How walking Vipassana meditation turned a couch potato into a fitness fanatic

I grew up an obese couch potato. Walking up 4 flights of stairs to my classroom put me out of breath for a full 30 minutes. I was also a Ms. Snotty Nose.

Then how did I become so active?

I have a very unconventional answer here: Vipassana meditation, particulary the walking part. My mom had taken me to the meditation retreat at Ampawan Temple in Singburi, 2 hours away from Bangkok. (I grew up a canonical Buddhist, but I was never a religious person up until that point.)


Students of Luang Por Jarun practicing walking meditation at Ampawan Temple

My meditation master Luang Por Jarun said the walking meditation has 5 benefits according to the Buddhist canon:

  1. It increases endurance while traveling on foot.
  2. It increases persistence and perseverance
  3. It decreases illnesses
  4. It is good for the digestive system.
  5. It improves concentration during the sitting phase of the meditation so that we benefit more from the sitting meditation.

Right after my first session of walking meditation, the immediate change was that I was able to walk very far without getting exhausted.

I was nowhere near athletic at that point. Running still caused me to be out of breath. But I decided I would start running. The first day, I barely made it to 5 minutes, but I kept at it. Once that was easy, I increased it to 10 minutes. And I kept adding 5 minutes at a time until I could run for hours at a time.

While I no longer run as I prefer other forms of exercise, it provided a good endurance base for any other forms of physical activity that I took up later in life. Not only that, my body just likes to move. Staying in shape becomes a joyful practice rather than a chore.

I also experience better digestion, especially after a large lunch, and many of my persistent illnesses disappeared.

I don’t have scientific evidence to support my claims here, just personal experience. But this is also a wisdom that has been known among Buddhists for more than 2,500 years. More and more now, we are starting to understand how these traditional wisdoms are beneficial to our health through scientific studies.

And lastly, I am a prime example that endurance, persistence, perseverance and health can be trained. It’s not something I was born with. As a matter of fact, I still struggle with many aspects of my fitness and understand that fitness is a continuum.

The walking part of my practice is quite well demonstrated by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu

This can be a faithless practice. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to benefit from the practice.

Buddha says there are 3 levels of learning.

  1. By hearing or reading
  2. By contemplating or thinking
  3. By doing

The fact that level 3 is better than level 2 and level 1 is why the practice seems so simple it’s almost silly. That’s also why my teacher doesn’t teach much theory and details, as he wants us to focus on our practice. If he teaches us all the theories, we won’t get pass level 1. The most important thing is to experience it.

I feel like I am far from qualified to be teaching Buddhism or even this practice, but I know how this can benefit so many people. Also, the purpose of this post is mainly fitness rather than to preach religious teachings. Feel free to ask questions about this practice below.

Creating a deadline to get things done Part I – what I learned from my first muscle photoshoot

As some of you might know, I had a muscle photoshoot recently. I just got my foot in the fitness industry after achieving a body transformation, so it was time I needed a website. This website was the motivation to eventually reach my goal. Through this journey, I realized that I would never otherwise get this lean without the photoshoot deadline.

What did I learn?

1. Now I understand why I needed a deadline to get this done and why successful people keep preaching this. This applies to everything else in life. I hate deadlines at times, but things only get done when there are deadlines.

2. It makes me a better trainer and wellness professional. When clients come to me, they come for a change. But even more importantly than the route is that they (and I) need to know where the finish line is. It doesn’t matter how good the workouts or the diets are if there are no way of tracking the outcomes, goals and deadlines.

So now when someone comes to me for a change, I first ask them to define their endpoints and priorities.

3. It was much easier to turn down treats and postpone irrelevant things when there was an end point because I could wait to have those after the shoots. Diets are not supposed to last forever, after all.

4. Without the deadline, I was much more likely to cheat on the diet, miss the workouts and go into vicious guilt-self punishment cycles. It is also important to have a maintenance plan to fit in “normal life” after all the hype fade away.

5. I am finally a representative of what I want to provide.

6. It’s life changing. As soon as I uploaded my photos on facebook, they garnered numerous likes within an hour. Friends from as far as back in Bangkok congratulated me and asked me for advice. (Of course there was this glorious feeling.)

7. From these correspondence I also learned the kind of misunderstandings people have about achieving a body transformation, which make for hilarious blog posts [later].


8. I came to terms with things. I have never been leaner and stronger in my entire life but I am still imperfect. That is soul-crushing after all these hard works I am still quite soft and a few parts are still wiggly. The funny thing is that, I am the only person who notices it because I am the only person who looks for it.

“Why be perfect? Perfect is boring.” ~Jillian Micheals 

 Do you notice I am chiseled but not absolutely shredded? My ultimate goal is to change people’s lives, not to compete in a bodybuilding competition. So I thought, I would just be myself and not photoshop a single imperfection out of my photos. I am proud of my body this way.


9. At no other times do I feel happier to move on and work on other things (like this website and school). I am sooo… motivated to work on those after the shoots. The honeymoon phase to a change has its positive effects. Fitness-wise, I also start experimenting with different styles of training and intermittent fasting. Now is time for the fun stuff.


How did I get here? I religiously followed Flavia del Monte‘s Curvalicious workout programs, which also came with diet plans and photoshoot prep protocols. The program was fabulous and fun, although really tough. And, like I keep saying in many posts, I had a hard time believing that my abs is showing. That was the last push that led me to plan this photoshoot.

I also bought the personal email coaching add-on which turned out to be invaluable because I had so many questions. Flavia replied to all of my emails even when she was on vacation (!). I am so so happy and thankful.

Later this week in Part II I’m gonna write a post in details about how SMART goal setting was critical to achieving a body transformation goal, and then Part III about what was involved in my first fitness photoshoot. [PS It was an adventure.] I will also include the pictures taken at different time points just to demonstrate.

Meditation as it relates to fitness & health, and my body transformation episode I

I am rather rowdy for an Asian lady but I am a devout Buddhist. Buddhism saved my life during my life turmoil as a teenager. Also, I think Buddha is a great scientist and a self-experimenter, although he was definitely not the only person in his time and place to experiment with all kinds of odd things to achieve enlightenment.

Since I was around 9, I started practicing Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation at Ampawan temple. The whole experience will be described in a future post. Aside from the prayers and practicing the day-to-day mindfulness, I was taught how to do both walking, standing and sitting meditation. [Keep in mind that Buddhists do Vipassana meditation to achieve enlightenment or get over a suffering more so than to improve their quality of life, but the quality of life was a great side benefits.]

As it relates to fitness the most and perhaps the lessor known form of meditation in the west is the walking meditation.

The benefits of walking meditations as described by the Buddhist canon (in blue) and my personal experience (in brown) as it relates to fitness:

1. High endurance, enabling meditator to walk long distance

My endurance definitely improved from the first day of doing walking meditation. While I started it as a rather obese, inactive child, it made it much easier for me to start an exercise regime and stick with it. I maintained the endurance throughout the years.

Before I started weight training, I regularly engaged in and enjoyed endurance activities. I biked 70 km, ran 10k and swam 3k when I found the time to. This also allowed me to perform long weight training sessions (1 – 2 hours) involving mostly compound movements.

2. High tenacity, enabling meditator to perform with higher effort and for longer

Tenacity is my strength that has led me to accomplish a multitude of successes. I am neither exceptionally sharp nor genetically built to be successful. I work hard. I attack problems and I overcome obstacles, so I see results in my body transformation. It wasn’t always easy and there were stumbling blocks to achieving my goals.

(digression alert) Even in my research, I presented a dataset at a conference where 2 other groups came up to me and told me that they started the same thing and gave up. So, try walking meditation if you want to be successful.

3. Less chances of illnesses and faster healing

My eczema disappeared right around when I started it. It came back 10 years later but improve dramatically when I get more serious with meditation again. I also got less colds back then and now. (Frequent and lingering colds run in my family.)

And I heard a few stories of how cancer disappears in some cancer patients who were told they had only months to live. (But I heard too many of these now that I will believe like 50% of it. I’m glad the cancer patients survived, though.)

4. Better digestion 

This is absolutely true for me. Buddhist monks and serious meditators practice intermittent fasting by stop eating from after 12 PM to after their morning prayers (8 AM). When I practiced this, my stomach didn’t always like breakfast that much. Going right back to walking meditation definitely helped, to a greater degree than a typical walks would.

5. Better concentration during the sitting phase of the meditation

Walking meditation improves mind-body awareness better than a sit-down form of meditation. For me, it was easier to concentrate on the movements than on breathing. My minds were less likely to wander. There is also this culture of quality over quality. The teachers say that real benefits: breakthroughs and enlightenments arise from walking as slowly as possible.

Having only reflected on this recently, I thought, perhaps meditation is the difference between I and some exercisers who have issues with motivation, endurance and consistency. Although in fitness, we train for strengths, flexibility and endurance, there are also other aspects that are not completely understood and hence not usually trained. Meditation seems to help with neurological, hormonal, emotional and psychological aspects of motivation and endurance. It clearly has contributed to my life successes and health. I will consider teaching this to my personal training clients to help them improve.

I am not qualified to teach meditations, yet. It’s not one of those things you can get a degree about or certified to teach. The people who practice take it seriously and only meditators who achieved major breakthroughs with it were allowed to teach at Ampawan temple. This VDO is a great resource where a qualified monk demonstrates how it’s done. That’s exactly how I was taught to do it. I will be happy to answer questions about this as much as I can, though.

Inspiration does not work. Period.

Since people have witnessed my body transformation over the past 8 months, I’ve often heard “You are such an inspiration.” I want to admit that I can’t help but get more and more frustrated each time I hear this.

That might just confuse you. But ask yourself this question: do you know a personal trainer who became a personal trainer so that they can be the inspiration? We pay money and spent the time to learn so that we can help people get results, not to be the inspiration. There is no such a thing as a certification to be the inspiration. Heck, with my life drama, I can make a pretty good living being a motivational speaker. It’s gonna make someone cry, but it won’t change the world – at all. That won’t solve any problem.

Why do I get frustrated when I hear I am the inspiration? When it comes from people who have known me for a while, that usually means that they think they have no shot at achieving what I have for myself. That is simply NOT true because they stand a great chance; but if they already quit mentally, they don’t.

Ironically, every time I inspire someone they have less than 5% chance of actually following what I do, or any advice I give for that matter. That’s correct, inspiration does not work, at least with people who have known me for a while. Then, I realize I am attracting complainers, not solution seekers, although my mindset is never far away from that of a solution provider.

I am still relentlessly seeking solutions to this problem, contemplating why people think it’s above and beyond what they can do to solve the problems they constantly complain about. 90% of the times it’s about their tummies. That’s why I signed up for Precision Nutrition coaching certification, which seems to help me address this issue. They discuss how coaching people to change in a step-by-step approach to lifestyle change and the minimum effective doses of it to produce results.

On a separate note, I am a strong believer of the theory that I shouldn’t do to others what I don’t want done to me. I really, really, never tell anyone they are my inspiration. When someone’s thinking process, life wisdom, or success of any kind seem worth following to me, I add them to my bucket list of role models. That means I watch them very closely, pick out what they do to have the aspect of success that I want to have, and do it. I ask for their advice and take their advice very seriously. I let them know that I take the action and acknowledge their advices as a contribution to my success.

What do you have more of? Inspiration or role models?