Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Charmian Tan

Charmian Tan is an actress, as well as a rhythm cycling instructor.
Charmian Tan is an actress, as well as a rhythm cycling 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: Charmian Tan (@charmiantyx)

Age: 29

Height: 1.66m

Weight: 55kg

Occupation: Actress, rhythm cycling instructor

Status: Single

Food: I don't follow a diet, but I do practise healthy boundaries with food to keep my eating habits in check:

  1. Eating in moderation; too much of anything is a bad thing.

  2. I love cakes and dessert and if I crave them, I give myself permission to have them. When you give yourself permission to eat the things you want, you'll find that it's easier to not overeat because you've allowed yourself to satisfy that craving in the first place. What you resist persists, so let yourself have it, don't punish yourself for having cravings.

Exercise: I've been an instructor with Absolute for three years now and currently I teach about eight to 10 classes a week. If I'm being honest, when I'm not teaching, I'd much rather just relax and not work out somewhere else. I've learnt that taking time to rest and recover is just as important and can significantly affect your performance.

Lately I've been interested in strength training like calisthenics, because it helps me build mental fortitude. Fitness to me is truly a mental game. Rhythm cycling at this point is a comfortable challenge week after week, but something like calisthenics forces me to connect with muscles I don't focus on often, and gives me new fears to conquer, like going upside down haha! I'm currently also taking an actor’s martial competency programme at Sandbox fighting ground, a course designed to help actors become fight-trained and stunt-competent on screen.

Charmian had joined a women's water polo team while she was studying at Singapore Polytechnic.
Charmian had joined a women's water polo team while she was studying at Singapore Polytechnic. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Q: How was your fitness journey like?

A: I grew up swimming. It was the one sport I enjoyed and I did it for as long as I could, knowing I could not do it competitively. When I stopped swimming, I kind of fell off the fitness bandwagon for a few years and went into the arts, specifically speech and drama.

I picked up sports again only when I went to Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and joined my school's female water polo team. That year was tough because in order to be a fairly competitive water polo player, you need to be an exceptional swimmer, so I would spend four out of five school nights in the pool, for two swim sessions and two water polo sessions. I was very prune-y at that time of my life.

How did you get into the entertainment industry as an actor/host?

I had wanted to be an actor since I was a kid and did as much school theatre as I could growing up. But when I went to SP, I stumbled onto the radio disciplinary track and took an internship as a radio producer at SPH Radio. It was from there that I learnt how to do sound production, deliver traffic and weather updates and even wrote and presented the daily news on radio.

Later, when I went to university at Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, I joined the 987FM Radio Star, came in first runner-up in the competition, and the station gave me an opportunity to learn and be groomed into a radio personality.

A big bulk of my university days was spent schooling on weekdays and doing part-time radio shifts on weekends. After I graduated, I became a full-time radio DJ with 987FM and finally left in 2020. I wanted to do both radio and acting at the same time, but my path took me in a different direction. I left Mediacorp and signed with AHA Productions. Now I'm two years into doing what I want and it's getting better every day.

Do you feel any pressure to look a certain way being in this industry?

When I entered the industry at 19, I felt very self-conscious. Everyone I knew seemed to know who they were and how they wanted to be seen. Meanwhile, I had just started learning how to use makeup and figuring out who I was. People asked me questions like, "So are you like the girl-next-door or the cool girl or the It Girl?" and I never really saw myself in any one box because I never saw myself as just one thing.

Charmian had a stint as a 987FM DJ, but has since left Mediacorp to pursue an acting career.
Charmian had a stint as a 987FM DJ, but has since left Mediacorp to pursue an acting career. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Over time, I found my voice and I really just enjoy being who I am – I like the arts and entertainment industry, but I also enjoy being the fit, active girl. I think people can be many things. Once I embraced all that I am, that's when I started looking better anyway, because I was confident in how I looked no matter what I looked like.

How did you get into spinning?

Absolute had just opened their first studio in Singapore and I was invited to try their rhythm cycling classes. I didn't like it at the beginning because I didn't meet the right instructors, but when I did, I started to enjoy the process and found it addictive.

At a low point in my life, I was spinning multiple times a week and was recommended by instructors to try auditioning to be an instructor myself. So I did :)

What do you like about being an instructor?

Knowing that I have the opportunity to uplift people no matter where they are on their personal journeys is fulfilling. As a rider myself before, I have felt the impact of being seen and empowered, and to be in a position where you can pay it forward makes it a meaningful career.

I personally feel very empowered being on the podium myself, so this is a career that gives, in so many ways. It also complements my acting and hosting career, because when I'm not doing these, I'm teaching and the skill sets overlap. I'm called to step up and be confident no matter what kind of day I'm having, I'm asked to think quick on my feet and improvise when the situation requires me to, but more importantly, to continually shed inhibitions and take risks. They may seem like very different career paths but truly they build me up on both sides of the coin and I LOVE that.

Have you experienced any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?

I was a victim of bullying back in school, but on introspection, I think the true source of a lot of my insecurity was lack of self-belief. Being a late bloomer, I believed I had little to offer compared to my friends and would shame myself if I felt I fell short.

Charmian feels that being a rhythm cycling instructor also complements her acting and hosting career.
Charmian feels that being a rhythm cycling instructor also complements her acting and hosting career. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

I took a while to understand that I am not responsible for anyone else's opinions about me and the one person who must continue rooting for myself is fundamentally, myself.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

It was probably when I was going through puberty. I had pretty bad teenage acne and would feel very bad about myself, so much so that I would avoid meeting people. I also grew wider hips and had a more athletic build compared to the girls I knew, so altogether I felt like l wasn't meant to be "the pretty one".

Something I learnt over the years is that, if you allow your external circumstances to determine your self-concept, even when circumstances change, you can continue to stay stuck in that perception of yourself. It is entirely up to you to decide how you see yourself and you'd be surprised at how your external circumstances change when you change the way you see yourself.

Did you ever struggle with your body?

I used to be self-conscious about having wide hips and an ass, and not having the thin, pencil look (lol). I can't believe I used to criticise myself for having fuller body parts!

I think it was because before puberty, I was lean and lanky from the swimming, and hadn't started developing, so the adults used to say, "Wow you're gonna grow up having a model body". Then, as nature would have it, girls start having womanly curves and in the process, if you hear people say "you're getting fat" rather than "you're growing into a woman" – it shapes how you see those parts of yourself too.

Having a poor self-image discouraged me from going back into sports too. But now I can confidently say I LOVE my body. I love that this feeling doesn't just come from loving how it looks, but the fact that I feel strong and capable of doing anything.

If you could change anything about yourself, would you?

The only thing I would change is starting more positive self-talk at an earlier age. I wish I learnt how to embrace myself earlier in life, I think it would save me from a lot of emotional and mental pain. Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves, especially from themselves.

I wish everyone would spend more time listening to how they talk to themselves, so they'd realise just how powerful inner conversations are at affecting not just how you look, but your overall quality of life. Call it magic, call it science, but when you fully embrace who you are on every level, life reflects that back to you.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Charmian Tan. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Charmian Tan. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)