, I loaded too much. Then I got interested with BodyCombat™ and I immediately fell in love with it, realizing how it could be a very good outlet for ones pent up aggressions. I tried BodyJam™, but that was an embarrassing realization that I did have two left feet. RPM™ was great, and I would leave these spinning classes as if I virtually came out from a swimming pool – I was dripping wet with sweat! BodyBalance™ was always a great finale to a stressful day with its stretches and relaxing music. BodyAttack™ was challenging but fun and energetic. Pretty soon, I was attending these group exercises like I was rabidly hungry for them, even heading to far clubs just to catch schedules. I started joining special extended events like BodyCombat™ and RPM™ Marathons and Challenges and met new friends along the way. I'm far from reaching my fitness goals and I admit, I've been like a yoyo with my weight, but I'm very grateful for these classes that I've managed to stay reasonably healthy.

But there comes a point when one have been doing these classes lovingly and for so long that you simply want to do more… I don't know if it's my innate desire to teach and share or uhhhm, vanity, but I really wanted to be a Les Mills group fitness instructor. Somehow, I thought it would be the culmination of the "fitness" aspect of my life. For those who are new to Body Pump, here's a quick introductory video about what it's all about:

BodyPump® is the original barbell class that strengthens the entire body. It's a 60-minute workout created and globally distributed by Les Mills International that challenges all the major muscle groups by using the best weight-room exercises like squats, presses, lifts and curls. It is set to great music and the choice of weight inspires participants to get the results fast. Here's the sizzler by program director, Glen Ostergaard talking about release 69:

Recently, there was an audition for new Body Pump instructors in Fitness First and though I wanted to wait for the BodyCombat auditions, I thought there's nothing to lose in trying this one out. Fortunately, I managed to pass the auditions (And boy was it tough! They chose the most difficult tracks! Actually, underneath my winning smile, I was cursing in pain!). We had to prepare for the module training in a few weeks by attending orientations and regular classes to practice our form and timing. Instructors and friends were all excited and supportive to all those who are joining the training. And in no time, it was April 17, the start of our 3 day ordeal!

First Day

I was so excited I couldn't get to sleep properly the night before our training. We were asked to arrive at Fitness First Megamall an hour before the schedule but I slept late, and had my alarm set at a wrong time. Fortunately, I was able to make it on time… and we started late anyway. The participants spent some time waiting in the lobby, chatting and sharing our excitement. Soon our trainers arrived… a tall pretty muscular Caucasian lady and an equally aggressive looking Asian woman (whom we thought was Filipina, but was actually Singaporean). We knew they were our trainers, because they exuded this unique authoritative but friendly and confident air that master fitness trainers have! Will they be kind to us? We will know soon…

As soon as everything's all set, we gathered at the Mind & Body Studio for our brief orientation and introductions. Our trainers were Judy King and She Rue, and there were 21 of us as eager participants. We were then given our program manuals and DVD/CD packs. After some necessary paperwork, we were then directed to the Main Studio for the BodyPump™ 69 Master Class. The release was pretty awesome, with a great selection of music (I particularly loved FOB's "I Don't Care" for the chest track, Pink's "So What" for the biceps track) and matching choreography. Doing it was manageable, but teaching it was another thing especially with the weights we were carrying.

We then had lectures introducing the 5 Key Elements in becoming an effective BodyPump™ instructor, focusing on the first 3, Choreography (100%!), Role Model Technique and Coaching Mastery. It was very interesting and engaging especially with the worksheets and group dynamic activities. We also had a run down on the basic techniques we have to remember for all the moves in the current release of BodyPump™. And then we were oriented regarding our presentation, where each one of us will be assigned with a specific track. I got the Squats track, which had an easy choreography but was challenging technique-wise. Good thing, we didn't have to present on the first day, so we will have the whole night to review the choreography and work on our scripts (initial, follow-up and motivational cues). And that's just what I did.

Second Day

I commuted to Megamall the next day, with my MP3 player set to a remix version of "Get This Party Started", the music of the squats/leg track, imagining the choreography and cues. The guy across me in the FX was beginning to look at me weirdly; perhaps I was unwarily shouting my cues already. I arrived at the club with everyone else in their own corners in the gym practicing their tracks. Everyone was obviously nervous.

We started the second day of training with a few lectures, continuing the key elements from the second day. And then judgment time! We now have to do our presentations. Our class was divided into two, with two trainees presenting the same track at the same time to their respective groups. Everyone did the warm-up track led by our trainers, and as soon as it was finished, the floor was mine (along with my fellow squatter, Bea, who was presenting for her own group). "Alright, how was your warm-up track? Everybody warmed up enough?" Haha, I was obviously using the DVD as reference. I then proceeded to my initial cues as I loaded my bars to around 20-25 kgs, (when challenged I will carry up to 30-35 kgs) and as soon as we signaled for the music, I was shouting "Chest out, elbows in… bring your butts down and out!" Aaaargh, it was tough talking and working out at the same time, plus you have to keep your smile up while doing it. The bottom halves were excruciating! The group was great as they were cheering you on as you coached them. As soon as the music ended, I wanted to fall down and nurse my legs, but I had to keep up leading the group to the stretches. I vacated my spot to give way to Edsel who will then be presenting his chest track. As I prepared for the chest track, I was breathing heavily and sweating profusely, but I had to go on, give support and stay attentive for my other group mates. It was like we did 1 and a half master classes per presentation because there were many of us trainees… so yes, we did squats, chests, back and triceps twice!

We had a quick break, after which we proceeded to a feedback session. This was the learning part of the presentation because we got to review a video playback of our presentation as we were provided valuable feedback by our trainers. My first presentation was "awesome!" (yippee!) but as expected, I had to improve my technique because as I got fatigued in my track, my posture and form diminished. I got my initial and follow-up cues right but had to focus on giving more valuable motivational cues. Whew! Thanks! The others had issues with choreography and cueing but generally everyone did great in our first assessment.

We thought we were about to split for lunch, when Judy and Rue told us to prepare for the BodyPump™ Challenge. This was it! The dreaded challenge our instructors were warning us about. We chose our partners who should be of almost the same size, and I ended up with Aldwin, the youngest (bunso) of our group. We were instructed to load up our bars to almost 50-75% of our normal class weight. And we had to undergo a grueling set of drills while carrying this load, including an unexpected 10 minute run as warm-up. Aldwin and I ended up carrying a maximum of 45-50 kgs! And we didn't go about the drills once, we had to do the whole set again, with even more load! By the end of the drills, the Mind & Body Studio was instantaneously converted into a steam room! We were literally fuming and exhausted! But at the end of it all, we were surprised at ourselves at how we could have accomplished such task. For some of us, it was the most physically draining task we ever did. But as our trainers said, this was our initiation as BodyPump™ instructors, and once we have accomplished this, our standard working load would seem a lot lighter! Somehow, it was true, because by our second assessment, not considering fatigue, our load did seem a lot lighter. And then, our deserved reward… Lunch! Time to deload our bars, reload our bellies. But still, we have to be alert, because we will have another round of presentations, our second assessment.

In the afternoon, we proceeded with another round of lectures, continuing from where we left in the morning. There were more dynamic activities which assured learning and at the same bonding of the trainees. And then after all these, we had to present again our tracks for our second assessment. My second presentation was not as good as the morning (actually, I liked my presentation earlier). Somehow, I missed my cues and I wasn't able to improve my form (perhaps due to fatigue… plus my legs were already screaming). And quite expectedly, that was what I received during feedback session. I felt proud for my team mates who did improve a lot from their first presentation, but everyone still had a lot of things to work on. Our trainers, since they "loved" us so much, decided that we stick to our assigned tracks for our presentation the next day. Deep inside, I was hoping that I get assigned another track, because although my mind was all prepared, my legs were desperately demanding for relief. But I thought, it was for everybody's benefit. The day was wrapped up and I met up with my family to treat them for dinner at Kenny Roger's… and boy, did I EAT!

To be continued…

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Honorably Mentioned!

It's been some time since I featured something here, but this one surely tops all the backlogged blogs I have yet to write (new logos and Body Pump!). I was so excited when I opened this letter and my friends from work were there to witness it, a fine way of ending a day of an exhaustive all-day presentation in an Aquatherapy seminar. Here is what I received last night:

April 24, 2009



Dear Mr. Cruz,

We are happy to inform you that you won Honorable Mention at the 2009 PBBY-Alcala Prize.

The awarding ceremonies shall be on July 21, 2009. We shall be contacting you about the said ceremonies details a few weeks before.

Our heartfelt congratulations!




I've been working on sketches before based on the PBBY-Salenga Prize winning piece "Ang Higante Sa Loob Ng Aming Bahay" by Raymund Garlitos, and I featured some of it here. I actually worked on the final artwork based on these sketches and submitted them as entries to the 2009 PBBY-Alcala Prize. Here is a description of the prize (from the PBBY website):

Larry Alcala (Lauro Z. Alcala), after whom the PBBY Illustrators' Prize is named, was one of the founding members of this organization. More than this, however, he shone joy and and rained laughter into the hearts of millions of Filipinos with his comic strips and illustrations. The fact that he chose the popular medium of newspapers and Filipino komiks means that he reached adults and children alike, many of whom could not afford more expensive forms of entertainment. The characters he created capture the whole spectrum of the Filipino's smile: from the bandana-wearing Mang Ambo to the intrepid Siopawman, from the profligate Asiong Aksaya to the hilarious duo of Kalabog en Bosyo, he sustained our souls even during the darkest moments of recent history. His single-page Slice of Life which included his own profile hidden--and at home--among the daily doings of his countrymen had most of the nation spending a few minutes of their busy lives searching for the likeness of the man who made them laugh.

Besides these accomplishments, Larry also broke new ground as a teacher of young artists. He introduced the first college degree course on Commercial Design in 1953 and the first 8mm film production of animated cartoons for the Dept of Visual Communications in UP Diliman in 1972. His awards are many but his gifts to us are more and so we remember him every year the competition for the Illustrators' Prize is held. Let all who compete and all who win remember not only his talent but his service to our souls.

First time I joined such a contest so this news really came in as a huge surprise. I won't get the chance to illustrate the book (that privilege goes to the sole Grand Winner), but I'm definitely ecstatic enough to get an Honorable Mention! Thank you Lord for another answered prayer!

I didn't get to scan properly my entries (they were huge!) but here are a few snapshots:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Work in Progress: Chuliyao


Chuliyao is a Kalinga folk story as narrated by Agom Dawing who heard it from her mother and noted down by Maria Cameron. It is about Chuliyao, a farmer, who was constantly wooed by a rat into marrying her. Of course, Chuliyao ignored this. But after some time, Chuliyao agreed in bringing the rat home. While Chuliyao was working the fields, the rat would remove its rat clothes to reveal a beautiful young woman who would in turn clean the house and do the rest of the chores. In time, Chuliyao would suspect that the rat was indeed magical and will try to discover the truth.

This story would be part of a series of children's books (20 stories) that will be used by a school in Dananao in Southern Kalinga - a project initiated by Australian volunteers. It is a lovely story which would be very interesting to illustrate. I thought of using the concept of a magical mask and cape that the beautiful woman wears to become a rat. I patterned the mask to traditional Ifugao/Kalinga tribal ceremonial masks and the cape/coat to look like a straw/fur coat. I wanted to retain the femininity of the beautiful woman in the rat, thus the flowing form of the rat character. Chuliyao the main character would be more angular and geometric in contrast. I was greatly inspired by Eyvind Earle's art (of Disney's Sleeping Beauty) and would like to blend in some of his style into the rice terraced landscapes of Kalinga in this story.

The scene featured in the topmost drawing was inspired from this excerpt:

"The young woman began to cry, and Chuliyao felt pity for her. "Oh, are these what you are looking for?" he said as he revealed the clothes from behind his back.

The woman grabbed at the clothes, but Chuliyao did not let go. She begged him, "Please, please give me my clothes!" and he replied, "I won't give you your clothes unless you marry me! Will you marry me?"

Take note that these are just preliminary and exploratory studies, focusing more on capturing the general theme and feel of the story. The final art might be drastically different from these and I still have to work on the general layout once the specifications of the book are set.