Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Eleanor Tay

·7-min read
Eleanor Tay is a fitness coach.
Eleanor Tay is a fitness coach. (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: Eleanor Tay (@eleanortay_)

Age: 34

Height: 1.55m

Weight: 49kg

Occupation: Fitness coach

Status: Single

Food: Mostly low-carb paleo

Exercise: I train six times a week, comprising three strength training days, two athletic skills training days (eg. jumps, sprints, agility) and at least one flexibility training day.

Q: Were you an active child?

A: Would you believe that I was mostly a nerd throughout my childhood and teenage years? I started dabbling in sports like track & field and even soccer only when I was in junior college, before I committed myself fully to serving in the student council. Yet, the brief experience in sports sowed the seed of being passionate for fitness in my adult life

Eleanor was once a registered nurse.
Eleanor was once a registered nurse. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

How did you get into sports then?

Initially, I started long distance running and yoga when I was a nursing student in university, to lose weight and look more toned. Many months in, I discovered that the approach didn't give me the strong and athletic look I was looking for.

I then switched gears and took a leap of faith to embark on strength training, even though I was afraid of bulking up too much. I hadn't looked back since.

Fast forward to today, my fitness programme is an eclectic mix of weight training, flexibility training, athletic skills and Chinese martial arts training. My fitness goals are to improve athleticism and to progressively evolve into a mature martial artist.

You used to be a healthcare worker.

Yes, I was a registered nurse in a restructured hospital for close to four years, with a special interest in geriatrics, or the care of the elderly. I joined nursing because I had thought of myself as a humanitarian who wanted to save lives. Turns out that after my nursing stint, I discovered that I wasn't such a pure-hearted humanitarian after all.

Being a nurse in a hostile working environment took a toll on my physical, mental and emotional health. I developed severe burnout and one day, I lost all my compassion for my patients – that was the sobering moment when I knew I had to leave not just for my own sake, but for those under my charge.

Burnout in nurses was a real issue way before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

I was done with trying to save people who mostly didn't want to save themselves, in an ailing healthcare system that couldn't even save itself from the mega-tsunami of chronic diseases.

If you are reading this, think about that - and this: Why is the world so sick that the ones in the healthcare system become sick from taking care of the sick?

I would say that now being a fitness coach, I am doing far more effective and rewarding work to help people stay fit, healthy and far, far away from the hospital, than if I were a nurse.

Eleanor decided to become a fitness coach to empower people to live healthier and happier lives.
Eleanor decided to become a fitness coach to empower people to live healthier and happier lives. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What made you decide to become a fitness trainer?

When I was a nurse, I realised that no matter how great I was as a nurse, I could never stop a patient from being admitted to the hospital. With my health declining due to chronic work toxicity, I realised true healthcare is living a healthy and purposeful life that allows you to exercise, eat, rest and engage in activities in a way that nourishes your body, mind and soul.

It grieved me to see people wasting their lives away because of poor life choices that resulted in ill health. That was why I decided to break away from conventional nursing to become a freelance fitness coach so that I could teach, coach and empower people to live healthier and happier lives on my own terms.

What do you like about being a fitness trainer?

The most rewarding aspect of my work is witnessing how my clients transform and flourish to become physically, mentally and emotionally healthier individuals. Their self-confidence shines in their faces, postures and even how they talk.

The most challenging aspect of my work is getting my clients to understand why it is important to take ownership over a self-care habit like eating a high-protein diet or regular stretching.

Until they see why it matters to their purpose of becoming stronger and fitter, they will not be able to commit or stay committed to the self-care habit.

What I do in such situations is to hold space until a teachable opportunity happens, like doing poorly in a gym session or getting a muscle strain. When this happens and the client feels discouraged, I will drive in the lesson so strongly that the client will learn the lesson – and learn it well.

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

The most life-changing experience in my life was being a bedside nurse. All the intimate experiences with illness, disability and death made me realise that life is too short to not live it to the fullest with no regrets.

Living a full life means that you know who you are, what you stand for, what you are willing to sacrifice and fight for – in short, your life purpose. When you know your life purpose and you only have one chance to accomplish that purpose, wouldn't that change how you want to live your life?

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

I was the least confident during my late teens and even early adulthood before I started strength training. I struggled with low self-esteem as I was going through an identity crisis, hating myself and the family I grew up in.

Eleanor feels the most rewarding aspect of her work is witnessing how her clients transform and flourish to become physically, mentally and emotionally healthier individuals.
Eleanor feels the most rewarding aspect of her work is witnessing how her clients transform and flourish to become physically, mentally and emotionally healthier individuals. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Strength training provided me an avenue to set and achieve tangible goals in the gym. For a young woman who was struggling so much with self-worth, this was definitely the catalyst to break out of the negative self-talk and prove to herself that she could really get shit done.

Did you ever struggle with your body?

For sure, I struggled with my body for many years, starting from my late teens. I had always compared myself to the women I admired in the mass media, nitpicking everything from my nose to my thighs. In hindsight, I realised that I was deeply insecure about my looks because I didn't believe in myself and felt ashamed of myself for not being more capable or accomplished.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

Most definitely, I am in the best shape of my life now. This is because I am training for peak performance in all areas of my life. In addition, I have developed a strong sense of purpose in my life, which gives me the ability to take care of my body well and be proud of myself living in it.

Have you ever received any comments about your body?

Both men and women have complimented my physique, which I receive graciously. More importantly though, it is more important that people get to learn what it means to convey strength in character through their physique, posture, energy and everything else that shows up in the way they carry themselves.

If you could change anything about yourself, would you?

No, I wouldn't change anything about myself or my life. I love who I am today as a woman, a person, a human being. I am unabashedly proud of myself.

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