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: Cheryl Loh (@cherylfit_sg)
Occupation: Personal trainer/fitness instructor
Diet: I generally try to minimise my sugar intake (including carbohydrates) by not consuming the full serving portion of pasta/noodles/rice and trying to avoid bread. I used to keep my meat consumption high to substitute my carbohydrate portions in meals, but have recently gone vegetarian (for environmental reasons) and am loving it.
I usually have salads or wraps on weekdays, snack on mixed nuts/fruits/protein bars, and I make it a point to have my favourite pizza every weekend. And I still like my occasional cookie. If I do consume more than usual, I just have slightly longer moderate-intensity cardio sessions during the week.
Currently I’m getting my proteins from plants and lots of other foods in my salads or wraps such as black beans, tofu, eggs, edamame, as well as supplementing with protein shakes and bars to make sure I hit my recommended daily protein intake for my very active lifestyle.
Training: I work out about five days a week: two days of high-intensity functional training (METCON style), two days of strength training (deadlifts, hip thrusts, and back exercises), and one day for technical/skill-based training (handstand, muscle-up, barbell lifts).
Q: You have a background in skipping.
A: Yes, I started training in the sport of jump rope in 2004, and I competed locally and internationally in jump rope between the years of 2006 to 2014. I also learned gymnastics and worked on my own strength and conditioning training to supplement my sport performance during those years.
After jump rope, I picked up cheerleading in 2010, practised Brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay thai in 2016 and 2017. I would say my forte is still the sport of jump rope and fitness training.
How did you get into competitive jump rope?
It started as a primary school CCA (co-curricular activity). Right before graduation, I was asked to join an open team who goes for international competitions as there was no continuation of the sport after primary school (there wasn’t jump rope in secondary school), and that was when training and fitness got serious – when I was 12.
What are some of the highlights of your jump rope journey?
The major competitions I have been in were the International Double Dutch Championships in France, Junior Olympic Games in the United States, Double Dutch Fusion in Japan, and Asia Rope Skipping Championships in Hong Kong.
Apart from finding out my team placing in these international competitions, another highlight of my jump rope journey would actually be the invaluable lessons, life skills, and values I have learned through the sport itself as well as the opportunities I had to interact with so many people from all walks of life at a young age.
What is so unique about jump rope?
Besides being a great sport with intense competitions using skipping ropes, it is an incredible fitness exercise that will not only burn fat and improve the cardiovascular endurance; it also challenges coordination, agility, speed, plyometrics, and balance.
It is a whole lot of brain work too; the fact that it can be frustrating tripping on the rope over and over in the beginning, jump rope naturally filters away those who simply expect a smooth and easy journey, and keeps a determined bunch who really work their creative juices to face up to the challenge and have fun along the way. It is a very intriguing sport and exercise.
You are now a jump rope instructor and a personal trainer – how did you get into this?
My teaching journey began in 2008 when I started learning to lead aerobics classes, and I grew from being an assistant coach for jump rope in schools, recreational gymnastics, and trampoline, to full-time constructing a fitness class for a martial arts school, group fitness instructor and personal trainer in TripleFit, and finally now working on a freelance basis mainly in personal training, as well as conducting a few group classes a week in gym.
What are some of the challenges you face as a trainer?
Keeping up to standards with my fitness level, both mental and physical energy level required in my work, as well as the fact that I will not be earning for that specific month if I get injured, sick or go on long holidays.
What are your fitness goals now?
Currently I don’t have a specific big goal, but every day I aim to push my fitness level a little further in every training session, so that I can still indulge in pizzas occasionally while maintaining my body composition.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
A couple of occasions, but they were both of a similar situation: When I found out that my ex-boyfriend was actively hunting on Tinder (when we were still in a relationship), and when a guy I used to date said we were exclusive but all he did was hit on girls in clubs “hanging with the boys”.
My confidence was basically crushed as those situations made me feel like I was "not enough". All I thought about was that I was not enough as a person, not enough for the other person, hence guys will always end up exploring other choices and I will always be treated as an option. I started asking myself what I did wrong, what I was lacking, whether I was not good enough, whether I was not beautiful enough, what it would take to have a man be satisfied with what he has.
How did you overcome that?
It was a lot of conscious effort to fight the negative thoughts, a lot of techniques from therapy sessions I practised, and after a few months I started learning to live with myself, live for myself, and focus on doing my best – for myself, not for anybody.
I believe that when I do the best I can, when I know that I have put in my best effort in anything that I do, I feel confident, and I started believing that anybody who tries to play games with me are just not worth my time. I also realised that the problem was not me; the problem was with those guys who needed more to feed their ego and counter their own insecurities.
I started channelling my time into self-improvement and growth activities such as working out and continuous learning. Till today, I still have self-doubt but I have a constant reminder in my head telling me that I am enough; that I should not feel insecure because I am enough.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
Yes I am. I aim for a balance in life and most of the time I focus more on skill-based fitness goals, such as pull-ups, handstands and higher box jumps.
Of course the goal that will always be lingering around in my head is to look good in bikinis and I will try my best to maintain the way I look now because this is how I like my body – proportionate, none of the extremes, within my ideal body composition range (body fat percentage & muscle mass). More importantly, it is healthy, mobile, strong and injury-free.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
Lots. Good ones, creepy ones, and the judgmental ones – I have heard quite enough. Certain periods I am leaner, certain periods I fluff up a little. I started noticing more active comments whenever I fluff up a little and they go, “Eh Cheryl you gained weight ah.”
Come on, I'm also human. Let loose a little, people. Have some pizzas. Then work it off after.