NOTE: The following interview was conducted before the circuit breaker period.
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.
Age: 28 / 25
Height: 1.77m / 1.6m
Weight: 64kg / 50kg
Occupation: Business Development / Sports Media
Status: Attached / Single
RY: Nothing strict!
RS: Generally I avoid fried and high sugar stuff, but they sneak into my cheat days. I try to ensure a balance of carbs/protein/vegetables and fruit.
Training (pre-circuit breaker):
RY: Seven sessions of running a week, one to two gym sessions a week
RS: I run six days a week. My programme is a mix of strength and conditioning, aerobic/anaerobic/threshold sessions and easy runs.
Q: How did you get started in running?
RY: Sports Day tryouts in primary school.
RS: I was running around purely for fun at my primary school sports day meets and informal athletics meets my mom organised. From secondary school onwards, running swung towards the high performance side after a coach discovered me and offered to develop my athletic ability.
When did you start becoming more serious about running?
RY: In year one of junior college.
RS: After college, I decided I had unfinished business, so I sought out my coach and we set about putting down some respectable time goals for various events. I'd never have dreamed of running faster than five minutes in the 1,500m when I was a student, but now my personal record (PR) is 4min 58sec. Now I'm eyeing other events to explore my potential in.
What are some of the highlights of your running career?
RY: Probably my 2 SEA Games golds (2015, 2017) and marathon national record of 2hr 23min 42sec (2019).
RS: My first individual gold in the A Division steeplechase in my final year. I still get goosebumps whenever I watch the race recap because the leader on the final lap changed twice, and to this day my friends remember very vividly that I collapsed after the race. They remember me collapsing more than the fact I actually won our school's first title in the event.
Then, making a successful comeback post-college. A fracture took me out of running and various aftereffects hampered my return. Despite having to manage more aches and pains than before, I've managed to rewrite most, if not all, of my personal records. PRs are great, but I'm more proud of how my mentality towards sport has matured since then.
What was the biggest disappointment in your running career and how did you get through it?
RY: Probably getting plantar fasciitis which disrupted my qualifying campaign for the 2016 Olympic Games.
RS: Probably when I spent a good chunk of what you could call my prime years nursing an injury that could have been solved much faster if I had the relevant resources. I can't get that time back, but the time off has given me perspective on the mental aspect of sport. Particularly on dealing with setbacks, managing my emotions on race day or hard workout days, and goal-setting.
What are some life lessons you have picked up through running?
RY: Consistent work is important and stay positive even through setbacks.
RS: Failures make a person more than successes do. Failures usually force you to examine yourself. Why are you still doing this? How do you feel about this? What do you plan to do to prevent the same thing from happening? Such introspection, when fully explored, can improve mental resilience because it reminds you of your 'why' and you can keep yourself accountable to your own goals.
What are some of the greater challenges you have faced in the sport?
RY: Poor management and leadership in Singapore Athletics which negatively affects athletes.
RS: Returning to training after a long break is never fun. Your body is in shock; you're slower than almost everyone else; you wonder why you even bothered returning. Then, constantly treading the fine line between training hard and managing injury and training niggles that pop up ever so frequently. Unfortunately I seem to be more injury-prone than others, which means I have to be more mindful of how I deal with training regarding warmup and strength and conditioning.
Then there's the transition from the junior to the senior level. Suddenly, the standard leapfrogs to a whole new level, and you don't necessarily have the relevant resources to aid you in that transition. I believe that's why many of my competitors give up on sport as they progress to the tertiary level or into the workforce. They have even less reason to invest their time into sport, which is such a high-risk, low-return activity compared to getting a degree and securing your future. Only those who really have the passion are willing to step up to the plate and continue the sport, often at their own expense.
What are your fitness goals?
RY: To stay fit and healthy, and enjoy the sport.
RS: On the high-performance side, I want to be able to leave the sport without any regrets. Right now my goals are more self-fulfilling rather than aiming for a major Games. I recognise there's a rather wide gap between my standard and Games qualification standards. If I get there, I get there, but it's not currently an end goal.
On an everyday basis, I want to be happy with what my body is capable of, be it completing a 10km easily or carrying all the grocery store bags from the car to the house within one trip.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
RY: Not applicable. Always been comfortable in my own (thick?) skin.
RS: I was nursing after-effects of a fibula fracture, which seemed pretty mild compared to other athletes I was surrounded by. There was a footballer or hurdler coming off an ACL surgery around the same time I fractured my leg; he won a national title and finished fifth at the last Olympics. Watching all these other athletes progressing through their higher-grade injuries much faster than me and accomplishing a lot more at a higher stage put me in a dark place, thanks to the power of comparison. Upon reflection, it just made me aware that I had unfinished business and that I wasn't content to leave the sport the way I did.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
RY: Yes, because I work hard for it and am happy with its condition.
RS: Sometimes I get annoyed that I get injured a bit too often for my own liking, but overall I'm pretty proud of what it's capable of. I prioritise functionality over aesthetics, although if you ask the right people I have a long way to go to achieve optimum functionality.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
RY: Too skinny, too fair, too muscular, look good, look fit…a mixture of all kinds of comments.
RS: From my fit days or fat days? I’ve received comments all across the spectrum. My aunties' responses have ranged from “You need to eat more” to “Wah, you've grown”. Otherwise more everyday comments (from fit days) will be something about my naturally-toned arms, my not-so-shy veins, and “wah nice legs”.