Fit And Fab

Everest climber exercises to relax

Ms Lee made history as the first Singaporean woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 2009, as a member of the Singapore Women's Everest Team. The 33-year-old says she feels restless if she is not active.
Ms Lee made history as the first Singaporean woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 2009, as a member of the Singapore Women's Everest Team. The 33-year-old says she feels restless if she is not active.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Joyce Teo finds out how adventure seeker Lee Li Hui stays in shape for her expeditions

Q Why did you decide to climb Mount Everest?

A The thought of mountaineering started when I went hiking in Nepal for my graduation trip, on the Annapurna circuit.

When I was looking at the snow- capped peaks, I longed to climb them instead of looking at them from down below.

Upon returning to Singapore, I started finding out how I could take up mountaineering.

SELF-IMAGE

Fit I was, but fab I was not. When I was growing up, I always thought I was on the big side... Yet, every time I look at the photos of my old self,

I would realise it was not true. My younger self always looks better and slimmer than how I remembered. I've come to appreciate that we tend to be more critical of ourselves in the present.

MS LEE LI HUI

Q What was your routine like when you were training to scale Mount Everest?

A My teammates and I climbed up and down 30 floors, up to 10 times, twice a week. Each time, we wore 5kg ankle weights and carried a 20kg backpack.

We also hiked up and around Bukit Timah three to six times, once a week. This was topped off with two 10km runs and two gym sessions every week.

I stuck to this fitness routine for five years, from 2004 until we conquered Mount Everest in 2009. Exercise became a part of my lifestyle.

  • Bio Box

  • LEE LI HUI

    AGE: 33

    HEIGHT: 1.63m

    WEIGHT: 57kg

    Ms Lee Li Hui and her friend, Ms Jane Lee, made the news when they crossed 560km of Greenland on skis in 2013. They were possibly the first Singaporeans to accomplish the feat.

    She also made history as the first Singaporean woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 2009, as a member of the Singapore Women's Everest Team.

    The preparation for the climb took five years, during which she did a lot of stair-climbing with weights, said the product inno-vation specialist with Swiss Re.

    Thus, she and the other team members of the women's Everest team were apt choices when they were asked to be the ambassadors for the Singapore Sports Hub Stepper - a stair-climbing and endurance event - last year.

    Ms Lee is married to Mr Ted Hoong, 35, a supply chain analyst. They have no children.

    No major expedition is on the cards now, but the adventurer will be seeking one out in the future.

    As she says, she is "always ready for an adventure".

Q How important is it for you to keep up with your fitness routine?

A I feel restless if I am not active.

Sometimes, after a long day at work, I do feel a bit lazy about going to the gym. However, when I make it there, I always leave feeling great and glad that I did go.

I cycle to and from work two or three times a week. The route is scenic - along Kallang River to the Central Business District. It is a great way to start and end the day.

Q What is your secret to looking so fabulous?

A Get enough sleep, sun, exercise, food and fun!

Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

A I have always been interested in outdoor activities.

I was involved in the outdoor activities club at Victoria Junior College and regularly travelled overseas for hiking trips. I also tried diving, skiing and wakeboarding during my school days.

Fit I was, but fab I was not. When I was growing up, I always thought I was on the big side.

Yet, every time I look at the photos of my old self, I would realise it was not true. My younger self always looks better and slimmer than how I remembered. I've come to appreciate that we tend to be more critical of ourselves in the present.

Q What is your diet like?

A I love to eat, from Japanese food to spicy Szechuan hot pots.

However, I do try to eat in moderation, and I always have breakfast. I will also try to eat a salad or something light for lunch.

Q What are your indulgences?

A Too many! I like going for buffets and barbecues.

Q How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

A Exercise relaxes me, especially when I am running in the park, surrounded by greenery.

When I run, my mind wanders - that's when I sometimes come up with great ideas.

Q What was the first thing you did after returning from the Greenland expedition?

A During the expedition, we ate mushy freeze-dried food, crackers and salami. The food was always cold. I craved cooked food. So, when we came back, we headed to a buffet to satisfy our food cravings.

Q What is the most extreme thing you have done in the name of fitness or diet?

A When training for climbing expeditions, I needed to bulk up. It was one of the most conflicting things I had to do. I would prefer not to put on weight, but I knew I would have a higher chance of success if I did.

I piled on 2kg to 3kg for each expedition but, luckily, I usually lost the weight during the expedition due to the high activity level.

Q How has your active lifestyle influenced your family and friends?

A My husband had never run more than 5km before he met me. Now, he joins me for a 10km run at MacRitchie Reservoir every weekend. He has also completed a full marathon.

Q Would you go for plastic surgery?

A No. The things that come easy aren't as fulfilling as the things you work hard for.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'Everest climber exercises to relax'. Print Edition | Subscribe