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: Tiong Jia En (@iamjiaen)
Occupation: Fitness Trainer
Diet: My diet is largely Pescatarian.
Training: My weekly training regime consists of spin 10 times a week, and Barre four times a week. That’s about 14 hours of training in a week.
Q: What sports have you been involved in?
A: Both on a competitive and leisure level, I was a volleyball player for a while in school but my focus was largely on cross-country running. I competed in the inter-school races back in junior college.
Then I tried a lot of things as I grew older such as netball, Pilates, and yoga. Now, I love working out in the studio to fuel off the energy in the room.
Why did you decide to join Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) in 2018?
Miss Singapore Universe 2018 was my first and only pageant. Back then, I wanted to see how far my courage could take me, and eventually I went a little further than I expected and got second place.
It came as a surprise because I had no actual modelling background and the runway was something really new to me. I learnt that when things get tricky you just got to smile, shake it off, lift your head high, have fun... and it will all work out.
Beauty pageants have a tendency to lean on superficiality. Did your participation in MUS lead you to struggle with your body image?
Not at all. Initially, I was a little conscious about that tattoo I got at 17 years old on my back, thinking it was not fit for the industry. But the theme of MUS 2018 was about embracing ourselves so that preconceived concept was quickly negated. The girls were very supportive from start to end. In fact, I helped some girls with their workout routines and that was very fulfilling.
At the age of 18, you were so broke you only had a few cents in your bank account. Then you supported yourself through university with four part-time jobs. How did you balance everything?
I studied in National University of Singapore and did a double major in New Media and Geography. Supporting myself through university was just something expected of me from my humble family so it was an idea I accepted readily. I have tried so many types of jobs — I was a tutor after school, a waitress at Restro Bar in the evening, at times an event planner and by night I worked as a waitress (again), but this time in a club.
The whole idea was to maximise the 24 hours I had in a day so I could make enough. I would say I balanced through sacrifice and sheer determination. I barely had sleep and couldn’t socialise with my peers. But this is life, you got to work hard for what you want and the good stuff will follow.
You worked for an advertising firm when you graduated from university. Why did you leave to pursue a career as a fitness trainer?
I left after a year because I wanted to do something that is more challenging and puts a huge smile on my face every day. As a fitness trainer, sometimes you forget that it is work... and that is amazing.
The greatest joy comes from seeing progress in your clients and making their day better with adrenaline. And of course, it is challenging too. It gets really exhausting mentally and physically, particularly with spin where we teach and ride the entire duration of the class — about 10 to 15 times a week. Creating quality sequences and lesson plans that is different every class also take up a lot more time than most people imagine.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
I would say during the days when I had to juggle between two majors in university and four part-time jobs. Looking back, grinding every hour made my mind susceptible to negative thoughts. I wasn’t low in confidence externally, rather it was in my head space.
I wished many times I could have a different birth lottery; I couldn’t understand why I had to work so hard and not enjoy life like my peers. I wasn’t confident if I could get out of it. Yet, this awareness of negative head space got me out of it. My mind is my home. When I changed my perception of my luck and my life, my environment changed.
Are you content with your body now?
For sure, I work my body so hard every day with teaching fitness, I better love it for all the work it is putting in for me. I am healthy, I am mobile, what is there not to love?
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
It is part and parcel of being a public figure on social media. Too skinny, too lean, too veiny, chest is not real… many things. But it’s the same concept – your mindset controls your world.
You started your own bikini line. What inspired that, how did it go and why did you sell it off eventually?
I love the sun and wanted to make bikinis to fill the mid-range market that was quite stale years ago. I wanted to do something fun and crazy and so I did. It actually went really well but my passions are always growing and I thought it was time to pass it on and explore something new.
How has social media helped you in your branding and career as a fitness trainer?
People get to see me as the human that I am, sometimes indulging, sometimes sleeping in, sometimes feeling sore all over, instead of a fitness trainer that leads a “perfect” lifestyle — this makes staying and looking fit more accessible to a lot more women.