Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Dawn Sim

Dawn Sim is the co-founder of Trium Fitness.
Dawn Sim is the co-founder of Trium Fitness. (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: Dawn Sim (@thatmomoffour)

Age: 42

Height: 1.64m

Weight: 51kg

Occupation: Co-founder of Trium Fitness, mother of four

Status: Married for 21 years

Food: I eat everything and I snack throughout the day as well. No allergies, I am very adventurous with my food but I do make sure I eat nourishing food every day as well. No matter if I am eating unhealthy foods or not, I will always try to include more fresh vegetables and even fruits in my daily diet and I also drink enough water throughout the day.

I take vitamins and probiotics to supplement my sometimes unhealthy eating especially if I am eating out a lot, but like I said, I will always add fruits and vegetables into my daily diet for the added fibre and phytonutrients that come from fresh vegetables and plants.

Exercise: I work out every single day and I am a very strong proponent of cross training to make sure our bodies get worked out in all ways possible. There will always be some cardio, strength training, flexibility training, mobility training and some form of stress relief, could be meditation or sound bath.

All these things I will make sure that I get them throughout the week, but I will always do some form of exercise every single day. That's something that helps me feel alive. It could be Pilates, running, cycling or yoga; anything that gets my heart rate up and happy hormones coming out, I will do it every single day. And it's been like that since I was a small kid.

Dawn was an active person since young, taking part in sports like taekwondo and triathlon.
Dawn was an active person since young, taking part in sports like taekwondo and triathlon. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Were you always active from a young age?

Yes, I have always been involved in sports when I started swimming at three. I competed in a lot of swimming, as well as in track and field, like sprints, long distance running, long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin.

From a very young age, I have always been doing a lot of cross training and different types of sports, working my body in different ways. But it was only later on in my teens when I started to have more injuries that I realised the importance of stretching as well.

Then I got involved in gymnastics in secondary school and then in cheerleading in polytechnic, where we even won a cheerleading competition. It was really, really fun. I also was involved in taekwondo when I was younger. My dad used to send me for taekwondo every single week. All sorts of sports, I will just give it a try. Some I just love more than others, especially swimming, so that was my big love.

What sports did you get into as you got older?

As I got older, I took part in triathlons. In fact I even took part in a triathlon in the United States, where I competed against the Marines and it actually showed up in the papers back in 2002.

I picked up windsurfing when I was 16 and also wakeboarding, but got injured when I landed on my ear and caused a rupture to my eardrum. Cycling was also something I used to do regularly with my secondary schoolmates. I actually took part in an off-road mountain bike race when I was younger. I also picked up CrossFit and taught Body Pump when I was in my 20s.

How did you get into yoga?

When I was 17 and still competing in swimming, I actually injured my shoulder and my coach was the one who asked me to try yoga. And at my first practice, my first visit to a yoga class with my aunt, I actually didn't like it at all. I told myself that I didn't want to go back again because it was boring.

That was a Hatha Yoga class and I found it very disruptive and a bit too slow. The second time I went it was for Vinyasa and I loved it, and that was what I started off my yoga practice with.

Later on as I progressed through the years, my practice actually started to slow down and I even picked up Yin Yoga. I still teach a variety of styles when it comes to yoga but I have incorporated more of the slower and gentle styles throughout the years.

Dawn has been teaching yoga since she was 21.
Dawn has been teaching yoga since she was 21. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What led to you teaching yoga and eventually opening your own studio?

I actually started teaching yoga when I was 21 years old and have continued to teach ever since. The passion of teaching comes from me realising how it has helped me immensely, both on a physical and mental level. I love competitive and intense sports and the practice of yoga actually helps me to be able to balance out and to facilitate the recovery. I like that I actually enjoy not just teaching it but also practising it, and sharing with people about the benefits of it.

Opening my own studio was something that has been on my mind for the longest time ever since I got married. I was in discussion with several people about opening a studio together, but the plans kept getting disrupted as we had to move countries a lot for his work.

After living this arrangement for over 10 years, it came to a point where I realised I was tired of moving overseas again. I also had three kids at that point who were going to school. I really wanted to give myself a chance to fulfil my dream of having my own studio and it finally happened.

You've been practising and teaching yoga for many years now, what keeps you going?

Knowing how good it makes me feel at the end of a practice, and how it actually helps people on so many levels. That is my main motivating factor for doing it, and it really doesn't feel like work at all. I actually feel great, both after a practice and as well as after teaching even though I do not get much of a practice myself, because I know how much of a difference it makes on others, on a mental, physical and emotional level.

Of course, there are days where I feel fatigued or tired. Once I start teaching, I actually feel better. In fact there are days where I feel really lousy. For example, I may have just had a really bad argument or disagreement with somebody, but after I just jump in to teach a class, I always come out better even if it wasn't a practice for me and just teaching. I always come out feeling better, better able to manage even the difficult situation that was at hand before I even stepped in to teach a class.

So even if I am having a bad day, I will not cancel a class. In fact, I'm more motivated now to teach because I know how good I will feel and how much better I will be able to handle the challenges at that point.

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

When I was younger, I was often told that I behaved like a tomboy and not like a girl; that I look like a boy from the back; and that I am not feminine.

Yes, it made me feel strong but it also made me feel insecure, like I am not the typical kind of a girl, and not attractive to boys. It didn't bother me so much but I did know that I was not the typical "girly girl". So that did strike me, as a young child or even as an early teen that I am not feminine enough.

Thus as I got older, I would feel like there's no need to have to dress up too much or be too girly, because of my physique, because of how I was a competitive swimmer and my shoulders were overly broad. But finally, when I stopped competing and started practising mostly yoga and Pilates, my physique did change and somehow it was very different from how it was when I was younger.

My broad shoulders have gone away, though my big ribs are still there. That is something I'm still very conscious about, but it is just one of those things when you start swimming competitively at an early age, you'll have big ribs and yes I still feel insecure about that.

But you know what? Knowing that all these differences between us can have an effect on how we grow up, it is also something that I teach my students now. We are all different.

Firstly, we need to accept that we are different and to love ourselves. We cannot look to others to give us that compliment, we cannot look to others to say "Hey! You look great!" and that this is the typical beauty. You have to accept yourself, otherwise you'll never be happy. That's what I tell myself, and my students as well, "Be happy with what you have and keep working at getting better. We are all a work in progress, but you need to be your biggest cheerleader."

Dawn struggled with weight issues due to hormonal imbalance when she was younger.
Dawn struggled with weight issues due to hormonal imbalance when she was younger. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Did you ever struggle with your body at any point in your life?

When I got married at the age of 21, I struggled with my body weight because I was suffering from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). This actually was a hormonal imbalance, where my face, cheeks and body looked a bit puffed up, quite different from how I look now. I didn't know it was a hormonal imbalance until it became a problem for me. I had to go for hormonal replacement and they put me on pills but it did not help and actually caused me to put on even more weight. Not that I looked overweight, but I did look puffy and swollen, especially around the cheeks.

No matter how healthy I tried to eat, and how active I was (and I was already very active), I just couldn't shed the weight. So that was the time that I struggled the most with self-confidence. After I got pregnant with my first child, the PCOS went away and I never had any issues.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

Yes, I am satisfied but I also know that I am a work in progress and our body will keep changing as we age and go through different phases in life, hormone levels will also change. So who knows, in 5 years’ time, my period might stop and menopause might kick in, I'm not sure but I do understand that we are all a work in progress and as long as we're doing our best to take care of ourselves, I think we should content and happy with what we have. But if you are deliberately hurting and causing problems for your body through senseless, mindless eating, then you really have to seek some help. But at this point, I really am satisfied and content with my body, being able to do what I can do and knowing that I am actually taking care of myself to my best ability!

Have you ever received any comments about your body?

All the time. Different comments, such as "Too muscular! Too skinny! Too dark! Very fit!" So all sorts of comments, but you know what? The only person's comments or impressions that matter is yourself. You'll get all sorts of things that people will tell you, that I have gotten as well, but I never let that bother me. If it's constructive, great. But everybody has different opinions. I've gotten all sorts of comments... mostly from elderly ladies who would say I'm too muscular, but from most people they would say I'm very fit. I would take it all in good stride, but really the person's comments that matter the most is myself.

If you could change anything about yourself, would you?

Not really. Like I said, we are all a work in progress and the impression of beauty has changed so much over the years. So for me, I am honestly really very happy with myself and I wouldn't change anything at this point.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Dawn Sim. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Dawn Sim. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)