Day 26: A night with geneticists

Tonight I went to a fundraiser for the Genome Integrity Unit in Westmead. I love it when a word is used correctly. Integrity in your genes is super important!

It got me thinking of my sliding doors moment. What would my life be today had I pursued a career in Science.  Women in STEM is the new black these days. Would I have pursued a life of research or would I have struck gold and discovered some breakthrough technology?

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Seven French Beauty Secrets Every Filipina Should Know

It's all about moderation. A glass of red can do wonders.

It’s all about moderation. A glass of red can do wonders.

I came across a couple of articles explaining why French women have great skin and thought I’d try to apply the same tips from the perspective of a Filipina. So, here goes:

#1 They drink wine every day.
Because grapes don’t come from coconut trees (du-oh!), it makes sense that Filipinos are not wine drinkers (except *you*, you know who you are). We grew up on coconut juice (which is also fantastic, btw). Meanwhile, in the land of vineyards, French women enjoy a glass of red with their dinner.  Wine = rich antioxidants that help delay the signs of ageing, among other benefits, and voila!

Asian genes plus red wine? You’ll look 21 forever!

#2 They don’t think of skin care as “pampering.”
From a very young age, French women are taught that a skincare routine is a necessary part of life – no matter how long it takes or how many products are needed. Meanwhile, Filipinos tend to come from very big families and hogging the bathroom is just impractical and sometimes, impossible. In fact, spending 20-30 minutes on yourself is frowned upon and you’re called “ma-arte”. While we can’t change this cultural difference overnight, I’ve come to realize that time spent on a skincare routine is not just good for your skin but also your health – I use it as “me time” – a chance to decompress, relax and recharge.

As for the cost of a facial or your daily products, we tend to “tipid” and buy low-quality grocery-grade products. French women don’t skimp on skincare. Look at the results.

#3 They follow the “less is more” maxim when it comes to make-up.
French women focus their attention on healthy, great-looking skin that doesn’t need a lot of make-up. This is perfect for Filipina women as we also like the natural look (yes, we all have that auntie that piles on make-up but that’s another story). Next!

#4 They find a skin care routine that works and stick to it.
For French women, skincare is a ritual where you figure out what works best and sticking with that for life. By contrast, most Filipina women only think of skincare when they see a pimple or a wrinkle. Prevention is better than the cure. Your skin will thank you for it.

#5 They take cold showers. Not my favourite tip but it makes sense!

#6. They use serums.
Okay, this was a totally alien idea to me . For the uninitiated, serums are a skin care product with high concentrations of certain active ingredients. These ingredients can be things like hyaluronic acid (to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles), vitamin C (to brighten the skin and help reduce the appearance of pigmentation and age spots) or glycolic acid (an exfoliant), to name just three.

By contrast, moisturizers are formulated to keep the skin hydrated by putting a protective barrier between it and the outside. Serums are formulated to penetrate deeply into the skin to deliver key ingredients. Call me green but because nobody in my family have used serums before, I never felt the need to get one. But ever since I started it early this year, it’s become my must-have skincare item. I can tell the difference in my face in less than a month of usage!

How to rock your skin like Audrey Tautou

How to rock your skin like Audrey Tautou

#7. They recognise that skincare extends beyond the face.

Again, this goes against the grain for many pinay. It’s enough already to spend 15-20 minutes on a skincare routine for your face, let alone another 10 minutes or so for an all over body care routine. But there’s nothing worse than dry feet and scaly skin.

Tip: drink lots of water and slap on the sunscreen (and body lotion). I’m a big fan of the fruit-scented variety, especially Apricot Oil, Mango or Almonds. They’re the perfect pick-me-up scents to start my working day.

* Due credit to the writer of the original article, Nine beauty secrets of French women (from a French woman)

Follow me on Instagram: @DefinitelyMichelle

I failed but I won

I registered for the Sydney Running Festival six months ago, thinking that was ample time to move from being a half-marathon runner to the 42km club.

But work, bad weather and other commitments got in the way of my training that, in the end, I didn’t even do any running in the six weeks leading up to today’s marathon. That said, I was still doing two-three times strength training a week.

The first 21k was manageable but by 24k, I felt my legs start to burn. I mustered enough courage to get to the 30-32k line but somewhere past that, every step was just too painful.

In the back of my mind, I kept telling myself to just go as far as I could go and avoid injury rather than forcing myself to go beyond what my body was capable of (given my lack of training).

And so it was that I bailed out around the 30-35k mark. However, I did enter today’s run with the goal of running 30k so in a way I achieved my goal. It’s the longest run I’ve ever done.

Of course I’m embarrassed to tell people that I did not complete the race. But I felt really proud of myself today. It’s not everyday you wake up and decide to do something as physically challenging as a marathon. My legs are in all sorts of pain today but it’s worth it. Getting out of your comfort zone is always an enriching experience, regardless of the outcome.



When a second feels like a million years

“Presence before proficiency.”- Tita Mildred

I am sweating like a hog and it’s only 6.30am. It’s Wednesday – training day – where a modern woman’s torture chamber consist of Bosu balls, weight machines and my new frenemy – TRX.

I have done more squats than I care to count and my arms are about to fall off my shoulders.

This is what it’s like to be physically weak. I cannot lift my own body weight and I feel like crawling to the next exercise station.

But by some sort of miracle a.k.a. “your body is more capable of doing more things than you think it can do”, I survived the 45-minute group training session this morning.

The best thing about waking up at 5am – even if all feelings revolt – is that I get to see what the world looks like when everyone’s still asleep. The air is crisp and invigorating. The light just peeking out from the horizon looks so gentle and innocent. It’s a new day and yesterday’s mistakes are well in the past.

By the time we get to the stretches, I’ve forgotten the pain and suffering from the last 45 minutes. I forgotten how a minute doing push-ups felt like a million years.

All I have is a sense of accomplishment.

I am not as fit as I want to be but even when the odds are stacked against me, I turned up.

And that’s how you get things done. You show up.

Not quite Buckingham Street of London but it's there.

Not quite Buckingham Street of London but it’s there.

Something so elegant about a park in the middle of the city at 7am in the morning.

View of a park in the middle of the city at 7am in the morning.

The lights are still on. A view of Sydney from the side of Central station.

The lights are still on. A view of Sydney from the side of Central station.

The light at this time of the morning is so beautiful. Even makes the urban landscape cool.

The light at this time of the morning is so beautiful. Even makes the urban landscape cool.



How to survive your first personal training without losing your dignity

Going to my first personal training session was a bit like going to a confessional.

“When was the last time you’ve done any exercise?”

“Six months ago.”

“And have you been eating well?”

” I just had a couple of Twix bars today and ate lechon (roast pork) over the weekend.”

“What about injuries?”

“I hurt my back after I fell off the couch watching ‘The Legal Wife’ on TFC.”

“Okay, for your penance, do 50 push-ups.”

Still, I dare anyone who has not fallen off the exercise bandwagon to cast the first stone. After reflecting on, and skipping, my third Twix bar I was open to doing some exercise – I just didn’t know at the time that it would be a life-and-death situation. Based on my experience, here are seven handy tips to survive your first personal training session without losing your dignity:

Tip #1 Drink water. Skip this and you die.

Tip # 2: The burpee (jumping jack then a push-up, repeat 30 times) is a misnomer. I didn’t burp at all. They should call it a hurlee. To survive burpees, go to your happy place. Mine was George Clooney.

Tip # 3: As a first timer, my personal trainer gave me a chance to take a breath in between some of the exercises. What I really wanted to do was lie down and take a long nap. This was not allowed. To survive a session and not curl up into a ball, go to your happy place. Again.

Tip #4: Like the burpee, some words will have a different meaning during gym time. My personal trainer said, “I’ll go easy on you.” Then she made me do 50 skips on a jumping rope and then 40 squats. I’m scared what she means by going hard!

Tip #5: Be aware of signs. If your personal trainer’s name rhymes with terminator, do not expect the Dalai Lama. My trainer Alena’s nickname is Termalena. ‘Nuff said.

Tip #6: Personal trainers are obsessed with squats. I am confused about this because I have never discovered any practical uses for squats in my life. I can’t even put it in my CV. How to survive the million squats you’ll do in every session? Get back to the happy place.

Tip #7: This is the most important survival tip. Make sure you write the name and phone number of your emergency contact on a piece of paper to take with you at all times. Better yet, tattoo them on your right arm for easy viewing. Add the country code ‘+61’ for clarity.

This is me ... in my dreams.

This is me … in my dreams.

Okay, so I lied. If you’re like me and your idea of a marathon is watching three Filipino teleseryes on TFC back-to-back, there is no way you can survive your first personal training with your ego intact.

But the trade-off is worth it. You may lose your face, but you’ll also lose other stuff you want to get rid off – like stress, body weight and those extra Twix bars.

So when you decide to do your first PT session, leave your dignity at the door. You’ll look unco and horrible on the outside (temporarily) but fit and fabulous on the inside.

The Enjoy Health & Fitness Studio is right across Central Station. The personal trainers there are good people. 😉

Four months to go: First day of training

Pedestrian walkway across Sydney Harbour Bridge

Today wasn’t so much the first day of my #sydneyrunningfestival training as it is another day to enjoy Sydney. If a tourist stops me right this very moment and asks me how to get to a street somewhere in the CBD, I’d be able to direct them with my eyes closed. Such is the joy of running around the city. It is also the joy of discovery.

8.45am. Today’s route was a quick run from Alfred Park in Redfern then a train ride to Circular Quay. Yes, I know. But this was my first run and I really wanted to catch the early crowd at the Rocks, cross the bridge to Northern Sydney, go back to the Rocks and complete the run by heading towards the Sydney Opera House, make my way to the Herb Gardens, snake across the Botanical Gardens and then out Macquarie Street where I get to pass by the NSW State Library.

Yeah – did you know there is an herb garden at the Botanical Gardens? I’m sure if Jamie Oliver finds out about it, he’ll put a restaurant right there.

Then it was a quick stop at World Square for brunch and grocery shopping.

Yes, my first day of training wasn’t so much training but a bit of sightseeing and household chores.

But as the old saying goes, to get ahead, all you have to do is get started.

Today, I made my first tentative steps towards a goal that is scary, impossible and exhilarating all at the same time.


DIET: Sugar still the main food group at this point.
BRIDGE RUN: Can’t even jog the whole length of the bridge (at this point).