Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Roy Lim

Be inspired by the success stories of fitness influencers, celebrities, models and trainers in Singapore

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Roy Lim is a retiree who takes part in triathlons.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Roy Lim is a retiree who takes part in triathlons. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (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: Roy Lim (@roylimjt)

Age: 60

Height: 1.86m

Weight: 75kg

Occupation: Retired

Status: Married

Food: 80 per cent plant based, 20 per cent fish and shellfish

Exercise: I follow a triathlon training plan when preparing for an event. In a week I do three swims, three runs, three bike rides, two strength and conditioning sessions and one rest day.

Q: When you were younger, were you active in sports?

A: I used to play football and squash, and was on the national junior squash team when I was 18, 19 years old. But that was the end of my active life till now.

Roy had led an unhealthy lifestyle for most of his work life before he turned things around during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roy had led an unhealthy lifestyle for most of his work life before he turned things around during the COVID-19 pandemic.(PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (Cheryl Tay)

You had an unhealthy lifestyle for 40 years of your life.

Yes, after I completed my national service, I sold insurance for 13 years before I turned corporate and switched to a bank. Subsequently, I worked up to a C-suite role in four different insurance companies across Asia-Pacific for 17 years.

You can say that my life was just drink, eat, work, repeat. I was a heavy smoker and I drank a lot of alcohol as well. It was a very unhealthy lifestyle.

What made you decide to turn your life around?

I had a big night out on my 57th birthday, the day before the Circuit Breaker period of the pandemic started. The next morning, I woke up feeling very hungover and I had a major headache. I decided enough is enough and I made the decision to quit for good. I had tried quitting three to four times previously but it was only temporary.

This time, I managed to stick with it. It also helped that we couldn’t go out so I didn’t have any temptations. For sure, I struggled a little with the withdrawal symptoms but I was very firm. Two of my friends (of my age) had died from smoking and drinking; another three direct reports of mine, who were 10 years younger, had heart attacks and stroke.

I’m the kind of person who is very goal-oriented and I aim to be the top 1 per cent in what I do, especially in my career. Thus, when I set my mind to something, I will make sure I achieve it.

You retired at the age of 60.

I decided it was time to retire when it’s time to stop laughing at your bosses’ jokes and when I look forward to sunset on Fridays and dread sunrise on Mondays. I live for passion and purpose. If I no longer feel that, I move on and find new meaning in new things. Life is too short to be unhappy and stressed.

Roy set his goal of completing an Ironman triathlon in 2020.
Roy set his goal of completing an Ironman triathlon in 2020. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (Cheryl Tay)

Why did you decide to get into triathlon, out of all the different sports you could have picked up?

During the circuit breaker period, I went out to try and run, after seeing people at the park jogging. I only lasted 1km to my horror, so I set a goal to complete 5km in 30 minutes. Which I did a few months later. Then I was surfing YouTube and happened to chance upon a video about the Ironman triathlon (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.195km run).

I love to find big goals to work towards, so I made up my mind to get into triathlons. I sucked at all three disciplines, so why not? I find the idea of completing endurance events the new sexy or cool. Also, the idea of having to split my time to swim, bike and run gives me better functionality, less injuries and more sustainable as I am unlikely to be bored.

The Ironman dream was created in 2020 and I started training for it, but unfortunately tore my meniscus and spent most of 2021 rehabilitating the injury. I resumed Ironman training in 2022 and since then, I’ve completed the Ironman 70.3 Melbourne, a self-organised 60km run for my 60th birthday, the Ironman 70.3 Desaru and the PTO Asian Open. I will be attempting my first full distance race at Ironman California in October.

What challenges did you face when you first started training for triathlon?

I am not a natural athlete and I had almost zero aerobic base for all three disciplines, so I was literally starting from nothing, hence having a very steep learning curve. I had to take lessons and learn how to swim freestyle.

At the same time, I didn’t have any Ironman friends and no one to ask advice from. I found a training programme online and I thought "no pain, no gain" was the way to go. I would go all out in every session and as mentioned above, I ended up tearing my meniscus on my right knee. A classic case of one foot forward, two feet backwards.

This set me back but I was still determined to achieve my triathlon goals. I realised that I had to find a training programme to suit my age and ability level. It took me nearly nine months before I could run again. However, the rehab gave me time to rehash and got me to learn about heart rate zones, efficiency, training plans, nutrition and injury mitigation.

I also looked at my diet, reduced meat consumption and cut out sugary foods. I became a flexitarian – 80 per cent plant-based, 20 per cent pescatarian – and I noticed I started to feel better with my energy.

Roy believes that magic happens outside one’s comfort zone.
Roy believes that magic happens outside one’s comfort zone. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (Cheryl Tay)

How do you feel about your transformation?

I am at the healthiest ever and in the best shape of my life. I believe that magic happens outside one’s comfort zone and I also believe in doing what you fear to conquer fear. I’ve learnt how to channel my ego after being humbled by the things I cannot do.

I honestly never thought I would be leading such a lifestyle but I find solitude and peace in doing this.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

I am naturally confident. I don’t know whether that’s good or bad. Perhaps I feel that everyone is equal. We are all given the same 24 hours.

Did you ever struggle with your body?

When I was 40 and got separated, I had a six-pack and weighed about 62kg. Over the years however, with lots of sugar from alcohol and bad food, I became 84kg. I went to the gym out of vanity but nothing like what I do now.

I am satisfied with the progress I have made from not smoking, drinking less, taking part in triathlons and not taking meat. I now weigh 74kg with body fat of around 16 per cent.

Did you get any comments about your transformation?

Mainly positive ones like, “your body and fitness put many men half your age to shame”. Of course, a handful think I am crazy to attempt Ironman races.

At the end of the day, I am my own competitor and I am passionate about my purpose to be healthy and happy.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Roy Lim.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Roy Lim. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (Cheryl Tay)