SINGAPORE – Ms. Natalie Yeo’s parents signed her up for weekly swimming lessons when she was six. When she was in high school, she did stunts and jumped bars as a gymnast.
When she was 15, she joined her mother in yoga and body fighting classes.
While Ms. Yeo, 29, has been active since childhood, she only started getting more interested in fitness and wellness about seven years ago when she was introduced to weight training by her husband-to-be friend, a 29-year-old lawyer .
Since then, her fitness journey has evolved over the years into yoga, powerlifting, and a mix of strength training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
“He showed me how to exercise with weights and taught me the correct form for strength training. In less than a month I managed to lift 60 kg and it was slowly gaining weight,” said Ms. Yeo, strategy advisor at a multinational Consulting company. She is also a freelance personal trainer and boot camp coach.
Seeing her progress in the gym spurred her on to get stronger and lift heavier weights. Now she can lift up to 110 kg.
In addition to HIIT and strength training, Ms. Yeo also takes spin bike courses and does yoga for a change.
However, during the second phase (heightened alarm), she began running and hiking outdoors more often.
As an advocate for a sustainable diet and exercise program, Ms. Yeo believes that “fitness is a lifestyle and a lifelong journey, not a sprint”.
“Fitness goals and routines have to be something that you can consistently pursue over a long period of time. It shouldn’t be just an eight or twelve week program, ”she says.
What’s your secret to looking fabulous?
Have constancy and discipline, but also listen to your body and keep routines sustainable.
Has there ever been a time when you weren’t fit and fabulous?
When I was studying at a girls’ school, there was a lot of pressure to stay slim. At some point in my early teen years, I became obsessed with the number on the scales.
Although I already trained as a gymnast four to five days a week, I cut down the meal groups and counted every calorie ingested.
For me it was a time when I wasn’t fit and fit because of my looks or lack of exercise, but because of the unhealthy means of avoiding weight gain.
How is your diet?
Over the past year, the Covid-19 situation has resulted in us spending a lot more time at home, giving me a lot more freedom in planning my meals.
My diet consists mostly of fish and white meats like chicken breast for protein, vegetables like water spinach and broccoli, and a source of carbohydrates like rice and fried potatoes. I also try to minimize my processed foods intake. Every now and then I eat fried chicken.
What are your indulgences?
Caneles, dark chocolate squares, gin and tonic and bubble tea. I drink them in moderation and usually order bubble tea with no milk or added sugar, especially if I already have pearls.
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
I make it a point to make time for my family and friends. My husband and I work long hours and sometimes even on weekends. So while we like to keep it spontaneous, we sometimes have to consciously plan “Date Night Fridays” or “Saturday Brunch Dates”.
It is also important to me to have time for myself. It could be for some self-care like a spa day, or just to exercise regularly. Staying active has become one of my ways to break free from work.
What are the three most important things in your life?
In no particular order, good physical and mental health, financial freedom or the opportunity to have experience outside of work, and good relationships with loved ones.
What is your favorite part and your least favorite part of your body?
My mind is my favorite part because it keeps me focused.
There are parts of my body that I don’t like and sometimes I look at another girl and wish I could have a waist or arms like hers. But I remember that everyone comes in different shapes and sizes and we are all unique and strong in our own way.
What are your must-dos before and after training?
Before doing this, I warm up and then I drink and shower to freshen up and prepare for the rest of the day.
How important is it for you to keep up with your fitness routine?
Exercising has become so important to my lifestyle that it feels strange to me not to stay active.
I’m also a strong believer in a sustainable fitness program and nothing will be sustainable in the long run if you can’t make it a routine. It will be difficult at first, but once you get into a routine you will find it difficult to skip a workout.
How do you keep fit during this time?
If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is definitely how to be flexible and adaptable.
When the gyms closed last year, I worked out at home with my husband. We bought some dumbbells and kettlebells before the breaker last year so we could improvise a little and work at home. We also got an airbike halfway through the breaker.
We also sometimes shared short excerpts from our training in our Instagram Stories under my handle @nattylifts.
I would host complete training sessions live on Instagram TV almost every day. Most of these courses were bodyweight-only courses to appeal to more people. But I also did one or two workouts a week with weights and resistance bands, or with spare weights with readily available items like a heavy backpack or large water bottles.
How has your active lifestyle affected your family and friends?
I think the influence is mutual. Since I was a child, my parents and even my grandmother have been role models for me when it comes to being active. Right now I’m letting my family turn on my Instagram Live workouts to exercise with me.
As much as I’ve inspired or encouraged my friends to hit the gym or take exercise classes, some have also become great exercise partners.
I’m also glad that my husband and I share a passion for training. Most of the time, it is important to us to do a workout that we both enjoy, so that it becomes a shared activity for couples and not just to keep fit.
What was the most extreme thing you’ve done in the name of fitness?
Preparing for a bikini competition is probably one of the most physically demanding things I’ve ever done. It usually includes a rigorous diet and exercise routine done over a period of 12 to 16 weeks. Part of the process was not just building lean muscle, but also reducing body fat and flushing out subcutaneous water on show day to make your muscles look more defined.
What is one small health tweak that has produced big results?
Get enough rest and sleep. Recovery is just as important as the exercise itself.
Having a busy full-time job can sometimes mean a dichotomy between getting enough sleep and being able to do whatever else you want to do. At some points I felt like I was running myself into the ground just to squeeze a workout into my schedule. I was exhausted mentally and physically. I wasn’t that strong and my stamina suffered.
One day I decided to put into practice what I have heard many times – listening to your body and knowing when to take a break and focus on recovery. It worked wonders for my gym performance.