Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Arthur Tong and Elaine Young

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Arthur Tong and Elaine Young. (PHOTO: 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: Arthur Tong (@arthurtongtri)/Elaine Young (@elaineforeveryoung)
Age: Both 31
Height: 1.78m/1.62m
Weight: 78kg/57kg
Occupation: Triathlon coach/International tax advisor
Status: Married to each other
Diet – Arthur: I am not a fussy eater and have a fairly healthy relationship with food, so I do not deliberately put myself on any crazy diet or meal routine. I tend to eat for health and enjoyment rather than for performance, and I always make sure that I eat enough to fuel myself for the next workout or to aid in recovery after an intense training session. Occasionally, I track my calories and macronutrients intake for a week with smartphone apps like MyFitnessPal, just to have an awareness of what I’m putting in my body. It’s amazing the discoveries you make when you do this. I also do not rely much on supplements, only the usual whey protein to aid in muscle recovery when training volume intensifies during race season. Other than that, I’m a sucker for chocolate ice cream.
Elaine: Food makes me happy and I like to do things that make me happy, so I generally don’t limit myself in terms of what I can and cannot eat. Having said that, I know from experience how eating right and fuelling right can make a difference in your training and performance. So when it is time to be serious, like right before an important race, I will be more mindful of what I am putting into my body. I focus on eating good, clean and nutritious food and not eating more than I should. This means no chips and junk food, eating regular meals with a higher proportion of protein, low GI carbs like brown rice and lots of vegetables.
Training – Arthur: When building up for a race, I would typically do two swim sessions, two rides, two runs and two strength and conditioning sessions a week, splitting between short high-intensity threshold training and longer low-intensity tempo training. Training volume tends to increase and intensity decreases as I get closer to race day. During the off season, I would train whenever I feel like it, typically down to one session of each discipline per week.
Elaine: When I’m training for a race, my weekly training hours range from 14 to 18 hours a week. Working full time, this can be challenging and often it does mean having to wake up really early to get a headstart and being disciplined to leave work by a certain time to get the second training of the day in. My favourite training is my 4am rides on Thursday mornings (90km ride) and my 14-18km runs on Tuesdays (alarm goes off at 5.45am). Weekends are always reserved for long rides – 100km is the norm.

Q: How did you get into triathlon?

Arthur: I never had the talent for endurance sports, so I couldn’t really understand why people enjoyed doing it till I met Malcolm, a colleague of mine back in 2011. He trained me for my IPPT (individual physical proficiency test) and we would often go for night runs to bond and keep fit. Unfortunately Malcolm passed away after crossing the finish line of the 2011 Standard Chartered Singapore Half-Marathon due to acute coronary insufficiency. In honour of his death, I took part in my first-ever multi-sport event, which was the 2012 Singapore Duathlon and I never looked back since.

Arthur Tong took up multi-sport events in honour of his late colleague who trained him for his IPPT. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Elaine: Arthur got me into it! I moved to Singapore from Canada six years ago and he thought it would something fun we could do as a couple, so he signed me up for a few races which were happening a few weeks after I landed. He might have forgotten some key facts such as “I don’t have a bike” and “I don’t know how to swim” but I rolled with the punches.

What were your backgrounds in sports growing up? Any competitive sports?

Arthur: I grew up doing competitive swimming in my early years, participating in the 50m freestyle and butterfly events at annual national swim meets. In high school, I participated in track and field, specifically the high jump and long jump events. In university, I picked up Australian kickboxing and Muay Thai.

Elaine: I didn’t do much sports despite growing up in Canada. I had traditional parents that were very much into academics, so I went to the library a lot and attended way too many drawing, Chinese, piano classes etc, to dabble into any sports. I started running recreationally only when I went into university, as a way to stay active.

Elaine Young got into triathlon after her husband Arthur Tong signed her up for a few races. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What was your first triathlon and how did it go?

Arthur: The 2012 MetaSprint Triathlon which happened just months before Elaine came to Singapore. It was amazing – I truly enjoyed the whole process of preparing for a multi-sport race; from training, to bike and equipment preparation, to nutrition and race course study. Family and friends came to support on race day and I absolutely loved the race atmosphere.

Elaine: my first triathlon was the Singapore Triathlon in 2012. It was a sprint distance and although it was hard, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fact that I made it to the finish line having just swam a few times in the hotel pool was encouraging and I embraced the challenge of taking it on again.

What is it about the sport that you like so much?

Arthur: I like that the biggest competition in triathlon is really just yourself. There is always room for improvement regardless of your ability. Triathlon has opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities, testing me not just physically, but also mentally.

I also enjoy the technical side of the sport, particularly in equipment and training methodology. The preparation phase – which comprises not just training but many other element such equipment, nutrition, recovery – is my favourite part of triathlon, and race day is always the icing on the cake where you put everything together on that single day event.

Elaine: I enjoy the growth I have seen in myself from doing the sport. Through triathlon and going from sucking at it to being not so bad at it, I learned that I shouldn’t set any limits on what I can achieve and do. Anything is achievable with some hard work and faith in yourself and that’s something I now apply in all areas of my life, whether it be work or relationships or other personal endeavours.

Arthur Tong travelled around the world for different triathlon races, and also cheered for his wife Elaine Young when she competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What are some of the highlights of your triathlon journey so far?

Arthur: The highlight of my triathlon journey has got to be travelling the world for different triathlon races – in particular Kona, Hawaii, where I got to watch and support Elaine compete in the Ironman World Championships. I would say that starting out Team Trinergy, a Singapore-based triathlon club, where people of all abilities can come together to train, make friends, and share their love for the sport is my proudest achievement.

Elaine: Definitely qualifying for and racing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona. It’s a triathlete’s dream to go there and I was fortunate to be able to experience it having only spent six years on the sport and to do so with my best friend and partner in crime Arthur who tricked me
into the sport. It was truly full circle.

What are your goals for the sport now?

Arthur: Besides continuing to better myself as an athlete, I will be pursuing my dream of becoming a professional triathlon coach in 2019. I want to share with others my love for the sport and be able to help them achieve their triathlon goals. Concurrently, I also aim to make Team Trinergy more inclusive and fun for all its members, so encourage anyone who is keen to take up the sport to reach out to me.

Elaine: To be honest, I am looking for the next challenge but not quite sure what that is yet. I love pushing my body to the limit and testing how far my mind can go so if anyone has any recommendations on what would fit the bill, please let me know.

As for the community, this is an area that both my husband and I are very passionate about. I want to help more people, especially women, do triathlons but are afraid to. I meet so many people who tell me, “Oh I can’t do what you do, I’m not fit enough.” I want to show people that I was there once and had I not gotten over my fears and self-imposed limitations, I wouldn’t be here.

Both Arthur Tong and Elaine Young are passionate about supporting the local triathlon community. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What do you hope to see for the triathlon scene in Singapore and how do you intend to contribute to it?

Arthur: Triathlon as a sport has grown tremendously in Singapore and worldwide in the recent decades but the sport is facing competition from new and re-emerging sports like obstacle racing and dragonboat racing. I think it’s important for youths to be exposed to multi-sport at a much earlier age, and for the government to provide additional support through things like school sports programmes and inter-school multi-sport competitions. As I embark on my journey of being a full-time triathlon coach, it is one of my priorities to provide guidance and coaching to this specific demographic ascthey are the future of the sport.

Elaine: The triathlon scene has changed so much since I started and I hope to see more people doing the sport and enjoying it together. This sport can be such a solo one but in my opinion, it is only fun when you have people who do it with you and share the passion with you.

I would love to see the scene grow into a community where everyone knows one another and has fun together no matter what the skill level or background is. My husband will be going into triathlon coaching this year so I’m excited to support him on this journey and though I’m sad to share him with others, I know the local community will greatly benefit from his knowledge and experience. I certainly wouldn’t know what to do without him.

What are the advantages or disadvantages being in the same sport as a couple?

Arthur: A couple that “tri” together, really stays together! We eat, sleep, do triathlon together.

Elaine: Gosh, there is so much laundry to do when both of you are so active, in three sports! There are only pluses though. It helps to have a spouse on the same page as you are and fortunately we complement each other very well. I’m absolutely useless when it comes to training and what to do with my equipment but he is like an encyclopedia when it comes to that. I’m a workhorse when it comes to training and planning our race-cations, so I make sure training gets done and we push hard all the way to the finish line.

Arthur Tong and Elaine Young believe they complement each other well in training for triathlons.(PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

When did you feel the least confident about yourself, if ever?

Arthur: As an age-grouper balancing work-life and triathlon, I regularly face confidence issues when I start to question whether my preparation for an upcoming race is sufficient. To overcome it, I have the practice of reviewing my training log prior to the race to remind myself that I have done the best work I can.

During the race, I try not to focus on outcome goals like finishing position and time, but rather process goals like swimming smoothly, cornering well on the bike, and enjoying the crowd and scenery on the run. It is important that we are our own cheerleaders and therefore, we must practice positive self-talk to maintain a positive mindset.

Elaine: Self-confidence has always been something I struggle with, but over time, I have learnt how to cope with it better and not let it overwhelm me. I am someone who is quite hard on myself, so I often compare myself to others. It’s easy for me to convince myself I’m not good enough and that no one wants to hear what I have to say.

I grew up very quiet, shy and not very vocal, but as I got older I have been lucky to find people who “get” me. I am lucky to have found a profession that I enjoy and now sports and recreation as well. It is still a work in progress but I realised that confidence comes from within and therefore you must practise self-love and compassion, or you will never get anything done in life.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

Elaine: Yes! I wouldn’t say that was always the case, but definitely way more confident in my own skin now. People used to tease me about my big thighs and I always found reasons to find flaws in my figure. However, doing sports and triathlons has definitely improved my confidence in myself and my body. When you focus your time and energy on how you can be a better athlete and person, you don’t have time to nitpick your body and be hating it. Knowing and respecting your body is the first step to success in the support. I know for a fact that I’ll never have a six-pack and that is completely fine with me.

Both Arthur Tong and Elaine Young overcame their confidence issues through doing the sport they enjoy. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)