HEAD FOR HEIGHTS
Divia Harilela, P. Ramakrishnan
Annabelle Bond looks more like a fashion magazine cover girl than adventure climber. But the 43-year-old has made history several times with an incredible career that has included scaling the seven summits of the world in less than a year, a 10-day expedition to the North Pole, and 250-kilometre foot races across the Sahara, Atacama and Namibia deserts under the Racing the Planet series. 'For me these challenges are 70 per cent in the mind, and 30 per cent about fitness,' she says.
Life took on a more sobering note for Bond in 2009 when her daughter, Isabella, was born. Although she keeps dangerous activities to a minimum, she still adopts a regular fitness regime and healthy eating plan. 'I'm into an alkaline diet. I have a green juice for breakfast made with kale, ginger, celery, apples, lemon and cucumber. After I drop my daughter at school, I run on the outdoor trails for about one and a half hours, followed by sit ups. After I pick her up we do activities together,' says Bond, who also cites heli-skiing, paddle boarding and tennis as some of her favourite sports. While keeping active is essential both for her physical and mental strength, so is a balanced diet.
'I don't believe in cutting out carbs - I incorporate brown rice and vermicelli noodles in my diet. However, I suggest you have carbs at breakfast and lunch, not for your evening meal. Soups are also great because they fill you up and are healthy,' she says.
She also supplements her diet with a healthy concoction of vitamins that have been prescribed by her doctor in Portland, Oregon. Daily must-haves include omega oils, Vitamins B and D, chlorella, and magnesium.
Bond is so much into healthy living that she is releasing a recipe book early next year with tips on losing weight, and will include a section on superfoods. She says she would love to work on something similar for children.
'I don't like the deprivation angle - I believe in moderation, especially when you exercise. If you eat well and sleep well, your body should run well. My weakness is chocolate. I have to do a bit of extra work the next day but it's important not to feel guilty,' she says.
Brian Cha's role is to keep the body beautiful; not just his own but those of some of the most notable names in media and screen. Fifteen years in the business, he's the soul of discretion, keeping the roster of celebrity clients close to his chest.
What separates a screen-star from your average Joe at the gym? 'Usually celebrities have particular goals to reach in a shorter time frame,' says Cha. 'They have to be on a film set in two months and be fighting fit; the timeline is set in stone.
Cha says variety is key to staying toned. I've always mixed it up and I tell my clients to do the same. Don't just run on the tread-mill; same-ness doesn't work well in the long-run.'
As people venture away for the summer holidays, a common pattern develops. 'Yes, it's a holiday but you can do simple things to stay active. Even if it's playing basketball, beach-ball or something; just keep the body moving.'
And celebrities have the same issues as the rest of us: not eating right, too many after-hour cocktails and a sedentary lifestyle. 'I've seen this especially among the 30-something folks. They look so much older than their actual age. Just by cutting out all sugary drinks and beer you'll see visible changes within two weeks - even with no exercise. And not just alcohol - there's usually four spoons of sugar in just one glass of ice-tea.'
Cha also advises on diet and nutrition, a vital part to any exercise programme. 'Eat smaller portions at meal times. We grew up with the breakfast, lunch and dinner timetable. Actually, eating four small meals a day is better for your system. I don't believe in avoiding food groups, but try and avoid carbs after lunch.
According to Cha, one of the most common mistakes people make is believing that cardio workouts, such as running, will help solve the problem of belly fat. 'Of course running helps, but appropriate weight training can help you get a washboard stomach quickly. Mindlessly running in circles isn't as effective.'
Each client has their own goal.
All good trainers must design personalised programmes for their individual clients - and it's a process of study and elimination.'
Just before leaving Cha's gym, we ask who his star student is at the moment and he lets a name slip. 'Lately, model Mandy Liu has really impressed me with her discipline and dedication,' he says. 'There is no easy way to get a body beautiful. It's hard work!'
'Start a weight training programme. Not just for aesthetics but also for health. You need to maintain strength as you grow older. Change your work-out routine every two weeks; do something different.
'Eat! Do not deprive yourself - eat four small healthy meals a day.'
It's alarming how good Jocelyn Luko looks without an ounce of make-up. Having just finished a run around the Happy Valley race-course with her DJ/model husband Anthony Sandstrom, there's a sigh of relief that yes, she, like the rest of us, has to work to get that slim silhouette that's made her one of the city's most popular models. 'After trying many different types of exercise I find that Pilates and Bootcamp at least three times a week works best for me,' she says. 'Pilates tones and lengthens my muscles while re-aligning my body, and Bootcamp is great for burning fat and toning muscles because of the intense interval and cardio training. We do different forms of cardio and mix things up, so our bodies don't get used to the same routine.'
In a similar process of trial and error, Luko has also found what doesn't work for her as she matures. 'I used to be a huge meat eater and eat a lot of junk food but I realised how important food is for your body and I started eating healthy and doing cleanses,'
But the life-changing - and perhaps career-changing - moment was prompted by an illness in the family. 'Eight years ago my mum got sick and the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle was brought home to us. Because of this experience we realised there is an increasing demand for natural health and wellness products that work. This is why we started our company Simple Pure Health.'
As passionate as she is about her business, she also maintains a balanced lifestyle. She has her own tips for getting fit but adds, 'I believe the first step is taking care of your mindset. If you're happy and confident it shows no matter who you are.'
'It's important what you put in your body. We always try and eat as healthily as possible. Whenever we eat we think, 'Is my body going to thank me for this food?' When I'm on vacation and I eat a lot of junk food it definitely shows on my face and body, even in my energy levels.
'Exercise! You have to get your blood circulating and give your body a regular workout. In Pilates they say you're only as young as your spine is flexible, and that's so true. When I work out there's a huge difference in not just my body shape but also the way I feel. Take care of your skin. It's very important to use natural products. Putting chemicals on your skin may make your skin look good initially but can be damaging in the long term.'
Remarkably for a physician, Dr Tony Mok reckons he's 'a terrible example' for health and fitness, he says with a laugh. 'I love food, love eating and I eat anything that tastes good,' says Mok, a professor in the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Department of Clinical Oncology. Still, he doesn't over-indulge. 'The advice I give to others is one I exercise personally: 'everything in moderation'.'
When it comes to exercise, the good professor takes it step by step.
'I started walking when my daughter was in primary school, she's in college now. That has extended to now having regular, long walks on a daily basis. I also go to the gym at least once or twice a week and do a harder workout with weights. But daily walks have been effective for me.'
Professionally, Mok's research interests encompass lung cancer, liver cancer, and traditional Chinese medicine. Will there ever be a cure for cancer? 'Cure is not a concept to be indulged when it comes to cancer; curtailed is. Once considered a near death sentence in the '70s and '80s, we now consider it a chronic disease that with the help of effective treatment the patient can co-exist. In the early days, there was only surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Now we have molecular-targeted therapy that identifies potentially cancer-causing genes, called oncogenes, and stops them multiplying with very specific and relatively non-toxic medication.
So how much does smoking, eating red meat, stress levels and other such factors have on cancer? 'Well, whether a person is a vegetarian or not, cancer is a unifier; anyone can get it. There are many studies that detail exacerbating factors, but the one I find lofty is 'stress'. We all have stress to varying degrees. The trick is how to handle it and minimize the adverse effects.'
Despite the constant warnings, and the plethora of studies directly linking cigarette smoking and cancer, there seems to be no decrease in nicotine consumption in our part of the world. 'Hong Kong is in relatively good shape. However, the statistics in China show 66 per cent of the urban male population smokes, 356 million are long-term smokers and 15 million are teenagers. Hong Kong is doing rather well when it comes to exercising effective tobacco control. The fact that you can't smoke in public, in restaurants and bars, and the heavy taxation, is helping decrease the number of smokers. In China, the aggressive marketing strategies of tobacco companies are targeting young people and women by making cigarettes more attractively packaged, despite the fact that in 2005 the Chinese Government signed the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. China pledged 10 million yuan to the project, only a minute fraction of the billions of dollars it receives from tobacco taxation!'
When asked for health tips, Mok says simply: 'Be happy! I see cancer patients from all walks of life and the number one question posed is 'Why did I get it?' There is no answer to this. Lifestyle contributes but does not eliminate the risk of cancer. So pursue what makes you happy and live life well! That is far more effective for your over-all health than running endlessly on a treadmill.'