Fit And Fab

CrossFit coach was once overweight

Gym training and a diet with plenty of meat and vegetables help John Cheah stay trim and strong. Joan Chew reports.

Mr Cheah watches his diet very carefully, but indulges in truffle fries and vanilla bean ice cream once a month.
Mr Cheah watches his diet very carefully, but indulges in truffle fries and vanilla bean ice cream once a month. PHOTO: ELITE SG FITTEST

Q How has your exercise regimen changed over the years?

A When I started going to the gym in 2009, I exercised to lose weight and get stronger, but I did not have a good idea of what I was doing.

I followed what I thought were the most attractive programmes on the Internet.

I read an article in 2012 which said CrossFit was dangerous. That piqued my curiosity.

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning programme with varied movements such as squatting, pushing and pulling executed at high intensity.

I tried it out, doing it four times a week. I liked it and have been doing it since.

Q How does CrossFit help you in other aspects of your life?

A In training, I'm taught to be very aware of my body and what muscles I'm using in the exercises.

When I was a freelance performer previously, that body awareness helped me with a better stage performance.

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

A At 16 when I was busy studying for the O levels, my weight shot up to 89kg, the result of a terrible diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

The following year, I got into the Drama Elective Programme at Anglo-Chinese Junior College.

We did a type of movement class almost daily, in addition to dance and acting rehearsals. These helped me embark on a healthier lifestyle.

Q What is your diet like?

A I eat plenty of meat and vegetables and enough carbohydrates to fuel my training. I do not take anything that is not naturally grown, such as processed sugar.

For breakfast, I have an omelette made with five eggs and plenty of mushrooms, capsicums and onions.

  • Bio Box


    AGE: 25

    HEIGHT: 1.84m

    WEIGHT: 85kg

    In his first CrossFit competition - Sin City 2013, he finished in 17th position out of 21 participants, a result which he saw as "close to last place".

    But he has made good progress since.

    In the last two years, he has earned several CrossFit and weightlifting accolades, including second place in the Singapore National Weightlifting Open 2014 and second place in the finals of a functional fitness tournament called Elite last April.

    The bachelor is one of four coaches at CrossFit Tanjong Pagar. He was previously a physical theatre performer.

    He lives in the east coast area with his parents.

For my second and third meals of the day, I have some form of meat and carbs.

I have a big dinner, usually about half a kilogram of salmon with roasted pumpkin, sweet potato and broccoli. I take supplements such as Omega-3 pills, creatine and whey drinks just before training sessions.

I eat about 3,500 and 4,000 calories a day.

I used to track my food intake stringently in the past, weighing my food and checking online for nutritional information.

Now I can eyeball my food portions and know how much I should be eating.

Q What are your indulgences?

A I absolutely love truffle fries and vanilla bean ice cream (the kind with real beans).

I'm usually too busy to eat at places that serve really good versions of these, so this is a once- a-month indulgence.

My daily diet contains a lot of fat from animal sources and I find it helps to keep my cravings at bay. But if I've ended a competition, I'll go out of my way to get good food.

Q How has your diet changed over the years?

A I was overweight in my teenage years, eating high-carb meals with lots of sugar and processed food.

When I faced body issues from being teased by others, I adopted a no-carb diet with controlled protein and fat intake.

I now eat to support my training sessions and performances.

Q What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your body?

A I like my legs because they are the base of power behind nearly every movement.

At the same time, I also do not like them because they are long and it takes forever to do a squat .

Q How extensive is your collection of sports paraphernalia and which is your most prized possession?

A I have about six pairs of training shoes. I use two pairs for competition and training, one for running and one for coaching in.

The other two pairs are in different colours, so I can have fun matching my clothes and shoes.

I also have various sports massage items.

At every competition, I get an athlete tag and/or a big name plaque and a medal if I manage to get a podium finish.

I hang them up on my mirror and once in a while, it's nice to see how far I've come.

My most prized possession is a pair of Nike weightlifting shoes called the Nike Romaleos. I use them every day in training.

I got them in December 2013 from the United States and I know they are not available for sale here.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline CrossFit coach was once overweight. Subscribe