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: Joshua Koh (@until_my_last_breath)
Diet: I don’t follow any kind of specific diet. I always like to maintain a balanced diet and this is always the advice I give everyone. A balanced diet is specific to each individual, their physiology and environment etc, so portions and macros suitable for one person most likely won’t be in line with the requirements of another.
For me, this balance changes depends on what my training requirements and aspirations are at the time; different output requires different input. A dialled-in diet is easily the cornerstone of success or expediting any goal.
Training: My weekly fitness regime is quite intense most of the time. It really depends on my training goals at any given time. A stock standard training week for me would be six days a week, one to three sessions per day, made up of differing training modalities. I’ve maintained this kind of approach to my training since in my early 20s.
People often say they don’t have the time or the energy to train; I will make sure I get my training in. Even after a 16-hour workday, I will still go for a run or workout at midnight till 1am in the morning, knowing that I have to get up for work again in a few hours. If you want something bad enough, nothing should get in the way. Prioritise it.
Q: You grew up in Australia and had always been very active.
A: Yup, growing up in Australia, we naturally lead a very active lifestyle. For me, my focus centred around tennis, soccer, rugby and athletics with a heavy emphasis on martial arts, primarily judo.
As I grew older, my job centred entirely around fitness, so maintaining an enjoyable, active lifestyle outside of work was more of an important focal point for me. I would spend my spare time diving, jet skiing, motorbike riding… basically anything that had an element of risk to it.
You were initially studying a major in business at university, before you changed to counter terrorism and intelligence. Why the switch?
Initially, when I finished senior school, I started a Bachelor Arts of Business degree. Soon after, I realised it wasn’t something I wanted to devote my life to.
I joined the army and to further my professional career, I decided to move my studies toward a degree in counter terrorism and intelligence, majoring in psychological science. I thoroughly enjoyed this as it wasn’t what I was expecting.
The course challenged my way of thinking on numerous levels, forcing me to think entirely out of the box and be more analytical, as well as understanding; which strengthen and broaden my way of thinking when approaching all things in life.
Why did you join the army?
For the majority of my adult life, I served as a combat soldier. It was years ago, during the unfortunate events of September 11 as the world watched in horror of what was unfolding, I noticed something that lit a spark in me. Of the thousands running away from the tragedy, there were those running towards it. I saw the comfort that brought people in a time of absolute desperation.
I realised that was something I wanted to commit my life to. From there, I had to decide what would provide me with the skill sets to be ready for any challenge that came my way as a soldier. I wanted to join to help those who couldn’t help themselves.
Being deployed to volatile regions of the world that were in extreme hardship, the presence of soldiers in places where people were terrified brought a lot of solace, for the most part.
I’d definitely say my time in the army was easily the most challenging, testing and rewarding time in my life. The Australian Army holds a very high standard of professionalism. I’ve worked with numerous forces around the world ranging from US Marines and Rangers, to the British Special Air Service (SAS). As much respect as I have for them, I can quite confidently say the Australian Defence Forces are the best in the world. I learnt the hardest and most profound lessons life can offer whilst in the Army.
Was this where your fitness peaked?
Yeah, this is where my fitness journey took a really sharp turn. In order to be successful at my job, you had to maintain an elite level of fitness and mental fortitude. It wasn’t uncommon to have not slept at all for four to five days, eaten very minimal, then start an estimate of 100km patrol on foot, at temperatures ranging from 40 deg C to freezing, loaded with about 60kg of equipment into the unknown and effectively conducting your job.
I found that the fitter I was, the more I could focus on the command aspect of my role, when the stakes were high and adrenalin was surging. There are a lot of fine motor skills and impactful decisions required; the better my control of my fitness and emotions, the more successful the outcome.
You left the army eventually.
After a few devastating occurrences on the job, I decided it was my time to separate from the army and enjoy more of what life has to offer.
Have you ever competed in any sports?
Yes, CrossFit! Some wouldn’t call it a sport, but I think it has earned its place on the mantel to identify itself as a sport. For a number of years, I trained relentlessly to gain a competitive edge in CrossFit. A mixed modality sport, that requires a meticulous approach to all aspects of training, nutrition, recovery etc., methodical programming, and strategised execution, it bode well with what I was looking for in my fitness pursuits. The standard for CrossFit was increasing rapidly as the sport grew throughout the years. People were getting fitter, faster, and stronger.
When I first started CrossFit, I had a high base level of fitness. I was told it would take me years to become somewhat competitive. Those words were enough to set in motion an unwavering focus to prove them wrong.
I committed a number of years, full-time, to improve myself in the sport. Training six to seven hours a day, six days a week. On top of that, committing more than an hour daily to mobilise and prepare my body for the training ahead. As well as recovery for one to two hours a day, and the time it took to prepare and monitor my meals and preparing for upcoming training and equipment.
After a while, I ended up buying everything I possibly needed so I didn’t have the constraints of training in a gym. Everything was geared towards optimal training. The thing I appreciated the most was the trial and error in my approach; seeing the hard work pay off and witnessing my body adapt to the training over time. In 2019, the rulings for CrossFit changed and it became difficult for me to continue to compete whilst here in Singapore. So, I decided to enjoy the sport rather than obsess over it.
When did you move to Singapore and what brought you here?
I moved to Singapore in 2018 after living in China for a while. I’ve always loved Singapore. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in my life here as my father is Singaporean, so we would come to visit family as often as possible. Singapore is an amazing place to live and I can appreciate living here after having seen a lot of the world.
What are some life lessons you've learnt from your various fitness pursuits?
Fitness for me is a form of moving meditation; when you’re training you can block out all the noise. It’s been therapeutic for me throughout my life and it’s something you cannot master. There is always a new challenge to strive for.
Most importantly, exercise is important. Maintaining any semblance of fitness throughout any stage of your life is paramount to ensure balance, a healthy lifestyle and longevity of life.
Diet is undervalued. Everyone asks me the same questions over and over again; usually, “How do I gain/tone muscle and lose fats?”
Quite honestly, everyone knows the answer but they are usually looking for some magic remedy that may have been overlooked. Diet is the foundation for health. I can’t stress enough how important it is to develop healthy eating habits. There’s a very common saying, ‘You can’t out-train a bad diet’ and it is so true. People have a misconception that diet is either one extreme or the other on the spectrum. However, there is a grey area which is balance.
Moving well is often ignored. Be it ego or laziness, people often like to shortcut the learning curve it takes to improve effectively. This is what leads to poor movement, which results in injuries.
People will always often cut themselves short or talk themselves out of something great. It is amazing the excuses people can come up with, often exercise is never comfortable (it should never be painful) but the slightest hint of discomfort and people will go running for the hills.
Stay the course, believe in yourself and remind yourself why you started. If you build your mental fortitude, absolutely every aspect of your life will improve, you will develop resilience that will carry you through life. I absolutely thrive off of seeing people look back at certain milestones in their fitness journey and realise they have accomplished so many things that they first thought was impossible for them. The human body is an amazing thing. It is adaptable. Therefore, capable of far more than people realise.
What are your fitness goals now?
I am a firm believer that you always need something to aim for. For me, I have somewhat left the competitive field but I still like to train for one-off events. Fitness is so heavily engrained in my lifestyle and is such an enjoyable process for me that I can’t help to continue to push myself.
At present, I am just training to challenge myself, like always. I often find those looking for improved change will gravitate toward those who walk the talk. So at the moment I try to inspire others, which is the greatest achievement for me.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
I think there are periods throughout life where we are all hit with incidents that shake us at our foundation. In those moments, our confidence usually takes quite a hit. For me, that moment came when I separated from the army. Having matured in a military environment, it was a terrifying transition into the civilian world.
Having come from a unified mindset, people seemed to do things differently on a day-to-day basis. I had to adjust to a new pace, a new way of interacting with people and differing personalities. I had to be more patient and tolerant, and learn how to talk to people. I also had to deal with the guilt of leaving behind a lot of people I cared about, in an environment I had no access to.
It took a little adjusting in order to move forward, but I progressively found my footing in the normal world. At the end of the day, I came to terms with the fact that I’m only human and I prioritised my happiness. I also channelled the pride of what I had accomplished in my life thus far and carried that with me daily, overcoming feats that the average person will never have to confront.
Issues are relative to the individual. But for me, I constantly remind myself, ‘We do what we can, with what we’ve got, in the time that we have’. That is a humbling reminder that we only have one shot at life and to make the most of it, regardless of circumstance.
There are so many people that wish they were in the fortunate circumstance I find myself in and I would be doing those people, and myself, an injustice by cutting myself short and crippling myself with self-doubt. My problems now are minuscule compared to what I could be faced with. I would always tell people, ‘When life tries to push you down, dig your heels in, grit your teeth, and push back’. It’s only at the end we realise what we missed, so make the most of it now.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
I would have to say I’ve always been satisfied with my body. I often tell people, if you exercise for enjoyment, it will become addictive. The by-product of that is an improved physique. I started off life with a small frame, but over the years my body adapted and developed to better handle the rigours required of it due to my training.
I’m proud of the physique I have, as it represents a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I’ve never trained to improve the aesthetics of my physique, so I’m constantly happy with the result of where it’s at as it’s a constant display of progress.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
Yes, I think that is part and parcel of advocating fitness or a healthy lifestyle and putting yourself on display. Generally all positive feedback, although I occasionally get those who say I’m too big or too muscular. But I often attribute that to people who can’t identify with the same things I do. Each to their own, I can respect that some people don’t share the same passion as me.