Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Edwin Ong

Edwin Ong relies mainly on high-intensity interval training to keep himself fit. (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: Edwin Ong (@edwinlannister)

Age: 30

Height: 1.70m

Weight: 64 kg

Occupation: Educator

Status: Married

Diet: While I neither count calories nor strictly observe any particular form of diet, I do keep in mind the types of food I eat on a daily basis. Other than the indispensable coffee, I have been avoiding sweet drinks and fast food for as long as I can remember. It also helps that I am not a picky eater. I believe in enjoying everything in moderation. So should I indulge in a plate of Char Kway Teow today, my subconscious would lurk around, reminding me to work even more vigorously the next time I hit the gym.

Training: I train at GRITYARD four times a week, relying on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to maintain a considerable level of metabolism, physical conditioning and functional ability. Apart from that, my cardio regime comprises running and swimming twice a week. I love sports and I particularly love playing tennis as it is, for me, one of the most gruelling sports in the world. It also allows me to strike a balance between having fun and toughing it out at the gym.

Edwin Ong considers clocking under nine minutes for his IPPT as the turning point to be dedicated to a high level of fitness. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Q: Were you always this active?

A: Truth be told, when I was a kid, I was nowhere close to being as sporty as I am in my adult years now. I was not a gifted runner and was often one of the first to be left out when it came to recruitment for any team sport.

However, while it is all quite a blur now, I do remember that one of my primary school teachers actually gave me a chance to represent my House at our annual sports meet. My unexpected victories in the 800m and 1,500m events sparked this inexplicable love for running and general fitness.

What did you dabble in as you got older?

In my adolescent years, I got into kayaking through activities organised by the National Cadet Corps (NCC). One of the most memorable experiences was when my team of four, against all odds, won the Secondary 3 Boys Singles race at the annual NCC Sea Competition. Through sheer hard work and grit, we outmuscled the overwhelming favourites and emerged as champions, much to everyone’s disbelief.

Contrary to my active lifestyle as a secondary school student, I slackened after I had begun my polytechnic education. I turned a blind eye to my deteriorating fitness and allowed myself to embrace a lackadaisical lifestyle. It was not until my enlistment that I experienced the epiphany of being an unfit person who could have been so much more. Feeling simultaneously disgusted with myself and inspired by others who possessed an incredible level of discipline, I resolved to work very hard to regain some semblance of acceptable fitness.

The breakthrough came when I went under nine minutes in the IPPT 2.4km run for the very first time. To the likes of elite athletes and sportsmen, it would be something easily achievable on any given day. For me, however, the idea of busting the near-mythical nine-minute barrier had been nothing more than a pipe dream. So when I finally did it, I knew that my hard work had paid off and I could never again go back to the humdrum of my young adult days. I have since regarded fitness as one of the most important pillars in my life.

Edwin feels that HIIT not only helps in building physical fitness, but it also helps in building mental capacity to embrace greater challenges. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Now your fitness regime consists of a lot of HIIT. When did you discover what HIIT is and what do you like about it?

We are living in a hectic world in which time is one of our most precious resources and many of us never seem to have enough of it. My early HIIT experiences happened when I was serving NS. Those experiences completely shattered my prior misconception that it is necessary to spend hours sweating buckets in order to achieve muscle growth and increased metabolism.

HIIT sessions, often lasting under an hour, can fit into nearly anyone’s routine. Given my work schedule and overall lifestyle, HIIT holds the key to sustainability in the long term. I would even go as far to say that it can be addictive, especially so for people who experience progress in areas such as strength, power and agility after maintaining a high level of consistency.

I’ve personally experienced such growth having been training at GRITYARD for a few months now. Through HIIT sessions, not only have I discovered what my body is capable of, but I’ve also learnt to expand my mental capacity for embracing greater challenges. Of course, I’m also a big believer in trying different regimes that I may never have considered before. After all, variety is the spice of life.

You also work out with your wife often – what are the benefits of working out together as a couple?

One of the aspects of living well that both of us highly regard is fitness. Recognising that it is an integral part of life, working out together thus provides us with multiple opportunities to instil discipline in ourselves and a deep resolve to improve our fitness and wellness. While we do have our . respective workout preferences, we frequently exchange our ideas and experiences for each other’s benefit and growth.

Edwin overcame a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury to regain his fitness. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What are your fitness goals now?

I’m keenly aware of my weaknesses so the next challenge would definitely be improving my balance and power. I am absolutely adamant that age should not become a barrier to fitness; it’s all about mind over matter. Somehow, the term “fitness goals” seems to evoke a sense of finality. Therefore, I choose to see my fitness journey as a never-ending process that celebrates the peaks and troughs arising from countless moments of grit, pain and self-discovery.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

Over the years, I have had a couple of injuries and it was in those times that my self-confidence took a blow. As a result of a freak accident in 2014, I suffered an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury which slammed the brakes on my fitness regime. After the surgery, the extent to which I lost strength and muscle mass was ridiculous. It was one of the lowest points in my life as I found myself giving in to despondency.

How did you overcome it and become more confident?

Fortunately, my year-long recovery and rehabilitation process was well supported by a team of extremely dedicated physiotherapists at Alexandra Hospital. Having placed my trust in them and faith in my ability to bounce back, I made great strides and gradually regained confidence. Through it all, I learnt that the value of hard work and simply showing up even on difficult days must never be undermined.

Are you satisfied with your body now and why?

The short answer is yes. To be honest, I am way more concerned with the process of getting stronger and fitter than achieving a particular body or look because I believe that when more focus is placed on the former, the latter will manifest as a by-product. This makes the entire fitness journey an enjoyable and sustainable one. Taking a leaf out of Eliud Kipchoge’s book, I don’t know where my limits are but I would like to go there.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Edwin Ong. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)