Singapore #FitFind of the Week: Daryl Rafael Cheng

The women have their limelight in Monday's #Fitspo. Now it's the men's turn. The Yahoo #FitFind series is a new weekly feature every Wednesday dedicated to all fit men out there. Know of any who deserve to be featured? Hit me up on and on FacebookTwitter and Instagram (cheryltaysg).

Daryl Cheng. Photo: Cheryl Tay
Daryl Cheng. Photo: Cheryl Tay

Name: Daryl Rafael Cheng
Age: 20
Height: 1.74m
Weight: 75kg
Occupation: Medical student
Status: Single
Diet: Tries to keep everything balanced as much as possible; for instance, if lunch was carb-heavy, dinner will be a healthier alternative
Training: 4 to 5 times in the gym for CrossFit and weightlifting at Solitude of Strength
Benchmarks: 1RM for Snatch 97kg; Clean & Jerk 120kg; Back Squat 160kg; Front Squat 145kg; Deadlift 170kg
Did you grow up playing a lot of sports?
Yes, I’ve always enjoyed sports since young. I picked up Taekwondo in Primary 1 and did it for four years till I was 10. I went into swimming in Upper Primary and subsequently, into water polo when I was in secondary school.

Water polo was my passion for a good seven years all the way up till I entered University. I started competing in 2007 and represented Raffles Water Polo for six years. My batch managed to clinch the title of National Champions in 2012, after five long years of multiple disappointments and setbacks. I was also fortunate enough to play for the Singapore Waterpolo Youth Team from 2009 to 2011 and had the privilege to bear our country’s flag doing what I loved.

How and when did you hear of CrossFit?
I first heard about CrossFit in Junior College when I learnt that my school’s rugby team was doing Crossfit as a part of their CCA trainings. However, I never bothered finding out more about it till I started going to the gym and eventually wanted to do something different from the usual bodybuilding-style routines. I began reading up about it and without hesitation, in 2013 I signed up for my first CrossFit introductory class and never looked back since.

What do you like about CrossFit?
There is a lot which I enjoy about CrossFit but one of the biggest things for me is the community – the people around me in the gym are always there as pillars of support and encouragement. They walk with me through failures and are there to share my joy when I experience success. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. This aside, as a fitness programme, what I enjoy most is the variance in CrossFit. There are numerous elements which one would have to work in order to become a better athlete and this constant process of challenge and growth is something which keeps my passion for it burning bright.

What are some of the misconceptions about CrossFit you hope to correct?
First, there is a misconception that CrossFit has a high risk of injury. Well, injuries in CrossFit are just like that of any other sport – it is indeed a risk, but can be easily avoided through safe and responsible training. With careful attention to one’s movement patterns, together with listening to your body during a workout, you can be assured that you will be staying injury-free for a long time.

The second misconception is that CrossFit is a closed-out community and “only for the elite or super fit”. On the contrary, CrossFit is for everyone and all one needs is an interest in it. Workouts are often scaled according to the fitness goals and needs of an individual, and coaches are present to guide one along. The learning curve is far from steep and before you know it you’ll be back for more!

Daryl Cheng. Photo: Cheryl Tay
Daryl Cheng. Photo: Cheryl Tay

What does fitness mean to you? What are your fitness philosophies?
There are multiple aspects of health – physical health, mental health, spiritual health, just to name a few. To me, fitness means to excel in physical health, to excel as an athlete across multiple domains of sport – be it calisthenics, weightlifting, running; you name it. Knowing this, I recognise that one’s fitness can never be quantified and the journey to fitness is a never-ending one – someone can never be “too fit”. At the same time, I believe this journey is highly personal, and all you have to strive for in attaining fitness, is to better than you were yesterday.

What are some of the misconceptions that society has about fitness?
That fitness requires an “all-or-nothing” commitment. For example, people think they have to work out X times a week and since they cannot, they just wait until they can. The journey towards fitness begins with a single step and all one has to do is to work within their means. If one can only work out once or twice a week, that is better than the guy who doesn’t try to. Work with what you can and slowly but surely, it will become a lifestyle that sees you improving yourself every day.

Why is it important to lead an active lifestyle?
Cliché as it may sound, an active lifestyle is for wellness of health to me. The benefits of adopting an active lifestyle carry over to other aspects of life. For instance, more than just improving your own physical fitness, engaging in exercise also serves as a healthy platform for socialisation and strengthening ties between friends and family.

Putting things into context, my sister does CrossFit as well and this common interest has pulled us closer together. My family is also making it a point to run a half-marathon together this year and I’m looking forward to seeing us cross the finish line together.

By leading an active lifestyle, we would also be able to eventually inspire those around us to do the same, helping them to take their first steps. All in all, health is often taken for granted and an active lifestyle is the best way to cherish this gift.

Daryl Cheng. Photo: Cheryl Tay
Daryl Cheng. Photo: Cheryl Tay

Are you satisfied with your body now and why?
Yeah, I’m pretty content with how my body’s working right now in terms of metabolic capacity and strength. How my body functions as a whole is more important to me than aesthetics. There’s always room for improvement and I’m constantly telling myself to work on my weaknesses (mostly strength, for now) to better myself.

Do you get any comments about your physique?
I do have friends who very kindly (and very playfully) call me “buff”. But they’re all really good friends of mine so I’m pretty sure they’re just being nice by reaffirming the work that I do in the gym! Out of this group of friends I hardly get comments about it.

Did you ever feel not confident about your body before?
Funny story – back in 2011, a girl I used to like got into a relationship with this guy who has killer abs and that caused me to feel like crap about my own body! Thankfully I got over that soon and now the gym’s become a healthy obsession with the right motivations.

I used to be overweight too – in primary school I was in the TAF Club. I lost the weight after entering the water polo team in secondary school, but in 2009, after eating fast food more than five times a week, I became overweight again. I weighed then as much as I do now but the body composition is different; I have more muscle mass now. The turning point came when my 2.4km run timing for my NAPFA Test dropped by a whole minute from the previous year; it was then that I realised I had to start doing something about my weight and fitness!
Last words of advice?
To anyone who’s currently sitting on the fence with regard to that gym membership or committing to a dedicated training programme, JUST GO FOR IT! Everyone starts somewhere and if you’re worried about your schedule, you’ll find that once you’re knee-deep into it, your new-found commitment finds its own way to work with everything else in your hectic schedule, just as mine did! Find something you’ll have fun with and stick with it; because when you do something you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

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