TOTAL FITNESS: Why LOVE is good for your health

NOTE: Published in this month’s TOTAL FITNESS Magazine. Grab a copy today!


Love, it seems, has immense therapeutic potential that inspires professionals to continue exploring ways in which to channel its benefits in promoting good health, longevity, and a fulfilled life. Where there is love, intimacy cannot be too far behind. And these two, put together, often bring healing, joy, and meaning to human lives.

1.  Being in a healthy relationship keeps you fit. Literally.

But before that, a caveat: Just because you consider yourself (finally) off-the-market on account of a relationship, it doesn’t mean that you have earned the right to let go as some men/women tend to do. Being in a healthy relationship means looking after each other’s needs and in doses that are non-detrimental. Keeping it to the physical aspect of romantic relationship: Did you know that the simple act of kissing can burn up to 28 calories, while up to 30 minutes of sexual activity can burn 85 calories – the equivalent of a small glass of red wine. This might not sound like much but a vigorous session can burn up to 200 calories, which is about the same as running for 15 minutes. Sex also works the core muscles in your legs, pelvis, bottom and abdomen and can boost levels of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. So, next time you feel like opening that bag of Cheetos, grab your beau instead.

2.  Love is a potent stress-buster

Relationships – and especially marriages – might traditionally be seen as sources of stress but supportive, long-term relationship brings mental health and physical health benefits to both the man and the woman.  To prove this point, a study published recently by researchers at the University of Chicago found that men and women in happy relationships or marriage had lower levels of stress hormone cortisol in their bodies, indicating they had reacted less to the stress. In addition, happy and fulfilling relationships have also been linked to improvements in mental and physical health and longer life expectancy.

3.  Healthy relationships promote better immune system and can help reduce pain

It has been found that optimism and positive attitude boost immunity and people who are in love and cared for in return are naturally optimistic. Going further, some studies indicate that having (safe) sex once or twice a week lead to higher levels of an infection-fighting antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA. Having physical contact with another person, whether kissing, cuddling or having sex, promotes the release of the hormone called oxytocin – dubbed the “love hormone”. Aside from its relaxing effect on the body, oxytocin can also reduce anxiety and help numb pain by releasing endorphins.  To demonstrate this, scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine, launched a trial whereby patients suffering from chronic headaches were given a dose of oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray. Around half of the patients administered oxytocin said their headache pain had been reduced by half and a further 27% reported no pain after four hours.

4.  Healthy sexual relationships promote longevity

On the subject of longevity, many scientists believe that good sex and orgasm may be linked to higher life expectancy. In 1997 British Medical Journal, there was a study published which reported that men who had at least two orgasms a week had less than half the risk of dying from various causes over 10 years of follow-up than those with a lower frequency of orgasm. Meanwhile, other studies have suggested that sexual dissatisfaction is a predictor of the onset of cardiovascular disease.

5.  Love and marriage alleviate depression

It’s quite common to hear people complain about their significant others driving them crazy on many occasions, but what most people don’t know is that companionship actually tends to be good for mental health—especially for women. This is particularly true when it comes to depression, which is roughly twice as common in women. According to experts, depression is a very female expression of psychological distress and the benefit of marriage shows up in women in lower levels of depression. Marriage also appears to be a stabilizing force in women with bipolar disorder. Married bipolar women have fewer and milder depressive episodes than their never-married counterparts, but the same trend is somehow absent in bipolar men.

6. Financial Stability and insurance

Believe it or not, married people are more financially stable than their single counterparts.  By recognizing the fact that they now form part of a partnership, couples tend to become more conscious of their expenses, savings, and the pursuit of a comprehensive insurance for their family in the future. While worrying less about money certainly helps reduce stress and anxiety, financial stability also impacts health in a more concrete way, via access to health care. Marriage is associated with a hearty increase in the likelihood of having health insurance for both parties.

So, are love, relationship, and marriage good for your health? In general, as research and studies suggest, YES. People who are in happy and fulfilling relationships tend to live longer, have better access to insurance and health care, enjoy a more satisfying and exciting sex life, experience less stress, live a healthier lifestyle, and have lower rates of serious illnesses and depression compared to their single counterparts. Now, if you happen to be in a relationship and you don’t see or feel any of these, then it’s time to evaluate the situation and work on changing the course.

TOTAL FITNESS: Conquer Your Relationship Slump

July 2012 Cover

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Most, if not all, of us who have been in the dating scene for a while would know that there is no such thing as unbreakable, consistent winning streak when it comes to relationships. Often, it all starts out hunky dory until you get past the crux of the honeymoon stage, then things start spiraling down, and before you know it, it’s over.  And the process gets repeated in your succeeding relationships to a point that you feel you have officially struck out. This stage is what we call The Slump – the danger zone in which you begin to suspect that your unlucky streak might have already taken a permanent residence in your life.

Being in a slump is a terrible situation to get caught in. Not only does it give your dating resume an unpalatable feel, it also does some very weird things to your ego. Being unable to keep a relationship and make it last longer than the first season of Game of Thrones can make you feel insecure and incapacitated. Unless of curse, you don’t mind the label – which I highly doubt because at the end of the day, we all just want to love and be loved in return. Don’t we?

Your dating slump may feel like a terrible disease, but the prognosis is excellent. It is highly curable and with some work, you can just as easily get your groove back and maintain the upper hand. Here are some recommended courses of action:

Have a long hard look at yourself; do you still like what you see? In this case it could be you and not she or even the ones that came before. One failed relationship too many should alert you to something no longer caused by external variables you conveniently put the blame on the first few times. Evaluate yourself from your wardrobe, mannerisms, to where you typically go on dates. Analyze your attitude carefully and look out for glaring signs of self-fulfilling pessimism or intolerable self-indulgence as these could potentially ruin your chances of relationship success. How nicely do you carry out a conversation? Are you aglow with positivity or do you immediately launch on a barrage of complaints about the weather, traffic, and your evil boss and co-workers? Remember, the next time you have an opportunity to date someone new and actually start a relationship, be mindful of the ruts you keep falling into and make a conscious effort of avoiding them.

Don’t try too hard. Dating and going into a relationship is supposed to be fun, so let loose! Maybe you are simply trying too hard. Approaching each new date as though the long buffet cart is going to run out of food the first five minutes will freak anyone out so bad they’d be running towards the opposite direction – on a sprint pace. Don’t come off as uptight, overly serious, and emotionally fragile— too terrified of yet another strike out before the pitcher even takes the mound. I bet you’ve heard it said a bazillion times but ‘Relax. Take it slow.’ The journey to a relationship is not about winning or losing, it’s about having as much fun together as possible. Don’t obsess about your losing streak because it will show in the manner that you speak and conduct yourself.

Choose Carefully. It’s true that being in a slump longer than you’ve gotten accustomed to can really put your patience to the test. But you must also realize that willingness to wait for the right person to come along never stops being an essential element of your dating game. Do not swing wildly at anything or any relationship possibility that shows up in your orbit. Chances are, these may NOT at all be what you need in your life. Ultimately, your goal should be to have a good and fulfilling relationship and that usually takes time.

Listen Carefully. Everyone needs objective input now and then. We need to keep ourselves attuned to what our friends, co-workers, and family think about the state of affairs of our relationship. Even though, ultimately, the decision rests entirely on us, it helps to listen to our friends’ advice, opinions, and perspectives. If you’ve got someone whose insights you trust, listen carefully. There might be some things or behavioral structures that we tend to overlook which gets in the way of lasting and meaningful relationships. Most important, allies like this provide encouragement to press on and persevere until the slump is over. After all, it always pays to have friends as cheering squad when you’re feeling way down in the dumps.

One last tip: when you finally overcome your slump, invest a good amount of energy and commitment into making the relationship work and last. Best of luck!

TOTAL FITNESS: Fun Activities To Tick-off Your List Before Summer Ends

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In a tropical country like ours where you don’t exactly have a choice when it comes to seasons, it’s fairly easy to mark summer as your default favorite. And why not? Here, we have some of the best beaches in the world and a few other interesting travel destinations, if donning short shorts and bikinis aren’t exactly your thing. But for those of you who can ill-afford to travel so much because of family and work restrictions, there are a lot of other activities you can do before summer is chased away by torrential rains.

1. Check out new dining places once a week and make your recommendations to friends and social media followers. Summer shouldn’t be just a treat for your (bronzed) skin. You must find ways to lavish your taste buds as well – without having to spend your entire life savings away. To make your gastronomic adventure even more exciting, try incorporating a theme into it.

2. Do a weekend movie marathon with friends. Start with your common favorite romcom or art film and then work your way through other movie genres. Don’t forget to serve up reduced-fat popcorn and healthy snacks so you can store up energy for a lively discussion during and after the screening.

3. Check out bazaars, flea markets, and ukay-ukay. Fashion need not be expensive and you can certainly look like a million bucks with a unique piece from ukay-ukay if you pull it off.

4. Travel locally. Whether by plane, bus, train, or boat, traveling has always been a panacea for all ills – except maybe that of your wallet. While it’s always enriching to travel abroad and getting exposed to foreign cultures, it is also equally important to discover pockets of beauty in our own shores.

5. Enroll in a language class. French, Mandarin, and Spanish are among the favorites and by the time summer is over, you just might surprise yourself – and your friends – with your multilingual dexterity.

6. Launch a garage sale. Rid your closet of clothes and accessories you haven’t worn in ages and make a bit of money you can spend on updating your wardrobe after. Now that’s a smart fashionista!

7. Visit a museum or check out the local art scene. Museums are one of the best places to learn about so many different topics ranging from space, to art, to natural history, and everything in between.  What makes museums so special is their ability to transport us to different times and places – at minimal cost.

8. Go to a basketball game or the local boxing match. Or any sporting event you’re a fan of. There is some wicked pleasure to be had in being part of a live action/crowd, and if you’re up for it, sign yourself up for some pre-game or half time festivities.

9. Sign up for a self-defense class. These days, it’s becoming increasingly important to learn the ways of defending oneself against criminal-minded people and dangerous situations. Take your pick from taekwondo, muay thai, or jiu jitsu and avoid looking like an easy prey.

10. Let your hair breathe. Before you know it, the humidity will cease and you’ll no longer have an excuse to not heat-style your hair when going out. Save time (and sweat) by using some texturizing spray in your hair before heading out the door.

11. Watch the sunset and take photos. Always beautifully dramatic, the sunset evokes a cornucopia of wonderment and emotions so much so that even if you don’t take good photos, you can always count on one or two of your captures coming out real good.

12. Stock up on fresh fruits. Make sure to put peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe and mango at the top of your grocery list, and keep them there as long as possible.  Suring summer, our skin tends to gets so dry especially when not cared for by moisturizers, so make sure to indulge in Vitamin A and E-rich foods and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

13. Sign up for a summer-savvy mani/pedi and spa treatment. Treat tortured tootsies and whole body to an extravagant TLC with a spa treatment finished off with a quintessentially summer shade like mint green or tangerine nail polish.

14. Have a fling. Whether it’s a guy with great surf moves or the girl down the hall with a shared love of long island iced tea, invest in the type of connection that runs on sun and laughter, and make sure to remain Facebook friends when the day gets shorter – for who knows what the following summer might bring?

15. Visit an amusement park. Pay tribute to your twelve your old self by hitting up all of the roller coasters at the local theme park. If living far from one, you might want to consider paying Tom’s World or World of Fun a day visit.


Be Dateable.

Note: As published in this month’s (April 2012) issue of Total Fitness Magazine. Grab a copy today!


Dating is a tricky business. Yes, it can be fun – which can also translate into a lot of calories ingested in the process, so remember to keep the fork off that chocolate lava pie, dinner date after dinner date – but for some people, it can also be the single source of epic frustration that can potentially render the heart scarred for a long period of time.

There are those who are blessed with excellent gene pool and seem to have a natural knack with charming men and women off their socks with a mere smile or fluttering of the eyelids; there are those who evoke the same response with smart quips and perfectly-timed compliments and punch line; and then there are those whose dating life seems to be a never ending reel of horror and disaster films. Whichever category you fall under, remember that dating is an art and a skill and we will all have our share of bad eggs – but with a little work, our dating life can easily undergo an upgrade.

Try these tips and see how your dating life eventually takes on a more positive spin.

1. Give yourself a makeover. Dating is as much about you as it is about the other party. You cannot demand for good looks, social graces, witty repartee, and all that jazz if you yourself are not willing to make an effort. It doesn’t mean you have to alter yourself and become someone unrecognizable, but at least work on your flaws and don’t fall into this trap of ‘what you see is what you get’ claptrap because believe me, doll, if he sees a lot of bad things, the last thing you would see is his back as he runs away from you – fast.

2. Open yourself to possibilities, date outside your usual type. Did you ever stop to think that perhaps one of the reasons why your dating life always has the same bad ending is because you are stuck with the same type all the time? Monotony breeds dissatisfaction which, in turn, can open up to a whole tub of worms. So shake it up, invite the world to see your versatility, and claim exctement as your middle name.

3. Take your time, take it slow. Remember, it is ONLY dating for now so don’t go jumping the gun and planning your wedding just as they are serving dessert. The purpose of dating is to open yourself up to a great deal of wondrous possibilities of friendship, which can potebtially blossom into love, and perhaps later on, a lasting commitment. These things take time to grow, just as you, as an adult need time to grow up.

4. Get mentored. Let’s face it, we’re not all blessed with an active flirting gene and sometimes, we do tend to get signals all mixed up. In dating, body language is important. We may be saying something verbally but our body language is screaming something else altogether. Enlist the help of a friend or acquaintance whom you know has a berth of dating experience and knowledge under his/her belt. At the beginning, it will seem unnatural but after a few dates, you will find your own style and revel in it.

5. Be sincerely curious about people. Dating is an exercise in getting to know the other person, and for this reason it’s important that you’re able to communicate your interest. Sometimes two people are just right for each other, but they never get to realize it because both are holding back or too focused on themselves to show true interest in their mate. Try not to hog the limelight too much. Ask him/her questions; be curious about the person sitting in front of you. Disclose a little about yourself, something that can pique and intrigue your date. Sometimes even if a date doesn’t lead to romance, the good conversation can be worth the evening’s entertainment. At least this way, if you two don’t work out you could gain a friend for life.

And lastly, be the person you yourself would want to date. Show the world that you are worthy of being loved and cared for. Even if it’s casual for now, don’t make it a habit to casually sleep with every single man or woman you go out with. Think of the damage this can do to your self-esteem both in the short and long term. If your ultimate goal is to have a nurturing relationship, by all means have fun but don’t sacrifice your values for it.


Jan - Feb 2012 issue

The word romance evokes a cornucopia of images and emotions – from flowers, candlelit dinners, silk sheets to perfume, movies, art, intimate moments, or perhaps a particular language like French or Italian. Things that fascinate the heart and perhaps fill the soul with wonderment, such that it turns people into poets and musicians overnight.

But more often, the blissful state lasts no more than several months to maybe a few years, and keeping the fire as hot and burning as before becomes such a challenge. How then do you keep the excitement on the up and up when there are so many things out there fighting for your time and attention? Compound that with what your partner is also going through and you have an arduous task of keeping the romance alive, ahead of you.

Tip no.1: Adventure

The two of you must make a conscious decision to embrace adventure and revel in it. Not everyone is born with a daring streak and perhaps you or your partner falls into this category – but this is not an excuse for you to let things remain in status quo. It need not be something so daring it can shock you to the core. You and your partner can find adventure even in something as simple as taking walks on the beach, parks, or the market place. Another thing you can do is trying a new restaurant every month, scary park rides, or a new sport. Whatever you do, make sure you leave some room for your lover to experience adventure with you. It will make your bond stronger.

Tip no. 2: Mystery

Keeping the mystery alive in a relationship is as important as sharing intimate moments together. As a lover, I take pride in my natural ability to be mysterious. As much as I am very transparent about my emotions sometimes, I also know how to mask them at certain moments. By being mysterious, I keep my lover in a state of wonderment so that he is always looking forward to what kind of surprise I will pull off next. Just because you are a couple, it doesn’t mean that you abdicate your own identity and personal space.  You are still your own person and it will be to your relationship’s growth to remind him every now and then of the spirited woman he fell in love with.

Tip no. 3: Love

Cultivate and spread reminders of love in your home. It can be small love notes posted on the mirror or next to the mug of coffee you lovingly prepared for him. Call him in the middle of the day just to say I love you and how your life has been made more colorful by his presence alone. Do random acts of love such as cooking his favorite meal, giving him a massage when he’s all stressed out at work, or running a warm bath that the two of you can share. Go out on dates like when you were just starting out in your relationship as a couple. Hold hands in public and always be mindful of your partner’s needs.

 Tip no. 4: Fascination

Surround yourself and your lover with concepts, ideas, and people that inspire and fascinate. By cultivating fascination, we view the world in a seemingly brand new pair of polarized sunglasses and colors are highlighted and experiences are magnified. Just by learning something new – pottery, cooking, samba, etc – we become fascinated, therefore, make it part of your long-term agenda to take classes of any discipline that interests you. Pay more attention to each other’s body when making love and be fascinated over and over again by the energy that flows between your bodies.

When we cultivate love, fascination, adventure and mystery into our daily lives, we become extraordinarily passionate people and we experience extraordinary events. We see things as we have never seen them before. We appreciate ourselves and our special and individual gifts and talents – as well as those of others. Our world moves more deliberately and the beauty of it all is allowed to caress us with its wonder.

But more importantly, appreciate the fact that the cultivation of romance into daily life is never contingent on whether or not you have a lover. The cultivation of romance is about self-discovery, self-preservation, and self-appreciation. Ensuring that no matter what happens in our journey through life, we have a foundation that nurtures inspires and encourages our success. And this is a foundation that WE ourselves build, and one that is not heavily dependent on another person for its strengths and endurance.


***Published in MH September 2011 issue.

It is a shame that most men don’t know a single thing when it comes to approaching women properly, because it is so easy if done in the right frame of mind – and with a great game plan as a follow-through. The approach should be an enjoyable experience for you and the girl that you are going to meet. Unfortunately, few men have the ability to give women that thrill and excitement that they’re looking for whether at a club, the cinema, sports event, or on the beach.  Much more often, women get approached by guys who make them feel uncomfortable and cause their “force fields” to rise up and palms ready to connect with the face of the next obnoxious guy.

Let’s face it guys, most of you need to get seriously clued-in when it comes to the art of seducing women.  And so, with the help of some of my friends, let me walk you through the proper ways of approaching women in select places. But first, let’s get one thing clear: Do not get sucked into thinking that you can only find girls to date when you’re out at a party or at the bar. They’re on the street, in a store, in class, the cinemas, and nearly everywhere you go. All you have to do is play close attention and get your game on.

At a Club

Popular bars and clubs are not labeled ‘target rich environments’ for nothing. These are the easiest and most convenient places to meet women; where large numbers of available women come out to socialize and let loose. And why not? The alcohol is flowing, which aids in keeping inhibitions locked away in the cupboard until after inebriation wears off – and regret seeps in. Or maybe not.  And though it may not be true for all women, but mostly, these girls who aren’t accompanied by boyfriends or husbands are HOPING to be seduced.

Think about it: They did not spend three hours preparing themselves earlier in the evening, choosing the perfect outfit and shoes, doing their hair and makeup, and mastering the come-hither look for another hour in front of the mirror so that they could ONLY hang out with their girlfriends and blow off every guy who tries to talk to them.  Truth is, even when these girls are acting “too cool” for the room or for anyone, never assume that they don’t want to be approached and picked up. This attitude is key is you’re going to master the art of seducing women in clubs.

There is a STRATEGY to be employed when you approach women or want to pick up girls in bars — and even more importantly, you’ve got to know how to switch from the approach into the conversation. And not just any old conversation, the type of chit-chat she’d had to put up with from the last 29 guys who tried (and failed) to get her interested:

 “So what’s your name?”

“Where are you from?”

And so on. Guys who attempt conversations this way DO NOT have any game plan or strategy in mind, and so they wind up running out of steam and losing the girl’s attention very quickly.

Instead, start by using what’s called a “neutral-opinion opener.” What that means is you ask her a question about something that has nothing to do with you. Here are some questions you can toy around with:

“What do you think of this place?”

“Have you heard the news about the IMF President? What you think about that?”

To some women, it may not even matter greatly what you say but what can work to your advantage is that calm and collected demeanor. Girls may be hit on almost every day, and they know why you came up to talk to them. They may not be paying attention to what you’re saying, and rather how you are saying it. For instance, she may look for: Are you confident? Are you comfortable talking to her? Are your shoulders hunched over, or back? Do you slouch?

Do your best to appear comfortable and she will feel comfortable enough not to blow you off – just yet.

On the Beach

Another popular place to meet girls is the beach where alcohol is, again, ubiquitous, and nearly everyone’s half-naked. Now some men may think approaching girls in such an open and uninhibited environment is as easy as brushing your teeth – it is not. Here, women tend to be more judgmental or critical of people, especially men, so you would really want to get it right the first try. Contrary to popular belief, women know what they want, which makes it fairly easy for them to eliminate men within seconds.

Start by engaging her in a conversation. Once you’re talking, keep it up. Make the banter interesting. You may want to come up with some stories about you that are funny or interesting. You are fairly interesting, aren’t you? Try to not fall into the interview technique by asking things like: What do you do? Where do you live? Where did you go to school?

Once you’re engaged in a conversation with a woman, I recommend you DO excuse yourself for a while. This is one of the most powerful ways to show self-confidence. Tell her you have to go and check in on some friends who are playing Frisbee nearby. Or you need to go and make a phone call to your staff, or your dog walker or whatever –just make yourself appear important and in control of your world.  Or you want to go say hello to your friend the bartender. Then, walk away and do your own thing for a while.

If within those few minutes you have actually managed to get her interested, then she will miss your presence — even when comfortably nestled against the relaxing background of turquoise waters and clear skies. And when you do come back and rejoin her, whether it is after five minutes or an hour later, she will be looking forward to it.

The typical guy, when he’s out trying to pick up girls, will meet a girl, start talking to her, and NOT leave her side.

He will keep “working it” as best he can (usually, this means a lot of babbling and asking uninteresting questions), fearing that if he DOES walk away for a minute — even to go to the bathroom — she will get distracted with something else or get scooped up by another guy.

Behave in the opposite way. Be unpredictable. Have a strategy for every situation and every step of the interaction, so that instead of “hoping for the best” you will be guiding the situation towards the result you want.

And while you’re at it, why not invite her to join you and your friends for a round of Frisbee or beach volleyball?

At a Movie house

You saw her standing outside the movie house with her friends, probably in a queue for popcorn and soda.  You find her absolutely interesting and want desperately to approach her. What to do?

Be original.

An attractive girl usually has people complimenting her on her looks – how cute she is, how nice she is, how she makes jaws drop wherever she goes.  Typical. Bear in mind that by now, she’s probably used to empty compliments and if you become the next guy to come up and tell her how pretty she is, she’ll appreciate the compliment, but she won’t find you attractive. Unless you’re Chris Hemsworth, then you probably won’t even have to try. But since you are not Thor himself, try to remain calm and casual. Make a little joke at her expense. For instance, you could say something like “Wow, that’s a big purse! Do you have a BB gun in there?” or if she’s dressed up “I like your shoes…they look really comfortable”. Refrain from commenting on her appearance too often. Telling a woman that she is attractive is a great idea, true, but do not come across as too smitten or obsessed as this will surely freak her out.

Try flirting with her a bit. Yes, even with her friends around, because then she would know you are a confident, self-assured guy. But don’t try too hard.

Ask for her number. After a few minutes, if you’re having a good time chatting, cut things off on a high note, and politely ask for her number. Say that you’re mighty glad to have met her, but you really need to get back to your friends (or whatever else you were about to do before you started talking to her). If she hesitates, you can joke with her and say that you promise to only call her 50 times a day, but that’s all. You could also just get her email address (almost everyone has one, and is OK with handing it out, especially for a charming guy like you) or ask permission to add her on Facebook. But before you do that, make sure your Facebook is somewhat sanitized – if you know what I mean. The last thing a girl would want to see on your Facebook page is tons of photos of yourself in various states of inebriation; too many photos of you and your Ex; or very distasteful wall posts by your friends.

Now if you do get lucky in getting her digits, text her as you’re leaving the mall with your friends, then call her the next day. The rule about waiting to call was made for guys who acted too needy on the first meeting. Give her a nickname. If you call her “cutie” at the cinema, then when you call her you can say “Hey, cutie… it’s Me.” instead of “Umm, this is (your name). We met at the cinema the other night.”

If it seems like you’re being too needy, you probably are. You don’t have to text or call her every day, especially in the beginning. It’s safe to take a step back (if needed) and not disappear completely.

At a Sports Event

As you may have already deduced by now, you can use the same strategy you have employed on the first three scenarios to nearly all other possible scenarios you may find yourself smack in the middle of. It is, at the very least, about showing a healthy sense of curiosity. She knows why you’re talking to her. You’re interested. You won’t try to hide it now, would you?

You’ve met her at a sports event, perhaps a road race, so it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out at least one thing she might be interested in. Build on it. If she’s up for the conversation, she will give you something to work with. “It was a tough route, wasn’t it? “she says. You won’t derail the conversation now by moving on to another subject by saying “Ah, okay. So, where are you from?” Instead, here, you just let it flow.

She smiles, so you allow yourself to be daring. “I saw you when you crossed the 4km mark and I thought you were pretty strong out there.” You look into her eyes for about a minute, and offer to accompany her to the hydration area. On the way there, try to keep the conversation going by saying something about her running shoes or complimenting her on her running form.

All through this, even though she only spoke a little – bear in mind that you are still a stranger, as far as she is concerned – you found out a lot about her. She responds to your queries; she laughs at your jokes; so she likes that you talk to her. She plays along with your quips and that says a lot about her personality. She’s got character – and she’s got you.

The game is on. And it all started because you were daring enough to approach her. What you and every other man out there should remember is that the first few minutes count a lot when it comes to approaching women. A girl will gladly chat with you if you step up like an honest and good-hearted man and talk to her. The worst that will happen is that she will respectfully decline, and even then, she will probably tell her friends about that cool guy who approached her today, took her out of her boring routine and made her feel special and appreciated.

The first minutes, or even seconds, serve to get an overall “feel” for the person you have in front of you. Both of you will gain a lot of unspoken information from just a bit of interaction, and you will be able to tell easily how well you get along. Focus on the vibe that’s going on. Do not let it fizzle out.

Most importantly, don’t let the fact that she’s a stranger deter you. Yes, it’s a big step, but once you have your own plan to approach girls, you will gain major brownie points from her just for approaching her like a good man that you are.

Total Fitness: Travel Tips for the Holidays

Check out my article on page. 91.

As published on Total Fitness December 2011 issue. Grab a copy today! Christmas season may be well over but there’s still the Chinese New Year long weekend to take advantage of. So, travel away!


For most of us who spend countless hours and days fighting for survival and control in the cutthroat urban/corporate jungle, going away on a holiday is a necessity for a few different reasons: to relax and recharge our batteries, to get lost in the moment and have fun, meet new romantic partners or seal the bond with current beaus, or to simply take ourselves away from the chores and problems of our daily lives. But perhaps, the main reason why holidays are so important to us – strange though it might sound at first – is that they heighten our awareness.


For the most part, we are contained in environments that are completely familiar to us, and our lives largely consist of experiences that we keep repeating everyday. But when we go on a holiday, we are transported to a whole new dimension. The beaches, the mountain tops, the fields, foreign buildings and streets and the different food, language and culture are more real to us. They are all so new and different that we pay them much more attention. As a result we become more present than we are at home. We spend less time immersed in the ‘thought-chatter’ in our minds, or giving our attention to distractions like TV or the Internet. Why would you want to stay in your hotel room and watch TV when you can sit in a beach café and watch the boats going by, or go for a walk along the ancient city streets? Why would you give your attention to the chattering worries inside your head when there are so many stimulating and beautiful sights and sounds to soak ourselves in?

Going on a holiday takes us to that state of natural mindfulness, where we pay complete attention to our experiences and develop the kind of fresh, ‘first-time’ vision we used to have as young kids.

Taking a break is one thing but maximizing the perks of your holiday is another.  Because now there are tons of options to consider, it becomes more imperative to make wise and informed decisions without having to kill the thrill of spontaneity  – which is also what taking a holiday is about. To make sure you get all your money and time’s worth when planning for your holiday, consider these tips:

  1. Budget travel is NOT synonymous to bad travel. In fact, not only do you get to save more money, you also get to experience some aspects of traveling you would not otherwise experience during expensive trips. I mean, sure, you get to dine in expensive restaurants and clubs, but chances are, people are less approachable in these places and there are a lot of restrictions. But once you go the cowboy way and mingle with other budget travelers (and believe me there are more of us out there!), you are guaranteed to have the pleasure of meeting more people you can swap stories with.
  2. Explore away! Now is your chance to absorb all the colors, sights, sounds, taste, and feel your body can accommodate so don’t waste it by staying in your hotel room the whole day. Check out local tours and see which ones you can join. Or if you are daring enough, make your own itinerary and throw in some random things in between.
  3. Document your trip using your handy point-and-shoot and make short, fun videos after. This is your chance to discover the inner photographer in you, so make sure you have extra memory card and batteries that will come in handy when you run out of either right in the middle of your exploration.
  4. Make one or two friends for each day of your trip and by that I mean, make it your mission to know more than just their name and what sort of work they do. Have great conversations about books, movies, sports, or anything you can find common ground on.
  5. Learn. Find out more about the place, it’s history, and the people by watching, observing, listening, and asking questions. Traveling should be about learning about places and people as this is also where you can learn something new, different, and surprising – about yourself.


More shameless plug: Grab a copy of this month’s Men’s Health magazine and check out my article on page 91. Here’s a quick look at the article.

Go to page 91 for full article.

Take The Test!

So last Monday, in a move to drum up support for sexual health advocacies and increase awareness for HIV/AIDS and its perils, I invited my dear friend and social worker, Tony B., to give a 30-minute talk to the staff on the subject matter. He dished out hard truths and statistical data concerning the current state of sexual health in the country and they were truly sobering. And I mean sobering, even I had to do several double-takes.

Thank you Tony!

For example, did you know that the number of HIV cases in the country has reached astronomical levels, chances are, you know someone who has the virus without having to go all the way through six degrees of separation? That we are now inching closer to Thailand’s HIV record and that is in no way helping us given the many other socio-political challenges we are currently facing? That – and for this you may need to sit down, I think – women are, now more than ever, more promiscuous than men and the only difference is that they do NOT talk about it like men do?

The only silver lining we see here is that somehow, according to Tony, Philippines has better HIV support system (as) compared with neighboring countries battling the same problem. HIV-positive people can actually gain access to free medicine and other support systems just as long as (1.) They are AWARE, and (b.) They KNOW where to go. So you see, AWARENESS is crucial. Knowing is already winning half the battle. And mind you, having HIV is no longer synonymous to a death sentence in this day and age. But of course, that does NOT in any way, justify you carrying on with your risky and indiscriminate sexual behavior.

What’s the first step? Take the test – TODAY! Kudos to those who have taken a proactive and vigilant stance on this and actually submit themselves to HIV testing on a regular basis. For highly sexually active people, it is recommended that you get tested once a year, or more, if you have been rather naughty. I have had myself tested twice this year and there is NO shame in that. Like some people, I happen to like being in the know and this is where I want to be two steps ahead in the health game, no ifs and buts. Monogamy seems to have taken on a whole new twisted dimension, or so I’ve been told. Most of you may still be of a different opinion when it comes to the M word, but they say these days, when you are in a committed relationship and you have sex with another person BUT used protection, that still qualifies as monogamy. Pretty sad, huh? Imagine the unpretty, unpalatable scenarios now playing in my head, thanks to my overactive imagination and absolute lack of trust and faith in people. So, yeah, it’s not you, it’s definitely me – and my trust issues.:)

Here at work, we believe that knowledge, indeed, is power.:)

Going back to the talk, we are thankful to Tony for taking time out of his very busy social work schedule to drive home some very basic yet excessively serious points on sexual health and being responsible adults that unfortunately, we all tend to disregard or treat with a great deal of disinterest, sometimes.

At the end of his talk, 11 of us from work submitted ourselves for HIV rapid test (95.something percent accurate) and the test results came back non-reactive for all of us! Yey! Except for Noel and I, it was the first time for the rest of them to take the test and I’m just happy that they volunteered. Besides, HIV testing is not covered by our HMO and I heard it costs around 400 to 600 pesos to have it done in clinics – we only donated 100 each. Tipid, di ba?

11 out of 11 Passed!

On a serious note (as if the last 300 words or so were some form of jest, haha), I’m really encouraging you guys out there to take the  test. I mean, sure, you may be 110% confident about your monogamous ways BUT you can never be too trusting of your partner’s. You don’t know where that merchandise has been dipped into before coming home to your eager arms. Am I being too harsh and judgmental here? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever, trust your own instincts and protect yourself – at all times – because believe me, if there is one test you would want to pass with flying colors, HIV test would be it.

Lastly, glove up and lube up! There is no shame in that either.


Note: EDITED to add this.

If you want to join the crusade for ZERO HIV infections; ZERO Discrimination; ZERO AIDS-related deaths, sign up for this race and visit the website here for a dose of fact and figures concerning HIV/AIDS.

Act NOW!

Total Fitness: FIGHT FAIR

Total Fitness September 2011

Too often, we tend to treat those whom we are in a relationship with less respect than we do mere acquaintances. This is why disagreements between couples can turn very damaging with all the name-calling, finger pointing, and screaming. These emotional fights, if not managed well, might as well be the final straw that broke the camel’s back. That is why it is important for couples to learn the art of fighting fair, if they are so keen on finding solutions to problems, instead of giving birth to more.

1.  Identify the problem and avoid digging up past issues. During an argument, it is easy to fall into the trap of recalling every single wrong your partner has committed in the past, perhaps in an attempt to deflect attention from one’s own shortcomings. This type of behavior is counter-productive and makes problem-solving almost impossible because it only allows for problems to pile up, with no resolution in sight. You and your partner must ask yourselves what the problem really is and just concentrate on getting to the root cause of it, instead of digressing and finger pointing.

2. Hate the game, not the player. While going into a vitriolic verbal attack might seem to be the automatic course of action when at the height of frustration, the wisest move would still be for you to take a step back and choose your words carefully. By attacking your partner and not the issue at hand, you are putting him on the defensive – which could only spark an argument that is much bigger than what was initially on the table. Disagreements can and will always occur, especially in close-knit relationships, but you must always remember to go into it with the desire for amicable and fair resolution rather than exacting revenge or gaining control.

3. Be a good listener. You do not have the monopoly over problems and disagreements. In the same way that you want your partner to listen to you attentively, so does he. More often, our mind is already bursting with thoughts and rebuttal even before our partner has started talking. There is no way that a disagreement can be handled properly with this kind of behavior. To avoid monopolizing the discussion, experts suggest you try flipping a coin on who gets to talk first and each of you gets 3 minutes to air your side, and son on, until a compromise is reached.

4. State your needs and offer suggestions. Don’t just complain incessantly about the issues you have with your partner and leave it at that. Understand that your partner has needs and wants, too, and by focusing a little less about yourself and a little bit more on him, you may discover that most of your issues can be resolved by being unselfish about attention and love.

5. Sleep on it. We have been told many times to avoid, if possible, to go to bed angry with your partner. However, in some cases, it is also better to hold any emotional confrontation or discussion until there’s a better time to do so – not when tempers are flying all over the place or you are both too tired or too hungry to be reasonable and objective.

Running through all these tips is a common thread called mutual respect. At this stage in your relationship, both of you should already have invested enough love and respect in each other so as not to let disagreements fester and cause permanent damage.


Total Fitness: Slip-ups That Lead To Break-ups

***Published in TOTAL FITNESS Magazine August issue.

Relationships, even those with the brightest and most passionate of beginnings,  spiral downwards usually because of common and seemingly innocuous mistakes. Failed relationships are attributable to a lot of factors. It could be due to mistakes committed by you or your partner; it may even be due to external factors neither one of you have full control over.

For better understanding, these relationship hiccups exist in order for us to gain a better perspective on things and eventually grow as individuals in a committed relationship. Some of them are designed to be uncomfortable and time-consuming but that is not to say that we give up at the slightest hint of trouble.  There is nothing to be learned or gained in taking the safe, quiet route.

How the relationship survives  is directly proportional to the gravity of these hiccups. Has the relationship gone past the point of no return? How willing are you to stick it out during the toughest of times and work through the difficult conflicts to get to the other side? With the right desire and a good amount of willingness, even “the point of no return” can be but just a temporary perception.

But let’s look at the common mistakes first and then make a decision of whether or not we want out or still make an effort to win our Ex back. ***If you ask me, however, blue binning (recycling of an Ex) is a mistake one must avoid committing – at all cost. But then again, that’s just me.***

#1 – Do you put too much premium on your online relationship status? With the advent and off-the-charts popularity of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, most couples have gone all-out in letting the whole universe know about every little thing that goes on in the relationship. Stuff like what you and your boyfriend had for dinner and how many times you had sex after that no longer shock people when they read it on various online forums (or fora).  But with this unrestricted openness comes a deluge of danger. By being so visible, you also render yourself and your relationship open to scrutiny and malicious attacks. Suddenly, the whole world has an opinion about your relationship and when the foundation is not that strong to begin with, the relationship falls apart so fast the next thing you know your relationship status has been altered to ‘Single’ from ‘In A Relationship’ and you have friends and strangers feigning sympathy for your sorry state.

#2 – Do you attach too much value on the superficial and lose sight of what your man really needs? Let’s face it, in today’s world where everyone seems to wake up every morning thinking of ways to look better than they did yesterday, it is so easy to lose oneself in the pursuit of things that look pretty and desirable on the surface. For most women, trying to decode men and their way of thinking has become an obsession that they end up doing things not according to what empowers them as a woman but according to how they will be perceived, accepted and loved by men. Most women commit the mistake of putting out or having sex on the first date and having multiple sexual partners because they think it’s a surefire way to get men to like them. So untrue! Men may be first and foremost visual (and sexual) creatures, but if you want to keep them, you have to have something more substantial on the menu. Brain and character, I believe, are what they’re called.

#3 – Do you expect your relationships to make you happy? We go into a relationship with the hope that it will bring us happiness, as they should. (Otherwise, what’s the point, right?) But sometimes, in our strong desire to be insanely happy, we fail to see that our idea of a happy relationship is NOT always shared by our partner. Some of us want to be together 24/7 but our partner wants to maintain some semblance of personal space.  And between the two, keeping and respecting each other’s personal space takes the cake anytime. This is how you grow as a person. This is how you get to know yourself better. A lot of people fall prey into the misguided idea that couples ought to share everything, even to the extent of having synchronised inhalation/exhalation. This is just the thing that will get you a one-way ticket to Splitsville. Before you can expect your partner or your relationship to make you happy, you have you make YOURSELF happy first.