Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Viviane Then

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

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Viviane Then is a fitness coach and educator.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Viviane Then is a fitness coach and educator. (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: Viviane Then (@movewithviv)

Age: 38

Height: 1.74m

Weight: 70kg

Occupation: Fitness coach and educator

Food: I track my macros so that I can fuel up properly for a busy day of coaching and having enough energy to train. So throughout the day, protein is top priority for me for every meal, whilst I go light on process carbs and substitute them for complex carbs and vegetables for fibre instead.

Fats are a good bonus when I want some flavour to my food, or I want to cheat a little like having nut butters and cheese. It helps that I work during non-office hours so there are little opportunities to eat and socialise, which enables me to prep my own meals or at least have some control over what I eat. Once or twice a week I indulge when I eat out with friends, my partner or my fellow coaches, and it's a good way to stop me from being too over-obsessed with tracking my calories.

Exercise: I generally try to clock in a workout or a mobility routine every day, maybe with one day of rest during the week. A typical routine on a good week would be:

  • Mondays: Pull-ups and lower limbs, because I'm working towards a muscle-up and dragon squats.

  • Tuesdays: Handstands and pushes, because I'm working towards handstand presses and shapes, and some other calisthenics stuff.

  • Wednesdays: Stretches and lower limbs such as front and middle splits, to maintain my mobility which is important in achieving some calisthenics moves and for better pain-free movement.

  • Thursdays: Private training with gymnastic rings, handstands shapes and entries, gymnastics high bar etc.

  • Fridays: Backbend practice to ensure my spine, shoulders and hip mobility are constantly being challenged to handle loads at end-ranges.

  • Saturdays: Handstands and backbend practice for more strength work.

  • Sundays are normally rest days because it's also the busiest teaching day of the week. If I'm up for it, I clock in more gymnastic rings workouts with fellow coaches. In between, I try to insert slow walks as I have a walking pad at home to walk and work at the same time.

Viviane took part in sports such as track and field, bowling, hockey, floorball and wakeboarding in her younger days.
Viviane took part in sports such as track and field, bowling, hockey, floorball and wakeboarding in her younger days. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (Cheryl Tay)

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

A: I was in track and field as a sprinter and jumper, although a large part of my younger years were spent pursuing music until I got properly certified to be able to teach, so that I could pay for my university tuition fees.

What did you get into as you got older?

It wasn't until junior college that I became a little more serious in bowling, and in university it was hockey, floorball and wakeboarding. Later as I went into my 20s I was training my endurance and agility through muay thai.

How did you become a fitness instructor?

As I tried to get competitive in sports, I got injured and tore my anterior cruciate ligament. I also got into a bicycle accident, and so I moved towards yoga and more movement-based activities instead.

I found my teaching voice when I managed to get a gig to teach for three to four years in yoga studios, and then I went on to take other certifications such as in personal training, functional range conditioning and rehabilitation. I'm big on mobility and prehabilitation (i.e. preparing your body well so that you reduce the risks of pain and injuries) because of the accidents I have experienced.

Being able to relate and empathise with clients who are returning to fitness after a traumatic experience or an injury or surgery has allowed me to journey with them to becoming pain-free and strong-bodied individuals. It is an extremely gratifying job to be able to improve someone's quality of life and help them get back to doing what they love - be it sports, travel, competition and playing with grandchildren.

What made you decide to leave your corporate job?

I was a marketing and communications specialist across various industries for 13 years, before I left my full-time job to pursue fitness. My experience in corporate and management roles have had a tremendous impact in helping me transit smoothly into being a fitness educator. I have built up the soft skills needed to repackage and deliver course content, create and run workshops as well as write customised programmes for my clients, taking into account their levels of stress and work routines.

I started teaching part-time for six years while juggling my full-time job, working with different types of clients and students. This helped me to build up a small following of students and friends who appreciate the way I teach. When COVID-19 and the Circuit Breaker period came, I maintained my online free workouts so that people could look forward to following an exercise programme despite being cooped up at home. That helped increase my following.

My online presence grew, I got some gigs with new fitness studios, and that gave me the confidence in stepping out on my own into the fitness industry, after much careful planning.

Viviane left her corporate job after 13 years in order to become a full-time fitness coach.
Viviane left her corporate job after 13 years in order to become a full-time fitness coach. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (Cheryl Tay)

You are a very strong advocate of movement and mobility.

We don't appreciate the ability to move pain-free until we experience a limitation in our daily movement or pain in our bodies. We are living longer, so our bodies need to be able to carry us through the later years of our lives and be "well-oiled" to live a higher quality of life.

We wouldn't want to spend the later years of our lives with walking sticks, hobbling with a hunched back, sitting in wheelchairs or not being able to enjoy the little details of life simply because we didn't maintain our bodies when we were younger.

Furthermore, as society gets more advanced, we stopped moving that much thanks to hired cars, delivery, technology etc. Our ancestors didn't spend their days sitting for 12+ hours; they moved and hunted because they had to. That is the fundamental part of "movement" that is missing today.

Have you experienced any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?

My bicycle accident about a decade ago was a close brush with death or serious paralysis. Being able to survive a hit to my head made me realise that I couldn't just live my life as a workaholic (I was working about 12 to 14 hours in an advertising agency setting).

It made me more appreciative of my ability to heal, recover fully and return to a stronger self despite taking close to a year to get back to normal, and that strengthened my belief that others can do the same. I wanted to be able to help them realise that they can physically do it.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

Much of my confidence today stems from events in my life. Psychologically, I grew up thinking that my opinion was never good enough to stand on its own and I found myself saying "yes I agree" to others’ opinions without really questioning why. I didn't like how I was reduced to tears when colleagues or others thought I wasn't good enough.

Working with a therapist who could objectively point out the causes of my lack-of confidence was a breakthrough, and seeing for myself how my pool of students and others have increased over the years as I taught yoga and fitness sessions has also helped in boosting my confidence.

In recent years, having mentors as well as fellow educators who refine my coaching techniques has further bolstered my presentation confidence over the years.

A serious bicycle accident made Viviane more appreciative of the body's ability to heal and return stronger.
A serious bicycle accident made Viviane more appreciative of the body's ability to heal and return stronger. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (Cheryl Tay)

Did you ever struggle with your body?

I was 75kg and UK size 14 when I was in my early 20s. But it wasn't really much of a struggle to me, I just got annoyed and made a deal with myself to watch what I eat. Perhaps I owe it to my personality in being a planner, so every change I made to my diet and supplements was a two- to three-month experiment and I changed one variable at a time, so that I could determine what worked and what didn't.

Looking at everything as data and viewing myself objectively as a test subject certainly helped in managing my body weight and shape, because through that lens, I removed all emotions that were attached to my body and my relationship with food.

Are you content with your body now?

Extremely content, because of how I have systematically changed one variable at a time each time I attempt a cycle on cutting calories, increasing my training intensity, or changing my training approach. Through this process, I am in control and that is a very important factor in my current relationship with my body.

I recognise that not everyone can deal with this mentally, so it is also part of my job to establish the plans, milestones and process for my clients who would like to make changes to their diets, lifestyles or routines.

Do you get any comments about your body?

Some say I look like a man if they covered my head because of how muscular I am, but I am in pursuit of strength and control over my body so that doesn't bother me. Being able to carry heavy groceries and household products for my mom during our weekly supermarket trips makes me thankful that I train regularly.

If you could change anything about yourself, would you?

I would have opted for braces to straighten my teeth when I was younger, that's for sure.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Viviane Then. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Viviane Then. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay) (Cheryl Tay)