UPDATE: Vanessa set the women's national 2.4km record on 4 September, becoming he first Singaporean woman to complete the 2.4km run in under eight minutes, with a timing of 7min 59sec.
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: Vanessa Lee (@vannielyz)
Food: I just try to eat a serving of vegetables with every meal and make the healthier choice when given an option. I just eat when I’m hungry!
Exercise: I train almost every day, with a mix of easy runs, long runs, intervals and tempo runs. The training regime is not fixed and will defer and be altered every few weeks.
Q: When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?
A: I remember feeling insecure about my looks in secondary school, but hey, everyone was going through puberty back then. Being in a girls’ school, everyday conversations were mostly emphasised on people’s looks. I think I learned most of my personal lessons in secondary school, such as how to identify the good friends from the bad.
How did you get into running?
I was from Tanjong Katong Girls’ School and they did not have a track or cross-country CCA (co-curricular activity). However, every year we would have a compulsory school annual cross-country race.
As it was a girls’ school, the girls would usually walk the route holding hands and talking to one another. I did not want to partake in that and just wanted to finish the route as quickly as possible so that I could rest afterwards.
In doing that, I accidentally broke a school record for finishing with the fastest time. A physical education teacher, Mr Yong Tze Woon, saw my potential and he picked individuals out of different sports CCAs to form a Cross-Country team so that he could send me to the National Schools Cross-Country race.
The next year (when I was in Secondary 4) I ran the Nationals and won fourth in the overall female individual category. I got scouted by Victoria Junior College from that performance and went on to start training seriously there.
You run a range of distances - from 800m to 10km. Why do you choose not to specialise?
I believe that a good athlete is versatile and even so, I might be a jack of all trades, but I still make a good competitor no matter which event I take part in.
What is it about running that you enjoy?
I’m not sure how to put it in words but running makes me feel strong and happy. I am hoping to compete at the Southeast Asia Games one day.
What are some highlights of your running journey? Conversely, what are some lows?
Some highlights would be getting the 2,000m steeple record and Under-23 3,000m steeple record.
As for the lows, in 2019 I ran a 1,500m and got a personal best, but did not hit my target pace of 4 minutes 48 seconds, so I cried right after I crossed the finishing line.
At the 2016 National Schools Cross Country and 2018 ASEAN University Games steeplechase, I started a heavy period the day before the race and underperformed.
These are races where I did not meet my own expectations and I felt that I could’ve done much better. It tore me down mentally and after the 2018 race, I told my coach that I wanted a break from steeplechase.
You are also currently in the cheer team at the National University of Singapore.
Yes, I tried out cheer during my first year of university when I entered Kent Ridge Hall (KR Steppers). It is a sport that is only available in universities.
Cheerleading is uncommon and the stunts that cheerleaders can do is really impressive. Cheerleading shares the same challenges as any other sport, such as competitiveness between teammates and injuries that come with the sport.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
I felt a lot less confident about myself before I found running. Running has given me an identity and confidence. I still have issues with my confidence and self-esteem and like most people, it is a constant battle.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
I have made constant sacrifices and put in a great deal of effort to get to where I am physically. I am satisfied where I am, and I am comfortable in my own skin.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
I have received a lot of anonymous comments about my body – skinny, fat, too muscular, no tits etc. I feel as though I am desensitised by online anonymous comments because I get them all the time.
I have also received comments face to face. I won’t name names, but I have been told that I was too heavy and have been called ‘bulky’ and ‘fat’.