Looking at the different fitness “certificates” that Sara May holds, you’d never guess that this personal trainer was initially an economics major back in college. Thankfully, a teacher saw her passion and potential in the fitness realm, called her out on it, and the rest is history! This self-confessed lifelong learner who seems to specialise in everything talks to us about her move to Singapore, how things has changed for her with age, and so much more. Read on to find out!
Tell us about what you do; what does your daily schedule look like?
My schedule from Monday to Friday is pretty set; I wake up around 5am and start with a cup of “green juice” (kale, spinach, ginger, lemon juice, and celery). Starting with this ensures that I get my greens in for the day and I don’t have to worry about having a salad or finding veggies for lunch, especially because I’m always on the go.
Around 8am, I have 5 egg whites and 2 yolks before training clients or leading classes till about 2pm. I also have my FitThree lunch in there.
In terms of training, I usually train for about two hours a day; either a 2 hour CrossFit session after work or an hour in the morning + hour in the evening. Before my afternoon training session, I usually snack on rice cakes with some peanut butter on top. Once training is done, I head home for dinner and quality sleep!
Weekends, for me, I usually allow myself to relax a bit more - Saturdays, I still train while I sleep in on Sundays. Eating wise, I’m also slightly more flexible - sometimes, I make myself protein pancakes; sometimes I go out to eat. What I’ve found, though, is that my body no longer can tolerate high amounts of food that isn’t healthy. Even if I have a craving, I only need a small amount before I feel sick.
Has fitness always been a big part of your life? When did you get started?
Yes! I’ve always been involved in fitness.
I started swimming from the age of 5 and competed all the way till I was 15. Then, I moved into competitive dance from the age of 15 to 25.
During that phase of dance, I started “exploring” the gym; I only went in because I was told I was “too skinny” and needed to “grow my legs”. I was hooked! I loved the gym and what I saw my body be able to do. Since then, as you can tell, the gym and working out has continued to be a big part of my life.
Having been involved in fitness for such a long time, have you seen any personal changes as you’ve gotten older?
When I was younger, I could run and do things like mountain biking, hiking, and dance without a problem. I eventually had to stop because of the pain it caused in my joints and knees. This was also what made me decide to switch to CrossFit; where I can still do elements of cardio but scale the weights accordingly.
Also, as I’ve gotten older, my metabolism has slowed down. Before, I could be a bit more flexible with what I ate but now, I can easily put on a kilogram in three days if I go “overboard”. Thankfully, after eating healthy for so many years, my body often “rejects” less healthy food - either with decreased energy levels or making me feel horrible.
What made you decide to move to Singapore? Was it a challenging move?
I was actually a personal trainer and doing Les Mills when I was in Colombia. About three years ago, I met someone from Singapore and decided to send my resume here… and the rest is history!
Overall, it wasn’t a very challenging move. I think the toughest part was the nutrition aspect. Back in Columbia, I was used to very fresh foods; farmers markets, home cooked/ grown food, etc. Here, I find that organic/healthy food is not just hard to find but also expensive. Thankfully, FitThree has been a great help!
What is your eating philosophy (clean, paleo, etc)?
My eating philosophy is dependent on my goals for that season (usually about 3 months). I’m definitely someone who needs goals to keep me on track.
For example, if I was training for a bodybuilding competition, I would usually cut carbs and increase protein. On the other hand, if I was training for a CrossFit competition, I would eat more complex carbs and protein.
At the same time, this varies from person to person - I’ve just spent a lot of time in this sphere and have learnt about how my body reacts to different diets.
What is one misconception you feel many have about fitness/nutrition?
First, *that carbs are the enemy*! Often, I have clients come to me telling me they are on a very low carb diet because they’ve read that “White rice is bad” etc. It often takes explaining to them about the role of carbs, combined with a shift in their mindset/habits, to start seeing differences.
Second, many believe *that there are quick fixes*. There aren't! Having a healthy and strong body isn’t an overnight thing; it takes time! It actually takes 21 days for your body to start a new habit/ develop a new habit; only after you’ve stopped eating sugar (for example) for that length of time will your body not crave it anymore.
Third, there’s the misconception (especially among women) *that if they lift, they will get bulky*! That’s not true at all. As women, we don’t have as much testosterone as men which makes it impossible for us (or really difficult) to gain that amount of muscle by doing the same exercises. I also find there’s a cardio craze and the belief that more = better when that isn’t always the case.
As a personal trainer, how do you then work with clients to overcome such misconceptions?
Each and every client is different so I have to take a different approach with each one.
I usually start with a fitness consultation which involves measurements and setting goals. I also get them to send me their food diary for a few days. After all, nutrition is just as (if not more) important than exercise when it comes to aesthetic goals. You can’t outtrain a bad diet!
After that, I come up with an individualised plan - both fitness as well as nutriton. Along the way, clients will definitely run into challenges so we work together to overcome any limiting beliefs or barriers they may face. Habits are hard to change… so it takes time.
What does health mean to you?
Health, to me, is *all about balance*. I believe it’s all about an “ecosystem” between physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s about being fit enough to do the things I want to do - whether that is for performance, to do the things I love, or to have enough energy to compete.
What would your last meal be?
It’d have to be colombian food - “Banjeda Paisa”
(a dish made up of red beans cooked with pork, white rice, ground meat, chicharron, fried egg, plantain, chorizo, sauce, black beans, avocado, and lemon) and “Aguardiente Antioqueno” (Colombian’s alcoholic beverage that is specific to my city, Medellin).
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