Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Loo Zi Jia

Cheryl Tay
·7-min read
Zi Jia does a variety of workouts at least once a day.
Zi Jia does a variety of workouts at least once a day. (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: Loo Zi Jia (@jayelzeejay)

Age: 24

Height: 1.63m

Weight: 58kg

Occupation: Financial advisor

Status: Single

Diet: My staples are usually steamed fish or chicken breast with greens and bread. I do follow the 80-20 rule for calorie intake (80 per cent clean and healthy food, 20 per cent junk if I do have them). I don't take rice or noodles.

Training: Before COVID-19, I have rugby trainings at least four times a week coupled with gym programme three times a week. Now, I do a variety of workouts (high-intensity interval training, core, cardio, gym, yoga) at least once a day, every day, as much as possible.

Zi Jia took part in softball and touch rugby during her school days.
Zi Jia took part in softball and touch rugby during her school days. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Q: You were overweight in primary school.

A: I gained a lot of weight after I moved back home to attend primary school due to all the KFC suppers that my mum bought home after her work. It became a habit to eat KFC for supper throughout those years in primary school. Furthermore, I wasn't active at all then and took no interest in sports. I started to put on a lot of weight in the first two years of primary school, and my weight peaked when I was Primary 6.

Then you started getting active in secondary school.

​I joined softball in secondary school because of a really good friend of mine. I met her during orientation in secondary school and I asked her what CCA is she going to try out and she said softball, so I just decided to tag along and try out.

To be honest, I enjoyed being out in the sun and playing, something I didn't do at all in primary school. And the company was what kept me in it as well – I love the friendships formed and my teammates from my secondary school softball team. It brought out a different side of me, the competitive and active side which I would never have known.

You got into touch rugby next.

When I went to St Andrew’s Junior College, they didn't have softball for CCA so I decided to try for touch rugby instead since I have always watched rugby since I was in secondary school. I enjoy touch rugby because it is of a higher intensity than softball and challenges both forward and backward motion. I really enjoyed all the training sessions with the people I have played with and was constantly challenging myself with new moves and plays. It is also great that every single player on the field is super important regardless where she is placed.

From touch rugby you went to contact rugby and that was also when you started going to the gym.

Yes, joining Nanyang Technological University Women's Rugby (NTUWR) back in 2016 was definitely the biggest turning point in my years of playing sports. I was introduced to the concept of strength conditioning (thus going to the gym) by my coach in NTUWR, as it was a way to make us stronger and less prone to injury on the rugby field as a lot of physical contact is needed on the rugby field.

Zi Jia got into strength conditioning when she was playing rugby during her NTU days.
Zi Jia got into strength conditioning when she was playing rugby during her NTU days. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

I learnt that going to the gym is not just about the aesthetics and that it is not limited to guys only. Previously while I was playing softball and touch rugby, we were not required to go to the gym or do any form of strength conditioning; it was mostly running and skill-focused.

Going to the gym introduced a whole new challenge to my fitness journey. I never knew how important it is to condition your body for all the movements on the field and how it complements running when it comes to build speed and power in the legs. And most importantly, ladies do not turn bulky just by hitting the gym. This is a big misconception that most ladies have!

In December 2017, you fractured your hand.

​I fractured my hand during a training session while preparing for a tertiary rugby competition where we were going to fly to Hong Kong to play against the universities there. My fingers hyper-extended when my teammate ran into me during a drill.

Prior to the injury, I actually went to the gym very frequently to work on my physical strength and did a lot of fitness runs to get fitter as well. Due to the injury coupled with all the fitness runs (what I can do after I injured my hand), I lost all the upper body strength that I built up before that.

Strength is super important in rugby, so when I was back on the rugby field and made the national team then, I really struggled during training. It was not just a physical struggle to hold my own weight as I was easily taken down and cannot go against the bigger and stronger players, but also a mental struggle of not being able to focus solely on working on my skills, as I was constantly bothered by thoughts of needing to gain lean mass and become stronger, and feeling that no matter what I do, I will never be good enough.

That did affect my confidence a lot as I was always told I am too skinny and too light, which was a 360-degree change from my past overweight history. How to gain weight without becoming fat again? I had that thought a lot.

Zi Jia wrestled with confidence issues after she broke her hand in 2017 and struggled during training after her recovery.
Zi Jia wrestled with confidence issues after she broke her hand in 2017 and struggled during training after her recovery. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

How did you overcome this period?

​To be honest, I just ate a lot and really just focused on gaining weight while continuing to be active and going to the gym during off-season. Doing a good mix of cardio and strength while increasing my calorie intake helped a lot. It is when I start to make progress in the weight gain, then it translated to becoming stronger on the field as well, where I started to feel better again. I took notice of all the small progress as motivation to keep going.

Where are you with your body now?

Truthfully, I still do struggle with how I look and feel about my body sometimes, especially when I have rest days and ate a lot. But most of the time, I tell myself that there are good days and bad days when it comes to body image. It is more important that your body is healthy and functioning properly. I am happy with my body now as it carries me through tough workouts and makes me feel very satisfied and accomplished when I complete my workouts.

Working out improves my mood and make me feel good and happy about my body. The most important part is not how I look or the numbers on the scale but how I feel when I work out. We are all built differently and there is no one standard ideal of perfect body.

Have you ever received any comments about your body?

Definitely. I have had a mixture of comments since I was young till now. Back then was always about how fat I am, and when I started losing weight and after I got injured, it became why am I losing so much weight and I look too skinny. Then when I started gaining weight, I got comments about how I am becoming fat and need to stop gaining weight, and why my thighs are so thick.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Loo Zi Jia.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Loo Zi Jia. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)