Find out when is the best time to jog and burn those calories!

Making time from hectic schedules for a good work out is often a challenge, and one would naturally want to make the most out of that precious time set aside. When it comes to the best times to go for runs, the debate is a heated one. Whether it’s the early hours of morning, in the mid—day, evening or night, you’ll always find someone running on the foot path or pavements around your estate. Which is truly the optimal time for running?

A sizeable crowd prefers to exercise in the cool morning hours before an invigorating shower that makes them more energetic and ready for work. It may, therefore, come as a surprise that morning is in fact not the best time to exercise. There are studies that say that your body condition is at its worst. You struggle to crawl out of bed, and your muscles are stiff. You’re likely hungry or feeling weak. You’re also more prone to injury, especially if you’re not focusing well due to sleepiness. However, if you manage to summon the energy, keep up the good work, for it is excellent training for mental willpower!

During the mid-to-late afternoon, it is a different matter. Around 4 pm to 5 pm, your body temperature is at its highest. Your muscles are suppler compared to in the morning. You’ll find that you can manage faster running speeds and more challenging terrain. A study by Dr Boris lVledarov of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York supports this with findings indicating that lung function is more than six percent better in the afternoon than at other times during the day.

Lunch-time runs are becoming more popular in the commercial business district as once-sedentary office workers begin to appreciate the importance of exercise. Remember how it often feels like a good time to take a nap after lunch? Well, afternoon runs are definitely a good way to break up the monotony of work, and you come back feeling refreshed and more productive. Just don’t forget the sun-block as the sun rays are most intense at this time.

For those who jog at night, this might be your perfect me-time as you clear your mind, or reflect on how the day went. However, if the night is colder, that may create greater resistance for your muscles. Furthermore, plants and trees take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide in the dark, so you may have a competitor for fresh air. Safety issues are also a concern. So, make sure you wear bright clothes visible to oncoming vehicles and pedestrians. Also, avoid running in deserted places where you may fall victim to crime.

Everyone has different needs, schedules and preferences. It is best for you to try out for yourself, run at different times and decide which feels best for you. Regardless when is truly the best time to run, exercise at any time beats none at all!

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

After all the hard work, let’s make this party the best ever…

So we’ve been working hard all these months and shouldn’t it be time to reward ourselves with a party? The year-end festive mood is just the right excuse to let our hair down and have some fun.

Don’t fret if you’re tasked with the role of party organiser. You may think that you’ll miss the chance to enjoy your long—waited rest. After all, the weight of all your party guests’ happiness rests squarely on your shoulders. That’s a huge responsibility isn’t it? Well in fact as the organser, you get to enjoy the fun even before the party begins.

With a little strategic planning and a cool head, you can host a great party without too much hassle. ’ Best of all, you will probably enjoy planning, thinking of ideas, preparing the food, choice of music and decorating the place.

Whether it’s a house party for the family, an office party for colleagues or a party for friends, there are just some basic rules of the thumb that will make your life easier and the party livelier.

FRIENDS, FUN AND FOOD DEFINE A PARTY

Any social gathering can be simplified into three main components: guests, food and drinks, and of course entertainment. Once these are taken care of, the other aspects such as decorations’ and door gifts are other items that you can easily string together.

The Friends

If you have any say in deciding who gets to come to the party, you will want to choose people who will enjoy each others’ company. At the very least, refrain from inviting to the same party guests who are at loggerheads with each other. Look for people who are like-minded with similar interests so that everyone can gel together.

Sometimes, the guest list is fixed, as in the case of a family gathering or work party. Then what you can do is to see that you don’t sit hostile parties next to each other. But all said, parties are also social opportunities to meet new people outside our circle. Chances are, in a big party, not everyone knows each other. Some of your shyer guests may end up as wallflowers if you don’t help out. As the host, you probably know most of your guests, and should take the initiative to introduce people. If you are familiar with your guests, try to link up those with a common understanding, such as having the same hobbies or working in the same industry. This will help your guests feel at home. Otherwise, include an ice-breaking event  to kick off the party.

Be observant, mingle with your guests, reach out to those who appear to look out of place and see if you can help them feel more involved. Some introverts are not comfortable with interacting with other guests, but would gladly help with the management aspects of the party, such as serving food, —manning ‘the music playlist etc.

That said, if you are feeling overwhelmed with all the planning, don’t be shy to enlist the help of some friends or co—workers. More hands make lighter work.

The Fun

From card games to dancing to themes and costumes, there are many things one can do to spice up a party. The most important thing, how- ever, is to set clear expectations for your guests. Your invitation should contain the following information: Date and time, venue, what to bring, whether they can invite other people, dress code, and how to RSVP. When other aspects such as food and activities are firmed up, notify your guests.

This will enable your guests to make preparations on their part so they can make the most out of the party. For example, a guest can’t have fun at a beach party if he has not been told to bring his swim wear!

Setting the mood is important at a party. Regardless whether there is a dance floor, good music livens up the atmosphere, and could even be a conversation starter. Design a playlist depending on the theme of the party and the type of atmosphere you wish to set. Balance well-known songs with lesser known ones, as Well as high-tempo songs with slow songs.

Avoid lights that are too bright. Warm light creates a cozier and more welcoming ambiance. Short bursts of coloured lights with the right music can heat up the mood and encourage people to dance. Just ensure that this is only at the dance floor so you don’t give all your guests a headache. Year-end party decor helps too in getting everyone into the party mood. And you may want to give each guest a party pack with whistles, balloons, masks, hats and sweets.

Keep activities simple and easy to follow, and that will eventually get people joining. Don’t be too serious about the rules and don’t force those who aren’t willing to take part. After all you don’t want to upset your guests.

Give your guests a comfortable and safe environment. There should be sufficient comfortable seating. Clean bathrooms should be available, and put up signs to remind guests to keep the bathroom clean. Keep breakables and sharp objects away from potentially dangerous situations. If your guests are drunk, give them a quiet room and some water or hot tea to sober up before leaving, and remind them not to drive.

The Food

Food can make or break a party. When people are tired after fun and games, or bored, eating comes next. For those who don’t want to look awkward standing around trying to blend into the walls, the buffet table is their sanctuary. If your guests aren’t enjoying the activities, at least they can enjoy the food.

Variety is key to satisfying a large party. Foods like pizza and fried chicken are common at parties, but not necessarily enjoyed by all. Some guests may favour healthy food like fruits and snacks. You may have the guest with health issues, or the guest who’s on a diet. And don’t forget the ones who are allergic to peanuts, or can’t stomach raw fish or even seafood. Label your dishes like they do at hotel buffets. Do take note of anyone who requires special diet because of religious or health reasons.

Aside from the usual booze and soft drinks, do provide healthier options like fruit juices and water as well. On a side note, if you have guests who react poorly to alcohol, keep them away from the booze so they don’t endanger themselves and others.

Keep the menu simple. Not everyone has an adventurous palate. While having a couple of exotic or interesting dishes is fine, it is best to have basic recipes that most people can eat.

For small parties, potlucks are good as not only are they more affordable, they also encourage guests to have a shared responsibility in contributing to a party. Of course, it will likely add a different set of worries. Some coordination will be required to make sure that there is diversity and guests do not bring the same dishes.

To keep your food fresh and delicious, don’t place your food at room temperature for more than two hours. Use portable stoves to keep your hot food hot, and an ice box or cooler to keep your cold food cold. Most catering services will provide these for you. Observe food safety and hygiene.

Last but not least, you can’t please everyone, so do not beat yourself up if some guests did not enjoy themselves. Put in your best effort, and enjoy your own party. Your satisfaction is to hear your guests saying: “Thank you, it’s the best party ever.”

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

Capturing those precious moments before saying farewell to school

They say school days are the best days of life. With more students heading out of the country for extended periods of time after graduation, that often means leaving behind these precious memories for good. Even for those who remain, our hectic schedules prevent us from visiting our alma mater or catching up with old classmates on a regular basis. At the quick rate that schools undergo refurbishment or relocation, there is a greater challenge to keep these memories intact!

In fact, just last year, it was announced that eight secondary schools would be merged into four, one of them being First Toa Payoh Secondary at Toa Payoh East which will merge with Bartley Secondary. It will operate out of Bartley’s campus from January 2016. First Toa Payoh students would certainly want to keep snapshots of memories of their old school before they move on.

At Kheng Cheng School in Lor 3 Toa Payoh, work will be carried out to redesign classrooms, the band room, dance studio and the performing arts studio. Again this year will be an opportunity for students to capture a piece of the past before the changes take place.  Here are some ideas to preserve physical memories so that you may reminisce the ’good old days’ with old friends, or with your future generations.

Go on a photography / selfie spree

You don’t have to wait for the last day of school to take a tour of the whole campus and snap lots of photographs. Having spent several years studying in the same place, many places should carry your stories; the running track where you won your first school medal, the library where you met the love of your life, the canteen where you ate and banter with your classmates, the car park where you said your last words of goodbye to your favourite teacher who retired, the toilet where you freaked out during Fright Night at freshman orienta- tion camp, or even the classroom where you spent the most time learning.

A friend reckons that if he had taken photos during his school days before his school got torn down decades ago, he would be holding on to a priceless archive of history. If you’re old enough, perhaps you might remember that black- boards and chalks were the norm for teaching tools, along with the creaky overhead projector with the yellow light and clear sheets. Today, they are replaced with Whiteboards and markers, laptops and screen projectors. These are the types of transitions our generation and beyond are able to easily document with the convenient accessibility of photography equipment, and we should not let it go to waste.

Coffee table books and throwback time

Now you’ve got the pictures, what next?

Leafing through a physical album of photos feels more personable than scrolling through your Facebook album or Instagram feed. This is especially so if you also put in some effort to decorate the book with things like doodles, captions, stickers and colourful paper. Place this album somewhere easy to retrieve so that you may take it out to reminisce from time to time or show it to the guests.

Of course, social media is still a better platform for connecting with your old friends. Once a week (Throwback Thursdays come to mind) or even just once a month, designate a day where you post an old photo or a few, and tag your old friends for an online reunion.

Personalised autorgraphs

It may be goodbye for a long time. Why not delight your friends by giving them five minutes of celebrityhood – having them autograph a printed portrait photo of themselves? (and encourage them to ask the same for you). These photos make amusing, treasured memorabilia if you intend to maintain the friendship. And who knows, you might hit the jackpot if your friend becomes someone rich and famous!

Trinkets on a corkboard

Corkboards are light, highly versatile plat- forms to decorate on or display. They can be mounted on the walls or angled against the wall on the table. With push pins, you can attach just about anything that is not too heavy or bulky to the board. Push pins and cork- boards are easily available at many places that sell office stationery, including Daiso. Photos, CCA badges, friendship bands, shoelaces are examples of items you can put on your board to remind you of those innocent, carefree and youthful days.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

Take a note, make a date…

So the year-end is here and some of us would remember how delighted they were when they received the desk diaries and calendars from clients, business associates and friends.

The calendars were especially popular as companies see them as a platform to advertise their products as they are invariably placed on the table or hung on the wall for a whole year. The corporate phone and fax numbers would be prominently printed to make it easier for prospective clients to contact them. Competition was so stiff in the early days that some even resorted to using saucy female  photographs to get a winning edge. This was particularly popular somehow in the maritime industry.

One Japanese chief executive proudly showed me his collection of photographs of scenic scenes from his business trips featured in his company’s calendar.

Diaries come in two sizes – one for desktop and the other to fit snugly into your trouser pocket. And, busy executives would religiously record their appointments on both. Others who were more fortunate would have secretaries to keep their diaries up to date.

The challenge was to write in the important dates to these diaries each year e.g. birthdays, anniversaries. And, the other  was to remember to read the page daily to know what’s lined up for the day.

Some companies still give out corporate diaries and calendars but they are gradually becoming a thing of the past. These year-end freebies are becoming a rare occurrence. Businesses realise that people are turning to their smart- phones and other IT gadgets to check on dates and appointments, and the printed diaries and calendars are no longer in fad.

This is especially since the smart-phone technology allows you to carry your “diary” with you all the time wherever you are, and better still they prompt you with a reminder. From computers to ipads, you get these smart calendars. Best of all for anniversaries and other yearly events you can programme them till eternity instead of going through the process every year.

However, for older people some still prefer the “horse-racing” calendars where the race days are prominently decorated with an image of a galloping horse. Also in smaller print are the days of the month in Chinese characters – particularly helpful for those who may want to go to the temple to pray on the lst and 15th day of the lunar calendar month.

Some older people would still cling to the a-page- a-day calendar. Religiously they would tear the page daily to keep abreast of the date. Some companies would even include days that are deemed auspicious or inauspicious in the calendar which is particularly helpful to those who believe in fengshui.

So, if you are one of those who still have calendars / diaries at home or office, you may not want to throw them come 315t December this year. Keep them, and in a few years you would have a treasure of collectibles from the days gone by.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine