Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Nicole Low

·5-min read
Nicole Low is a research assistant as well as a part-time coach.
Nicole Low is a research assistant as well as a part-time 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: Nicole Low (@uhhhcole)

Age: 23

Height: 1.57m

Weight: 51kg

Occupation: Research assistant, part-time coach

Status: Attached

Food: A lot of vegetables and lean protein. I mostly try to eat healthy and avoid fried food.

Exercise: Five to six days of running, two to three days of resistance training.

Nicole overcame weight issues earlier in her life.
Nicole overcame weight issues earlier in her life. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Q: When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?

A: When I was in primary school I used to be overweight (many people don't believe me haha) so I will get comments from family members to tell me to lose weight so that I can fit into "nice" clothes. Hearing comments like that as I went through adolescence made me feel insecure and self-conscious about my weight. 

At one point I decided to shed the weight, but went a bit overboard until I was underweight. Eventually I managed to return my weight to the healthy range.

How did you get into running?

I started out running to train for the 2.4km run for the NAPFA test in Secondary 1 as I wanted to make the school team for netball. I didn't really have an idea of what a proper training programme is like at that point of time so I would just run one round of Bedok Reservoir (starting slow and picking up pace along the way) everyday during the December holidays. It paid off in the end as I saw a great improvement in my 2.4km timing.

After that I continued running on my own and, in Year 4, I took part in the school 3,000m track and field event where I unexpectedly ended up coming in first. That was when I first felt the adrenaline and thrill of racing.

I was also the pioneer batch of IP students to Victoria JC so I had the privilege of being referred into the cross-country team by the track and field teacher in-charge. That's when I started to train competitively and undertook structured training.

Nicole suffered burnout after training too hard for a competition while juggling her studies.
Nicole suffered burnout after training too hard for a competition while juggling her studies. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What is it about running that you enjoy?

If we're talking about competitive running, I like to think all long-distance runners are low-key masochists. It's mostly about the ability to "suffer". How long can you tahan that pace before your lungs or legs give in.

But if we're talking about "chill" runs, I would say that it allows me to take a breather and clear my mind during stressful periods, and also the companionship when I meet up with my friends for long runs.

How much more competitive do you intend to take it to?

At the moment I am still uncertain but I would like to have the chance to compete at SEA Games if given the time and resources to train for it.

What are some highlights of your running journey? Conversely, what are some lows?

There was a period where I was training my hardest and was at my fittest, but sadly I crashed and burned right before the race. This was in 2018, as I was set to race the 10,000m in the ASEAN University Games.

This was also during finals period, so I had to juggle both studying for my exams and high-intensity trainings at the same time. Those combined with the lack of recovery time led to my burnout.

After taking time off to rejuvenate, Nicole came back and set the U-23 national record in the women's 10,000m.
After taking time off to rejuvenate, Nicole came back and set the U-23 national record in the women's 10,000m. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

I still remember the race vividly and it is probably the most painful race to date. My quads started to cramp up 2km into the run and I had to really grind through the next 8km to complete the race. I strained my quads quite badly as I could barely walk properly after the race for a good week or so.

I took a good few months of down time after that to recuperate. Which brings me to the high of my running journey – my comeback race in the 2019 inter-club championship where I unexpectedly broke the national Under-23 10,000m record. Unexpected because I wasn't training at the intensity leading up to the race so I surprised myself and quite a few others, I dare say.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

I felt least confident about myself during the period where I was burned out. No matter how I tried I just couldn't run "fast". I overcame it by not stressing about performance and giving myself time off running to rejuvenate the body. 

The confidence booster was when I broke the 10,000m U23 record and set my own PB (personal best). It was the race where I proved to myself that I still had it in me.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

I mean I will always want to have my six-pack showing all the time but I know that's not very realistic, but yes, overall I am content. Or rather, I try not to stress too much about it so as long as I am healthy, which I feel is more important than just physically looking good.

Have you ever received any comments about your body?

When I was younger and overweight, yes, from relatives and some classmates. As I get older I would occasionally receive compliments on how I look "fit" and "muscular".

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