Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Dan Wong

Cheryl Tay
·7-min read
Dan Wong is a business owner who used to be a personal trainer.
Dan Wong is a business owner who used to be a personal trainer. (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: Daniel Wong (@man_of_dog)

Age: 35

Height: 1.86m

Weight: 77kg

Occupation: Business owner

Status: Married

Diet: No mammals and no birds for the last three years, though eggs are still okay.

Training: A typical week includes swimming 1 to 2 kilometres, followed by calisthenics 3 to 4 times a week, running or cycling twice a week, and one rest day.

Q: You tried to get into ice hockey but ended up in basketball.

A: Yup, after a failed attempt to play ice hockey and follow in my father’s footsteps, I developed an affinity for playing basketball at the age of six where my foundation for situational awareness and spacing allowed me to contribute in other sports like football (soccer), volleyball, baseball and track and field.

I was always busy and fortunate enough to have cross training options in between basketball seasons, without me even understanding the physiological and athletic benefits at the time. I ended my formal basketball career after playing only one semester of college in favour of focusing on my studies but continued to play in high-level men’s leagues that featured international pros and NCAA players until about 2008.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Dan Wong (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
Dan prefers to compartmentalise sports and fitness into mini-projects where he sets a goal and develops a plan to put in the work to achieve it. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Did you get into other competitive sports later in life?

Nowadays, I like to compartmentalise sports and fitness into mini projects where I set a goal and develop a plan to put in the work to achieve it. Skiing and cycling got my attention about three years ago after a long hiatus from any regimented training. More recently since Circuit Breaker, I began running again and learning how to swim properly so I can eventually compete in triathlons.

You became a personal trainer – how did that come about?

I began giving personal training (PT) in 2004 during my undergraduate studies in Kinesiology at McGill University in Canada. It was an opportunity to get the practical experience for all the theory I was learning at school. The most rewarding aspect of the job is empowering individuals to create the changes they strive for. It’s part of the reason why I transitioned into teaching at the high school level after a career in personal training and kinesiology.

How different is the PT scene in Canada compared to Singapore?

I’ve been working with some really fun clients here and it’s been reinvigorating to impart my knowledge and watch them hit milestones. I would say that the PT scenes are very similar insofar as the clients have overlapping goals – lose weight, get more toned, get stronger, get bigger, etc. People are still people after all, right? I did have one prospective client here ask me if I’d be his MMA (mixed martial arts) training partner and let him put me in some headlocks. This was a first, but my sense of self-preservation kicked in and I had to politely decline.

You taught at a public school for a couple of years back in Canada as well.

I spent eight years teaching Grades 7 through 12 both in Canada and Australia, mostly in the sciences, math and physical education, while also coaching and coordinating all the sports I participated in as a student-athlete. I truly miss seeing the lightbulb moments kids have when they finally “get it”, but teaching wasn’t without its challenges. I felt like the system was not set up to help marginalised students who lacked the support and tools they needed to develop their full potential.

Dan made a career switch from teaching to setting up a sales consultancy firm.
Dan made a career switch from teaching to setting up a sales consultancy firm. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

So, I went against the grain and eventually started a private summer school programme to help those kids graduate while also offering enrichment to students who were not challenged by the curriculum. I eventually left the profession to explore technology sales.

What led to the career switch?

I switched out of teaching in 2015 to try something new. It felt like I had put a check mark next to teaching and there wasn’t much upward mobility in the field so I tried something that leverages a lot of the communication and planning skills I had learned. It was a great choice in hindsight, as this eventually fuelled me to start a sales consultancy firm that helps businesses grow in new markets.

You used to lead an unhealthy lifestyle at one point. What was the wakeup call that made you decide you needed to do something about yourself?

I was up to 90kg at an office job that had unlimited free snacks. Those granola bars went straight to my hips, as they say. I also hung on to the notion that my metabolism was what it was in my 20s and I could get abs back in a month. I was tragically very wrong.

There was one picture of me in swim trunks by a lake where I did a double take on my gut. That was the minute I made the choice to put in some work. I never had a weight target but knew that some changes needed to be made to get closer to the way my body looked at 80kg, which was where I hovered around for the previous decade. As a result, I stopped eating meat and got into cycling, when I eventually burned up to 20,000 calories per month. Those two were the likely catalysts that helped me feel better. The weight loss and body changes were nice side effects.

I’m down to 77kg now and am probably the fittest looking that I’ve been in a long time despite my power numbers and run speeds being down. I think the dichotomy of endurance training and explosive muscle demand has something to do with it. Upcoming goals are to get back into injury-free running so I can break a 1:40 half-marathon and I’d love to swim 1km in under 18 minutes. The biking will probably take care of itself, or at least I’m hoping it does with one or two rides a week.

Dan changed his lifestyle after gaining too much weight, and decided to cut out meat and taking up cycling to lose weight.
Dan changed his lifestyle after gaining too much weight, and decided to cut out meat and taking up cycling to lose weight. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

I think high school was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt, especially pre-growth spurt, when I was a little softer than I wanted to be. I had always participated in a lot of sport, was competitive, and had an athletic body but was never fully comfortable in my own skin. It took years for me to finally come around to accepting my body’s limitations along with setting more realistic performance goals.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

I am happy with the way I look and feel these days. There was a multi-year period where I did not have the knee stability to put on a pair of shoes and go for a run longer than 5km so I would shy away from most activities involving repeated or explosive leg work. The work put in to regain stability has enabled me to participate in more diverse activities, which has subsequently resulted in a body that feels great and that I’m happy with it.

Have you ever received any comments about your body?

Well, I’ve had a couple underwear shoots over the last few months so I guess I’m doing okay.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Dan Wong.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Dan Wong. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)