Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Charlene Chor

Charlene Chor is a freelance spin instructor.
Charlene Chor is a freelance spin instructor. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook!

Name: Charlene Chor (@charleneazxy)

Age: 28

Height: 1.65m

Weight: 56kg

Occupation: Product/ops senior associate, freelance spin instructor

Status: Attached

Food: I don't follow any diet because I fully trust my cravings. You can call this intuitive eating, but I find that this works for me the best, especially since I've recovered from an eating disorder years back and I avoid bringing myself back to the restrictive diet days. I let my brain decide and I simply listen with some portion control.

Exercise: I used to lift five to six times a week before I found love with spin and fell hard for it. I do balance my strength training with spin as my main form of cardio, but I've cut down on weights ever since my shoulder surgery. I'm working my way back slowly though.

Q: When you were younger, were you active in sports?

A: Not at all! In fact, I always laugh at the fact that I was the girl that skipped morning jogs by hiding in the toilet with her friends back when I was in secondary school. The most "sporty" thing I did was probably dance when I was younger, all the way up to junior college.

What sports did you get into as you got older?

I first got into running and then got really obsessed with it and eventually trained up to run a half marathon. I would say running is a very “easy sport” to pick up for anyone that wants to get started with no background, since all you need is a pair of sports shoes.

Charlene was not a avid sportsperson in her younger days, but picked up running as she got older.
Charlene was not a avid sportsperson in her younger days, but picked up running as she got older. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

When did fitness become more of a thing for you?

I was going through a very tough break up that made me doubt myself, including the way I looked. So I turned to the treadmill and started running 2.4km, and eventually worked up to 8-10km on a daily basis.

At that point, I liked the fact that I could be in my own world the moment I plucked in my headphones with some EDMs, and I think that cleared my mind and gave me mental resilience.

How did you get into spinning and eventually become an instructor?

It is quite a funny story actually. My very good friend was recovering from her ankle surgery and had to clear her ClassPass credits, so she let me use her class and I was just trying different studios (big shoutout to you Kex). Eventually I tried spin and loved the club music, the lights, and how inspiring the instructors were.

I thought to myself that it would be a great thing to do it as a side hustle and get a workout in. But as I grew and evolved as an instructor, I found myself wanting to motivate and cheer on everyone that comes to my class.

I guess there's always a part in me that wants to lift others up, so that became my main personality and one rider actually said my class was "too motivational".

You also like lifting weights.

I started while bodybuilding was getting popular in the West. Since I was always in the gym running on the treadmill, I could spare some time lifting some weights too. I liked the way the toned girls looked back then, and I was just following Heidi Somer's YouTube routine for about a year.

Charlene got into spin after her friend gave her ClassPass credits to try out different studios.
Charlene got into spin after her friend gave her ClassPass credits to try out different studios. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

I eventually got very serious about weightlifting and bought a programme to build my strength, and hit my PR for deadlift, which was 90kg. Can't do that anymore since I've stopped lifting progressively post-surgery (for my slap tear in my shoulder end of last year), so I'm working my way back up.

I really liked the fact that lifting places my focus on what my body can do rather than how it looks, and that was essentially what stopped me from being a "cardio bunny".

When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?

I remembered vividly that my guy friend jokingly slapped my thigh and said, "Your thigh is so big! Look at it jiggle!" and made me really self-conscious. That was at the point in my life I was already running a lot from the breakup and started counting calories, and it really stayed with me and wanted to change the way I looked.

I didn't know back then this was a terrible mental space to be in, and I started hating my body. I would do daily cardio for maybe 45 minutes and another 30 minutes of weightlifting. All these happened while I was refusing to take any carbs, and eating mostly veggies and yong tau foo for lunch.

My body and immunity became very weak, and the tuberculosis virus that was latent in my body got the upper hand and I was tested positive for it. I was weighing 40kg and still thought to myself, "I can probably be skinnier still”. Crazy huh?

Throughout the period where I was taking really strong medication daily to fight the virus, I was still extremely stubborn and worked out daily despite the nurses telling me it was better to rest. Thankfully I bounced back slowly with a lot of love and consistent support from my friends and boyfriend.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

It was during the period in university where I had body dysmorphia and eating disorder. I never felt like I was good looking enough like those models on TV and Instagram. It took me two to three years to finally internalise that my appearance is probably the least interesting thing about me (favourite line from my favourite YouTuber Natacha Oceane).

Also seeing how my boyfriend walks with that kind of confidence daily, I shifted my focus on how strong I can get instead of how I look. I'd be lying if I say I don't care about my appearance at all, but it has definitely not been my focus since.

Charlene struggled with body dysmorphia and eating disorder during her university days.
Charlene struggled with body dysmorphia and eating disorder during her university days. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Are you satisfied with your body now?

Yes and no. I'm satisfied in the sense that I've come so far in terms of strength and resilience through all my injuries and episodes of self-doubt. But I'm always on the lookout for new challenges to push myself further! This makes living much more fulfilling.

Have you ever received any comments about your body?

I've received many comments about my body growing up. Most of them probably came from my mum as she was a traditional woman, brought up thinking women should look a certain way for their own benefit. Though lots of them were hurtful, I've learnt to see her intention rather than taking the comments wholesale.

But if there was one thing I could change, I would want to value less of what others say about me, and have more faith and confidence in my abilities. That would be the one thing I would say to my younger self so she could struggle less in her teenage years trying to conform to society to be accepted.