Fit And Fab

Running 'makes me lean and less mean'

Ms Huang runs in about 12 races a year. She has a salad for lunch on most days, but indulges in desserts now and then.
Ms Huang runs in about 12 races a year. She has a salad for lunch on most days, but indulges in desserts now and then.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Physiotherapist Jenny Huang tells Joyce Teo that her fitness routine keeps her sane.

Q. Can you tell us more about your fitness routine?

A. I run outdoors and in the mornings. Each day, I run based on how my body feels. It can be a tempo run one day or a long run on another day, for instance. My rest day is magic happy Friday.

I also do total body resistance exercises using TRX, a suspension training equipment. I use it at work to show clients what to do and for about 10 minutes a day.

Otherwise, I really only run. I'm boring. I like routines. I like putting on my shoes, my music and heading out the door to run.

It does not matter whether it is raining or not, or if it is a hot day. The only thing that will keep me indoors is the haze.

  • Bio Box

  • JENNY HUANG

    AGE: 42

    HEIGHT: 1.65m

    WEIGHT: 56kg

    Growing up in Texas in the United States, Ms Huang spent a lot of time outdoors, even if she was not into sports.

    There was "playing in the streets with friends until the sun went down, roller-skating on my driveway with my girlfriend, riding my bike around the neighbourhood and exploring back roads and cemeteries", she said.

    A senior physiotherapist at UrbanRehab, she came to Singapore in 2003 and is now a permanent resident. It was also here that she picked up running eight years ago, and now actively participates in races. She is an ambassador for the Osim Sundown Marathon this year.

    A divorcee, Ms Huang has two children, Zoe, 15, and Austin, 12.

Q. What has changed in the eight years since you started running?

A. I used to be a recreational runner. I just ran.

Now, I do about 12 races a year and I have goals for every race. Having goals makes you focus on what is next and how to make yourself a better athlete. The latter translates to how you are able to achieve other goals in life. It's all a matter of taking each step towards it.

Q. What is your secret to looking so fabulous?

A. Vanity, it's the simple force fighting ageing, and having good genes really - I owe it to my parents.

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

A. Yes. I once weighed around 90kg. And no, you may not see a picture!

That happened during my first pregnancy as I really did eat for two.

I gradually lost the weight from stress, diet and exercise.

Q. What is your diet like?

A. I love salads. As I have said, I like routine. I eat a salad called Chihuahua every work day for lunch.

Dinner is a simple meal with grilled meat and vegetables.

Q. What are your indulgences?

A. Pizzas, Tiong Bahru bao, tiramisu, bread pudding, a shaved ice dessert called bingsu, soft serve ice cream and carrot cake - the dessert cake, not the Chinese fried carrot cake.

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

A. I have to walk the walk and talk the talk.

It's also my work as a physiotherapist where I truly believe it is paramount to keep this balance for both physical and mental health.

I'm often in bed by 8pm to 9pm so I get proper rest and can get up early on weekends for longer runs.

Anyone can achieve work-life balance as long as they prioritise it.

I have a 55-year-old client who works until 1 am and then goes for a walk around her Housing Board block for one hour. She's been doing that for the past 10 years to avoid lower back pain.

Q. What are the three most important things in your life?

A. Faith, love - and this includes my family, my significant better half Steven Chan and my friends - and the self-respect to live the life you want.

Q. What are your must-dos before and after a race or training session?

A. Before my run or in the morning before a race, I would have a cup of coffee, toast or waffles and listen to music. I have no post-run or post-race ritual.

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

A. It keeps me sane. It's not a choice. It's for survival.

Every day is a fresh start. You analyse the body to see if it's ready to run, feel how each step brings you closer to a runner's high, and to mentally keep your focus and goal of finishing the distance you've set for yourself for that day.

I think a lot during my runs. The brain gets more oxygen and, hence, everything seems clearer.

The runner's high helps put things in a positive spin in just about every aspect.

If I don't run, I would be a meaner person.

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

A. Running six days a week for 20km a day, when I was training for the 100km Sundown Ultra marathon in 2013. I did that for seven to eight months and, on some days, I did double sessions and ran well past 1am.

I would do it again because I love pushing myself beyond both my physical and mental barriers.

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

A. I definitely influenced my brother. He now makes it a routine to exercise at the gym.

My boyfriend is a triathlete and we do some weekend long runs together. My kids will run only short distances at the track.

Q. How extensive is your collection of sports-related paraphernalia at home?

A. I keep all my bibs and medals. They're in storage but I will find a way to display them one day.

My most prized possessions are my Boston Marathon unicorn medal as my goal was to run the world's oldest marathon, and my trophy for the 2013 Ultra Marathon. The latter was a race I did for my dad, who died a few months before the race.

Q. What's your favourite part of your body?

A. My eyebrows. They are real and they have been on fleek (a new word most commonly used to describe perfectly-groomed eyebrows) before fleek was a word.

My least favourite are my toes. I have runner's toes. Enough said.

Q. Would you go for plastic surgery?

A. No, but maybe when I'm 80, I will think about this question again.

Q. Do you think you're sexy?

A. Being strong - physically and mentally - is the new sexy. And I intend to keep running strong and believing in myself.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Running 'makes me lean and less mean''. Print Edition | Subscribe