Strong is the new sexy and fitness is the new party. With society leaning towards health and fitness, Yahoo's #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to all inspirational women in Singapore leading active lifestyles. Know of any who deserve to be featured? Hit me up on CherylTay.sg and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (cheryltaysg).
Name: Cassandra Lee
Occupation: Regional customer support executive
Diet: Typically a clean diet with no deep fried food, less salt, and more protein and vegetables on weekdays; with some indulgence on weekends with friends and family
Training: Muay Thai thrice a week and weightlifting twice a week
Have you always been confident about your body?
Definitely not. I think we will never be truly satisfied or confident with our bodies. However, the past two years of my fitness journey has changed me tremendously and boosted my confidence. It’s not just about appearance, but I’ve changed my entire attitude towards life and the things that I do. To me, you need that certain kind of confidence and grit to achieve your goals in life.
When were you not confident about your body?
I used to be plump during my teens to a point when my mum commented that I needed to do something about it. It was that mere comment which got me started in exercise, but as you pursue education and enter the work force, you seep into the rat race and sink into a sedentary lifestyle. I remained skinny fat all through my early twenties, never feeling quite energetic enough for my age.
How did you try to improve your confidence?
I did a lot of running back then and also tried all the crash diets, with zero knowledge on the right exercise regime or balanced diet. That period of weight loss felt like torture and I doubt it did my body any good.
As you grow older, how have your opinions on fitness and body image changed?
As a woman, I have never felt more empowered compared to five years ago. Because of the drive to become the best version of myself, fitness has changed me in more ways than I can ever expect. I have learnt to apply that perseverance and optimism to my daily life.
I have also learnt that it is important to truly enjoy the fitness activities you do, because that’s where you reap the true benefits of a workout. Fitness is my freedom, my lifestyle and if anyone tells you they are too busy to workout, they ought to change their priorities!
What kind of sports did you do as a kid?
I have always enjoyed sporting activities and used to be active in basketball, bowling and soccer. I was very active in soccer, playing with the boys at school and even at void decks with random kids! I still miss it and wish there are more female soccer teams around!
When did you start going to the gym?
I signed up for a gym membership right after graduating from university as I was leading a sedentary lifestyle for way too long. At first it feel like a chore having to drag my lazy bum to the dreadful cardio sessions and I could not fathom why would people enjoy exercisng that much!
Then one fine evening my brother took me to the weights section and showed me some basic dumbbell workouts. I never turned back since and from a cardio bunny, I am now able to deadlift 155lbs and it’s my all-time favorite workout at the gym. Breaking my own PRs increases my confidence one pound at a time!
When did you start Muay Thai?
I picked up Muay Thai 1.5 years ago as an excuse to do some cardio as I don’t enjoy running. It is the most physically and mentally demanding sport I have ever taken up. My trainers at Onyx MMA push me beyond my limits and they inspire me to take one more step, one more rep each time. That has rewarded me with so much positivity and endorphins that I crave for! That aside, martial arts truly strengthens your willpower, as well as teaches you the importance of humility, discipline and respect. It is more than physical; most of the time, Muay Thai is a thinking game where you try to anticipate and counter your opponent's next move.
What are some misconceptions of Muay Thai?
That it is just a violent and aggressive sport where you punch and kick aimlessly for that few hours during each training. Only people who experience it will understand that it is more than just physical training but a lot on mental strength as well, so as to endure this high intensive sport. Have you ever tried to remain calm, strategise, punch and kick at an elevated heart rate, all at once?
Why should girls not be afraid of taking up Muay Thai?
Trying something new is always a little intimidating at first. I have yet to suffer any broken nose or bone so far; it's a safe sport if you practise the techniques correctly. And it's about high time for the ladies to take control of your body and feel empowered! Muay Thai is an all-rounded exercise to tone your body. You get your dose of cardio, strength training and self defence techniques all in one sport, so what's stopping you?
Who is your fitness inspiration?
My niece Angela Lee (ONE Championship fighter) and CrossFitter Camille Leblanc Bazinet. I have tremendous respect for CrossFitters, especially females, because it’s a tough sport. Camille is everything – smart, humble, beautiful, positive and strong – exactly the kind of person I thrive to be. I have also watched Angela grow from a cute little baby in my arms to now a fine young lady who can break your arms in a matter of seconds! Her success inspires me to train harder and be better than before, because you never know where your own strength and a bit of perseverance can take you to.
Why should people make an effort to lead an active lifestyle?
You work out to add life to your days. I can’t think of anything more important than maintaining a healthy well-being. It affects every aspect of your life; a happier self, increased productivity at work, and even when you play, you play harder too.
Don't be a conformist, dig deeper to find what you truly love and have passion for, then go all out for it. Life is short so I always keep this quote in mind – “One day, you will wake up and there won’t be anymore time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now. If not now, when?"