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: Sarah Tan (@sarahhy0r1n)
Occupation: Physiotherapy student
Diet: I don't follow a specific diet but I do enjoy food that people perceive as “healthy”. I like eating bright coloured food that is fresh and not too heavily seasoned with sauces and foods that my body feels can digest better. I don't really eat much meat so I turn to dairy and plant-based products for my protein.
Training: I used to be able to train daily and squeeze in double sessions on the weekend. Being a physiotherapist student (which can be pretty hectic but ironically is supposed to promote an active lifestyle), I try to stay active on a daily basis. A short session can be as good as a long one, depending on what I want to work on and the intensity. I try to do at least two strength sessions weekly and the rest would be a run, a swim or even cycling.
Q: Did you start sports as a young kid?
A: I only started being active in my teenage years as I wasn't exposed to sports from young. My mum did send me for swim classes for a short period during one of the school holidays and I only picked up cycling when I was about 17 to 18 years old.
You tried many sports and then joined the national cycling team.
Yeah, I started playing soccer for college, then running, followed by triathlon. I wasn't competitive in sports till university. A lot of my teammates and coaches from the National University of Singapore (NUS) cross-country and aquathlon team were national level athletes and I got exposed to their levels of training. I am really thankful for them.
Later, I also picked up strength and conditioning tips to complement my cycling for the national training team. Recently, I was introduced to rowing which I really enjoy, but it is probably hard to pursue in the near future because of school commitments.
What are some of your all-time memorable race experiences?
I went to Dubai alone to race my first Ironman 70.3 about four years back. I thought that it was really interesting racing in the desert and I even got a podium finish in my age group for that race. But I'm not sure if I would be able to participate in another race of that distance in the near future because of the time needed to train for it (and the expenses too).
Another of my favourite racing moments were the cycling races I had on the indoor velodrome. The speed and the whole racing atmosphere were of another level for me and not everyone in Singapore gets a chance to race on it.
How was it like representing Singapore in cycling?
I represented Singapore in cycling and also in para-cycling from the years 2016 to 2018. I went for the SEA Games and Asian Games team stage races, as well as the ASEAN Para Games 2017 and 2018. I’ve had podium finishes at the ASEAN Para Games 2017 and 2018, as well as the Asian Cycling Championship 2018.
It was pretty surreal and I would love to represent Team Singapore again if an opportunity arises, but truthfully it requires a lot of time and effort. I had to take up a bit of my work leave for the training camps to Malaysia, and I had to squeeze in rest time in between trainings. Yet, when the national anthem played during the awards ceremony, I felt that all the sacrifices made had been worth it. It was my proudest moment.
Para-cycling! How did you get into it and how was the experience for you?
One of the guys at the Singapore Cycling Federation asked me to try it out together with him. He got to know cycling and triathlon coach Christian Stauffer who wanted to start tandem cycling as a competitive sport in Singapore.
Para-cycling has taught me never to take good health for granted as a lot of para-athletes I've met were not born disabled but acquired these disabilities along their lives. It's also inspirational that they are willing to take a step outside their comfort zone to do competitive sports, on top of their normal day jobs.
You quit your job to go back to school to major in physiotherapy.
It’s a long story but in short, I really wanted a career that could make an impact on someone's life and I think every job in the medical industry has the ability to do that. I was getting too comfortable in my previous career in human resources and I felt that I wasn’t motivated on a day-to-day basis.
My encounters with physiotherapists (through rehabilitation for my past injuries) also inspired me to take it up. I hope that as a physiotherapist, I would be able to improve the quality of life of patients I meet in future, and the skills picked up would definitely be applicable in helping my friends and family.
What are your fitness goals now?
My goal is to be fit enough to be able to keep racing till at least I turn 60. I've always admired folks who race in the older age category and hope that I can still be healthy and mobile enough to do what I enjoy all my life and continue to bring across the message that you're never too old to race.
But for now, it’s to definitely be able to maintain my current race conditions for local competitions despite having less time to do so with all that studying. I also used the circuit-breaker period to work on flexibility, balance and skills. So hopefully, I can continue to work on that this year when there are not many races and competitions happening.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
Wow, I never really thought that I would be featured in this segment (talking about the level of my confidence). Self-confidence is something I always struggled with as I was too tall and big for my age since I was a kid.
Competing and winning races gave me some affirmation that there are things that I could be good at, given that I've never felt that my body gave any advantage in. Until today, I am still learning to appreciate what my body can do for me, especially when it has been through so much; crashes, accidents, overtraining injuries and so much more.
Are you satisfied with your body now and why?
Honestly, I believe I'm capable of doing more and feel that I haven't been pushing my body as much as I did in the past. I had a surgery in 2018 to remove a dead part of a bone (third metatarsal) and I am still working hard to get back my fitness. It gets much hard when your body hits 30, although I know it's not impossible.
Do you get any comments about your body?
No, I don’t. But I guess it's a good thing my friends aren't that shallow.