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: Neyton Tan (@neyton)
Food: I do not have a strict diet, but I have been practising intermittent fasting over the last five years. Generally, I avoid sauces and condiments for food. I’m also not a big fan of desserts or chocolate, which helps maintain a good diet. I drink 2.5 to 3 litres of water and avoid sugar and carbonated drinks. I prefer to drink oolong tea or ayataka green tea.
Exercise: Because I’m a triathlete and runner, my weekly activities mostly revolve around swimming, cycling and running. My schedule usually depends on my work, but I spend roughly six to eight hours on all three activities during weekday evenings or weekends. Then I will head out on weekends for a bicycle ride between 70-100km with my friends. I also go to the gym at BFT 3 to 4 times to ensure that I include strength and conditioning within my weekly routine.
Q: When you were younger, were you active in sports?
A: When I was young, I was a very scrawny kid (still am) and was not very active in sports. I played a bit of volleyball and was in dance as a CCA in secondary school. After going to polytechnic, I transited to taekwondo but was mainly behind the scenes as the quartermaster (basically not the most outstanding kid on the block).
What sports did you get into as you got older?
Because of my early volleyball days, I started playing beach volleyball in 2008 with my friends. I was generally active and hung out a lot at Sentosa most of the time. I got pretty used to the heat and enjoyed running around under the sun. I enjoy wakesurfing and diving as well, but those hobbies are considered a luxury that I now do only if I have the time.
How did you get into running?
During my Officer Cadet School training days in the army, we were required to run 5km daily, rain or shine. I didn't really like running that much back then, so I just did what I was told. After I was Operationally Ready (ORD), I continued running to keep fit as part of my regime. It was easy, fuss-free and you just needed a pair of shoes. So I ventured into longer distances and found myself joining races that got longer and longer…
When did running become a bigger thing for you?
Right after I ORD-ed, I told myself that I needed to complete a marathon as part of my bucket list. So I went head-on, training by myself, not knowing what I was doing, and finished it painfully in 5 hours 30 mins, walking and cramping right after the 30km mark. Thereafter I started joining groups, listening to podcasts and attending talks by renowned runners – you name it, I did it.
I'm thankful for the community that I am surrounded with and these people were significant in helping me grow as an athlete. I realised even though I was getting faster, there was so much more to just racing.
What are some of the highlights of your running journey?
Over the years of running, I began to venture into triathlons in 2013. I started swimming breaststroke, rode a single-speed bicycle and ran like my lungs were on fire. Marathon running was a 4hr30min activity by then and Ironman was the next level of endurance that I wanted to put myself through.
I knew the full Ironman was much harder, so I trained for a half Ironman instead to prepare myself. The thrill of endurance races where you have so many variables excited me, not knowing if I could complete the race, just pitting me against myself. Once the race was over, it was time to sign up for the next. I aim to finish 50 marathons and 10 Ironmans in my lifetime. To date, I've completed 33 Marathons (42km, in case some people think 5km is a marathon), 7 half-Ironman races (70.3 miles/113km) and 2 Ironman races (140.6 miles/226km).
One of the most memorable experiences of my running journey would be joining Tokyo Marathon in 2019 as my first World Major Marathon. My wife was working in Abbott back then and I had the luxury of joining the VIP area within the event. The Japanese were very detailed and offered one of the best pre-race experiences I could ever have. The race was very well-organised and supporters were streaming along throughout the full 42km distance. Everyone was cheering you on ranging from the toddlers to old grannies sitting on wheelchairs clapping along. As the temperature of the race was a single-digit and it was raining for most parts of the race, the most unexpected thing to see was a guy holding out miso soup midway through the race.
I was so thankful for that bowl of warm MSG soup and thanked him profusely as I continued running. Once you had passed the 40km mark, the crowd roared and kept asking you to finish strong shouting “Gambatte! Gambatte!”. Once I crossed the finish line, the ushers were very efficient in handing out emergency blankets for the participants and directing us to the shelter. Definitely would recommend anyone to try to join this race through the ballot and you will not regret it.
You are also known as Spiderman in the running community because you run races wearing a full Spiderman suit. How did this all start?
It was from a Dinner and Dance back in 2014 where my friends and I were dressed up as Marvel Avengers. I picked Spiderman as it was my childhood hero as most of the heroes back then seemed to be from either a different planet (alien) or were super rich (wealthy), but Spiderman felt like a very down-to-earth human that had daily struggles and identity issues. I was so into Spiderman that I even used the suit for my pre-wedding photoshoot. (Bless my wife that allowed it to happen.)
Months after the event, I saw the suit lying in my wardrobe thinking when will I get an opportunity to wear it again? That was when I started putting on the suit for shorter runs (5km) before slowly increasing it to running 21km in the suit for the 2XU half marathon in 2015. I continued to “upgrade” my suits over the years. Eventually, I got to run in the suit for 42km at Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in 2019. I think the suit is a very motivating factor for people to run along. Whether it is for photo opportunities or the fact that they can run alongside or faster (hopefully) than me.
The Spiderman suit definitely draws plenty of attention and I have been invited to join various races over the past seven years. The most meaningful event I have joined was to be part of Relay Majulah in 2019, where I raised funds for the needy supported by President's Star Charity for 67 beneficiaries together as 200 runners across 200 hours for 2,000km. Individually I ran 20km without water or toilet breaks with the suit on. I have then decided to use the suit for a better purpose, such as raising funds for beneficiaries or charities that I believe need more awareness.
You are in the pharmaceutical science industry, first as a trainer in the private sector, and now as an educator in the public sector. What made you decide to switch?
After spending close to 10 years in the industry, I wanted to use my experience to bridge the gap between the students and prepare them for the workforce. While I was in the industry, training was a big part of the roles I have taken on and what has changed is just the target audience.
When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?
I grew up without my father and owe it to my mother and grandmother for bringing me up. Being the only child, most of the interactions I had were with my grandmother when she was taking care of me until I was 12. Subsequently after her stroke, it was me taking care of her with a helper until she passed on.
My mother was the sole breadwinner and that meant a lot of figuring out on my end as I was growing up. I became more sociable and learnt to adapt quickly to my surroundings. I am very thankful for the friends I’ve made along the way and they helped me to become who I am today.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
There were moments of my life that led me to think if there were things I wished were different, but I guess I turned out alright. I spent plenty of time just being candid with my close friends around me and that helped me to gain the confidence to tackle some of the insecurities I had as I was growing up.
Did you ever struggle with your body?
I never really had an issue with my body weight, but being an ectomorph, it was tough building mass on my body naturally without taking supplements. I did try to increase my protein intake and ensure that my diet maintains healthy.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
Yes! I believe in moderation across food and exercise, too much of something almost always never ends up well. If I snack or eat too much, I will try to increase my exercise output or eat less in the subsequent week. I tend to live to eat, not eat to live. I do indulge in an occasional fast food meal as a reward.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
I am grateful for the fact that I can fit into the Spiderman suit and most people say I do look good in it. Hopefully, I can stay this way as long as I can, ageless, under the mask.