Think of CrossFit in Singapore, and the name "Uncle Sam" is sure to come up! Having been involved in the scene since it started, he is known by many as a fierce competitor, amazing trainer, and (now) a loving father. Despite his love for competiting, the owner of CrossFit Fire City now has different priorities.
In this interview, we talk to him about what those new priorities are, the changes he's seen in the fitness scene over the years, and his love for local food!
What does your daily schedule look like?
I start my day around 5am. Breakfast is usually a bowl of oats before coaching my first class in CrossFit Fire City at 6.30am.
I then return home to send my baby to daycare, grab another bite on the way back to the gym for my training before our lunchtime class.
The rest of the day varies across the week, they consists of class coaching, private clients, and meetings before picking up my baby. Sometimes, the day can end around 9pm if I have to return to the gym for evening appointments.
What about your fitness schedule?
I train 5 to 6 times a week for about 1.5-2 hours each and spend lots of time on warm-up and movement practice; something I preach religiously to our members in Fire City.
I work with a distant coach to design my training program. He is tasked to provide perspectives and progressions I may not see for myself.
While a comprehensive training program is useful, I believe that our mindsets during a session is more important in achieving our goals.
What are you training for?
At this point, I’m training primarily to keep myself fit. I am open to competing or participating in sporting events as long as I can still commit to my family’s needs. My family takes top priority so competitions have to orientate themselves around that.
Speaking of priorities, have you noticed a shift in priorities since your baby?
Although health and taking care of myself has always been a priority, it is even more important now. Given that my wife and I are the only ones taking care of our baby girl, I can’t afford to fall sick. As mentioned earlier, training and travelling are all orientated around what is best for the family and spending time with my daughter is very important to me.
At the same time, I do believe that even though how you spend your time/ priorities may shift through different seasons of life, it doesn’t have to change the importance of taking care of yourself. It’s just about finding different ways to do so.
How did you initially manage to find time/ prioritise between running a business and your own training?
I relied (and rely) on my team. I am very blessed to have a dependable team of trainers at Fire City. A business cannot be run alone and I can’t train alone either! Ultimately, this is a community; it’s more fun doing everything together!
As for training, it is a lifestyle to maintain health and wellness. I am also blessed with a team that kicks my *** to perform better.
Having been in the CrossFit community since its beginnings in Singapore, have you noticed any changes in mindset over the years?
Definitely. 5 years ago, the common methods of training revolved around machines and mirrors. In the recent years, there has been an increase in awareness towards what the body can do functionally. Also, many are starting to see training/conditioning not just in terms of strength but also in terms of “fun” i.e monkeying around, skills sets, etc.
How have you changed your business model to work with the changes you’ve seen?
We initially served one program (CrossFit class) throughout the day. Since early 2017, however, we have started introducing more class options to cater to different fitness levels and personal goals.
As of March 2018, we have 5 levels of CrossFit (WOD) classes that focus on the specific stages of physical progression and goals. We also have specialty classes such as Metcon (endurance), Strength, Olympic lifting, Mobility (stretch), Gymnastics, etc, to cater to specific goals and interest.
What’s your food philosophy?
I don’t follow a particular diet (i.e paleo, keto, low carb). Instead, I look at food as the fuel I need; I’m always on the go, so I need to be feeding myself in order to keep up with my pace. Also, the word “diet” has been given the stigma of something someone does to lose weight when in actuality, it’s just the way someone eats.
Eating and training are similar. There has to be variety, but also consistency.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their health (nutrition/fitness) journey?
In terms of nutrition, I would tell them to start by simply fulfilling their caloric needs for the day. Once they’ve gotten into the habit of doing that, then we’d look at the quality of where those calories come from.
Most of the time, people get results just by doing that; but if someone wants to look into more performance/strict results, then I’d advice looking into macro nutrition counting. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding something sustainable for yourself; something that can be made into a lifestyle.
In terms of fitness, I take a very similar stance in terms of finding a routine or schedule that is sustainable and enjoyable.
At the same time, I definitely believe in the concept of prehab; making sure that you don’t get injured so that you can enjoy workouts rather than having to constantly take breaks due to injuries. Aside from warming up and cooling down, I also believe in working out at the level that you’re at; at Fire City, we have different classes that adhere to the different levels/needs of the athletes that train here.
What is your definition of health?
Health is being able to sustain your lifestyle and priorities. Personally, and at this point in time, it’s being able to carry my baby wherever she goes and whenever she wants.
Funny story… sometime back, we brought our baby girl out for a shopping trip; as we were getting closer to the car, we realised she was fast asleep. In other words, we had to decide between waking her up when we transferred her back to the car or carrying her around for another hour; we decided that sleep and her nap was a priority at the time. So… I ended up carrying her for about an hour up and down the mall… only to end up with aching and numb shoulders!
I’ve no idea how some parents do it… kudos to them!
What would your last meal be?
I’m a local at heart - so a wide array or buffet of hawker food… chicken wings, hokkien mee, satay, durian, cendol, etc!
Want to train with the Sam? Check out: CrossFit Fire City
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