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: Robin Tiang (@robin.tiang)
Diet: I used to follow all sorts of crazy diets and take weight loss pills, but they were ultimately not sustainable. For example, I was a big proponent of the ketogenic diet even while I was travelling in Japan. That meant no ramen, sushi and beer for almost the whole trip. I had to eat a few bites out of a stick of butter once to keep up my fat intake, and I am still copping lots of jokes from my friends about that till this day.
Currently, I try to watch what I eat for maybe 80 per cent of the time, keeping carbohydrates and fats reasonably low if I can. That means generally protein and vegetable-led meals. I also aim to cook at home for at least three days in a week to be able to watch exactly what goes into my body – less salt, healthier oils etc. I also try to keep all the intake of calories within an eight-hour window during the day as I found that intermittent fasting actually works the best for me so far. I would say to really try out different sorts of diet plans, find the one which works best for you in terms of sustainability and results, and stick to it. (I myself need constant reminders to stick to my own plan. And yes, if you have an accountability partner, even better.)
Training: I try to keep my fitness regime as multi-faceted as possible. The main aim is to keep things interesting for myself, and in turn this surprises the body constantly so it's always in a state of growth. I train at least five days a week if I can – a mix of heavy sessions at the gym, higher volume sessions of calisthenics at the park, running, longboarding, wakeboarding, Muay Thai, and quite recently gymnastics as well. There is an itch I would like to scratch, which is to complete an Ironman triathlon one of these days. That would probably then change up the entire regime and also my entire lifestyle... so we shall see!
All these sessions are just filled with fun and laughter which helps take the edge away from the intensity at which we push ourselves. It helps a lot when you surround yourself with a positive group of people who are also interested in pushing the boundaries of what the human body can do. This way it allows us to keep each other in check and enjoy going through the grind together.
Q: What were your backgrounds in sports?
A: I competed in touch rugby and Singa-Rugby (modified rugby for primary schools) and I think we did well as a school. I remember coming home with a giant bruise on my forehead after a massive head-on-head collision and was so afraid my parents wouldn't allow me to continue. But they just “tsk-ed” me and I continued playing rugby.
However, that all stopped in secondary school when the school I went to didn’t have rugby. One of my regrets that I have now was that I didn't try for more varied sports when I was younger, like gymnastics or volleyball or even go-karting. Those advanced motor skills would have been so much easier to develop at a much younger age.
How did your fitness regime change as you started working?
I used to be an auditor in a “big four” firm in Melbourne for two years after I graduated and once that started, fitness just wasn't a priority for me. I put on 10kg in a span of nine months, so it changed by going from hero to zero! I would suggest people who are just entering the workforce to keep up their fitness routine no matter how tired they are, even if they have to reduce it a little, do something! It took a lot of willpower to get out of that rut. Once the inertia sets in, it is pretty unreal.
What led you to a career in the entertainment industry?
When I moved back to Singapore, a friend of a friend who is my current manager approached me to just try it out. None of that “scammy” business where you have to pay for a com-card and photos, and no casting couch stuff either... so I thought why not? I only got my first job six months later just when I was about to give up and quite thankful I didn't. I get to expand and express my creativity through this art medium, which I believe everyone should have an outlet like that.
In your line of work, do you face any pressure to maintain your physique or look a certain way?
Right now, I don't really have to maintain it this way as I don't have long term roles that I have to fit into. However, my current physique does get me certain roles where I might have to be topless for example. When those roles come around, it provides more motivation to really keep in shape for most of the time. So yes, there is some pressure to look a certain way, but it is also an outcome of my passion for fitness activities that keep me looking the way I do now.
You're also a fitness trainer – how does being an actor complement that?
I think they're both complementary to each other. Both roles require me to be "switched on" most of the time, be it motivating my trainees to push harder, or running about in an energy drink ad for example. Both require me to be able to read and understand another human being on a deeper level, to be able to respond appropriately.
What did you do during the circuit breaker period and how did you train then?
With all the gyms closed, I switched from pretty much only heavy lifting in the gym to moving my body weight around. I started running again after years of thinking that "cardio will kill my gainzzz”. It was really tough at first, you know 2-3km would be a killer run. But the improvements come fast and it just began to feel good to run after a while. I did lose some gains so halfway through I began calisthenics training with a pull up bar and dip bars at home.
And once you add a weighted vest to the workouts, they began to feel challenging and something worthwhile to chase after. It is truly humbling to begin in a “brand new” area where you had no prior experience in, and you're “not good” at it. But I crave that feeling of unlocking achievements, that “a-ha” moment where the feeling of weightlessness comes in a movement where I had so much difficulty before. It feels amazing.
Did you ever struggle with your weight?
When I first started working, I gained 10kg in a span of nine months. If I could go back and do it again, I wouldn't have let myself go that much in the first place. At that time, a friend had a gym where they offered a nine-in-six programme, where I had to give a $500 deposit to join the programme and basically lose 9kg in six weeks. If I don't achieve that milestone, then my money is forfeited. But if I do achieve it, then I would get my money back.
The money was a big motivating factor; let's not kid ourselves. I threw myself across the line and barely met the goal, using unhealthy methods like water loading to get the last 3kg off in the last week. I would not recommend using such extreme methods to any of my trainees since I've been through it. It's not fun.
However, once reaching that goal of 69kg, I managed to liberate myself from that rut and keep the momentum going from then (four years ago) till now. I think sometimes people need a kickstart program like that to get them off their ass into a more fulfilling lifestyle. I hope to be able to inspire more people to live their best lives through this, so if anyone needs any help at all, hit me up.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
That would be the first day of school when I went to Melbourne at the age of 17. My sisters, who had gone through the programme before, said I would make tons of friends on the first day. Yet, not a single soul spoke to me. That may have been because I had a bright red and tall mohawk with a few stars that my sister had shaved into the sides (my hair was my outlet for creativity at that time; don't judge).
But people started to realise I wasn't some gangster and actually just a joker, and it became a talking point ever since. So I overcame it by being myself, not caring what people thought of me and of my outward appearance, and I could be confident of who I was on the inside.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
I believe in constantly chasing after your future self. Always be better than who and what you are currently. So, no I am not satisfied as I believe I am still far from the limits of what I can do with myself.
Have you ever received any comments about your body? Are you afraid of losing this physique?
Generally, they fall into two camps, either that I'm thick (not like Kylie Jenner thick, I hope), or that I have short arms – arms which I can't really do anything about. I just endure the renditions of the Jurassic Park theme song every time we are at the gym (it's a running joke that I look like a T-Rex lifting weights, but I get to lift heavier since it's more advantageous so it's a good thing).
I would be afraid of losing the thickness, as a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it. But I also see the physique, as I said before, as a by-product of my lifestyle choices. I want to be strong, agile, fast, durable, and to be able to face anything life can throw at me. So if this physique is the result, then yes I would be afraid to lose it more if that means I lose all those other aspects of my life that come with it.