Singapore #FitFind of the Week: Swimmer Pang Sheng Jun

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).

SEA Games medallist Pang Sheng Jun. Photo: Cheryl Tay
SEA Games medallist Pang Sheng Jun. Photo: Cheryl Tay

Name: Pang Sheng Jun (Twitter, Instagram: @swimpsj)
Age: 23
Height: 175cm
Weight: 70kg
Occupation: Student athlete
Status: Single
Diet: Tries to get enough carbs and protein without fat during weekdays, has cheat meals during weekends
Training: 10 pool sessions a week (each session is 2.5 hours), with dry land training in the mornings

How did you get started in swimming?
I started swimming from the age of four upon doctor’s recommendation because I suffered asthmatic conditions. I grew to love the sport a lot and swimming was a way of cooling myself down in Singapore’s hot weather. I was very active as a kid and I channelled all my energy into swimming.

Both my sisters swam competitively and I competed in swimming at six years old, all the way till they were 16 when they decided to focus on studies instead. I reached the national age group levels and swam in meets like the Southeast Asian age group ones.

What has swimming taught you?
It has taught me about perseverance. You have many ups and downs in your career and you don’t always get what you want, but just keep training hard and I always believe as you work towards your goals, it’s a only a matter of time that it will pay off. No matter how tough things may be, your hard work will pay off. Swimming has also humbled me; even if you work your hardest and try your best, you may not always get what you want.

What were the highest and lowest points in your career?
My highest point is this year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games for sure. I didn’t win an individual medal at the previous three SEA Games editions I swam in, so being on home ground and able to win a silver medal in the 400m Individual Medley, as well as a bronze in the 400m Freestyle was great.

My SEA Games journey hasn’t been very smooth before. In 2009, I didn’t win any medals, then I told my parents that I will do so in 2011. But in 2011 I didn’t win any medals again and that was my lowest point in my swimming career. I thought of throwing in the towel then, even having a near suicidal experience. The pressure was on and I said I was going to win a medal no matter what but I failed to, so I felt like I didn’t live up to expectations of myself and what I promised my parents. I felt depressed and I didn’t see a way out anymore. However, after encouragement from my parents, coaches and friends who still had faith in me, I continued and I finally won three medals in 2015 – a gold (in the relay), silver and bronze.

How do you balance school and training?
On a typical day I wake up at 4:45am, go for morning training from 5:30am to 7am, have breakfast while driving to school, have school from 8:30am to 2pm, rush home for a quick 45-minute nap, train again in the afternoon from 4pm to 7pm, have dinner at 7:45pm and then have a little recreational time before sleeping at 10:30pm. Nearer to the exams, I’ll do eight training sessions instead of 10. It’s all about time management really. I took a gap semester this year though (Year 2 semester 2) so that I could focus on SEA Games.
Ever had days where you don’t feel like training?
Yes. Sometimes you have a nightmare and the head feels heavy when you wake up, making you not feel like going for training. But when that happens, I’ll look at my goal timing I want to achieve and it motivates me to push harder. I have it printed out and stuck on my cupboard where I can see it first thing when I wake up every morning.

SEA Games medallist Pang Sheng Jun. Photo: Cheryl Tay
SEA Games medallist Pang Sheng Jun. Photo: Cheryl Tay

Are you satisfied with your body now?
Honestly speaking, I am happy with my own body now. It goes to show that as long as you love what you are doing, things will come naturally. The same goes for life; swimming is my passion and Nanyang Technological University has been very supportive, giving me a special pathway to enter sports and studies.

What kind of comments do you get about your body?
One girl at a meet-and-greet session asked to touch my abs when she was asking for my autograph. I think she was about 16 years old. I allowed her to and she started giggling, then all her friends wanted to as well.

What does fitness mean to you?
It means life. Fitness gives you a general sense of well being and a positive self image. Everyone is trying to be fit, so when you’re one of the fitter ones, it gives you the strength to empower those who want to be fit. I wouldn’t say that I’m very fit, fitter than average perhaps, so I try my best to help others.

What misconceptions of fitness does society have these days?
Men think that the bigger they are, the fitter they are. Girls tend to portray that being skinny is the norm. Ultimately, it’s all about balance and being healthy. As long as you don’t compare yourself to others, as long as you know you did the best to the best of your abilities, be happy with the body you have.

SEA Games medallist Pang Sheng Jun. Photo: Cheryl Tay
SEA Games medallist Pang Sheng Jun. Photo: Cheryl Tay