A Fit Community

A Fit Community

by Pamela Fletcher

fit_community1Running through Mt Kinabalu
Being fit and healthy is a choice you make. And it’s not all about age or gender. Choosing the right exercise that will keep you motivated and excited each time you put on your training kit and step out the door is a huge factor.

A trend that is gaining traction in Sabah is outdoor sports. Sabah’s wild and rugged countryside is the perfect training ground for a variety of challenging outdoor activities. Events such as The Most Beautiful Thing (an ultra-trail race that goes up to 100km), and most recently the Ranauthlon (a moderate trail run up to 21km through a tea plantation) has inspired more runners to trade in the indoor treadmill for the great outdoors.

fit_community2Robert Blake runs the Ranauthlon

Robert, 65, and Paula, 62, Blake could not be more supportive of this growing trend. Expatriates living in Sabah, and regular trail runners themselves, Robert and Paula competed in both the super tough Mt Kinabalu Climbathon and the Ranauthlon in the span of six days. “I think we were just nuts, “quips Robert.

“Conventional wisdom recommends at least three weeks rest after a major race. But John Chin, the organiser, is a friend and it was his first ever race as an organiser – and anyway, it was somewhere none of us had ever run before.”

Trying out something new is always exciting and it’s what keeps the motivation level up. Sisters Jennifer and Georgina Jinu, and Hana Sue Harun have done numerous marathons and even a couple of 100km ultra trail races. They took it a step further and recently teamed up with a few friends to complete the arduous Viper Challenge, dubbed Asia’s toughest obstacle event, in Kuala Lumpur.

Outdoor challenges at the Viper Challenge


Even though they were more accustomed to running road and trail races, it was an outdoor challenge they could not turn down. The opportunity to push the limits of one’s physical and mental strength is tempting and Sabah is waking up to this rising need for more local races. The Borneo International Marathon, Sabah Adventure Challenge, Mt Kinabalu Climbathon and The Most Beautiful Thing are now the mainstays on every hard-core fitness enthusiast’s competition calendar. And every year, you see more and more new faces turning up. It’s fantastic to see how Sabah’s natural landscape is engaging more people to exercise outdoors and to build up a community of recreational and competitive fitness buffs.

But if the outdoors is not your cup of tea, you can challenge yourself by picking up a new indoor pursuit.

Nova Renata took up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), a combat sport and type of ground-based martial art that emphasizes on the use of leverage, momentum and techniques over strength and power. BJJ has its roots in Kodokan Judo and although it’s called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it was actually founded by Mitsuyo Maeda, a Newaza (groundwork Judo) expert from Japan.

fit_community3Nova Renata- BJJ Trainer

“When I started, I couldn’t do one single push up, and over time, BJJ training has improved my overall strength greatly,” says Nova. “I also believe that Jiu-Jitsu is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. I’ve met great friends, adopted a healthier lifestyle and gained a brighter outlook in life as a whole. It’s amazing!”

More interested in promoting BJJ to other women and empowering them through the sport than competing, Nova started an all-female BJJ class. The pioneering batch of women BJJ exponents is quickly outpacing Nova and she couldn’t be prouder.

“Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone – young, old, male, female, lean or heavy – and I believe everyone should give it a try.”

Getting into fitness, whether it’s outdoors or indoors, can be intimidating for some especially if they’re trying to keep up with the latest trends in exercise regime, shoes, apparel and fancy gadgets. Consider your options – the outdoors is free, there is no fashion police around and the chances of you winning a gold medal at the next Olympics are pretty remote.

People love a sense of community which allows them to bond and compete at the same time. Maintaining a fitness programme can be as easy as working out with a friend or a group of strangers who will eventually become close friends, mentors and motivators. And this is perhaps the best reason to start a fitness programme.

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