t h e i n t i m a t e s t r a n g e r

So this is what it feels like

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“This is a very positive influence, a time when your mind will be stimulated as never before. New ideas, new techniques and new approaches to life will continually come to you. Radical ideas that you would never have entertained before seem perfectly all right now, and you are able to use them positively.”


Sleep-deprived and trying not to drop any balls. And it’s only the start of September O_0

Went for my first appointment at HDB on Tuesday and have met with 3 renovation/design companies so far. Have also been spending a lot of time and late nights looking up ideas for interior design and furniture.

With 2 nights gone every week because of the coaching course, I’m barely finding time and energy to train at the pool. But I’ll do what I can.

Work just keeps on coming AND the pace is picking up.

But you know what? I haven’t felt overwhelmed, or scared (not yet, anyway). I do get a little worried and stressed — about finances and work, but I’m taking everything in my stride and approaching them in a fairly calm manner. In fact, it’s almost as if I welcome the challenges! Weird, huh?

So, I’m just looking forward to each new day. I’m feeling good about myself and my life. It’s a novel feeling, and I’m loving it :-)


Bedroom - White brick walls













Written by The Intimate Stranger

September 12th, 2014 at 1:02 am

Testing the waters

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Skills Test passed! And I was amongst 40, out of a pool (ha ha) of 60, who were selected to proceed to the next stage of training to become a certified swimming coach (that is, if you wanted to teach in a public pool). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the others ‘failed’ the test. As places for the technical course were limited, only the better swimmers would be selected. I would say however, that a handful certainly looked like they needed swimming lessons first!

The Skills Test required us to swim each of the 4 strokes for 25 m. I was confident about passing — I knew I could swim all 4 strokes fairly well (though I’m aware that there’s still some way to go to perfecting my technique). In the past year, I’ve been (and still am) honing my pet strokes, the breast and free, and I’ve also spent time on becoming more proficient in my weaker strokes, the fly and back.

We were split into 6 groups (or details) and assigned in alphabetical order based on our surnames; I was in Detail 5 and got to check out the level of competition in the earlier groups which were tested first. We swam the breast first, followed by the fly, free and back; we got a breather in between strokes while waiting for the rest of the group to complete their swims.

Several of the swimmers swam a strong breast and the fly leg was quite competitive too. Interestingly, some of the candidates floundered in the free and back; there were few all-rounders. I was feeling really glad that I had trained for versatility by including Individual Medley sets in the last few months. It meant being spread thin, since the time could have been spent on my racing strokes, but I sure am feeling thankful now! Plus I’m definitely motivated about working harder on my versatility!

The technical module just started on Monday and will run for 2 months, after which I will sit for a theory, as well as a practical test. Thereafter, arrangements will be made for my training attachment.

* * * * *


I had teased him about being single and said something about a closet. (We tease each other quite a lot.) In response, he leaned in and put his face up against mine. Close, too close. And for those few seconds, as I studied his face and his mouth up close, I actually contemplated leaning in… But of course I didn’t — not in public; not in front of our friends; not in front of other people who knew me (even if barely).

Later, as the teasing continued, he curled his leg around mine and pulled me under. Testing the waters, literally. Heh. Well, he certainly passed the Proximity and Touch Test. I don’t know how I did. But, whatever. Shrug. It is interesting however, that he didn’t hold himself back even though Uncle was around for that lesson — I guess they have come to some kind of… understanding.

And so, just as I’m losing interest (for various reasons) and becoming less conscious of his presence, he decides to tug on the line. Sigh. Must it always be so? It’s not even like I was trying hard to begin with. I guess I’ll just continue to focus on doing my own thing and only pay him sporadic (but just enough) attention.

If nothing else, at least I’ll still get my own stuff done and be able to move on with my life.

Besides, it’s probably in my favour at the moment that we all take our time ;-)


Written by The Intimate Stranger

September 11th, 2014 at 12:35 am

The game is on

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“So _____,” The Primate called out my name and, in the presence of the whole damn lunch table which included 2 other colleagues, a visiting post-doc from Australia whose talk we had all just attended, and a colleague of The Scientist, “You wanted to know how to get to know _____ better right?” And then he arrowed The Scientist’s colleague to “organise” something.



What was I to do but laugh it off (??!!!) and make a halfhearted protest (though nary a denial of my interest), even as the otherwise all-male table perked up in surprise.

Thankfully, men being men (except for a certain childish specimen; and yes, I saw it coming from the calculated looks he kept giving me throughout lunch), the topic was quickly dropped after a short exchange amongst the group.

On the one hand, I was miffed that he had deliberately put me in a spot, and that he fudged the facts — The Scientist was the one who made his intentions known first. But I didn’t choose to correct this — it would have come across as defensive (and moot, in any case) and would not have worked in my favour. Besides, the way to deal with such behaviour is simply to NOT reward it with the expected response(s), or more childishness.

But more importantly, one should keep one’s eye on the goal always. Since the ball is no longer in a reluctant party’s court, things should start moving. Hey, whatever gets me what I want ;-)

PS: That’s one huge withdrawal that The Primate made from the Brownie Jar. This had better be worth it.

* * * * *


And so the madness begins. For the next 2 months, I’ll be juggling a twice-weekly coaching course, continuation of lifesaving training for the Distinction Award, training for 2 competitions (Masters and National Games), renovation planning and more work (yay, NOT).


And oh, The Mother has agreed to let me have The Dog. I just have to help her adopt a puppy. Onz :-D


Written by The Intimate Stranger

August 31st, 2014 at 2:14 am

When it rains, it pours.

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It looks like the year-end dive trip cum New Year celebrations is going to be really interesting, if not entertaining. We might have 3 (or 4) new additions to the party. Am crossing my fingers that G will come along. Otherwise, rooming arrangements might get a little awkward with The Little Primate — or Cock Block, as G calls him. Laugh. Yeah, Cock Block is the term alright. Mutter darkly. AND, especially after his ridiculous tantrum at a recent outing. BOYS. Roll eyes. Sigh.

Invitations were sent to the other 2 during a casual conversation about holiday plans. Since Uncle was particularly interested in the make-up of the group and how the lone male was related to me, I thought, hey, you know what, why don’t you and the Swede come along to help me out with the awkward situation eh? Plus, Uncle clarified that the Swede wasn’t attached afterall. The territorial Chinese chick who showed up at the pool several weeks ago was just an interested party.

Anyway, we’ll see. Checking on the availability of extra rooms now, and in case something else starts biting at my line again. Grin.

* * * * *


Have secured my housing loan from the bank and exercised my Option to Purchase. Am now gathering ideas for renovation and furnishings while waiting to meet (and evaluate) my first ID contractor next weekend, and to attend the first appointment with HDB in 3 weeks’ time.

Meanwhile, I’ve obtained my Lifesaving Award of Merit certification and my coaching course resumes in September with twice weekly sessions, ending November.

I’ve been so busy that I’ve not started serious training for the Masters swim in mid October. Oh well. It’s all for a good cause :-D

And oh yes, a dolphin (albeit a small one) has joined Club Ink ;-)

Changes are also afoot at work with yet another reorganisation, and this one will affect me somewhat. Waiting to receive more details at next week’s briefing but certainly, the workload will increase — hopefully, in a positive way.

So, the next 6 months will be crazy, and I’ll need to keep it all together!


Bedroom - Glass doors













Written by The Intimate Stranger

August 17th, 2014 at 4:01 pm


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There’s daydreaming, in your head; all woolly and sleepy sheep cloned in a sterile test-tube.

You don’t stop dreaming these because they’re the fanciful flights of an idle mind and no one will ever know. Shhhh.

Then there’s the dreams in your heart; the kind that you feel in your entire being.

Some people stop dreaming because their hearts grow weary over time and they close the doors. Perhaps no one ever knew these dreams even existed, if they had never told of their hearts’ desires.

Some people dream during their waking moments and even in their sleep. Then one day, the dreams smile back and they step through the looking glass — because you believed in your dreams, and so they became real.

Written by The Intimate Stranger

August 4th, 2014 at 1:23 am

Taking flight

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“I’m walking away
From the troubles in my life
I’m walking away
Oh, to find a better day”

~ Craig David


I used to have a fear of crossing busy roads. The relentless onslaught of cars hurtling towards me was terrifying. And if I was crossing with company, I absolutely hated being left behind when I didn’t seize the ‘right’ moment to cross. Well, I’ve learnt that it’s fine to wait calmly at the side or middle of the road, and to watch the cars until I was sure about crossing. I’ve also learnt to cross the road more decisively. And if I was alone, I would use pedestrian crossings.

I don’t like being left behind very much, literally and figuratively. I have abandonment issues; or maybe the Arian in me simply hates to lose. Shrug. At some point, it was so bad that I even got stressed about missing out on checking off travel destinations or holidays with friends — it reminded me of how much I’ve fallen behind in the rat race, and life. And it doesn’t help when people remind you that you’ve fallen behind. (Just saying.)

Obviously, if I don’t want to be left behind, I’ve better catch up AND keep up, and I’ve to learn to do it on my own steam. But more importantly, I also need to believe in myself, that I’ve what it takes — probably the hardest part of all.

I also have to accept that sometimes I won’t be able to keep up, and that is fine. (Be kind to yourself.)

Finally, I learnt that I could set my own goals too. Hey, hey! MY game, MY rules, MY targets.

If I’m always waiting for someone else’s cue, I’ll be missing almost every ‘right’ moment.

If I don’t have my own goals, I’ll end up mindlessly following other people instead of pursuing my own happiness.

But goal-setting is not an easy task. For most of my life, I simply didn’t know what I wanted. I thought I had no dreams; perhaps I convinced myself so, resigned that my dreams would remain woolly sheep, and that people would disapprove of or ridicule what I wanted to do. Practically speaking, I also didn’t know how to plan and execute the process of achieving a goal. At the same time, I also had to be ready internally to meet the challenges ahead.

I keep reminding myself: “What’s the worst that could happen?” – 6 important words that my therapist taught me to say to myself.

Post-midlife-crisis and thoroughly shaken to my core, I started swimming again to fill the spaces that had always punctuated my life, while I figured out what to do with myself. Through my new company’s social club, I also started looking for other sports to take up, organised outings with friends, and worked on filling up my diary and keeping ‘busy’. Work was just work and I entertained myself by pursuing interests outside the office.

Then I got into competitive swimming after the company’s annual meet last year and things started to move a lot faster (ha ha). Part of it had to do with spending so much time at the pool and on the sport itself that I had little left for anything else, and so life did feel quite rushed at times.

I enjoyed swimming as a teenager but I hadn’t expected the same, if not greater fervour the second time around. Pursuing this passion has helped me to re-examine, unlearn and learn many things about myself. It has also opened a door that has been closed for too long.

* * * * *


I was contemplating my life and the lack of a lifetime companion — particularly how every potential encounter always fell apart so quickly that it felt uncanny.

I thought about my daily routine of going back home, walking straight to my room and staying in that part of the house for most of the time. This room which holds all my belongings; this room which has become a symbol of my life; this room represents the stasis of my life. Whatever path or turn I’ve taken still brings me back to this room — alone — at the end of each day. This room is my ’50 Shades of Grey’ — sadly, the G-rated version.

I got it into my head sometime last year that to change my life — my destiny – I would have to stop returning to this barrenness lest I become the 51st Shade of Grey.

I had to get out.

Towards the end of last year, I quietly made a resolution that in 2014, I would move out. When the decision was made, I had somehow managed to build up just enough savings to finance the cash outlay of getting my own place; the housing market had started to slow down; and I was mentally ready and prepared for this major life event.

My efforts were sporadic at best throughout the first half of 2014 but things really picked up speed (an understatement, ha ha) early this month, triggered by a friend’s concern that I hadn’t made much progress on my resolution. The past few weeks moved so fast that I didn’t realise that it’s still July.

As I already had some ideas about where I would like to live, I got onto a popular property portal to check availability. I drew up a shortlist of preferred estates and blocks, and tabulated details and prices. Another friend provided his housing agent’s contact and I texted the latter the next day.

The agent promptly got me to apply for an In-Principle Approval from one of the banks to ascertain how much I could borrow. A week later, I got to view the first batch of 4 units in Estate A on a Thursday night. I was pleasantly surprised that they were all corner units (I was prepared to stay in a corridor unit) on higher floors (a stated preference) and a couple were bigger than the standard 3-room and hence quite spacious. I didn’t know what to expect as these were resale HDB flats which had been lived in for about 30 years. But during the actual viewing, I was relaxed and I could even see myself living in a couple of the units.

The BFF came along for the second viewing on Saturday afternoon which included 2 more flats in Estate A. There was also a repeat viewing of a shortlisted unit (A1) from Thursday so I could see it in daylight and get a second opinion. I shortlisted another flat (A2) from this trip — it was similar in size and layout to A1, slightly farther (but easily manageable) from my desired amenities, but on a lower floor and facing shops. On the plus side, A2 and the neighbourhood felt ‘brighter’ and more breezy, and there was a more positive vibe overall. It was also slightly cheaper (negligible when you spread it across the years) and the kitchen ceiling looked less dodgy — the other place had noticeable deformities and flakings due to spalling concrete.

The next morning, I checked out both neighbourhoods on my own, and looked out for shops, residents, estate maintenance and noise level (particularly for the lower floor A2). I also wanted to ascertain how I ‘felt’ about each place.

A third viewing was arranged the following Monday night for 2 units in Estate S and 1 in Estate B. They were all corridor units on the second or third floor, smaller and slightly more expensive. None of them appealed to me though I tried considering the Estate B place since it was my first choice.

So in a week, I had viewed 9 units. I deliberated if I should continue to view more houses and to look outside my initial shopping list (because you never know what you might be fine with, or otherwise) — I liked the 2 flats in Estate A; I could see myself living in either place; I was comfortable with the asking prices and seriously contemplating an offer on either one. Admittedly, 9 is a small pool to choose from and a week is a short time. But how many and how long would be enough? More buyers are also returning to the market and there are only that many corner units in each block which are for sale AND satisfy my shopping list.

Still, I held back from making a decision — not wanting to be told later, AFTER I had exercised the Option to Purchase, that I had been hasty or that there were better flats or that the price was not low enough, and being plagued by those nagging thoughts in my own head. Besides, I wasn’t in a rush and could wait a few months.

Then it came up during a talk with the BFF that I was withholding making a decision for the wrong reasons — not so much that I wasn’t certain about my choice, but because I didn’t trust myself and cared too much for what others thought.

Instead of taking personal responsibility for the purchase of a house that ultimately *I* would be living in, I was choosing to let other people who would NOT be living in the house ‘decide’ for me.

And so it was that I contacted the agent on Tuesday morning to make an offer for A2. That same evening, I went down for a repeat viewing, wrote a cheque for the $1000 deposit and left the negotiation to the 2 housing agents representing each side. The agreed price turned out to be between my negotiable offer price and final offer price, which was a pleasant surprise even though it was just an additional savings of $3000. And then I laughed when I saw the purchase price — it was my month and year of birth :-)

On hindsight, it was a good call to make my quiet resolution known to my social circle. A few people actually checked in on me regularly. And others were happy and ready to help in various ways. It felt so good to be able to talk openly about my plans and not be held back by what anyone would think. Talking about getting my own place made it REAL for me, and no longer just a dream.

Of course there’s since been several surprised comments that I made my decision within a week. All I did was smile and said “I liked the place.” And then the conversation would move on without missing a beat. Heh.

As fast as things moved in the last few weeks, it helped that I have been thinking seriously about moving out for more than a year, and I did do a little research on and off. But more importantly, I never felt I was rushing into a decision. Yes, things moved and are still moving very quickly, but I generally feel relaxed about the whole thing and the stress is mostly the good kind of happy-stress. Call it a gut feel — everything feels like it was meant to be. 

This is the right moment, and I’m crossing the road — with a grin on my face ;-)

* * * * *


The morning after, I was enduring a delayed and jerky train ride when The Mad Scientist texted that The Professor wanted to “get to know the sporty and capable-looking woman at the outreach event better”.

That didn’t deliver a jolt though I was taken aback at the odd timing. My immediate response was that “he’s married” which The Mad Scientist promptly and firmly corrected. (I must have read the news article wrongly. Shrug.)

I wasn’t surprised about The Enquiry itself because I remembered the event held earlier in the month. In fact, it was just a day after I resolved to get off my procrastinating ass and work on getting out of my parents’ place. I had seen The Professor around a number of times at work events but had never made an effort to interact with him (because not-cute-lah and I assumed he had to be married) until the outreach. When he joined our table during the breaks to chat with the scientists, I listened and joined in occasionally. Notwithstanding my initial impressions, I had always been a little curious about him. Besides, he didn’t have any airs about him and seemed like a nice person. I reckon I made an impression with my little suggestion when he was explaining why the sun always rose in the east even in space. I remember teasing him later in the day during the networking dinner and the expression on his face as he moved eagerly towards me — and I quickly broke contact and walked away BECAUSE I really thought he was married. (Sigh, dumbo.)


We’ll see :-)

* * * * *


I stopped seeing The Numbers some time after I realised there was no monster under my bed waiting to jump out at me. Interestingly, they went away around the time just before I entered my Third Pinnacle.

I hadn’t expected to see The Numbers again.

“This is the time to step into your empowerment.”

How apt.
















Written by The Intimate Stranger

July 31st, 2014 at 3:33 am

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

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“You should have moved out long ago :-)”


OF COURSE I should have.

But I didn’t, for various reasons — reasons that no longer matter.

And you know what? I resent the pressure. I resent it. And I resent that I was made to ended up feeling bad about myself — being reminded again and again that I had ‘fallen behind’ the pack, and that I was inadequate. It was not a good feeling, I can tell you that.

The pressure is still there. Perhaps lesser. Perhaps not. The difference now, is that I deal with it differently.

People can say what they want. People will say what they want.

But it’s MY LIFE, and I can, and I shall, live it as I can and as I shall.

So things didn’t happen Long Ago — because. Of course Long Ago could have happened very differently. But the reasons no longer matter. Whether they were Good Reasons or Bad Reasons or Silly Excuses is not the point.

The point is, I accept that Long Ago happened. And I will not allow The Past to hold me back.


“I don’t think I would have known how to cope being on my own then. But the last few years, some things have changed for me, and in me. And the idea of moving out is less scary now.”


Well, some of the things which held me back Long Ago are still an issue today. But like I said, I deal with some things differently now. Interestingly, my friend quickly brought up the fact that going into competitive sports in the past year has changed things for me. I agree very much, though obviously the ‘system shock’ a few years ago kick-started everything. Heh. But more another time, on how swimming has helped me to fight for what I want and to build mental resilience.

I decided around the start of the year that I would get my own place and move out in 2014. I was distracted the first half of the year but I’m making an effort to get back on track — I’ve contacted a housing agent and am in the process of determining my loan eligibility. And I’ve gotten my friends in on the excitement — it’s like A Party! Laugh.

But really, all that matters now is that I’m ready :-)


Beautiful stained glass door made of hundreds of pantone swatches by Italian architect Armin Blasbichler.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

July 11th, 2014 at 1:43 am

In theory

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So, I’ve received news today that I’ve passed the theory component of the coaching programme. (But of course — it was easy.)

Unfortunately, I also found out yesterday that the second run of the technical course might not happen in September because of the launch of the new coaching syllabus this August. This means that I have to wait for the NEW technical course which will only be run in March next year, AND since it is based on the new syllabus, I might also have to re-take my theory. SIGH!!

I’m now waiting for the organisers to get back to me about their plans for my cohort. Twiddle thumbs.

Oh well. Guess I’ll have at least 6 months to concentrate on getting my own place. I’ve been distracted enough the first half of the year, and it’s time to get back on track!


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July 10th, 2014 at 12:10 am

And the student becomes the teacher.

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The idea of being a teacher, or to teach, had never appealed to me. I couldn’t imagine myself standing before a class of 40 young faces and talking for hours, much less knowledgeably and confidently in front of an A U D I E N C E. Shudder!

I did however give tuition while I was in school — to earn extra pocket money. I didn’t enjoy it after the initial novelty and the realisation of the practical issues and realities, and it became a dreadful chore. I decided that teaching was just not for me.

When I started working and had to attend various training sessions, I would always feel a little annoyed when the trainer was incompetent, or just bad. I reckon my negative experiences reinforced my ambivalence about teaching. I’ll’d find myself enduring an ineffective trainer and run through the list of do’s and don’ts in my head. (Yes, I’m judgmental like that.)
















It started with me getting back into swimming and constantly looking for ways to improve. And — I didn’t realise this until later — my interest (and obsession, even) was evident to others whenever I talked about swimming. And not a few people suggested that I should teach.

I don’t know at which point my views towards teaching changed. Having more positive experiences helped — I remember going away from a few training courses thinking that was a well-spent break from work that I was sorry to see come to an end; and I was also inspired by great speeches and talks on YouTube and TED. (So, I’m always instinctively judging. Ha. Ha. But you know what? Critique is essential to coaching!) And I thought how nice it would be if I could engage my class the same way.

And over the past decade, I’ve changed as a person. I became less shy about speaking up and sometimes even enjoyed expressing myself, particularly when I saw a ‘wrong’ and just had to make it a ‘right’. While this is certainly a positive change, I think I also need to know when to zip it (ha. ha.) and remember that listening is just as, if not more important. As an aside, I’m working on tempering my eagerness and zeal. While I don’t consciously and intentionally set out to upstage anyone, it can seem insensitive to interrupt another person and make them look lesser, or worse, feel bad about themselves. And I ought not to assume or impose my viewpoint on others especially in situations where it really isn’t about getting things ‘right’ — who’s to say who’s ‘right’ anyway, eh?

I also realised that my ambivalence about teaching was because my thinking processes tended to focus on the negative (my glass was always half-empty) — the inconveniences and difficulties (perceived or otherwise) of teaching, like managing students/strangers, having to spend all my free time preparing for classes, and self-confidence issues.

These negative thoughts still come to me — perhaps it’s just how I’m wired. But I now make an effort to challenge them. And then I think about how to get what I want; the process of planning takes me farther away from my doubts and closer to my goals. I’m enjoying being able to be so passionate about something because I’m not held back by my doubts; I’d rarely been passionate about something (do crushes count? ha. ha.). It’s just wonderful to feel so alive, and to look forward to each day.

Come to think of it, having gone through this process of overcoming my doubts and challenges systematically, was already a form of coaching — with myself as student! It’s funny how life works out.

So, I signed up for a sports coaching programme, hoping not only to become a certified swimming coach, but also to improve my own swimming at the same time. Preparations began late last year — looking up the requirements, planning what needed to be done and how and when, sorting through a few hiccups, getting re-certified in CPR, going back to lifesaving training, working on refining and perfecting my swimming strokes, and registering for the actual coaching programme. I’ve been attending twice-weekly 3-hour lectures after work the past month and will be taking the theory examination this coming Tuesday. Mid-July, I’ll be going for my lifesaving Award of Merit. Sometime in August, there’ll be a selection process in the form of a swimming skills test, to determine who would be accepted into the September intake of the technical programme. And all this is just to attain Level 1 certification, which would enable me to coach sports novices in the community. At the higher levels, coaching would include managing competitive athletes.

It’s keeping me really busy but I’m learning a lot of useful stuff that’s also applicable to other parts of my life, and enjoying myself while I’m at it. And each day, I’m getting closer to my goal :-D


Written by The Intimate Stranger

June 22nd, 2014 at 2:02 am


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Some months ago, I had to do a wardrobe resize for my Uniqlo chino shorts. The first batch was starting to fall dangerously low and they no longer sat well on my hips.

The past few weeks, I again found myself pulling up my shorts more often, and they barely hug my thighs now.

Time to make another trip to Uniqlo. Not that I’m complaining ;-)

* * * * *


Managed a 90-minute 40-lap session tonight, with a mix of anaerobic and aerobic work. 20 laps is not going to cut it anymore.

It was more willpower than anything else to keep going. The initial laps felt tough but as I did the third and fourth sets, my breathing was not as laboured and it felt like my body had adapted to the physical exertion.

Gotta be disciplined about clocking the mileage so I can improve my fitness and resting heart rate.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

May 25th, 2014 at 11:58 pm