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: Chong Su Ann
Occupation: Sports & Fitness Events Manager
What are your objectives for working out?
I work out because I constantly want to see improvement or at least maintenance (during downtime) of my body and my health. It is important to me to be at my finest so that I can be at my best for the people around me, whether at home or at work. I believe that the most basic thing one can do is to take care of oneself, take ownership and be mindful of one’s health.
Taking this approach in life, the attitude will translate to the people, work and activities around me. I do not completely subscribe to the notion of eating all I want and trying to exercise it off. That’s like taking two steps forward and then going three steps back, which is not getting me anywhere.
What’s your weekly fitness regime like?
I wake up at 6am three times a week for a run at East Coast Park. I usually run no more than 8km just to soak up the sunshine and get the heart pumping for the day ahead. There’s something highly energising about running at daybreak.
Sometimes when I miss the morning run, I will just run home from work and it can be between 4km to 10km. Every Tuesday I will join my friends for an hour, doing speedwork, bodyweight exercises and cardio. On other days, I head to Pure Fitness for group classes such as Bodypump, Bodyjam, RPM, yoga or I’ll just do my own workout of cardio and weights.
What’s your diet like?
I keep to a diet that is 90 per cent unprocessed food, MSG-less, low sodium and low oil. I have at least one egg a day and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, while not going overboard with meat. I do not shun away from carbohydrates but I consume good carbs such as brown rice, gluten free noodles, rice noodles and pasta. I cook as much as I can when I’m at home.
What kind of sports background do you have?
As a kid I was always involved in sports and my favourite class in school was PE! I remember feeling very dispirited and miserable if bad weather stopped us from exercising outdoors or if a public holiday fell on the day of PE lessons. I won long jump, shot putt and 800m at Sports Day and I was the house captain in primary school. In high school, I was involved in running like 4x100m relay or hurdles. When I got older, I picked up tennis in college then got myself a gym membership. I ran my first 10km race in 2008 and my first half-marathon (21km) was in 2011 at the Gold Coast Marathon with a time of 2 hours 4 minutes. I also did ballet up to Grade 8 and a bit of pointe work, until my hips hurt badly.
You are pregnant and due in July. Are you still working out as much?
I’m currently pregnant with our first child and I’ve only gained about 4kg so far. My weekly regime has reduced to three cardio and weights sessions at the gym, with an hour of yoga at home every other day. At the gym, I love using free weights, kettlebells, ViPR and the TRX to shake up routines. Squat variation exercises are a must for me too; I somehow feel more complete after I’ve done at least a set of weighted squats. I still run regularly but shorter distances.
What misconceptions do people have about working out while pregnant?
To be honest this is very subjective and it is entirely based on how the mother-to-be feels, as well as how her fitness regime was already like prior to getting pregnant. We do know of people who are still running marathons or doing Crossfit while pregnant, but that is not for everyone. As long as one is able, I strongly believe that exercising should not be cut out from a pregnant lady’s lifestyle. The endorphins and feel-good post-workout effect is second to none.
Working out is great because it helps to keep oxygen levels high as you get the heart pumping, fights lethargy, maintains muscle tone (which essentially will help with the post-pregnancy weight loss). Again, the mother-to-be decides what is best for the child within her, as well as for herself, but I will not discourage working out while pregnant at all as long as the ability to do is there, with doctor’s consent. Just remember to always listen to your body for signs.
How do you hope to set an example for other pregnant women out there who are afraid to exercise?
I would say, start now even before you’re pregnant to get your body used to the idea of exercising. Get the heart and muscles ready by getting regular exercise and keeping healthy prior to conception. I was still running in the mornings and attending gym classes until I found out I was pregnant. In fact, during the sixth week, my energy level was at an all-time high and I was bouncing off the walls.
Of course what I do is not for everyone and it is essential to have the doctor’s advice before embarking on anything. Start your fitness regime now rather than waiting till you are pregnant. My gynaecologists had no qualms in allowing me to continue my workouts, except to reduce the weights.
Any changes to your diet?
I have always been eating well (90:10 ratio) so there was no need for me to adapt to a healthier diet for the baby. People often ask ‘Aren’t you missing out? Don’t you want to indulge? Now’s the only time you can!’ Well, I feel that I am providing for my unborn child and I am not convinced that these nine months of gestation (not including breastfeeding) should change the lifestyle I always had.
I do have my indulgences too – because I keep the 90:10 ratio, I have no guilt walloping a pizza on my own, or a chocolate ice cream, peanut butter sandwich or some super spicy curry laksa. It is also about exposing the unborn child to a variety of tastes, so all is good!
What misconceptions about fitness does society have?
1) It’s not always about the numbers on the scale; it’s about the level of confidence one has about one’s body and being proud of it.
2) Weightlifting doesn’t always contribute to bulk – it takes more than just lifting to really build one like a hulk so go forth and lift away! Cardio is a great way for overall body fat loss but I feel it’s always good to pair it with resistance training to get the body toned up in other ways and to strengthen up other muscle fibres.
3) Many people assume that a lot of time and money is required to embark on a fitness journey, but really it is not. Just make simple tweaks to the lifestyle, be a conscious consumer and a mindful eater!
I totally encourage investing time and effort for your health; it’s just a matter of whether one is motivated enough to do so. There is no such thing as magic pills and instant gratification but I promise that the moment one starts seeing changes, one will be motivated to power through for a tremendous transformation.
How do you define fitness?
It is not just about the physical fitness, but also the mental and emotional aspects. For example, the mental strength and education to be able to weigh pros and cons of a particular meal or diet, or the perseverance to stick with a body transformation regime; the emotional strength to give up an old lifestyle which was too comfortable; or the physical strength to get over the pain threshold in order to improve. Fell off the bandwagon accidentally? Muster all your mental and emotional strength and get back on!