Last week, I visited Club Med Bintan Island for a short getaway and to take part in the annual Club Med ‘Body & Soul’ fitness event. But guess what: you don’t actually have to travel that far! Here are my favourite feel-good exercises that I picked up during the trip, which you can easily try out at home.
I think it would be safe for me to say that city life gets hectic, whether you’ve got a full-time job or a family and kids to take care of. Though I’m very lucky to have a job that takes me to different places every week, there’s no escaping those hours spent surrounded by four walls, slouched at my office desk.
Recently, I’ve been feeling the effects of urban pollution, too much technology, unhealthy eating habits and not enough rest: headaches, fatigue and WORST OF ALL, random pimples popping up all over my skin. So when I got the chance to stay at Club Med Bintan Island and participate in their annual ‘Body & Soul’ fitness and health programme, I was more than happy to take the opportunity- four days of sun, sea and rejuvenation on a secluded island? Sign me up!
Bintan, an island just off the coast of Singapore, can only be reached by ferry. I flew to Singapore on Monday morning, transferred myself via taxi from Changi Airport to the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, hopped on the 2pm ferry and got to Bintan in just under an hour. At the Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal in Bintan, I found the Club Med counter and was taken straight to the hotel. Once I arrived at Club Med Bintan, groggy from going through several modes of transport, I was greeted by the hotel’s friendly staff; in fact, they actually cheered for me when I arrived! Admittedly, I felt a bit like a celebrity!
I was given a glass of refreshing juice right before I settled in, which was tys’ cycle: it starts off with a day dedicated to Yellow, which symbolises Rejuvenate; Red, which symbolises Recharge; Green, which signifies Rebalance; and Purple, which signifies Revitalise, before starting with Yellow again. During meal times, a curated healthy selection of food matching the theme of the day is available. I arrived on a ‘Red’ day, just in time to catch the last event.
Throughout my stay, I was able to explore several activities. Read on to find out my favourite de-stress exercises and tips on how you can try them out too.
Upa Yoga (by the beach)
Right after putting my bags away in my hotel room, I immediately headed to the hotel’s palapa, a wooden platform overlooking the beach where most meditation and gentle stretching exercise classes are held. I was about to join Upa Yoga that evening; I had never heard of it, and the one time I tried any form of yoga (a beginner’s class, no less) I sadly ended up with a pulled muscle. Yet, my itinerary promised that Upa Yoga would simply consist of ‘harmony of breath, movement and balance’, which seemed easy enough!
Upa Yoga is mostly used to harness energy and reactivate your joints. It can be practiced on its own (advisable if you are older, getting over an injury or just starting out with yoga) or as a stepping-stone before transitioning into other types of yoga. The teacher, Fei Yi, gently guided us through a series of very mild poses and stretches. Following the ‘Recharge’ theme of the day, we mostly focused on locating, gathering and transferring around the energy in our bodies. Fei Yi advised us to pay attention to our body’s own capabilities, and we were never pushed to go beyond our abilities.
For me, getting a good stretch whilst listening to the waves of the ocean allowed me to loosen up my tensed muscles after a day of travel. It’s safe to say that I slept like a baby that night! The Upa Yoga exercises were super easy to pick up, and are especially calming when practiced by the beach. Upa Yoga doesn’t actually require a lot of space, so if you’d like to try it out, you can practice in your own home to release tension from sitting down all day. If you prefer the outdoors, even a park or garden space would do just fine. Check out the video below for a pretty straightforward tutorial:
Going on a fitness adventure
The next morning, following the ‘Green’ Rebalance day programme, I headed for the first class available: Fitness Adventure. Led by esteemed fitness trainer Lisa Westlake, who hails all the way from Australia, Fitness Adventure is a good way to make new friends whilst exploring new areas.
Unfortunately, since it had rained pretty heavily right before the class, the areas we could explore were quite restricted. Nevertheless, I met up with my fellow Adventurers at the hotel’s Panorama Bar, which offered a pretty (albeit slightly grey) view of the beach. We got ourselves pumped up with some stretches against a railing, before heading off for a light jog. Winding up the jog after about ten minutes, we played a couple of fun games that reminded me of primary school sports classes. These activities involved blowing up balloons and trying to keep them all off the ground at once, playing ‘tag’ with ribbons, relay competitions and a whole lot of jumping and running about; it was nice to feel like a kid again!
After a few rounds of games, we headed off into a more secluded jungle area beside the resort. Here, surrounded only by trees and chirping birds, we utilised the steps and elastic resistance bands to work out our arm, thigh and calf muscles before going for one last light jog back to the hotel. I was quite winded, as it was still early for a night owl like me and the activities required lots of energy, but the Fitness Adventure was a nice way to discover surrounding areas and socialise!
Bintan is full of greenery to explore, though it would be better to remain on safe pathways. Luckily for us, Malaysia has even more green areas to explore, such as the TTDI Park in Kuala Lumpur, the Penang Botanic Gardens and Templer Park in Selangor. Why not gather a group of friends and head to a park for a good old step workout- not forgetting your packet of balloons and ribbons! It’s good to get your heart pumping, but even better to have fun and explore new places around you while doing it! Plus, according to a 2016 study done by the University of Aberdeen, working out with buddies provides emotional support, which in turn increases motivation, so you’re likely to want to exercise more!
After a heart-racing morning, I could already start to feel an ache in my muscles, as I’d already done more exercise in two days than I do on a normal week (embarrassing but true). So, I decided to make use of my complimentary spa voucher and book myself a session at the Asmara Spa at Club Med. Upon my arrival at the spa, I was greeted by the smiling receptionist, who presented me with a cool glass of lemongrass juice and a refreshing towel wipe. I was briefed on my treatment, a Traditional Thai Massage, and got to choose my preferred massage oil. I went with the eucalyptus and lavender, which would help me relax and sleep better at night- not that I needed any help with that!
Once I’d made my selection, I was lead down a secluded path and into a scenic room with windows facing the ocean. It’s up to you to draw the curtains, but I much preferred the view! The area is pretty private, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing in. My massage therapist started with a quick warm foot bath, then it was time for my massage. Lying on the massage table, hearing the waves crash gently against the shore while having the tension and knots eased from my shoulders and neck was utter bliss! It also gave me time to close my eyes and not focus on anything, just for an hour.
Though this might be stating the obvious, a massage (and a hot cup of tea right after) works wonders for the body and mind! As reported by The Mayo Clinic, massage therapy is listed as a treatment of stress management, but can also aid with other ailments such as digestive disorders, headaches or certain types of joint pain. There are plenty of massage parlours here, as we all know, and you don’t even have to break the bank to visit one.