Thursday, 11 December 2014

Fighting Fit - My Personal Fitness Journey

This blog post is a reproduction of an article I had written jointly with Aaron  Rolley from IFC | PT and published in Asia Sports Network.  The reason I am reproducing this article here is that many have asked how I reconcile my life as a corporate careerist whilst involved in a sport that seemed "violent".  Firstly, I need to  debunk the misconception that boxing as a sport is violent.  There are rules involved and thankfully, a referee that enforces these rules in the ring.  Moreover, a good coach coupled with dedicated training ensures that we perform in a ring within accepted rules of engagement and in the spirit of sportsmanship.  Secondly, my foray into the sport was the start of an amazing journey that got me towards better health and fitness.

Here is my story, told through my strength and conditioning trainer Aaron and myself.

Achieving My Fitness Goals With Specialized Trainers

For years, I have always been active  in sports as I loved the outdoors.   I spent a few years playing rugby for a women’s full contact 7-aside team.  I enjoyed the training sessions that kept me fit and game-ready and I enjoyed the camaraderie amongst my team mates most.  At that time, I was religiously going for my twice-a-week personal training sessions at IFC PT where the trainers had designed a program to condition me for my rugby games.   I also supplemented my fitness regime by training for a few run events subsequently but as time went by, these activities took a toll on my knee, and drove me right into the surgery room of the hospital where I had to have a Tibial Tubular Elevation surgery just 2 years ago.  I woke up with 2 screws ann a part prosthetic knee cap, and the prospect of not being able to do any contact sports or participate in any run events again.

 The aftermath of the surgery saw  a very slow and painful recovery which threw me into depression, particularly when I saw myself losing muscle over-time and putting on an incredible amount of weight throughout the next few months that followed.  I ditched my rehabilitation program at the hospital just one week into the program because I felt that they were not effective enough. 

 Grappling with a sense of worthlessness, my impatience at the slow recovery,   and the post-surgery pain, which also resulted in extreme pain in my left glute and back, I then returned to the gym about 3 weeks after the surgery in spite of the surgeon’s protest that it was too soon, and started training at IFC | PT with a walking aid.  At that time, my weight was already at its peak of 93kg.  I was dangerously overweight, and was hit with high blood pressure as well.  I was terribly unfit and worse, extremely unhappy.

 The surgeon and the physiotherapist at the hospital instructed me to use the crutches for 6 months.  However, I threw them out in 2 weeks and decided to depend on just a cane.  I was determined to do without the cane in 3 months or less and expressed that to my personal trainers at IFC | PT.  We also sat down to evaluate my fitness goals, which I laid out quite clearly to them.  First and foremost, I needed to recover, and I needed to recover faster than usual as I wanted to be able to run again.  Secondly, I wanted to shed at least 20kg of weight to get myself to an optimal level of fitness and health.  The weight-loss goal was in fact, a goal set by my cardiologist who said that my weight gain has put my health in danger, particularly when my high blood pressure was in fact, caused by a congenital heart defect.  Health-wise, I was a walking time-bomb.  Thirdly, I wanted to get back to doing contact sports.  If I could, I would like to be able to play rugby again perhaps.   If I am not properly recovered, I would be a liability to my rugby team mates.

 So Aaron Rolley, who helmed IFC PT, got his team of specialized trainers together to design a fitness and nutritional program that was catered specifically to my needs and my goals.  In doing so, he introduced me to a new sport which quickly became my passion for which I have been working the rest of my life around. 

To do justice to the efforts of the team at IFC PT, I would like to introduce its head trainer, Aaron Rolley who had kindly detailed the steps he took to getting me back on the straight and narrow with regard to my health and fitness.  Over to you, Aaron:


Getting Jo Back On The Straight And Narrow

"Before letting Joanna get back into training, we first consulted her post-op physiotherapist who gave us a break down on training guidelines, Jo followed those rules for about 3 seconds before declaring them boring and demanding that we stopped training her "like a pussy".

 Jo’s training kicked off with a lot of single leg limited ROM movements to get her leg strength up and to keep her knee stable, progressing over time to back squats, lunges, and full dead lifts, coupled with upper body exercises. At this point we were still trying to get Jo’s weight down so she was doing a lot of circuit style training.

I starting advising Jo on what to eat for weight loss in 2005, lots of vegetables, fruit, and lean animal protein, minimise alcohol, and drink lots of water, she started paying attention in 2014, did I mention that she’s stubborn?

Before Jo was introduced to boxing she had always trained hard.  Sure she would complain a lot and dictated what exercises she wanted in a workout, but always gave it everything. Unfortunately we never achieved the desired weight loss.  She thought eating healthy was boring and considered a glass of wine a serving of fruit.

A New Passion

Then we introduced Jo to Dave Macanlalay, a certified kettlebell specialist and a martial arts coach.   Dave got Jo hooked on boxing by the way he broke down the techniques. He  had a traditional approach to martial arts, which, beyond the drills, technique, strength and conditioning work, he had also taught discipline and respect.

Jo was finally ready to fuel her body properly and combined with her ramped up training schedule,  her body began to transform  before our eyes. Inspired, she approached us with a goal to take boxing to a competitive level and she was determined to do it within a year and a half. 

On her own accord, she searched and found a fight academy that could take her boxing to a new level, Juggernaut Fight Club.  Arvind Lalwani, the head coach of Juggernaut Fight Club also assessed Jo's current fitness level as well as her goals before taking her on board.   In Jo's words, " I chose to be trained by Arvind because he is one of the coaches for the national boxing team, and he has been developing champions in the sport."  That's how serious she was about boxing.  As Arvind  worked on building her skills, techniques, form, strength and speed, my team and I at IFC | PT shifted the game-plan by redesigning a regime for Jo that is tailored to her goal to be a fighter.   Jo was so fired up by her new passion that she was not willing to take a break even on weekends. So, she now runs every Saturday morning, to a neighborhood gym, The Right Fit, about 3km away to do some pad work and boxing drills with the trainers there.

Jo's New Fitness Direction

Jo’s training and nutritional requirements have now changed. She now has specialized coaches from IFC | PT,  Juggernaut Fight Club and The Right Fit who work with her on different aspects of her fitness,  At IFC | PT,  Jo works on strength and conditioning, for example hang cleans and push presses, with a specialized weight-training coach, Gregory Pink to develop explosive power. and a movement specialist.  Our movement and corrective exercise specialist, Mark Stentaford,   designed a program to help her with agility and flexibility, and also uses his skills to make sure Jo’s body can handle the rigours of her training schedule.  At Juggernaut Fight Club, Arvind continues  to hone her fighting skills and technique.

Jo now trains 6 days a week religiously and sticks to a very healthy and balanced diet.  I have personally seen Jo getting stronger and fitter.  Since post surgery till today, she has lost a total of 17kg through sheer hard work and commitment to her health.  Jo's perspective on health and fitness has changed.  In the past, she trained hard with that one thought to look good. Today, she trains hard just to get stronger, fitter and faster.  The  entire team of trainers watching her grow in her fitness journey, cannot be more proud of her.  

Her fitness journey is proof that multiple trainers from across different specialized gyms can work together to help a client to attain her fitness goals."


No Egos, No Barriers, No Limits


I have learnt throughout this journey to better health and fitness that when there is no ego, there would not be barriers. When there are no barriers, then there are no limits. My fitness journey is on-going. If anything, the best thing I got behind a healthier and fitter me, is my renewed passion for life which has enabled me to balance the demands of a career as a marketing and public relations professional, a hobby as a freelance sportswriter and my training schedule.


For more information about the trainers responsible for getting me back on track towards better health and fitness, do visit:


IFC | PT -

Juggernaut Fight Club –

The Right Fit –

This post was written jointly by Aaron Rolley from IFC | PT and myself, and was recently published in Asia Sports Network at

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Muay Thai and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

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